Ministry of Trade and Industry

Singapore Infopedia


The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) encourages economic growth and creates employment so that Singaporeans can lead better lives. Its strategies are based on a free-market system and outward-oriented economic policies.1

MTI oversees the following statutory boards: Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Competition Commission of Singapore, Economic Development Board, Energy Market Authority, Hotel Licensing Board, International Enterprise Singapore, JTC Corporation, Sentosa Development Corporation, Singapore Tourism Board and SPRING Singapore (Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board).2 The Economic Review Committee, Economic Strategies Committee and Singapore Department of Statistics also fall under the purview of MTI.3

Working closely with the various government ministries and departments involved, MTI ensures that the Singapore economy is aligned with the demands of the international market and that it is well placed to achieve the government’s vision.4 Long-term economic planning exercises in restructuring the economy, ranging from low-value-added industries to capital-intensive and skill-intensive high-value-added ones, have been critical in Singapore’s economic development.5

At a national level, MTI’s Economic Division monitors and researches on Singapore’s economy to support sound policymaking. Monitoring and identifying key sectors and clusters in Singapore, it assesses the impact of policy initiatives by other government agencies, in addition to producing research and analysis on the Singapore economy and global trends.6 Its research publications include Economic Survey of Singapore. This quarterly report provides “analyses on the performance of the overall economy and various economic sectors; the sources of growth for the economy; labour market and productivity trends; business costs and investment commitment; prices; external trade and balance of payments; as well as economic outlook”.7 MTI also produces other reports such as Key Economic Indicators, Competitiveness Rankings as well as Economic Plans and Reports.8

MTI’s Futures and Strategy Division drives the overall strategic planning and resource allocation processes across MTI and its statutory boards. At the same time, the Future Economy Programme Office works with the various agencies on broad economic policy direction and research to develop the Industry Transformation Maps for their sectors.9

Working closely with economic development agencies, the Industry Division formulates policies to develop the manufacturing and service clusters. The Research and Enterprise Division and the Pro-Enterprise Division focus on creating a conducive business environment for Singapore-based companies to thrive and grow, and ensuring that the environment and regulatory framework in Singapore support innovation and enterprise respectively. The use of industrial land to achieve competitiveness in land costs comes under the Resource Division, while Singapore’s overall energy policies are developed and managed by the Energy Division which ensures energy security as well the liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets.10

Internationally, MTI’s Trade Group helps drive Singapore’s external economic agenda and foreign economic interests at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels to support the overarching economic strategies.11 The International Trade Cluster and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Division are responsible for establishing and maintaining economic relations and strengthening Singapore’s role in the World Trade Organisation, ASEAN, Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.12

The Emerging Markets Division, North America and Europe Division, Northeast Asia Division, Southeast Asia and Oceania Division and Chongqing Connectivity Initiative look after Singapore’s economic relationships with the countries under each division’s geographical purview. Additionally, the Amaravati Partnership Office facilitates the Singapore consortium’s efforts as master developer for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh’s new capital city, Amaravati.13 The Foreign Economic Policy Division analyses a range of trade-related issues and works with International Enterprise Singapore to assess the schemes and programmes for Singapore-based companies to deepen their internationalisation efforts.14

The history of MTI is directly linked to the economic history of the self-governing state of Singapore.15 In 1959, the People’s Action Party (PAP) formed the first full self-government in Singapore.16 The party’s first economic policy, The Tasks Ahead: PAP’s Five-Year Plan,17 reiterated “self-reliance in politics as well as in economics”. It mentions the establishment of the Economic Development Board, which was given a capital of $100 million for the industrial development plan.18 Jurong was subsequently transformed into Singapore’s first industrial estate to support the industrialisation programmes.19

In the early 1960s, the United Nations Survey Mission team to Singapore led by Dutch economist Albert Winsemius emphasised job creation, in the face of high unemployment among locals.20 In 1965, Singapore became an independent state and shifted the focus from an import substitution strategy to one that created jobs in labour-intensive industries, towards export manufacturing, internationalisation and attracting foreign investments. From the late 1960s to the ’70s, the government reoriented its focus from labour-intensive industries to training the workforce for capital-intensive and higher-technology industries.21 Financial initiatives and assistance schemes were introduced to supported local companies and industries to expand, upgrade and diversify.22

MTI was set up in March 1979 to take over some of the functions covered by the former Development Division of the Ministry of Finance. Goh Chok Tong, then Senior Minister of State (Finance), was appointed to head the new ministry. The roles of MTI were to oversee economic planning, manpower planning, public sector development, domestic and external trade policies, industrial policies, investment promotion, tourism and statistical development, among other functions to sustain the economic progress for Singapore.23

MTI formulated the second strategic plan, Singapore’s Economic Development Plan for the Eighties, in 1980 with the aim of easing labour shortage and improving productivity.24 The third economic plan, The Singapore Economy: New Directions, published in 1986, was headed by then Minister of State for Defence and Trade and Industry Lee Hsien Loong. It reviewed factors to revive Singapore from recessions and identified new directions and strategies to stay competitive and achieve economic growth.25

In 1991, Singapore’s vision to become a developed country was articulated in the plan, The Strategic Economic Plan: Towards a Developed Nation, which gave a series of strategic thrusts to enhance Singapore’s capabilities to realise the vision.26 The former National Science and Technology Board (currently known as Agency for Science , Technology and Research) was formed in 1991 to draw up and implement long-term science and technology strategy for Singapore and help ensure that research and development work is industry-relevant.27 In 1995, Singapore’s aspiration to become a first league developed nation and its strategies to enhance the economic activities in a holistic manner was unveiled by EDB in The Singapore Unlimited. The document provides action plans for key industry clusters and the “growth triangle” concept to strengthen economic cooperation in the region by partnering business and foreign governments to attract investors.28

Other regionalisation programmes include the development of industrial parks and facilities in China, India and Vietnam. To retain Singapore’s attraction as regional business hub for multinational corporations,29 MTI works closely with other ministries and statutory boards to develop human resources and raise productivity of the workforce.30

The government formed advisory and consultative committees, such as the Economic Review Committee (2001)31 and the Economic Strategies Committee (2009), to set out strategies and programmes to achieve economic growth for Singapore.32

The Singapore Budget 2016 laid out the Industry Transformation Maps with roadmaps for 23 industries to sustain economic growth and competitiveness within each industry and deepen partnerships between government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers for a comprehensive representation of the business community.33 The Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity was set up in 2016 (renamed Future Economy Council in 2017) to drive the growth and transformation of Singapore’s economy for the future and is responsible for the implementation of the Industry Transformation Maps.34

Sara Pek

1. “About MTI,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 November 2017.
2. “MTI Family,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1 November 2017.
3. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “MTI Family.”
4. Johnny Sung, Explaining the Economic Success of Singapore: The Developmental Worker as the Missing Link (Mass.: Edward Elgar, 2006), 70. (Call no. R 338.95957 SUN)
5. Winston T. H. Koh, “Singapore’s Economic Growth Experience,” in The Economic Prospects of Singapore, ed. Winston T.H. Koh and Roberto S. Mariano (Singapore: Pearson/Addison-Wesley, 2007), 9. (Call no. R 330.95957 ECO)
6. “People at MTI,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, 2 December 2017.
7. Ministry of Trade and Industry, Economic Survey of Singapore, n.d.
8. “Research Room,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 December 2017.
9. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “MTI Family.”
10. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “MTI Family.”
11. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “MTI Family.”
12. “Multilaterals and Regional Forums,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 December 2017.
13. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “People at MTI.”
14. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “People at MTI.”
15. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “People at MTI.”
16. “The P.A.P. Landslide,” Straits Times, 1 June 1959, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Goh Keng Swee, “Our Economic Policy,” in People's Action Party (Singapore), The Tasks Ahead: P.A.P.’s Five-Year Plan, 1959–1964 (Singapore: Petir, 1959),  19–27. (Call no. RCLOS 329.95957 PEO)
18. “Men Named to Push S’pore Industry Bid,” Straits Times, 17 August 1961, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Jurong East Planning Area: Planning Report 1995 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995), 16. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
20. United Nations, A Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore (Singapore: U.N. Commissioner for Technical Assistance, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, 1963) (Call no. RCLOS 338.095951 UNI); Edgar H. Schein, Strategic Pragmatism: The Culture of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), 31–34 (Call no. RSING 338.95957 SCH); Gavin Peebles and Peter Wilson, Economic Growth and Development in Singapore: Past and Future (Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar Pub., 2002), 5–6. (Call no. RSING 338.95957 PEE)
21. Schein, Strategic Pragmatism, 46–48.
22. Economic Development Board, Singapore, Singapore Economic Development Board: Thirty Years of Economic Development (Singapore: Economic Development Board, 1991), 36–40. (Call no. RSING 338.95957 SIN)
23. Soh Tiang Keng, “Goh to Head New Ministry,” Straits Times, 16 March 1979, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore, Highlights of Singapore’s Economic Development Plan for the Eighties (Singapore: Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1981). (From PublicationSG)
25. Lee Hsien Loong, The Singapore Economy: New Directions: Report of the Economic Committee (Singapore: Ministry of Trade & Industry, 1986) (From  PublicationSG); “The Singapore Economy: New Directions,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 November 2017.
26. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Economic Planning Committee, Ministry of Trade and Indsutry, Singapore, The Strategic Economic Plan: Towards a Developed Nation (Singapore: SNP Publishers, 1991) (Call no. R 338.95957 SIN); “The Strategic Economic Plan: Towards a Developed Nation,” Ministry of Trade & Industry, accessed 1 December 2017.
27. Claire Leow, “Science and Technology Masterplan on the Cards,” Business Times. 16 January 1991, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Economic Development Board, Singapore, Singapore Unlimited (Singapore: Economic Development Board, 1995). (Call no. RSING 338.95957 SIN)
29. Economic Development Board, Singapore, Economic Development Board Annual Report 1989/90 (Singapore: Economic Development Board, 1991), 29. (Call no. RSING 338.95957 SIN)
30. “500,000 to Undergo On-The-Job Training,” Straits Times, 2 June 1997, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
31. “Economic Review Committee,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 December 2017.
32. “Economic Strategies Committee,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 December 2017.
33. “Budget 2016,” Ministry of Finance, accessed 2018; “Industry Transformation Maps,” Ministry of Trade and Industry, accessed 1 December 2017.
34. “Future Economy,” Ministry of Communications and Information, accessed 1 December 2017.

The information in this article is valid as at 19 March 2018 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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