Singapore should meet the new year with renewed confidence and hope after getting through an "exceptionally testing" 2020, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In his traditional New Year message yesterday, PM Lee said the country had faced an unprecedented crisis, and stabilised its Covid-19 situation through enormous effort and sacrifice.
"We have achieved our primary objective to protect lives and keep our people safe," he said, noting that what stood out in Singapore's Covid-19 response is the trust that Singaporeans have in the system and one another.
The country entered phase three of its reopening on Monday and began vaccinating its healthcare workers against Covid-19 two days later.
"We can now see light at the end of the tunnel," said PM Lee, adding that Singapore's economy is beginning to see signs of stabilisation as well after entering its most severe downturn since independence.
But it will still take some time before enough people are vaccinated to prevent another major uncontrolled outbreak, he noted. In the meantime, people have to remain disciplined and continue practising precautionary measures.
"Now is not yet the time to celebrate," the Prime Minister cautioned. "That time will come. Meanwhile, I ask for your support to keep up our efforts and not to falter in this final stretch."
On the economic front, PM Lee said employment has picked up, and multinational companies are making significant new investments in Singapore.
A Manpower Ministry market report last month showed that employment rose among residents to near pre-Covid-19 levels in the third quarter of last year.
He said the economic recovery will, however, be uneven, and activity is likely to remain below pre-coronavirus levels for some time.
To prevent massive job losses and business failures, the Government passed five Budgets, totalling nearly $100 billion, and drew heavily on past reserves to fund various support schemes, he noted. He also held up the work of employers and unions to keep Singaporeans employed.
While Covid-19 deepened fault lines and tensions in many countries, Singapore has thankfully avoided major divisions among its people and the loss of trust that took place elsewhere, said PM Lee.
Trust in the Singapore system remains high, and Singaporeans have complied with Covid-19 rules because the Government has been open and upfront about the facts, he added.
In the 2020 General Election, Singaporeans renewed their mandate for the People's Action Party (PAP) government because they were confident it could see them through the crisis and take the country forward, PM Lee said. The PAP was returned to power at the July 10 election with 61.2 per cent of the vote.
"My team and I will strive to continue deserving your trust, to keep on strengthening our social compact, to sustain the promise of Singapore as a fair and just society, and to help you achieve your hopes and dreams," he said.
"We are determined to give every Singaporean equal opportunity to do well, to prepare you to take advantage of opportunities in a different world, and to help you deal with life's inevitable setbacks."
He noted that while how the post-pandemic world will look is uncertain, Singapore must emerge strengthened by the shared experience of the crisis.
Whether Singapore manages to become a more vibrant economy and resilient society will depend on its people, he added.
And just as how Singapore has come together to overcome the challenges of the pandemic, it must do likewise to rebuild stronger and face any new and unexpected hurdles that lie ahead, he said.
"In the months and years ahead, we will face new and unexpected hurdles. Things may happen that force us to change our plans. But as long as we stay together as one Singapore, I am confident we will blaze a path forward."