Singapore must refocus on future, open up for travel soon: PM Lee

A general view of the Central Business District and the Merlion. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
A general view of the Central Business District and the Merlion. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – With COVID-19 "under control", Singapore must change gears and refocus on the future, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (29 August) evening, Lee said that "it is no longer about drawing down reserves to keep ourselves on life support".

Singapore expects to draw $53.7 billion from its reserves over two financial years to support its economy amid the pandemic.

"It is about generating new growth, jobs, and prosperity for the future," Lee said.

He outlined three ways to do so, starting with preserving Singapore's status as a business hub. For this to happen, he said, "it is important for us to open up soon, and allow more people to travel in and out of Singapore, in a safe way".

"If our borders stay closed for too long, MNCs (multi-national corporations) will find us less useful, Singaporean businesses also will suffer, and our economy will be permanently damaged," Lee explained.

Singapore must also remain attractive to investors. International companies who set up operations in the city-state "create many good jobs for Singaporeans".

Lee credited the Economic Development Board for persuading major companies, such as BioNTech – Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine partner – to set up shop in Singapore. Semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries is building its sixth wafer lab in Singapore, while communications technology company Zoom has opened a new research and development centre in the country.

The reverse must also happen, with Singapore companies making their mark in the new economy, said Lee, who cited car marketplace Carro, gaming chair manufacturer Secretlab, and classifieds marketplace Carousell.

"Enterprise Singapore is supporting more entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps, go out into the world, seize new opportunities and grow their businesses," Lee noted.

"The government will create the conditions for entrepreneurs... to start and grow their companies. But subsidies and grants only go so far," Lee added. "Ultimately, it is their own resolve and resourcefulness which will secure their success."

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