Singapore—On Sunday (June 7), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation, calling the fight against the coronavirus pandemic “the crisis of a generation,” and telling the public to be ready “for a very different future.”
This future, he warned, would likely be a “less prosperous” and “more troubled” one.
Mr Lee’s speech, while noting the progress the country has made in terms of addressing the public health situation, took a sombre note as he discussed both the national and global economy, as the economic fallout from the pandemic has been unprecedented.
Despite a S$100 billion in stimulus funding, which is equivalent to 20 percent of Singapore’s GDP, the country cannot be shielded from “the tectonic shifts taking place in the global economy,” the Prime Minister said.
And because the economy of Singapore is heavily dependent on national trade, the global economic shutdown due to the coronavirus has greatly affected the country.
Mr Lee noted, “We will not be returning to the open and connected global economy we had before, anytime soon…. industries that depend on travel, like aviation, hotels, and tourism, will take a long time to get back on their feet, and may never recover fully.”
Another effect of the crisis is the weakening of ties between countries, as nations around the world will be less dependent on one another, and “will have less stake in each other’s well being,” the Prime Minister added.
“They will fight more over how the pie is shared, rather than work together to enlarge the pie for all. It will be a less prosperous world, and also a more troubled one.”
The future that Singapore has been preparing for, therefore, will be a very different one, with changes to companies, industries, and workers. “ Some jobs will disappear, and will not come back. Workers will have to learn new skills to stay employed. The next few years will be a disruptive and difficult time for all of us.”
Despite the dire global and national economic outlook, the Prime Minister expressed optimism for Singapore’s future. “I say to you: Do not fear. Do not lose heart. Singapore will not falter in its onward march.
I believe we can still secure a bright future for ourselves. An even stronger and better Singapore will emerge from this crisis.”
He assured the public that securing people’s jobs is the Government’s number-one priority, and that the country is staying open to investments and talents. “At a time when some countries are closing their doors, we are keeping ours open,” added Mr Lee.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s unemployment numbers may surpass the 100,000 mark this year because of the coronavirus. Last year, there were 73,000 unemployed residents. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, Singapore reached its highest rate of 91,000 unemployed residents.
The Prime Minister made the first in a series of national broadcasts in the next two weeks wherein ministers will be discussing the country’s endeavours toward economic recovery. The second speech will be made on Tuesday (June 9), with Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong tackling “Living with COVID-19.”
The speeches will be broadcast on the Government’s website and social media pages. —/TISG