Dr Robert Yap, Chairman, ASEAN Business Advisory Council Singapore,
Mr Arin Jira, Chairman 2019, ASEAN Business Advisory Council,
Distinguished panellists and guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1.I would like to thank the Singapore Business Federation and the ASEAN- Business Advisory Council for inviting me to Digitize ASEAN 2019.
2.I would like to make three quick points in my remarks this morning, and we can thereafter have a more meaningful and substantive discussion during the dialogue.
3.First, our world is at a crossroads. We now have to decide whether in the next 10 to 15 years, we will go on a higher growth trajectory with greater integration or we end up in a slower growth trajectory because the world will be much more fragmented than what it is today.
•If the world is going to be more integrated for a higher growth trajectory then we are able to integrate digitally, financially and in the digital realm, data will be of utmost important.
•On the other hand, if we are unable to integrate digitally but instead if we are fragmented digitally, then we will certainly be fragmented financially and as a global economy.
•We are almost at the same juncture as where we are hundred years ago in the 1920s. Greater integration requires adjustments on each and everyone’s part - on each country, business and worker.
•But alternative to greater integration is greater fragmentation, where our supply chains, product chains and distribution networks are only able to be optimised at the local and at most regional level.
•We all have a decision to make as governments and as businesses.
4.Second, Governments are responsible for fostering global digital integration and creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive in.
•Disruptive technologies have transformed the global economy, business models and the nature of jobs. Disruptive technologies will continue to transform businesses and jobs. Policymakers need to keep pace to establish the right approach and standards in our digital transformation journey.
•The Singapore government is actively working with like-minded countries and like-minded companies to establish new international approaches to support the digital economy, notably in three areas - facilitating data flows, setting standards and helping businesses seize opportunities.
oData Flows: At the WTO, Singapore is a co-convener of the Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce (JSI). Singapore is also working closely with Chile and New Zealand on a Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).
oIn ASEAN, we signed the ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce and developed the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance last year. Most recently, the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework Action Plan (or DIFAP) 2017-2025 was developed.
oStandards: Here in Singapore, we adopted the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard, an interoperable standard for e-invoicing, as our nationwide e-invoicing network. This will allow our companies to transact seamlessly with overseas businesses also on the PEPPOL standard.
oHelping our businesses seize the opportunities: To assist Singapore- based technology companies to scale quickly, level up their digital capabilities, and expand their global reach, we developed the Strategic Partners Programme (SPP). The SPP helps companies realise these objectives through collaborations with prominent multinational companies (MNCs).
oAt this point I would like to add that a lot of people have this misconception that startups will suddenly emerge and become unicorns overnight. But most startups do not do this. Most startups need good ideas and partners including established partners in MNCs to grow into big companies. This is the case in Paris where MNCs are actively looking out for new ideas from startups to grow together in partnership. The startups that grow into big companies on their own without any partnerships are few and far between.
oMeanwhile, the Singapore government will continue to assist SMEs in adopting digital technologies and this is where we have the SMEs Go Digital programme. We have further enhanced this programme to enable SMEs to access digital project management services to help them better implement digital solutions.
oI must say that the way we operate in Singapore is slightly different from how other countries operate. We do not believe that the government alone should be pushing out a suite of solutions to the SMEs. We believe that the more effective way for us to do this is to find intermediaries that can help partner us in pushing out this suite of services to the SMEs. Example of intermediaries are DBS, UOB and Google where they are partners of SMEs and are in a good position to know the needs of SMEs.
5.Last but not least, businesses especially multinational businesses must also step up to foster global digital integration.
•Businesses should work with their respective governments to uphold a secure, open and integrated digital architecture. After all, businesses stand to benefit the most from an integrated and seamless digital space.
•Technological advancements have given rise to new business models such as B2B, B2C, and even C2C platforms. These platforms are creating new and exciting opportunities
•I encourage businesses to work together, generate fresh ideas and find new growth areas. To this end, I welcome the ASEAN-BAC’s ASEAN Human Empowerment and Development (AHEAD) initiative to foster digital connectivity through addressing the harmonisation of international trade standards, rules, procedures and documentation, amongst others.
•I would also like to congratulate YCH Group, ASEAN-BAC and the National University of Singapore (NUS) on the launch of the ASEAN Applied Research Centre (AARC). The AARC will not only promote knowledge sharing, but also develop innovative solutions that seek to resolve real world challenges faced by businesses in ASEAN.
•When we talk about digital integration, there are things that the government must invest effort to do well and these include standards, having the open architecture that allows data to flow and businesses to cross borders. That allows all businesses in ASEAN to leverage on the 600 million market.
•On the other hand, there are many other things that are beyond the government and that is where the businesses come in. If ASEAN businesses always see themselves as a 600 million market and go to their respective government and champion for an integrated market of 600 million, then we will remove or reduce many of the non-tariff barriers. Then we can truly realise the potential of the 600 million ASEAN market.
•If the rest of the world run the risk of being fragmented by different standards, ASEAN has every opportunity and responsibility to ensure that our 600 million market remains integrated and intact. Not only will this serve us well within ASEAN, it will also serve us well beyond ASEAN because individually, we will never be sufficiently attractive for businesses beyond ASEAN. But if all of us come together, then the 600 million market will certainly be an attractive proposition for the rest of the world.
•While people are very focused on the trade issues between US and China, US and China make up only about 40% or one-third of global GDP. We must never forget and always remember the other 60% or two-thirds. The other 60% have the right and responsibility to ensure that we remain integrated then we have a better economic trajectory growth for the next 10 to 15 years.
6.On that note, I am happy to join you in a discussion on the way forward for not just ASEAN, but for the rest of the global economy.
30 SEP 2019