Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee
for Finance, Trade & Industry
Members of the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. 2017 Economic Environment
Global economic challenges continue unabated. The backlash against forces of globalisation was clearly witnessed last year, through the UK’s Brexit referendum result and the election of Donald Trump as the next US President.
In Singapore, the growth forecast for 2017 stands at a modest 1 to 3 per cent.
Trade and globalisation are the lifeblood of the Singapore economy; but the global climate now makes it harder to realise trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What can Singapore do, for our continued prosperity?
Another path to pursue continued prosperity and progress is to improve connectivity around the world. Here, major infrastructure initiatives such as China’s One Belt One Road strategy and the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail project come to mind. These initiatives help to promote the flow of people, goods, trade, capital and ideas. How can these initiatives be a game-changer for Asian economies like Singapore?
Technological disruption is a challenge that has rendered some jobs obsolete – but disruption is also an opportunity which we should fully embrace. It can create new and good jobs for Singaporeans. What are the possible challenges businesses and individuals have in embracing the digital economy, and what can be done to help them?
2. Budget 2016
To address these economic challenges in Budget 2016, the Singapore Government invested resources to help firms to deepen capabilities, scale up and internationalise. A key thrust of the Industry Transformation Programme (ITP) is to form close partnerships among firms, industry associations and Government. The industry associations who know their members’ needs best, are well-placed to help drive industry-level transformation.
There were also measures, as part of SkillsFuture, to support Singaporeans during economic transformation by equipping them to learn new skills throughout their lives, especially in new growth areas.
As the Government has also rightly identified, the greater economic challenge is for the long term, due to economic competition, technological disruption and the constraints associated with a small domestic market.
3. Pressing issues facing local businesses and internationalisation
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are facing tremendous profit pressure. The weak economic demand create pricing pressure, at a time of increasing labour costs and a looming threat of rising interest rates.
The feedback we have received from SMEs was for the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme to be refined, instead of being discontinued. Such a new scheme should address shortcomings or abuses in the old PIC scheme. How can the government continue to encourage SMEs in their productivity and innovation journey? How can our local businesses, particularly SMEs, transform to be regionally or globally competitive? Apart from grants, what do local businesses need to venture overseas?
4. Jobs and Skills
The displacement of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) is a growing concern. We need to reduce job-skill mismatches, and strive for quality economic growth. The government is in the midst of rolling out its SkillsFuture initiatives for the continuous learning and training of workers. What more can be done to support Singaporeans, particularly PMETs, in this professional learning endeavor to better their lives?
I believe our panellists are ready to share their views on on how we can shape a better Singapore through Budget 2017.
This year, the theme for our Pre-Budget Roundtable is “Advancing our Future: Adapt. Innovate. Change”. Our discussion today will be broadly structured around the following areas:
- Pressing issues facing local businesses
- Jobs and skills for the future
We hope our panellists from diverse business sectors can provide their views and recommendations on some of these issues.
I look forward to a vibrant and thought-provoking discussion.
Before we begin, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the panellists, as well as our observers from relevant government agencies, for taking time from their busy schedules to be at this roundtable.
I now invite my co-chair Mr Liang Eng Hwa to deliver his keynote address.