Photo of CFE from Lianne Chia CNA

Unable to meet economic expectations, the newly-set up government committee, Committee on Future Economy (CFE), set a lower GDP growth target of 2-3%. Headed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, the committee claimed that the country is an advanced economy, and, that Singapore “will exceed performance of most advanced economies”, without naming which “advanced economy” they are referring to.

The CFE gave seven economic “strategies” for the next 10 years, but none of the “strategies” created any new changes to existing policies. No new policy is created from the CFE’s recommendations despite the lengthy 109-page report. However, CFE leader Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat gave a grandiose speech about nothing:

“Despite the challenging global environment, there are opportunities for Singapore to thrive over the next decade. But the country needs to be innovative, bold and willing to change, on top of remaining open to the world and deepening its knowledge of markets around the world…Our vision is for us to be the pioneers of the next generation.

In the future economy, our people should have deep skills and be inspired to learn throughout their lives; our businesses should be innovative and nimble; our city vibrant, connected to the world, and continually renewing itself; our Government coordinated, inclusive and responsive.

To achieve this vision, the Government, companies and individuals need to work together to pursue seven “mutually-reinforcing” strategies, aimed at keeping the country plugged into the world, and building the capabilities of its people and organisations.

These include the need to 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); and partner each other to enable growth and innovation…

The pace of change has also been hastened by technological breakthroughs and many of these changes are quite hard to predict with accuracy. What the CFE aims to do is to set out the direction and broad strategy rather than a detailed roadmap. Because it is much harder to say with any certainty which sectors will do well. And the nature of the economy interactions are vast, complex and fast changing. So we have to develop the agility and adaptability to cope with change and to seize new opportunities. So to continue to make a good living, we must remain relevant to the world … so our strategies for the recommendations ultimately revolve around this.”

CFE was created in January 2016, and in the one-year period the 30-member committee got together, nothing was achieved. The committee report merely commented on “external changes” but went on a pedestal on pragmatism, trade and innovation.