Sectoral, company-level help to tackle economic challenges: Iswaran

Published Thu, Apr 7, 2016 · 09:50 PM


CURRENT challenges require the government to come up with sectoral measures, even as help is rendered to individual companies to help them grow, said Minister for Industry S Iswaran.

Replying on Thursday to questions from Members of Parliament about the Ministry of Trade and Industry's (MTI) plans for expenditure in financial year 2016, Mr Iswaran detailed how the Industry Transformation Programme (ITP) can work hand-in-hand with other measures that help at the company level.

"Our economy faces important challenges," he said. "It calls for proactive measures at the sector level, even as companies adapt to some of the challenges that they face."

The ITP, announced in March 24's Budget, is a S$4.5 billion package targeted at providing support to firms and industries while driving innovation. Under this programme, more than 20 sectors will have blueprints drawn out for them.

These industry transformation roadmaps, as they are called, will help the sectors boost productivity levels, invest more heavily in skills, drive innovation and promote internationalisation.

Noting that the ITP goes beyond current measures that help individual firms, Mr Iswaran said on Thursday: "We need measures which the market may not be ready to supply or adopt."

In doing so, the government will work with trade associations and chambers (TACs) and the unions to address pressing issues in the medium to long term for different sectors, said Mr Iswaran.

Thus, Spring Singapore has introduced the Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD)-Plus programme to help beef up TACs' capabilities in guiding sectoral transformation.

The agency will support training of TACs' leadership teams to help them manage corporate functions, said Minister of State in MTI, Koh Poh Koon, on Thursday as he shared more details about the programme.

Through Lead-Plus, up to 20 public officers will be seconded to them over five years, and Spring will finance up to 70 per cent of the cost of these secondment and development programmes.

The programme will also see the agency fund consultancy services and upgrading of hardware and software so that TACs can upgrade their human resources, infocomms and technolology, and finance functions.

"By working with the TACs, we want to foster a stronger spirit of self-reliance within our local enterprises," said Dr Koh.

Mr Iswaran also drew attention to the manufacturing sector, which has been hit hard by current economic challenges.

In his speech on Thursday, he stressed on the importance of the sector in the economy. Not only does it employ more than half a million Singaporeans, its wide range of inter-industry linkages generates healthy spill-over effects for the rest of the economy, said Mr Iswaran.

But in the face of the changing nature of manufacturing, MTI is working to re-position the sector.

Efforts include investment in advanced manufacturing technologies, exploring new business models for companies in the sector, and allowing for more infrastructure that facilitates its growth.

While sectoral changes are underway, efforts like the Automation Support Package are also made at the enterprise level to help individual companies, Mr Iswaran noted.

The three-year programme will see S$400 million doled out to support more than 300 automation projects for companies, he said.

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