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Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at MOU Signing Ceremony

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at MOU Signing Ceremony

SPEECH BY MR CHEE HONG TAT, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE (MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION & MINISTRY OF HEALTH) AT THE MOU SIGNING CEREMONY BETWEEN RED DOT POWER AND PLUGIT FINLAND, 09 FEBRUARY 2018, SINGAPORE CRICKET CLUB, 4.00PM

 

Your Excellency Paula Johanna ParviainenAmbassador of Finland,

Mr Tommi Saarela, Founder and CEO of PlugIT Finland,

Mr Vijay Sirse, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Red Dot Power,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

  1. Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you today to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Red Dot Power and PlugIT Finland.

    Background
  2. One important initiative of Public Service Innovation, led by Minister Ong Ye Kung, is to foster a pro-enterprise culture within the public sector where we regularly review rules and regulations to encourage innovation, cut red tape and support new business models. Minister Ong has asked Senior Minister of State Dr Koh Poh Koon and I to work with him on this through the Pro-Enterprise Panel (“PEP”). The PEP is chaired by the Head of Civil Service.  It comprises members from the private sector and government agencies, with a secretariat team from MTI’s Pro-Enterprise Division.

  3. I had the privilege of working with Minister Ong and other colleagues to start the PEP when it was first formed in 2000. The two of us were part of the PS21 Organisational Review Committee led by Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who was then Permanent Secretary of MTI.  As a young officer, I learnt a lot working with Minister Khaw and Minister Ong, and gained first-hand experience on the importance of having pro-business rules and policies which promote economic competitiveness and job creation.  This is just as important now as it was in 2000, especially when we are focusing on economic transformation to support innovation and entrepreneurship. 

  4. My next encounter with the PEP was in late 2014, when I was appointed Deputy Chairman in my capacity as 2nd Permanent Secretary at MTI. During my 8 months at MTI before I had to resign to run for elections in 2015, I had the opportunity to work with our PEP members, economic agencies and trade associations to gather feedback from businesses, help push these ideas with the regulatory agencies, and find practical ways to make our rules more business-friendly.  It involved a lot of hard work, but I enjoyed the experience because we had a passionate team of officers who believed that our efforts were making a positive difference to the companies. 

  5. Over the years, my focus for PEP remains the same - to promote a pro-enterprise mind-set within the public sector; to support innovation and entrepreneurship; and to facilitate the growth of Singapore companies to generate good jobs and higher incomes for our people.

    3 Key Elements in Pro-Enterprise Efforts

  6. Let me highlight 3 key elements of our game plan.

  7. The first is to proactively solicit suggestions from businesses, trade associations, unions and economic agencies. We need to understand how our current rules are impeding new business models, where are the pain points for businesses, what are the red tapes to cut and how we can help our enterprises to reduce costs, improve productivity and become more competitive.  It is through such dialogues and conversations that we gain a deeper understanding of how our rules can be enhanced.  Importantly, we have to keep an open mind to new ideas and proposals.  We must also be prepared to take some risks, as a willingness to try new ideas must come together with a willingness to accept some uncertainty and failure. 

  8. The second step is for the PEP to assess the feedback received, and play the role of an internal advocate within the public sector to champion these proposals and push for change. This includes helping businesses to navigate the regulatory landscape when the proposed changes do not fall neatly under the purview of any single government agency. It also means working with the respective government agencies to push the boundaries when there are good ideas proposed by companies.

  9. In doing so, there will be challenges and trade-offs which we will encounter. For example, officers from the regulatory agencies could have valid reasons for imposing a requirement. We are open to reviewing our rules, but not all rules can be removed or changed as some are still required to ensure safety and protect public interests.  It requires judgment and a careful assessment of the trade-offs.  I also want to be fair to our regulatory agency colleagues who are enforcing the rules – they have a difficult job because they often have to be the “bad guys”, and they may not have full discretion to exercise flexibility or the authority to deviate from the policy.  Changes in policies and rules are decisions for management to make. We cannot delegate this responsibility to our front-line colleagues, though we want to encourage them to surface their feedback and suggestions on how to improve the rules and processes. 

  10. With this principle in mind, PEP adopts the approach of sending our rules review proposals to the senior management of government agencies.  We want them to take the lead in reviewing their rules.  It is our job as leaders at every level to exercise these judgment calls and when there are trade-offs to be made, to decide where the lines should be drawn.  It is also our responsibility to provide backing and support for our colleagues down the line who have to implement the changes and enforce the rules, especially if the changes involve some risks and uncertainties.

  11. This is why the PEP is chaired by the Head of Civil Service, as he is able to view the situation from a whole-of-government perspective and work with the agency heads to resolve the trade-offs. And if there are issues which require political decisions, the secretariat will send these to Minister Ong, SMS Koh and I. For cases involving major policy changes, we will work with the agencies to surface the proposals to Cabinet.  So we are working together at all levels and across different agencies, to create a more pro-enterprise culture and business-friendly rules. 

  12. That brings me to the third and final element, which is to promote a pro-business culture within the public sector and for all agencies and public officers to support innovation and enterprise development. This cannot be achieved by the PEP and economic agencies alone.  We need to work in partnership with the regulatory, social and security agencies within the government, and also with external stakeholders like businesses, trade associations and unions.  We also need the support of public officers at all levels, from public service leaders to middle management to front-line officers, to constantly look for ways to enhance our rules and improve the operating environment for enterprises, seeing things from the perspectives of our businesses and helping them to succeed.

  13. This includes keeping our regulatory and compliance costs low; avoiding unnecessary delays in the processing of licence applications; and ensuring that our rules are able to keep evolving with changes in technology and business models. If we do this well as a public sector, our regulatory framework will be nimbler, our businesses can be more competitive, and over time our economy can create more jobs and generate higher incomes for Singaporeans.

  14. I am heartened to see more regulatory agencies taking a risk-based regulatory approach and allowing risk taking and experimentation. For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has introduced a regulatory sandbox for fintech solutions, while the Energy Market Authority did the same for the electricity and gas sectors last year.  I have encouraged my colleagues in MCI and MOH to do likewise, and find opportunities to collaborate with local companies and start-ups to try out new ideas and push our regulatory boundaries.  This is a mutually beneficial exercise for both companies and regulators, and helps to build trust and stronger partnerships over time.  We must also remain open to new developments and ideas which may emerge along the way, including those which disrupt the status quo and extend beyond our current comfort zones.

    Call-For-Suggestion

  15. To encourage new ideas, the PEP Secretariat put out a call-for-suggestion last year for companies to submit feedback on how existing and new regulations can be better designed for businesses, especially in industries with disruptive technologies and new business models. 

  16. Red Dot Power and PlugIT Finland responded to the call-for-suggestion and submitted a proposal to the PEP Secretariat. The proposal seeks to address potential regulatory uncertainties with regard to their proposed business model, which integrates Red Dot Power’s electricity retailing business with PlugIT Finland’s electric vehicles charging infrastructure. For their business model to succeed, the proposal identified touchpoints with at least four different regulators across the value-chain: energy, transport, building and user safety. This is a good test-case to see whether there are overlaps in regulations to streamline, or possible regulatory gaps which we should address to provide greater clarity to companies and their customers. 

  17. I am pleased to announce that PEP will launch a deep dive into the proposal submitted by Red Dot Power and PlugIT Finland.  The PEP will bring relevant agencies together to review how our regulatory frameworks can be enhanced to better support such business models. The regulatory improvements will benefit other companies beyond Red Dot Power and PlugIT Finland. This same approach can also be applied to other industries, be it info-comm and media, urban mobility, med-tech or food manufacturing.  We welcome more companies to come forward with your proposals and work with us to review the rules and regulations affecting your sector. The PEP is here to work with you and support you.

  18. Let me conclude by congratulating Red Dot Power and PlugIt Finland once again on their partnership.  As Chinese New Year is coming later this month, I would like to wish everyone good health, happiness and prosperity in the year of the Dog!

  19. Thank you.

 

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