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Invest in innovation, people, community for the future: Heng Swee Keat

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To be good stewards of the future, businesses should invest in innovation, people, and the community, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday.

TO be good stewards of the future, businesses should invest in innovation, people, and the community, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday.

This is in the face of three global trends: the rapid rise of new technologies; declining support for globalisation; and the growing economic and strategic weight of Asia, along with resulting shifts in supply chains. "Businesses have to be quick to innovate, in order to stay relevant and competitive," said Mr Heng.

He was speaking to an audience of business leaders at the Stewardship Asia Roundtable 2019, held by Temasek Trust non-profit organisation Stewardship Asia Centre.

Despite trade-offs between short-term returns, "which drive many shareholder decisions", and long term growth, companies must be prepared to plan and invest in innovation for the long term, he said.

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Investment in workers is key so that "technological advancements will help workers do their jobs better, smarter, and not replace them".

And companies have "an integral and multiplier role to play" in doing good, by offering expertise and resources, and mobilising employees for corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The government is also doing its part on each front, said Mr Heng: Supporting firms via the Industry Transformation Maps; helping workers via efforts such as SkillsFuture; providing tax deductions for corporate volunteerism and donations, and starting the SG Cares movement. 

Earlier during the event, Temasek Holdings chairman and former labour movement chief Lim Boon Heng similarly noted that "the role of upskilling, reskilling is so much more important in a world of rapid change", as leaving workers behind amid industry transformation "is not an option".

The stewardship mindset also aids firms themselves, he said: "The good that we do is good for our businesses. Businesses can only thrive when the societies that they're in thrive."