SINGAPORE – For a small country like Singapore, COVID-19 is not merely a public health issue or an economic one – the pandemic has made the world a more troubled place, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (7 June).
While acknowledging that Singapore has made progress in the fight against COVID-19, and thanking frontliners, Lee issued a stark warning about the years ahead: “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.”
In the first of a series of national broadcasts by Cabinet ministers to take place over the next few weeks, Lee explained how the external strategic landscape has changed, and will change.
“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,” he said.
COVID-19 has also worsened relations between the US and China, Lee added. “Actions and counter-actions are raising tensions day by day. It will become harder for countries to stay onside with both powers,” he said.
Specifically, 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.”
He also outlined some of the everyday changes that people might feel. “We will not be returning to the open and connected global economy we had before, anytime 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,” Lee said. “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.”
Crisis of a generation
Lee acknowledged that “we have difficult decisions to make on priorities, resources and budgets” while reiterating the Singaporean way of meritocracy. “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 a rallying call, exhorting Singaporeans to stay united, he asked, “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?”
Watch his broadcast here:
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