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Speech at Inaugural Singapore Business Leaders' Programme

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower, Capella Singapore

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning.


  1. I am pleased to join you this morning for the inaugural Singapore Business Leaders Programme (SBLP) organised by the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI).

    The Rise of Asia
  2. It has been almost two years since the most severe economic recession in recent history. Economic indicators suggest that the world economy remains on the mend despite the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, instability in the Middle East and the humanitarian disaster in Japan.
  3. Asia is at the forefront of this global recovery. Asia's GDP growth has significantly outstripped developed economies over the last thirty years (including recession years), and this is the first time Asia is leading a global recovery1. With an average annual growth rate of 6.7% in the past decade2, Asia's contribution to the global economy has risen to a third3. The axis of growth has shifted to Asia and global economic leadership will increasingly gravitate towards this continent as well.

    Human Capital Leadership and Development - A Key Driver of Growth
  4. Human capital leadership and development in Asia will take on an increasingly important function in companies' successful expansion into Asia as the region embarks on an exciting period of economic growth. These companies will need leaders with the relevant cultural and business knowledge, skills and experience to helm and run their operations in Asia. Correspondingly, companies will gravitate to countries where such talent is readily available.

    Challenges and Opportunities Facing Asia
  5. Despite its buoyant growth, Asia faces many human capital challenges. This includes managing a diverse and multi-generational workforce, adapting to the fast-changing business environment, attracting and retaining talent as well as developing quality leaders.
  6. Asia's robust economic growth and the tight labour market means companies need to pay greater focus on the role of people strategies to stay ahead in the on-going war for talent, and address the shortage of quality managerial talent. To remain competitive, Asian companies must invest in training and education, and developing quality managerial leadership to meet the growing corporate demands in Asia.
  7. With increasing talent mobility and the reverse trend of talent moving from the West to the East after the fallout of the global recession, managing multicultural and cross-border teams will also be critical.

    Singapore as a Career Capital
  8. A 2010 study commissioned by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that career-related factors such as training and development, job opportunities and career advancement continue to be main driving factors for talent attraction. At the same time, soft factors such as work-life harmony, workplace flexibility, creativity and innovation remain key considerations to foster employee management and retention.
  9. The study surveyed over 1,200 Singaporean and foreign professionals and graduating students in six global cities (Singapore, London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo). Respondents ranked Singapore high as a career capital.
  10. More than 70 per cent of those surveyed also perceive a highly positive effect that working in Singapore has on their skills, knowledge and abilities. These include developing intercultural sensitivity, better communication skills and a tolerance for diverging views – qualities that sets Singapore apart from the other benchmark cities.

    Singapore a 'Home for Talent'
  11. My Ministry has been working closely with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and other Singapore Government agencies to ensure that both the hardware and software for human capital development are in place as Singapore continuously strives to improve its value proposition as a Talent Capital that is also a "Home for Talent". This includes maintaining high quality education standards delivered by our institutes of higher learning, inculcating a culture of lifelong learning amongst the workforce, improving our infrastructural development (including safety, security and efficient modes of transport), as well as pursuing social and cultural development to build a vibrant and conducive environment to live, work and play.
  12. Through these co-ordinated measures and initiatives, Singapore strives to nurture its diverse talent pool into one of our key value propositions to attract global companies to our shores. Global companies can then tap on the deep talent pool in Singapore to boost the competitive advantage of their businesses.

    Human Capital Leadership Institute's (HCLI) Mandate
  13. To advance the development of Asia’s human capital and leadership management, the MOM established HCLI in partnership with the Singapore Management University (SMU) last year. HCLI works with the best experts worldwide in the human capital field and customises Asian-centric world-class executive education programmes to create pan-Asian human capital knowledge and generate innovative talent management ideas. It also facilitates strategic industry engagement and networking events.
  14. Today, I am delighted to launch HCLI's flagship endeavour, the Singapore Business Leaders Programme (SBLP). This initiative demonstrates the strategic value Singapore can offer to leaders in global and regional companies on business strategy, as well as human capital and leadership development in Asia.

    Singapore Business Leaders Programme
  15. As global economic leadership shifts to Asia, more global corporations are setting up their decision-making functions in Asia. On the other hand, more Asian companies are also embarking on a globalisation path. The SBLP will help participants understand the complexities of operating in diverse markets where governing and managing styles are distinctive. The topics addressed will not only focus on business success in Asia but also on building tomorrow's global companies with Asian roots.
  16. I believe the forward-looking strategies shared will provide insights on how Asian companies can play to their strengths when competing with established multinational corporations. The discussions will focus on the kinds of capabilities, organisational processes and cross-cultural management skills that global corporations need to build in order to succeed in Asia. Ultimately, I hope that participants will gain valuable knowledge to help their companies be future-ready in an increasingly globalised world

    SBLP Participants and Faculty
  17. For the inaugural SBLP, I am pleased to note that we have gathered a select group of regional business leaders who are slated to be the C-suite leaders of tomorrow. You come from a wide range of key growth industries from oil and gas, logistics, to finance and communications, signifying the programme's universal relevance.
  18. You will learn more about an in-depth study conducted by HCLI in partnership with Cambridge University's Judge Business School, on two newly-developed case studies on 'Innovation in Asia' and 'Building Global Organisations from Asia'. Over the next five days, you will also hear from political leaders, industry champions and thought leaders who will share their insights and engage the participants in discussions on macro-economic and geopolitical developments in Asia, emerging trends shaping business strategy and opportunities, and the impact on human capital and leadership in Asia.
  19. I understand that global business leaders such as Mr Paul Polman (CEO of Unilever), Mr Liu Yonghao (刘永好, Chairman of New Hope Group) and Mr David Hess (President, Pratt and Whitney) will share on the topic of business opportunities in Asia as well as driving business growth in China and India. A key highlight of the programme is a dialogue session tomorrow where Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew will share his thoughts on key political, economic and social developments across Asia.

  20. With the set up of an alumnus network for SBLP participants, the learning and sharing process continues beyond the five-day programme. I am confident that the peer-to-peer interaction and discussions amongst participants will serve you well in harnessing Asia's potential as you bring your organisations to greater heights.
  21. By the end of the week, I trust that you will have a deeper appreciation of Asia's business environment, a better understanding of human capital and leadership issues for a new and globalising Asia and gain the wider networks to succeed.
  22. I wish all of you a meaningful discussion and a fruitful learning experience.
  23. Thank you.

1World Economic and Financial Surveys, Regional Economic Outlook, Asia and Pacific leading the global recovery rebalancing for the medium term, International Monetary Fund, April 2010.

2The State of the World's Children, Special Edition, Celebrating 20 years of the convention on the rights of the child, Statistical Tables, UNICEF

3"Asia Leading the Way", Finance and Development, June 2010, Volume 47, No.2, International Monetary Fund.