SINGAPORE — Reviving Singapore’s “decimated” aviation sector and guarding its status as an aviation hub is a top priority for the government, said newly-minted Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (30 July).
He also noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Transport (MOT) and various agencies are all working to negotiate reciprocal green lanes with countries who have managed to bring down their transmission rate, according to media reports.
“I think going forward, let’s hope more countries are able to do it,” he said. “You can negotiate more reciprocal green lanes, but if you can do more (and) go beyond that, you should really consider that.”
Ong, 50, was speaking on the sidelines of a signing ceremony to mark the official relaunch of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project, an event covered by Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp outlets.
In February, his predecessor Khaw Boon Wan had warned that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Singapore’s aviation sector is likely to be worse than that of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis.
Ong, who was previously Education Minister, said after the signing ceremony, “Don't take for granted that when COVID-19 is over, we will still remain as the aviation hub. Others will be vying for it. It's not something we take for granted. It’s something we fought for, and we’ve secured.”
The ‘lungs’ of Singapore
Likening the seaport and Changi Airport to “vital organs” in the Singapore economic body that take in oxygen, Ong noted that the country’s overall unemployment rate in the second quarter has risen to its highest level in the last decade.
The key to bringing back jobs is for Singapore to maintain its status as a sea and air hub. This relates to ease of movement, a key consideration for investors, Ong said.
“Take for example, any investors, any operation that decide to set up in Singapore. A key consideration is always, do my components, intermediate goods and complete products – can they move in and out of Singapore easily because of our seaport?
"Another consideration – do my people, my workers, my executive, my key personnel, can they also come in and out of Singapore and connect with different parts of the world easily?”
Ong added, “I expect this year PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) to still do quite well, but on the airport side, because it has to do with people to people connection, COVID has decimated the entire aviation sector.”
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