Ministry of Trade and Industry Committee of Supply 2020 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered on 2 March 2020)

Industry 4.0 Networking Platforms – Leon Perera

The challenge of navigating Industry 4.0 is all about attracting investment in future-ready categories like AI, drones, IOT and so on.

But that in turn can be unpacked into several distinct challenges that need to met to attract that investment:

  • 1st creating a viable eco-system with financing and government support;
  • 2nd creating access to a critical mass of workers with the requisite skills and risk appetite; and in this we have to balance foreigners with a Singapore core;
  • 3rd stimulating local demand for these products; while investment in Singapore would be to serve the region and the world, some local demand would help attract the attention of investors: and
  • 4th, creating network effects, where interactions among players in industry, academia, research centres, government and thought leaders can take place, thus catalysing new ideas

To address the fourth challenge, why not catalyse the creation of networking platforms for distinct Industry 4.0 spaces, like AI and IOT.

One useful model could be the Product Executives Forum in Boston, an exclusive group of senior Product leaders in the area. It brings together promising industry executives, academics and thought leaders. It functions through breakfast seminars, roundtables and other events.

Catalysing such a platform may be helpful. After all, in the industry 4.0 race, it is not just about having the right people but about those people interacting and cross-fertilizing ideas and workstreams.


Free Trade Agreements – Leon Perera

Sir, Singapore has 23 implemented Free Trade Agreements or FTAs and may conclude other FTAs in future. Every FTA negotiation involves making a determination on how much improved market access to give foreign companies in exchange for market access for Singapore companies in that foreign country.

Implemented well FTAs can introduce a wider range of goods and services in Singapore at lower prices for the end-consumer while also giving our local firms greater market access and a more level playing field abroad.

I would like to ask, before an FTA is concluded, how does the government obtain feedback from relevant local firms about what problems they face in market access with that country, as well as what enhanced competition from that country’s firms might mean for themselves, their industry peers and the domestic economy?

Does the government also review implemented FTAs to assess the net economic impact the concessions given in respect of market access to foreign firms, inter-corporate transferee rights and other concessions; as well as whether market access for our Singapore firms has in fact materialized as envisaged under the FTA.

Lastly is there a mechanism for local firms to easily give feedback on FTA-related matters and can some feedback channel be indicated on the FTA section of MTI’s website.

What processes are used to assess the net economic impact of FTAs after they are enacted? Is feedback gathered from local firms, is there analysis of prices of goods and services before/after and are assessments done on the pool of intra-corporate transferees entailed by FTAs, for example.


Energy Security – Leon Perera

Natural gas is the main way Singapore generates its electricity today. Indonesia accounts for 85% of imported natural gas in gaseous form, with the remainder coming from Malaysia.

Pipeline natural gas has been supplemented by imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for some years now, from diverse source countries.

However, Indonesia has announced that it is to stop natural gas exports to Singapore from Sumatra in 2023. It was not clear earlier if pipeline gas from the Natunas would be similarly affected but the statement emanating from Indonesia’s Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry on 8 Feb would seem to suggest so.

If this takes place, it will place some pressure on our power generation sources. Renewable energy sources, mainly solar power, as well as regional power grids, would take time to build up.

Would the Government share its mitigation measures in light of this. Can LNG imports, for example, plug any gap that emerges after 2023?

We should also take this opportunity to improve the renewable portion of our power generation mix. I am heartened to hear about the decarbonisation measures spoken about by the government in Parliament last week. My colleague Mr Dennis Tan outlined various perspectives and suggestions from The Workers’ Party on environmental policy in his Budget speech last week.

In conclusion, I would like to ask if the government is studying two other energy possibilities.

Firstly, there have been media reports about private sector plans to build a solar farm in Australia and export the power to Singapore via a sub-sea cable.

Secondly, I noted SM Teo’s statement on nuclear power at the PMO COS that the potential for nuclear power is still being studied. Russia and China are exploring floating nuclear power plants based on seaborne platforms, with Russia in the process of deploying one. It may or may not be a practical possibility for Singapore to derive power by such means in the foreseeable future, but is the government studying the risks that such projects by other countries may pose to Singapore.


Grooming local talent – Leon Perera

Sir, I note the government’s announcement that 60% to 70% of the jobs created domestically in Singapore from Foreign Direct Investment or FDI are PMET jobs.

Going forward it is important to support and develop Singaporean leaders in the private sector. To the extent that there are impediments to this, these should be understood and addressed.

A number of programs have been launched to nurture local PMET and leadership talent such as the U Future Leaders program by EDB and NTUC, the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative as well as the Enterprise Singapore ASEAN Leadership program.

I would like to ask for an update on the programs used to support companies in Singapore, including MNCs, to develop a pipeline of local talent in PMET and leadership roles. What has been the success associated with such programs to date?