SINGAPORE (Jan 28): How do you keep an economy growing? The earlier interpretation of Singapore’s strategic role starting from Raffles’ time to even today was Singapore’s actual physical location in the region, and not so much in the world. Because of that, you saw the rise of Singapore as a trading centre, to manufacturing sector, to petroleum refining, and to the Asian dollar market. So, it is really based on Singapore’s role within Southeast Asia. That I think everyone recognises is no longer really viable.
There are two things happening that are critical for Singapore’s future, bearing in mind that, as a small economy, we do not need a hell of a lot of measures to be sustainable. We just need to be positioned right and we would survive.
The first is to develop the industries we were initially competent in, from a purely regional point of view, to grow them into clusters. Grow them to such a point that we could be in Singapore, Iceland or anywhere, and we would still be a global hub. The best example of this probably is aviation — starting with just Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines. Some would say we are secondary to Dubai Airport and Emirates, but if you look at aviation as a cluster, at how Singapore has developed over the years, there is incredible competency that is integrated with aviation, such as in manufacturing. We are one of the world’s major centres for avionics. Rolls-Royce has two manufacturing centres: Rolls-Royce jet engines are made from scratch only in the UK and Singapore because of our intellectual property protections and technical skills.