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Singapore must venture out to achieve sustained, quality growth: Chun Sing

Singapore

AS THE economy matures, Singapore must venture out instead of simply attracting activities here to achieve "sustained and quality economic growth", said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday.

Beyond looking at gross domestic product (GDP) as a benchmark, Singapore has to focus on gross national income (GNI) as well, he said.

GDP measures the value of the output produced within a country's borders, while the GNI looks at the value produced by its residents.

Speaking in Parliament on the first day of the week-long debate on the President's address, Mr Chan said that if Singapore is to secure a place in the world, it must better connect to the rest of the globe as its hinterland to gain better access to resources and markets.

Singapore will also need to widen its portfolio of markets to diversify the risks of relying on any one market.

New free-trade agreements will continue to be negotiated, existing ones will be upgraded, and Singapore will also explore new markets and support bilateral and multilateral trade efforts, he said.

Singapore will also need to go beyond the conventional dimensions of air, land and sea connectivity, and ensure that it is connected to the world in "data, finance, talent and technology".

Singapore has much to work on to build and entrench itself as a global node on those fronts, and will need to "move fast" before others overtake it, he added.

And as global production and supply chains shift, the country must stay agile to connect to these new shifts.

"We need to move from getting others to trade with us, to trade through us, to also include getting others to trade on our Singapore platforms."

For example, he said, PSA had known since the 1980s that it could not compete with other mega ports in the world in terms of size.

It therefore updated its strategy to become a global port and supply-chain operator to compete at the system and network level, rather than at the port level.

Today, others are using the PSA platform regardless of where the trade flows may be, he said.

Aside from enhancing connectivity, he also spoke about how Singapore needs to secure its place as a small country with an open economy.

Even as the world's geopolitics shift, Singapore's task and priority is not to choose sides between the various superpowers, but to ensure that it remains relevant.

Singapore's "principled stand and neutrality" are some reasons the city state has been chosen for the upcoming summit between the US and North Korea next month, he added.

"What's clear is that no one deals with Singapore for our domestic markets or resources alone. "Instead, they leverage us as a platform to reach the region and the world."

"To remain effective and attractive, we must develop people with a deep understanding of the region and the world, so that we can create value when others do business with us."

Individuals and businesses have to be equipped with global mindsets and global skill-sets to better access and penetrate overseas markets, he said.

A Singapore Talent Network consisting of existing networks will be built to better organise and expand Singapore's outreach abroad, led by the Economic Development Board and associated agencies, he said.

Finally, Singaporeans must also be able to understand and work across cultures and nationalities.

This entails having a diversity of talent here - both local and global - to work together, cross-pollinate ideas and bring out the best in each other, he said.

"Such dynamism is what keeps Singapore a vibrant, exceptional place to do business and this is the vital ingredient for our economic future."