Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Education at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration on Friday, 6 September 2019, Trade Assoc Hub06 Sep 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Thank you for inviting me to join you today. The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time where families can come together and gather in reunion. I am very happy that the SCCCI’s annual Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration continues with this tradition, with friends from many different backgrounds coming together. This is especially important in multi-racial and multi-cultural Singapore, where we happily celebrate each other’s festivals.
2. Today, we have among us friends and partners from the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) and the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI). We also have many diplomats and key business leaders from Singapore and Malaysia. We welcome all of you.
Bicentennial Reflections – SCCCI’s Role in the Singapore Story
3. This year, Singapore commemorates its Bicentennial. We are marking the founding of modern Singapore, and also taking a broader look at the many hundreds of years of history preceding the arrival of Stamford Raffles.
4. The founding of this Chamber in 1906 is inextricably tied to our Singapore Bicentennial story. The British came onto these shores and made us a trading post. Their pro-trade policy and free port system attracted entrepreneurs from many shores, and also many others who came to Singapore to make a living. An open and multiracial immigrant society emerged, with a strong and vibrant Chinese business community as a key player. As the commercial environment developed over time, local Chinese businesses banded together across various dialect clans. The SCCCI, then known as the General Chinese Trade Affairs Association, was born.
5. It has since been more than a century of progress and achievement. For the past 113 years, the SCCCI made significant contributions to Singapore’s education, economy, and society. The Chamber promoted the development of local businesses, forming partnerships across disparate dialect groups in the business community, creating good opportunities, and making representations for the community. This role remains important today.
Challenges and Opportunities in our Economic Landscape
6. Amidst shifts in global technology and trade patterns, the Singapore business community needs to be well-attuned to the changing economic landscape. Growing uncertainties in the external environment and a sharper-than-expected downturn in the global electronics cycle have led to our economic growth to moderate in recent months. On top of that, longer-term shifts in our supply chains, the declining support for globalisation, and an ageing workforce, pose structural challenges for our firms.
7. But Singapore’s fundamentals remain strong.
a. We enjoy strong economic ties with the G3 and emerging economies, with an extensive network of FTAs. We also have a skilled workforce.
b. Even with the slowdown, IMF still projects emerging Asia to grow by more than 6% this year and next. ASEAN is well-situated to tap on Asia’s growth. Technology is opening up new markets and creating new businesses.
c. Singapore’s investment pipeline remains strong and we continue to attract good investments due to our pro-business environment and strong connectivity. We are well-regarded as a safe harbour amidst all the uncertainties.
TACs Play an Important Role in Economic Transformation
9. Local Trade Associations and Chambers like the SCCCI play an important role. Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs), as industry multipliers and aggregators, are well-positioned to play a leadership role in building industry-wide capabilities. You understand your industries’ challenges and opportunities, and are well-placed to uplift your respective industries and create value to serve your members better.
10. The partnerships you drive help our SMEs overcome their size limitations by working together.
a. As champions of industry, TACs aggregate the needs of our SMEs, and support them by providing customised training and business advisory services, and creating knowledge sharing platforms.
b. The Trade Association Hub, where we are today, is a good example. The SCCCI set this up in 2017, and it houses 39 TACs today. It has helped to build a strong TAC community, cultivating a strong culture of mutual support and collaboration. Local businesses in different industries have come together to plan for the development of their various sectors, and carry out self-upgrading and transformation plans.
c. The Hub has raised the overall level of services for members, helping our firms improve their productivity, innovate, go digital and venture overseas.
12. Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the SCCCI’s efforts on the internationalisation front. The SCCCI has been an important bridge linking our businesses to foreign markets. It has deepened Singapore SMEs’ knowledge of Asia, developed strong international linkages for them, and most importantly, inculcated a global mindset.
a. The Chamber’s enterprise centres in Shanghai and Chongqing have rendered valuable practical assistance on the ground since 2010 and 2017.
b. Our firms expanding their footprint into China have received strong support in market advisory, shared office and business matching services.
c. I am glad to hear that the Chengdu centre has been opened smoothly this year, being the bridge to yet another key node in China.
13. Beyond developing industry and firm capabilities, we need to continue developing our human capital, to maintain Singapore’s competitive edge. Our workers must continue to adapt and stay competitive. Again, TACs like the SCCCI play an important role, by spearheading the reskilling and the upskilling of our workers. The wide range of business studies, skills upgrading and specialised programmes offered by the SCCCI’s Institute of Business is a good example of industry-relevant lifelong training which our professionals need ever more so today.
14. Our strong education system and skilled workforce remain a key driving force behind Singapore’s strong fundamentals. In this regard, I would like to recognise SCCCI’s efforts in promoting education and lifelong learning, which have and will continue to enable our future generations to contribute to the country’s growth story.
15. For 53 years, SCCCI has been presenting scholarships to support the education of our younger generation. Other than Chinese students, this scholarship reaches out to Malay and Indian students through Yayasan MENDAKI and SINDA. More than 2,000 students have benefited from these scholarships.
16. Tonight, we will be awarding the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce Foundation (SCCCF) scholarship to 16 outstanding young men and women from our local universities. My heartiest congratulations to them. You are being recognised for your achievements and good character. It is my hope that they will continue to maximise their potential, to contribute to the future economic development of Singapore.
17. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Chamber for its excellent work in developing the capabilities of our industries, our firms, and our future generation. These form a firm foundation for our economic growth and the continued growth and success of Singapore.
18. Thank you all very much, and I wish you all a happy Mid-Autumn Festival.