07/01/2010 13:44


The current economic downturn of 2009 which came about due to the global meltdown has created upheavals in the lives of the people across the globe .What started as a subprime crisis in the US eventually engulfed the global world sending stock markets crashing down on a tailspin .

This unprecedented turn in events spoke a few things. First it is a wakeup call that we are living in an age of uncertainty and constant change .Second it also meant that today the destiny of nations is bound by integrations and inter-dependence .The new world order today is nations big or small need one another .With technological advances and digitalization the world has shrunken and has become a small world. What happens to a nation on one side of the globe  has repercussions that reverberates  and is  felt across nations both small and large on the other side of the globe .Modern day advances has revolutionized our way of life from travel to information .Increasingly this is also an age of inter-dependency .

With the present day economic meltdown jobs were lost, organizations faced closure and economies of the nations were on the brink of bankruptcy .Giants of the industry as Lehmans, Citibank ,Bear & Stearns that were once the global ICONS plunged into a downward spiral and others went into oblivion and became history .The investment arm of Singapore,Temasek was not spared either and was also in a similar quandary. The financial  losses had reached epic proportions that cut into every industry .It spread from banking to construction ,marine to petroleum and into the generic service industry .And this was a characteristic phenomena that was seen all over the world .None were spared. Obviously with this doomsday scenario Singapore was not spared we were very much on the throes of a crisis .The job losses were mounting and the unemployed grew. In the financial and banking industry people lost their jobs overnight. People that were  once sought and headhunted  in those sectors became a liability the next day .They were  no more relevant .The global boom that we had all witnessed had finally come to its knees .Under the current economic climate people  were no more talking of a recession but a depression ,as it had all the hallmarks & characteristics of one. This was the new reality that people from all across the world had to contend with. Faced with this fear gripping  scenario where job losses were pandemic , countries as the US ,Canada, Australia and Europe responded with food vouchers and with various kinds of financial support .Whilst this was the characteristic action plan  across the world , Singapore however had something else .It’s called further learning and had an interesting twist. It was funding .



To meet the current contingency, the Singapore government had poured in millions to address the new un-employed adult population. And the targeted population in continued education and training (CET) were those in the workforce who were out of the workforce. Whilst the underlining theme of funding was to further learning and bridge the skill gap, the government also had a strategic agenda .The funding was an ingenious contingency action plan geared to meet the looming crisis of massive impending layoff by various organizations. This ingenious initiative  offered the organizations to embrace the option of up skilling and upgrading their staff and claim absentee payroll from the government rather than laying off the staff .The action plan managed the crisis rather than be a casualty of the crisis .The government turned the impending crisis as an opportunity for organizations to consolidate and up skill the workforce .This meant   “sharpening the axe” to meet the global competitiveness whilst other nations offered band-aid. And this is uniquely Singapore.



What was interesting about this action plan was that the Singapore government seized the opportunity in the downturn and viewed it as a consolidating phase to fund the educational need of the population whilst we wait to grow out of this problem. The government clearly understood that the current crisis  was a cyclinical phase that we have so often seen that eventually will all ride out .Thus a robust scheme was rolled out  to upgrade and up skill the workforce at large to face the impending new  challenge and to stay relevant .What this actually does was ,whilst other countries  were  addressing the symptoms of the new reality and coming with a band-aid ,Singapore was em-powering the national workforce with skill competencies  with further learning. Other nations were providing food vouchers and financial help whilst Singapore had an added feature. and that was educational assistance . Meaning, paying for the education needs of its workforce citizens. In short Singapore was doing what Confucius once said “Its better to teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish”. Other nations with noble intentions were providing its citizens with fish whilst Singapore under the workforce development agency (WDA) was teaching its citizens to fish.



        This article has been written by:

         Mr. Abraham Judah

        Senior Consultant

        (+65) 9787 1150




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