World Economic Forum in Singapore postponed from May to Aug 17-20

Current global travel restrictions have made planning for an in-person meeting in the first half of the year difficult.
Current global travel restrictions have made planning for an in-person meeting in the first half of the year difficult.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The World Economic Forum (WEF) has postponed its special annual meeting in Singapore from May to August, due to the global Covid-19 situation.

The meeting will now take place from Aug 17 to 20, the WEF said in a statement on Wednesday (Feb 3) night.

"Although the WEF and Government of Singapore remain confident of the measures in place to ensure a safe and effective meeting, and local transmission of Covid-19 in Singapore remains at negligible levels, the change to the meeting's timing reflects the international challenges in containing the pandemic," said the organisation.

It noted that current global travel restrictions have made planning for an in-person meeting in the first half of the year difficult.

"Furthermore, differing quarantine and air transport regulations have increased the lead time necessary to ensure that participants globally can make arrangements to join," it said.

Responding to queries, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the Government understands the challenges faced by the WEF and has agreed to the reschedule.

"We will continue to partner the World Economic Forum closely to host a safe and successful special annual meeting in Singapore," the MTI added.

The annual meeting, which gathers top political, business and academic leaders to discuss pressing global issues, has traditionally been held in Davos, Switzerland at the end of January.

But the pandemic meant that this year's edition was to be held in Singapore from May 13 to 16. This was subsequently pushed back to May 25 to 28.

The WEF said the 2021 meeting in Singapore will be the first global leadership summit to address the challenges of recovering from the pandemic and laying the basis for a more inclusive and sustainable world.

"It will bring leaders face to face to focus on shaping solutions to the most pressing challenges of our times," it added.

WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab encouraged global stakeholders to participate in the August summit in the statement on Wednesday.

"(The meeting) will provide the place for leaders from business, government and civil society to come together to address the steps for global recovery," he said.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan had told Parliament in January 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.

Speaking at the WEF's Davos Agenda virtual event last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that the WEF plays an important role in promoting dialogue, as a forum where leaders from countries large and small alike can speak and be heard. 

That is why Singapore agreed to host the WEF's special annual meeting, he added. “Not a decision lightly taken, but we are happy to make a modest contribution to the global discussion.”    

As the host country, Singapore will work with the WEF to ensure the health and safety of all, he said.

The meeting saw about 3,000 participants gather in Davos last January. The WEF has said that the Singapore meeting would be a hybrid conference, with some joining virtually.

Although the number of people expected at the meeting has not been confirmed, The Business Times has reported that the WEF is aiming to attract around 1,000 delegates and intends to hold the event at the Marina Bay Sands complex.