SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 pandemic is proof of the world’s interdependence and not an indictment of globalisation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Mar 26).
“It highlights the need for more cooperation between countries, not less,” said Mr Lee in a written statement, which was shared with participants of the Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit.
In the statement, Mr Lee said that looking into the future, the coronavirus crisis “will change globalisation as we know it”.
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“What was unthinkable just two months ago, for example, border restrictions in the Schengen area, is now reality,” he said.
“Naturally, countries will now want more safeguards against the risks of globalisation, and to strengthen national capabilities to reduce dependence on others. Stronger assurances of supply chain reliability and safer human mobility will be needed,” he added.
Mr Lee said “a more hard-headed, pragmatic internationalism may arise”, but countries “should resist the urge to turn inwards and discard globalisation completely, because autarky will result in a poorer world for all”.
The prime minister suggested three areas of collaboration in his statement. Firstly, he noted that even if each country succeeds in eradicating the virus within its own borders, there remains the risk of importing new cases from other countries.
“All of us are only as strong as our weakest link. Thus, we must cooperate, share expertise and experience, and help one another,” said Mr Lee.
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He also noted how every government is “doing everything possible to save businesses and jobs” amid the economic downturn.
“I am glad that our finance ministers and central bank governors are coordinating fiscal and monetary policies to prevent this,” he said.
Finally, Mr Lee called on countries to bring together their scientific communities and resources to develop a cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
“This will shorten the crisis and save lives. COVID-19 will end eventually but it will not be the last pandemic the world will face.
“We should therefore learn from our experience and strengthen our preparedness for future pandemics, in the same way some Asian countries have emerged stronger from our experience with SARS,” he said.
“As leaders,” Mr Lee concluded, “we must work together after the crisis to rebuild domestic confidence in the merits of a globalised world.”
“It will not be easy to find the right balance but this is how we can emerge from the crisis stronger and more resilient than before.”