SINGAPORE: Despite a changing world economy disrupted by COVID-19 and geopolitical tensions, the Government will implement new programmes to bring in business investments, support local entrepreneurship and create “good jobs" for Singaporeans, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday (Aug 26).
Mr Chan was outlining how his ministry will support key priorities laid out by President Halimah Yacob at the opening of Singapore’s 14th Parliament on Monday.
Mdm Halimah had said the Government will provide greater social support and strengthen safety nets for Singaporeans in the long term amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Chan said on Wednesday that Singapore is confronting the crisis “from a position of strength”, given the country’s reputation for “transparency, rule of law, skilled workforce, and world-class connectivity”.
“(This) will enable us to adapt to the challenging environment,” he said.
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He noted that many global companies are rethinking and reorganising their production and supply chains, with some reviewing the need for regional hubs in favours of a single global headquarters, while other manufacturers may decentralise their operations to strengthen resilience.
“All these present challenges and opportunities for Singapore’s position as a hub for regional headquarters, high-technology manufacturing activities, and modern services,” said Mr Chan.
COVID-19 has shown that remote working and automation are possible, allowing Singaporeans to seize opportunities out of the country. But conversely, the minister noted, jobs in Singapore are also open to competition from abroad.
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Mr Chan said that the impact of COVID-19 has been uneven across sectors, with some still growing, while others facing a fall in demand.
For companies in sectors that are doing well, like biomedical sciences and electronics, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will help them invest and expand, he said, and this will generate business for other companies and create “good jobs” for Singaporeans.
Industries such as aerospace, and marine and offshore are in a slump right now but will eventually recover, said the minister, which is why MTI will preserve the core capabilities that were “painstakingly built up over many years” and help these sectors remain competitive and recover quickly, he added.
“We will channel support to help companies in these sectors generate fresh revenue and become more cost efficient,” said Mr Chan.
As for sectors that have permanently changed, including mass market tourism and social entertainment, his ministry will help them reinvent themselves and pivot to new markets and products, Mr Chan promised.
And if the business has to close or lay off its employees, MTI will work with the Ministry of Manpower, unions and employers to help workers develop new skills and find new jobs, he said.
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CONDUCIVE ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT
MTI will continue to improve the business environment as well, Mr Chan said, and ensure that an open exchange of trade is maintained.
“We will work with like-minded partners internationally to reaffirm our shared commitment to keeping trade routes open and ensuring the continued flow of goods between Singapore and our partners,” said the minister.
Digital Economy Agreements with other countries will help to facilitate trade in the digital economy, he said. These will enable technology companies to manage their global platforms and digital services out of Singapore.
And to encourage traders and logistics players to use Singapore as a hub, MTI will develop multi-modal transport solutions, Mr Chan said.
“This improved connectivity will also enable companies to diversify their supply sources and reach more customers more readily, increasing their resilience against the risk of supply chain disruption,” he added.
To help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), MTI will work through intermediaries such as the Trade Associations and Chambers, SME centres and enterprise centres in the heartlands to reach out to communities, Mr Chan said.
Startups will receive support through programmes like Startup SG and the Global Innovation Alliance, as well as Scale-Up SG, which grooms Singapore companies to globalise.
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Other ways the Government will support businesses include investing in research and innovation, and leveraging on the industry transformation maps to provide specific support for individual sectors, Mr Chan added.
“MTI will partner businesses, workers, and other stakeholders to forge a new path ahead,” he said.
“We will reopen our economy safely and sustainably, help businesses and workers adjust, and establish a conducive environment for businesses and workers to grow, to realise our vision of a vibrant economy with opportunities for all.”