SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday (June 20) made a rallying call for Singaporeans to band together, pledging that the country will not only overcome the Covid-19 crisis, but emerge from it stronger.
Underpinning this is the partnership between the Government and the people, which has become more critical than ever in the face of the twin threats of a pandemic and Singapore's worst economic contraction to date, he said from the Treasury building.
Capping the series of six national broadcasts by ministers on the country's post-coronavirus future, he unveiled plans for Singaporeans and the Government to shape the future together.
A sum of $20 billion will be set aside to support basic and applied research, along with a series of innovation challenges to rally people to pioneer solutions for some of the world's major challenges.
Industry-led alliances have been formed to prototype ideas that can become new avenues of growth, while ideas from Singaporeans will be turned into solutions through new networks that bring together partners from different sectors.
Already, the Government has marshalled almost $100 billion in support measures to mount a robust response to "the crisis of a generation", said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.
"I never expected to put up four Budgets, one after another, within just 100 days. Never before in our history have we done so," he added. "Had we not done so, we would have lost years of progress and an entire generation."
More than half of the war chest had come from the country's past reserves, painstakingly built up by previous generations of Singaporeans.
"So let us remember - once we have recovered from this crisis, our generation must build back better," he said.
Mr Heng emphasised that the most urgent task is to preserve jobs, which may be lost despite the utmost efforts to help companies survive.
That is why the Government is making a big push to create as many new jobs as possible, he said, with a target of 100,000 jobs and training opportunities through the National Jobs Council.
"Your job is our top priority. Because jobs are the most direct way for every Singaporean to improve our lives and support our loved ones," he added.
"We will work with companies, and invest in our people. We are determined not to lose a generation of workers and youths."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, National Developent Minister Lawrence Wong and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, had laid out the Government's plans in earlier broadcasts.
They explained how the leadership would deal with the coronavirus, help Singapore navigate a more fractious world, and transform its economy and create opportunities, as well as deepen the social compact and care for the vulnerable.
In his address to the nation, Mr Heng sketched out how all this would be done together with the people, and pledged that the Government would listen to Singaporeans.
Inviting all Singaporeans to join in these efforts, he said: "To emerge stronger, we must draw on the wits and will of our people."
The Deputy Prime Minister, who had overseen several national engagement sessions and launched the citizens engagement movement named Singapore Together last year, said the Government has started a new series of Emerging Stronger Conversations to hear from people about how the pandemic has affected them and how to overcome the challenges.
At the first session a few days back, someone had asked what Singaporeans and Singapore will be known for in the world, he said.
Citing how Singaporeans from all walks of life had come together in the past few months to help and encourage each other - with pupils sending messages to encourage healthcare and front-line workers to religious groups praying in new ways to keep everyone safe - he urged everyone to build on the momentum.
"A democracy of deeds, a society in action, one people working in unison, confident of our place in the world - this is Singapore Together," he said.
In concluding the series of broadcasts, Mr Heng also set out the work that the fourth-generation ministers in the Cabinet have been focusing on, and promised that the Government is committed to growing the economy and protecting jobs, strengthening society, and safeguarding everything that Singaporeans hold dear.
He added: "Our journey ahead is long, and our actions in the next five to 10 years will chart the course of our nation for decades to come... As we move forward, we will deepen our trust and support for one another.
"This Government has the will and the way to lead us out of this crisis. We will face the challenges ahead together with you, all the way. We will fight Covid-19 as Singapore Together. Everyone counts, and can be counted on.
"We will do what it takes to protect our lives and our livelihoods, to secure our future. We will overcome this crisis of our generation. We will be a generation that emerges stronger. Together, we will be the generation that sets our children and their children onto a path to an even brighter future."