Japan's New Growth Strategy (23 April, 2010)

  I am pleased to send you another Ambassador’s letter. In this letter, I would like to focus on Japan’s New Growth Strategy and touch upon some visions shared by Japan and Singapore. While the Economic Strategic Committee of Singapore announced last February a set of recommendations, the Japanese government issued at the end of last year its New Growth Strategy (Basic Policies) which will be finalized in June this year. I would also like to discuss the Japan Creative Centre and the East Asian community initiative. I would highlight the commonalities between Japan and Singapore in some strategic directions for growth, community building and further collaboration.

Singapore’s Economic Strategy and Japan’s New Growth Strategy
As the Singapore Economic Strategic Committee (ESC) emphasizes the need to grow based on skills, innovation and productivity, the Japan’s New Growth Strategy (NGS) argues likewise and calls for “green innovation” and “life innovation”. Through green innovation, Japan looks forward to technological advances in such fields as renewable energies, nuclear power, storage batteries, next-generation lighting and automobiles, smart grids and eco-housing. Under the so-called "Challenge 25" initiative, Japan will also mobilize all possible policy tools to transform itself into a low-carbon society. Life innovation is expected to bring about a society of health and longevity by promoting R & D in medical and nursing-care technologies and by creating new and flourishing businesses.

In order to improve productivity, the ESC advocates the upgrading of workers’ skills and the advancing of working environment. The Japan’s NGS also stresses the importance of human resource development through high-quality education and training in order to expand the pool of talents.

The ESC recommends that Singapore positions itself as an Asian and global hub to seize opportunities in Asia and secures its competitiveness and growth. The NGS calls on Japan to incorporate the economic vitality of Asia, a new frontier for Japan. The rapid growth of the middle class in Asia and the fact that Asian nations are growing while battling with challenges that Japan had already faced and overcome, such as urbanization and environmental problems, present great business opportunities for Japan. The building of infrastructure and a seamless market in Asia is also something Japan should work on urgently. Through these measures, Japan will promote the development of a vibrant and sustainable Asia as a whole.

The ESC advocates that Singapore be promoted as a “Distinctive Global City” with its strengths in artistic, cultural, design innovation and creative industries. In parallel, Japan’s NGS recommends that Japan exports Japanese contents such as its elements of design, fashion, media arts and other creative culture to a fast-growing Asian market. The move will boost Japan’s brand power.

Japan Creative Centre
In the Parliament session on 5th March, Foreign Minister George Yeo said, “Through the Japan Creative Centre, we can help Japan increase its soft power in the region, and this initiative symbolizes the close relationship between the two countries.” The Japan Creative Centre (JCC) was graciously launched in Singapore by PM Lee Hsien Loong and PM Yukio Hatoyama last November. Indeed, JCC has been the product of close cooperation between the two countries. JCC will play an active role when the two countries implement their growth strategies. JCC is charged with a mission to showcase Japan’s soft power, i.e. cutting edge science and technology, pop-culture, media arts and creative design, to not only Singaporeans but also people in this region.

Since its opening, JCC has been very successful in organizing a series of exhibitions and events. An average of 40 to 50 visitors goes through its door everyday. In line with its mission, JCC held many design oriented events including industrial design (Japan Good Design), editorial design (The Making of Yuji Kimura), and motion graphics (Groovisions Collective). JCC also introduced Japan’s advanced and latest high-resolution digital imaging technologies through Canon’s exhibit, “TSUZURI” Project. A lot more exciting events are in the pipeline.

Further Bilateral Cooperation in Science & Technology and Education
PM Lee Hsien Loong visited Japan last October, and became the first Asian leader to meet with Japan’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, in Tokyo. A month later, PM Hatoyama visited Singapore for the APEC Summit; the two PMs held a meeting at JCC. During the meetings, they agreed on and set the stage for further cooperation between Singapore and Japan in the areas of science and technology and education. Such cooperation would contribute to the growth and the community building in Asia. Indeed, JCC has become a first product of such bilateral cooperation and a unique space to experience Japan’s cutting-edge technology as well as the charm of its culture.

There are many more examples of our cooperation in the areas of science and technology. Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and A*STAR signed an MOU in January last year to carry out the Strategic International Cooperation Program which aims to promote joint international research collaboration. In September last year, Waseda University opened the Waseda Bioscience Research Institute in Singapore (WABIOS) at Biopolis. WABIOS focuses its research on the area of bioimaging, bioengineering, biophysics and nano-biotechnology. Fujitsu and A*STAR formed an R&D partnership last January to usher in an era of petascale computing in Singapore.

In the area of education, I would like to congratulate the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Public Policy and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy for their agreement on the double degree program. My congratulations also go to the 15 Singapore students for successfully qualifying for the awards of the Japanese Government Scholarship (MEXT Scholarship). The number of qualified students this year represents a sharp increase from just two last year. In the area of higher education, Japan’s NGS advocates the expansion of the government scholarship system and the upgrading of university to attract more promising students from Asia. In this light, I hope that educational and intellectual exchanges between our two countries will be further promoted.

I would also like to highlight that “JENESYS”, Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths, has funded many student exchange programs including educational tours to Japan for Singaporean students. Last year, about 400 Singapore youths visited Japan under the JENESYS funded educational tours scheme.

East Asian Community
PM Hatoyama, in his policy speech delivered in Singapore, advocated the East Asian community initiative. He proposed that countries sharing common visions promote cooperation in a broad range of areas such as trade, investment, finance and education. Based on the principle of “open regional cooperation”, the region should develop a multi-layered network of functional communities, building upon existing institutions. The recent agreement on AMRO, ASEAN Plus Three Macroeconomic Research Office, to be established in Singapore in May 2011, is a welcome development of functional communities. PM Hatoyama also emphasizes the Japan-US Alliance continues to be indispensable as a precondition for forming an East Asian community.

In this same speech, PM Hatoyama promised to dispatch a “yu-ai boat (fraternity boat)” to provide medical assistance and extend cultural activities in the region. Japan will dispatch a Maritime Self-Defence Force vessel, LST Oosumi, with approximately 40 medical staff including NGOs representatives, to Vietnam and Cambodia from May to July this year under the Pacific Partnership 2010.

As we endeavour to achieve sustainable growth and work on regional architectures, it is pertinent to have visions for innovation, science and technology, education and culture. Through the sharing of visions and strategies, Singapore and Japan can continue to work together and prosper together.

Makoto Yamanaka
Ambassador of Japan