SINGAPORE: As Singapore pushes ahead with its Smart Nation vision, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Aug 21) stressed the need for the Government to be more progressive in encouraging innovation.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday laid out plans to use technology not just to improve security, but to solve everyday problems like parking and making e-payments seamless.
In an interview with Channel NewsAsia on Monday, Mr Chan said that in order to ensure that new solutions are given due consideration in the implementation process, the Government must remember to "use rules and regulatory powers in a much more progressive way".
"Rules and regulations are not just defensive to prevent bad things from happening," he said. "But rules and regulations need to be progressive to allow and enable new ideas to flourish."
He highlighted the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) regulatory sandbox, which allows both financial institutions and non-financial players to experiment with financial technology (FinTech) solutions.
"We are prepared to try things out in a controlled environment before we proliferate this to a wider environment. I look forward to even smarter regulation," said Mr Chan.
When asked what other plans the government has to ensure Smart Nation initiatives resonate with Singaporeans, he highlighted the use of technology to improve the transport system.
"In the past, we used to fix the systems or the parts when the trains break down," he said. "Then people said we should do preventive maintenance, but in fact people are now moving from preventive to predictive maintenance, which is that even before things break down, you get information from the sensors network and you start to change the parts that need to be changed."
"The technology is there. Now we have to employ it in a much bigger way," said Mr Chan, stressing that Smart Nation initiatives are geared towards resolving such issues.
"ENABLERS" FOR SINGAPORE TO DO WELL ECONOMICALLY
"Many of the initiatives PM Lee mentioned in his speech are actually enablers for us to do well economically in the next lap, whether it's early childhood education, as the foundation, or the Smart Nation initiatives to expand on the opportunities for individuals and businesses to do better in the next lap," Mr Chan said.
For instance, some businesses are unwilling to offer e-payment options because of administrative costs, he said.
"I think there will be competition and all these charges will be driven down.”
In his speech on Sunday, the Prime Minister also announced plans to boost pre-school education to give every child has a good start in life.
This includes doubling annual spending on pre-school education to S$1.7 billion by 2022, and creating an additional 40,000 new places in the next five years.
Mr Chan said the Anchor Operator and Partner Operator Schemes have influenced the market, and fees have stabilised over the last two to three years.
He said the Ministry of Education's (MOE) plans to scale up the number of its kindergartens - from 15, at present, to 50 kindergartens in the next five years and a new centralised institute to train pre-school teachers and carers are likely to drive fees down in general, even among private operators.
"There will always be centres that cater to the very top end of the market, but with a baseline MOE provision, and also the same provision by the Anchor and Partner Operators, nobody needs to pay exorbitant fees for quality standards assured by a centralised training system, assured by a centralised qualifications system that is good for the bulk of people at affordable prices,” said Mr Chan.
The Prime Minister, in his speech, also announced several initiatives to tackle the scourge of diabetes.
Responding to concerns over the ability of the low-income group to afford more expensive healthier food options, Mr Chan said that the NTUC will continue exploring how price differentials can be used to help people choose them.
“It’s also about life-cycle costs," he said. "Being willing to pay more for healthier options today can lead us to save money downstream in terms of medical costs.”