IT WAS not all gloom and doom. There were bright spots in a spotty 2016. Here then are those who found patches of light in patchy 2016.
RIDING THE STORMS OF CHANGE
Chong Huai Seng, Post-Truth Businessman
In so many respects, 2016 was a signal year for change.
We had Brexit, an almost unimaginable political event with consequences far beyond the UK.
We had a US Election where Hilary Clinton, despite being the most qualified and heavily endorsed candidate, lost out to Donald Trump, a loner male sexist who campaigned on Twitter.
These two events are not unrelated.
After years of neglect and broken promises, the working class and middle-income families are just fed up with the system and they want change.
I was in London during the referendum in June, and I was surprised to learn that both the railway porter and my art dealer wanted out.
For the porter, it was a case of protecting his job against the ever-growing number of foreign migrants.
For my art dealer, he has had enough of the red tape that Brussels wraps around him each time he exports his artworks to Europe.
In the US, despite the hype of Silicon Valley technology and newfound unicorns, the average Joe in the rust belts is suffering. And these Joes are a majority.
President Obama in his eight years was a gentleman president, but without solid congressional support, he was at most tentative, at worst, ineffective, especially in foreign policy.
There are so many lessons in 2016, not just for ordinary citizens but also for political leaders.
For the man in the street, you have to speak your mind if you want change and remember that your vote counts.
For leaders, losing touch with the ground and gambling away your country’s future on a misplaced perception is a recipe for disaster.
It will be an interesting and exciting year, when three strong leaders mount the world stage and play for keeps.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Chinas Xi Jinping are established and recognised leaders in their own countries, with a strong sense of history and a confidence that they can get things done.
Trump is the new kid on the block, not quite accepted at home, and yet will want to show that he is no pushover.
For Singapore, we do not have a problem with Putin as he is mostly occupied in the Middle East.
It is the relationship between Trump and Xi and their play in Asia that will have the most direct impact on us.
This, coupled with our own now delicate relationship with China (post Terrex), will be, for me, one of the most important challenges that Singapore will face in 2017.
Beyond the politics, a further tightening by the Fed of 50-75% basis points is not going to disrupt the US bull market in 2017.
I think the Dow could easily trade another 10% higher, and oil prices should stabilise around US$50.
Singapore’s economic outlook by comparison looks dismal. Our engines of growth, financial services, manufacturing, tourism and property all look subdued.
Our casinos and Formula One are no longer crown jewels. Our stock market is moribund. Our shipyards under capacity and the property market seems in terminal decline.
We need new and fresh ideas to re-invigorate Singaporeans, not just for 2017, but for the long term.
I hope that the Committee on the Future Economy co-chaired by Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister S. Iswaran will be able to recommend policy changes and new initiatives in early 2017 which will help turn the economy around. Otherwise, the new normal of near zero growth will be too painful to bear, especially for the younger generation.
I rate it high because it was an exceptional year for change; whether its for the good or bad, that’s for history to judge.
I think there will be more surprises and changes, but not on the same scale as 2016.
FINDING POCKETS OF GROWTH
Dr Stephen Riady, Executive Chairman, OUE
I am sure we all know that 2016 has been a challenging year for many economies, including Singapore, but there are still growth and business opportunities available. We have built a strong stable of assets and businesses in prime locations that have helped us weather the headwinds reasonably well.
Quality and bringing value to our customers and partners will continue to distinguish what we do at OUE.
The aftershocks from the unprecedented political events of 2016 will be strongly felt in 2017, and forcefully bring home to people around the world that politics will have a real and present impact on economics and ultimately the lives of ordinary citizens.
Bold, strong leaders in the major powers and in the region who are prepared to take positions that might run counter to conventional wisdom and draw criticism will bring the world into a more unpredictable, turbulent and challenging period.
This “new normal” of increasing political risks and uncertainties and rapid technological change will however also present opportunities for businesses that are nimble and can stay abreast of the disruptive changes around them.
DAVID WILL STILL WHIP GOLIATH
Dr Yanni Xu, Medical Director, The Urban Clinic @ Raffles City
Terrorism continues to bring unrest to many countries. Do not take peace and prosperity for granted because even in Singapore, foreign help can become radicalised. As Singaporeans, we are fortunate that our country is prosperous and our political system stable and progressive. We have to foster good relationships with our neighbouring countries and their people so as to form meaningful partnerships to grow our economies. I believe a strong and united Southeast Asia will be the biggest deterrent to future challenges.
Governments around the world face the same challenge — people want change. Brexit and Trump voted in as the US President elect (ignoring elements of misogyny) have illustrated that strong political reasoning cannot overcome the voice of people’s discontent.
It is evidently very important that a country has a nurturing education system, accessible healthcare, increased job opportunities and strong national security.
Singapore has faced great challenges this year and will likely continue to face more challenges next year. As a new business owner, it is important to have a healthy cash flow so as to be able to re-calibrate and respond to changes in the markets.
It is now the norm that David will continue to succeed whilst Goliath will often trip.
I believe that it is not all gloom and doom for businesses in Singapore. I am hopeful that the many SMEs, especially in technology and medical industries will continue to do better. It is so important to continue to innovate to serve our customers better and to deliver more meaningful services and superior products.
From drawing board to starting my own clinic at Raffles City, watching my son grow up and seeing my loved ones live happily and healthily, I feel I am amply blessed and could not have have asked for any more.
For the world, I feel 2016 was a 5/10. We know that some businesses did not make it and people lost their jobs. Political unrest and terrorist attacks took away young lives and destroyed happy families. Medical technology is rapidly advancing but we are still at the mercy of terrible diseases such as cancer, genetic diseases and dementia. There is much to hope for for the world!
I hope that I will have the strength and faith to continue to deliver my best and achieve an improved rating for family and patients.
NO CHANGE IN PACE
Elim Chew, Founder & President, 77th Street
This has been an emotional year for Elim Chew.
2016, she retired from 77th Street, but any thoughts of taking it easy were dashed when she started a courier business and Korean restaurants.
She reckons things will only get better in 2017.
I believe that it is not all gloom and doom for businesses in Singapore. I am hopeful that the many SMEs, especially in technology and medical industries will continue to do better. It is so important to continue to innovate, to serve our customers better and to deliver more meaningful services and superior products.
2016: Perfect 10
It was an emotional year, with my “retirement”. When the news was announced that I was stepping down from 77th Street there was an outpouring of comments on social media. It felt like I was reading my eulogy online!
I’m excited with my new lap. It’s a bull run for all my new projects.
THINKING BEYOND THE FRAME
Chong Siak Ching, CEO, National Gallery Singapore
One of the biggest lessons from 2016, whether it is on the political, economic or social front is that we must expect the unexpected. And as such, we cannot take the status quo for granted.
On many levels at the National Gallery Singapore, these world events have taught us not to take things for granted and to be aware of and, if necessary, to challenge prevailing mental models — of our audiences’ expectations of an art museum and what we can offer them by way of unique experiences and takeaways.
Since the Gallery’s opening in November last year, we are very heartened with the strong visitorship, be it to enjoy the exhibitions or to take part in our programmes and other activities. We launched several landmark shows and several changing exhibitions, to spark stronger interest in Singaporean and Southeast Asian art and to build more awareness of the role that art and artists play in society.
To celebrate our first anniversary, we said thank you to the public with the Gallery Light to Night Festival, which offered more than 60 programmes that catered to visitors from all walks of life.
We are still a young museum and there is so much we can do to present thought-provoking exhibitions and encourage more visitors to form their own opinions about modern Southeast Asian art.
We will organise the first Children’s Biennale next year, which offers interactive activities to introduce art to younger visitors in fun and engaging ways.
Our art appreciation and learning programmes are tailored to help the young and old view art from different perspectives, and to eventually help them form their own opinions.
We will showcase the works of Singaporean Chinese ink master Chen Chong Swee, and artworks in the Xiu Hai Lou collection, one of the most significant private ink collection in Singapore and the region,
There is something for everyone in the world of the arts and we want to present opportunities for more people to experience different spectrums of the art in 2017 and in the many years to come.
KF Seetoh, Founder Makansutra
Lesson to learn — when the storm comes, you have to get your own shelter and umbrella. No amount of advice will protect you and your family from the potential harms ahead.
In short, watch your behind.
With Brexit and the say-and-do-anything President elect Trump dominating and threatening world stability, anything goes.
So, go be a ping pong ball or a surfboard in the unpredictable world situation and waters ahead (whatever you think that means) and stay afloat and save.
NEW WAYS TO CUT DEALS
Teng Theng Dar, Chairman, Asia Entrepreneurs Exchange Ltd and Singapore Non Resident Ambassador to the Sultanate Of Oman
The ACRA approval on the registration of Asia Entrepreneurs Exchange Ltd, on 21 Nov 2016 (A public company limited by guarantee – CLG) is definitely one key highlight of 2016. Indeed a big day for all the founding members of the Exchange.
Strictly on by invitation only basis for subscribing members, the Exchange has been championed by seven founding members to create a self-driven, self-help O2O (Online to Offline) community of trust to connect entrepreneurs across Asia to help forge new deals.
A key lesson learnt this year is the importance of conducting business with specific focus on clearly defined objectives while remaining flexible in making timely decisions to meet challenges squarely in a fast changing environment.
On a macro basis, it will be a year of uncertainty with various disruptive challenges. However, there are plenty of golden opportunities in Asia.
CRESTING THE ARTISTIC WAVE
Dick Lee, Artist
The world is changing at a rate too rapid for us to grasp or make sense of, so I’ve decided to go with the flow and try to see everything as a positive change where possible.
I mean, Trump is in, so deal with it and hope for the best. The key word is hope.
We are at a time in history when each year will bring changes, big and small, and in quick succession. In the face of this, it’s important to steady oneself to stay grounded, and focused on one’s personal goals, rather than get swept away by the tumult.
2016 has not disappointed, especially since I was able to take a breather from directing two National Day Parades in succession (2014 and 2015).
I suddenly got invited to endorse Cold Storage, Novita and be the ambassador for VisionSave, and got involved in the tech world by being appointed Creative Director of Golden Equator Capital – a venture capital outfit that invests in tech and innovation. So all in all, a pretty good year that allowed me to explore new horizons.
Oh yes, I also celebrated my 60th birthday with a concert, and my biggest to date!
Whatever we are planning for 2017, stick with it but adapt quickly, if needed.
I have my first movie coming out, and the continual development of my projects with newly formed Dick Lee Asia, creating live entertainment in collaboration with partner mm2 Asia.
Mid-year I will be directing a big government project (to be announced in March) and I hope to see a bit more of the world.
Rating: 10/10 for both years!
BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES
John Tan, CEO, Saturday Kids
On the investment front, 2016 was awful. One Y Combinator startup that previously raised $30 million from the likes of Tencent and Priceline shut down overnight. I had a couple of exits that returned money, but some of those were pennies on the dollar.
As an entrepreneur, 2016 was awesome! Saturday Kids, my digital literacy school for kids, grew rapidly over the last 12 months. In October, Google announced a multi-year, multi-level community project in partnership with Saturday Kids and 21C Girls to bring computer science classes to 3,000 underprivileged children.
Perhaps, more importantly, I made some rock star hires this year and now have an awesome team I look forward to working with every morning when I wake up.
2016 also saw the launch of Collision 8, a community-focused co-working space right in the heart of the CBD. We opened our doors in August and the number of innovators and collaborators who have come through those doors in the last four months is way beyond our expectation.
2017 could be spectacularly bad. Or spectacularly great. Who knows?