PM tells Singaporeans 'do not fear'

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 for Singapore.

But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday told Singaporeans to take heart and spelt out his Government's plans to help the country emerge stronger from the crisis.

Addressing the nation in a televised broadcast, he did not downplay the magnitude of the task at hand.

International trade will be hit. Many industries may never recover fully from the pandemic. Jobs will be lost.

"The next few years will be a disruptive and difficult time for all of us," he said. This is especially true of Singapore, which has made a living by connecting itself to the rest of the world, said PM Lee.

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

Singapore is still well-positioned to play its part in international trade of the future, said PM Lee.

It had also started to prepare for uncertainties and transform its economy, even before the pandemic hit, and this could now pay dividends.

PM Lee's broadcast on the topic, "Overcoming the crisis of a generation", is the first of six national broadcasts over the next two weeks by Singapore's leaders on how the country might grapple with a post-Covid-19 future.

The last time there was such a series of broadcasts was in 1968, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and several of his ministers spoke shortly after the British announced their withdrawal from Singapore.

The leaders spoke on how the country might deal with the challenge.

On Sunday, PM Lee said that, while the Government has intervened decisively, its 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."

The Government has rolled out four Budgets totalling close to $100 billion - an unprecedented amount - in Covid-19 support, or almost 20 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product.

To fund this, it is looking at drawing up to $52 billion from past reserves.

The Straits Times

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