MP Leon Perera

Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) whether the Ministry has studied the performance of managers of Singapore companies vis-a-vis those in other developed countries as measured in the World Management Survey; (b) if not, will it do so; and (c) whether the Ministry is considering how the current eco-system of academic and non-academic training for managerial skills can be improved, to enhance the corporate performance of Singapore companies and hence their value add to the economy.

The Minister of State for Trade and Industry (Mr Alvin Tan) (for the Minister for Trade and Industry): Sir, the World Management Survey (WMS) seeks to measure the quality of management practices in companies in selected countries and sectors. While the WMS provides useful data, it also has its limitations like any other survey. For instance, the WMS survey is not conducted on a regular basis nor on a consistent sample of countries.

We track the performance of our firms and our economic competitiveness through other data points and surveys instead.

We remain committed to raising the managerial capabilities of our workforce. Sector agencies monitor the performance of their sectors closely and provide companies with the necessary support to transform their business and workforce. The Government also supports ecosystem partners such as training providers, employers and trade associations and chambers on managerial skills training. For example, the Financial Sector Development Fund (FSDF) administered by MAS co-funds eligible leadership programmes under the Asian Financial Leaders Scheme (AFLS) to develop promising Singaporean leaders in acquiring knowledge to navigate the diverse operating environment in the region, as well as leadership competencies in corporate governance, ethics and culture, as well as strategic thinking and execution.

In addition to sector-specific initiatives I just highlighted, the Government also helps our local enterprises grow their business and leadership capabilities through programmes such as Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Leadership for Transformation.

Mr Speaker: Mr Perera.

Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): I think the Minister of State for that reply. Just one supplementary question. The WMS survey of course has its limitations, like all surveys. Singapore does not perform abysmally even on that survey, but it is behind a lot of other leading countries, like the US, Japan, Canada, Australia and so on.

Would the Ministry considering using this survey as well as other surveys to try to understand whether the ecosystem of training available in these other countries, which do better than Singapore on the WMS, could be made available here, be they from third-party providers or in-house training to understand where that gap lies?

The reason I ask this is because I have been reflecting on total factor productivity, where Singapore has a gap between other comparable countries. I am wondering whether managerial skills could explain our poor performance on total factor productivity.

Mr Alvin Tan: I thank the Member for his supplementary question. The Economist had an article on the WMS in early-February which had a table and also talked about different managerial competencies and where Singapore, vis-à-vis other countries, is situated. I mentioned earlier in my Parliamentary Question (PQ) reply that the WMS is just one of many of these surveys and the Government is open to collaborating with private researchers, institutes to study Singapore’s performances across a variety of indicators, a variety of performance factors and dimensions.

Maybe I take a step back and look at other such studies which may offer a variety of perspectives. For example, the Government tracks Singapore’s performance in the annual Institute of Management Development (IMD)’s World Competitiveness Yearbook, which assesses countries’ competitiveness and the ability to create and sustain long-term growth. In 2022, Singapore placed third in this IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook behind Denmark and Switzerland, but ahead of some of the countries which the Member mentioned in the WMS survey.

Our third place ranking in this IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook is an improvement over 2021, where we placed fifth. We remain Asia’s top performing economy in terms of competitiveness and the ability to create and sustain long-term growth. It is not just on the whole but also our sector agencies examine the variety of indicators that are irrelevant to management, for example, competitiveness specific to their sectors.

But I think the bigger question that is embedded in the Member’s question in part (c), is what we are doing as well. So, let me go into that detail a little bit. Earlier, I mentioned Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Leadership for Transformation (ELT) scheme – that is targeted at senior leadership of promising small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ELT supports business leaders, help them to achieve the next point of growth, help them to develop business strategies and to enhance their leadership skills. So, that is one example.

Maybe I will just update the Member that since we launched ELT in October 2020, we have onboarded more than 400 business leaders from over 300 companies. I also cited how a sector agency like the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has the Financial Sector Development Fund (FSDF) which supports promising Singaporean financial leaders to navigate a very challenging regional environment.

We also have others like on the manufacturing front. We have our Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) which help our manufacturers start, skill and sustain their manufacturing journeys. And on human capital, a key indicator also, we have Workforce Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation’s Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI) to help companies strengthen HR planning and job redesign.

The Member had a question also in his question in part (c) on academics and non-academic institutions. The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) helps administer this ELT that I mentioned earlier on.

So, there is a whole ecosystem. But I wanted to assure the Member that we are focused on this and we are looking to enhance some of these schemes, some of these initiatives. I welcome his ideas and suggestions on how to do this even better.

Mr Speaker: Mr Perera. 

Mr Leon Perera: I thank the Minister of State for that comprehensive reply. Just a small clarification. You mentioned the World Competitiveness report of the IMD. My focus on this PQ is really on managerial skills.

So, I am just wondering if the Minister of State has data either as a subset of the IMD or from other surveys that speaks to this question of Singaporean managers’ managerial skills vis-à-vis those of other countries? 

Mr Alvin Tan: I thank the Member. There are a variety of performance indicators of which managerial competencies is one. I mentioned earlier the WMS has its limitations; they do not do it on a yearly basis. So, even when you look at 2004 to 2022, they do not do it on a yearly basis and from what I understand, it is snapshots of different countries across that span.

So, I think in that regard, we look at a variety of different studies. I think the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook provides at least some form of understanding. Competitiveness, performances – I think managerial competencies help to build competitiveness in any economy. But I think the crux of the question and the crux of the push for Government is to ensure that we remain competitive, of which managerial competencies is a core part. And the sectorial agencies as well as Government as a whole, on the upstream, with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), for example, can play a very strong part in improving both our managerial competitiveness as well as our competitiveness as a whole.

Ministry of Trade and Industry
23 February 2023

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