A series of six national broadcasts by Singapore's leaders, on how they plan to secure the country's future after the Covid-19 pandemic, should help concentrate the minds of everyone listening in to the sheer scale of what is needed - and being done - to overcome the greatest challenge to Singapore since its independence. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the series. He, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean have spoken this week. Next will be Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam, before Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat concludes the series on June 20.
The move to address the nation directly reflects the seriousness with which leaders view the pandemic's impact on Singapore, and hence the need to speak frankly about the challenges and what is being done to protect jobs, businesses and the economy as a whole. That older-and new-generation ministers are in the mix signals there will be consistency and continuity in the leadership team that manages Singapore's way forward in a post-Covid-19 world over the longer term. Much of this continuity stems from a legacy of survival handed down since Singapore's departure from Malaysia. That legacy spans the British withdrawal from their bases here, recessions induced by regional and international developments that lay outside Singapore's control, and the emergence of new threats like terrorism.
The pandemic is not the same as a breakdown in global economic relations, although it will exacerbate international rivalry. It is also not an intentionally malevolent act like terrorism. It is a biological infection that has spread into the economy. It is the defining challenge of these times. Singapore's survival will be tested by the capacity for decisive and timely change possessed by the current and successor generations. The broadcasts aim to address that by mapping out what Singaporeans must do to live with Covid-19 for the long haul, how the country can maintain its global relevance by keeping the economy competitive, how to create opportunities, and how to work together to emerge stronger from this crisis. Taken together, the broadcasts offer a blueprint for the way forward, by building a resilient country despite the body blows inflicted by the coronavirus crisis.
Singaporeans played a crucial part in ensuring the viability of the national project that began in 1965. Covid-19 is different qualitatively from previous crises, but there were differences between those crises as well - between Britain's departure in the late 1960s from bases here and the oil shock in the 1970s, for example. Yet, in those cases, Singapore persevered because of the drive of its people and leaders. That has not changed.