Singapore — In an opinion piece for Bloomberg on Jul 1, one writer asks the question, “Is Singapore imprisoned by its Covid success?”
Mr Daniel Moss, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist who writes about Asian economies, discussed at length what life is like in Singapore at present, under the restrictions reimposed in May after the number of unlinked Covid cases alarmed officials.
He wrote of the much-stalled Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, the return to work-from-home arrangements shortly after people were beginning to go to their offices again, and restrictions placed to prevent people from speaking too loudly on the MRT and eateries.
“Even buying milkshakes for my two small kids at the mall dissolved into paperwork and bureaucracy,” wrote Mr Moss.
But, as he pointed out, Singapore has one of the best track records with regards to the pandemic, with one of the lowest fatality rates around the globe.
And even after restrictions were imposed in May, a stepped-up vaccination drive has seen a jump in the overall percentage of the population inoculated against Covid.
In comparison to Malaysia and Indonesia, where infection numbers have been surging, Singapore has done very well indeed.
This may be why Mr Moss expressed surprise at what he perceives to be ambivalence about the country’s post-pandemic future, given Singapore’s “instinct for over-planning”.
Notably, he asked the following questions:
“Officials have floated the idea that inoculated people will have more scope to move, attend events and travel. How much more? To where will they be allowed to go, for business or pleasure, and under what kind of closely managed itinerary and quarantine? What will happen to the offices in gleaming towers sporting logos of world financial giants?”
Mr Moss characterised Singapore’s attitude in tackling the pandemic to be decidedly “risk averse” and writes that he does not see this attitude changing anytime soon, despite its successes.
“Singapore says it wants to back away from strict rules to combat Covid-19 and the curbs on commercial and social life that come with them. The reality on the ground shows a lack of conviction,” he wrote.
This may eventually take a toll on the economy, he added.
“There is a risk that Singapore imprisons itself in this relative success. For now, the price of hesitation isn’t prohibitive. The economy is expected to grow as much as 6% this year, according to the government, lifted by a powerful revival in the U.S. and China. All the country needs to do is step out of the way. When the pace of recovery slows next year, the moves will have to be a lot bolder.” /TISG
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