Post-pandemic era

Forum: Time for agencies to lay groundwork now

The waterfront promenade outside Marina Bay Sands on June 6, 2020.
The waterfront promenade outside Marina Bay Sands on June 6, 2020.PHOTO: ST FILE

I support Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call to "keep up the virtuous circle of good governance that results in political stability and enables long-term planning" (Keep cycle of good governance and stability going: PM, Nov 9).

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed an extraordinary threat to the nation's public health and economic prosperity. It has also driven governments across the globe to operate in a context of radical uncertainty, and they face difficult trade-offs given the public health, economic and social challenges the pandemic raises.

Singapore, too, faces tough decisions about which appropriate measures to implement towards mitigating the transmission of the virus in the community, what restrictions to impose and when to loosen them, where our nation's limited financial resources will go and if national concerns will be affected by global cooperation to combat the pandemic, where the deployed resources, if any, could be effectively used domestically.

The economic relief packages presented in the four budgets that target employment protection for citizens, and the various measures to protect the welfare of migrant workers, are the right moves. This is because as the economy gets back to full production, Singapore will be able to rebound faster.

The other aspect of governance is for the Government to have resilience-building criteria when allocating public investment funding. This will ensure that all levels of the government treat all citizens and businesses in the same way. At the same time, I recognise that it is crucial to focus on supporting the industry segments critical to Singapore's sustained economic recovery, with the continued financial support to operationally viable small and medium-sized enterprises and the self-employed.

Finally, the Government must continue to demonstrate its political will and competence in responding to the crisis. The media must be an objective arbiter of the facts. Businesses can provide the necessary products and reliable information. Non-governmental organisations must partner the Government in ensuring a fair distribution of the vaccine once it is available in Singapore.

This is the time for institutions to work together, laying the groundwork for a united Singapore and trust-based governance led by the Government in the era of the post-pandemic new normal.

Sattar Bawany

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2020, with the headline 'Time for agencies to lay groundwork now'. Subscribe