Singaporeans must stand up for its people and not take sides amid global tensions: DPM Wong

PM Lee Hsien Loong (centre) with (from left) Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, DPM Lawrence Wong, SCCCI president Kho Choon Keng and former SCCCI president Roland Ng officiating the opening of the renovated SCCCI building on Sept 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Singapore could be pulled in different directions by the major powers, but it should always stand up for its people, said DPM Lawrence Wong. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
PM Lee Hsien Loong (centre) with DPM Lawrence Wong (left) and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng viewing the World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention Seal (1999) during a tour of the renovated SCCCI building on Sept 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The SCCCI Chinese Business Culture Hub brings together traditional and modern designs, and has function rooms for the public to rent. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
PM Lee Hsien Loong on a guided tour of the SCCCI Chinese Business Culture Hub, which contains artefacts that are significant to Singapore's history in business and trade. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - It is vital to cultivate trust among Singaporeans amid economic challenges and growing tensions between the United States and China, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Saturday.

He was speaking at the opening of the newly renovated Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) at 47 Hill Street, near City Hall.

He warned that Singapore could face pressure as geopolitical contestation rises in the region.

Singapore could be pulled in different directions by the major powers and pushed to take sides, but it should always stand up for its people, said Mr Wong, who is also the Minister for Finance.

He added: "That means being clear about what our vital interests are, and standing firm on these interests in a consistent and principled manner.

"It means we must never allow ourselves to be taken in by misinformation. And when it comes to dealing with external issues, we must quickly close ranks amongst ourselves, and stay united as one people."

Mr Wong said SCCCI has played a key role in Singapore's history, and that its contributions embody values that helped the nation get through the Covid-19 pandemic. He also encouraged the chamber to champion the needs of the nation's enterprises.

Founded in 1906, SCCCI represents more than 40,000 companies here, including multinational firms and small and medium-sized enterprises across various trades.

During the pandemic, the chamber engaged its members, and they provided feedback and worked with the authorities to help shape Singapore's response measures, said Mr Wong.

The chamber can continue to play a key role in helping Singapore to steer through new challenges ahead, he added.

He cited the Ukraine war as a catalyst of economic uncertainties, such as the gas and energy shortage in Europe that will worsen as winter approaches.

Food harvest will be affected in the light of the ongoing global fertiliser shortage, accelerated by the warring countries, which are significant exporters of fertiliser, said Mr Wong.

Central banks in developed countries are also likely to raise interest rates to curb inflation, causing the global economy to slow down, he added.

The Government will help Singaporean households and businesses cope with rising prices through relief measures and schemes to help firms remain current.

An effort to build trust in society and to understand the needs of the people is the public engagement exercise Forward Singapore, said Mr Wong.

Since its launch in June, the exercise has received suggestions such as how to provide more opportunities for businesses and workers, and how to meet the needs of vulnerable groups, such as lower-income households and the elderly, said Mr Wong.

SCCCI can play a critical role in the exercise, he added, inviting its members to support the initiative.

He said: "As a leading business association, you are well placed to champion the needs of our enterprises, including the need to continue growing and to create good opportunities and jobs for Singaporeans at the same time."

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the chamber has over the years played a role in ensuring that Singapore retains one of its most unique features - its multicultural character.

For instance, it has given out nearly 2,000 scholarships to students from lower-income backgrounds, regardless of their race, said DPM Heng, who attended SCCCI's mid-autumn celebration in the evening.

"As we look ahead, we can do so with optimism. We have retained a strong sense of unity throughout the pandemic over past two years," he said.

"But we also benefited greatly from our forefathers’ foresight and sense of responsibility, in setting aside reserves for future generations."

SCCCI president Kho Choon Keng said the chamber will support the Government's efforts to keep the economy open, embark on economic transformation and maintain good international connectivity.

He added: "The key to Singapore's success lies in a united, highly effective, honest, non-corrupt, meritocratic government highly trusted by the people."

The opening ceremony of the revamped SCCCI building was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the guest of honour, along with around 200 chamber members and other guests.

The pre-function hall of the SCCCI Chinese Business Culture Hub in the renovated Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Building, on Sept 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The building was completed in 1964 and opened by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee encouraged the Chinese community then to make Singapore their home and integrate with the multiracial South-east Asian society, reflecting the concerns of that era, said Mr Kho.

The revamped building brings together traditional and modern designs, retaining the iconic nine-dragon wall at the front of the premises while having the addition of a modern curved glass facade.

In the coming months, function rooms will be available for the public to rent. Visitors can soon book a visit to the new Chinese Business Culture Hub on the fourth floor to view artefacts that are significant to Singapore's history in business and trade.

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