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Partnerships and Opportunities in ASEAN: Next Steps for Business

24 Feb Partnerships and Opportunities in ASEAN: Next Steps for Business

As Singapore positions itself for development and reconstruction beyond the pandemic, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) published the “New Horizons: Global and Regional Strategies for Singapore’s Future” report, focusing on Singapore’s role as a regional hub for ASEAN and a Global-Asia node. On 17th February 2022, the SIIA held a webinar to discuss the main takeaways from the report. The webinar titled “Partnerships and Opportunities in ASEAN: Next Steps for Business”, emphasised the opportunities and strategies for businesses in the region. The event was a collaboration between the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) and SIIA, with speakers including Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA and Mr Satya Ramamurthy, Head of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare at KPMG, and Associate Council Member, SIIA.

As we inch towards a post-pandemic future, Prof. Tay highlighted the importance of international cooperation and foreign investments. The reopening of borders would allow for greater facilitation of economic globalisation, generating more opportunities for businesses to prosper. Noting the impact of the pandemic on the future economic landscape, businesses should continue to leverage on digitalisation and sustainability to maximise their opportunities. Nonetheless, the Sino-American rivalry between the world’s two largest economies could lead to broader uncertainties and potentially cause global economic damages. The alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — Build Back Better World (B3W) initiated by the Biden administration points to greater power conflicts between the two countries.

Mr. Ramamurthy focused on the possibility of powering ASEAN’s future via technology and digitalisation. He mentioned that the participation in smart commerce can minimise the cost of production for businesses while generating greater opportunities. Moving forward, Singapore should continue to build trust with countries in the global supply chain ecosystem to maximise its potential in services exports. Exporting services can allow countries to embrace diversification and achieve increased stability in our globalised economy. The great resignation caused by the pandemic is also resulting in a huge talent crunch, placing greater emphasis on attracting talent from abroad so that the supply of workers can meet the demand. Upskilling the workforce could also allow businesses to remain competitive, as customer service and soft skills become increasingly important.

Other than the significance of digitalisation, Mr. Ramamurthy also asserted that it is crucial to build Singapore’s credentials in sustainable development, which could be achieved through the following ways:

1. Green finance: increase financial flows to firms and investments that prioritise sustainable development.

2. Carbon trading: reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the sale of carbon credits.

3. Transition finance: transition towards net zero emissions by providing high-carbon sectors with financial aid.

4. Packaging capabilities: capitalise on sustainable packaging capabilities to reduce the reliance on plastic.

5. Infrastructure in capital markets: invest in sustainable infrastructure to facilitate the green transition.

Businesses should move towards more sustainable practices, as investors are concerned about the impact of unethical practices in the green supply chain. However, sustainable projects should also be priced and validated appropriately.

The webinar concluded with a Q&A session, where the significance of digitalisation, sustainability and international cooperation was re-emphasised.