Speech by Mr Girija Pande, Chairman, Indian Business-leaders’ Roundtable (IBR) and Term Trustee, SINDA, at the 7th IBR Singapore Dialogue Series with Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr S Iswaran on 21 March 2017 at The Holiday Inn Singapore, Orchard City Centre
Dear Honourable Minister,
SINDA Trustees and EXCO Members;
IBR members, new IBR members;
Guests, ladies and gentlemen.
- A good evening to all of you, and a very warm welcome to our Singapore Dialogue Series – an integral component of the IBR which was set up five years ago, as a part of SINDA. Amongst other things today, we are also celebrating IBR’s 5th anniversary! We hope to raise the member count in the next few years and it is now our intention to invite local Indian entrepreneurs as well, to join IBR. Through this, we hope established business leaders will lend their expertise and collaborate with those who have started their own firms or currently helm multi-national corporations or small-medium enterprises.
- IBR was established to create a forum for newly arrived senior Indian business leaders – who made Singapore their home – to use their energy, experience, network, and resources to advise SINDA in its endeavour to raise standards of education among under-privileged Indian Singaporeans. This has been SINDA’s key focus since it was established over 20 years ago and it has been very successful in this.
- IBR membership is also a way for successful Indian business leaders to find a platform to give back to society as model immigrants. In a low-growth scenario that we expect in Singapore and widening wealth disparities, there will be increasing pressure on successful newly arrived citizens and permanent residents to do their part, specially to integrate and engage better with issues pertaining to Singapore and its people, as well as to give back to society by supporting local charities like SINDA, or any other organisation.
- Indians working in Singapore form a significant part of society, and for them to be truly welcomed as model citizens, they too have to make an effort to integrate. In my opinion, in this day and age, it is not enough to be a good citizen just by following the law and paying taxes. In my years of work at boards of charities such as SINDA and the National Council of Social Service, I learnt very quickly that the privileged among the Singaporean community are more often than not involved in charities, fundraising and give their time and money generously to causes close to their hearts. Many of you are already involved in corporate social responsibility activities and are well aware of the meaningfulness and importance of this.
- Our vision for IBR is to give our members a platform whereby each one of them can engage in community affairs and personally experience the tangible and intangible benefits of being integrated into the society. Many of us who benefit from Singapore’s excellent business and living environment need to make a conscious effort to give back!
- I am heartened to see how IBR, for the last five years, has contributed to worthy causes and has evolved to meet the needs of the Indian community, especially those who are under-privileged. To date, IBR has donated a total of $650,000 to various causes in SINDA. These donations would not have been possible without the support of each one of you. Thank you for your generosity.
- We have used these funds to provide e-learning platforms for students enrolled in SINDA’s tuition programme. Additionally, our members have assisted in key projects like sponsoring spectacles for students from low-income families and Tata Consulting Services creating an IT lab for SINDA beneficiaries Many of you have also generously contributed to the Back-to-School- Festival organised by SINDA annually.
- IBR embarked on aligning ourselves with the country’s goal of lifelong learning via Government initiated SkillsFuture project. We mobilised over 14 IBR members to provide career guidance talks to Secondary 2 to 4 students who are enrolled in SINDA’s tuition programmes held at secondary schools, island wide. We took specific verticals like Banking and Finance, Accounting, Manufacturing, IT, Private Equity and even esoteric subjects like Data Analytics, Commodity Trading etc. and it was mainly senior IBR members who were involved in this so that they were able to provide advice to students what career choices to make in the future.
- Apart from the wisdom of their words, students gained by interacting closely with our members whom they came to see as inspiring role models. We piloted this programme in 2015, its full launch in 2016 and will be carried on through 2017. To date, 608 students have been coached with the help of 14 coaches/business leaders at five STEP centre schools, over 23 sessions altogether.
- Through formal feedback received from students who experienced this for the first time, we found out that 93% are now more aware of the importance of career guidance, 94% of the students have more knowledge about the industries covered in the talks and 90% found the sessions useful. Moreover, informal feedback from IBR members who were a part of this indicated that they all enjoyed tutoring – even if it meant giving their time on weekends – and going back to school again!
- This close interaction was integration at its best, and we hope to continue with this initiative. We are really proud of our coaches and later this evening, we will recognise them. MOE heard about this lead SINDA had taken on SkillsFuture and Shiv Puri, our youngest member who spear-headed this initiative along with Thambyrajah, made a detailed presentation to MOE who lauded this initiative.
- Now, we intend to pilot the second phase of this programme – internships for ITE students. We have agreed to engage four interns and by mid-year we would have started the internship which we intend to scale up later. May I request more members to offer to take interns next year as part of our initiative to support the SkillsFuture programme.
- Today we are all here for the 7th Singapore Dialogue Series, a part of IBR’s activities for creating a conducive environment for members to network and meet one another, as well as meet with Singapore Government leaders in a closed-door setting to understand policy perspectives. Over the years, we have been privileged to host many ministers and decision-makers in our Singapore Dialogue Series.
- We have hosted DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who encouraged the setting up of IBR and is also Chairman of SINDA, Ministers Shanmugam, Vivian Balakrishnan, Tan Chuan-Jin and Iswaran, who has readily agreed to be with us for the second time today. We thank him for giving his time so generously despite his busy schedule. We also welcomed Mr Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, to our dialogue series previously. We have had informative and interesting sessions with them as each one has given us an insight on policy issues facing Singapore and how these challenges can be dealt with.
- Today’s dialogue topic – Report of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) – looks at how this strategic framework will guide Singapore in the future and this is something that is very relevant to all of us. The CFE sees Singapore as staying open and relevant, its people acquiring skills for future jobs and companies scaling up through innovation and transformation.
- I now have the privilege to introduce our speaker, Minister S Iswaran, who has been tremendously involved in this journey. Mr Iswaran is currently the Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), focusing on economic restructuring, productivity growth, and creating a vibrant domestic economy and enterprise ecosystem.
- Mr Iswaran was appointed Co-Chair of the CFE, to collectively shape strategies to secure Singapore’s economic future. He has also been the Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) since 2015, a Member of Parliament since 1997 and is currently the MP for West Coast GRC. He has worked in both the public and private sectors and has served as Senior Vice-President and Managing Director of Temasek Holdings, Director for International Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Chief Executive Officer of SINDA, some time ago.
- Please join me in welcoming our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry, to come on stage and give us an insight into today’s topic.
What is the CFE?
It is a high-powered committee made up of five Cabinet ministers and 25 other members from the private sector, and was formed in December 2015 at the behest of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.The committee is led by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, with Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran as co-chairman. Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing are the other ministers.
What did the CFE Report say?
It outlined seven broad and “mutually-reinforcing” strategies to fulfil this vision:
- Deepen and diversify Singapore’s international connections
- Acquire and utilise deep skills
- Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up
- Build strong digital capabilities
- Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity
- Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps
- Partner each other to enable innovation and growth