Economic Boards

Singapore Table of Contents

Under the appropriate government ministries, statutory boards-- a concept carried over from colonial days--were established to manage specific parts of the economy and foster overall and sectoral development. Each worked somewhat autonomously, using a hands-on approach to the problems in the areas in which it operated.

Economic Development Board

The Economic Development Board was established in 1961 to spearhead Singapore's industrialization. Initially its function was to promote industrial investment, develop and manage industrial estates, and provide medium- and long-term industrial financing. The latter function was taken over in 1968 by the newly created Development Bank of Singapore. When the limits of import substitution became evident, given the small domestic market, policy was redirected toward promoting an export-oriented, labor-intensive industrialization program. After 1986 the board's portfolio was enlarged to include the promotion of services in partnership with other government agencies responsible for the various service sectors and the development of local small- and medium-sized enterprises. In the first two decades following independence, the board evolved industrial strategies in response to changes in the international and domestic business environments, as well as negotiating the public-private consensus necessary for implementing them. The board was not an economic tsardom but, rather, a consensus maker among agencies and corporations that commanded larger financing. In 1989 the Economic Development Board focused its attention on attracting investments in manufacturing and other high value-added services, which met the technological skills and employment needs of Singapore's future economic development.

Small Enterprise Bureau

The Small Enterprise Bureau was established in 1986, following the economic slump, when the government realized the importance of developing and upgrading local small- and medium-sized enterprises. The bureau worked closely with the Economic Development Board and managed a number of assistance programs, some of which predated the bureau. Emphasis was placed on helping local firms to improve and modernize their plants and technology, product design, management skills, and marketing capabilities. Launched in 1976, the Small Industry Finance Scheme provided low-cost financing to local smalland medium-sized enterprises in manufacturing and related support services. In 1985 this program was extended to the nonmanufacturing sector, and in 1987 some 1,125 loans amounting to S$297 million were approved by the Economic Development Board under the plan. The Small Industry Technical Assistance Scheme, introduced in 1982, provided grants to defray part of the cost of engaging short-term consultants and increasing or establishing in-service training for employees.

National Productivity Board

The National Productivity Board (NPB) was established in 1972 to improve productivity in all sectors of the economy. Increasing individual and company productivity at all levels was a government priority, given Singapore's full employment picture and relatively high wages. Greater worker productivity than the country's neighbors and competitors was viewed by the government as a necessity as well as one of Singapore's major advantages.

The National Productivity Board followed a "total productivity" approach, which emphasized productivity measurement, product quality, a flexible wage system, worker training, and assistance to small- and medium-sized enterprises. In order to promote productivity in both the public and private sectors, the board used mass media publicity, seminars, conventions, and publications to remind Singaporeans that productivity must be a permanent pillar of the economy. The board sponsored a productivity campaign each year with such slogans as the one for 1988, "Train Up--Be the Best You Can Be."

The National Productivity Board offered management guidance services to small- and medium-sized enterprises to assist them in improving their productivity and efficiency, as well as referring companies to private management consultancy services available in Singapore. Beginning in the early 1980s, the board also spearheaded campaigns to introduce productivity management techniques used extensively by Japanese business and industry, such as quality control circles.

Trade Development Board

Changes in world trade patterns and in what the government viewed as an increasingly protectionist international trade environment prompted the establishment of the Trade Development Board in 1983 as a national trade promotion agency. Based on the recommendations of specialists, the board formulated policies reflecting the needs of traders in general, as well as the specific needs of particular trade sectors. Initial areas of focus were trade facilitation of electronics, printing and publishing, textiles, and timber products. The Trade Development Board reviewed existing marketing policies, strategies, and techniques and explored new opportunities in both traditional and nontraditional markets. The board assisted both local and foreign companies interested in using Singapore as a base for such trading activities as warehousing and distribution. The Trade Development Board also helped Singapore companies market their products by assisting them in improving their product designs.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress