Text and image by Melissa Wang
On 7 October 2016, Yale-NUS College hosted a talk by Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB), Dr Beh Swan Gin. Organised by the Office of the Executive Vice President (Institutional Affairs), the audience in the packed lecture theatre were given insights into Singapore’s economy, as well as the job market here, a key area of interest for Yale-NUS students especially those due to graduate next year.
A statutory board under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, EDB is responsible for planning and executing strategies that go towards shaping the city-state’s business and economy.
In his talk titled, ‘Repositioning the Singapore Economy’, Dr Beh shared some of the challenges faced by Singapore in recent years and the strategies the government has taken to tackle these. Dr Beh also highlighted that with this repositioning, the demand for liberal arts graduates, like those from the College, is growing.
“Suffice to say, employers are looking forward to graduates from your College,” he said in his opening remarks.
Dr Beh started with a broad overview of how Singapore built up its economy, highlighting its diversified nature, and why it was intentionally structured in this manner. A diversified economy helped ensure that everyone has a place in Singapore’s economy, matching the needs of the economy to the varied strengths and expertise of the workforce.
“[However], countries and companies now have to contend with an extremely volatile and uncertain world,” he said, moving on to discuss the changes in the global economy, including a widespread slowing growth rate that is “the new normal”.
In spite of this, Dr Beh stressed that Asia is becoming the “growth engine” of many businesses and that Asia is the place to be in at this point of time.
“To be very candid, all of you have made the right choice in coming to Singapore and to Yale-NUS,” Dr Beh remarked, drawing laughter from the audience.
With these changes in the world, EDB has embarked on a three-pronged approach to reposition Singapore’s economy:
Dr Beh interacting with members of the audience after his talk.
The session saw a lively dialogue, with audience members delving further into what Dr Beh had shared.
Drawing the conversation to focus on the College, Bryan Penprase, Yale-NUS Professor of Science and Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning asked, “What roles can institutions like Yale-NUS play in this landscape and strategy for economic development?”
Dr Beh highlighted the government’s efforts to attract world-class varsities to Singapore and create institutions that attract the best talent from around the world. Yale-NUS, he noted, is an example of how the government selected institutions in areas that complement and add to the education system in Singapore.
“Before Yale-NUS, there wasn’t a liberal arts institution in Singapore,” he said.
“It is about providing a holistic education, and producing students who are able to connect the dots across the sciences and the arts, and I think this is something very unique that Yale-NUS can provide.”
An informative session for many, Dr Beh’s visit attracted even those whose interest fall outside the field of economics, such as freshman Khwa Zhong Xuan, whose intended major is Anthropology.
“I think this was a very good opportunity because as university students, we are getting prepared to take our place in the workforce in the future. The talk helped me to better understand what place I can play in the economy, and shape my direction for personal development. As we will be active contributors to the economy in the coming years, it is good for us to be more aware of what’s happening in Singapore’s economy,” Zhong Xuan remarked.
He added: “Hearing it from the Chairman of the EDB himself was an opportunity not to be missed.”
Dr Beh is a medical doctor by training and a father of two. He was also formerly the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Law and the Managing Director of EDB. Dr Beh also sits on several boards across multiple sectors, including Singapore Technologies Engineering, Ascendas-Singbridge Pte Ltd and LucasFilm Animation Pte Ltd.