2019 - January
Welcome Address by ISCA President Mr Kon Yin Tong at the ISCA Pre-Budget Roundtable 2019 at the Intercontinental Singapore, Grand Ballroom, on January 9, 2019 at 9am
09 Jan 2019 Category: Speeches
Mr Liang Eng Hwa
Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance, Trade & Industry
Members of the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. Welcome to the tenth ISCA Pre-Budget Roundtable.
2019 Economic Environment
- For most of 2018, talk of the trade war between China and US echoed constantly, leading to market unease, instability and falling sentiments as the world watched with bated breath.
- The on-going and volatile trade war between the world’s two largest economies are having repercussions on the global supply chain, businesses and markets worldwide.
- The prolonged uncertainty led the International Monetary Fund to lower its world economic growth projections for 2019 from 3.9% to 3.7%. Market analysts likewise trimmed their forecast for Singapore, citing protectionism as a top risk.
Recap of Budget 2018
- Last year’s Budget represented a continuation of Singapore’s efforts to spur economic transformation in the age of Industry 4.0, while shoring up reserves to meet increasing needs in healthcare, social spending, security and infrastructure.
- For businesses, diverting resources towards transformation, in response to disruption, is easier said than done – especially when there are always immediate fires to fight and rising costs to buffer for.
- Minister of Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat said in his Round-up Speech to the Budget debate in Parliament last year that despite all the public attention on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax hike, economic transformation was the “most critical challenge” that Singapore faced, and that this task “was growing more urgent by the day, as structural changes in the global economy and technological advances disrupt the status quo.”
- As Singapore companies brace themselves for the impact of global uncertainty and rising costs, how can we encourage proactive and progressive efforts in transformation? How does Singapore ensure that transformation does not become a mere buzzword, but an action item?
Progress on the Economic Transformation & Digitalisation
- Currently, Industry Transformation Maps, or ITMs, have been rolled out to build broad awareness about anticipated transformations to 23 sectors. The next step, which is by no means easier, is to get businesses to implement. The feedback we have received from SMEs on the ground was that there is still some way to go to achieve broader and deeper consensus. At the core, how can the government continue to encourage businesses to transform in the face of existing structural inefficiencies? As leaders of industry, what initiatives do you envision taking place to effect and catalyse change?
- In today’s technologically advanced world, digital transformation is a key component of greater economic transformation. For businesses to effect successful digitalisation, it is not just about procuring hardware but also the software – the necessary skills and buy in from workers. Apart from monetary or tax incentives, how can companies be encouraged to adopt technologies? How can the government and industry collaborate to help address these factors?
- On the subject of internationalisation, there are indications that Singapore businesses are keen to tap on the larger markets and opportunities present overseas. The government is also keen to propagate Singapore Inc. and is tireless in its efforts to ink more and better trade deals with its partners.
- Yet perennial issues abound – SMEs do not seem to be able to benefit proportionately from, and share in, the fruits of the government’s efforts, be they grants or local expertise or free trade agreements. What are your thoughts on this?
Jobs and Skills
- Finally, as Singapore races to mitigate the negative impacts of an ageing population and technological disruption on its workforce, programmes like the Professional Conversion Programme and Attach-and-Train Programme, as well as other digital reskilling initiatives, which reskill and redeploy manpower to understaffed sectors, become increasingly critical. What has been your experience with such programmes? How do you feel such programmes can be further sharpened to meet the needs of your industry?
I believe our panellists are ready to share their views on how we can contribute towards shaping a better Singapore through Budget 2019.
This year, the theme for our Pre-Budget Roundtable is “Progressing with a Vibrant and Innovative Economy”, with the discussion broadly structured around the following areas of:
- Industry Transformation Maps, and what next;
- Digitalisation and productivity;
- Internationalisation; and
- Jobs and Skills
We look forward to a vibrant and thought-provoking discussion with our panellists whom we have invited from diverse business sectors to share their views and recommendations on some of these issues.
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. In particular, I would like to thank Selena Ling, Head of Treasury Research & Strategy at OCBC Bank, who will be sharing with us the 2019 outlook for Singapore amidst a tumultuous global climate.
I now invite my co-chair Mr Liang Eng Hwa to deliver his keynote address.