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SPEECHES

Guest-of-Honour Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
at SCCCI 100th Anniversary Gala Dinner
on October 22 2006 (Sunday)

100 Years of Achievements (Speech in Mandarin)

  1. I am happy to join you this evening to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

  2. The SCCCI is an important part of our social fabric and civic society. It started as a self-help group to assist new Chinese immigrants and to improve the welfare of the Chinese community. At that time, Singapore was a British colony. The colonial government left the various ethnic communities in Singapore to fend for themselves. The successful Chinese businessmen got together and took on themselves the responsibility of leading the community. They included influential and respected elders like Tan Kah Kee, Lee Kong Chian, Tan Lark Sye and Tan Chin Tuan.

  3. The Chamber served as a bridge between the community and the colonial government. It helped new immigrants to settle down and find jobs. It helped raise funds and lent support to the clan associations, to set up many schools to educate the next generation, and to keep alive Chinese culture and values. Many of these schools still exist today, maintaining fine traditions and high reputations.

  4. After the war, during Singapore's struggle for independence, the SCCCI again played an important role. It lobbied the colonial government for the rights of citizenship for Chinese immigrants. When the PAP fought the Communists over the fate of Singapore, and called a referendum on merger with Malaysia, the Chambr rallied the Chinese community to support the Government. During the race riots in 1964, the Chamber worked with other chambers of commerce and trade associations to calm the different communities and restore business to normal.

  5. After independence, the SCCCI encouraged its members to support and participate in the government industrialisation plan. It promoted local trade and industry, and provided SMEs with training and upgrading. It helped its members to network with other overseas Chinese business communities. It also contributed in community development, providing financial support for welfare organisations and needy students.

  6. Going forward, the SCCCI faces new challenges. As the representative body of the Chinese business community, it must continue to serve its members. At the same time, it should actively engage other ethnic groups to help strengthen our community bonds. The Chamber must also do more to attract young professionals and businessmen to augment its rank and file, and strengthen its leadership pool. And in an increasingly globalised economy, the Chamber must help its members identify and seize opportunities abroad.

  7. Key to SCCCI's success in its 100-year existence have been its pioneering spirit and forward looking vision. I am therefore confident that the Chamber will continue to build on its many achievements and leave a proud legacy for the next generation of Singaporeans. I wish the SCCCI every success as you embark on your next 100 years.

Introduction

  1. I am pleased to join you for the 100th anniversary of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (SCCCI)

  2. The Chamber has the distinction of being one of the oldest private organisation in Singapore. It was established in 1906, as a self-help group to assist new Chinese immigrants and to improve the welfare of the Chinese community. Today it is the apex organisation representing the Chinese business community, with 120 trade association members and 4,000 corporate members.

Future Directions

  1. The role of the SCCCI has evolved in response to our changing political and social environment. Over the years, the Chamber has made many contributions to our society in business, culture, education and community development. These achievements are the result of the SCCCI's effective leadership, strong camaraderie among members, and tradition of working with others for the benefit of all.

  2. Going forward, the SCCCI must continue to adapt itself to changes in our environment. Globalisation is speeding up. In Asia, the rise of China and India has opened up many opportunities, but it has also intensified competition for all. Within Singapore, our demographic profile is shifting. In a few years, the first post-war baby boomers will be retirinig, and giving way to the post-independence generation. In this new landscape, one thing remains unchanged - we must continue to work together to build a brighter future for all Singaporeans.

  3. As the largest business grouping in Singapore, the SCCCI must aim to contribute significantly to Singapore's future development. Let me suggest four ideas for the SCCCI to consider.

Address the Needs of the Chinese Community

  1. First, the SCCCI must continue to focus on its core commitments in the Chinese community. To help its members grow their business, the SCCCI has set up the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) to provide advisory and consultation services. The Chamber is also actively reaching out to its Trade Association members through regular dialogue sessions. This has enabled the Chamber to understand better the specific needs of its members, match their needs with relevant Government assistance schemes, and improve their capabilities through education and training.

  2. Although it is a business-oriented grouping, the Chamber also plays an important role as a custodian and promoter of Chinese culture and traditions. I am glad that the Chamber, together with the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, has set up a Chinese Language Fund to promote Chinese culture and language. This will complement the Government's efforts to preserve cultural values, and cultivate bilingual and bicultural talent.

Foster Stronger Bonds with other Communities

  1. Second, beyond its work in the Chinese community, the SCCCI can build links with other ethnic groups, and so help to strengthen trust and understanding between our different communities.

  2. I am glad that the Chamber has established good networking channels and mutual understanding with other chambers and associations. It can build on this to organise joint activities such as business missions or community projects. For example, last year the SCCCI partnered with the Malay and Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry on a business mission to India, covering the cities of Mumbai and Kolkata. I hope that this partnership will open up new areas of cooperation.

Renew Membership and Leadership

  1. Third, the SCCCI must step up its efforts to broaden its membership and reinforce its leadership. The corporate landscape in Singapore is becoming more diverse. Besides the traditional Chinese family-based companies, there are also MNCs, Government-linked companies, and home-grown enterprises like Hyflux, Osim and Creative. The Chamber must actively engage these companies and make itself relevant to them. It must develop activities and programmes cater to their needs and to both Chinese- and English-speaking audiences. They will then find it worthwhile to join the Chamber, and keep it a vibrant body. I am glad that the SCCCI is making a start on this. A growing number of non-Chinese speaking  companies and MNCs such as Citibank, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard (HP) are already associate members of the Chamber.

  2. The SCCCI also must induct a new generation of entrepreneurs and businessmen to participate in its activities. Like all other organisations, SCCCI needs to think of leadership renewal. It needs to make a conscious effort to bring in new talent, and not leave it to chance. The SCCCI can groom and nurture them, and encourage them to take on leadership positions. They will take the Chamber forward and help it to achieve more successes in the years to come.

Seize New Opportunities Abroad

  1. Finally, the SCCCI must continue to help its members train their sights overseas and seize global opportunities. This is reflected in the theme of tonight's anniversary celebration - "Towards Global Connectivity" [“跨世纪,越四海”]. To succeed in today's global marketplace, businesses need to be alert and nimble in sniffing out new opportunities and growth areas abroad.

  2. Because of language, culture and contacts, many of our Chinese businessmen gravitate to Southeast Asian countries and China. The SCCCI itself has built up in-depth knowledge of the China market, through the combined experience and expertise of its members. But there are also vast opportunities in other emerging markets such as India, Russia and the Middle East. The Chamber is working with IE Singapore to organise business missions to these emerging markets, and to help its members benefit from our network of FTAs. The Chamber has also signed MOUs with its counterparts and overseas business organisations to faciliate business network. All this will help your members to exploit global opportunities, and stay competitive in a fast changing world.

Conclusion

  1. In Singapore's context, one hundred years of existence for an organisation is truly a significant milestone. I am confident that the same indomitable and pioneering spirit that has sustained the SCCCI over the last 100 years will see it through the next century.

  2. It is also my pleasure to launch the new SCCCI logo later this evening. The new logo reflects a robust organisation - dynamic, forward-looking and responsive to change. It demostrates your commitment to stay abreast of the times and to begin your new journey forward with a fresh outlook and perspective. I thank the President and members of the SCCCI for all your good work, and wish the SCCCI continuing success in serving the Chinese community in Singapore.

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