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Speech by Minister for Education Mr Chan Chun Sing at the 29th Enterprise 50 Awards

Published Date: 21 November 2023 08:05 PM

News Speeches

1. A very good evening to all of you.

2. Let me first congratulate all the winners here today. As the emcee says, the fact that you are here tonight, you are already a winner regardless of the results. You have been an inspiration to the business community.

3. The last few years have certainly not been easy for businesses in Singapore and elsewhere. However, having said that, I think we must also recognise that something is changing rapidly.

4. Tonight, the first point I'd like to make and to share is this - We must not assume that the global trading system and global financial system or the global economic system of the last 30 years will remain the same for the next 30 years. What we have gone through in the last 30 years should not be taken as a given.

5. Now having said this, this is my second message to encourage everyone in this hall and beyond. Notwithstanding the challenges ahead, on the geopolitical, economic and technological front, we can be sure that we are not alone in this. Yes, there are challenges for the business community in Singapore, but the business community anywhere else also confront the same challenges.

6. Tough times are what sets apart businesses which are able to distinguish themselves, from those which are average.

7. Tonight, as I said in previous E50 features, is for us to celebrate the success of the Singapore business community. In spite of the challenges facing the business community here and elsewhere, Singapore must have every intention to remain the choice spot for business to start, scale up and go global.

8. We can take heart that our starting position is no worse off than many others. In fact, you can make the argument that we have the strong fundamentals of a stable Government, a predictable business environment and a law-abiding society, where we can allow businesses to aggregate talent, mobilise capital and protect their intellectual property.

9. Now, having said that, we must not be complacent. The competition is tough, and we will have to constantly reinvent ourselves and create new value propositions for us to stay ahead as a business community in Singapore. My assurance to all the business leaders here tonight is that you will not be doing this alone. The Government will be here to partner you in this journey.

10. The best way will not be for us to give you more subsidies or to choose winners, as some other countries may do. The best support that the Government can provide our businesses are as follows.

11. First, make sure that we continue to have a stable and predictable, business friendly environment that attract local and global businesses here — to leverage on us as a platform and scale greater heights.

12. The second thing that we will be committed to do is to make sure that our rules continue to be progressive and allow for new business ideas to emerge. Our challenge here is not to answer yesterday's questions with yesterday's answers in a better way. Our challenge is to create new value propositions. Take Artificial Intelligence (AI) for example. Many people are looking at AI to do things better. That is necessary, but not sufficient. We need AI not just to do things better, but more importantly we need AI to do better things, and to create new value propositions for ourselves and our business community.

13. The final thing that the Government will be committed to do is partnering our businesses to further grow a skilled workforce that is globally competitive.

14. To this end, we are committed to growing our own timber by investing more in our own fellow Singaporeans.

15. In the next lap of our global competitiveness, we must make sure that we invest in the next 50 years beyond our school years. To do this we will need the partnership of the trade associations and chambers (TACs) and our business leaders, and our academic institutions. Together, we can shorten the knowledge cycle from frontier industry and businesses practices into academia, and produce globally competitive workers necessary for industries.

16. We are not just talking about the flow of new graduates becoming the workers of tomorrow, we are also talking about how we can retrain our existing workforce, and to do so at scale and speed.

17. Just to give an example, in Singapore, every year the Ministry of Education will need to produce and graduate 40,000 students with a diploma or a graduate degree. But the average span of an adult at a job today is about five years. And if that is true, it means that every year we would have to retrain and upskill 20% of our workforce, and 20% of a 2.5 million workforce is 500,000. Therein lies our challenge.

18. We are confident we have the resources to do this together with TACs, our businesses and the academia. We are committed to do this to make sure that our businesses have the most globally competitive workforce for them to work with. The more we grow our timber, the greater the space we have to grow our overall talent pool, including both local and foreign. There is no better way for us to support our businesses than to grow the people that can take their businesses to the next level. So, you can have the Government's assurance that we will continue to do these three things and these three things well.

19. With that, I would like to conclude my speech by once again congratulating all of you and you can have our assurance like the Government has your back. We look forward to all of you doing great things for yourself, for your companies and for our country.

20. Thank you very much.