SINGAPORE – The Singapore government wants to partner with the people and industry to forge a stronger future for the country amid the COVID-19 crisis, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in a national broadcast on Saturday (20 June).
Even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a “crisis of a generation”, it has brought Singapore closer, he said.
“COVID-19 has sharpened our sense of purpose, and brought us closer together as a society,” said Heng, who is also Finance Minister. “We want to hear how the crisis has impacted you, and how we can work together on your ideas to take Singapore forward. So we have started a series of Emerging Stronger Conversations.” These conversations, he said, will lead to action.
Heng elaborated that at the first Emerging Stronger Conversation recently, “someone asked, ‘What will Singapore and Singaporeans be known for in the world?’”.
“We can see the answer around us. Our school children sending messages to encourage our healthcare and frontline workers. Our social agencies, charities, youths and volunteers supporting our vulnerable – lonely seniors, persons with special needs, and migrant workers. Our religious groups praying in new ways, to keep everyone safe, and supporting people with needs,” Heng said.
“Our businesses returning funding for the Jobs Support Scheme because they are doing well, and are rewarding their workers, and making contributions to social causes. We see Singaporeans from all walks of life, trusting in and caring for one another.”
He urged Singaporeans to build on this, even as the country focused on rebuilding its economy.
Strengthening economy together
Similarly, besides the creation of jobs, the government will also be working together with those in various industries to develop new areas of growth.
“We will set up ‘Singapore Together Alliances for Action’. These Alliances will be led by industry, with each prototyping new ideas within the coming months, in areas such as robotics, e-commerce, environmental sustainability, digitalisation of supply chains and the built environment. The key is speed and agility. Successful projects will become new shoots of growth, and generate new jobs,” Heng said.
One area that will get a boost is research and innovation. Sharing that Singapore is finalising its research and development plan for the next five years, Heng revealed, “We will set aside over 20 billion dollars to support basic and applied research in high impact areas, such as health and biomedical sciences, climate change, and artificial intelligence. We will launch a series of Innovation Challenges to rally our people to pioneer solutions for some of the world’s major challenges.”
Ending his speech, the sixth and final instalment of a series of national speeches delivered by Cabinet ministers, he said, “Our journey ahead is long, and our actions in the next five to ten years will chart the course of our nation for decades to come... We will overcome this crisis of our generation. We will be a generation that emerges stronger.”
Listen to the full speech:
Before Heng, the ministers who addressed the nation were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
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