Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a Facebook post on Tuesday (May 26), recalled the leadership of Singapore’s founding fathers in times of crisis as he backed Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s latest Covid-19 support package.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, announced an additional $33 billion support package in Parliament and unveiled several ways in which the Government is planning to help businesses, workers and households cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dubbed the Fortitude Budget, this is the fourth such package Singapore has unveiled since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. It has already committed nearly $100 billion — or 20 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — to fight the pandemic. The latest budget will dip into Singapore’s past reserves and will set its GDP growth forecast back by -7% to -4%.
In a Facebook post just hours after Mr Heng had spoken, PM Lee expressed support for the package and made comparisons between the Government’s action in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the leadership of Singapore’s founding fathers when the British suddenly pulled out of the nation after independence.
Pointing out that Singapore faces an unprecedented health crisis and the worst financial recession in its history as an independent nation, Mr Lee asserted that the Government must have “the same conviction” that their predecessors did as they forge ahead:
“Barely two years after independence, Singapore ran into a crisis. The British forces here had supported our economy and defence. Suddenly, the British decided to pull out. Facing an uncertain future, our founding fathers were determined to secure the lives and livelihoods of our people.
“We must have that same conviction today, as we deal with the crisis of our generation. The Ministry of Trade & Industry forecasts that our economy will shrink by between 4 and 7 per cent this year — our worst recession since independence.”
Referring to the past reserves, he added: “Amidst this, we are grateful for the Pioneer Generation’s sacrifices and stewardship, building up our reserves and giving us the means to support our people. The fiscal prudence and discipline of successive governments have put us in a strong position to overcome this crisis, and emerge stronger after the pandemic.”
Mr Heng had said that the Fortitude Budget will focus on helping workers and businesses. Reiterating the DPM’s words, PM Lee asserted that the four support packages Singapore has are designed so that no Singaporean is left behind. He wrote:
“DPM Heng Swee Keat announced the fourth round of support measures in Parliament today. The Fortitude Budget, together with the previous Unity, Resilience, and Solidarity Budgets will help us tide through COVID-19 with a total of almost $100 billion of support measures.
“Saving and creating jobs will be our priority. We will help businesses adapt and transform, create new jobs, and provide more training opportunities to workers. We will also support frontline agencies, households and communities, and help the needy and vulnerable. No one will be left behind.”
Urging the people to stay united as Singapore begins reopening in June, he said: “In less than a week, we will start reopening after the circuit breaker. I have been inspired by the stories of people stepping forward to help others and the sacrifices of many frontline workers keeping us all safe.
“Like our founding generation, we have the chance to chart bold new ways, and build a new Singapore. Let us stay united as we forge ahead together.”
Barely two years after independence, Singapore ran into a crisis. The British forces here had supported our economy and…
PM Lee, who is Singapore’s third Prime Minister and the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) secretary-general, is the eldest son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
DPM Heng is seen as heading the PAP’s fourth-generation (4G) leadership and is widely expected to succeed PM Lee as Prime Minister sometime after the next General Election.
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