What does the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) mean to Singaporeans?

By December 21, 2016Current

TL;DR – So what lies ahead for Singaporeans?

This is the first year after Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. It’s our first step towards the next fifty years as a sovereign nation.

Will we continue to prosper?
Will we remain a united, sovereign, and independent nation?

That’s not a given. It really depends on what we do, how we meet the upcoming challenges, how we weather the upcoming storm. Can we emerge stronger than before? We don’t know. But one thing’s for certain. If we want to succeed, it can’t be business as usual. Because the world and the pace of change in the world are no longer business as usual.

Playing a pivotal role in charting a path through the storm is the 30-person Committee on the Future Economy (CFE). PM Lee Hsien Loong had announced the setting up of the CFE back in October 2015. In a nutshell, the CFE is a task force formed to retool Singapore for the future, to help us prepare for the uncertainties ahead.

The CFE is co-chaired by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and also Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, Chan Chun Sing, serves as Deputy Chairman.


The CFE has had numerous discussions, joining more than 20 panels, seminars and conferences, engaging more than 6,000 people. These people include thought leaders from the corporate world and in academia, from both Singapore and abroad, as well as members of trade unions and Trade Associations and Chambers.

Assistant Secretary-General of NTUC, Ms Cham Hui Fong, presenting at the Focus Group Discussion with unions and workers on Future Jobs and Skills (via CFE)

The Five Futures

All these discussions and engagement sessions were aimed at coming up with strategies for five areas crucial to Singapore’s economic development:

  • Future growth industries and markets. Identify and design growth strategies for priority clusters in Singapore, and to enable companies to seize opportunities in the global marketplace.
  • Corporate capabilities and innovation. Recommend strategies to enable companies and industry clusters to develop innovative capacities, and use technology as well as new business models and partnerships to create value.
  • Jobs and skills. Assess the impact of demographics and technology on the labour force, and recommend strategies to create and re-design jobs, and to equip Singaporeans with the skillsets needed for the future.
  • Urban development and infrastructure. Recommend strategies to enhance our infrastructure and develop sustainable urban spaces, so as to create an outstanding living environment for our people and reinforce economic advantage.
  • Connectivity. Study modern connectivity and flows in the future global economy and recommend how Singapore can continue to be a hub that brings value to Asia and the world.

Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing leading the discussion for the CFE’s Sub-Committee on Future of Connectivity. The outcome of this is to create meaningful jobs in the future that fulfill the aspirations of Singaporeans. (via Facebook / Chan Chun Sing)

You can check out who are leading the discussion of the five futures here. In these areas, the CFE discussed some major themes.

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Major themes

There can’t be any discussions about the future economy without talking about the disruptions brought about by advancements in digital technologies. Digital technologies are changing the way we live, work, consume and create. Rapid digitalisation of industries is also disrupting value chains, altering industry structures and redefining the rules of competition globally.

That’s why one of the key themes of the CFE is how Singapore can leverage on the digital economy. The CFE is supposed to explore ideas on how Singapore can become a key player in the global digital economy and transform our industries, enterprises and people to be digital-ready.

Another key theme is how Singapore can make innovation more pervasive, and how businesses can leverage on our innovative capacity to produce “world’s first” solutions to meet global demand. Some ideas that came up included how we can continue to transform our businesses, and strengthen their value proposition, strengthen our innovative ecosystem, to produce breakthrough solutions to global challenges, and make Singapore an ideal location for businesses looking to scale-up, and access opportunities around the world.

The CFE is about Singaporeans, for Singaporeans

But more than anything, the CFE is about Singaporeans.

That’s why Singaporean workers take central place in another theme of the CFE – ow our people can be prepared with the right skills and experiences for the future economy. The CFE will explore ideas that continue to focus on helping our people develop relevant technical and essential generic skills, and develop global market expertise among local talent.

PM Lee Hsien Loong assured the unionists that we’re doing the right things at a dialogue arranged by the National Trades Union Congress on Nov 1, 2016. (Image via Facebook / Lee Hsien Loong)

Not just talk (hopefully)

The CFE will release its full list of recommendations early next year, likely in January 2017. We hope that the government won’t just be interested in ideas. Given the economic uncertainty looming ahead of us, we need the government to be more interested in taking action rather than just reading recommendations and considering ideas.

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The release of the CFE recommendations is timely, and we can also see if the government will be putting its money where its mouth is and respond to the CFE’s recommendations in next year’s Budget. The Ministry of Finance is now seeking feedback from the public as well as businesses, the labour movement and other stakeholders. We’d hazard a guess that the Budget should be out sometime in February 2017, and we hope that there’d be some real, practical solutions to help Singaporeans tackle the challenges of disruption and also to manage cost of living.

That said, we also can’t just depend on the government.

At the end of the day, the CFE’s strategies and the funding from the government’s Budget will only be effective if we all work together. That’s why Minister Heng emphasised that:

“(The CFE) must continue to engage with companies, workers and others even after the committee wraps up.”

We shall see.

(Cover image via)


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Jake Koh

Author Jake Koh

Recovering sushi addict, I'm a man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery.

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