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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance, at The Opening Ceremony Of Processcem Asia 2008, Wednesday 22 October 2008, at Suntec Singapore

22 Oct 2008

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Singapore, His Excellency Holger Standertskjold

Ambassador of Ukraine to Singapore, His Excellency Viktor Mashtabei

Mr James Goh, President, Association of Process Industry

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning to launch the first ProcessCEM Asia exhibition and conference, organised by the Association of Process Industry (ASPRI). This is a significant milestone for Singapore's process industry and adds to Singapore's role as the leading chemical hub in Asia.

2. ProcessCEM Asia provides a valuable platform for major players in the process industry to showcase their capabilities, share best practices, promote business networking and update the industry on new technologies available. The presence of over 100 exhibitors from 14 countries and regions, attests to the high value the process industry places on such platforms.

Growth of Singapore's Chemical Cluster

3. The process industry is a key player in Singapore's economy. The chemicals cluster which consists of the petroleum, petrochemicals, and specialty chemical sectors, was in fact the largest contributor to our manufacturing output in 2007.

4. Singapore currently ranks among the top three oil refining centres and top 10 petrochemical hubs in the world. This reputation has allowed us to attract many key industry players to set up operations here which will benefit our economy.

5. The large investments are well known : for example, Shell and ExxonMobil which plan to build two mega crackers, Lanxess AG which is developing a butyl rubber facility and Neste Oil which is currently developing a S$1.2 billion biodiesel plant in Singapore. These are not just large investments in their own right - they have many spin-offs. They generate employment, new business prospects for locally based engineering companies and they build up industry capabilities in general. They will also attract high-value downstream specialty chemical and advanced polymer industries to co-locate in Singapore.

6. The way to sustain this is for us to keep building up our skills, our experience and expertise, so that the standards of the local industry keep going up year after year. To maintain our attractiveness to investors, our local companies will need to continually upgrade their skills, resources, and expertise.

Industry Challenges

7. The process supporting industry is in fact doing very well at a time when many other industries are facing more difficult prospects. It is gratifying to know that our process industry has in hand contracts and orders that will take it through the next two to three years. Investments in the chemicals cluster have been made; these are investments of a long-term nature. For the process industry, that means a lot of business over the next few years. It is fortunate that we have this industry that continues to do well despite the slowdown in several other parts of the economy owing to global conditions.

8. We have to take a long-term view. When we think of how we can retain our competitiveness, whether we are going down within the cycle or coming up, the key for Singapore is to keep upgrading our skills, our knowledge and our expertise. That is the way that we can see through the cycles.

9. The process industry is a good case in point, of how companies have been constantly upgrading their skills and knowledge. Local companies can take advantage of the mega projects that are coming on stream, to develop experience ? the company's experience as well as the employees' experience on complex projects. This experience will be very useful when we seek opportunities aboard, including opportunities in emerging markets.

10. I think it is also very useful that ASPRI has been organizing industry seminars that provide its members with advice on new technologies and ways to upgrade manpower.

Moving Forward with Sustainability

11. I should mention too that the whole field of climate change and sustainability also presents numerous business opportunities in the clean energy and sustainable development sectors. For the process industry, this means considerable new opportunities - including developing new capabilities and technologies in oil sludge removal, wastewater treatment, and air emission controls.

12. We have to be mindful that sustainable development is only possible if high standards of environmental protection, workplace safety and socially responsible practices are maintained. Our industries have to be totally committed to these practices.

Nurturing SMEs

13. I am happy that our SMEs are doing well in the process industry. I am also glad that SPRING Singapore has set up a pavilion in today's exhibition to help profile our local SMEs. This is an industry, which has groomed several very successful local companies, some of whom are major names in other parts of Asia and globally. I hope this continues ? that this industry provides a platform for entrepreneurs to find their feet, to work their way up, to be promoted and to do well for themselves as well as for the industry and Singapore.

Public-Private Partnership Initiatives

14. It is also gratifying that the industry is an example of how the public and private sectors work well together. ASPRI has worked very well with government agencies like EDB, IE Singapore, STB, WDA and ITE. ASPRI has also worked very well with several PPP initiatives, such as the supervisory training programmes, business capability upgrading and market development efforts.


15. This is an industry that shows very strong prospects. It is also an industry that develops local entrepreneurs and is a good example of how both local and foreign business feed on each other. Thank you very much and keep up the good work. Thank you.