Monday, 19 September 2016

Singapore Summit 2016: Tech or terrorism, governments must be ready for disruptions, says Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Singapore's advantage is that as a small nation, it knows it cannot be complacent
By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Business Editor, The Straits Times, 17 Sep 2016

Governments and societies have to prepare themselves for major disruptions, whether in the form of terror attacks or technological change, to remain resilient in the aftermath.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday that Singapore has an advantage in this regard - as a small nation, it knows it cannot be complacent.

"We know we have to move, we know we don't have many choices, so when we have an economic challenge, when we have the challenge of terrorism, or whatever challenge it may be, it has to be addressed forthrightly, openly and we have to find a way of moving," he told about 400 global political and business leaders at The Singapore Summit at the Shangri-La Hotel.

This is not easy, he noted in a dialogue with British journalist Nik Gowing. The jobs of governments and educators are more difficult as change is happening far more frequently, he said. This means it is not enough to invest in people for the first 12 to 18 years of their lives, as they will face a lifetime of change.

"We must be able to invest in them throughout life, so they can cope with change and if they get out of the labour market we need to get them back in as quickly as possible - often in a different job or a different sector altogether," he said.

"It requires active government intervention, working with employers, working with training agencies and giving people the sense that they can be optimistic even in a world of technological change."

Closely intertwined with that is a need for the state to give people incentives to take on personal responsibility and effort, he added.

"There's a very important space in public policy… for state activism to support personal effort and responsibility at work, in the way we raise our families, the way we go through education. Anyone who puts in effort deserves some support. And if you do it well it becomes social culture."

He noted a tendency in some circles to say that globalisation and trade are responsible for the parts of the world that have been left behind economically. And such displacement has been blamed for the kind of discontent that, for example, led Britons to vote to leave the European Union. He disagreed, saying it has more to do with domestic policy issues. "People who lost out because of technological change or trade… haven't been helped to get back in the game. That's a domestic policy issue, you can't blame it on trade."

Some countries "have moved from a situation where the job of politics was to enable people to win and enable losers to get back in the game so the pie keeps growing", to one where politics is instead being used to divide people, he said.

Indeed, he believes globalisation still holds much opportunity for emerging economies.

Despite rapid technological advancement, he said emerging economies still have a window of time to get in on the game of manufacturing and international trade, then gradually move up the value chain.

"There is a race against intelligent machines... but I think there is still about five to possibly 10 years, for countries to respond by getting into the game of global value chains. Once you are in the game there is a ladder of opportunity. People tend to move up, one thing leads to another, skills go up and company values go up."


We are not doing badly on goods... we are not doing badly on investments... We are slow on services, that is something where we really need to get a lot more serious, whether it is financial services or a whole range of other services. It is also a huge opportunity because services are the fastest area of growth in the Asian economy whether it is China or India or South-east Asia in the next 15 or 20 years.


I think the global story is dominated too much by the problems of the advanced world - and they're real problems - but you have to look at the world as a whole. Look at Asia, Africa, Latin America. It's a picture where trade is in fact growing... Globalisation is mostly a positive thing - certainly for Asia there is a huge opportunity there in integrating first with each other and then with the rest of the world. So we can't get too taken or too carried away by the storyline that comes out of the problems in the West... The whole world is not caught in the same situation. Asia and the emerging world are still growing... and globalisation is still a positive force. ''

In Asia’s eyes, world economy not in a funk, says Tharman
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 17 Sep 2016

The world economy is not in a pessimistic state, but the present narrative talks itself into believing that the global economic situation is in “a funk”, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday (Sept 16) at The Singapore Summit dialogue.

“Don’t let the perceptions or the narrative have their own dynamic. They are overplayed, they are overstated and the future depends on us and what we do,” he told about 400 guests from 36 countries at Shangri-La Hotel.

Responding to a question on why the world economy is at its present state of pessimism and slow growth, given that there are job opportunities, labour and liquidity, he reiterated that it is not in a funk.

Adding that the “world economy looks very different when you are sitting in Asia”, Mr Tharman said that there is growth and business being done in the region, jobs are being created and incomes are rising.

“There has been an over-emphasis on monetary policy as some sort of solution to all our problems, and an under-emphasis on policies and collective action to boost the real economy — that’s the nature of our problem.”

In the session moderated by international broadcaster Nik Gowing, Mr Tharman answered questions that centred mostly on globalisation and its effects, in particular, how things that are happening in the United States and the United Kingdom, such as Brexit, could derail the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Asked whether ASEAN was discouraged by Europe’s situation, Mr Tharman said that ASEAN cannot take the wrong lessons from Europe. He added that ASEAN is not doing badly on the investment front and in the trading of goods.

“I think we are slow on services and... we really need to get a lot more serious (about it), whether it is financial services or a whole range of modern services.... We will all do better if we open our markets (and) develop strengths in things we are good at.”

As to whether countries can learn from Singapore’s social welfare policy, Mr Tharman said the Republic has used a combination of social and economic policies to help its citizens, who have to be lifelong learners.

There is a very important space in public and economic policies that has allowed state activism to support personal effort and responsibility at work, raising families, and education, he added.

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