By Hb Singh
The role of Government, existing Sikh institutions and education in the face of a fast-changing world that is constantly experiencing disruptions of various types were discussed at a recent Sikh conference in Singapore.
Conclusion: approaches and solutions will definitely change and people better start getting used to them. However, some things will remain constant.
“One of the key fundamentals that should not change is the core value of who we are, which is Sikhi, and the need for us to come together as a group and break, if there are any, barriers,” property consultant Karamjit Singh told the inaugural Sikh Voices Conference held on 11 November 2017.
“Your values as a community, as a religion, as people and as citizens of this country, as human beings, those should not be dictated by technology. Technology is amoral. It will do what you want it to do. You have to keep continuity the things that have led you over thousands of years of civilisation,” said Devadas Krishnadas, a former civil servant and now a management consultant.
They were among the seven panelists and some 150 participants of the one-day conference organised by the Young Sikh Association Singapore (YSA).
Singapore Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat gave a presentation on ‘What if Singapore’s Organising Principles Change?’ at the conference held at the Raffles Town Cub. The event also saw the launch of a new book, Sikh Voices (Vol 1): Traits of Future Leaders, edited by Alisha Gill and Malminderjit Singh.
A CHANGING WORLD
“What worked in the past will not work in the future,” said former parliamentarian and entrepreneur Inderjit Singh, another panelist at the conference. But that is not all. In fact, he warned that what we see today may no longer be around, or remain relevant, tomorrow.
Touching on hyper globalisation, he said some 75% of the S&P 500 companies are expected to be removed from the United States stock market index that captures the largest 500 public listed companies on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq.
“That’s just 10 years away,” he said, indicating the speed at which major changes are engulfing the world.
On the impact on society, he said there is a time lag between rate of job destruction and rate of job creation. By 2030, half of the present jobs are expected to be eliminated, while in 10 years time, 40% of production jobs will be gone.
Inderjit, founder/CEO of Solstar International, was a panel member for the first session entitled ‘Singapore’s Economy & International Standing’. The other panelists were Devadas who is the founder/CEO of management consulting firm Future-Moves Pte Ltd and Asia Growth Capital Advisors (Singapore) Chairman/CEO Harjit Singh.
The panel members of the second panel session, entitled ‘Sustainability of the Sikh Community Institutions’, were Advocatus Law LLP partner Harjean Kaur, educator Sarabjeet Singh, senior community leader Surjit Singh Wasan and Karamjit who is a senior consultant at JLL Singapore.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
One common theme that emerged from many speakers was the the future role of the Singapore government.
Devadas said that the thing that needs to be disrupted most is the government.
“Instead of the Government’s thinking infecting the private sector, the private sector success will infect the Government,” he said.
On this topic, Inderjit said: “I’m not saying challenge and break the Government. Let them do what they are doing. But in the new economy, with hyper globalisation, we don’t need to worry about what the government does. We should be thinking about what opportunities we can get from all over the world, and not Singapore.”
EDUCATION & INNOVATION
Education emerged as a major issue. Devadas feels that the best and the brightest in Singapore should go into entrepreneurship.
“What we need is for our brightest people going out there and creating businesses and companies, building technologies, and finding solutions to real-world needs, and making a profit out of it. When all your best minds are administrating, then the answer to everything is the administrative rule or regulation or plans.
“But when you’re out there in the economy, building businesses, competing internationally, then the answer to everything is the next best idea that you can come up with,” he said.
On his part, Inderjit identified one problem: Student pursuing degrees for the the mere sake of a degree. Here, he brought to the conference’s attention how the Singapore government plans to stop sponsoring students for Masters degrees, especially for technology and engineering.
“It’s no point sponsoring them because the specialisation is going to change [when they graduate],” he said.
In October, Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) said it will review funding and delivery arrangements of master’s programmes at the autonomous universities. Some S$70 million funding will instead be redirected towards providing continuing education and training under a new SkillsFuture scheme over the next three years. These are bite-sized courses targeting key sectors of growth.
“Let’s not get too stressed about the education system. Let’s learn how to learn, have the ability to have continuous learning. Don’t get too stressed about getting a string of A’s. The world has changed,” said Inderjit.
Still on education, Harjit sensed a missing link when it comes to Singapore students.
“Singapore students excel academically. What is missing is inquisitiveness. Just being good academically does not mean you will be a good entrepreneur. In fact, most of the successful entrepreneurs the world over have been people who may not have been very good students, getting 100 out of 100. But they are inquisitive, questioning things. Can I solve that problem, looking at things in different ways. You need that in education: openness to idea, questioning the norms, thinking out of the box,” he said.
In a nutshell, he said students must be equipped with the ability to think, embrace technology and take risks.
“There must be a certain sense of…maybe not desperation.. but hunger. The government has a role initially but the people have to move,” he said.
To move forward, Inderjit said future entrepreneurs should work on areas where there already have some knowledge. “Be good at what you’re doing, keep improving at it. Avoid the temptation of this ‘me-too’, doing what others are doing,” he said.
He also urged fellow Singaporeans to discard this mindset that they are small, expressing confidence that they can create global companies if they target the global market from the onset.
“If we think ‘Let me succeed in Singapore first, then I’ll go global’, it will be too late. The moment you have an idea, other smart people like you would have thought of the idea, and implemented it globally. If you have a great idea, don’t be afraid. If you don’t have a great idea, and you just want to copy someone, please don’t do it,” he said.
LEVERAGING COMMON RESOURCES
For Sikh institutions, Karamjit touched on areas where they could cooperate better.
“The commonalities among the successful technology companies are that they are driven by youth energy, strong passion, strong leadership, but it is also about sharing of resources….Each of us have resources, but we don’t necessarily maximise the utilisation of these resources.
“But if we come together as a group, we can leverage on each other’s down time and make better use of our collective resources,” he told the conference.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com] 16702
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