SPEECH BY MS LOW YEN LING, SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY (MINISTRY OF TRADE & INDUSTRY AND EDUCATION) AT THE PEP-SBF AWARDS ON 10 NOVEMBER 2017, 9.40AM AT INTERCONTINENTAL SINGAPORE HOTEL
Mr Png Cheong Boon, Deputy Chairman of the PEP and Second Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry
Mr Lawrence Leow, Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation Small and Medium Enterprises Committee
Colleagues and friends
1. Good morning. I am very pleased to be back here with you at this year’s PEP-SBF Awards. This annual event is jointly organised by the Pro-Enterprise Panel (or PEP) and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) to recognise the collaborative efforts of the private and public sectors in enabling a regulatory environment that supports innovation and growth of competitive businesses.
Regulating for the future economy
2. The rapid emergence of new technologies and business models has changed the way companies operate in our fast-changing global economy. Such developments require a pre-emptive and forward-looking regulatory framework to support new business ideas in the future economy. The government takes on the critical role of providing a regulatory environment that supports innovation, yet at the same time allows no compromises on the quality and safety standards that Singapore has come to be known and valued for.
3. The theme of this year’s event “Regulating for the Future Economy” reminds our government regulatory agencies and companies of the importance of working hand-in-hand to establish a nimble and responsive regulatory framework. This will support the growth of new industries and businesses with the view of positioning Singapore as a compelling location to develop and commercialise innovations, disruptive technologies and new business models.
4. As partners, we can turn the challenges in a changing economy into opportunities that will drive the economic growth of Singapore. Our regulatory agencies must keep abreast of the changes in the environment and stay ahead of innovation and technology to enable our businesses to reap the benefits of first-mover advantage in key growth sectors, and ultimately deliver value to Singaporeans through innovative products and services.
5. Since its inception in 2000, the PEP has been the advocate within the government for businesses. It has been working closely with the private sector and government regulatory agencies to review regulations to ensure that our regulatory regime facilitates the growth of businesses by minimising compliance cost and requirements. The PEP has to-date received more than 1,900 suggestions. Out of these, more than 1,000 suggestions have been accepted and resulted in rule and process changes.
Announcements for PEP initiatives
6. The PEP is continuously looking for ways to better support businesses in this fast-changing environment. We seek to ensure that the government is well placed to proactively review regulations, and better prepare the regulatory structures to catalyse innovation. I am therefore very pleased to announce that PEP will be embarking on three initiatives to promote a more pro-enterprise business environment.
7. Firstly, the PEP will be seeking to expand its outreach to the business community. In addition to the PEP website, you can now reach the PEP via the websites of 28 regulatory agencies to share your suggestions on any regulatory rule review. Over the next year, the PEP and colleagues from the Public Service Division (PSD) will also be sharing stories and benefits of regulatory changes that the PEP and government regulatory agencies have facilitated. We hope these success stories will encourage businesses to be more forthcoming with suggestions, as well as motivate public service officers to continuously review how they can make a positive difference to companies with regulatory changes.
8. Secondly, the PEP will work closely with Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) to organise workshops with industry stakeholders to examine regulatory issues and challenges. For a start, PEP and SBF will be organising a deep dive session to look into regulatory areas related to the business community. During these workshops, companies and relevant government agencies jointly identify the regulatory pain-points in the business community; this will help the government form concrete action plans to address the needs of businesses. Over the course of next year, the PEP will be reaching out to more TACs to organise more of such sessions. I hope you will actively participate in these workshops to highlight any regulatory concerns you may have.
9. Thirdly, the PEP will periodically call for proposals from industry stakeholders to review regulations based on specific themes. This is part of the broader push by the government to support innovation and industry development. The PEP and PSD are also working closely with Minister Ong Ye Kung, who champions public service innovation. Going out today is the first call for proposal on how regulations can be better designed for industries facing technological or business model disruptions. As many of these regulations straddle multiple sectors, PEP and PSD will take a whole-of-government approach to facilitate better inter-agency coordination.
10. These are just some of the many steps we are taking to ensure Singapore continues to be a conducive location for businesses and innovation to flourish. We welcome your suggestions on how PEP can continue to strengthen its processes and effectiveness.
PEP Awards and success stories
11. The Pro-Enterprise Best Suggestion and Pro-Enterprise Best Suggestion (Supporting Agency) Awards seek to recognise the efforts of businesses and individuals who have provided feedback, and the regulatory agencies that have accepted the suggestions.
12. The collaboration between our regulatory agencies and the industries is paying off. This year, Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (SFMA) has won 2 awards for their suggestions to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on fire safety requirements for brick walls for cold stores, and to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) health certification process on inspection regulations for exporters.
13. SFMA had highlighted how the fire-retardent compartment walls around cold stores could pose hygiene concerns. Besides the cost of building the compartment walls to meet SCDF’s fire safety requirements, cold store operators had to incur additional costs to also meet AVA’s hygiene requirements. Following this feedback, SCDF met with the industry and representatives from the relevant food and beverage trade associations and chambers such as Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and SFMA, to review fire safety rules within the Fire Code as well as hygiene issues concerned. The Fire Code has since been revised and cold store owners can now use the same set of insulation materials to meet AVA and SCDF requirements. This not only resulted in space savings for businesses, but also cost savings of several thousands of dollars annually for each cold store.
14. The second suggestion from SFMA was for AVA to consider putting in place other regulatory alternatives to replace consignment-to-consignment inspection, and testing for each shipment of export. In April this year, AVA invited companies that met certain criteria such as good compliance records to participate in a food export accreditation scheme. The companies have since benefited from the shorter time taken to obtain health certificates – from what used to be 10 to 14 working days to process the applications, it now takes only 3 working days. Indeed, these examples show that when regulatory agencies and companies come together with an open mind to address pain-points, win-win solutions can be achieved.
15. Regulatory agencies play an important role in the implementation of these suggestions. The Pro-Enterprise Ranking survey, which has been conducted annually since 2004, track the pro-enterprise performance of government regulatory agencies. Findings from the survey have enabled our regulatory agencies to improve on the clarity of their rules and regulations, and how they engage their business stakeholders.
16. Congratulations to all the winning regulatory agencies and companies this year! I look forward to presenting the 2017 PEP-SBF Pro-Enterprise Awards to you later.
Enabling a regulatory regime that supports innovation and is forward-looking
17. While we celebrate PEP’s success in removing regulatory pain points for businesses, there’s more to be done. In the future economy, regulatory agencies need to facilitate the growth of businesses by helping businesses adopt and even scale up new business models.
18. A short video will be screened later to show you how our regulatory agencies have facilitated new and innovative business models entering the market. This will be followed by a panel discussion led by prominent leaders from the private and public sectors. They will share their insights on the challenges companies face, and how the regulatory landscape can improve with innovation, new behavioural insights and tools. I am sure today’s event will create many opportunities for businesses and our regulatory agencies to collaborate and share their views with one another.
19. To conclude, a well-balanced and nimble regulatory framework can allow innovative ideas to flourish, while balancing the associated risks. This requires effort and collaboration between the government and the private sector as we work together to facilitate the flow of new ideas and opportunities. To the business community out there, I encourage you to continue to share your suggestions. The PEP is here to help facilitate and link you up with the relevant government agency. To our public sector officers, do continue to keep an open mind to new business ideas and exercise flexibility for suitable regulatory experimentation. This way, we can all facilitate the growth of competitive businesses through productivity, innovation and internationalisation.
20. Thank you.