Health and safety of participants top priority for WEF meeting in S'pore

Forum participants will have to abide by strict public health requirements, which include undergoing a rigorous Covid-19 testing regimen. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The health and safety of participants will be at the forefront of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Singapore in May, said WEF president Borge Brende on Monday (Jan 18), adding that Singapore is one of the governments that have handled the Covid-19 pandemic best.

"We have very, very good cooperation here with the Singapore government," Mr Brende said at a virtual press conference.

The WEF has traditionally held its annual meeting, which gathers top political, business and academic leaders to discuss pressing global issues, in Davos, Switzerland in end-January. Last year's edition saw 3,000 participants.

But in light of the Covid-19 situation in Europe, the organisation decided to shift the summit to Singapore from May 25 to 28, and called it a special annual meeting.

The WEF has also organised the Davos Agenda 2021, a series of virtual sessions next week to discuss global issues under the theme, "A crucial year to rebuild trust".

More than 1,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 70 countries will take part in sessions, which will feed into May's special meeting.

Speakers at next week's sessions include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

On Monday night, Mr Brende also outlined several items on the agenda for the special meeting in May, including rebuilding trust and increasing global cooperation on topics such as climate change.

"I don't think anyone is better positioned than the World Economic Forum in Singapore to really make sure that we do achieve really concrete results in these areas," he said. "And we know that Singapore has the facilities to do so."

WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab also spoke on the importance of networking, saying: "Person-to-person contacts are important to create an even higher level of trust."

"Rebuilding trust and increasing global cooperation are crucial to fostering innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery," Professor Schwab added.

"This unique meeting will be an opportunity for leaders to outline their vision and address the most important issues of our time, such as the need to accelerate job creation and to protect the environment."

The WEF did not confirm how many people were expected at the Singapore meeting, or where it would be held. But it has said that it would be a hybrid conference, with some joining virtually.

The Business Times reported on Saturday the WEF is aiming to attract around 1,000 delegates and intends to hold the event at the Marina Bay Sands complex.

Mr Brende said on Monday: "We have good discussions on the best venue, and making sure that all our participants will be safe."

Earlier this month, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan told Parliament that all WEF participants will have to abide by strict public health requirements.

These include undergoing a rigorous Covid-19 testing regimen involving pre-departure and on-arrival tests, as well as adhering to strict safe management measures.

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