Sunday, 17 March 2013

Business chambers vital to Singapore's growth: PM Lee

Bodies such as SCCCI can work with companies to boost economy
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 16 Mar 2013

TRADE associations and business chambers like the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) have an important role to play supporting businesses as they adapt to the next phase of the country's growth.

Speaking during the installation ceremony of SCCCI's 57th council yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that they can help businesses identify new growth opportunities, raise productivity and develop new capabilities in specific sectors.

"By working together, we can build a vibrant economy and create many more opportunities for Singapore," he said.

And though there had been much talk in recent months of the complex economic and social challenges facing the country, Mr Lee yesterday assured more than 250 business leaders and foreign diplomats present that "the outlook for Singapore businesses is bright".

Many Singapore companies have upgraded and seized opportunities overseas, he said, citing sauce-maker Hai's. It halved its operating costs by moving manufacturing to Johor's Iskandar Malaysia development zone, while keeping research, management and trading functions here.

Foreign companies also remain keen to invest in Singapore, with its first-class workforce and location in the world's most dynamic region, he added. This brings benefits for Singapore's economy and society.

For instance, British aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce's Seletar campus employs Singaporean talent and uses local firms like Wah Son Engineering.

He said: "Rolls-Royce could have established its campus anywhere in the world, but they chose Singapore. We have to stay competitive and maintain our pro-business environment to continue attracting these quality investments."

Turning to the SCCCI, Mr Lee praised the 107-year-old Chinese business group for self-renewal in its leadership, as well as promoting Chinese culture, fostering local-foreigner ties and working with the Government to improve policies, including in this year's Budget.

Mr Lee said: "Our policies set a strong foundation for a bright future, but policies alone are insufficient. We also need a healthy economy to create good jobs and to generate resources to achieve our social and other goals.

"After all, it's businesses which create wealth, not governments. This means that entrepreneurs and companies must break new ground, develop new businesses, and share the fruits of success with their workers."

Newly-elected SCCCI president Thomas Chua echoed PM Lee's sentiments, saying the chamber's major task is to help local enterprises cope with economic restructuring and improve productivity.

Mr Chua, who is chairman and managing director of printing and supply chain company Teckwah Industrial Corporation, takes over from Pacific International Lines managing director and Nominated MP Teo Siong Seng.

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