Both Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his presumptive successor, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, have extolled the importance of staying “open and connected to the world” on the occasion of the New Year.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, is widely expected to succeed Mr Lee and become Singapore’s fourth head of government sometime after the next General Election — especially after his appointments as DPM in 2019 and as the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) First Assistant Secretary-General in 2018.
Remarks by Mr Lee and Mr Heng this week share notable similarities. In his official 2020 New Year Message, Mr Lee touched on how the state of the world is fraught with uncertainty and how Singapore must continue to be “open and connected to the world”.
Asserting that globalisation has benefitted Singapore and that the nation cannot survive by turning inwards like other societies that are increasingly hostile towards globalisation, he said:
“Today, the outlook is again fraught with uncertainty. Serious frictions have developed between the US and China. Their recent trade deal has partially relieved tensions, but it will not resolve the fundamental differences.
“Meanwhile, many societies – including most recently Hong Kong, Chile and France – are under stress. Despite economic growth, their peoples feel anxious, discouraged and upset. They worry about basic needs like housing and jobs. They are angry that the fruits of growth have not been shared equitably, and income gaps are widening.
“Consequently, large parts of their populations have lost faith in their economic and political systems, and are pessimistic about the future. This is fuelling nativism and chauvinism, and sectarian strife. Everywhere globalisation seems to be in retreat.
“Singaporeans too are worried about the state of the world, and we also have our own domestic concerns. But we must resist the temptation to turn inwards. Instead, we must stay open and connected to the world.
“Globalisation has benefitted Singapore enormously. A Singapore turned inwards cannot survive. We are in a better position than most countries, because for decades we have toiled to improve our people’s lives. And we continue to make steady progress, year after year.”
Mr Heng used the same “open and connected to the world” phrase as he announced today (Jan 1) that he will deliver Budget 2020 on Feb 18. He said:
“The global economy has slowed significantly. As the rapid advancements in technology continue to drive changes across all sectors of our economy and across the world, we must continue to transform and innovate our economy.
“We must stay relevant and useful, develop deep capabilities, stay open and connected to the rest of the world.”