Sunday 4 October 2015

Heng Swee Keat to lead 'The Future Economy' committee

Keeping economy vibrant tops Heng's list
Finance Minister will chair panel to look at the challenges in a fast-changing global economy
By Rennie Whang, The Straits Times, 3 Oct 2015

Amid a global economic slowdown, the first task at hand is to continue to create a vibrant economy, newly appointed Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

This is important as it creates good job opportunities and new businesses, said Mr Heng, who will also chair a new committee on the future economy.

"With a growing economy, we can then generate the resources to invest in our future, invest in education and take care of those in need," he said.

His remarks were made during a visit to the start-up community at JTC LaunchPad @ one-north as well as packaging firm Fagerdala yesterday - his first event since he was sworn in as Finance Minister on Thursday.

Mr Heng's appointment to lead a committee tasked to look at the future economy had been announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the new Cabinet's swearing-in ceremony. The economy was in urgent need of a review, Mr Lee had said.

Singapore is operating in a rapidly changing global economic and financial environment, Mr Heng noted. While Singapore is restructuring its economy and some important policies have been put in place since the last Economic Strategies Committee report in 2010, a review of the overall situation is needed.

He said: "We need to do an assessment now to see what are the key changes in the global, regional and domestic economies. What are the challenges ahead, where are we today and what are the key things we need to do going forward?

"So, we will do a stock-take as our first major task."

Elaborating on some of the challenges, Mr Heng noted that the financial conditions have been volatile, especially in recent months.

Regional economies have been adapting different and shifting policies towards growth, with China, for example, undergoing structural adjustments recently. Changes in Europe and the United States will have an impact as well, he added.

In the domestic economy, an important change is slower growth of manpower and the ageing population.

"The aspirations of our young people are different, and we will have to continue to create the opportunities for them to fulfil those aspirations," said Mr Heng.

During yesterday's visit, Mr Heng also gave a hint of the approach he will take in his new role.

To understand the effect of global and domestic changes, he said, "an important place to start has to be at our companies... where the action is, the front line".

Visiting Fagerdala, for example, was useful. He said: "When we adopt that perspective of our companies, employees and potential entrepreneurs, we are able to see how the policies we may need to put in place can help these companies to grow."

Mr Heng said yesterday that more details on the committee, including its make-up and timeline, will come later, after an assessment of key areas the Government needs to focus on. "The last Economic Strategies Committee took about a year (to formulate its report). It is not something we will rush through."

But an aspect he will certainly consider is that "the economic cycle is getting shorter and changes are happening faster".

As for how Singapore might remain relevant, he said: "The move towards higher skills, higher productivity, an innovation-intensive economy is, I believe, the right way to grow.

"The question is, with all the policy measures we have put in place, how are these working, what are the effects and what is it we may do more of, in order to keep the process on track and accelerate it if possible."

Minister Heng Swee Keat shared his vision for #SGfuture. What are yours?
Posted by The Future of Us on Thursday, October 1, 2015

Explore, imagine nation's future at SG50 finale expo
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 3 Oct 2015

The Future Of Us exhibition, which caps the year-long SG50 celebrations, will let Singaporeans "creatively explore and imagine" their nation's future, SG50 steering committee chairman Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

Mr Heng, who is the Finance Minister, said on Facebook that the expo will be a "fitting finale" to the Golden Jubilee celebrations, by having Singaporeans "come together to think about, talk about, and act upon what we believe in to realise our vision for Singapore".

He added: "I hope the exhibition will fire up your imagination and get you excited about the ways in which you can contribute."

The exhibition will be held at Gardens by the Bay from December to March next year.

Mr Heng's remarks came a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hinted at what visitors could expect at the exhibition.

Speaking after the new Cabinet was sworn in on Thursday, Mr Lee said the themes of the interactive expo will include lifelong learning, greening Singapore, caring, and smart living and working.

It will also have a segment for Singaporeans to share their hopes for the future, creative director Gene Tan told The Straits Times. The exhibition will occupy 6,000 sq m: An area as big as the gallery space of the ArtScience Museum.

Mr Tan said the exhibition team, in curating the content, has engaged more than 100 public, private and people sector organisations over many months.

On Thursday, PM Lee said the exhibition will track Singapore's progress from Third World to First but, more importantly, will be forward-looking.

He expressed the hope that the expo will "launch us into the next chapter of our Singapore Story", which will be penned by the Government and people together.

"We will debate and argue over what this chapter should contain, how the story should develop. We will do that online and offline, in civil society and in Parliament. That is normal and healthy," he said.

"But at the end we are all co-authors of the chapter. We all have to work together, and we all want the story to have a happy outcome."

• Visit the exhibition's Facebook page at to join in conversations about Singapore's future

Count On Me
What is your vision for tomorrow? As we think about what the #SGfuture will be like, hear what our friendly kopitiam kakis have to say! Also, a very special guest makes an appearance. Find out who!
Posted by The Future of Us on Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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