Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry at the SCCCI 6th Trade Association Congress, 2 November 2018 9.15 aM, at the TA Hub auditorium
Mr Roland Ng, President, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI),
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you at the Trade Association (TA) Hub for the 6th TA Congress and the TA Hub Carnival.
I am glad that since the opening of the TA Hub last November, more trade associations and chambers (TACs) have decided to call this place home. As of today, there are 30 TACs co-located here. I hope that for you, this has been more than a brick-and-mortar office, but a space of shared ideas and collaboration.
Importance of TACs to the Business Ecosystem
Collaborations among Government, TACs and businesses are key in ensuring a pro-enterprise and pro-innovation environment which will help Singapore keep its competitive edge in an increasingly globalised economy. With such collaborations, what each individual actor can bring to the table can be multiplied throughout the entire business ecosystem. This is why it is so important that we have innovative, well-organised and able TACs in each sector, to be industry champions leading industry consolidation, capability development and training.
Roland has listed an impressive list of SCCCI’s achievements over the past year, and outlined a forward-thinking plan for how our TACs can build on their capabilities to better serve their industries and their members. Thank you to Roland and your team for leading SCCCI and the Trade Association Committee (TACOM) in living up to your role as a mentor for other TACs.
Empowering TACs to Achieve More
I believe that our TACs can do more. SCCCI, in its Annual Business Survey 2018, outlined two ways for TACs to achieve more for Singapore and Singapore’s businesses.
First, TACs can lead the charge in industry transformation to complement the Government’s efforts. Our TACs are well-connected to the ground, and are well-positioned to spread the message of transformation, to galvanise more businesses into action so that they can stay competitive.
Second, because of your unique position, TACs are well-placed to also take the lead in addressing common needs and challenges in your respective industries, for example by providing platform or shared solutions in specific areas for our businesses.
I encourage our TACs to take up these challenges. If you have a good project in mind, the Government is prepared to work with you and resource you to scope the project to achieve the intended outcomes and impact. Last week, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing challenged A*STAR to find 10 progressive TACs that wanted to have a R&D plan for their industries that would help them compete on innovation. A*STAR cannot do this alone. It needs TACs to step up and partner A*STAR in such projects.
I encourage TACs interested to lead industry improvement efforts to make full use of the Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) programme, which supports our TACs in spearheading such efforts. Since its launch in 2005, LEAD has supported more than 50 TACs in over 200 industry initiatives to benefit close to 45,000 companies. To give a flavour of the range of good projects undertaken by our TACs in the past few years, Enterprise Singapore has prepared a video to showcase three LEAD projects, which will be screened later.
TACs’ Role in Developing a Pro-Enterprise Environment
Another important way that TACs can contribute is by being the voice for your industry in engagements with the Government. For instance, the Government is constantly reviewing our regulations to ensure they are relevant and forward-looking. The Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) has been proactively soliciting suggestions from TACs and businesses. We need to understand how our current rules need to improve to support new business models, where the pain points for businesses are, and how we can help our enterprises reduce costs, improve productivity and become more competitive in the global market. It is through such conversations with TACs and businesses that we gain a deeper understanding of how our rules can be enhanced.
In a recent industry dialogue facilitated by SCCCI, the founder of Udders Ice Cream, Ms Wong Peck Lin, suggested that our rules under the Liquor Control Act could be nimbler and more flexible. Currently, the sales of all alcohol in retail shops and supermarkets have to stop by 10.30 pm. This includes food items like alcoholic ice cream which has a low likelihood of alcohol abuse. The objective of this regulation is to reduce public dis-amenities and we should explore if there is room to better align our rules with the policy intent. Arising from such feedback, MTI has been working with MHA and the Police on a review to look into this issue. In fact, MHA announced last week that they are looking into providing an exemption for food products containing alcohol, where these is little or low likelihood of alcohol abuse.
This is a good step forward to also help companies save cost. If such food products could be sold after 10:30pm, ice cream shops selling alcoholic ice cream like Udders no longer need to apply for liquor licences, and could save up to $880 per year for each outlet. Some rules were set some time ago and were relevant to the operating environment back then. We must, however, be ready to re-visit these rules and adapt according to changing conditions.
In our journey to becoming a Smart Nation, the Government has continued to enhance and improve business transactions with government agencies. Earlier in September this year, CorpPass became the only login method for G2B transactions. Soon after, we received feedback from Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, the President of the Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore (FMAS) that it was difficult for many of the business administrators of SMEs to search for a particular agency on the CorpPass website.
Mr Yeo suggested listing the agencies’ names in alphabetical order by default to make it easier for users to search for the agency relevant to their business needs. The PEP worked with Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) to reply to Mr Yeo within two days that his suggestion had been accepted and the website would be updated accordingly. The PEP also took this opportunity to share this suggestion with the other regulatory agencies, so that they can update their respective websites where appropriate. Mr Yeo later wrote in to the PEP to indicate this deep appreciation of the quick turnaround time by the government agencies involved.
These two examples are relatively small changes, but they are noteworthy for a few reasons. Firstly, it shows the commitment of the Government to work with the TACs to listen to the feedback of their members. We may not be able to resolve every issue, but we are committed to review each feedback seriously. Secondly, we hope to develop a culture among public officers where we are prepared to be open-minded about the suggestions provided by businesses, and continually strive to foster a pro-enterprise environment to benefit businesses.
To do that, TACs and businesses have a role to play in helping us identify gaps and needs from the user perspective. I look forward to working with SCCCI and your TAC members to addressing the feedback you surface to us.
ConclusionTo sum up, your presence here today is proof that you are invested in improving your capabilities and doing more for your industries. For willing and capable TACs, the Government is committed to supporting your growth. I hope that we can continue to deepen the relationship between TACs and the Government, as we work together to uplift our local businesses and spur them to greater heights.
I hope you all enjoy the line-up of sessions in today’s full-day event.