AFTER one year of talking about it to over 9,000 stakeholders, the future of Singapore has been boiled down to seven strategies that could easily be likened to a rojak of motherhood statements and jargon.
The 30-strong Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) led by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat and his Co-Chairman, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran delivered the report on February 9. This is the third report (the previous reports were in 2001 and 2009).
The general reaction to the report from people STORM.SG spoke to was that it was a safe course of action and nothing to get excited about. In delivering a series of profound-sounding but vague statements the impact is lost on a population that is likely to skim the surface before losing interest…but hopefully not hope.
If the CFE aims to help the public understand the serious issues that will face Singapore and what steps are being taken to address them, those reading the report would have been none the wiser from these seven strategies:
- Deepen and diversify international connections;
- Acquire and utilise deep skills;
- Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up;
- Build strong digital capabilities;
- Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity;
- Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs);
- Partner each other to enable innovation and growth.
In addition to these less than magnificent seven motherhood statements, many previously announced projects were trotted out: Changi Airport Terminal 5; Tuas seaport; Kuala Lumpur – Singapore High Speed Rail; the second central business district in Jurong; and the shift away from chasing the highest possible academic qualifications early in life.
And yes, Orchard Road has long outlived its glory days, so it’s only natural that it undergoes a process of renewal in a world that has changed dramatically and continues to do so in greater frequency and shorter intervals.
But what of the challenges that we are currently facing that will impact how we proceed, like the ageing population, labour policies and major global shifts that have placed speed bumps in relationships with business partners and neighbours?
Keep It Simple
The convoluted use of language riddled with jargon doesn’t help make things any clearer. For instance: “The Government should establish a dedicated programme office to support enterprises in making the most of data as an asset. The office can provide industry-specific regulatory guidance and co-develop flagship data science projects that will have positive demonstrative effects on other enterprises.”
Err…!?? What exactly does this mean? If the CFE intends to help the public get a grip on their own future by establishing workable plans of action, this sort of language use would only alienate them.
It does suggest the CFE report is intended for an elite group who, in all likelihood, will still be rereading these sentences. It also begs the question who did the CFE talk to before formulating the report? The make up of the members is probably a giveaway.
Besides the brainpower of five cabinet members, the committee comprises members who are from the elite of Singapore business.
Did they reach out for views from people in distressed situations, or small company owners who make up the bulk of the business community, or the Millennials who will inherit the policies arising out of the CFE report?
Hopefully there will be more clarity forthcoming at this month’s budget, otherwise many would view the report as a year lost in the making, and we will have to find our own way forward.
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