Singapore seems to have an endless number of councils and bodies to solve various issues. According to news reports, 13 new members from the public and private sector, educational institutions and the unions have been appointed to the Future Economy Council (FEC). I am sure I am not alone in not being aware that this council even existed.
Taking a quick look at its website, it would appear that the FEC “drives the growth and transformation of Singapore’s economy for the future”. It is chaired by Minister for Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat (Heng), and comprises members from government, industry, unions, and educational and training institutions. The FEC overseas “the implementation of the recommendations put forth by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), and will build on the work of the earlier Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity, which includes SkillsFuture initiatives and Industry Transformation Maps.”
Looking at its web page and description, it is clear that the FEC is part of the government. This means that it is funded by public funds. From that perspective, should Parliament have greater visibility over how the members are selected. Are individuals allowed to apply or it is a “by invitation only” club? Who decides who the members are? Also, do members get paid? If so, how much? Based on the content on its website, it would appear that the FEC (which was set up in 2016), had reached out to “more than 9,000 employers and workers, academics, public agencies and private companies, unions, trade associations/chambers and professionals, students, educators, as well as Singaporeans both here and abroad.” While that is all well and good, what are the concrete results of such engagement?
While the objectives of the FEC are positive, I am still unclear as to its specific goals. Do we really need a separate council to reach out to the public? Doesn’t the government already have enough departments and boards to do just this? Is the government setting up councils just for the sake of it? Is this the best use of resources and time? What exactly does the FEC do? How often do they meet and what exactly do they discuss?
Heng has said that the new members are diverse and would add “fresh perspectives”. But “fresh perspectives” on what? Is everyone just sitting around talking about what they do? If so, how is this beneficial for us? At this point, there are more questions than answers.