COVID-19 to have major long-term impact on Singapore’s economy: PM Lee

SINGAPORE — The COVID-19 pandemic will cause significant long-term impact on Singapore’s economy, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believes that the nation has what it takes to adapt and succeed.

In his May Day Message delivered on Thursday (30 April), Lee said there will likely be many changes to the global economy in the long term, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the movement of goods and people becoming less free, and countries striving to rely less on imports for food and essential items like medicine and face masks, it will have major implications for global trade and investments.

The Singapore economy, which relies heavily on global trade and investments, will thus likely see significant structural changes, said Lee in his speech.

“Some industries will be disrupted permanently. Companies will have to change their business models to survive. Some jobs will simply disappear. Workers in these industries will have to re-skill themselves, to take up jobs in new sectors,” he said.

“But there will also be new opportunities, and new jobs created too. For instance, during the circuit breaker, people have adjusted. We have learnt to telecommute, and work with others virtually. Students are getting used to online learning. And more people are buying things online, and making e-payments.”

Challenge to adapt greater than most countries

Lee said that the government will help companies adapt to the new operating environment and retrain workers for new jobs, in order to build up expertise and the workforce in growing industry sectors like medical services, biotech, food production and delivery, and information technology.

“We will also find ways to buffer freelancers in the gig economy against economic volatility. We will not be able to save every job. But we will look after every worker.”

While Singapore is not alone in having to adapt to the post-COVID-19 world, its challenge is greater than most because it is so small and globalised, said Lee. However, he also believes these can also become advantageous for the Republic.

“Our smallness lets us be nimble. And global connectivity means we can quickly identify new growth areas and move into them,” he said.

Singapore has resources to support business, people

Lee believes that Singapore has what it takes to succeed in the post COVID-19 world. Having experienced economic restructuring more than once before, he believes that Singapore has the resources to support businesses, invest in the workforce, and take care of its people.

He singled out the tripartite partnership between the labour movement, employers and the government as an important example of how to “work together as one nation, protect our vulnerable and leave no one behind”.

“This is why when the virus started to spread in other countries, we brought overseas Singaporeans home. We did not leave them to fend for themselves,” he said.

“This is why we care for our migrant workers, who have done much for us, as we care for Singaporeans. This is why we have taken unprecedented steps to draw upon our reserves, in order to forestall retrenchments and support the low income.”

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