Opening Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Emerging Stronger Taskforce Press Conference on 17 May 2021.
Good morning, members of the media. Thank you for joining us this morning.
I set up the Emerging Stronger Taskforce or EST in May last year, when we were in the thick of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are still in the midst of battling this COVID-19 pandemic.
At that time, I was concerned that beyond our immediate challenge of stabilising the economy, COVID-19 was also changing the global economy at an unprecedented speed and scale.
It will therefore be a very different global economy in the coming years.
For us in Singapore, to keep up with these massive changes, we must accelerate what we started 5 years ago – the transformation of our businesses, our economy, and our workforce.
A year back, I discussed these changes with Minister Desmond Lee and Mr Tan Chong Meng.
They shared my view, and I am grateful that they agreed to co-chair the EST.
They have assembled an outstanding team, comprising thoughtful leaders from businesses, trade associations and chambers, the Labour Movement, and academics.
The EST put in a year of hard work and extensive consultations, which had to be done under difficult conditions, for example, I was told that the first ever EST meeting had to be held virtually, and each of the members are leaders in their organisations and also leading their organisations in battling the pandemic.
I thank all EST members for your outstanding contributions.
The EST has put forth a set of recommendations.
A month ago, the EST presented their findings to the Future Economy Council.
The Council members fully endorse the EST’s recommendations.
I myself find the report visionary and path-breaking.
The EST report sets out an innovative way for Singapore to emerge stronger from this crisis.
Let me elaborate.
First, the EST has identified 6 key shifts, some accelerated and some created by the crisis. These include: a changing global order, accelerating digitalisation and industry consolidation, a renewed focus on sustainability and resilience, and changing consumer demands.
We must respond to these challenges and opportunities.
Second, the EST put their ideas into action quickly. A key recommendation from the EST is the Singapore Together Alliances for Action, or AfAs.
AfAs are a new form of private-public partnership with a strong bias towards action in capturing new areas of opportunities.
Over the past year, the EST convened nine AfAs.
In a short period, these AfAs have made remarkably good progress. I thank all involved for your commitment and hard work.
At its heart, this is the spirit of the Singapore Together movement, where Singaporeans partner with the Government, and with one another, to own, shape, and act on our shared future together.
The Alliances for Action conceived by the EST are a testament to the power of public-private collaboration, both within Singapore, and with our partners in Asia and around the world.
Third, the EST has articulated a vision for a Virtually Unlimited Singapore – a Singapore that offers limitless possibilities for our businesses and our people, by transcending our physical boundaries to create new virtual frontiers for Singapore, by strengthening our economic linkages with the world, both physically and virtually, and by spurring our transformation into a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation, and enterprise.
This vision is in turn enabled by three key thrusts.
First, to create a Singapore that is Virtually Unlimited.
Second, for Singapore to be a Sustainable Nation, in terms of the environmental, economic, and social aspects.
Third, a Virtually Unlimited and Sustainable Nation can be achieved if we embrace the belief that we are Stronger Together.
The specific recommendations from the EST are organised around these three thrusts, which Desmond and Chong Meng will further elaborate.
While the EST has concluded its work, this is only the beginning of the next bound of economic transformation that we are embarking on.
In the immediate, we will still be battling the pandemic. But as we can see, all the 9 AfAs that are being piloted, address directly or indirectly the challenges of COVID-19 – whether these are about the Digitalisation of supply chains and the built environment, or Robotics, Smart Commerce, Safe and Innovative Visitor experiences, or MedTech, EdTech and AgTech.
As COVID-19 is likely to stay with us in some form and for some time, it is critical that our businesses and workers take this downtime to accelerate our learning and transformation, and form new partnerships through Alliances for Action and other suitable forums.
COVID-19 has created the burning platform for change. Businesses must either change or perish.
On my part, the learnings and insights gathered will be incorporated into the work of the FEC, to drive the long-term transformation of the economy. This report is timely, because we are battling both the immediate challenges of COVID-19, as well as dealing with changes that were accelerated by the pandemic.
The FEC will incorporate the recommendations of the EST into ITM 2025.
In particular, we will institutionalise and scale the Alliances for Action as a more agile and nimble way to undertake industry transformation.
I should add that as Desmond is also driving the Singapore Together movement with Indranee, the concept of Alliances for Action is also being piloted beyond the economic sphere.
On behalf of the FEC and the Government, I thank Desmond, Chong Meng, all our EST members, and AfA partners, for your creativity and commitment in putting together a robust set of strategic recommendations to take Singapore forward, and for rolling up your sleeves to prototype the AfAs, and showing what the potential of collaboration can be. And doing all these in the midst of the pandemic.
I will now ask our Co-Chairs Desmond and Chong Meng to share more.
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