Stronger Singapore Can Emerge From Humanity's 'most Dangerous Crisis', Says PM Lee On Covid-19 Pandemic

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SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 pandemic is the most dangerous crisis that humanity has faced in a very long time, and it will throw up immense challenges, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believes that an even stronger and better Singapore can emerge from it.

Speaking on Sunday (June 7), he did not downplay the magnitude of the task at hand. International trade would be hit. Many industries may never recover fully from the pandemic. Jobs would be lost. "The next few years will be a disruptive and difficult time for all of us," he said.

This was especially true of Singapore, which makes a living by connecting itself to the rest of the world, said Mr Lee.

"But despite these immense challenges, I say to you: Do not fear. Do not lose heart," said Mr Lee.

After all, international trade may shrink but it would not disappear, he said, and the reputation that Singapore has built for itself over decades would be a big advantage. Also, Singapore has been preparing for uncertainties and transformation, even before the pandemic hit, and has plans and programmes in place to cope with the challenges coming its way.

Speaking on the topic "Overcoming the Crisis of a Generation", Mr Lee outlined the breadth of the challenge that Singapore faces, and how it plans to overcome it. This is the first in a series of national broadcasts over the next two weeks by Singapore's leaders, on the country's post-Covid-19 future.

Mr Lee said that while the Government has intervened decisively through four successive Budgets, these support measures cannot shield Singapore from "tectonic shifts" taking place in the global economy.

"Unlike other countries, we can draw on our reserves, and don't have to pay for our support measures by borrowing," he said. "But even for us, this level of spending is hard to sustain."

To protect workers, households and companies, the Government has rolled out four Budgets totalling an unprecedented $93 billion in Covid-19 support, or about 20 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product. To fund this, it is looking at drawing up to $52 billion from past reserves.

Describing the major global shifts taking place, Mr Lee said the movement of people will be more restricted. "International travel will be much less frequent. Health checks and quarantines will become the norm.

"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."

Countries will also strive to become less dependent on others, especially for essential goods and services such as food or critical medical supplies. This will have strategic implications, he said.

"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."