THE WORLD HAS CHANGED IRREVOCABLY.
The geopolitical environment that has allowed Singapore to thrive in the last 50 years has changed. To thrive in a fast-evolving landscape, the nation will need to continue to innovate with a purpose by turning possibilities, fuelled by passion, into reality.
Tensions between major powers are rising.
Hopefully, these tensions do not spill into an open conflict which will further destabilize the world, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
We must avoid being caught between the conflicts of major powers or be stranded in a fragmenting world of trade relations and technological standards, he added.
Global companies are reviewing the need for regional hubs and the way they reorganise their production and supply chains to serve different markets.
Manufacturers are also assessing where they site their factories. Many are no longer building in places where they can be efficient. They are diversifying their supply chains so as not to be dependent on one site.
Some are thinking of a China plus one strategy and are actively looking at Southeast Asia, Mr Chan said.
For Singapore, which is the sole manufacturing site for some multinational companies (MNCs), this presents both an opportunity to gain new investments and also a chance it could lose some businesses that choose to diversify away from Singapore.
“New investments will come our way some existing ones may also diversify away from Singapore,” Mr Chan said.
It is a fluid landscape.
“We must do everything we can to defend our capabilities and capacities while winning new ones,” Mr Chan added.
We must also harness our competitive advantages of legal certainty, intellectual property protection, connectivity, policy consistency and coherence to overcome our constraints in land and labour.
Nature of jobs has changed
With remote work, more global job opportunities for our workers will come. But it also means that other workers, in other countries, can do our jobs from their homes. Many PMET jobs will be affected as they can be done virtually or through automation and AI.
“You might have noticed that some jobs in the regional headquarters here are being advertised as can work in Singapore or can work remotely,” he said.
Increased societal frictions and tensions arising from changes in the economy
As the economic pie diminishes, tension will increase between those who have more and those with less, between foreign and local, and even a Singaporean and a permanent resident, said Mr Chan. These tensions have to be well managed, or they can divide our society, Mr Chan added.
“We will need to better take care of those affected by job and business losses.
We have and will continue to do these in a sustainable way that is not divisive, affirm the dignity of work and strengthen our social fabric,” he said.
The way forward in fast-evolving realities
“We do not have all the answers yet and the ground realities are fast evolving, often without precedence, but we know that staying still is not an option”.
“If we wait it out, we will likely be in worse shape than we are now,” he said. “We cannot wait for COVID-19 to blow over.
The Government will work together with the people to help them understand the need for changes and to implement them smoothly,” said Mr Chan Chun Sing Minister for Trade and Industry.