By Chris Kuan
How many are on the Committee of the Future Economy (30) and how long did they take to produce their report (at least 1 year)?
They come up with 7 strategies –
1) Deepen and strengthen our international connections
2) Acquire and utilize deep skills
3) Strengthen enterprise capabilities, innovate and scale up
4) Build strong digital capabilities
5) Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunities
6) Develop and implement industry transformation map
7) Partner one and another to enable growth and innovation.
Perhaps there was an 8th strategy – an expansion in government social safety net to support innovation and entrepreneurship which could be the reason the CFE proposals were rumoured to be rejected in December given the government’s well-known objection to give more help to citizens.
Even so, it is only really 4 strategies because 1) and 5) are but a single connected strategy and so are 3), 6) and 7). Looks like the CFE is doing a bit of stretching to come up with 7 strategies. That alone belies the PM’s rhetoric that we are maxed out. If there was an 8th strategy of an expanded social safety net – at least the CFE would have come up with a game changer but it was not to be.
Are the 4 or 7 strategies all new or something special? Certainly not – this is what any first world advanced economy will do anyway and they don’t need any Committee on the Future Economy to pontificate about strategies and directions. It is a damp squib but I expected it to be so.
As a rich mature economy and by most measures, a well run one, there is not much more to do than for the government to set the tax and spend priorities to incentivize growth and share the economy pie equitably. The rest will have to be done by market forces of innovation, productivity and market opportunities. If we need a government sponsored committee to tell us what to do – then there is something very wrong with Singapore.
Either we are not a well run, advanced economy or the people are so daft they are sheeps that need to be told what to do. But I think, the government like these kind of committees to justify a top down approach to hold up the meritocratic ideology which in turn justify the exceptionally good rewards to the top rungs in government and in industry.
The fact remains we are not going to be much different from any of our first world, advanced economy peers. We do better than them mostly because we through our voting choices sacrifice an equitable and egalitarian society to pursue higher GDP growth.
Even so, we will still be faced with the new normal of no more than 3% or as the PM admitted 2% is good economic growth for the next 10 years. The CFE strategies will only help to maintain this, not to go back to the 6% plus growth of the past.
Those days are gone but most Singaporeans have not adjusted to the reality.

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