Echoing Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing’s warning against protectionism, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has asserted that Singapore will be “finished” if it closes up to world in the post-Covid future.
Mr Heng said this on Saturday (June 20) in the final of a series of six National Broadcasts on the country’s post-Covid future delivered by Government leaders over the past two weeks.
In his National Broadcast last Sunday (June 14), Mr Chan has said that Singapore cannot look just inwards and “regress towards protectionism” like other nations.
While many countries move towards protectionist policies in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Chan said that Singapore cannot retreat from globalisation and must strive to make a living even as the world becomes less connected. Calling on Singapore to “resist the pressures” of becoming solely inward looking like some nations, Mr Chan said:
“For many countries, Covid-19 has accelerated the retreat from globalisation, and the erection of more protectionist barriers. We must resist these pressures. A less connected world means a poorer world and fewer opportunities for all. A less connected Singapore means fewer and poorer quality jobs for us.”
Stressing how important Singapore’s trustworthiness is to foreign investors, Mr Chan said that the country is committed to maintaining its free trade agreements with its neighbours and cannot follow the lead of countries that have turned to protectionist policies to shield domestic markets from foreign competition.
He said: “We will work to stay connected with the world, even as the world threatens to fragment and regress towards protectionism. Despite our size, we can show the way, if we have good ideas.”
Despite concerns among local workers about foreign competition for jobs, Mr Chan added that the Government will “intensify the efforts to attract the best ideas and talent to compete on our side, and complement our strengths”. He added that “closing ourselves up is not the answer” to concerns about job competition and that Singapore “cannot escape competing with the world”.
Making a similar call in his National Broadcast, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said that one of the ways Singapore will emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout is by maintaining its image as a trading, aviation and maritime hub.
Re-asserting Singapore’s commitment to the “free flow of goods, services, capital, data, ideas and talent”, Mr Heng said: “In a more fractious post-Covid world, whatever the rest of the world does, we will persist to find new links to enable these flows, especially in connecting critical supply lines around the world.”
He added: “Do not doubt this: Singapore must always remain an open, trading nation. We are finished if we close up.”
Mr Heng is the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) First Assistant Secretary-General, while Mr Chan is the Second Assistant Secretary-General.
The two-week series of National Broadcasts by PAP ministers has been dubbed as a prelude to the impending elections, given both Mr Chan’s and Mr Heng’s recent hints that the next GE is around the corner.