"Singapore has made good progress transforming industries, as well as re-skilling and upgrading the workforce to be future-ready," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day message.
As Singapore celebrates 54th National Day this year, the Prime Minister appreciates the growth the country has seen so far and acknowledges the challenges it is facing today.
Facing the economic slowdown with resilience
The weakened global demand and international trade has impacted Singapore's economy. And the government foresees more challenges in the future.
PM Lee said, "This has affected our manufacturing sector and trade-related services. In particular, we are feeling the worldwide cyclical downswing for electronics, which performed strongly last year."
However, even amidst such challenges, PM Lee stays positive as he believes that Singapore and its people can still make things work in their favor.
Back in the 1960s, the city-state of Singapore was an undeveloped country with a GDP per capita of less than $320. Today, it is one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Its GDP per capita has risen to an incredible $60,000, making it one of the strongest economies in the world.
By embracing globalization, free-market capitalism, education, and pragmatic policies, the country has been able to overcome its geographic disadvantages and become a leader in global commerce.
Now as the country becomes vulnerable to more challenges, with GDP growth expected to decline to 2.4 percent in 2019 from 3.2 percent in 2018, it is time to harness the country's resilience.
"We have experienced such slowdowns before and we will take this one in our stride," said Lee.
Earlier, in July, Labor Chief Ng Chee Meng had also mentioned that recent slowdown in Singapore's growth gives the Republic the impetus to further its efforts in restructuring its economy.
As the government looks to navigate through the challenges and stimulate its economy, how it prepares its people will be extremely critical.
Overcoming economic challenges with people at the center
Since independence in 1965, Singapore has experienced exceptionally rapid growth, low inflation, and a healthy balance of payments. But it was not always sunshine for the Southeast Asian country.
Despite its small domestic market and a lack of natural resources, Singapore successfully weathered through the financial crisis of 1997 and 2008. Majorly, driven by exports in electronics manufacturing and machinery, financial services, tourism, Singapore’s true natural resource has been its people.
The amount of investment the country has made in its people development has helped it in the past, and as more challenges emerge the government looks to further strengthen its people capabilities.
In 1965, unemployment in Singapore was in the double digits. Workforce literacy was 57 percent. However, with a framework to help workers skill, re-skill and remain employable even amidst rapid disruptions, Singapore has been able to reduce its unemployment rates. With arms like SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), the country has been able to rank one, in the World Bank Human Capital Index, out of a list of 157 economies.
So far, with SkillsFuture the government has been able to build up the skills of tens of thousands of Singaporeans, and helped them be more productive and employable. Singapore’s HCI stands at 0.88. This translates into a highly productive future workforce- it predicts that children born today in Singapore will fulfill 88 percent of their productivity-potential when they grow up.
But with new challenges even a high-HCI economy like Singapore must continuously adapt and this why investing in people will remain a key priority for the government.
PM Lee declared, "The Government will continue to “invest heavily” in Singaporeans, to enable every citizen to achieve their potential."
The Singaporean government has also been preparing its workforce for the new jobs and the skills that will be demanded in the future.
"All these structural measures will not only address our longer-term challenges, but also help us see through a more immediate downturn,” shared PM Lee.
To continue its endeavor of helping people reach their true potential, the government will soon be looking to make pre-school and tertiary education more affordable. Further, to solve the crisis ageing workforce can present and to create re-employment opportunities for them, the government is working on something currently. PM Lee didn't reveal much as yet, but he will share more information on what plans does he have for the ageing workforce of the country.
Welcoming new opportunities and moving in tune with time
Another aspect that has always worked in Singapore's favor has been it has welcomed the disruptive technologies and new business models in the country. It has not only created an ecosystem where tech-based companies and small startups can grow, but also ensured that its people are equipped with the latest technologies and trends.
The way the country embraced digitization and adopted it for its benefits, strengthens PM Lee's hope for the current and future challenges as well.
With an optimistic tone PM Lee said, "By continuing to invest heavily in our people, we enable each one of us to take advantage of new opportunities at every stage of life."
People Matters’ Team wishes all the Sinagporeans a very Happy National Day!
Image credit: sghardtruth.com