THE Minister-in-charge of Entrepreneurship, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, discussed the issues Singapore faces in promoting entrepreneurship in Wednesday’s report (“Wading into the Blue Oceans”).
Mr Lee is right that we have strong fundamentals for doing business. Starting a company here is easy and inexpensive. The problem is that we do not have the right culture for Singaporeans to be entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs to be creative and globally competitive.
I can think of three reasons why.
First, the mindset that an education is aimed at securing a good job, preferably with a large company or government institution; all the better if one obtains a scholarship to do so.
Government institutions perpetuate this mindset by ever increasing the number of scholarships, publicising the prospects of scholarship holders and fast-tracking their careers. We must cut the number of bonded scholarships and give more non-bonded awards for good performance in universities.
This will leave a larger talent pool of young people who are not tied down to organisations before they even dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
Second, the lack of exposure for young talent: Our tertiary institutions must allow more overseas tertiary twinning programmes, especially in places known for entrepreneurship, such as in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in countries that are key future markets for Singapore, such as China and India.
The friendship built up by young talent across cultures may one day bring forth entrepreneurial Singapore companies with global ambitions. While our universities have taken steps in this direction by having offshore campuses and tie-up programmes, the pace should intensify and permeate to lower levels.
Few secondary schools have serious entrepreneurship engagement, and business school programmes are mostly theoretical in nature. Such engagements should go beyond business plan competitions. There can be more places that are easy for young aspiring entrepreneurs to develop ideas and test market products.
Finally, civil servants should change their play-it-safe mindset and take on more risk with local start-ups. The mindset that one has to play it safe to avoid mistakes that could affect future promotions is not good for our local industries.
Singapore has been successful in attracting the best companies to set up here to provide jobs. We now need to establish global entrepreneur-minded companies.
Yee Jenn Jong