For Singapore to continue to succeed, the Government has to proactively enable innovation, opportunity and growth.
The country also adapts different models and countries’ experiences to its unique circumstances, rather than take an ideological approach, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
He was speaking yesterday at the launch of a book on the challenges of governing and regulating amid technological disruption by former minister Lim Hwee Hua.
Mr Chan, who was guest of honour at the launch at SIM Management House, said Mrs Lim’s book – titled Government In Business: Leading Or Lagging? – shows how unexpected deviations can happen when theory is put into practice.
Hence, Singapore’s model of governance is one that evolves with time and in context, he said.
“Instead of being caught up in theoretical debates, we need to understand what works best for us, apply it boldly, creatively and judiciously.
“We have never been beholden to ideological or philosophical preconceptions… As a nation, we have weathered numerous crises, precisely because we have never been dogmatic about our approach.”
Mrs Lim, who currently holds several positions in private equity and financial and maritime services, said that while it was fashionable not too long ago to favour a “less government, more market” economy, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned everything on its head.
Governments had to take control of everything – from resuscitating the economy to regulating healthcare.
She observed that as political parties in many countries are voted out after just one term, it is difficult for them to plan for the long term.
“Some governments wilfully conflate their roles as regulators and capital providers towards political ends, and essentially go for quick wins… Aggravating this trend are the rapid shifts in expectations of the people,” she said.
Mr Chan said the Government’s role as regulator should not be seen as “purely defensive play”.
“Our goal is not to play catch-up reactively. We want to be a proactive enabler of innovation, opportunity and growth.”
Regulatory agility is key, he said, citing Singapore’s regulatory sandboxes in fintech, healthcare and energy.
He noted several trends affecting the Government’s role in business.
First, growing geopolitical uncertainty is reshaping global trade and production patterns. Governments must uphold and update a rules-based system, even as they build a competitive and resilient economy at home.
Second, rapid advancements in technology and digitalisation are changing the way people live and work. Governments should enable businesses to go beyond local markets, equip workers with skills to capture new opportunities, aggregate the right talent and mobilise capital.
Third, widening income disparity means the state must have the courage to press on with sound and long-term policies, and ensure the fruits of growth are enjoyed by all.
He gave the assurance that the Government will continue to strengthen public, private and people collaboration to solve a growing number of “wicked problems”, and bring diverse groups together to find common ground.
Singapore’s success, he said, would not have been possible without the high level of trust built between the Government and the people.
“Going forward, there will still be many more difficult problems for us to solve… Ultimately, the ability to get things done will rest not just on who has the superior solutions, but who is able to execute the solutions well as a people.”
• Government In Business: Leading Or Lagging? is available for $28 in paperback and $56 in hardback (before GST) at major bookstores, including Kinokuniya Singapore. It is also available online.