Monday, 8 June 2020

National Broadcast: PM Lee Hsien Loong on Securing Singapore's Future in a post-COVID-19 World

PM Lee tells Singaporeans 'do not fear', despite huge challenges ahead
Stronger Singapore can emerge from humanity's 'most dangerous crisis', says PM Lee on COVID-19 pandemic
By Grace Ho, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most dangerous crisis that humanity has faced in a very long time, and it will throw up immense challenges for Singapore.

But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday told Singaporeans to take heart and spelt out his Government's plans to help the country emerge stronger from the crisis.

Addressing the nation in a televised broadcast last night, he did not downplay the magnitude of the task at hand.

International trade will be hit. Many industries may never recover fully from the pandemic. Jobs will be lost. "The next few years will be a disruptive and difficult time for all of us," he said.

This is especially true of Singapore, which has made a living by connecting itself to the rest of the world, said PM Lee.

"But despite these immense challenges, I say to you: Do not fear. Do not lose heart."

Singapore is still well-positioned to play its part in international trade of the future, said PM Lee. It had also started to prepare for uncertainties and transform its economy, even before the pandemic hit, and this could now pay dividends.

PM Lee's broadcast on the topic, "Overcoming the crisis of a generation", is the first of six national broadcasts over the next two weeks by Singapore's leaders, on how the country might grapple with a post-COVID-19 future.

The last time there was such a series of broadcasts was in 1968, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and several of his ministers spoke shortly after the British announced their withdrawal from Singapore. The leaders spoke on how the country might deal with the challenge.



Yesterday, PM Lee said that while the Government has intervened decisively, its support measures cannot shield Singapore from "tectonic shifts" taking place in the global economy.

"Unlike other countries, we can draw on our reserves, and don't have to pay for our support measures by borrowing," he said. "But even for us, this level of spending is hard to sustain."


The Government has rolled out four Budgets totalling close to $100 billion - an unprecedented amount - in COVID-19 support, or almost 20 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product. To fund this, it is looking at drawing up to $52 billion from past reserves.

Describing the major global shifts taking place, PM Lee said that US-China relations are worsening. The movement of people will be more restricted, and countries will strive to become less dependent on others, especially for essential goods and services.

This will have strategic implications, he said. "Countries will have less stake in each other's well-being. 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."

All these developments will affect Singapore, which has made a living by connecting itself with the world, he said.

But in a rallying call to Singaporeans, PM Lee asked them not to lose heart and not to fear, despite the immense challenges they faced. "Singapore will not falter in its onward march," he said.



He cited three advantages that would enable Singapore to emerge even stronger and better from the crisis.

First, the country is highly connected to global trade and investment flows, and has built up an international reputation over many decades.

Investors value the assurance of a government that plays by the rules, he said. "The way Singapore has responded to COVID-19 - openly and transparently, neither avoiding reality nor acting arbitrarily at the first sign of trouble - has only strengthened this advantage."

Second, Singapore has had a head start by transforming and deepening its capabilities through skills upgrading and innovation. The country is also rebuilding its transport and trade links, and making its supply chains more resilient by diversifying its sources of food.

Third, there are programmes and plans in place to cope with the challenges. PM Lee said the Government's biggest priority now is helping Singaporeans to keep their jobs or find new ones.



Steps must also be taken to strengthen the social compact and ensure every Singaporean has equal opportunities, he said. Beyond that, the country must consider how to strengthen its social security nets.

"If you fall down, we will help you to get up, stronger. You can be sure you will be taken care of."

He said that the many acts of solidarity and kindness during the pandemic have shown that Singaporeans can emerge stronger from the crisis, with a sharper consciousness of being Singaporean.

"This is why I believe we can continue to be exceptional - a fair and just society, where everyone can chase their dreams," he said.















Singaporeans must learn to live with COVID-19 for long haul, everyone has to adjust the way we live, work and play: PM Lee
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

The coronavirus will remain a problem for a long time, and Singaporeans will have to learn to live with it for the long term, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in an address to the nation yesterday.

This means getting used to new arrangements in the way people work, play and lead their everyday lives, he said.

"It will take at least a year, probably longer, before vaccines become widely available. We will have to learn to live with COVID-19 for the long term, as we have done in the past with other dangerous infectious diseases, like tuberculosis."



In his speech, the Prime Minister sketched out Singapore's progress in tackling the pandemic so far and detailed the challenges it will face in the coming years.

He added that COVID-19 is not only a public health issue, but also a serious economic, social and political problem all over the world. Singapore, too, has taken a severe hit, he said.


The global economy has virtually ground to a halt, he said. Governments have spent trillions of dollars to support businesses, economies and jobs, but tens of millions of jobs have been lost even so.


He noted that Singapore's economy depends heavily on international trade and investments, which were already slowing down before the pandemic hit. "Now this slowdown will happen faster, and go further," PM Lee said.


The country's gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to shrink by between 4 and 7 per cent - its worst contraction ever.


PM Lee said the Government has intervened decisively through four successive Budgets, and pumped in billions of dollars to save jobs and keep businesses afloat. Unlike other countries, it is doing so without having to borrow.


Last Friday, Parliament passed a second Supplementary Supply Bill, bringing government spending on four COVID-19 support packages to $92.9 billion - about 20 per cent of Singapore's GDP. These will require a draw of $52 billion from past reserves.


"But even for us, this level of spending is hard to sustain," PM Lee said. "More importantly, these measures cannot shield us from the tectonic shifts taking place in the global economy."


The world will not return to the open and connected global economy of the past any time soon, he added.


The movement of people will be more restricted, and health checks and quarantines will be the norm.


"It will no longer be so easy to take quick weekend trips to Bangkok or Hong Kong on a budget flight. 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," he said.


Singapore will now have to prepare for a very different future, he said, adding that some industries will be permanently changed.


Companies big and small will be hit hard, and many will have to reinvent themselves to survive.


Workers will not be spared. "Retrenchments and unemployment will go up. 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," he said.


But the Prime Minister underlined his belief that Singapore will emerge stronger and better from the crisis.


It has an international reputation built up over decades, a head start on preparing for the uncertainties ahead, and plans in place to help Singaporeans cope with the challenges, he said, adding that in the next two weeks, other ministers will share the Government's plans for a post-COVID-19 future.


"We have a full agenda for many years to come," PM Lee said.


National Development Minister Lawrence Wong will tomorrow deliver the second of six national broadcasts.


The remaining four will be delivered by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
















PM Lee lists three advantages that will help Singapore secure its future
By Grace Ho, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

Singapore can still secure a bright future for itself despite the difficult times ahead, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, listing three advantages that stand the country in good stead to emerge even stronger and better from the COVID-19 crisis.



First, the country has economic strengths and an international reputation built up over many decades. It is highly connected to global flows of trade, investment, capital and people.

While international trade and investments may shrink, said PM Lee, they will not disappear entirely.

"There will still be overseas markets, and opportunities for international partnerships... We just have to work harder and smarter at it."


He said investors value the assurance of a government that plays by the rules. Singapore's trusted international reputation and political stability will enable businesses to continue operating, even in a crisis.

"The way Singapore has responded to COVID-19 - openly and transparently, neither avoiding reality, nor acting arbitrarily at the first sign of trouble - has only strengthened this advantage."




Second, Singapore has had a head start in preparing for uncertainties, by investing heavily to upgrade its workers through SkillsFuture, digitalising both the private and public sectors, and building its innovation and research and development capabilities.

Such future economy strategies must be pursued even more vigorously, now that many businesses will no longer be viable, he said. "We will support these businesses to transform themselves, change their business models, or move into different and more promising fields."


As countries emerge from lockdowns, Singapore is rebuilding its transport and trade links. It is making reciprocal green lane arrangements for safe travel to China and other countries, and resuming transit flights through Changi Airport.


It is also diversifying its sources of food - such as buying eggs from Poland and shrimp from Saudi Arabia - to make its supply chains more resilient.




The country is also working hard to retain and attract talent and investments, he said. "At a time when some countries are closing their doors, we are keeping ours open. By making the most of our head start, our workers and industries will survive the crisis better, and bounce back faster and stronger."

Third, there are programmes and plans in place to cope with the challenges ahead.


The Government's biggest priority now is helping Singaporeans to keep their jobs or find new ones, PM Lee said. Of particular concern are those in their 40s and 50s who have family commitments, as well as fresh graduates, and lower-income and self-employed persons.


There are schemes to help these groups, he said, citing the Jobs Support Scheme, Workfare Special Payment, Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, COVID-19 Support Grant and SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

These schemes, which include wage subsidies to employers, cash transfers to those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic, as well as job and traineeship opportunities for workers of all ages - have helped people keep their jobs and provided them with income support, he added.

Driving the creation of new jobs is the National Jobs Council led by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.



One final ingredient is necessary for these plans to succeed - the unity and resilience of Singaporeans, said PM Lee.

The Singapore story, he said, is one of having never failed to wrest opportunity from danger in crises.


"Indeed, our nation was born in crisis. When we were granted independence, it was in the expectation that we would fail and come crawling back, after realising we could not survive alone. We proved otherwise," he said, adding that the Pioneer and Merdeka generations have weathered many storms.


"Now, at another hinge in our history, it is our turn to face the crisis of a generation," he said.


"The choices that we make now will define who we are as a people, and what values and ideals we pass on to future generations. Confronting adversity, do we yield to anger, fear and bitterness? Or will we be true to ourselves, stand firm, make tough choices, and continue to trust and depend on one another?"


Many Singaporeans have stepped up during this crisis, he noted, citing healthcare workers, public officers, grassroots leaders and volunteers, as well as many more working quietly behind the scenes.


Some are taking good care of migrant workers in the dormitories, while others are buying groceries for families under quarantine.


Abroad, Singaporeans have driven hundreds of kilometres to pick up fellow citizens to catch flights home, PM Lee said.


"These acts of solidarity and human kindness exemplify the best in us. They show how we can emerge stronger from this crisis, with a sharper consciousness of being Singaporean," he added.


"This is why I believe we can continue to be exceptional - a fair and just society, where everyone can chase their dreams... We need every one of you to work with us. Together, let us take Singapore safely through this crisis, and make the Singapore spirit flourish in the world."
















Coronavirus: Social safety nets will need to be relooked and strengthened, says PM Lee
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

Singapore will have to strengthen its social compact, and think carefully about how to improve social safety nets to help its people cope with the uncertainties posed by the coronavirus crisis, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

In a national broadcast on Singapore's future post-COVID-19, he noted that the country has taken emergency measures to help everyone come through the crisis together. But beyond that, "sustainable social support will give people confidence to cope with the uncertainties and to make changes to their lives", he said.

At the same time, Singaporeans must have the incentive to be self-reliant and progress through their own efforts, he added.



Difficult decisions have to be made on the country's priorities, resources and Budgets in the months to come, but the values guiding Singapore will remain the same, he added.

"Every Singaporean will have equal opportunities. Whatever your starting point in life, you will have access to good education, healthcare and housing," he said.

"If you fall down, we will help you to get up, stronger. You can be sure you will be taken care of. In Singapore, no one will be left to walk his journey alone."

The forging of a new social compact as Singapore strives to transform its economy has been a common theme in speeches made by ministers over the past year.

In his round-up of the Unity Budget debate in February, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat stressed that the country has to strengthen its social compact to ensure that the benefits of growth reach everyone, including low-wage workers, middle-income families and retirees.

The coronavirus pandemic has shone the light on inequality in countries, including Singapore.

This, in turn, has renewed calls for more to be done to help the vulnerable and improve the lot of low-wage workers who are typically on the front lines as Singapore tackles the outbreak.






Good progress in virus fight, with one of world's lowest fatality rates
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

With a fatality rate that is one of the world's lowest and new cases in the community coming down, Singapore has made good progress in the fight against the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this yesterday in a televised address to the nation, adding that the situation at migrant worker dormitories has stabilised.

His address came as Singapore confirmed another 383 COVID-19 cases yesterday, 7 June, of which 14 were community cases and 369 were migrant workers in dormitories.

Singapore's fatality rate is 0.06 per cent, with 25 deaths out of 37,910 cases.

As of yesterday, there were 295 confirmed cases in hospital, of which three were in intensive care. Community facilities housed another 12,704.


"Our healthcare system is coping well, thanks to the outstanding work of our healthcare professionals and many others on the front line," PM Lee said.

"Most importantly, among both Singaporeans and migrant workers, we have kept fatalities low - one of the lowest rates in the world."

This has allowed the country to ease strict circuit breaker measures, he said, adding that Singapore is opening its economy and society "progressively and safely".

As this happens, PM Lee said he expects the number of cases to rise somewhat, as has been the case in other countries.

That is why Singapore is moving cautiously, to avoid numbers rising again and the need for a second circuit breaker to be imposed, he said.

Contact tracing and testing will be stepped up significantly to catch and isolate new cases early, and prevent clusters from forming, he added.

"If all goes well and the outbreak remains firmly under control, we will ease up further and resume more activities as soon as possible."

PM Lee urged Singaporeans to continue to play their part by maintaining personal hygiene, wearing masks when outside, keeping a safe distance from others and avoiding crowded gatherings.






COVID-19 has raised US-China tensions, creating a more dangerous world for small countries like Singapore: PM Lee
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

Tensions between the United States and China have risen during the coronavirus pandemic, creating a more dangerous world for Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

COVID-19 has worsened relations, with the two global powers taking actions and counteractions, he noted, as he described a challenging global strategic landscape.

"It will become harder for countries to stay onside with both powers. It will be a more dangerous world for a small country like Singapore," said PM Lee during a televised address.

Singapore must work with like-minded countries to support free trade and multilateralism, and enhance its voice and influence in the world, he added.

"We must ensure our security, and protect and advance our interests when dealing with other countries, big and small," he said.

PM Lee has warned about the global impact of the souring US-China relationship in the past, most recently in a commentary last week for the US-based Foreign Affairs magazine.



He wrote that Singapore and other Asian countries do not want to be forced to pick sides in the intensifying rivalry between both powers, and that strengthening relations with Beijing or Washington should not be a zero-sum situation.

In his address to the nation yesterday, the Prime Minister also said countries will strive to become less dependent on others, especially for essential goods and services like food or critical medical supplies.

This will have strategic implications, he said, with countries having less of a stake in one another's well-being.

"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," said PM Lee.

These developments will affect Singapore greatly, he added.



Historically, Singapore has always made a living by connecting itself with the world, he noted; first as a trading hub, then an international seaport, and now a hub for aviation, finance and telecommunications.

The Republic has benefited much from an open and connected global economy, with large parts of its own economy serving regional and world markets, said PM Lee.

These include manufacturing, biotech, financial services and logistics. Domestic sectors such as retail, food and beverage, and entertainment also rely heavily on tourism.

Now, the nation will have to prepare for a very different future as firms, big and small, will be hit hard and some industries will be permanently changed.

PM Lee said retrenchments and unemployment will go up, some jobs will disappear for good, and 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," he added.





Coronavirus: The crisis of a generation, but Singapore can still emerge exceptional
By Zakir Hussain, News Editor, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

The world is headed for its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Singapore will likely see its sharpest contraction since independence.

Businesses are concerned about their survival, workers about holding on to their jobs, and families about making ends meet. Anxiety is on the rise, and may give rise to fear and anger.

Since COVID-19 struck Singapore's shores in January, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has addressed Singaporeans directly in no fewer than six televised broadcasts.

These have provided an opportunity for him to explain what lies ahead and the measures being taken, as well as to reassure people that the situation is being managed and under control.

Observers abroad have praised the Government's approach in being open and transparent in its communication with the public, and also noted that Singaporeans have a high degree of trust in the competence of its leaders.

PM Lee's national broadcast last night - the first of six that Cabinet ministers will make over these two weeks - is notable for the emphasis it placed on the longer term and for how he sketched out just what is at stake for Singapore over the next decade or so.

That he and other leaders are doing so indicates the level of seriousness with which they view the pandemic's impact on the country, and how they plan to prepare and position Singapore for what lies ahead.

This is an important approach given that there is still a level of anxiety among the population about their livelihoods and future, and concerns both here and abroad about a second wave of infections.

The series of broadcasts also comes amid expectations that a general election will be called within weeks.

But even if polls are not imminent, the situation here six months after the coronavirus first hit the headlines is an apt juncture for the Government to present its frank assessment, and share its views on the crisis with the public - for whom trust is a two-way street.

It will take at least a year, probably longer, before vaccines for COVID-19 become widely available, PM Lee noted. He also made clear that there won't be a return to the open and connected global economy any time soon. Countries will try to be less dependent on others, especially for food and essential supplies. Retrenchments and unemployment will rise.

Such immediate and longer-term concerns - like how Singapore will live with COVID-19, navigate the new external environment, make a living in this changed world, and remain cohesive and united - are key questions for which Singaporeans expect answers from their elected leaders.

Parliament has just passed the fourth Budget in as many months. In total, the Government will spend an unprecedented sum - close to $100 billion, or 20 per cent of gross domestic product - this financial year to save jobs and support households and businesses.

This will help but, as PM Lee also pointed out, it cannot totally shield Singapore from what he described as the tectonic shifts taking place in the global economy.

The reality is that Singaporeans must brace themselves for a disruptive and difficult few years ahead. An island state that has made a living by connecting itself to the world has to prepare for a very different future.

But he had a reassuring message: "Do not fear. Do not lose heart. Singapore will not falter in its onward march."

There are grounds for confidence, which he spelt out: economic strengths and a trusted international reputation; a head start in transforming the economy; and plans already on the table to cope with the challenges ahead.

The last time Singapore's leaders made a series of broadcasts of this nature was over 50 years ago, in March 1968, shortly after Britain announced its withdrawal from its bases here. In the first broadcast, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said critics were confounded that instead of floundering, Singapore had succeeded after 2½ years of independence.

"They did not give adequate weight to one vital factor: the human drive, that verve in a determined and a resourceful people who know the terrible consequences of failure," Mr Lee said.

In a subsequent broadcast, then Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee spoke of four industries to focus on - entrepot trade, tourism, shipping and manufacturing - and about plans the Economic Development Board had for the future and how people should adjust.

The scale of the challenges facing Singapore today cannot be directly compared with those faced by a young nation battling for its survival 50 years ago. But they are no less severe in terms of the impact they have on the economy, society and social solidarity.

While the Old Guard outlined plans for what they called "the crucial years" - the 1970s - and helped uplift the living standards and prospects for several generations, this new series of broadcasts is an opportunity for today's government leaders to also outline their vision for the coming decade - the 2020s, and perhaps even beyond.

The human factor that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had flagged all those years ago is no less critical.

In his speech last night, PM Lee made this call: "Confronting adversity, do we yield to anger, fear and bitterness? Or will we be true to ourselves, stand firm, make tough choices, and continue to trust and depend on one another?"

Amid the pandemic, Singaporeans have stepped up and shown solidarity with others - from taking care of migrant workers in dorms to refurbishing computers for needy students' home-based learning.

Such actions, PM Lee added, are why he believes Singapore can continue to be exceptional, a fair and just society where everyone can chase their dreams.

But building such a society requires public support, he said, adding that while his Cabinet team, with the support of the whole public service, will do its best to lead Singapore towards this enduring vision of what it can be, "we need every one of you to work with us".









Singapore can remain exceptional in these testing times
The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2020

This is the transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's broadcast to the nation yesterday on overcoming the crisis of a generation. It is the first in a series of six ministerial broadcasts, scheduled for June 7 to June 20, on the theme of securing Singapore's future in a post-COVID-19 world. The next broadcast, by National Development Minister and Second Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, is tomorrow.

My fellow Singaporeans, good evening. Our fight against COVID-19 continues.

We have made good progress. In the community, new cases have come down. In the migrant worker dormitories, the situation has stabilised. Our healthcare system is coping well, thanks to the outstanding work of our healthcare professionals, and many others on the front line. Most importantly, among both Singaporeans and migrant workers, we have kept fatalities low - one of the lowest rates in the world.



As a result, we have been able to move out of the circuit breaker. We are opening up our economy and society, progressively and safely. As we ease up, I expect the number of cases to rise somewhat, as has happened in other countries. So we are moving cautiously.

We want to avoid the numbers shooting up again, and having to impose a second circuit breaker. We will step up testing and contact tracing significantly. Then we can catch new cases early, isolate them and their contacts, and stamp out clusters before they grow.

If all goes well and the outbreak remains firmly under control, we will ease up further, and resume more activities as soon as possible. In the meantime, please continue to play your part: Maintain personal hygiene and wash your hands frequently, wear a mask when you are out, and keep a safe distance from others and avoid crowded gatherings.

COVID-19 will remain a problem for a long time yet. It will take at least a year, probably longer, before vaccines become widely available. We will have to learn to live with COVID-19 for the long term, as we have done in the past with other dangerous infectious diseases, like tuberculosis. We also have to get used to new arrangements in our daily lives. We must all adjust the way we live, work and play, so that we can reduce the spread of the virus, and keep ourselves safe.



ECONOMIC IMPACT

But COVID-19 is not only a public health issue. It is also a serious economic, social and political problem. It is in fact the most dangerous crisis humanity has faced in a very long time.

Because of COVID-19, the global economy has virtually ground to a halt. Governments have spent trillions of dollars to support businesses, economies and jobs. Yet, tens of millions of jobs have been lost. Families are experiencing hardship. We are in a totally unprecedented situation.

Singapore has taken a severe hit too. Our gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to shrink between 4 per cent and 7 per cent this year, our worst contraction ever. To protect workers, households and companies, the Government has intervened decisively through four successive Budgets. We are injecting almost $100 billion - 20 per cent of our GDP - the largest fiscal intervention in our history.

Unlike other countries, we can draw on our reserves, and do not have to pay for our support measures by borrowing. But even for us, this level of spending is hard to sustain. More importantly, these measures cannot shield us from the tectonic shifts taking place in the global economy.

Singapore depends heavily on international trade and investments. These were already slowing down before COVID-19. Now this slowdown will happen faster, and go further.

We will not be returning to the open and connected global economy we had before, any time soon. Movement of people will be more restricted. International travel will be much less frequent. Health checks and quarantines will become the norm. It will no longer be so easy to take quick weekend trips to Bangkok or Hong Kong on a budget flight. 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.

Countries will also strive to become less dependent on others. Especially for essential goods and services, like food or critical medical supplies. This will have strategic implications.

Countries will have less stake in each other's well being. 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.

All these developments will affect Singapore greatly. Since before the time of Raffles, we have made a living by connecting ourselves with the world.

First, we were a trading hub, then an international seaport, then we made ourselves a hub for aviation, finance and telecommunications. We have benefited enormously from an open and connected global economy. Large parts of our economy - like manufacturing, biotech, financial services and logistics - serve regional and world markets. Even many domestic sectors - like retail, food and beverage, and entertainment - rely heavily on tourism.

Now, we have to prepare for a very different future. Companies big and small will be hit hard. Some industries will be permanently changed. Many will have to reinvent themselves to survive. Workers too will feel the pain. Retrenchments and unemployment will go up. 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.



WE CAN BE CONFIDENT

But despite these immense challenges, 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.

First, we have economic strengths and an international reputation built up over many decades. We are highly connected to the global flows of trade, investment, capital and people. International trade and investments may shrink, but they will not disappear entirely. Some flows will be diverted or dry up, but other new channels will open up.

There will still be overseas markets, and opportunities for international partnerships. Singapore is well placed to connect ourselves to the new channels and flows, and create new businesses and jobs to replace those lost. We just have to work harder and smarter at it.

Our strong, trusted international reputation will help us greatly. In a troubled world, investors will value the assurance of a government that plays by the rules. A people who understand what is at stake and a stable political system that enables businesses to continue operating even in a crisis. The way Singapore has responded to COVID-19 - openly and transparently, neither avoiding reality nor acting arbitrarily at the first sign of trouble - has only strengthened this advantage.

Second, we have had a head start preparing for the uncertainties ahead. For some time now, we have been working hard to transform and deepen our capabilities.

Developing plans for our future economy, investing heavily to upgrade our workers through SkillsFuture, digitalising both the private and public sectors, building our innovation and research and development capabilities. All this has enabled us to stand out in Asia and the world. Nobody can predict what exactly the world will look like after COVID-19 but however things turn out, these future economy strategies will stand us in good stead.

We need to pursue them even more vigorously now. For instance, we know that many businesses will no longer be viable. We will support these businesses to transform themselves, change their business models, or move into different and more promising fields.

More immediately, we are systematically rebooting our economy, as countries emerge from lockdowns.

We are rebuilding our transport and trade links. For example, Changi has already resumed transit flights. We are working out reciprocal green lane arrangements for safe travel to China and other countries. We are making our supply chains more resilient. For example, we are diversifying our sources of food. We are even buying eggs from Poland, and shrimps from Saudi Arabia.

Next, we are working hard to retain and attract talent and investments to contribute to our recovery. At a time when some countries are closing their doors, we are keeping ours open. By making the most of our head start, our workers and industries will survive the crisis better, and bounce back faster and stronger.

Third, we have programmes and plans to cope with the challenges before us. The Government's biggest priority now is jobs - helping Singaporeans to keep their jobs, or find new ones. We are particularly concerned about those in their 40s and 50s, who are often supporting children and elderly parents at the same time, and have financial commitments to meet. We are also concerned about mature workers nearing retirement, who want to work for a few more years, to build up their nest egg for old age. Lower-income workers, who have not much savings to fall back on. The self-employed and freelancers, who have less job and income security in the gig economy, and fresh graduates who are entering the job market in a very difficult year.

We have schemes to help all these groups. The Jobs Support Scheme, the Workfare Special Payment, the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, the COVID-19 Support Grant and the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. These schemes have enabled people to hold on to their jobs, and provided income support for millions of Singaporeans and their families.

We have set up a National Jobs Council to pull together and drive all our efforts on jobs, and look at how we can create new jobs for the economy. Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is leading this. The council will coordinate all the government agencies involved, and bring in the National Trades Union Congress and the employer groups too, to maximise the impact of our efforts. So if you need a job, there are real options to pursue, and you will have help and support.

Beyond COVID-19, and the economic challenges, we also have to deal with other important external and domestic issues. Externally, we have to navigate the changing strategic landscape.

COVID-19 has worsened relations between the United States and China. Actions and counter-actions are raising tensions day by day. It will become harder for countries to stay onside with both powers. It will be a more dangerous world for a small country like Singapore. We must ensure our security, and protect and advance our interests when dealing with other countries, big and small. We must also work with like-minded countries to support free trade and multilateralism, and enhance our voice and influence in the world.

Domestically, we have to strengthen our social compact. We have taken emergency measures to help everyone come through the crisis together. Beyond that, we have to think carefully how to improve our social safety nets. Sustainable social support will give people confidence to cope with the uncertainties and to make changes to their lives.

At the same time, everyone must have the incentive to be self-reliant, and to progress through their own efforts. We have difficult decisions to make on priorities, resources and budgets but the values guiding us remain the same: Every Singaporean will have equal opportunities.

Whatever your starting point in life, you will have access to good education, healthcare and housing. If you fall down, we will help you to get up, stronger. You can be sure you will be taken care of. In Singapore, no one will be left to walk his journey alone.

In the next few weeks, several ministers will address you, and share with you our plans. We have a full agenda for many years to come.



OUR PEOPLE ARE OUR STRENGTH

For our plans to succeed, for our hopes and dreams to come true, we need one final ingredient: the unity and resilience of our people.

Once in a while, nations and peoples are severely tested, as we are now. Some buckle under pressure and emerge from crisis diminished. Others grow more determined as they face fearful odds, discover reserves of strength in themselves, and emerge from crisis transfigured, renewed. And that has been our Singapore story: In crises, we have never failed to wrest opportunity from danger.

Indeed, our nation was born in crisis. When we were granted independence, it was in the expectation that we would fail and come crawling back, after realising we could not survive alone.

We proved otherwise. Two years later, the British suddenly announced that they were withdrawing their forces from Singapore. Again, many thought that would be the end of us. And again, we proved them wrong.

The Pioneer Generation fought to master their destiny. And the Merdeka Generation put heart and soul into making Singapore succeed. Together, they weathered many storms, always looking ahead, never flinching at hard choices and challenges. And that is how we got here.

Now, at another hinge in our history, it is our turn to face the crisis of a generation. The choices that we make now will define who we are as a people, and what values and ideals we pass on to future generations.

Confronting adversity, do we yield to anger, fear and bitterness? Or will we be true to ourselves, stand firm, make tough choices, and continue to trust and depend on one another?

Many Singaporeans have stepped up during this crisis. They have become more, not less, than themselves. Healthcare workers, public officers, grassroots leaders and volunteers, and many more working quietly behind the scenes.

Some are taking good care of migrant workers in the dorms. Others are sewing masks, buying groceries for families under quarantine, or refurbishing computers for needy students to do home-based learning.

Abroad, Singaporeans have driven hundreds of kilometres to pick up fellow citizens to catch SQ flights home. These acts of solidarity and human kindness exemplify the best in us. They show how we can emerge stronger from this crisis, with a sharper consciousness of being Singaporean.

This is why I believe we can continue to be exceptional - a fair and just society, where everyone can chase their dreams. My Cabinet team, with the support of the whole public service, will do our best to lead us towards this enduring vision of what Singapore can be.

We need every one of you to work with us. Together, let us take Singapore safely through this crisis, and make the Singapore spirit flourish in the world.

Thank you.














PM Lee Hsien Loong and ministers to speak on post-COVID-19 future in national broadcasts from 7 June to 20 June 2020
Speeches will lay out plans on how the Govt will lead Singapore out of the economic crisis
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 7 Jun 2020

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and four other ministers will deliver a series of national broadcasts, starting today, on what a post-COVID-19 future looks like for Singapore and how the country can see itself through the challenges.

In these speeches, which centre on the theme of securing Singapore's future in a post-COVID-19 world, PM Lee and the ministers will lay out plans to lead Singapore out of the economic crisis.

The areas they will cover are:

• What Singaporeans must do to live with COVID-19 for the long haul, so that people can go about their daily lives safely;

• How the country can maintain its relevance on the world stage as the geopolitical situation changes;

• How to keep the economy competitive so that businesses can prosper and create good jobs for Singaporeans;

• How to create promising opportunities for all Singaporeans to succeed, and care for those who are more vulnerable; and

• How Singaporeans can work together to emerge stronger from this crisis.


In a statement on the broadcasts, which come as Singapore exits a circuit breaker imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Prime Minister's Office said: "With the Fortitude Budget on May 26, 2020, the Singapore Government has committed almost $100 billion to support workers and businesses to fight against COVID-19.

"But the longer-term economic challenges remain formidable. COVID-19 has severely disrupted the global economy. Singapore must respond quickly to these global shifts and prepare for the difficult times ahead."

On Friday, Parliament passed the $33 billion Fortitude Budget, the fourth Budget this year, in which DPM Heng outlined plans to save jobs, create new training opportunities, and help hard-hit groups.

These plans are key planks of the Government's agenda in the next few years and are expected to be part of its pitch to voters, with a general election expected to be called within weeks.

For National University of Singapore associate professor of sociology Tan Ern Ser, the launch of the series could signal the beginning of the election season proper.

Noting that it will begin with PM Lee and end with the presumptive next leader, DPM Heng, he said: "The manifest function is to rally Singaporeans to stand with the Government, and strengthen their confidence in its leadership, trusting that it could lead Singaporeans through the challenges brought about by the pandemic and towards a bright future for all Singaporeans.

"The latent function is to convince Singaporeans that a People's Action Party government with a strong mandate is in the best position to protect their interests and welfare in the difficult journey ahead."

Meanwhile, Singapore Management University associate professor of law Eugene Tan said the broadcasts come at an opportune time, as people seek a road map that will give some direction beyond what has already been said about saving lives and livelihoods.

The economic emergency unleashed by the health crisis - which PM Lee has described as "the crisis of our generation" - has also put pressure on society, he added.

The national broadcasts will start this evening with PM Lee speaking on overcoming the crisis of a generation, followed this week by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on living with COVID-19, and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on resilience in a changing external environment.

Next week, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing will speak on making a living in a COVID-19 world, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on a stronger and more cohesive society, and DPM Heng on emerging stronger together.

All the speeches will be televised - from 7.30pm on CNA in English, then 8.30pm on Suria in Malay as well as on Channel 5 in English with sign-language interpretation, 9pm on Vasantham in Tamil and 9.30pm on Channel 8 in Mandarin.

Singaporeans can also tune in on the various Gov.sg online platforms. In addition, the speeches by PM Lee and DPM Heng will be on their Facebook pages as well as the Prime Minister's Office YouTube channel.




Related
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: Overcoming the Crisis of a Generation

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