Why Singapore was picked to host WEF: Covid-19 response, events infrastructure key factors

The skyline of the financial district in Singapore on Dec 8, 2020.
The skyline of the financial district in Singapore on Dec 8, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's handling of the Covid-19 outbreak and its strong events infrastructure were likely factors in the country being picked to host the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting next May, observers said on Tuesday (Dec 8).

Professor Dale Fisher from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said WEF organisers can see that Singapore has "got good control of the disease".

He noted that the Government's "only real slip-up" was in underestimating the virus' impact on migrant worker dormitories.

"Singapore has shown that it's prepared to adapt and be nimble - when the situation changes, it is prepared to be proactive in modifying responses," he said.

"The organisers know Singapore is going to be a bit more flexible and innovative. They probably think if anyone can make this conference happen, it's Singapore."

The WEF on Monday said its priority is to safeguard health and safety, and that Singapore was best placed to host the gathering in the light of the current Covid-19 situation worldwide.

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said the decision to relocate the venue from Switzerland reflected confidence in its management of the pandemic.

Beyond the Republic's demonstrated competence in handling Covid-19, its physical infrastructure also accommodates a traditionally hectic event packed with 15 to 20 meetings daily, said Dr Jeremy Lim from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

"The ease of moving around is important, so what also makes Singapore attractive here is that it's a small country," he said.

Other considerations, such as the country's high level of hospitality and sophisticated telecommunications networks, would also have played a part, Dr Lim added.

"There are other cities that have done pretty well in managing Covid-19. But if you think about what makes a great meeting destination for very important people, and what makes a safe place in this Covid-19 world, I think Singapore is a very logical choice," he said.

Mr Benjamin Chiang, Asean government and public sector leader at EY, pointed to the Government's deliberate efforts to revive the events sector. He cited technology-driven initiatives such as contactless border entry points, real-time crowd control by video, and robots to automate sanitation and hygiene measures.

Mr Chiang, along with events industry professionals, also said recent pilots of large-scale events have helped Singapore fine-tune and optimise the overall experience for visiting delegates.

Dr Chong Ja Ian from NUS' political science department said: "Singapore is geographically convenient and generally politically non-offensive to major powers as well as major corporations. These actors probably like the fact that there will be little visible dissent as well."

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