Sunday, 24 August 2014

IIMPACT 2014 dialogue with PM Lee

PM: Crucial to help S'poreans cope amid many changes
He points to new challenges posed by the speed of changes
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2014

AMID significant changes affecting the region and Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night that it was important to help Singaporeans cope with new challenges they face, some of which they may find discomforting given the fast pace at which these are happening.

In remarks which took account of new economic realities and social shifts at home as well as developments abroad, including the election of new political leaders, he said: "It's a time of change, and we have to get used to it."

Singaporeans today face changes arising from ongoing economic restructuring, the presence of new immigrants and foreigners, and a faster flow of information on the Internet and social media, he said during an hour-long question and answer session.

The Government can help companies through measures such as training and promoting ongoing learning, or obtaining equipment.

"We have to enable them to compete, make sure there's a fair playing field... to make sure we don't get held back and prevented from getting to a better place because it's too painful for the incumbents," he said at the dinner of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) alumni conference.

Over 1,000 alumni from the IIM network of publicly-run, prestigious business schools in India are here as leaders in multinational and major Indian companies.

Responding to a question on how to maintain harmony between different cultures here, he said it was crucial to manage the speed at which newcomers were brought in, as well as the mix of where they come from.

But "both sides have to make the effort", he added. "Those who come have to make the effort to fit in and participate in society. And Singaporeans have to understand that these are new arrivals and we must help them fit in."

Asked if last December's Little India riot changed Singaporeans' and the Government's perception of Indians, he said it had not. The incident was unfortunate. It was investigated, the causes established and follow-up action taken.

"The workers are here for a purpose, we need them. They are building houses for us, they are building trains for us, they are working all over - in banks, in so many companies. I think we have to manage the non-indigenous population in a way that we can bear over the long term, and the Little India riot notwithstanding, we have to continue to do that."

Just as how the riot did not change how Singaporeans viewed foreign workers, the workers themselves "continue to be quite comfortable living and working here, and certainly, many more are wanting to come. That's why we have to manage the numbers."

As for the impact of social media, he said that how information was disseminated quickly online could cause knee-jerk reactions.

"In Singapore sometimes, when someone says something outrageous, the next day everybody knows and expresses great outrage... Yes, it was outrageous, but do we need to get worked up every time that happens?"

Singapore must learn to navigate such bumps, which "narrow the margin of stability", he said.

On the region, he said Singapore looked forward to working with new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesia's incoming president Joko Widodo.

About Mr Joko, he said: "I think (he has) a strong psychological mandate from his people... I'm happy that the electoral processes are practically completed."

He also encouraged India to play a bigger regional role by joining more free trade agreements: "We'd like to see that India is able to spare the bandwidth and focus to extend their reach, influence and engage with the region and benefit from it."

On governing in the internet age

"Knowledge is not free; yes, it's more readily available, but so is disinformation and so is misinformation, so is misunderstanding. And if you looked at what has happened worldwide, the Internet has not caused a great convergence on universal truth. Far from it.

It has led to divisions and all kinds of different ideas being able to take root and germinate, which are completely contradictory to one another, and groups which are completely antithetic to each other. And we have to make sure that we don't get seduced by the delusion that - we know everything, that what we know is the truth, and we are the sole possessors, and therefore, we will fight it out to the end. Because that way, you will fracture the society and be less able to form a consensus and move forward together.

My personal view is that human society was not designed with the Internet age in mind, in the sense that the way it has always worked - you have lags, information disseminates over a period of time, you have time to think it over, (let it) sink in, discuss it, and gradually form what we hope is a wise consensus. But today, all of that is telescoped and the splash goes out tonight, and tomorrow morning, everybody knows the answer, which may be the wrong answer. In fact, far from having a faster circuit, you have a short circuit collectively, and that is a real problem which I don't think people have found solutions to."

- PM Lee

Technology to have greater impact on wages, income inequality: PM Lee
Government has no control over pace of change brought about by competition
By Jamie Lee, The Business Times, 23 Aug 2014

EVEN as Singapore continues to calibrate its foreign worker inflow, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday said the bigger concern over wages and social inequality comes from technology rather than globalisation.

Speaking at a dialogue session moderated by DBS CEO Piyush Gupta, Mr Lee noted that income inequality has partly been a result of China and India entering the global economy, with the large masses of workers out of the two large economies outpacing demand.

"But as China develops, as India develops, the companies will grow, the entrepreneurs will grow," he told a conference hosted by the Indian Institute of Management. "There's no reason you should fundamentally be having a surplus of workers, and not enough jobs to tilt the balance against workers," adding that wages in China have already been increasing.

But while globalisation has a transient impact on wages, the same cannot be said for technology, which could make the worker more productive, but also dumb down the job, Mr Lee said.

"If the worker is highly productive, but doesn't need much skills to do it, then any worker can do it, and he's not going to benefit from his contributions. Whoever writes the next operating system, or designs the next robot - he is going to benefit from it. So that part is something which we will have to watch very, very carefully."

Even as the government helps companies in Singapore adapt to more productive measures, it has no control over the pace of change brought about by competition. Mr Lee cited the example of Uber, which has generated enormous concern around the world as it disrupts the pricing model for transport. In Singapore, GrabTaxi has done so in a similar fashion, said Mr Lee. While the government can maintain an even playing field, it also wants to make sure Singapore is not held back simply because competition has made it painful for the incumbent, Mr Lee said.

"In 10 years, you don't know what the new possibilities will be, but I think we can be faster than other countries in seizing them, and in adapting ourselves to them," added Mr Lee. "I don't accept for a moment that we've done everything that can be done in Singapore. We're not at the limit."

He acknowledged that rapid change can cause discomfort for Singaporeans. "Our population is aging, we have to take care of our old folks, and give them assurance and security. But the purpose of life is not assurance and security. The purpose of life is to use that security in order to achieve something new and different, and do better than the people who came before."

Speaking on India, Mr Lee noted that India has not shown the same clear focus on development as China has. India can, for example, make better use of its tremendous diaspora, as China has, and display confidence in linking with the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment