The economic environment here does not nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of Singaporeans, says Progress Singapore Party (PSP) assistant secretary general Leong Mun Wai. He was responding to a question on whether Singaporeans lacked an entrepreneurial spirit.
During a virtual press conference on Friday (26 June) introducing the party’s final slate of candidates for the upcoming general election (GE), Mr Leong outlined the PSP’s three step approach to economic management, starting with “stopping the rock” which he explained as stopping job losses and allowing Singaporeans more job opportunities in order to further develop themselves.
The second step, he said, is to improve the social system which is currently “too harsh” on people. He said, “Not a welfare system, but currently the system is too harsh on our people. So much so that our people only have their minds occupied all the time with when is the next mortgage payment, when is the next time I have to pay tuition fees for my kids and all that.”
“With that kind of environment, you can’t expect our citizens, our fellow Singaporeans to think anything more than their current lifestyle,” he lamented.
Mr Leong said that when a more conducive environment is established, then the third step of transforming the economy can happen, adding that the current setting is preventing Singaporeans from realising their full potential.
He later added, “I don’t think Singaporeans are not ready for that,” referring to entrepreneurship.
“It is just the environment. How do we build an environment? And that environment right now is hindered by the governing philosophy of our government which is a top down approach,” he said.
In that same vein, one of the party’s youngest candidates, 29-year old Terence Soon, said that one of the biggest issues Singaporeans face when it comes to entrepreneurship is a fear of failure and being risk-averse.
He said, “I think one of the biggest issues with entrepreneurship nowadays, in schools or after your graduated, the biggest issue I feel is people are too afraid to fail,” adding that people are also reluctant to talk about failed ventures because they want to “save face”.
Mr Soon added that a lack of financial support is also a factor in Singaporeans not wanting to take risks. He recalled starting his own business from home when he was a student, noting that he was fortunate to be able to use his savings as start-up capital. However, not everyone can do that.
“Because how do you start something without anything?” he asked.
Mr Soon noted that many Singaporeans ultimately still have to depend on funding from the government or private investment firms, but the criteria for some of these are still relatively strict.
“Because of these kinds of measures, they don’t really give people enough safety margin, so to speak. So if people don’t feel like it is safe enough to be an entrepreneur, they wouldn’t be comfortable doing it,” he added.