Singapore must “challenge” its citizens to build new skills as jobs are disrupted by technologies, Dr Danny Quah, Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has said.

“We here in Singapore have the opportunity to create a new model of how we take care of the people who are in the first instance made redundant by these technologies,” he told the GovInsider Strategic Futures Breakfast on Friday – in partnership with Dassault Systemes.

This new model must look how “how we challenge [citizens] to improve themselves,” he said. “That’s been left out of the narrative in a lot of Western dialogue on this and Singapore will be well placed to take that forward,” he added.

For example, during the internet boom of the 1990s, “there was the idea that the skilled workers who’ve been put out of jobs, we will redeploy them as computer programmers”, Quah said.

But “you do not take skilled workers and auto-assemblers and put them in front of a console and say okay, type [code]. They will not do that.”

Instead, “we need to be creative about how we put people to work,” Quah noted. “Government, civil society, planners and simulators will need to think about how we make that redeployment successful.”

The biggest opportunity for Singapore’s future is its role in international trade, Quah believes. “As Asia rises, as the centre of gravity of global economy shifts towards Asia, the trading opportunities will multiply many-fold,” he said.

Singapore must strengthen ties with its neighbours to take advantage of these changes. “The rise of Asia means we need to become more confident in what happens in our neighbourhood in ASEAN, in our engagement with Australia, in our engagement with this part of the world, with China,” he said.

And the country is already well-placed to build these bridges, he said. “Today Singapore trades with America one half of what we do with Malaysia, one-fourth of what we do with China and Hong Kong,” he said.

Professor Danny Quah was speaking in a panel session on ‘How Singapore can remain a success in 2050’. It was part of a Strategic Futures Breakfast organised by GovInsider and Dassault Systemes.

Image by Danny QuahCC BY-SA 4.0