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Future Economy panel, govt agencies will study SBF paper: Heng

Finance minister says medium to long-term nature of recommendations aligned with committee's goal time frame

The Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) and different government agencies will study "very carefully" all the proposals and recommendations in the Singapore Business Federation's (SBF) new economic position paper.


THE Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) and different government agencies will study "very carefully" all the proposals and recommendations in the Singapore Business Federation's (SBF) new economic position paper.

As he formally received a copy of the 32-page document on Tuesday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat praised the fact that the majority of the 18 recommendations are on medium to long-term strategies.

"I'm cheered by that. As businesses, you are under short-term pressure all the time," Mr Heng, the CFE chairman, told an audience of over 400 executives and professionals at a half-day conference to discuss the SBF paper.

"It's quite remarkable that the recommendations touch a lot on the medium and long term, and what we need to do. This is exactly what the CFE seeks to do," he added.

Mr Heng spoke of how it was the goal of the 30-member CFE to look at ways to reposition the Singapore economy for the medium to long term. This committee was formed last October, shortly after the last general election, to develop economic strategies to drive Singapore's growth.

The SBF's position paper, made public last week, is a private sector initiative led by the federation and supported by 29 major trade associations and chambers.

Representing the views of 70 top business leaders, the paper outlined a total of 18 recommendations that SBF feels are essential to support business and economic growth, such as the pressing need for more small and medium-sized enterprises to expand overseas.

There are also suggestions for the government to refine its foreign manpower policies, and for Central Provident Fund monies to be invested in the Singapore stock market.

The proposals are grouped in three broad strategies: To help companies cope with rising manpower and cost issues; to create an economy that isn't constrained by geographical boundaries; and to develop Singapore as a home base for innovation and growth activities.

In his off-the-cuff remarks, Mr Heng made the point that businesses had to develop their entrepreneurial, innovative and collaborative spirit in order to deal with the challenges and constraints of Singapore's small domestic market.

"When we think about the next 50 years, we need to keep that Singapore spirit," said Mr Heng, stressing the importance of always having that will and ability to spot opportunities and turn constraints into advantages.

Earlier in the day, SBF chairman and fellow CFE member Teo Siong Seng noted that the position paper had attracted "wide interest" from within and outside the business community in the week since it was launched.

He called on the local business community to continue to provide further input and views for the paper that would eventually lead to "better solutions and policies" for Singapore and its businesses.

Mr Teo noted that companies, too, must also recognise that they have an important role to play in this effort.

"Businesses must quickly grasp that they, too, are responsible to themselves, their employees, customers, owners and the wider community for their performance. No one owes us a living," he said.

Before Mr Heng received the paper, there was a panel discussion on the recommendations with several prominent business leaders including OCBC Bank CEO Samuel Tsien and Far East Organization CEO Philip Ng.

In a statement, SBF said that Tuesday's conference was the start of a series of activities that the federation planned to organise throughout the year to gather further views from the business community for the CFE.

The full position paper can be downloaded at Members of the public can also contribute their ideas and suggestions to the paper or the CFE at this website.

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