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Singapore must focus on technology and innovation to transform society and the economy

Photo Credit: EDB

The Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke to media last week in San Francisco while visiting for a tech forum on his 11-day trip to the United States.

The Minister acknowledged that the economy will go through various stages of ups and downs but he highlighted that “We must stay very focused on our industry transformation and looking at how we can create synergy. That’s one major area of work,”

The other area is to push ahead with technology innovation, he said. “I think we must position Singapore as a global Asian node of technology innovation and enterprise.”

Finance Minister Inspired by the inclusive and diverse nature of Silicon Valley

On Mr. Heng’s visit to Silicon Valley he remarked on the dedicated focus on technology and innovation and how this is altering society and the economy.

“They are looking at how they can take on the best technology and how it can be used for innovative activities that can benefit people across different realms, what struck me is the speed and scale at which they are taking this challenge very seriously. It’s an area we must invest a lot of time and resources in.”

Another strength he saw was the diversity of the teams that the tech companies had brought together. “They have been able to assemble very diverse teams of people not just in terms of race, gender and age, but more importantly, in terms of their background experience,” he said.

“Whether it is the schools that they go to, the education that they have, the background training they have been in – whether it is engineering or businesses – as well as the range of countries that they come from,” Mr. Heng said.

“By pulling together all these background experiences, they have been able to build very strong diverse teams with very, very creative people. That is another major area we need to look at – how we can grow this talent pool,” he said.

Government as an enabler of innovation

The finance minister talked about how the Government can create an enabling environment in order for innovation to grow and prosper.

“In our case, we are fortunate we are a single layer of government, and that allows decision making to be a lot faster,” Mr. Heng said. “But we need to look at how our regulatory approaches need to change in order to enable this innovation to take place.”

“Instead of looking at government as a possible obstacle to change, I think government should be an important enabler of change because at the end of it, all of us share a common objective of improving the lives of our people,” he said.

Mr Heng met finance chiefs of Group of 20 countries as well as World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials, senators and members of Congress and the US administration in Washington.

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