25 May 2021

On 17 May 2021, the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (“EST”) submitted its recommendations to the Future Economy Council (“FEC”) with a vision for a “Virtually Unlimited and Sustainable Nation that is Stronger Together”. This vision will spur Singapore’s transformation as a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation, and enterprise, even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The EST was formed under the FEC in May 2020 during the circuit breaker to examine the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Singapore’s economy, businesses and workers, and to provide recommendations to the FEC on how Singapore can stay resilient and create new sources of growth moving forward.

The FEC has accepted the EST’s recommendations, and will incorporate them into the work of the FEC, particularly the Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) 2025.

This article provides a summary of the EST’s recommendations.

EST’s recommendations

The EST has put forward five key recommendations for Singapore to achieve the vision of building a virtually unlimited and sustainable nation that is stronger together.

1.  Virtually unlimited - Creating new virtual frontiers

The EST recommends taking Singapore’s Smart Nation aspirations global, to enable Singapore to access virtually unlimited opportunities for enterprises, talent, and cities. For enterprises, the proposal is to support enterprises in creating new products and digital experiences and build a vibrant virtual marketplace of goods and services. This will strengthen Singapore’s position as a hub for the world’s trade, extending to the virtual realm, by building on Singapore’s trust premium and neutrality. On the talent front, virtual training and workforce solutions can be used to help companies tap on global resources, including in-situ talent, to better serve global demand from Singapore. This could also bring new opportunities for Singaporeans to work overseas. Singapore’s relevance as a safe and smart city for trade, business, work, and leisure, can be redefined as travel is safely resumed through the use of technology.

2.  Sustainable nation - Seizing growth opportunities from sustainability

The EST recommends establishing Singapore as a sustainability hub to serve global demand and making a concerted push to establish Singapore as a carbon trading and services hub. This will involve developing a carbon marketplace built on quality and trust that addresses gaps in the voluntary carbon market, establishing a one-stop solution for companies to measure, mitigate, and offset their carbon footprint, and convening partnerships to capture opportunities through research and innovation. Singapore should strengthen food resilience through AgriTech by improving the economic viability and sustainability of indoor vertical farming within Singapore, and identify broader AgriTech opportunities that Singapore should invest in and aim to attain leadership in. Further, the EST proposes strengthening the traceability and accountability of industry value chains through end-to-end digitalisation, by establishing common standards to facilitate data flow, and supporting the integration of complex work processes across the value chain. In this way, partners across the ecosystem will be able to make informed decisions to optimise asset deployment and environmental impact.

3.  Sustainable nation - Enabling global champions and growing an agile and strong Singapore core

The EST recommends growing a pool of innovative and international large local enterprises (LLEs) through innovation, internationalisation, mergers and acquisitions, and talent development. Singapore must also facilitate the creation of good jobs for Singaporeans by enabling success in a broad base of companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and microenterprises. To harness support from the industry, the EST recommends leveraging “queen bee” companies and using commercial frameworks to bring along smaller companies or suppliers in their respective ecosystems or value chains. This can be augmented by digital infrastructure provided by the Government, such as common data or digital platforms to enable all companies to access best-in-class practices, technology, and resources.

The EST also proposes that businesses, training providers, institutes of higher learning and unions play a bigger and more sustained role in upskilling and creating career progression pathways for workers. Businesses should work with unions in adopting a preventive or predictive upskilling approach to identify job disruption and training needs early on, and develop workforce training plans, so that businesses and workers can be more resilient and ready for the future.

4.  Stronger together - Institutionalising the AfA model for private-public partnerships

The EST and its partners piloted and tested some of its initial ideas through a collaborative approach termed “Alliances for Action” (“AfAs”). The AfA approach taps on the complementary strengths and offering of the private and public sector stakeholders and seeks to deliver minimum viable products within compressed timelines.

To date, the EST has launched nine AfAs that have the potential to create trailblazing opportunities (digitalising built environment, EduTech, enabling safe and innovative visitor experiences, facilitating smart commerce, robotics, supply chain digitalisation, sustainability, AgriTech, and MedTech). Through this new form of partnership, the AfAs were able to achieve success in a short period of time.

Given the initial success of the AfAs, the EST recommends institutionalising the AfA approach, with future AfAs in the economic domain primarily established under the FEC, serving as an additional platform for private-public collaboration and as a more agile and nimble way to undertake industry transformation.

5.  Stronger together - Strengthening international partnerships, especially with South-east Asia

The EST recommends that Singapore partners countries in the region, including at the business-to business (B2B) level, and deepen engagement with and knowledge of the region. This will be enabled by the establishment of more platforms that bring interested companies together, and enable South-east Asia to serve the world in ways that would not have been possible individually. In addition, as a digital South-east Asia can present virtually unlimited opportunities for the region, the EST recommends strengthening digital connectivity across South-east Asia towards a Single Digital Area.

Reference materials

The following materials are available from the websites of the Ministry of Trade and Industry www.mti.gov.sg, Emerging Stronger Together www.emergingstronger.sg and Prime Minister’s Office www.pmo.gov.sg: