SINGAPORE - Covid-19 has halted four decades of work that made Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines world-beating institutions, but Singaporeans can be confident that they will thrive again, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament on Wednesday (Sept 2).
While the pandemic may be a monumental test of the nation's spirit, Singapore will emerge stronger and more united than before, PM Lee pledged as he delivered his rallying call during the debate on the President's Address.
Recalling Singapore's difficult birth, Mr Lee said the country had faced each major storm since - such as the Asian Financial Crisis and Global Financial Crisis - not knowing whether it would survive.
"Each time, the dire circumstances became the occasion and the platform for ambition and daring, and each time, we transcended ourselves and built again," he said at the end of his speech on Singapore's response to the present crisis that has severely crippled the aviation and tourism sectors as well as related industries like retail.
Changi Airport's birth in 1981 was a coming-out party for Singaporeans of that generation, and over the years, the nation built Changi up "into the best airport, home to the best airline in the world". In the same way, Singaporeans were immensely proud when Jewel Changi Airport was opened, he noted.
The pandemic's impact on air travel has reduced Changi to deathly silence while Jewel too went dark during the circuit breaker. But as in all previous crises, Covid-19 will be the occasion for Singapore to do better, said Mr Lee.
"Do not doubt. Do not fear. Jewel will shine again. Changi will thrive again. SIA will be a great way to fly once more," he said. "Our economy will prosper anew."
Singaporeans should fight Covid-19 with hopeful hearts, as the searing experience will help a new generation appreciate and treasure what the nation has built and what makes it exceptional, he added.
"We are here by dint of will and imagination, in defiance of all the odds," he said. "And of all those who said we wouldn't make it, we did."
While there is no guarantee that even under a PAP government, Singapore will forever be successful, Mr Lee called on Singaporeans to work with and keep faith with the Government, a formula that has served Singapore well in its journey.
This high degree of consensus on social, political and economic issues is a major reason for Singapore's rapid progress, enabling the Government to think long term, adopt a strong anti-corruption stance and be unremitting in its efforts to promote social inclusion, said Mr Lee.
While time has made it seem like this is a natural outcome, "even in Singapore, it is not normal at all - it is the result of sound politics, hard work and the will to pull together and make Singapore a success", he said.
Each successive generation of Singaporeans must keep on doing its best for Singapore and keep the country working in this unique way, while navigating the tough questions it faces in a changed world, such as on the right social safety nets and foreign worker mix, he said.
Choking up as he concluded his speech, Mr Lee vowed: "Our children and our grandchildren will continue marching forward to build a fairer, ever more just and equal society."