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Outlook 2017 to offer pointers for Singapore businesses

Organised by The Business Times, the event aims to help firms chart their course more confidently


OFFERING information to help business operators chart their course more confidently - that's what The Business Times hopes to do with a two-day seminar that will address the key issues challenging businesses in these difficult times. Entitled Outlook 2017, it will be held over the mornings on Nov 15 and 16 at the Marina Mandarin Hotel.

"The economic downturn is compounded by Brexit, China's slowdown, the US elections. . . You can only make the best of whatever information you get, be cautious and wait out this difficult period," said Monica Tung, who manages For Earth Singapore, a company that provides solutions for wastewater treatment and management.

She echoes the incertitude of small and medium enterprises as she explained how a clearer feel of the outlook would help her make better decisions.

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The first day of Outlook 2017 will focus on the economic outlook for the coming year. On the second day, experts will explore the impact of the US elections on the business landscape among the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).

"Restructuring has proven to be long-drawn and painful for growth, private investment and profitability. Silver linings are few: tourism, healthcare, education and business services are relative performers, but barely so. Singapore will have to rely more on the immediate neighbourhood and Asia for growth," said Chua Hak Bin, a leading economist.

His talk will be one of two on the economy, with the other delivered by Vasu Menon, senior investment strategist at OCBC Bank.

Although the outlook is not optimistic, the two half-day seminar will not be all gloom. There are still opportunities amid the challenges.

Said Victor Mills, chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce: "It is important at times like these not to talk ourselves to a standstill. We all need to focus on what we can control in our businesses rather than on what we can't. Collaboration and learning are key areas we should continue to focus on. Understanding Asean markets better will bring more business opportunities."

Mr Mills is one of the five panellists on the first day, which also includes Dr Chua, Mr Menon, the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises' president Kurt Wee, and Canon Singapore's director and general manager of business imaging solutions, Vincent Low. The discussion on the first day will be moderated by BT's senior correspondent R Sivanithy.

Asean and how it could be impacted by the US elections will be the feature for the second day. Two topics that are close to the heart of keynote speaker Joseph Liow, dean of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. His presentation will be "The New American Administration and Asia Policy: Will it be business as usual?"

Prof Liow will explore what the region can expect after eight years of the "pivot or rebalance" policy, and anticipates "the coming headwinds on the regional geopolitical landscape".

As the new US president will be known a week before the seminar, attendees can expect specific insights about the likely direction and implications of the new administration.

As for how the eventual winner could impact the region, Judith Fergin, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham) said: "While the outcome of the US elections is still unknown, we can be certain that the relationship between the United States and Asia will remain strong and continue to grow no matter who occupies the Oval Office. AmCham member companies are deeply committed to Singapore and to Asean where opportunities abound and ties are deep."

The panel discussion on "The Impact of the new US President on Asean Inc", will feature Ms Fergin, Prof Liow, and Andrew Delios, head of department and professor of strategy and policy, NUS Business School.

Another panellist, Ivan Tan, group director, South East Asia and Oceania Group, IE Singapore, will also present a talk on regional opportunities for businesses despite the economic slowdown.

The panel discussion will be moderated by BT's associate editor Vikram Khanna.

Organised by The Business Times and supported by Canon, readers can sign up for both or either day's events, which will run from 9 am to noon. For registration and more details, including a Canon afternoon programme, log onto