Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat received the top May Day accolade this year for his efforts in helping businesses stay afloat and preserving the livelihoods of workers here amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Medal of Honour is conferred by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on individuals who have rendered distinguished service to the labour movement.
Mr Heng, 60, who is also Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, was recognised for playing an instrumental role in helping companies weather the economic crisis through the five Budgets last year.
He also pushed for policies that would go towards equipping workers with skills necessary for remaining employable.
Yesterday, Mr Heng - who announced on April 8 that he would step aside as the leader of the People's Action Party's fourth-generation team and designated successor to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - was one of 143 individuals and organisations given awards for their exemplary contributions.
The Covid-19 outbreak brought about an unprecedented crisis and was the "most daunting challenge" that his team at the Ministry of Finance had faced, Mr Heng said in an interview with NTUC blog LabourBeat.
"But the situation was even more daunting for businesses and our workers," he said.
"For some, their businesses came to a halt overnight. Workers were worried about getting paid and keeping their jobs."
To support them, Budget measures that would typically take months were designed in weeks.
One major policy is the Jobs Support Scheme, which helps offset part of the wages of local workers.
"We are very mindful that if a breadwinner loses his or her job, it would affect the whole family. So we made helping companies retain their workers a key plank of our support," said Mr Heng.
He also touched on the industry transformation maps - blueprints for how 23 key industries should transform themselves for the future - and explained that pushing ahead with these efforts would prepare businesses and workers for a post-Covid-19 world.
He said: "The purpose of economic restructuring is to create more opportunities and better jobs for our people."
His award comes about a week after PM Lee announced changes to Singapore's Cabinet line-up. Mr Heng will pass on his finance portfolio to current Education Minister Lawrence Wong on May 15.
When asked in the LabourBeat interview what he would like to be known for, Mr Heng replied: "It is not so much what an individual has contributed. What matters for Singapore is for leaders to set aside our personal interests and ego, to focus on the big picture and what is in the best interest of our nation."
Other May Day award recipients included union leaders, government officials and companies advancing workers' interests, as well as workers who are role models.
Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat and Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam received the Distinguished Service Award for their contributions.
As part of the Cabinet reshuffle, Mr Chee will be joining the labour movement and will relinquish his appointment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will replace Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon, who is currently the NTUC deputy secretary-general.
This year's May Day Awards ceremony was held over two sessions at Downtown East and streamed online on Zoom. Last year, the physical ceremony was cancelled owing to tightened Covid-19 measures, but the awardees were still recognised for their contributions.