Opening Remarks by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in The Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance at The KPMG New Office Official Opening, 14 November 202214 Nov 2022
Mr Ong Pang Thye, Managing Partner, KPMG Singapore,
Mr Ong Chong Tee, Chairman, Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA),
Mr Teo Ser Luck, President, Institute of Chartered Accountants (ISCA),
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good morning.
2. It is a great pleasure to join you today. Let me begin by congratulating KPMG Singapore on the launch of your new office space.
3. The theme for your event is the “Future of Work”. This is a theme I can readily identify with because what pre-occupies the 4G team of Ministers is the future of Singapore, and the future of work is closely intertwined with that.
4. I thought I would take the opportunity therefore to share some of our thinking on this topic and how it dovetails with your priorities, and what we can do together moving forward.
5. I think it would be fair to say that we are living in a changed world:
a. In some ways, there is a sense of history repeating itself. The last century began with a major war in Europe, World War I, which took place from 1914 to 1918. This was followed immediately by the Spanish flu pandemic between 1918 and 1920. Both these events precipitated huge economic and social upheaval.
b. Now, 100 years later, the world has experienced another pandemic of even greater global proportions, and once again we see another war in Europe.
c. And as before, these two events are setting off tsunamis of change - redrawing geopolitical lines, reshaping the global economy, and ushering in what looks to be an era of massive social change. They have set out a chain reaction of supply chain disruptions and energy issues leading to rampant inflation and rising cost of living, compounded by contestation between US and China.
6. Against this backdrop, Singapore has to navigate its way, to keep the country on an even keel, ride the winds of change, seize economic opportunities, keep our people safe, maintain food security, ensure needs are met, prevent societal fault lines, and bring everyone forward together.
7. To do all this, we need a plan. And that plan cannot be that of government alone. A plan to achieve all these objectives and more can only be done if all Singaporeans are engaged and involved. It is with this in mind that the 4G have embarked on the Forward Singapore (SG). This is an exercise to refresh our social compact and chart our roadmap to our shared future. We want to create opportunities for all, provide better assurance and care for the people, steward our shared resources, and foster a shared identity and responsibility across society.
8. Let me touch on 3 of the Forward SG pillars and your role in this endeavour.
9. The first one is the Empower Pillar. The Empower Pillar of Forward SG deals with the economy and jobs. Here, you have a very important role to play by virtue of your consultancy and advisory roles. Identifying new growth areas, devising strategies to leverage growth opportunities, capability building – both for your clients and in partnership with government – will help us tremendously with this key area.
10. Let me highlight digitalisation as an example. Digitalisation is transforming job roles and competencies required, such as data analytics and IT risk management. Such job roles will become more multi-disciplinary and diversified. As you well know, in this new world where technology adoption has been accelerated by the pandemic, it is necessary to relook at how digital means can be capitalised to redesign processes, remove redundancies, and build digital assets.
11. The future of work will have a heavy focus on how to free up manpower resources for higher value-added work, such as using robotic automation processes for mundane or repetitive tasks. Helping your clients on their digitalisation journey will be an important part of giving effect to the Empower Pillar.
12. In this regard I was very happy to hear about the KPMG Digital Village which drives KPMG’s digital development competencies, pushing out digital solutions in the areas of risk, compliance and data insights and analysis for users and businesses.
13. Next, talent development and management. There is a global shortage of talent and keen competition for individuals with the right skillsets.
a. Singapore is no exception. We want Singaporeans to be able to access the high value jobs which are in demand. But to achieve that, some are going to have to reskill, and that will not be easy. Companies have to be willing to retrain older workers for these new tasks.
b. And even then, we will still need to supplement it with talent from abroad as our own local workforce numbers would not be enough to meet the demand.
c. It is a delicate balance between ensuring employment for our own citizens, and augmenting, where needed, with workers from abroad. You would have read and seen the debates on this. Conversations on this topic can sometimes be heated and even xenophobic.
14. You can make a difference by advising companies how to better attract and build up a strong pipeline of Singaporean talent.
a. Talent development is important. Companies would have to move from the old paradigm – where education is seen to be in the realm of schools and institutes of higher learning – to one where it is also part of the employees’ continuous and lifelong journey to acquire the right skills and capabilities to remain equipped and agile in the face of change.
b. A strong remuneration package and steady career progression structure will help too.
c. Please encourage capability transfer, explain why the local workforce alone is not enough, and help keep conversations on this topic rational and objective.
15. Please also help others to understand that the future of work includes work from anywhere and what that means in practical terms for us. Do help explain why we need to remain open, competitive and attractive, and think about the kind of compact we must arrive at in order to ensure that our people not only survive but thrive.
16. The next Forward SG pillar I would like to touch on is the Steward pillar. Stewardship is something accountants are intimately familiar with and understand. The Steward Pillar looks at environmental and fiscal sustainability.
17. Singapore is firmly committed to our net zero carbon emission ambition. Most recently, the Government announced enhancements to our 2030 Nationally Determined Contributions, and our new National Hydrogen Strategy, which aims to have hydrogen supply up to half of our power needs by 2050.
18. The Singapore Green Plan and our shift towards the green field will bring about new jobs and opportunities across the entire value chain, from hydrogen to green financing.
19. For Singapore to achieve our green ambition, we will need everyone, both individuals and businesses, to be more energy efficient, reduce carbon emissions and adopt green practices. Organisations can conscientiously choose to work with like-minded organisations with sustainability practices and ensure credible sustainability-related information and reporting.
20. As consultants, advisors and auditors, you are uniquely placed to help drive the sustainability agenda. Clients will come to you for advice on how to make their businesses greener. You will be involved in the regulatory requirements as well as the auditing for green compliance.
21. I am heartened by KPMG’s own efforts in sustainability:
a. First, KPMG has made a global commitment of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030. And some specific examples of decarbonisation efforts from the relocation include 100% use of renewable energy and reduction of floorspace that cuts material footprint.
b. Second, the set-up of KPMG’s ASEAN Decarbonisation Hub. The Hub offers decarbonisation competencies and know-how to enterprises. I understand the hub - which comprises experts from across the region and supported by a global KPMG team - will work on developing innovative and practical solutions suited to regional and local contexts to accelerate the energy transition. The hub will focus on the energy, transport, and real estate sectors, given their importance in the achievement of net zero ambitions across ASEAN nations.
22. To support the industry’s sustainability reporting efforts, ACRA has set up a sustainability reporting office and is taking the lead to monitor global reporting developments on this front. The Sustainability Reporting Advisory Committee will develop a sustainability reporting implementation roadmap for all Singapore-incorporated companies. I do encourage you to work in collaboration with ACRA in our sustainability efforts.
23. Next Pillar is Care. The future of work is also about how we work. We have all heard about the “Great Resignation”, “Quiet Quitting” and “Lying Flat”. These are all different ways of employees telling their employers the same thing – which is that they are stressed, they are tired, and that they are recalibrating their purposes and priorities in work and life, and seeking a better work-life balance.
24. This has relevance to the Care Pillar of Forward SG which focuses on families. It is common knowledge that we have an aging population and a low total fertility rate. In our conversations with young couples and parents, one of the reasons they cite for not having more babies is the lack of work-life balance and the stresses of balancing work with family commitments.
25. In our efforts to see how we can better support families, one important aspect is flexible work arrangements (FWAs).
a. Hybrid work formats are likely to be a permanent feature of work going forward.
b. FWAs will also be helpful to employees with caregiving responsibilities especially women.
c. Organisations with hybrid and flexible work arrangements will have a competitive edge in talent attraction and retention.
d. At the same time, companies also need to meet their business objectives and stay productive. Hence it is the ones who are able to balance FWAs with their corporate goals that will be able to succeed.
26. Again, KPMG, accountants, and consultants are well placed to help becauseyou advise businesses on how to position themselves for the future of work. Please encourage them to implement progressive and family friendly HR practices and also, to structure and design their work processes in a way that enables FWAs without sacrificing business productivity or other corporate goals. It has to be win-win, otherwise it will not work.
27. Let me conclude by touching on a few matters specific to the accountancy sector:
a. The Accountancy Functions (Consolidated) Bill was passed in Parliament last week, which will see the merger of ACRA, Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC), and the Accounting Standards Council into a single entity with effect from 1 April 2023. The merger will harness greater synergies across regulation, standards-setting, and sector development, allowing more holistic policy and regulatory oversight of the accountancy sector.
b. The Accountants (Amendment) Bill was also passed in Oct 2022 to enhance the audit regulatory regime and introduce measures for better compliance with professional requirements and standards for both public accountants and accounting entities.
c. At the same time, we also need to ensure a pipeline of talent to the profession, especially as accounting job roles evolve. The Ministry of Finance and the SAC have convened a committee, comprising key industry players and academia, to develop and recommend strategies to enhance the attractiveness of the accounting profession. We will share more details in due time.
28. In conclusion, let me congratulate you once again on the opening of your new office.
29. There is much to be done both for the future of work and the future of Singapore. I encourage you to be involved in Forward SG.
30. I wish you the very best, and hope that work for and through your Singapore office will grow by leaps and bounds.
31. Thank you all very much.
 The Singapore Exchange has mandated climate-related disclosures for all SGX-listed companies on a “comply or explain” basis starting from FY2022.