SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to remain connected with the world so as to prepare for its next stage of growth, and one way of doing so is to build up local talent with overseas market know-how to help companies venture abroad, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Mar 4).
More than 50 per cent of local enterprises have found it difficult to internationalise due to the lack of right talent for their overseas operations, he said during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
“To address this, we need to build a pipeline of local talent with the requisite in-market knowledge to identify growth opportunities and navigate challenges in overseas markets."
The Global Ready Talent Programme – which will dish out funding support to companies for overseas internships and management associate programmes – hopes to plug this gap, said Mr Chan as he touched on the new initiative first announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget 2019 statement.
It will be administered by Enterprise Singapore and is set to be rolled out in the second quarter.
"We will focus on markets in Southeast Asia, China and India. Singapore enterprises can receive up to 70 per cent funding support for the allowance or salary of participants,” said the minister.
For students from Institutes of Technical Education, polytechnics and local universities who plan to take up overseas internships with Singapore firms, Enterprise Singapore and the institutes of higher learning will co-fund travel and subsistence allowances, according to MTI.
Enterprise Singapore will also fund up to 70 per cent of the students’ monthly stipends.
Apart from internships, the programme will also support home-grown firms to send their young workers on overseas postings. These workers, either fresh graduates or employees with less than three years of experience, must be posted overseas for at least a year.
Local enterprises will be eligible for funding of up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs, capped at S$50,000 per management associate per year, added MTI.
As part of promoting ideas and talents, Mr Chan said the Global Innovation Alliance initiative - which was launched in 2017 to strengthen Singapore’s connections to major innovation hubs around the world - will also be expanded this year.
“Companies invest in Singapore because we have access to talent, both local and global," he said.
"For Singapore to thrive, we will continue to develop our local talent, and welcome global talent, especially those with high-end digital and engineering skills, to complement our local workforce.”
ENHANCE TRADE AGREEMENTS
In his speech, the minister reiterated the need for Singapore to enhance its network of trade agreements.
This includes upgrading trade pacts to secure deeper market access and updating rules on new business models and regulations, as well as expanding the country’s network of free trade agreements to give companies access to more markets.
This also ensures the diversification of markets and supply chains, so that Singapore does not “overly rely on any one particular market”, added Mr Chan as he cited the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Singapore’s agreements with the European Union as examples.
The former entered into force last year, establishing Singapore’s first FTA with Canada and Mexico. The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and Investment Protection Agreement, which received the European Parliament’s consent last month, brings Singapore closer to an FTA with its third-largest goods trading partner and largest services trading partner.
Moving forward, work continues with the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and other trade pacts with the Eurasian Economic Union, the Pacific Alliance and the Southern Common Market in South America.
Addressing Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Teo Ser Luck’s question on quantifiable indicators of how local companies have benefited from the FTAs, Mr Chan said firms here enjoyed tariff savings of about S$730 million in 2016, up from S$450 million a decade prior.
Since 2016, about 1,800 companies have benefited each year from Enterprise Singapore’s efforts to build awareness of the trade agreements and its benefits.
“We will continue to work with the Singapore Business Federation and the Trade Associations and Chambers to help our companies utilise our wide network of FTAs,” the minister said.
Providing an overview of Singapore’s external and internal environment, Mr Chan noted that the local economy is expected to slow in 2019. Growth will be uneven as outward-oriented sectors moderate due to the weaker external outlook though bright spots remain, such as the information and communications sector.
Apart from grappling with near-term challenges that include trade uncertainties and a slowing Chinese economy, Singapore also needs to keep a close watch on longer-term trends, such as shifts in global trade patterns, production chains and value chains brought about by technological changes and geopolitics.
In the longer term, Singapore will need to watch out for developments in international taxation.
“Our future attractiveness as a choice business location will be shaped by the outcomes from ongoing discussions at international fora on base erosion and profit shifting and taxation principles for the digital economy.
“Despite the uncertain global context, there are reasons for us to be optimistic. If we get our fundamentals right, we can further distinguish ourselves and attract global investors to come here and create better jobs for fellow Singaporeans,” said Mr Chan.