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Singapore to focus on 5 futures, says Swee Keat

Future Economy panel to dive deep into issues to propose fresh ideas for jobs, firms, resources, tech and markets

Mr Heng doubts success can be measured by one or two metrics, and prefers to look at whether good jobs and opportunities have been created for citizens.


THERE are five key "futures" that Singapore needs to pay attention to, in charting its economic path: the future of jobs, companies, resources, technology, and markets, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday.

"These areas are all inter-related. If we have a strong strategy for each of these, and how these different strengths come together, we will prepare ourselves well for the future economy. And if we're able to do that well, we will be able to achieve our goal of creating good opportunities in Singapore and good jobs for Singaporeans."

Sharing for the first time details on the Committee for the Future Economy - a new panel he chairs - Mr Heng said that the focus would be on keeping Singapore competitive in a rapidly-changing and technology-intensive world.

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While the exact composition of the group has yet to be firmed up, he revealed that Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran will play a key role as deputy chair.

"Both of us are looking at forming the committee; I will announce the names of the committee by early December," said Mr Heng.

He expects the panel to submit its report around December 2016. This means the process will span a 12-month period - similar to the time frames of previous review committees.

Stressing the interlinked nature of the five "futures", Mr Heng said that jobs would need to be redesigned to support a technology and innovation-driven economy. Individuals, too, will require deep skills that eventually translate into increased productivity - which will in turn result in higher wages.

Alongside this, Singapore must build its companies' capabilities - both by bringing in firms that can introduce new know-how into the economy, and by supporting the development of local enterprises.

Mr Heng also emphasised the need for companies here to venture further abroad - especially to emerging markets such as Africa and Latin America.

And with Singapore's resource-scarce profile, the committee will look at ways to optimise land and labour use here. It will devote attention to business costs as well.

Speaking to reporters after a two-hour closed-door dialogue with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Mr Heng stressed that the committee must be ready to go deep into the issues at hand, and not shy away from confronting the challenges head-on.

"I hope that our conversation will be frank and deep . . . We need to do deep dives into what are the underlying issues, and not discuss it in a very general way. We will look at the data and do some deeper analysis of the issues. I think we should be prepared to ask difficult questions and propose fresh ideas for Singapore."

As for how he intends to measure the success of the new restructuring drive, Mr Heng said that he doubts success can be measured by one or two metrics, and prefers to look at whether good jobs and opportunities have been created for citizens.

"At the end of the day (this is about) creating good jobs and good opportunities. Now, that doesn't mean that from time to time we will not fall into a recession and we will not have some unemployment . . . But it means that over a medium-term period, we continue to keep the Singapore economy vibrant. And that will be the result we are driving towards."

Mr Heng is expected to give further details on one of the five "futures" on Nov 4, at an SBF event.

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