SINGAPORE: “Integrate” and “innovate” – these were two words highlighted by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing as key requisites for countries like Singapore and companies such as IBM to continue to grow and flourish.

Speaking at the IBM Think Singapore event on Wednesday (Aug 14), Mr Chan pointed out that the world is facing a “great challenge” today as there are many parts of the world that do not believe in integration. He said the world risks being fragmented, and if this does happen, “we will all be poorer for it”. 

“Companies like IBM, Google, PayPal – any company that relies on digital services, any company that relies on having data flowing across borders to produce products and services – will not survive very well,” he said. 

On the other hand, the world is a better place if everyone can integrate and optimise their production systems and supply chains, and if ideas can be shared and worked on collectively, the minister said. 

His comments come on the back of news that Singapore’s exports fell by 14.6 per cent in the second quarter of the year, with exports for electronic products, particularly that of integrated circuits, disk media products and PCs, heavily hit.

On a quarter-on-quarter annualised basis, the Singapore economy shrank 3.3 per cent in the second quarter, adding to existing concerns about a technical recession, which is defined as two straight quarters of quarter-on-quarter contraction.

Singapore’s growth forecast for the year has been lowered to between 0 per cent and 1 per cent from the previous estimated range of 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent. The dampened forecast is due to “strong headwinds” ranging from an escalating trade war between the United States and China to a downturn in the global electronics cycle, the Trade and Industry Ministry said.

READ: Singapore slashes annual GDP forecast to 0-1% amid ‘strong headwinds’

READ: As Singapore relooks 2019 projections, economists warn of possible technical recession

Mr Chan also pointed out that innovation is another factor that has put IBM in good stead and contributed to its longevity, having been around for more than a century. 

While IBM as its name suggests, started out making products for businesses, it has since grown to beyond serving businesses, the minister said. He added that the US tech giant has also moved on to services and solutions like artificial intelligence rather than just mainframes and servers.

“What we have today came from the past, and the past is not a promise for the future. The products, the ideas that have worked well in the past is not a guarantee for success,” he cautioned. 

“If we can remember these two words – to innovate and to integrate – I think companies like IBM and countries like Singapore will have a bright future. But the moment we lose these … then we will be done for.”