SINGAPORE – The Economic Development Board (EDB) secured $13 billion in new investments in just the first four months of this year – and that money will generate several thousand jobs over the next few years.
So, how was EDB able to do this during a pandemic and a recession?
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (July 1) took pains to explain how the EDB managed to do so, describing it as “an extraordinary feat”. In an ordinary year, the EDB would attract about $10 billion for the whole year, he noted.
PM Lee said it is because “Singapore enjoys a strong reputation internationally, and investors have confidence in us.
“Investors are also confident the Government can get Singaporeans to “back policies that will grow the economy, attract talent and investment, and eventually create jobs for Singaporeans.
“These have been the fundamentals of our economic success and the reason why MNCs have kept faith with us,” he said in a video message posted on social media platforms yesterday.
He added that in a crisis, it is even more critical for Singapore to reinforce these fundamentals to attract more investments and create jobs.
It also important not to lose sight of the long-term mission of making Singapore better, even as the nation deals with the immediate need to get through the Covid-19 crisis.
PM Lee said the recession will be over but the world after the coronavirus pandemic will look very different. Singapore’s external environment will be less stable, the world economy will be less integrated, and not only would the world have changed, it will also be a “changing one”.
Singapore, Mr Lee said, will have to be resilient and adaptable, “to earn our living in this new world”.
That is why this election will be a critical one, he said.
Singaporeans will be choosing the leadership team they want to get them through the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and beyond, he added.
The next elected government has to save jobs and businesses, and persevere with long-term plans to build a better future for Singaporeans, added PM Lee, who is secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party.
Two things are critical for Singapore to come through the Covid-19 crisis, he said.
“First, the best possible leadership for Singapore,” he said. “Second, a solidly united population, that gives the leaders they have chosen full support.”
On leadership, Mr Lee said the PAP has worked hard to put together the best team for Singaporeans. This team is anchored by experienced ministers and MPs who have seen the country through past crises, and therefore know “what to expect, what to do, what pitfalls and traps to avoid”.
The party has also added to its ranks new faces who come from all walks of life, he said.
“Indeed, our new candidates this time are among the most grounded, the most organic, the most relatable we have had in years… They reflect our evolving society, and they each have their individual perspectives and passions,” Mr Lee said.
What they have in common are “core values and convictions, and the courage to do right by Singapore, like every generation of PAP leaders before them,” he added.
“The PAP is determined to provide Singapore not only a strong leadership team for the next five years, but a team that has depth, and continually renews itself for the future,” Mr Lee said.
This is why younger ministers were put in charge of the task force tackling the Covid-19 crisis, he said.
“This is not a dry run, nor even a live firing exercise. This is deadly serious real-life crisis management, in an unprecedented global crisis,” Mr Lee said, adding that he is happy that the younger ministers have proved themselves up to the task. “This is what it means to be a responsible steward of Singapore, and of our future.”
But a capable leadership can only succeed if it wins the strong support of the people, Mr Lee said.
He added that Singaporeans must feel that the Government is building up the country not just for the current generation, but as a “sustained effort spanning generations”.
“The world may be uncertain, and many dangers lurk which can derail our plans,” Mr Lee said. “But if our government and people are united, trusting each other and working together with a clear direction, we can overcome any challenge that comes our way, and make steady progress, decade by decade, towards our long-term vision.”
On the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Lee said Singapore is still in the thick of the fight, and must sustain its collective effort to keep the virus from spreading.
On Singapore’s long-term plans, Mr Lee said the pandemic may force the country to “take down some sails, divert around the worst weather” and change its course. For instance, the mega Changi Airport Terminal 5 has been put on hold for at least two years.
But its ultimate destination remains the same, he said. Its plans include building more and better pre-schools, ensuring that healthcare is affordable for the elderly, and preparing for climate change.
“These are ambitious plans, spanning decades with the crisis, we will have to revise some of them,” PM Lee said, adding that the Government is nevertheless resolved to realise these plans. “Because we are determined to always be exceptional, always distinguishing ourselves in an ever-changing world.”
He noted that Singapore is where it is today because generations of Singaporeans have trusted the PAP and worked with it to build the country.
“Your support has been the PAP’s greatest strength. And the PAP has never let you down,” he said. “Now, we must face the crisis of a generation together, and carve out our place in the world anew. I ask you to once again give me and my PAP team your mandate.”