The sooner the GE, the earlier S'pore can unite for challenges: DPM Heng in TV interview

Heng Swee Keat presenting Budget 2020 in Parliament, 18 Feb. (Source: Screen shot from MOF video)

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the sooner the next general election (GE) is held, the earlier the elected government can rally Singapore together to deal with significant long-term economic challenges.

In a television interview with CNA on Wednesday (27 May), Heng gave a clear hint that the general election – which must take place by 14 April 2021 – may be called soon.

When asked whether Singaporeans will have to wait until Phase 3 of the post-circuit breaker period for the general election to be held, he said, “I would say that, yes, elections are coming nearer by the day.

“The sooner we get it done, the earlier we can rally everybody together to deal with these very significant challenges ahead, and also to deal with these very significant uncertainties in the months and years ahead.”

Public health, safety a ‘foremost consideration’

When Singapore eventually holds its general election, Heng said that public health consideration and public safety will be a “foremost consideration”, and this will mean that the way the election is to be conducted will be different than what it was before.

He cited the example of South Korea, which went to the polls last month with stringent COVID-19 precautions in place, and still achieved a record turnout. Some of the precautions include screening temperatures, ensuring safe distancing and requiring voters to wear masks and plastic gloves.

Singapore had also passed a Bill earlier this month to allow provisions for Singaporeans who are on stay-home notices for acute respiratory infections to vote in the general election.

Not a time to ask for COVID-19 report card: Heng

During the CNA interview, Heng said that one of the main reasons to call an election soon is that there are economic and structural challenges that required “a long runway”, and a united Singapore will help the nation emerge stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is not a set of issues that we deal with over the next six to nine months or one year, but a set of issues that we need to deal with over the next five and even 10 years for us to emerge stronger, for us to manage this crisis of a generation as best as we can,” he told CNA.

“So it is important for all Singaporeans to begin to focus our minds on how we can come together to overcome this crisis of our generation and how we can then rally together to emerge stronger.”

When asked about the mixed reactions to the Singapore government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak so far, Heng said he would rather focus on fully on the battle ahead.

“I take a very simple approach, which is that right at the moment, we have a very big battle ahead. I want to focus my mind fully on this battle,” he told CNA.

“This is not a time to ask for a report card. This is a time to focus all our minds. If people have great ideas on how we can do it better, we are prepared to consider any great idea.”

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