Government in Business: Friend or Foe? |

Government in Business: Friend or Foe?

Should governments be in business? What is the proper role of the state in the economy? How can governments best foster growth and development without being too intrusive? These questions are as old as the economics discipline itself. However, they are as relevant to both developed and developing countries as ever. While standard economic theory often prescribes that governments should maintain an arms-length relationship with businesses, the reality in most developing countries is that financial markets are not sufficiently mature, private sector capacity is often weak, and the state may be the only actor that can mobilise resources for national development, and often for the long haul. The experience of the East Asian Tiger economies in the second half of the 20th century, as well as China’s rapid development in the last thirty years, suggests that government activism and involvement are often prerequisites for successful development. If nothing else, they are catalytic in purpose.

How then should governments be involved without crowding out private sector initiative? How can governments develop commercial capabilities without wastage of precious resources or creating incentives for rent-seeking and corruption? When should governments be involved and when should they exit? And, if it is to be involved, what form should that involvement take? Should the government focus on being a regulator? Or, should it also be a purchaser, a promoter, a partner, and a shareholder? Does a higher level of government involvement in business help or hinder a country’s development?

This five-day programme at the LKY School for senior officials involved in regulating, governing or managing state-owned and government-linked enterprises takes a pragmatic, rather than ideological, approach to understanding the role of government in business. This programme, taught mostly by former senior practitioners of the Singapore government, suggests that there are few universal or one-size-fits-all answers to the complex questions above. Instead, a sensitivity to context, a willingness to question economic orthodoxy, and the ability to adapt the economic policies of a country to changing circumstances are key to managing the relationship between government and business in a way that advances a country’s economic development.



Key Information

Programme date 10 Jul 2017 - 14 Jul 2017
Venue: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
National University of Singapore
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772
Programme cost:

S$6,248 + 7% GST#;

S$5,623.20 +7% GST# (for group registrations of 3 and above)

# Goods and Services Tax (GST) is applicable for Singapore-based participants and overseas participants who are self-funded or sponsored by a Singapore organisation.


Executive Education Department
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
National University of Singapore
469C Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259772

Tel: (65) 6516 6458/ (65) 6601 1183
Fax: (65) 6872 9291

Application Deadline: 16 Jun 2017

Programme Objectives

At the end of this five-day programme, participants can expect to:

  • Appreciate the various roles of government in business and the contexts in which each of these roles are more (or less) important;
  • Understand the considerations and constraints of government being in business, and identify clearly the arguments for entry or exit;
  • Develop practical, empirically-grounded insights into the risks and pitfalls of government in business; and
  • Gain exposure to Singapore’s experience in managing government-business relations, and appreciate its strengths and limitations.

Programme Focus

The programme is structured around the four main roles of the government in business: regulating, partnering, stewarding, and promoting. Each of these roles will be examined through intensive discussions with experts and practitioners, most of whom have held senior positions in the Singapore government. The classroom sessions would be complemented by learning journeys to a variety of entities in Singapore that reflect the differing relationships between government and business.

Participants are expected to deepen their understanding of the often-complex relationship between government and business, especially in the context of emerging markets, and become more reflective of their own organisation and country contexts.

Target Audience

This programme is designed for senior managers, policymakers and regulators in government, particularly those from the ministries of finance, infrastructure, the economy and planning. Senior managers and executives from sovereign wealth funds, state-owned enterprises as well as banks and private investment entities would also benefit from the various discussions straddling the public-private divide.


Mrs Lim Hwee Hua
Former Minister, Singapore Visiting Distinguished Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Hwee Hua was first elected to Parliament in December 1996 and served till May 2011, last as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and concurrently as Second Minister for Finance and for Transport. She also spearheaded the reform of the Accountancy sector, reviewed Government’s investments in business, and helped implement financing options for small and medium enterprises. She also corporatised Changi Airport, helped establish a master-plan for aviation and was instrumental in expanding the International Maritime Centre.

Professor Lam Chuan Leong
Professor (Practice), LKY School

Prof. Lam Chuan Leong is a Practice Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.  Prior to his retirement from the Singapore Civil Service in March 2006, he has headed several Ministries including the Ministries of Communications and Information, Trade and Industry, and National Development where he has an overview of the key macro-economic policies in Singapore.  He was also the Chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority from 2000-2007 and Chairman of the Competition Commission of Singapore from 2006-2015.  In these capacities, he has wide experience of micro-economic and regulatory issues relevant to a liberal market regime.

Mr. Tan Yong Soon
Former Permanent Secretary, Singapore Adjunct Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Adjunct Professor Tan Yong Soon has held the positions of Permanent Secretary for National Climate Change in the Prime Minister’s Office, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance, and Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. He retired from the Singapore Civil Service in October 2012. He has authored the book, “Living the Singapore Dream”, and co-authored the book, “Clean, Green and Blue: Singapore’s Journey Towards Environmental and Water Sustainability” and edited the book, “50 Years of Environment”, as part of World Scientific Series on Singapore’s 50 Years of Nation-Building.

Donald Low
Associate Dean (Executive Education & Research) & Associate Professor (Practice), Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Donald Low is Associate Dean (Research and Executive Education) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Besides leading the School’s executive education efforts, he also heads its Case Study Unit. His research interests at the School include economics in public policy, inequality and social spending, behavioural economics, public finance, organisational change, and governance and politics in Singapore.

Prior to his current appointment, Donald served 15 years in the Singapore government in various senior positions. During that time, he established the Centre for Public Economics at the Civil Service College of Singapore. He was Director of Fiscal Policy at the Ministry of Finance from 2004 to 2005, and Director of Strategic Policy Office in the Public Service Division from 2006 to 2007. Donald holds a double first in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, and a Masters in International Public Policy from The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He is currently Vice President at the Economics Society of Singapore.

Mr. Ong Boon Hwee
Chief Executive Officer, Stewardship Asia

Mr Ong Boon Hwee is the CEO of Stewardship Asia Centre, a Singapore-based thought leadership centre that focuses on promoting stewardship and governance of companies and organisations across Asia. He directs SAC’s efforts to develop and propagate a greater understanding of stewardship, a concept that emphasises safeguarding and enhancing an organisation’s ability to create economic and societal value over time. He recently co-authored “Inspiring Stewardship”, a book on the stewardship influence that business leaders can make to their organisations over time.

Prior to joining Stewardship Asia Centre, Mr Ong has experience working in the corporations as well as in the public sector. He started Beyond Horizon Consulting, a Singapore-based company that focuses on leadership development and strategic planning. He was the COO of Singapore Power (SP), responsible for its Singapore operations and also corporate functions. Before that, he was a Managing Director in Temasek Holdings, responsible for Strategic Relations & Projects, and concurrently the CEO of the Temasek Management Services Group (TMS) managing subsidiaries of diverse businesses including IT, training and logistics. And in his earlier military career, Brigadier-General Ong held key command and staff positions in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Mr Ong serves as a director on the boards of a number of companies as well as non-profit and philanthropic organizations. He graduated with First Class Honours in Economics from the National University of Singapore, and holds a Master’s Degree in Military Arts & Science from the United States Command & General Staff College.

Mr. Stephen Wermert
PPP Specialist and Consultant

Stephen has a combined 30 years in structuring PPP infrastructure project financings and financial advisory for infrastructure project development. He has worked for PPP Investors, Lenders and Government Counterparts. From 2003 until 2012, he worked at the Asian Development Bank as a private infrastructure debt and equity finance team leader, Kazakhstan Country Director and as head of Central Asia-South Caucasus regional business private infrastructure development. He previously worked for 12 years in the Asia-wide limited recourse project finance industry in Singapore as Director at BNP Paribas and as an Associate Director at Deutsche Bank.

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