“All in all, while the Singapore economy is unlikely to fall off a cliff, the bright spots are also few and far between, especially since a protracted period of slower global growth lies ahead” (Economic Risks Far And Near, Chia Yan Min).
A protracted period of slower global growth is well-documented, and with the Singapore economy “tipped to grow by between one per cent and three per cent next year” (ST, Nov. 30), Singaporeans should look forward to the recently-announced Future Economy Committee and its strategic recommendations on five “futures”: jobs, companies, technology, resources, as well as markets. Faced with volatile environments around the world and Singapore’s vulnerability to these developments – compounded by operating, financial, and credit risks at home – finding solutions are a tall order for Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
With precedents in 2001 and 2009, the formation of such a review committee is not new, so by extension reasonable proposals can be expected. However, the challenge is to communicate the long-term implications of zero to slow growth, how changes are necessary, and also to involve Singaporeans in such discourse. Before and during the recent general elections when greater focus is paid to national issues, even when Singapore’s annual growth forecast was slashed, trade-dependent manufacturing activity declined, and a nine per cent slide of the Straits Times Index in August made it the worst-performing stock index in the developed world after Greece, few spoke of these problems and corresponding answers.
In fact, it can be argued that economic prosperity has been taken for granted in the past decades, resulting in apathy when attention should be paid to socio-economic trends. Yet in these new global circumstances, cognisance of these affairs must be raised.
Perhaps a starting point would be to review the recommendations of the Economic Review Committee and the Economic Strategies Committee in 2001 and 2009 respectively, to determine how effective the strategies have been. Forecasting trends is difficult, but the intent is to familiarise Singaporeans with the trajectories the government had planned for, and the extent to which realities have diverged. Through this process, awareness of existing schemes – to raise labour productivity, for instance – can be enhanced. And as the Future Economy Committee goes about with its responsibilities, putting together views from workers and businesses, give the public updates or ideas of how Singapore will respond to the future too.