Coronavirus pandemic

Emerging Stronger Taskforce says it will engage diverse views, in reply to letter

The evolving Covid-19 situation and the need to keep abreast of rapid changes in the global economy meant that the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, formed to guide Singapore's economic recovery, had to be kept relatively small to move nimbly, co-chairman Desmond Lee said yesterday.

In reply to an open letter calling for more diversity in the composition of the task force, Mr Lee said it recognises the value of diversity and intends to seek participation, feedback and comments beyond the task force.

The task force is one part of the wider Singapore Together effort, focusing on emerging stronger from the current crisis as an economy, he said. It complements other efforts to rally Singaporeans to work together as well as emerge stronger as a society and as a people.

Mr Lee, who is Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, issued a statement in response to an open letter sent to the Government on Monday that had called for more representation from minority groups, vulnerable communities and green sectors of the economy on the task force.

The pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities in society and the economy, said the writers, who include Nominated MPs Anthea Ong, Walter Theseira, Irene Quay and Yip Pin Xiu as well as representatives from Artsolute, the Nature Society (Singapore) and the Disabled People's Association, among others.

In all, more than 45 individuals, some of whom represent not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises and arts groups, signed the letter. It called for the inclusion of those who have been most affected by the coronavirus outbreak in rebuilding a Singapore that can better withstand future shocks.

And in noting the presence of representatives from the petrochemical and aviation sectors - major contributors of greenhouse gases - on the task force, it had also called on Singapore's leaders to focus on creating jobs in sectors that can reduce the impact of climate change.

The task force also includes representatives from the technology, banking, property and agri-business sectors.

The setting up of the task force was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in April, and its members were announced by the Ministry of Trade and Industry last month.

Led by Mr Desmond Lee and Mr Tan Chong Meng, group chief executive of PSA International, it seeks to work with stakeholders to drive industry transformation strategies in a landscape massively impacted by Covid-19.

Said Ms Tok Xinying, co-founder of environmental group Climate Conversations and lead author of the letter: "Coming out of the Covid-19 crisis, where we saw many groups and individuals step up, the letter's signatories collectively expressed a hope for continued active citizenry and a formal integration of societal concerns into future economic planning."

 
 
 
 

The writers suggested the task force membership be expanded to ensure at least one representative from the social sector who is formally supported by an advisory council of non-profits, charities and academics, and at least one more climate-friendly business.

It should also include vulnerable economic players, such as gig-economy workers, social enterprises and the self-employed.

The writers acknowledged that while the task force had said it would consult other segments of the community, it was important to have members concerned about vulnerable communities and climate change formally on board, to raise and debate issues on an equal footing.

In response, Mr Lee yesterday reiterated his earlier commitment to seek participation from other segments of Singapore society.

He said conversations have started with Singaporeans so they can share their Covid-19 experiences and aspirations for a more caring and resilient Singapore, and these opportunities will continue.

"This will allow us to tap insights beyond our membership and help guide the issues that are pertinent to every Singaporean," he said.

Details of plans to engage a wide range of Singaporeans and stakeholders in this effort will be announced soon, he said.

"I encourage all Singaporeans to actively participate in these efforts to build a better Singapore for all, and for our future generations."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2020, with the headline 'Emerging Stronger Taskforce says it will engage diverse views, in reply to letter'. Print Edition | Subscribe