Friday, 12 June 2020

National Broadcast: SM Teo Chee Hean on Resilience in a changing external environment

COVID-19 shows importance of building up reserves and resilience, says Teo Chee Hean
Senior Minister stresses need to plan, act decisively and respond flexibly in face of crisis
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having deep reserves of finances, people and capabilities to respond to crises, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday as he stressed the need for Singapore to emerge out of the pandemic as a more resilient nation.

Calling the coronavirus "the largest and most complex" challenge the Republic has faced in his more than 40 years of public service, Mr Teo said the work must be done even before it is needed.

"The clear lesson for me is that in 'peace time', we need to plan on facing the unknown, and build deep reserves of people and capabilities, so that when we face a crisis, we can act decisively, and respond flexibly and rapidly," he said in the third of six national broadcasts by ministers on Singapore's post-coronavirus future.

The Senior Minister also stressed the high stakes involved for Singapore in how it responds to crises.

"Singapore can hold its own in the world, only if we are strong, successful and united at home," he said. "We can face the world outside with confidence, only if we are strong inside."

Mr Teo's address, filmed at the Marina Bay floating platform against the backdrop of the city skyline, focused on how Singapore intends to uphold its standing in a world in flux, and also how the Government would help Singaporeans prepare for the uncertainty ahead.

He said Singapore could no longer assume globalisation and open markets would continue to be the natural order of things, as the pandemic accelerates geopolitical trends.



Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, outlined three aspects of Singapore's resilience in dealing with COVID-19 - in its crisis response, economic resilience and social resilience.

First, in terms of its crisis response, Mr Teo said Singapore had to scale up its capacity to deal with infected patients rapidly.

Speaking for the first time about the outbreak in foreign worker dormitories since being asked in April to advise the task force handling the issue, he said that while the Government had tapped its experience dealing with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), ramped up contact tracing, and increased surveillance and precautions in dormitories early on, this was not enough.

"Unfortunately, these turned out to be insufficient because the virus was far more infectious than SARS," he added.

Cases in the dormitories increased exponentially in a matter of weeks, which called for a "tremendous effort" to accelerate and scale up plans for community care facilities, with resources from the private and public sector being mobilised.

Second, in terms of economic resilience, the virus has impacted livelihoods and disrupted supply chains, he said.

But essential supplies have been maintained, thanks to stockpiling, diversification and local production. The Government has also marshalled four Budgets to deal with the economic fallout, in the process drawing up to $52 billion from past reserves.



Pointing to a crisis early in the nation's post-independence years, when the British withdrew its troops from the country in 1967, Mr Teo said Singapore had lost 20 per cent of its gross domestic product and 70,000 jobs overnight.

But Singaporeans "gritted our teeth, rolled up our sleeves and moved ahead", he said.

"We are far more resilient today than in 1967, and better positioned to create new markets, businesses and jobs to replace the ones that will be lost," he added.

Finally, in terms of social resilience, the virus has strained Singapore's social fabric, but Mr Teo was heartened to see Singaporeans showing kindness, care and compassion to the more vulnerable, regardless of their race and religion.

Noting that he had worked closely with the new generation of ministers over the past few months, he praised their handling of the crisis, saying they have stepped up to the task and worked as a team.



He similarly lauded how Singapore has responded as a nation, avoiding the fissures that have divided some other countries and hindered their ability to respond to the pandemic. With support from Singaporeans, infection numbers have come down in the community and the outbreak among migrant workers has been stabilised, he added.

"What we have built as a nation - our solidarity, our resolve and our resilience - gives me confidence that we will overcome the current crisis and any future challenges, to build a stronger and better Singapore together," he said.










4G leaders have risen to challenge of tackling COVID-19, says Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean
Singapore has also responded to crisis as one nation, he says
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2020

Singapore's fourth-generation leadership has risen to the challenge of tackling the coronavirus pandemic, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

In overseeing the response to COVID-19, they have tapped the experience and knowledge of their older Cabinet colleagues and widely consulted people within and outside the Government, he added.

"They have stepped up to the task, worked together as a team, and led from the front," he said. "This is the way that we collectively ensure resilience and continuity in our leadership team for Singapore."



In the third of six national broadcasts on Singapore's post-coronavirus future, Mr Teo noted that the pandemic is the first major crisis faced by many of Singapore's new generation of leaders.

They include civil servants, healthcare professionals, and officers from the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team.

The multi-ministry task force handling the COVID-19 situation is co-chaired by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, and comprises other 4G ministers including Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is the task force's adviser.

Mr Teo, who is advising the ministers on the outbreak in foreign worker dormitories, said he has worked very closely with them over the past few months. "We speak daily and exchange views freely," he added.

Singapore, he noted, has responded to COVID-19 as one nation - by "mobilising our financial reserves, our public services, our crisis response capacity and our social capital".

Singaporeans have stepped forward to do their part, and the country has avoided the fissures that emerged in other countries which hindered their ability to respond properly, he said.

In his speech, Mr Teo underscored the importance of resilience on all fronts as Singapore heads into an uncertain future.

Where the economy is concerned, this means dealing with the immediate impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods and supply chains.

The industrial capacity and economic resilience that Singapore has built up over the years has thus far allowed it to maintain its food and essential supplies through stockpiling, diversification and self-production, he said.



Singapore, he added, has strengthened its reputation for trust, credibility and transparency in the eyes of international investors by "keeping Singaporeans informed daily, and dealing with the crisis in a transparent, systematic and thorough way".

On social resilience, Mr Teo said every crisis strains Singapore's social fabric.

But its education system gives all Singaporeans the opportunity to build a better life, while the public housing programme provides each citizen with a home and a stake in the country's future. In addition, ethnically integrated neighbourhoods foster racial and religious harmony, he said.

Mr Teo detailed how the country pulled together following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak and the 2008 global financial crisis.

"We have drawn on these deep reserves in times of crisis... COVID-19 is an even bigger test," he said.

He lauded the efforts of Singaporeans and others living here to show kindness and compassion to vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

"We all share a common humanity. What we do in a crisis reflects who we are, and the values which motivate us as a people and as a nation," said Mr Teo.








 





Singapore managed to adapt and act rapidly to tackle each virus wave
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2020

Despite Singapore's experience with the SARS outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for it as the virus is far more infectious, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

On March 25, the authorities recorded no cases of COVID-19 in migrant worker dormitories.

But the highly infectious nature of the virus in communal living conditions meant that infections surged rapidly, from 26 cases on April 4 to more than 1,000 new cases daily two weeks later.

Greater surveillance and tighter precautions early on proved to be insufficient as the disease was far more infectious than severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), said Mr Teo, who was appointed adviser to the inter-agency task force handling the outbreak in foreign worker dormitories.

The crisis has stretched the nation's resources and capacity, he added.



The Government had started building community care facilities earlier, and plans for these were accelerated and scaled up, with new capacity added daily in April. At the peak of the outbreak on May 12, more than 20,000 patients were being cared for in such facilities. This massive effort was made possible by mobilising resources from the public service, government-linked companies and the private sector, Mr Teo said.

"This is how we are able to take care of every patient without overwhelming our healthcare system and putting lives at risk."

He added that Singapore has managed to "orientate, adapt and act rapidly" to respond to each wave of the virus.

"With patience and perseverance, and support and cooperation from everyone, we have brought down the number of cases in our general community. We have also stabilised the outbreak among our migrant workers," he added.

Mr Teo's speech - the third in an ongoing series of TV broadcasts by six ministers - focused on building greater resilience.

He noted that healthcare volunteers stepped up to man the community care facilities, and officers from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Home Team were also roped in.



Mr Teo said the coronavirus pandemic was not a mission the SAF and Home Team had specifically prepared or trained for.

By setting up the joint task forces (JTFs) within days - to support efforts by the Manpower and Health ministries on the front lines - the SAF and Home Team showed their readiness and flexibility, he added.

He said: "The JTFs played a critical role by establishing a command, control and information system, deploying forward assurance and support teams (Fast) to all the dormitories to look after more than 300,000 workers, and supporting the Ministry of Health's overall medical support plan."

Every day, as many as 1,000 patients have flowed into and through care facilities, he noted.

"Every one of them needed to be individually tracked, tested, monitored, isolated while infectious, moved safely to the right places and given the right treatment," he said.



Mr Teo added that tackling the COVID-19 outbreak in dormitories has been a "tremendous effort", with operations still ongoing to bring the situation fully under control. However, the number of daily cases has already come down to between a third and half of the peak.

There were 422 new coronavirus cases confirmed as of noon yesterday, 11 June, taking Singapore's total to 39,387.

Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as the "largest and most complex" crisis he has encountered in more than 40 years of public service, Mr Teo said Singapore has responded as one nation - by mobilising its financial reserves, public services, crisis response capacity and social capital.

Mr Teo said the crisis has revealed the need for Singapore to build reserves and the resilience to deal with such unexpected events.

"We need not just financial reserves. We also need able and experienced people, organisational capacity and operational agility."










Singapore cannot assume open markets still the natural order of things
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2020

Generations of Singaporeans, who have grown up believing globalisation and open markets are part of the natural order of things, can no longer assume it in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday when he spoke on the nation's future challenges.

In a nationally televised address that laid out how Singapore intends to uphold its political and economic standing, Mr Teo noted that pre-existing geopolitical trends have been accelerated by COVID-19.

These include the rivalry between China and the United States, disruptions to global supply chains, and deepening social divisions in several countries that have fractured social and political stability.

The resulting turmoil has fuelled nativism and protectionism, Mr Teo said in the third of a series of six ministerial speeches.



"Countries are acting unilaterally to protect their own short-term interests", handicapping international organisations seeking a coordinated global response, he said.

These developments are threatening the international system and global order which provided opportunities for countries to grow peacefully for over 70 years, he said.

But some things will remain unchanged, said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

Singapore will always be a small, multiracial country surrounded by bigger neighbours and exposed to external forces beyond its control.

It, however, wants to keep contributing, both regionally and globally.

Mr Teo said: "We will continue to actively promote close ties and good cooperation with our Asean partners, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, not least to tackle COVID-19 together."

Citing Singapore's various efforts, he said the country has donated masks, test kits and ventilators to both countries and other Asean members as a "gesture of solidarity".

The Republic is also working with Asean and other partners to curb the transmission of the coronavirus and limit the economic fallout in the region.

With Malaysia, it is working closely on the cross-border flow of people and goods during the outbreak.

At the same time, bilateral issues that inevitably arise between close neighbours must be dealt with constructively, he said. "We will try our best to resolve these issues and achieve a win-win outcome while protecting Singapore's interests."

Problems must be managed and contained till they can be resolved, he added, to allow wider areas of cooperation for mutual benefit.

Beyond the region, Singapore is making itself useful to the world - even during the pandemic, said Mr Teo. "We are working with key partners to keep supply chains open, connected and resilient."



Singapore is also taking part in the World Trade Organisation's efforts to promote trade through updating rules to suit the digital economy, he said.

There was also the election of Mr Daren Tang as director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the first time a Singaporean will lead a United Nations agency.

Mr Tang will begin his six-year term with WIPO in October, after relinquishing his role as chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.

In addition, Singapore is contributing to global action to tackle climate change as a small island state. For example, it submitted an update on lowering its emissions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in March, Mr Teo noted.

"These are all key issues that will determine the shape of the world to come," he said.

On the world stage, small countries like Singapore can also have a voice and play an active role in international cooperation, he added, citing several multilateral partnerships the country leads or is part of.

They include the 30-member Global Governance Group, which provides inputs to the Group of 20, and the UN's Forum of Small States, which Singapore founded and still leads.

In addition, there is the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which originated with a trade pact among Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei, plus the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which brings Asean and its trade partners together.

An "able and agile" foreign service has helped Singapore play this constructive role on the world stage, and create more opportunities and space for its people, said Mr Teo, adding this is even more important with global changes brought about by the virus.

COVID-19 as a crisis will affect everyone and should be a reason for countries to come together, rather than to be divided, he said.

"Pursuing narrow self-interest can leave all of us worse off, while enlightened self-interest means working together for a better outcome for everyone," said Mr Teo.

"A bleak outcome is not inevitable. What each country does, together with like-minded partners, can make a difference."






The 3 keys to a more resilient Singapore
The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2020

This is the transcript of a national broadcast by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on how Singapore can build up its resilience as it confronts a new, more uncertain post-COVID-19 world. The broadcast is the third in a series of six by ministers. The next broadcast is on Sunday by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.


Dear fellow Singaporeans and friends, it was only five months ago when news of the COVID-19 virus first emerged. What began as a localised public health emergency has since become a global crisis.

The pandemic has disrupted the international system and brought about far-reaching changes that will reverberate for a long time, affecting our daily lives and our livelihoods. For example, we will not be able to travel abroad as easily as we used to for business or leisure. New standards for public health and personal hygiene are here to stay.

In many instances, the changes have sped up trends that were already there. For example, many more companies and workers have moved online, irreversibly changing the way we do business, work or shop. This will impact the way companies compete and the way countries trade with each other. Working from home also means people can do the same job, not just from home here, but even from home in some other country. This can open up more working opportunities, but also intensify competition for everyone.

COVID-19 has also accelerated pre-existing geopolitical trends. The United States-China rivalry has intensified. Global supply chains have been upended. In quite a few countries, social divisions have grown starker, fracturing social and political stability. This has, in turn, fuelled a wave of nativism and protectionism. Countries are acting unilaterally to protect their own short-term interests. As a result, international organisations like the World Health Organisation are handicapped as they seek a coordinated global response.

These developments are threatening the international system and global order which, for more than 70 years, has provided opportunities for all countries to grow peacefully. Generations of Singaporeans have grown up believing that globalisation and open markets are part of the natural order of things. We can no longer assume that this is so.

Today, I will talk about the challenges Singapore will face, and how we intend to uphold our political and economic standing in this world. I will also outline how the Government will build greater resilience as we prepare for this new, more uncertain world, and take care of all Singaporeans.



SHAPING OUR FUTURE WORLD

How countries respond to the pandemic will shape the post-COVID-19 world. What will happen to our system of international cooperation? With intensified strategic competition, can the leading powers still cooperate sufficiently to overcome global challenges? Will the world slide back to protectionism? Will it become a technologically and economically bifurcated world?

A bleak outcome is not inevitable. What each country does, together with like-minded partners, can make a difference.

The COVID-19 crisis will affect all of us. It should motivate all countries to come together to build a more cooperative world, rather than become a reason to divide us. Pursuing narrow self-interest can leave all of us worse off, while enlightened self-interest means working together for a better outcome for everyone.

There is so much to do. Caring for the sick, protecting front-line workers, discovering effective treatments and vaccines, ensuring that there is enough for all. And after the pandemic subsides, it will be a long road to economic recovery. We need new international protocols to gradually and safely resume cross-border exchanges.

Beyond that, we need to update, reform and strengthen the global trading system to reflect the new realities. Integration and trade are always far better than isolation and conflict.

We hope that the major powers will exercise leadership to help the world overcome COVID-19. This will set the tone and lay the foundation, beyond COVID-19, for a renewed open, united and inclusive world. Then humanity can address important shared challenges that require collective global action, such as violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, cyber security, future pandemics and climate change. No single country - big or small - can solve these problems on its own.

In this changed world, some things will remain unchanged. Singapore will always be a small, multiracial country surrounded by bigger neighbours, located between the Indian and Pacific oceans, exposed to external forces beyond our control.

Singapore wants to be a good partner and contribute to a harmonious region. We will continue to actively promote close ties and good cooperation with our Asean partners, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, not least to tackle COVID-19 together. We are working closely with Malaysia during this outbreak on the cross-border flow of people and goods. As a gesture of solidarity, we donated masks, test kits and ventilators to Malaysia, Indonesia and other Asean countries. We are also working closely with Asean and other key partners to curb the transmission of the virus, and to limit the economic fallout on our region.

At the same time, we must deal constructively with the bilateral issues that inevitably arise between close neighbours. We will try our best to resolve these issues and achieve a win-win outcome while protecting Singapore's interests. And until we can resolve them, we must manage and contain the bilateral problems, so that we can work on wider areas of cooperation for mutual benefit.

We also reach beyond our region to make ourselves useful to the world, even during this pandemic. We are working with key partners to keep supply chains open, connected and resilient. At the World Trade Organisation, we participate actively to promote trade by updating the rules to suit the digital economy.

In a world where creating, protecting and using knowledge is increasingly important, a Singaporean - Mr Daren Tang - was recently elected to be the next director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. This is the first time that a Singaporean will be leading a United Nations agency.

As a small island state, we continue to contribute to global action to tackle climate change. In March, we submitted our updated Nationally Determined Contribution and our Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

These are all key issues that will determine the shape of the world to come.

While we call on the major powers to exercise leadership to strengthen international cooperation, small countries also do have a voice and the agency to act. Thus, while the world's largest economies have the Group of 20, smaller and medium-sized UN member states, including Singapore, have come together to form the 3G or Global Governance Group. This 30-member grouping provides inputs to the G-20, making global discourse more diverse and inclusive. Singapore also founded and continues to lead the Forum of Small States at the UN to give its members a stronger collective voice.

The 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) had its origins in the P4 agreement between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. The Asean countries are at the core of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which brings Asean and its free trade agreement partners together. These are examples where smaller countries have been able to seed ideas, act and draw in larger countries to foster wider cooperation. We will continue to play an active role in this arena.

To play such a constructive role on the world stage and to protect our national interests, we require an able and agile foreign service. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with other government agencies, works hard to help Singapore chart our path in the world and create more opportunities and space for Singaporeans. This has now become even more important with the global changes brought about by COVID-19.



A MORE RESILIENT SINGAPORE

Singapore can hold its own in the world, only if we are strong, successful and united at home. Only then can our diplomats speak with a credible voice. Only then can we prevent adversaries from manipulating opinions and inciting discord within Singapore. Only then can we offer something of value so that others want to work with us. We can face the world outside with confidence, only if we are strong inside.

The COVID-19 crisis has been a stringent test of our ability and resolve to tackle challenges at home. Dealing with it has required an unprecedented whole-of-nation response. We established the multi-ministry task force in January to coordinate this.

The task force has had to make difficult decisions amidst uncertainty and incomplete information, as the world struggled to understand this new, silent, fast-moving and virulent threat. The crisis has stretched our resources and capacity. But we have been able to orientate, adapt and act rapidly as the virus came upon us in waves. Each wave required us to develop and deploy novel measures to slow down the spread, and contain it.

With patience and perseverance, and support and cooperation from everyone, we have brought down the number of cases in our general community. We have also stabilised the outbreak among our migrant workers. We are now carrying out a deliberate plan to test and clear every migrant worker living in the dormitories, so that they are well and can safely resume work. As a result, we can now begin to restart activities gradually and safely, taking all the needed precautions that National Development Minister Lawrence Wong described in the previous broadcast.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we will need to build a more resilient Singapore, which can respond quickly and effectively in a more uncertain world. Let me touch on three aspects of our resilience: crisis response, economic resilience and social resilience.

1. CRISIS RESPONSE

First, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of building reserves and resilience to respond to unexpected crises. We need not just financial reserves. We also need able and experienced people, organisational capacity and operational agility. When COVID-19 struck, we could draw on the knowledge, expertise and capacity in our healthcare system built up after our SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) experience. And we could tap the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to rapidly build up our contact tracing capacity, as we did during SARS.

But no two crises are the same, and tackling COVID-19, especially the outbreak in our migrant worker community, has been a major challenge. We had heightened surveillance and tightened precautions in our migrant worker dormitories early on.

Unfortunately, these turned out to be insufficient because the virus was far more infectious than SARS. On March 25, we recorded zero cases in our dormitories. Just 10 days later, on April 4, when the number increased to 26 cases, we acted decisively to isolate the dormitories. However, the infectiousness of this virus and the communal living conditions in the dormitories meant that in a fortnight, by April 20, we were recording more than 1,000 new cases per day in the dormitories.

We had already anticipated the need for community care facilities and had started to build them. We accelerated these plans and scaled them up, adding new capacity daily over the first few weeks of April. At the peak, on May 12, we were caring for close to 20,000 patients in our community care and similar facilities. This is more than the total number of beds in all our public acute hospitals.

We mobilised resources from across our public service, government-linked companies, and the private sector to set up and run all these facilities. Healthcare volunteers stepped forward to help man them. This is how we are able to take care of every patient without overwhelming our healthcare system and putting lives at risk.

This has been a tremendous effort. The operations are still ongoing, to bring the dormitory situation fully under control. But the number of daily cases has already come down to between a third and half of the peak. About two-thirds of the patients have already fully recovered.

COVID-19 was not a mission that our SAF and Home Team had specifically prepared and trained for. But they demonstrated their readiness and flexibility by stepping up to establish the Joint Task Forces (JTFs) within days, to support their colleagues in the Manpower and Health ministries who were already on the front lines. The JTFs played a critical role by establishing a command, control and information system; deploying Forward Assurance and Support Teams to all the dormitories to look after more than 300,000 workers; and supporting MOH's overall Medical Support Plan.

Every day, as many as 1,000 patients have flowed into and through our care facilities. Every one of them needed to be individually tracked, tested, monitored, isolated while infectious, moved safely to the right places, and given the right treatment. Over the past two months, I worked closely with many of our officers and tracked closely the work they are doing. I would like to thank every one of them for their extraordinary and selfless contributions. It is a massive task, and our officers, from our entire whole-of-nation team, are doing a tremendous job.

The clear lesson for me is that in "peace time", we need to plan on facing the unknown, and build deep reserves of people and capabilities, so that when we face a crisis, we can act decisively, and respond flexibly and rapidly.



2. ECONOMIC RESILIENCE

Second, we need economic resilience. In the immediate term, this means dealing with the direct impact of COVID-19 on our livelihoods and supply chains. Thus far, we have managed to maintain our food and essential supplies through stockpiling, diversification and self-production. These would not have been possible without the industrial capacity and economic resilience that we have built up over the years.

Keeping Singaporeans informed daily, and dealing with the crisis in a transparent, systematic and thorough way, has further strengthened Singapore's reputation for trust, credibility and transparency in the eyes of international investors. This will stand us in good stead.

We have faced and overcome such challenges before. In 1967, during the early years of our independence, the British announced the withdrawal of their troops from Singapore. Overnight, we stood to lose 20 per cent of our gross domestic product and 70,000 jobs, out of a citizen population that was only half of today's. This was a permanent, structural loss, not a cyclical downturn. But Singaporeans gritted our teeth, rolled up our sleeves, and moved ahead.

We invested in education and infrastructure, opened ourselves to the world, and promoted new industries like shipbuilding and repair, electronics and tourism. We are far more resilient today than in 1967, and better positioned to create new markets, businesses and jobs to replace the ones that will be lost.

My colleagues will be elaborating on our economic resilience, recovery and growth programmes in the coming days.

3. SOCIAL RESILIENCE

Every crisis strains our social fabric. The trauma of independence etched deeply in the minds of Singaporeans the need for harmony, unity and solidarity.

It begins with our children. Education for all gives every Singaporean the opportunity to build a better life, and share the fruits of our progress. High-quality, affordable public housing provides all Singaporeans a home and a stake in the country's future. Ethnically integrated HDB neighbourhoods foster racial and religious harmony.

We have drawn on these deep reserves in times of crisis. For example, after the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, we faced the terrorism threat together and did not allow tensions and suspicions to divide our society. Similarly, we supported one another and came through the Asian financial crisis, SARS and the global financial crisis together.

COVID-19 is an even bigger test. I am heartened to see many acts of kindness, care and compassion from Singaporeans and our friends living here. They acknowledged and helped take care of our migrant workers, and they helped look after those who are more vulnerable among us, regardless of race or religion.

We all share a common humanity. What we do in a crisis reflects who we are, and the values which motivate us as a people and as a nation.



CONCLUSION

COVID-19 is not the first crisis we have faced, nor will it be the last. As a small country, we are more exposed and vulnerable than others. In our short history, we have repeatedly faced and overcome crises - about once every decade, some more serious than others. This COVID-19 pandemic is the largest and most complex I have encountered in more than 40 years of public service.

We have responded to COVID-19 as one nation - mobilising our financial reserves, our public services, our crisis response capacity and our social capital. Singaporeans have stepped forward to do our part, helping others in need, keeping ourselves and others safe during the circuit breaker. We have avoided the fissures that have divided some other countries, fissures that have hindered their ability to respond properly, and cost them lives and livelihoods.

The multi-ministry task force is overseeing our national response to COVID-19. A new generation of ministers, civil servants, healthcare professionals, Home Team and SAF officers are taking the lead. For many, this is their first major crisis. The ministers have sought advice and tapped the experience and knowledge of their older Cabinet colleagues, and consulted widely within and outside the Government. Over the past few months, I have worked very closely with them. We speak daily and exchange views freely. They have stepped up to the task, worked together as a team and led from the front. This is the way that we collectively ensure resilience and continuity in our leadership team for Singapore.

What we have built as a nation - our solidarity, our resolve and our resilience - gives me confidence that we will overcome the current crisis and any future challenges, to build a stronger and better Singapore together.

Thank you and good health to you and your families.




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

Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong: Living with COVID-19

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean: Resilience in a Changing External Environment

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