Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Staying nimble to seize opportunities

Business Times: Mon, Sep 03

Benedict Soh
Executive Chairman
Kingsmen Creatives Ltd

THE Age of the Internet is fast and furious, presenting tremendous challenges as well as opportunities. For Singapore to exploit such opportunities, its citizens, especially the younger generation should have an entrepreneurial mindset in order to succeed. They need to keep an eye out for opportunities and turn them into tangible results.

Entrepreneurship does not solely mean starting a business or striking out to be your own boss.

Having a 'can-do' spirit will allow all to contribute to their respective organisations by making quick and sensible decisions to move things forward. Those who are fast and nimble will be the winners. The future lies in our citizens being able to achieve a higher return on the government's investment in education.

Ang Swee Meng Allen
Managing Director
Aldon Technologies Services Pte Ltd

THE era of rapid economic growth for Singapore is over. Our economy is maturing and society ageing and more resources have to be diverted for social programmes.

Under such circumstances, more modest growth rates of 3 per cent or less will be the reality in the future. New economic powerhouses such as China and India are growing rapidly and competing against Singapore for markets, capital and talent. These are the changes that Singapore has to adapt to in the years ahead.

In line with slower growth, our workers have to lower their expectations and accept smaller wage increases in order to keep our businesses competitive. We have to keep business costs low and productivity high by exploiting technology like automation, educating future generations of students with innovative and practice-oriented skills, and judicious import of foreign talent.

The new global economic order will offer many opportunities, some of which Singapore has an intrinsic competitive advantage. These include water, environmental engineering, life sciences, air and sea transport and some specialised areas in infocomm technology and engineering.

These are areas where Singapore has a head-start and government and industry should work together to channel more resources to maintain our leadership.

One thing must not change, however. We must continue to maintain the unique tripartism underpinning harmonious labour-management relations which is a key competitive advantage for Singapore.

Patrick Liew
HSR International Realtors Pte Ltd

AT this point in our nation-building, perhaps we should return to basics and ask ourselves: What makes a great nation great and how do we galvanise our public, private and people sectors to turn this into a reality?

What worked in the past might not work in the future, so we need to be strong and resilient enough to break from the current mould and go into unchartered territory.

This begins with deciding the type of leaders and government that we need to help us survive and succeed. A team that not only has its ears to the ground, but can also unite the people to support policies that are good for the country even though they may not be totally acceptable to every segment of the population.

As we seek to become a pivotal hub in a globalised world, we need to constantly capitalise on our unique competitive advantages to stay ahead. We need to innovate and export future technologies and services, not just be a switching centre, especially to emerging and fast-growing economies.

It is only by being a market-maker rather than a market-follower that we can build a more stable and sustainable economy.

We need to continue to invest in our people to ensure that we will not only have a highly competent and effective workforce but also an inclusive one that will take advantage of the economic tide favouring Asia. Without a strong and highly motivated people sector, we cannot turn our aspirations into reality.

Ronald Lee
Managing Director
PrimeStaff Management Services Pte Ltd

SINGAPORE has, for many years, been South-east Asia's strongest economy. But competition from our neighbours has intensified in recent years. The world is changing rapidly and we cannot afford to be complacent. We have to keep reinventing ourselves to remain relevant.

As a nation, we need to accept that the demographic of our population is changing due to the arrival of new immigrants. This is inevitable because of our falling birth rates.

While the government needs to manage this transition delicately, as citizens we need to exercise greater tolerance and acceptance so that we can live in a society that is truly inclusive and embraces diversity.

For all its efficiency, Singapore does lag behind other world-class cities in terms of productivity.

The government has already identified this as an area that requires improvement so companies need to find ways to drive up productivity.

As a knowledge-based economy, it is imperative that we continue to upgrade the only resource we have - people - while ensuring that we remain at the forefront of technology.

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director

WE are now living and operating in a new business and social environment, where companies are encouraged to maximise their bottom line at the lowest possible cost, and where consumers are becoming more discerning.

As collaboration plays a fundamental role in doing business, it is important for Singaporeans to adopt a high level of civic consciousness, commensurate with our status as a first world nation, and to have an open mindset and mutual respect for each other, including immigrants and foreign workers.

As Singapore opens her doors to the rest of the world, we cannot stop the inflow of foreign talent to our shores.

I hope Singaporeans can embrace this necessary change and try to learn from our "newly minted" citizens. We need to cast aside preconceived ideas, attitudes and prejudices, especially those with a xenophobic undertone.

Only by doing so will the world continue to be our oyster. We can aspire to be proud Singaporeans as well as highly admired global citizens.

Gerald Foo
Walton International Group (S) Pte Ltd

SINGAPORE will face many challenges in coming years. These include socio-cultural challenges brought on by an increase of foreigners. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in his National Day Rally speech that most Singaporeans understand the need for immigrants and foreign workers, and accept them.

There will be issues and points of contention between Singaporeans and foreigners from time to time, and Singaporeans must learn to be circumspect and level-headed in their response. Singaporeans must do their part in helping new arrivals who are willing to integrate into our community.

At Walton, we recognise the importance of helping new citizens and foreigners adapt to their new environment. Our presence in six countries across three continents gives us the experience to foster strong multi-cultural ties among employees of various nationalities.

In Singapore, our induction programmes and team-building events emphasise the need to be sensitive to cultural differences. These go a long way in helping non-Singaporeans understand the new community they live and work in, and help them integrate into our society.

Thirumalai Chandroo
Modern Montessori International Group

THE influx of foreigners has supported Singapore's economic imperatives for long-term growth. In the light of their contributions, Singaporeans need to alter their mindset and insecurities about foreigners by letting go of such fears and learn to compete on even terms with them.

The emergence of new opportunities in fostering commercialisation of research & development (R&D) should be exploited, to place Singapore on a more sustainable and inclusive growth path.

In other words, the long-term aim is for Singapore to be among the most research-intensive, innovative and entrepreneurial economies in the world so as to create high-value jobs and prosperity for all.

David Leong
Managing Director
PeopleWorldwide Consulting Pte Ltd

THE power to shape Singapore's future lies in how we see the future. Is it bloom, gloom or doom? Are our past successes a hindrance and limiting our imagination?

Singapore has not arrived at where it is today purely by chance. My fear is that the younger generation demands more but is less willing to persevere to make a difference to the country.

I worry that Singapore will shrivel and lose its hunger for progress because we demand more social goods and services but at the same time fail to appreciate Singapore's vulnerabilities and lack of natural resources.

The balance of power in Asia is evolving. By 2020, China and India will drive much economic growth globally. Singapore needs to integrate itself with these countries, especially in the areas of finance, education and services.

Being the second clearing house for the renminbi will give Singapore a tremendous edge. This provides many opportunities for investors keen to participate in the internationalisation of the RMB.

We should also consider allowing more Asian students to come to Singapore to study. This can be done by encouraging more Asians to come here to have their babies, which will in turn boost healthcare and service consumption. Every foreign baby born here will be entitled to study in our school system.

By doing so, we are sowing the seeds for our growth since these Asian students will grow up here, have a stake in the country and eventually build bridges between their country of origin and Singapore.

This will also encourage population growth since some will stay on and become Singaporeans. Singapore's story has to be a part of the larger Asian growth narrative.

Liu Chunlin
K&C Protective Technologies Pte Ltd

GOING to the next level will be as tough if not tougher than the challenge our founding fathers faced when they established Singapore more than 40 years ago. Looking at the situation in some developed countries, it is easy to stagnate when one has to move off from a high base level of economic development. One of the dangers is a sense of complacency.

The next rung of economic progress will require us to be innovative and be trend-setters, to be ahead of the curve and go where no one has gone before.

This will rest on the shoulders of the younger generation. They need to be equipped with the skills for technological innovation and creativity.

More than that, we need the younger generation to develop a greater entrepreneurial spirit, and not look towards the government to provide a living for them. Each one has to carve a niche for himself in the global economy.

In the past, Singapore had aspired to a Swiss standard of living. Now developing countries like Rwanda are emulating us.

We should aim to continue to be a place with sound governance, security, financial prudence, a place that allows Singaporeans not only to make a living but also to transfer technology and expertise elsewhere. With an entrepreneurial and resilient spirit, we can reach the next level of development.

Glenn Tan
Executive Director
Tan Chong International Limited

SINGAPORE'S business owners need to be more nimble, use Singapore as a platform, review and re-skill existing resources, and deploy manpower to focus on expansion into the emerging markets of Asia.

To stay successful, we need to stay relevant. Given our current manpower and rising cost issues, we need to start viewing the entire Asian region as our business arena with Singapore as its headquarters.

A strategy that we have adopted at Motor Image is to create a world-class training facility in Singapore to transfer knowledge and skills to our subsidiaries in the region. This helps us to compete effectively with the big, established brands from Europe and the US in terms of quality.

In the automotive industry, we adopt a two-pronged approach to stay competitive: first, take the product closer to the markets by working with manufacturers to leverage on Asean's growth; and secondly, initiate partnerships with established Asian brands, combining our marketing expertise with their engineering excellence to launch brands specifically engineered for the Asian environment.

Teo Lay Lim
Managing Director - Singapore and Asean

SINGAPORE'S transformation in the past 47 years has been remarkable. In its move towards becoming one the world's most liveable cities and fulfilling its vision to be the global city in Asia, Singapore has created jobs and opportunities that have attracted talent and businesses from around the world.

Talent continues to be key in delivering success for this city-state and it has grown to be a microcosm of talent diversity.

To ensure that we continue to attract, develop and retain the talent to drive growth and competitiveness in the years ahead, we will need to continue to evolve our competencies in managing inclusion and diversity in the workplace, adopt new practices to enhance work-life balance objectives, and embrace new technologies to push the envelope on enhancing the productivity of our talent pools.

We have the opportunity to be the talent capital of Asia, to be the nurturing ground for current and future Asian leaders for global and regional organisations, and in so doing maintain our place as a key member of the connected global marketplace.

Chee Kong Choun
Managing Director
Edenred Pte Ltd

THE 2009 Eurobarometer Survey on Entrepreneurship places China at the top of most rankings on entrepreneurial attitudes and traits, with Japan and Europe scoring lowest. Could this help explain the different fortunes of these regions in the economic turmoil?

If the last 10 years is any indication, the global marketplace abounds with opportunities - but it will be increasingly volatile with shorter cycles than before. Singaporeans will need to have a much more entrepreneurial mindset to time and take advantage of these opportunities.

To make the change, relying on government policies and tax incentives is a start, but the key will be adapting our education system. We need to produce students with the mindset to take risks, and overcome the fear of failure.

Large classroom sizes of more than 40, with an over-emphasis on conformity, are not conducive to cultivating entrepreneurial traits. The classroom environment has not improved at all in the last 40 years, despite great strides made in other areas of life in Singapore. It's time to invest, adapt and prepare for the future - starting with education.

Lionel Lim
President, Asia-Pacific & Japan
CA Technologies

SINGAPORE is a market that has differentiated itself through high-value services and its robust economic, social and administrative framework. To maintain its competitive edge, Singapore needs to stay relevant to the global marketplace through innovation and fostering a cohesive society.

To achieve this, Singapore needs to address local population growth while attracting the right mix of global talent. Keeping ahead of global technology and business trends would ensure Singapore's future as a leading regional market. Pursuing business opportunities like establishing Singapore as a cloud computing hub would leverage on the nation's existing strengths and lay the foundation for carving an R&D and technological leadership niche for the country.

Toby Koh
Group Managing Director
Ademco Security Group

SINGAPORE'S most important resource is its people. We must continue to groom the best talent in the region. We must exploit our multi-cultural, multi-lingual Asian advantage. We must enhance our education system so that Singaporeans are sought after in Asia and globally.

How do we do this? The existing academic curriculum is good and our teaching of Mathematics has been lauded globally. But what about soft skills and real-life exposure? I propose the following:

1) Every Singaporean child in secondary school should spend at least six months in China and one other country as an exchange student. Immersion in a foreign culture would help them relate better to people in those countries. Such ties are invaluable to Singapore's future.

2) Every student should be required to learn a third or even a fourth language, even if this is only at a conversational level.

3) Social service in Singapore and in one other less developed country should be made mandatory for all school children to teach empathy and compassion.

4) Every child should be exposed to team sports.

5) Entrepreneurial training should be incorporated into the school curriculum to groom a new generation of Singaporean business owners. There is no time to lose. Even if the government needs to dig into our reserves,

I feel strongly that we need to act now and concentrate on developing our young to be world leaders.

Dennis Yeo
Managing Director
Colliers International

TO meet new challenges and exploit opportunities going forward, Singapore must re-assess its real estate planning and policies, that is, Master Planning in relation to businesses.

As the world changes with the advent of technology, specialisation and the varying costs of resources, it is imperative for Singapore to align real estate planning to better take advantage of opportunities and at the same time, put Singapore's scarce land resources to the best use.

Singapore has progressed from a low-cost location for mass product manufacturing to a hub for higher value-add services and industries. Yet, the government continues to tender out land for industrial uses. It is well and good if "manufacturing" is taken to include the higher-value parts of the manufacturing process, that is, design, testing, manufacturing services and after-sale services, which Singapore continues to be competitive in, and which are important elements for developing Singapore into a talent and knowledge hub.

However, there is a gap in the government's understanding of the evolving manufacturing landscape and industrial activities over the last two decades.

The changes in the planning parameters, including zonings and definitions of allowable uses, by the URA over the last 20 years is at best "cosmetic". The lack of a good understanding of real estate demand of industrial businesses today means that planning efforts will be futile, as scarce land resources are not effectively aligned to actual demand and emerging opportunities.

For example, the government is releasing industrial sites in huge volume while land supply for affordable decentralised commercial space has been lagging.

And with a set of over-age planning use definitions for allowable industrial uses, the issue of "unauthorised uses" in industrial premises has emerged.

To this end, I encourage the government to survey the market to better understand what constitutes industrial activity and how the various industrial property types are being used.

This will allow it to modernise and formulate a framework that is better able to identify and specify the allowable uses for the various land zones. This way, Singapore will become more relevant and will strengthen our chances of "meeting new challenges and exploiting emerging opportunities".

Eric Hoh
Symantec, Asia South

PM Lee's remarks on growing Singapore by introducing niche talents and infrastructure resonated with me.

To nurture creativity and entrepreneurship in Singaporeans at a young age, promoting a spontaneous and encouraging environment where innovation can prosper through the seeding of ideas, which are then transformed into reality, is instrumental to helping Singapore build a knowledge-based economy.

In its current capacity as a regional IT hub, the successes Singapore has achieved in the field have earned the country a place among global players. IT opens up new opportunities for leadership in emerging areas, such as cyber security, big data, cloud and mobility.

The future calls for the brightest talent to sustain this growth momentum and it all starts with education. It is indeed exciting to see the Singapore government placing greater emphasis on higher education in IT-related fields. As a keen supporter of Singapore's development, Symantec has been partnering with institutes of higher learning to develop training programmes on the latest IT security methodologies, aimed at engaging, inspiring and empowering students to think as IT professionals.

We are optimistic that this continued investment in education will serve to bolster Singapore's positioning as one of the region's most resilient and vibrant digital economy.

John Tan
Chief Executive
ACR Capital Holdings Pte Ltd

SINGAPORE must position itself as a first-class world citizen. Economically, we must do away with practices that hinder security, the free-flow of legitimate capital and the provision of a world-class lifestyle for all.

We must invest in supporting the highest level of productivity, the smallest wealth/earnings gap and first-world education.

Equally important, Singapore must encourage a social inclusiveness where no one is discriminated against because of gender, religion or origin.

On the world stage, Singapore must stay neutral, connected and engaged to become a centre for geopolitical dialogue. These would go some way towards building an efficient wealth and opportunity distribution system, which will make the cake bigger for all and Singapore the best place for living and doing business. This way, we will always be ahead in the global rat race.

Teng Yeow Heng Michael
Managing Director
Corporate Turnaround Centre Pte Ltd

IT is important that we put the interest of Singaporeans first and continually engage their hearts, minds and souls. This is especially so as the global economy and external environment will become increasingly difficult going forward.

There are, however, opportunities for Singapore to harness if it continues to remain a haven of stability even as other countries are thrown into turmoil. Investments will then continue to flow Singapore's way. Economic success aside, we need to take care of the welfare of Singaporeans first. This may require the country to spend more on social services by raising taxes, which would result in a loss of competitiveness.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
Email: marshe_inc@yahoo.com.sg
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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