SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to diversify its relationships under the current global climate of uncertainty, and to do this, it has to be as connected as possible to different regions of the world and not wait to seize opportunities, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Friday (Nov 25).
Speaking to his Russian counterpart Igor Shuvalov and more than 200 delegates at the Russia Singapore Business Forum, Mr Tharman said that with a cloud of uncertainty looming over the globe, there is no sure way to tell who will become winners or losers.
He noted that the mood of the most advanced countries towards openness and everything global is "now more in question than has been for a long time".
But for Singapore, the best course of action is for businesses and people to remain as connected as possible to the outside world, he said.
"Particularly when you're talking about a small country like Singapore, we have to focus even more on developing the strengths that can make us relevant to the rest of the world. So that even with uncertainty, even with some regions going down, even with a less business-friendly environment, we are still relevant," Mr Tharman stated.
Speaking in Russian, Mr Shuvalov said that being open to businesses is also a key theme for his country. He noted that Russia's economy has been going through tough times, but there are bright sparks, like the banking and insurance sectors, which have seen growth.
For Russia, Mr Shuvalov said the long-term vision is not for the economy to be fully directed by the government. Rather, he said authorities want to give as much freedom as possible to entrepreneurs, so as to foster a business-friendly environment.
Given similar interests held by the two countries, both leaders have agreed to work towards ratifying the Eurasian Economic Union and Singapore free trade deal by 2018.
Turning to Singapore's next development phase, Mr Tharman said a key gap identified is the connection between research and enterprise, which can be further strengthened.
"Publishing something in the most advanced journal doesn't change the world,” he said. “It doesn't add value, it doesn't add to incomes. What changes the world is converting research to something that's available in the market.”
Mr Tharman said commercialisation of research is a priority for Singapore, and this will require the right incentives for researchers and the appropriate intellectual property rules.