Singaporeans have to prepare for very different future: PM

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged the city-state’s residents to prepare for a very different future, as COVID-19 would remain a problem for a long time.

He made the remarks during a national broadcast on Sunday evening, saying COVID-19, not only a public health issue but also a serious economic, social and political problem, would take at least a year, probably longer, before vaccines become widely available, reports Xinhua news agency.

Lee said Singaporeans must all adjust the way they live, work and play, so that they could reduce the spread of the virus, and keep themselves safe.

He also warned that the next few years would be a disruptive and difficult time for all of them.

He said companies, big and small, would be hit hard, some industries would be permanently changed, and many would have to reinvent themselves to survive.

Workers will also feel the pain, as retrenchments and unemployment will go up, some jobs will disappear and not come back.

“Workers will have to learn new skills to stay employed,” Lee said.

The Prime Minister said the global economy had “virtually ground to a halt” because of COVID-19, and Singapore had taken a severe hit too with its GDP likely to shrink between 4 and 7 per cent in 2020, the city-state’s worst contraction ever.

Lee also expressed confidence that an even stronger and better Singapore would emerge from this crisis for three reasons.

First, Singapore had economic strengths and an international reputation built up over many decades. It is highly connected to the global flows of trade, investment, capital and people.

“International trade and investments may shrink, but they will not disappear entirely,” he said.

Second, Singapore has had a head start preparing for the uncertainties ahead, as it had been working hard to transform and deepen its capabilities, and it is systematically rebooting the economy and rebuilding transport and trade links.

Besides, Singapore is working hard to retain and attract talent and investments to contribute to its recovery.

“At a time when some countries are closing their doors, we are keeping ours open,” Lee said.

Third, Singapore has programs and plans to cope with the challenges before it.

Lee said the government’s biggest priority now is jobs, and the government will use the programs and plans to help Singaporeans keep their jobs, or find new ones.

The Prime Minister’s address was part of a series of national broadcasts which started on Sunday, and will run till June 20.

All the speeches will be televised in the four official languages — English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin.