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SINGAPORE (Kyodo) Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says his country should learn from South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. instead of Sony Corp. in remaking its economy to overcome severe economic competition.

Lee mentioned Samsung, Sony and Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands in his “National Day Rally” speech Sunday as he urged Singapore to venture more into innovation, enterprise, and research and development as part of its strategy to survive the economic competition posed by the emergence of China, India and other low-cost countries.

Comparing the three, he said Singapore should emulate Samsung and Philips, which he said have aggressively embraced innovation and research and development to stay ahead of their business rivals.

“We have to become and adopt a strategy like Samsung and Philips,” he said.

The speech, broadcast live, is seen as the most important address given by a Singapore prime minister to the nation and is delivered several days after the country celebrates its independence day Aug. 9.

Lee observed that all three companies started off in consumer electronics. But Philips subsequently “went for R&D, medical products, medical instruments with sophisticated software inside, high margin, high knowledge content.”

“Samsung makes fancy hand phones, a lot of innovation and design, they have color screens and built-in cameras, one new model every few days and they built themselves a big market share.”

On the other hand, he said Sony has stuck to a “high-volume, low-margin” strategy and has suffered losses in recent years.

Lee said Singapore must transform itself, otherwise “we will be irrelevant, marginalized.”

He said that in the past Singapore could rely on its reputation for efficiency to attract foreign firms to invest in the country and set up factories. But in today’s competitive global environment, it will be difficult for Singapore to compete on the basis of efficiency and cost alone.

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