SINGAPORE: A new task force focusing on economic resilience will be set up to help the Singapore economy bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Apr 7).
It will be chaired by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee and Mr Tan Chong Meng, group chief executive officer of PSA International.
The new Emerging Stronger Task Force will report to the Future Economy Council, said Mr Heng, and aims to “review how Singapore will stay economically resilient and build new sources of dynamism in a post-COVID world”.
Mr Heng also announced that the Singapore Together Movement, which was launched last year, will take on a new emphasis of social resilience given that the pandemic has reinforced the importance of social and psychological resilience.
“Let us use this crisis well,” he said.
Mr Lee and Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah, who are leading the movement, will mobilise Singaporeans to explore how to deepen the social fabric and partnerships between Government and people in the country, as well as between Singaporeans and people around the world.
There will be a series of national challenges across different domains to encourage ground-up participation, with the first being the Singapore Together Stay Home for Singapore Challenge.
Urging all to be a part of it, Mr Heng said the month-long “circuit breaker” measures, which require schools and most workplaces to be closed until May 4, “will feel unusual and unnatural”.
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“The challenge is to help ourselves and others stay home and do so purposefully and positively,” he said.
“This will be a time for reflection, to learn something new, bond with loved ones, to show care and empathy for one another, and do something active and constructive for the community.”
Singaporeans can tap on existing resources to do so, such as those available online from the National Library Board and the National Heritage Board.
He acknowledged that some Singaporeans will also be emotionally affected or distressed during this period and noted that additional help is available, such as the National Care hotline.
More resources are being put together, with details to be announced by Mr Lee and Ms Indranee soon.
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Delivering his round-up speech in Parliament, Mr Heng had earlier said that building up resilience in the economy and society is the “best response” for Singapore when it comes to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
And Singapore will need to think ahead on how to deepen its resilience in these two aspects, even if there is still a “long way to go” for the virus outbreak and things might get worse before they improve.
“The question we should ask ourselves even now is when (the recovery) comes what sort of world will it be, and how ready Singapore will be to march forward again.”
He said the country will also have to re-double its efforts in becoming a Global-Asia Node for technology, innovation and enterprise, while pressing on with its Smart Nation and research and development (R&D) plans.
This is as COVID-19 is expected to re-shape the world and amplify ongoing global structural shifts, such as that in global supply chains and the adoption of technology in people’s daily lives.
These shifts carry risks as well as opportunities, said Mr Heng, noting that Singapore was in “a good position” to make the most of these opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world.
This was because companies have continued to engage Singapore on new projects and the development of new capabilities, even during this challenging period.
He cited how Hyundai announced the opening of an innovation lab in the Jurong Innovation District last week to develop and test technology across the automotive supply chain, and trial electric vehicle manufacturing.
Singapore will also continue to build “smart towns” like the Punggol Digital District and work on efforts to deploy autonomous vehicles.
“We are now formulating our next five-year masterplan for Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025,” he said.
In line with this, the Government will continue to press on with business transformation and the upskilling of workers.