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SM Teo: Singapore’s resilience the key to overcoming crises

Important to build "deep reserves of people and capabilities" during peacetime to respond to unexpected crises

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Singapore — In stressing the importance of resilience in tackling a crisis, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean in his National Broadcast on Thursday (June 11) broke resilience down into three important segments.

Crisis response
Mr Teo, who is the Coordinating Minister for National Security, emphasised the importance of building “deep reserves of people and capabilities” during peacetime, to respond to unexpected crises. Some of these reserves like the knowledge, expertise and capacity in the healthcare system, and the ability to quickly build up contact tracing capacities were built up after the country’s experience with Sars.

Heightened surveillance and tightened precautions had already been in place early on in the migrant worker dormitories, but proved insufficient due to the unprecedented infectiousness of Covid-19 in comparison to Sars. However, Mr Teo said the Government “acted decisively” to isolate the dormitories following a spike in the number of cases there.

Under crisis response, Mr Teo also emphasised that Singapore had been ready for the increased demand for community care facilities, and had already started to build them early on. At the peak on May 12, close to 20,000 patients were being cared for. These community care facilities were run on resources from the public sector, the Government-Linked Companies, as well as the private sector.

He cited the decrease in the number of community cases, with them nearly half or a third of the peak, and with two-thirds of the patients fully recovering, as signs of a successful crisis response. Additionally, he added that the flexibility and readiness of the SAF and Home Team as successes in Singapore’s crisis response.

Economic resilience
Mr Teo defined that economic resilience in the immediate term means dealing with the “direct impact of Covid-19 on our livelihoods and supply chains”. He gave the assurance that Singapore has maintained its food and essential supplies through stockpiling, specification, and self-production, which would not have been possible without the industrial capacity and economic resilience built up over the years. He highlighted that Singapore has managed to maintain the confidence of international investors as citizens were kept informed daily, and the crisis was dealt with in a transparent, systematic and thorough way.

Mr Teo likened the current economic situation to the British withdrawal of troops from Singapore, leaving a permanent structural loss of 20% of the GDP and 70,000 jobs. Despite this loss not being a result of a cyclical downturn, Singapore came out of it stronger. Furthermore, he pointed out that the country is currently much more resilient, and in a better position than it was in 1967, to create new markets and jobs to replace the ones that will be lost.

Social resilience
Mr Teo also covered the importance of maintaining a strong social fabric. He believes Singapore’s journey to independence has taught the people the importance and need for solidarity. Making education attainable gives everyone an opportunity to build a better life, and keeping public housing high quality and affordable, gives all Singaporeans a home and a stake, keeping them united in wanting a better future for the country.

He highlighted that Singapore’s building of a strong social fabric has been crucial in times of crisis, citing after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the Asian Financial Crisis, Sars and the Global Financial Crisis as examples.

Furthermore, Mr Teo affirmed the acts of kindness of people who stepped forward to acknowledge and help to take care of the migrant workers, and the more vulnerable in society. Singaporeans doing their part to keep themselves and the people around them safe during the circuit breaker, has helped Singapore to avoid facing the fissures that have hindered other countries’ response to the crisis.


Mr Teo’s speech can be found here.

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