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Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry's SME Conference

Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry's SME Conference

Mr Roland Ng, President, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry,

 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

 

1.         Good morning. I am pleased to address you at this year’s SME Infocomm Commerce Conference Series opening.

 

2.         The SMEICC continues to be a valuable platform for SMEs to exchange views, and share ideas on how we can navigate an ever-evolving business landscape.

 

3.         It has been a challenging period for our SMEs, which have battled many headwinds caused by the pandemic in the past year-and-a-half. In addition to the constant business disruption, COVID-19 has forced companies to re-think their business models, and find innovative ways to engage partners and consumers.

 

4.         The theme, “FIT for Future: Re-set. Re-balance. Re-newal” is timely. As the saying goes, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. The same applies to businesses. Transformation and innovation are crucial for SMEs to remain competitive and resilient in the long term.

 

5.         Let me share some thoughts on how SMEs can become fighting-fit for the future.

 

 

Re-set our perspective: No longer business-as-usual, but capturing new opportunities

 

6.         First, we should reset our perspective. Living in a world that has been disrupted by the pandemic means that there is no returning to a pre-COVID world. Instead, the pandemic has created an opportunity for change.

 

7.         The Singapore government has outlined ambitious and optimistic plans for the future of our economy.

 

a.    In May 2020, we established the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, which envisions the Singapore economy as one that offers limitless possibilities and opportunities for our businesses and people. These include tapping on new areas of growth, such as:

 

  • Digitalising our supply chains;
  • Growing smart commerce through online-to-offline partnerships;
  • Increasing productivity through robotics; and
  • Finding solutions to meet new sustainability goals.

 

b.    For SMEs in particular, COVID-19 has catalysed the need for digital transformation and innovation. Businesses can learn to operate in a more digitally connected world by building on our strong digitalisation efforts.

 

  • One way is to create a virtual marketplace of goods and services to support the development of new products and digital experiences, as well as the participation in the trade of goods and services.

 

8.       To achieve these ambitions, we will need to be nimble and adaptable to a changing economy. The Chinese term for “crisis” is “危机”, which means both “danger” and “opportunity”. Even amidst a crisis and its challenges, we can always find new opportunities for transformation and growth.

 

9.       I would like to thank SCCCI for leading this transformation journey, and continuing to provide relevant and practical assistance to the business community.

 

10.    In particular, I would like to highlight two useful initiatives, which are also supported by Enterprise Singapore, that businesses can leverage:

 

a.    The Singapore Import Pavilion in Shanghai was initiated by SCCCI to increase the reach of Singapore firms in the China market, and to build their capabilities in digital marketing.

 

  • The Pavilion is an omni-channel platform showcasing B2B and B2C products, which are refreshed every six months.

  •   Featured brands are promoted by influencers over livestream to help businesses reach out to consumers.

  • SCCCI has facilitated about 150 products from more than 30 well-known Singapore brands for exhibition at the Pavilion, including Tai Hua Soy Sauce and Commune furniture.

 

b.    SCCCI also set up a Live Streaming Studio at the Trade Association Hub to help TACs and businesses access high quality equipment, and tap on new opportunities for live streaming, virtual webcasting, and hybrid events to virtually market their products beyond our borders.

 

  • The studio held close to 20 events since the opening in February this year, including those organised by the Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association and PwC.

 

Re-balance business priorities: Develop people alongside business transformation

 

11.      In order to better capture these opportunities, we also need to nurture our people and develop a future-ready workforce to ensure business sustainability in the long run.

 

12.      People are at the core of our business. We need to equip them with the right skills to take on new or redesigned job scopes to meet future demands.

 

a.    This could include upgrading digital skills in new technology platforms or programming software, enhancing business development skills to expand into new markets, or understanding new sectors in sustainability development and research.

 

13.      When we invest in our people and give them the tools to succeed, we not only create a more motivated and resilient workforce that will stay with us in the long term, but also ensure that our businesses remain competitive and primed for success.

 

14.      The Singapore government has in place a suite of measures to support business transformation and help companies upskill and re-skill their workforce, from new entrants to mid-career individuals and business leaders.

 

a.    The Enhanced Training Support for SMEs provides subsidies for companies to sponsor its employees to attend training courses funded by SkillsFuture Singapore, at up to 80% of course fees. Businesses can also leverage the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit to invest in their workforce development alongside wider business transformation.

 

b.    For business leaders, the Enterprise Leadership for Transformation supports leaders from promising SMEs to develop their business growth capabilities. Participants will be guided by a network of partners, including Institutes of Higher Learning, financial institutions, and industry experts throughout the process.

 

15.      At this year’s National Day Rally, PM Lee also outlined the need to ensure inclusive growth for all Singaporeans.

 

a.    The government will do our part. The expansion of the Progressive Wage Model reflects our commitment to grow wages in line with productivity.

 

b.    We will also provide transitional support for businesses during this adjustment period, to cushion the impact on business costs. We will all need to play our part to prepare our people well for the future, so that our society and business can recover from Covid-19 and succeed together.

 

 

Re-new our commitment to stay open and connected with international partners

 

16.      Lastly, we should remain outward-looking and stay engaged with the global economy. As business people, you need no convincing of this. In fact, you have managed to successfully connect with your partners and consumers through innovative and virtual means during the pandemic.

 

17.      However, we recognise that relationships cannot always remain online, and some businesses need to be done face-to-face. As Singapore transitions to living with COVID-19, we are looking to ease our border restrictions to facilitate business and international travel, and regain our air and maritime connectivity.

 

a.    Singapore recently announced the launch of vaccinated travel lanes with Germany and Brunei, which will allow fully vaccinated people to travel and do business more freely, without the need for quarantine. As vaccination rates continue to rise, we hope to expand this to many more countries.   

 

b.    Businesses can prepare for re-opening by doing two things: one, encourage your employees and family members to get vaccinated if they have not already done so, especially if they are working on the frontlines or require frequent travel. And two, implement frequent testing of employees, which would help detect cases early and prevent significant business disruption.

 

18.      As we make these adjustments and steadily re-open our borders, Singapore will be able to re-assert our position and renew our significance as a business, travel, and talent hub.

 

 

Closing

 

19.      In closing, I would like to thank SCCCI, not only for organising the SMEICC every year to help our SMEs, but also for their efforts in helping the business community ride out a challenging and unprecedented pandemic.

 

20.      As I mentioned at the start, sustaining a business is a marathon, and these are particularly difficult times. But if we change our perspective to proactively identify new growth opportunities, prioritise the development of our people, and renew our efforts to engage the global economy, I am confident we will do well in a post-pandemic world.

 

21.      I note that this year’s SMEICC will be spread out over three months, with 20 virtual sessions and 60 speakers across business, academic and government sectors. I encourage everyone to participate actively, keep informed of latest trends, and harness insights from other leaders and experts that will help your business thrive.

 

22.      I wish all of you a successful and meaningful conference. Thank you.

 

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