The World Economic Forum (WEF), to be held in Singapore this year, with top leaders from the public and private sectors gathering to address the most pressing global issues, should have economic benefits for Singapore and improve the country's global standing, Parliament was told yesterday.
In answer to a question by Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC), Mr Alvin Tan, the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, listed some of the potential benefits that Singapore can reap from hosting the meeting, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the direct windfall for companies supporting the event, it will signal to the international community that Singapore can host major international events even in uncertain conditions.
Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, said: "Hosting the special annual meeting will also give Singapore an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to its programme and discussions. We welcome this opportunity and will work with the forum to strengthen the meeting's focus on Asia."
Ms He had asked what principles were used in Singapore's decision to host major in-person global conferences like the WEF, and what the likely cost and revenues from the meeting would be.
It has been projected that more than 1,000 delegates will be descending on the Marina Bay Sands complex in August, despite the global Covid-19 situation remaining highly unstable.
Mr Tan did not reveal the expected profits from the forum as logistics are still being worked out, but said he believed that hosting the meeting will have a "positive impact" on the country.
He also assured MPs that it would be safe. The Singapore Tourism Board has developed the Safe Business Events Framework, which has been tested in more than 29 in-person events since last July, he said.
Participants of these events, which will include the WEF, are subjected to pre-departure and on-arrival testing, and a rigorous and recurrent testing regime once they are here.
Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said that both local and foreign attendees will have to use TraceTogether.
There will be physical segregation of attendees from the rest of the population, minimising the risk of cross-spreading of any infection.
In response to a question from Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) about the contingency plans Singapore has if someone attending the event were to be infected, Dr Janil said the prevailing contact tracing and isolation measures would kick in.
"We are already hosting and organising events. This will be at a larger scale and it will involve a wider group of delegates and attendees, but the fundamentals of our approach will be the same," he said.
Initially set to be held in Davos, Switzerland, the forum was moved to Singapore because of the perceived danger of hosting the event in Europe, which continues to report a high number of cases every day.
It was then postponed from May to Aug 17 to 20, with WEF organisers citing "international challenges" and the different global travel restrictions that could make it difficult for participants to make arrangements to fly here in the first half of the year.