The contrast was stark from coast to coast. It was a chilly seven degrees Celsius in New York while the Californian sun shone brightly in San Francisco on a Sunday afternoon. Yet regardless the weather conditions, nothing stopped Singaporeans from attending the Distinguished Business Leaders (DBL) series held in the two cities. After all, it’s was a golden opportunity to tap on the wealth of experiences and insights of Temasek Holdings’ Deputy Chairman, Mr Kwa Chong Seng.
Mr Kwa did not disappoint, rewarding about 130 Singaporeans who braved New York’s low temperatures and the 85 who decided to forgo frolicking on the fantastic beaches of California. He dished out insights on global energy trends and the potential growth of the energy industry in Singapore. He was in the best position to share these, given he had served as Managing Director and Chairman of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific before retiring last month.
He kept the audience captivated with clever use of illustrative charts and graphs to represent the economics of the energy mix that evolved through the years. Apart from that, he shared how ExxonMobil Asia Pacific’s footprint in Singapore had grown, from two small refineries in the 1970s to what will soon be its largest integrated manufacturing site in the world. He stressed that Singapore’s stable government, strong infrastructure and accessibility made it undisputedly a world-class location for businesses.
“Stop me whenever you have a question,” was Mr Kwa’s plea to the audience. The Overseas Singaporeans were quick to pick Mr Kwa’s brain throughout the entire session - questions came fast and furious like a drill bit. The topics ranged from investments in the energy sector to environmental issues such as global warming and carbon tax rates in various countries. Mr Kwa addressed the questions with ease and much gusto, peppering his responses with talk on the latest technological breakthroughs in the energy sector, principles guiding the decisions that ‘big boys’ make and nuggets of information about finite resources . Wearing a different hat under DBS Group Holdings, he also gamely responded to questions relating to financial matters.
Mr Kwa interacting with Overseas Singaporeans at the event.
When asked what advice he’d give to overseas Singaporeans, having been stationed overseas for nine years himself, he opined that while staying overseas may be unavoidable in order to compete in the global market, Singaporeans must consider whether their families are able to adapt to living overseas before making any decision. Family ties, the grandfather of a pair of twins shared, should be one important consideration.
The Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU) recognises the importance of family ties as well and organised a Kids’ Corner alongside the DBL event in San Francisco. This was the inaugural Kids’ Corner organised for the younger ones to immerse themselves in Singaporean culture while their parents attended the DBL event. A couple of children brought along their books to read but they all quickly put them aside upon seeing the activities that were specially planned for them. The 10 children, aged six to 13 years old, played with traditional games, such as five stones and chapteh. In addition, they showcased their artistic talents by ingeniously creating their own creative masterpieces of the Merlion.
The young ones having some fun at the Kids’ Corner.
By the end of the DBL in both cities, Singaporeans who attended the events, both adults and children alike, satisfied their interest in learning something new about Singapore as well as satiated their tummies with wonderful Singaporean food served at the events.
By Yang Yanyi