My Sg My Future contest skyline WikipediaBy Shawn Ng

Singapore has achieved considerable economic success since independence. Looking ahead, Singapore’s economy will be influenced by various trends.

Externally, the rise of Asia signifies more opportunities for Singapore as it is well-positioned to function as a strategic hub for global businesses and as a springboard for regional expansion. Such exposure has enhanced Singapore’s expertise in high-value services and created high-valued jobs.

However, the rise of Asia has intensified global competition for talent and investments. For instance, the proposed Dawei Port Development Project in Myanmar provides a cost-efficient commercial gateway to Asia, reducing dependency on the congested Straits of Malacca. This may erode Singapore’s comparative advantage in port development, resulting in new economic strains. Moreover, globalization has created greater diversity within our society and led to new social challenges for Singapore.

Internally, versatile education pathways have nurtured Singaporeans to become better educated. With improving educational profile, more Singaporeans will aspire to become professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs) and take on skilled jobs as technicians and associate professionals (TAP). Based on projections done by Ministry of Trade & Industry, there would be an increase in the number of Singaporeans in PME and TAP jobs till 2030.

Moreover, there is a shift in social expectations today with more young graduates demanding work-life balance and pursuing their passions. Given these trends, Singapore must look ahead to create an inclusive growth through adopting the 3Rs strategy – Re-calibrating, Reaffirming and Refreshing.

Re-calibrating Economic Strategies:

Given that Singapore’s margin of economic growth is declining, Singapore should look beyond its shores to capitalize on new opportunities to sustain its growth. With a limited domestic market, there is a greater need for joint governmental engagements in public-private partnerships and establishing more Free Trade Agreements and Investment Guarantee Agreements with emerging markets to sustain its economic growth. Through these efforts, we can build on our comparative advantage by imparting our expertise and co-developing projects in other countries.

Taking Dawei Port Project as an example, involvement development will allow Singapore to retain its comparative advantage in port development. Furthermore, Singapore must also continue to provide more support in facilitating internationalization efforts through enhancing business capability, enhanced market intelligence and financial assistance. Such combined efforts will create new job and market opportunities for Singapore in growth markets.

Reaffirming Community Ties:

Given Singapore’s diverse society, there is a greater need to forge stronger community bonds. I believe this is best achieved through volunteerism, which has been growing strong in Singapore. In 2013, approximately one-third of the population contributed their own time to serving communities. Volunteering for a common goal fosters mutual understanding and builds trust among diverse groups in Singapore.

The Singapore government must thus take the lead to enhance the Community Integration Fund, encourage more organizations to spearhead community projects and work together to forge a mutual understanding among members of society. Establishing more avenues to increase volunteers’ ownership in planning and leveraging on the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre’s Digital Technology (DT) platforms to match volunteer opportunities can further enhance the spirit of giving. By enhancing these qualities, it will strengthen our Singaporean core and build a resilient society that is capable of solving future challenges.

Refreshing Our Living Environment:

Good urban planning has transformed Singapore into an advanced metropolis. However, given Singapore’s land scare economy, Singapore should look to build integrated work-live spaces. For instance, more effort could be channeled to develop more residential fringe hubs such as the Tampines Fringe hub, as they integrate residential offices with retail shopping malls.

Singapore can also leverage DT by building on its Smart Nation vision. For instance, tele-medicine reduces the need for travel to hospitals as it delivers healthcare services to homes, and consultations are done on a virtual network. Adopting such innovative urban planning and exploiting DT will provide Singaporeans with a conducive environment to work, live, play, strengthen family bonding and promote active ageing.

While Singapore has enjoyed economic prosperity since independence, the challenge now lies in sustaining its economic momentum. While there are no simple solutions, any response is likely to rely on these three broad approaches. This ensures that all Singaporeans can continue to hold good jobs and enjoy higher quality of life.

I am confident that Singapore can work together as a society to put our economy on a sustainable growth trajectory.

This essay was submitted for the “My Singapore, My Future” essay contest organised by The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s nationhood.

Comments from the judges –

“Solid, the most technically savvy.”

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