Singapore lawmakers debate economic impacts of AI ahead of new budget launch

Singapore lawmakers debate economic impacts of AI ahead of new budget launch

Singapore’s Members of Parliament (MPs) are debating the impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) on the economy ahead of a new national budget.

Channel News Asia reported that 56 MPs shared their opinions on the implications of the AI adoption in the city-state. The eight-hour discussion drew diverse remarks from the lawmakers, with a majority expressing concern over the future of work in Singapore.

MP Desmond Choo noted that the adoption of AI may render specific roles redundant, leading to thousands of job losses in Singapore. In particular, the lawmaker expressed concern about entry-level roles in coding and customer service, given the proficiency of AI tools in these areas.

“Certain skills that we may have until recently thought were future-proof such as coding or writing well, or statistical analysis may quickly become devalued when AI tools can do the jobs just well, if not better, for a fraction of the cost and time involved,” said MP Jamus Lim in affirmation of Choo’s stance.

The lawmakers pointed to the growing number of young Singaporeans learning coding skills in universities, describing the adoption spree as a “seismic shift” for the economy.

On the other hand, a cross-section of parliamentarians argue that AI integrations may offer several benefits for the economy stemming from improved workplace efficiency. They cite cost and time-saving benefits gleaned from generative AI tools in the workplace but point out the steep costs associated with upskilling employees.

Singaporean lawmakers are pushing for a balanced approach to AI integration to protect its workforce. There is a consensus among lawmakers on the need for a nationwide AI sensitization drive and watertight legislation to avoid pitfalls akin to the implosions of digital currency firms in the country.

“What we must ensure as a government is that no one slips through the cracks,” said MP Christopher de Souza. “To assure every Singaporean that as we become an AI-enabled society, everybody will have that opportunity to learn and grow and none of us need fear being replaced.”

Putting its best foot forward

While legislators are working on the guardrails for AI in Singapore, the city-state recently unveiled a $1 billion investment initiative to power its AI ambitions. According to the National AI Strategy 2.0, Singapore plans to triple its AI experts to 15,000 in the coming years to provide the necessary manpower for local and international firms.

Singapore is eyeing AI applications in finance to crack down on money laundering while testing the waters with a regional AI model tailored for Southeast Asia. The regional model is expected to capture the cultural nuances and is trained in 11 local languages, including Vietnamese, Thai, and Bahasa Indonesia.

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