DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland: Singapore can still do well amid global headwinds, by educating its young, developing deeper skills, helping those who lose their jobs and strengthening the innovative capabilities of our enterprises, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
In a Facebook post on Friday (Jan 25), Mr Tharman said Singapore can also build on its credibility among countries and businesses from around the world - which he calls Singapore’s biggest international asset.
“We are never helpless. If we keep building on our skills and capabilities, and the trust the world has in us, we will do well even with the clouds hanging over the world,” he wrote.
Mr Tharman’s Facebook post comes after engaging in over 30 meetings during his four-day trip in Davos for the World Economic Forum.
He said the outlook for the global economy remains cloudy, with major powers more divided than they ever were since the end of the Cold War thirty years ago.
“The US-China trade conflict, much in the news now, is a symptom of deeper and more enduring problems,” he wrote.
“Technological rivalry is now a major fact. And the prospect of a world divided into technological blocs will have major consequences for innovation and growth.”
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However, Mr Tharman said that apart from the trade and rivalry issues, the biggest difficulties lie within nations themselves, adding that people are now deeply divided in the advanced nations that led the world for decades, with Japan being an exception.
Mr Tharman said there is little hope of fixing the divisions in the international order, unless domestic divisions and the loss of trust in political leaders is repaired.
“A spirit of common interests globally, and of wanting to resolve problems in a cooperative way, will not return until there is a sense of shared interests among people at home, in their own societies,” he wrote.
However, Mr Tharman said there is little prospect of the domestic divisions that are at the heart of the problem being repaired soon.
He added that politics has become more fragmented in most democracies, with populist leaders and extreme parties now “being part of the mainstream”.
“Politicians of all stripes, and businesses too, need the humility to understand why ordinary working people have voted this way. There was more humility in Davos this year than in the past,” he wrote.
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Mr Tharman also called it a “tragedy” that ordinary people will suffer the costs of fragmented politics in most democracies, more than the elite, in the meantime.
“Things will probably have to get a lot worse within the advanced democracies before there is a return of a strong centre in politics, and forward-looking policies to help the majority of people to improve their lives,” he wrote.
As such, against the troubled global outlook, Mr Tharman said the Singapore needs to ramp up its efforts in developing strengths in its people.
Nevertheless, he said Singapore is on “a good track”, with more countries and regions joining hands with the Republic to establish Free Trade Agreements.
He added that more global businesses are looking to set up hubs in Singapore to build on innovation and serve Asian markets.
Global foundations in healthcare have also expressed interest in developing a base in the city-state for tackling infectious diseases worldwide.
He said that confidence from these foundations stem from Singapore’s demonstrates ability in protecting data and its capabilities in clinical research.