What Singapore needs to do to remain effective and attractive

Singapore's principled position on geopolitical issues and its neutrality are among the reasons why it was chosen to host historic meetings like the upcoming summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing brought up this point yesterday to emphasise why small states like Singapore need to be principled.

"Our task and priority is to ensure that we remain relevant," he added.

The way to do so is for Singapore to have a deep understanding of the different interests, institutions and individuals shaping global developments, he said.

"To remain effective and attractive, we must develop people with a deep understanding of the region and the world, so that we can create value when others do business with us," he added.

"We must also help Singaporeans - both individuals and businesses - access and penetrate global markets better."

This means Singaporeans must have an ability to understand and work across cultures and nationalities, and the Republic must have a diversity of talent, both local and global, he said. He spelt out a vision of foreign professionals with valuable knowledge, skill sets and competencies working shoulder-to-shoulder with skilled Singaporean talent, "cross-pollinating ideas and bringing out the best in each other".

Mr Chan spelt out a vision of foreign professionals with valuable knowledge, skill sets and competencies working shoulder-to-shoulder with skilled Singaporean talent, "cross-pollinating ideas and bringing out the best in each other".

To secure its place in the world, Singapore must also better connect to the world as its hinterland, gaining better access to resources and markets, he added.

This involves doing business with more markets, negotiating new free trade agreements while upgrading existing ones and exploring new markets, he said.

Singapore should also go beyond the conventional dimensions of air, land and sea connectivity, by ensuring that it is connected to the world in the realms of data, finance, talent and technology, he said.

Mr Chan noted that Singapore's economy is maturing, and to achieve sustained and quality economic growth, it must not only be able to attract activities here, but also venture out.

"This means, beyond looking at GDP as a benchmark, we have to focus on GNI too," he said.

The GNI (gross national income) is the sum of a nation's GDP (gross domestic product) - the total value of goods and services produced within the country - and the net income it receives from overseas.

Mr Chan also warned that as a society matures, it usually becomes more conservative - choosing to uphold the existing systems rather than break new ground.

But to be "pioneers of our generation", Singapore must be clear-eyed about its challenges, he said.

"We need to keep up our vitality and verve. It is one thing to be the best-in-class for ports and airports. But it is another to be even better - ready for tomorrow's needs, ahead of time," he added.