A tighter partnership is needed between businesses and the Government so that regulations can be agile and adapt to changing needs and innovations, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday.
He was speaking at the Pro-Enterprise Panel and Singapore Business Federation (SBF) Awards ceremony, which was held in a hybrid format to recognise organisations that worked to create a pro-business environment.
It also marks the 20th anniversary of the Pro-Enterprise Panel, a private-public panel that aims to provide solutions to the regulatory issues that businesses face.
Mr Chan said that the way regulations are used has to change from being protective and efficient, to become progressive and enabling instead.
“We have to optimise our regulations at the system level to enable new businesses, encourage innovation and facilitate business growth,” he said, adding that this is why regulations have to be agile and not static.
He said: “We want the best of both worlds – we want predictability and consistency in the logic with which we regulate and yet, at the same time, we want the agility to be able to adapt to circumstances as they evolve, or even preempt the situations that may arise.”
For example, the Housing Board implemented a regulatory sandbox with FairPrice and BreadTalk to pilot a way to bring food more easily to residents, in response to the coronavirus crisis.
The initiative, called Food and Groceries on Wheels, allowed vans to bring groceries to residents across 19 designated carparks.
This helped elderly residents and those who are less mobile to buy provisions more easily amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Multiple agencies, such as Enterprise Singapore and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, were also involved, to balance regulatory concerns with business needs.
But for regulations to keep pace with new business developments, there has to be much closer partnership between the private and public sectors, Mr Chan added.
“If the regulators do not know what the businesses are doing, the regulators may end up being the obstacle to the commercialisation of the ideas.”
SBF chairman Lim Ming Yan said: “This collaboration is particularly critical as the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly reshaped the business landscape.
“Businesses should maximise this opportunity to transform and proactively provide constructive feedback to the Government, to improve rules and licensing frameworks, speed up processes and facilitate transformation of business ideas.”
Mr Chan said one way around this is for more public service officers to be attached to private firms to exchange information and ideas.
“At the frontiers of regulations, we (also) need to form a community of practice, where the latest ideas, technological progress and processes in the industry are shared with the regulators, and both sides are in regular conversation with one another.”
Mr Chan reiterated that Singapore’s commitment to regulatory transparency and predictability will not change. This also means exercising discipline in imposing regulations, because each one has compliance costs.
“If we adopt a consistent logic and are ever conscious of the cost of compliance and regulate on the basis of good science and sound economics, it will strengthen our role as a hub for new business ideas,” he added.