Showcasing a Vibrant Nation of Economic Opportunities
At the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), graduates will experience a dynamic and stimulating environment with plenty of exposure to exciting local and international opportunities. Two MTI officers share their experiences in helping to shape Singapore’s economic landscape.
By Gerald Goh
As a tiny red dot on the global map, Singapore requires sustained and inclusive economic growth for the creation of quality jobs and to support a high standard of living for all Singaporeans. MTI officers continually strive to ensure that Singapore remains a city of economic opportunities by working extensively with local government organisations and MTI’s overseas counterparts.
One such officer is Joy Eng, a cheerful and elegant Assistant Director in the ASEAN Division of MTI. Her work involves formulating and reviewing Singapore’s economic policies on ASEAN to help ensure that Singapore remains economically relevant and competitive. Besides attending regular ASEAN meetings to protect Singapore’s trade interest, she also works closely with other economic agencies and Ministries, to coordinate positions as well as to monitor regional news and developments to assess how these will affect Singapore.
Extensive Exposure and Opportunities to Learn
According to Joy, a career with MTI offered her numerous chances to travel and be at the forefront of international relations, as well as a place where she could be constantly intellectually challenged. The jovial 26-year-old adds, “There is definitely a steep learning curve at MTI. I remember being whisked off to attend a meeting in Japan just two weeks after I joined MTI. While it was a little overwhelming at first, I learnt a lot on the job and was excited to work in such a fast-paced environment.”
“MTI has also given me many training opportunities. Besides MTI’s in-house training, I’ve also had the chance to attend numerous overseas workshops and seminars to build up my technical knowledge. We also work very closely with our foreign counterparts at international meetings and through our engagements with them, we also learn a lot of soft skills, such as how to handle ourselves and negotiate with senior counterparts.”
On his part, Senior Assistant Director (Resource Division) Lim Junwei projects a calm and confident demeanour as he talks about his responsibility in ensuring sufficient land to meet the demand of industrial activities in Singapore - in fact, the 32-year-old’s main motivation for joining the Resource Division was to gain a better working understanding of the country’s industrial infrastructure.
One key priority of Junwei’s is to secure, safeguard and allocate land for industrial projects. He explains, “Singapore’s limited land area necessitates the judicious allocation of space for industrial activity. This is further exacerbated by the fact that land, once allocated, is difficult to take back. Furthermore, industrial activity may require a certain buffer from residential areas or have specific land requirements – for example, the operations of wafer fabrication plants are extremely sensitive to vibration.”
Junwei also works closely with JTC Corporation, a strategic developer and leader in innovative industrial infrastructure, to ensure that Singapore’s industrial landscape can adequately support the needs of industrialists. He elaborates, “JTC develops innovative infrastructure projects that help companies reduce their business costs and facilitate business collaboration. The projects span many different sectors, and provide a variety of jobs for Singaporeans. For example, the CleanTech Park houses Clean Technology companies, while the Offshore Marine Centre houses Oil and Gas companies.”
The scope for Junwei’s work is broad, but thankfully, he can count on the numerous learning opportunities MTI has afforded him in carrying out his roles and responsibilities. He recently went on a trip to China to examine and study the country’s industrial estates, gleaning vital insights and knowledge for utilisation back in Singapore.
He adds, “The learning curve in MTI was steep initially, especially since I specialised in engineering during my undergraduate studies. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the help from my supervisors and colleagues here at MTI, who have all been extremely supportive and helpful.”
The Importance of Working Well Together
And according to Junwei, MTI officers must also be able to work well with many external organisations. He explains, “For example, I work with the Economic Development Board (EDB), which helps attract foreign companies to invest in Singapore, and the Ministry of National Development (MND), which governs the overall land usage in Singapore.
“Most of all, I work with JTC Corporation, which takes care of operational issues such as industrial tenants and their leases. JTC Corporation also provides us with industrial property market analysis and feedback from their tenants, which we can then incorporate into our economic planning.”
“In MTI, it’s thus important to develop a sense of understanding of other agencies’ concerns and interests, and cultivating personal relationships with officials from other agencies helps us to better negotiate win-win solutions for all.”
Joy agrees, adding, “Given the diverse range of issues covered at ASEAN, I frequently collaborate with many other Ministries and agencies, such as the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Ministry of Finance (MOF), SPRING Singapore, Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, in identifying Singapore’s position on the issues discussed at ASEAN. To better understand these agencies’ primary goals, we sometimes have more informal ‘meetings’ first, talk through our concerns and exchange views on how to address these.”
This sense of continual close collaboration also extends to MTI’s overseas partners, according to Joy, who explains that as a small country with no natural resources, establishing good economic relations with other countries is vital for Singapore as trade forms the bulk of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. In her previous role as Assistant Director of the APEC Division, Joy travelled to the US, Russia and Japan for work, and her current role with the ASEAN Division has seen her jet around the region, most notably to Brunei, the Philippines and Thailand.
Joy reveals, “After numerous meetings with foreign delegates, I’ve realised that our MTI team is very young compared to them! This may be a challenge at times, especially when we have to negotiate with more experienced and seasoned foreign representatives, but it is also a good learning experience for us as it keeps us on our feet and ensures that we really understand the issues which we’re taking the lead in. On another note, it’s also really rewarding when we finally gain the respect of veteran negotiators after we prove that we can hold our own.
“I used to be a very shy person, but MTI really pushed me to break out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges, and I’ve become a more confident and articulate person! Here at MTI it’s important to be able to take the initiative and have passion in fighting for Singapore’s economic interests, and if you can do that, MTI offers you the unique and enlightening opportunity to represent and speak on behalf of Singapore.”
Junwei adds, “The scope of work in MTI is very broad and suitable for individuals looking to engage in stimulating work with many important stakeholders in national interests. MTI also gives you first-hand experience in policy-making, and it’s an ideal career for those who have the willingness to explore new opportunities – all in the name of Singapore!”