Build­ing for the long term is the only way to sur­vive and thrive: min­is­ter

The Myanmar Times - - Business | International -

APART from em­bark­ing on a ma­jor eco­nomic shift, the Gov­ern­ment is “re­mak­ing” Sin­ga­pore in sev­eral ways over the next 20 to 30 years or more, in ar­eas such as ed­u­ca­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and hous­ing, as well as sup­port for an age­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Speak­ing on Fri­day (Sept 14) at the Sin­ga­pore Sum­mit, a con­fer­ence for busi­ness and thought lead­ers to dis­cuss busi­ness and global af­fairs, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Ong Ye Kung out­lined the Gov­ern­ment’s blue­print for the com­ing decades, as he stressed the need for long-term plan­ning de­spite global pol­i­tics chang­ing from be­ing “an art of a long-term search for the bet­ter life, to an auc­tion for short­term eu­pho­ria”.

While For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment (FDI) re­mains im­por­tant, Mr Ong said that it is “no longer suf­fi­cient”. FDI, which has been a ma­jor part of Sin­ga­pore’s growth model, is an in­vest­ment in which a for­eign di­rect in­vestor owns 10 per cent or more of the or­di­nary shares in a Sin­ga­pore en­ter­prise.

Given Sin­ga­pore’s ma­tur­ing econ­omy and that it is “al­ready push­ing the lim­its of (its) land and man­power re­sources”, the na­tion has to move to the next phase of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. This means em­brac­ing in­no­va­tion, de­vel­op­ing new prod­ucts and ser­vices, as well as nur­tur­ing Sin­ga­pore-based en­ter­prises to ven­ture into the re­gion and take ad­van­tage of po­ten­tial growth mar­kets.

Mr Ong said: “So, from mak­ing things to cre­at­ing things, from bring­ing in FDI to ven­tur­ing out to the world. It is a ma­jor shift in eco­nomic strat­egy.”

To sup­port that vi­sion, the Gov­ern­ment has been at­tract­ing and “pa­tiently in­vest­ing” in re­search-and­de­vel­op­ment cen­tres, he noted. This is in ad­di­tion to hav­ing world-class uni­ver­si­ties, one of the top in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty regimes in the world, as well as a well-reg­u­lated yet busi­ness­friendly en­vi­ron­ment.

When it comes to in­fra­struc­ture, the Gov­ern­ment is build­ing ahead of de­mand, as it is set to dou­ble air­port and sea­port ca­pac­i­ties. It will con­struct the new Ter­mi­nal 5, which is ex­pected to start op­er­a­tions in 2030, and the Tuas mega port will be com­pleted by 2040.

Touch­ing on Hous­ing and De­vel­op­ment Board (HDB) flats, Mr Ong said the Gov­ern­ment “can­not al­low en­tire res­i­den­tial towns to be­come old and run down”, as this will re­duce qual­ity of life, seg­re­gate the pop­u­la­tion, and drive down home prices.

That is why the Gov­ern­ment will ex­pand the Home Im­prove­ment Programme – first an­nounced at this year’s Na­tional Day Rally – so that HDB flats can be up­graded twice dur­ing their 99-year lease pe­riod, he added.

Un­der the new Vol­un­tary Early Re­de­vel­op­ment Scheme (Vers), own­ers have the op­tion of cash­ing out when their flats reach 70 years or be­yond, and use the sales pro­ceeds to fund their next pur­chase, prob­a­bly at a sub­sidised rate.

Turn­ing to the is­sue of Sin­ga­pore’s age­ing pop­u­la­tion, Mr Ong said there are poli­cies in place, such as rais­ing the re­tire­ment age and in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion on re-em­ploy­ment, to help older Sin­ga­pore­ans work longer should they want to do so.

On the health­care front, the Gov­ern­ment is build­ing more acute and com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals, as well as el­der­care cen­tres.

With health­care ex­pen­di­ture ex­pected to grow, Mr Ong noted that it could over­take ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing in the next few years. For now, health­care is the third high­est area of Gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture af­ter de­fence and ed­u­ca­tion.

Plan­ning ahead

Changes are also afoot in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, with less em­pha­sis on grades and more on life­long learn­ing, said Mr Ong. He added that there is still “a lot of work to do”, such as mov­ing “even fur­ther away” from rig­or­ous aca­demic teach­ing to­wards ap­plied learn­ing and crit­i­cal think­ing, among oth­ers.

Mr Ong’s com­ments came at a time this week when there is some dis­cus­sion on whether the Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing pol­icy prom­ises too far into the fu­ture.

In a let­ter to TO­DAY, Mr De­vadas Kr­ish­nadas, a for­mer civil ser­vant who is now the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of man­age­ment con­sul­tancy Fu­tureMoves Group, said there is an em­bed­ded as­sump­tion that the rul­ing gov­ern­ment will stay in power. He wrote that “it is taken for granted that such ad­vanced fu­ture pol­icy prom­ises are as good as present pol­icy prom­ises”.

He cited as an ex­am­ple of fu­ture pol­icy the Vers scheme, which aims to re­de­velop pub­lic hous­ing es­tates in about 20 years.

Mr De­vadas noted that in­dulging a po­lit­i­cal in­cum­bent with its ex­pec­ta­tion of longevity in of­fice risks “breed­ing com­pla­cency, ar­ro­gance and a sense of en­ti­tle­ment”.

In re­sponse, some TO­DAY read­ers ar­gued that it is im­por­tant for Sin­ga­pore to plan ahead, prompt­ing Mr De­vadas to re­spond that long-term plan­ning does not mean com­mit­ting a fu­ture gov­ern­ment to heavy spend­ing.

In his speech, Mr Ong noted that plan­ning long term will pre­pare Sin­ga­pore for the evolv­ing global land­scape, and en­sure the na­tion re­mains at the fore­front of com­pe­ti­tion.

Sin­ga­pore has to re­main on this track de­spite global changes that have seen pol­i­tics and gov­er­nance be­com­ing “more short-term and pop­ulist”, he added.

He said: “It is hard to ex­plain this trend. Per­haps so­cial me­dia is breed­ing more angst and im­pa­tience among peo­ple. Per­haps on­line false­hoods are di­vid­ing so­ci­eties, and cre­at­ing na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues.

“But in Sin­ga­pore, we have cho­sen to keep our ori­en­ta­tion firmly to­wards build­ing for the long term. It is the only way that a small state can sur­vive and do well.”

Photo:EPA

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