Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing cautioned Singaporeans against expecting “business-as-usual” even after Singapore reopens as he set out how Singapore will move forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a national address he delivered on Sunday evening (14 June).
Asserting that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated global tensions, Mr Chan said that while Singapore is not immune to the economic fallout of COVID-19, the Government is committed to helping Singaporeans stay safe and save their livelihoods.
The immediate challenge facing Singapore is the job shortage and labour market disruption, according to Mr Chan. The minister highlighted the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat launched in his Fortitude Budget as an example of how the Government will tide Singapore workers through.
Mr Chan, however, cautioned against opening up the economy more quickly in a bid to save livelihoods. Asserting that such a move could end up being more disruptive to businesses and workers, the ruling party politician said:
“Many say the best way to save jobs is to resume our economic activities more quickly. I understand. But opening up hastily and closing businesses again if infections spike once more, will be more disruptive to businesses and workers. Hence, let us resume safely, progressively and sustainably.”
Cautioning that Singaporeans should not expect “business-as-usual” even after reopening, Mr Chan said that some businesses will have to change their operation models to cope with the economic constraints ahead.
Echoing the remarks fellow ruling party leaders made about how the Government will not allow a lost generation to arise out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Chan said that the Government will ensure that no Singaporean is left behind. To this end, he said that the Government will help businesses and individuals adapt to the digital world in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Besides this, it will help businesses establish real partnerships in the real world. Mr Chan discussed how bigger companies will partner with and help smaller businesses while the Government facilitates more industry partnerships between local and overseas businesses.
Mr Chan added that the Government is also committed to continue upskilling local workers, especially those who left school years ago and did not benefit from the improvements to the education and training system. He said:
“Our promise is this: We will create opportunities for all Singaporeans, no matter how old you are, to improve your lives at every stage of your careers. So long as you are able and willing, we will support you. Every Singaporean, regardless of background, can have the chance to take on the new jobs being created.”
Recalling the efforts of the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations in building Singapore’s economy from scratch after independence, Mr Chan said:
“They showed us what it means to be Singaporean. That while we are not of common ancestry, race, language or religion, we are defined by our determination to chart our own destiny, guided by the values of openness, inclusiveness, self-determination, meritocracy and incorruptibility for us to defy the odds of history, and not only survive but thrive with the world as our hinterland and our markets.
55 years on, we are better positioned to keep Singapore going, growing and glowing. We will build a better Singapore together, where our future generations have the pride, the means, and the gumption to be called Singaporeans.”
Mr Chan was the fourth ruling party politician to address Singapore in a series of national broadcasts, that some quarters consider a prelude to the impending general election. Urging the people to be prepared to go to the polls, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said earlier that the sooner the election is held, the sooner the Government can rally the people against the challenges ahead.
Besides Mr Chan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean have addressed the nation on Singapore’s future post-COVID.
Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will deliver his address on Wednesday (17 June) while Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat, who is perceived as PM-designate, will round out the broadcasts with a speech on Saturday (20 June).
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