Former PAP MP criticises Heng’s Committee for Future Economy and says Govt is the bottleneck

In a recent exclusive interview with DEALSTREETASIA, former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh criticised the Committee for Future Economy (CFE) which was led by Minister Heng Swee Keat. The transcript of the interview was published on Monday (29 Jan).

The CFE was established in Dec 2015 at the behest of PM Lee to address the new economic challenges that Singapore faces. It is a high-powered committee made up of five Cabinet ministers and 25 other members from the private sector.

The committee is led by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, with Minister of Trade and Industry S Iswaran as co-chairman. Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong and Minister in Prime Minister Office Chan Chun Sing are the other ministers. CFE is supposed to map out a strategy to transform Singapore by embracing innovation so as to become a digital economy.

However, at the interview, Mr Singh expressed his disappointment in Heng’s committee.

Rehash of old ideas

“The CFE was something that everyone was really looking forward to. There was an expectation that if something came out, it would inspire us and show the government realised the changes needed for a future economy,” Mr Singh said.

“When the report did come out, it was just many old initiatives being rehashed. So it was all about things being tried and tested, but with some fine-tuning. Nothing new came out of it, which was the biggest problem.”

Mr Singh said that ideas like innovation and overseas expansion as the second wing of Singapore economy have already been discussed some 20 years ago and Heng’s committee were “just rehashing things”.

“They’re all the right things to do, but the only way to do it is if we change our approach,” he added.

Mr Singh explained, “For instance, there’s lots of intellectual property (IP) in the universities and research institutes. How can we accelerate their commercialisation and entry into the market? Don’t make the transfer of technology so expensive or difficult.”

“The CFE implementation team needs to explain how they’re going to go about fostering and implementing innovation. Currently, there are no great ideas,” he added.

Chasing after new trends
He also criticises that Singapore economic planning model for many years was about focus on growth plays at the moment. “A group of smart civil servants sit down and review world trends, achieve a consensus on what Singapore needs to get involved in and then try to develop that industry cluster here,” he observed.”But the mistake we’re making is that we have got some very solid industry clusters that we’ve neglected. In the past, we had the semiconductor sector, but after 10-20 years, the government lost interest in it and felt we should shift our focus.”He said that the government should actually concentrate on deepening the skills and capabilities in each of the existing industry clusters and continue to run them as long as possible and innovate on them beyond cost, not just give up on them.

Using Belgium as an example, Mr Singh explained that it has been having a strong textile industry for a long time. Today, they’re still a major player in the world in textile manufacturing, automation, technology, all the parts of that value chain.

“Hopefully, the CFE understands this need for a different approach and really shows the nuts and bolts of how to build up innovation capacities and how we’re going to create the future economy,” Mr Singh lamented.

The government is the bottleneck

Mr Singh also criticised the government for being the bottleneck for slowing Singapore’s transformation towards the digital economy.

He said that Singapore is not changing fast enough in view of the disruption caused by technology and the effects of globalisation.

“You’re seeing massive disruption of traditional business models and changes coming from automation and robotics. A lot of the reports and research I’m reading indicates we’ve got to change more rapidly,” he said.

“But the government is the bottleneck for this right now, because they believe in their past model of success and think this will continue to work.”

The past model of success saw Singapore develop an MNC-driven economy but “today, there are many nations around the world who can provide the same kind of appeal for a lower cost and offer a greater availability of talent and a larger market. Our advantages are being eroded and we cannot depend on that anymore.”

He went on to criticise the government for not supporting Singapore’s SMEs, “We should have shifted gears 10-15 years ago and focused on supporting local enterprises that can be grown into large global corporates.”

But the government was content with SMEs playing supporting roles for the MNCs and neglected to make them a focal point of local economic development.

“The whole bottleneck is the government’s economic strategy and if this doesn’t change, then it’s too late. By 2030, 50% of the jobs as we know now would be gone. And if we cannot create new jobs, then it’s not a viable situation,” he warned.

“However, if we get the government to change their mindset and get the manpower and resources mobilised to execute the necessary changes, then we’re nimble enough to act as a centre for Asia. But the government has to first let go and not be the bottleneck.”

Mr Singh is certainly a rare maverick among the PAP MPs. In 2013 when Parliament voted for the unpopular 6.9 million population white paper, Mr Singh ”conveniently” excused himself from the chamber and avoided voting for it. If he was in the chamber, he must then vote “yes” together with the other PAP MPs as the party whip wasn’t removed.

In the end, it was 77 vs 13, with the Parliament endorsing the 6.9 million population white paper. The endorsement triggered a first big public protest in Singapore at Hong Lim Park, which made worldwide news.



Vincent Low

* This article first appeared on The Online Citizen.



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26 Responses to “Former PAP MP criticises Heng’s Committee for Future Economy and says Govt is the bottleneck”

  • N.Jungne:

    Alarmak one Raja Berok can decide to arrest someone without trail, under suka-suka conditions.

    GD Star Rating
  • Selfish Sinkie Syndrome:

    It could already be too little too late.
    I agree with Singh that we should have shifted gears and promoted our local industries in various select niche areas, but it is probably too late now.

    Pay&Pay have totally missed the opportunity to refresh our economy and ramp up productivity, because they stuck to their old methods of building bricks & mortar (and wasting untold Billions on it), and also chasing easy ways to artificially boost GDP via massive cheap labor importation. Imagine every FW import brings about more housing and higher property prices, more cars and COEs/ERPs/MRT fares etc. so easy money.

    We are 10 ~ 15 years behind the curve on groundbreaking innovation.
    Whatever “innovation” here and all the IP is all fake wayang with lots of roadblocks and heavy upfront costs. By the time, you try to bring any new product to market, all your money run dry from all the unnecessary licensing and payments. IP is just a con game for the big MNCs to lock in their markets and prevent new entrants. Many IPs submitted are all nonsense and basically so broadly applicable that anything will also infringe on it and hence attract lawsuits; and when lawsuits come flying, only the big MNCs have the money to play this IP game. Small companies will surely die bleeding given the high costs of lawsuits in Singapore. Only the lawyers win. Ha!

    Singapore damn silly to try to follow International IP standards, when you are a small country.
    Small country should be nimble and NOT follow big country standards of IP.
    Big country can have many big companies and so in the end, your own small SME sure cannot fight these big companies…that is why all the local SME die off after some time here.

    Even big countries like China also play the game smart and ignore whatever IP nonsense of Western countries initially because their market big enough. Now, after China build their own local industrial strength, then they oblige the western standards or only when they see it might be advantageous, then they follow SOME of the IP norms.

    Small country have to adapt to survive, not blindly follow Int’l norms just because. Some of these rules will disadvantage small countries, so ignore them and build your own industries first. Singapore kiasu try to follow Int’l this or that, in the end lock yourself into disadvantage positions which big countries can easily out-compete you.

    Singapore small country should ignore all these silly IP nonsense, and go after big markets elsewhere. Then without heavy burden of licensing cost, SME here can be nimbler and faster to bring innovations to market, while the big companies waste their time fighting lawsuits. Instead, “smart city” do the stupid thing and blindly adopt Int’l IP standards. Facepalm.

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  • C'est la vie:

    Who says an extortionately overpaid servant of the state, with no accountability nor responsibility to their paymasters, the people, and a large dose of opacity ………. has not dulled and deaden the mind and soul !!!

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  • notice that?:

    Have you all notice that in the world forums, whenever the clowns are participating, they have nothing to talk of except Singapore is a ‘path way for western countries wanting to trade with china or India’…more than a decade ago the clowns have already commented that ‘Singapore was a bridge, for those who wanted to trade with China’
    Singapore is in a pathetic stage, whereby even China is side-stepping the red dot in its OBOR ventures!!….so much so the clowns have to come out one by one trying to tap into the OBOR route by commenting that they could be useful in areas of finance and management!!..that in a way, as the Teochew says,’people are taking porridge, whilst the clowns on the side line, shouting that the porridge is HOT’!!

    GD Star Rating
  • Nothing New:

    Nothing new, Singh is just rehashing Dr Chee’s words that there has always been nothing new from PAP. Even Singh himself is not original with his criticism on PAP.

    GD Star Rating
  • Bapak:

    Pinky was so busy fixing WP, Roy Ng, hiding skeletons, admiring his CPF Statements and planning for son’s succession where got time to look into this.

    GD Star Rating
  • Song:

    I think what makes Singh different is his religious upbringing.
    He has a sense of social justice.

    GD Star Rating
  • LIONS:


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  • rukidding:

    I tell you what the REAL problem is !

    It is because of their “Fat, Obscene Pay” and a LEEDER who “favors” those that agrees and obey his instructions.

    Because of a Fat,obscene salary …nobody now “dares” to “lose it” and thus just simply became a “conformist” and an “Obedient puppy”.

    Because their Leeder cannot stand being “opposed” or “critized”..he being a “small boy mindset and a spoilt brat”…..people just “cruise along and happily entertaint him, since that is what he wants and how he does things.

    So,…..soon we all just become SINKAPOREANs lor !

    Blame it on the 70%

    Blame it on a “trait*r”, “betrayal” and “self mindset” of our current bunch of greedy , useless….Leeders.

    Inderjit should jion the opposition party just like how Pakatan Rayat has no choice but become Harapan rayat with Dr M !

    We need strong, good Oppositions to “take over” the current bunch of Pimps and prostitutes ( P.a.p. )

    GD Star Rating
  • rukidding:

    With Kuantan Deep sea port and the One belt one road…..TUAS Mega port will sure become a “White elephant” !

    Just wait and see how Air asia will once again become the next Game changer in SE Asia market.

    Lets not “dream and talk too much” about Tuas Mega port or Changi Terminal 5 !!

    Our current Leeders and Civil servants have all become “overpaid” and “under work”…and “Lazy” !

    If D GOH KS was still alive…..many would have LOST their “Golden Rice bowl” in the G sector !

    GD Star Rating
  • HarderTruths:

    Another day another useless committee. So what?
    The purpose is to justify policies already decided on.

    Let us not waste time on looking for some rationale or intelligent outcome from a bunch of clowns who can’t get real jobs outside.

    I am sure there are many true believers in this tiny island waiting to hear their words of wisdom on how A can backstab B to cheat C so D may rob E to sell to F.

    Fear not pappies, there are many balls-carriers anxious to make this a success.

    GD Star Rating
  • opposition dude:

    It’s clear to see that the PAP wants more non Singaporeans let in. Why else would Paya Lebar airbase be taken back with Tengah and Biddadari being developed as well? It’s pretty clear.

    Of course, to wayang a bit and to keep the dafts at bay we will read about some high tech stuff like how we want to go cashless, how we can pay by Nets at food courts, electric/driverless vehicles being trialled or in operation etc.

    They love talking about productivity but strangely for a small island we need more than 80 of their monkeys hmm. I mean, how productive can you get when there are 80+ of their donkeys right? We know they won’t reduce the number of their people so lets all give them a helping hand in the next GE. Less turkeys in parliament results in things changing and perhaps voters could see some actual productivity too!

    Win win situation leh!

    GD Star Rating
  • oxygen:

    ISN’T IT STAGGERING THAT THE COMMITTEE FOR FUTURE ECONOMY includes 4Gs and all that they could come up with is this

    Inderjit Singh : “When the report did come out, it was just many old initiatives being rehashed. So it was all about things being tried and tested, but with some fine-tuning. Nothing new came out of it, which was the biggest problem.”

    WE GOT A GREAT FUTURE AHEAD with the clueless 4Gs waiting to take over leadership of politics and economy.

    GD Star Rating
  • Alan Greenspan says:

    “Crony capitalism is essentially a condition in which… public officials are giving favours to people in the private sector in payment of political favours.”

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  • Haigen Daiz:

    They live in the Fake News echo chamber where they’re constantly told they’re demi-gods who can do no wrong. The Govt. doesn’t care about expanding the base because it serves its’ 1% political elites, not the people. Who didn’t see that one coming? Now, let’s consider that we no longer have even a modicum of competence in this Govt…. China continues its ten-year economic plans, probably ahead of schedule while we flounder amidst a cabinet of unqualified ‘wingnuts’ playing the musical ‘seat-warmers’ chairs. Sorry to repeat again Einstein’s: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

    GD Star Rating
  • oxygen:

    THE CARNAGE OF SLAUGHTER ON WALL STREET CONTINUES….it is turmoil.Dow plummets 1032 points, now down 10% from record; S&P 500 drops 3.7% to new low for week

    LEE-jiapore’s SWFs is going to get another nasty beating – their rotten track record tells me of this inevitable – can’t make good money in “good times” and get good caning in market mayhem.

    For 3 generations now, we have a successive mob of dumbest economic managers leading peasants by the nose – both blind and stupid except the entrepreneurial class. Since the heady days of self-aggrandisation of being a member of the “elite” so-called tiger economies, we have fallen so far back whilst others surged ahead. South Korea like us started with construction and basic assembly manufacturing moved on to great heights – started off as ship-repair, they have surged past Japan in shipbuilding, builds domestic armament industry even in sophisticated aircraft and warship manufacturing for exports, dominates some consumer goods sector, in spite of competition of Chinese next door.

    And we got no domestic global scale manufacturing which Inderjit Singh now laments. What we got is an eat-and-sh*t economy relying on foreign influx of cheap labor and foreign hot money to cook up an asset bubble to appear rich (Sentosa Cove is a rotten failure in this regard). Governing is very easy – fix the opposition and buy supporters vote with $6.2 billion of election lolly in 2011 and the farking dumb 70% daft peasant suck the bait.

    Well, there is no escape from reality. If the global stock market meltdown hits the real economy riddled with debt of no historical parallel in proportion of asset base, a lot is going to live through hardships for decades just like Japan is now since the 1990s.

    Asset bubbles not supported by recurrent income base and a strong domestic economy of solid foundation won’t last. Property prices in Down Under and Canada with strong natural resources backing is already wilting. The legacy of PAPpy scam of fake economy resting asset bubbles is yet to receive the full impact of its toxicity. The millennial haven’t seen or taste defeat – the property party has ended.

    Even in China, this is happening- everything is on cheap sale.

    Who is cleaning the dishes in LEE-jiapore?

    GD Star Rating
  • Go Check Poly:

    Go check all the Polys, you will see lots of DIRECTORS do not even have the INDUSTRIAL Experiences.
    Go check out how many ex GSI, JSTI, FSI students it took in.
    You think they really know their stuff?
    If IDIOTS are placed into POSITIONS, they will NEVER ever REALIZE the important of SELF LEARNING. Keep bragging how great our EDUCATIONAL
    SYSTEM to keep rewarding themselves in RIDICULOUS high pay by ASKING FOR
    MORE AND MORE budget.
    Can these POLY directors REALLY perform OUTSIDE THEIR comfort zone.

    GD Star Rating
  • NotMyProblem:

    PAP is driving in cruise mode in the Sahara Desert. PAP has not idea of gear shifting. It is a hit and run situation.

    GD Star Rating
  • patriot of Temesak:


    AGREE!!! he does NOT owe the PAP a living but he does OWE the people of The Republic of Singapore a debt to do what is RIGHT and NOT sit on the side and COMMENT…Inderjit your country NEED you NOT the INC but The Nation of Patriot and Nationalists some of which were the BEST was Destroyed by a Bastard!!!

    GD Star Rating
  • Something Fishy:

    Could it be that the Gov wants to keep thing secret?
    Anyway if u let your business strategy or plan known by ur enemies and competitors, most likely ur competitors might even outwit yours.
    The Gov is adopting Sun Zi Art of War in Businesses probably, careful planning without letting others know is vital in today business. Once it is executed, it has to ‘roar like a thunder’ and ‘fast as lightning’.

    GD Star Rating
  • LP:

    Go check Poly graduates. How many end up with career that uses knowledge they acquire in POLY. We keep increasing Tuition Fees but where are the RESULT.
    Tons of BS, in China they get the best master to coach their Olympic Champ.
    We SG, we PROMOTE tons of GSI, FSI, JSTI students to be directors and managers.
    Got industrial experiences. ABSOLUTELY NO!!

    GD Star Rating
  • Rabble-rouser:

    The present day global stockmarket turmoil is like a wildfire burning through valuable homes reducing value to near zero & turning wealth to ash. It was expected! But the joke is that today’s stockmarket was nearly devoid of retail participation; played mainly by the institutions & by computer algorithm. And whatever retail participation would be mainly indirect via pension funds or investment vehicles which had invested into high return yield products (with over-proportionate share of risks) and in Index-linked ETFs (some synthetic using derivatives instead of the underlying stocks). The nearly 10 years of liquidity flush (QEs, monetary easing, Central Banks helicopter monies) have distorted asset value (financial bubbles) & created dynamic imbalances which are coming to roost as the prospect of higher interest rates are over the horizon.
    The truth was that Inderjit Singh wasn’t even correct with his views! The last 2 decades of “Prosperity” wasn’t even due to diligent manufacturing activities nor through brilliant trade instincts; it was all pure financial engineering & simple wealth transfers (from the govt to the ‘Too Big to Fail’ banks & the 1% rich class). For S’pore’s case, it was merely tapping (like a simple rubber tapper cutting across on a rubber tree draining the precious sap) from the rich vein of global financialization schemes (re: globalization & offshoring of profits by MNCs) and unregulated money flows ie. your tax avoidance schemes & money laundrying. It’s all easy money unlike huge capital investments in manufacturing; or taking huge inventory risk with commodity trading or the normal day-to-day business activities to bring ‘home the bacon’. Simply, money makes more money!
    But the biggest problem with the Financial Engineering Game is that it’s all a zero-sum game as well as a Greater Fool mechanism. The underlying fuel had been the unrelenting liquity flush via major developed economies & their Central Banks eg. the US & the UK (to preserve their TBTF banking system), China (Infrastructure spending, building ghosts cities & later, capital flight), Japan (currency manipulation & to boost exports) & the EU (to protect their indebted constituents via currency & interest rate manipulations). Unfortunately, it’s all unsustainable!
    Money & capital are Finite Economic Resources! And that is why Finance as a subject holds dearly Capital Budgeting process (generating real cash flows) & ROI (exit strategies) as central tenets for financial conduct. And without it, finance & investments are simply undiscipline activities which are focused on PONZI schemes & a greater fool game.

    GD Star Rating
  • Nothing changed:

    In Singapore, besides some sugar coating and masquerading, the underlying state of little or no change is there. Like buildings being renovated on the old bricks and soil. Talk about 21st cc skills for the younger generations when their mindsets are still stuck in the feudalism era/aristocratic thinking where the top & privileged will rule everything over the lesser ones. Sad. We really didn’t evolve like other societies with more things being allowed but remained stagnant for decades with same old answer of ‘no no’ to various things.

    GD Star Rating
  • No one audited gdp?:

    Most businesses base on cronyism and not true entrepreneurship.

    If cronyism is true entrepreneurship, then rape is love.
    Then let’s all do money laundering, brothels and Prostitution.

    Sg lacks first world creativity.
    It’s why the whiteshit also said sg can only excel at ADOPTING best practices and products invented elsewhere and adopt it fast. Sg cannot be world leader in creativity unless regime is changed and freedom installed.

    GD Star Rating
  • US criticizes SG Civil Servant:

    Watch how American entrepreneur criticizes Singapore Civil Servant decision makers for not having the ability think:

    GD Star Rating
  • CFE Report - in Private Sector:

    Many of us are in the private sector.
    We have seen the quality of reports/plans for the commercial org to move forward.
    Compare those reports with the Gov CFE report.
    In private sector, such Report Writers will be in deep doo doo for such performance.
    You heard the “murmurs” from Inderjit Singh, etc.
    CFE committee is to lead SG in the future?

    Be very afraid !
    Many are. :(

    GD Star Rating
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