Message from Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong

01 Jul 2020 6 min read

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My fellow Singaporeans

Good afternoon. This General Election is critical for our future.

The government that you elect will have its hands full. It must continue fighting the virus, and keep Singaporeans safe. It must save jobs and businesses, so our people can continue to make a living. It must persevere with our long-term plans, so Singaporeans can still look forward to a better future.

All these are massive challenges.

Our lives, our jobs and our future are at stake.

For us to come through, we will need two critical elements. First, the best possible leadership for Singapore. Second, a solidly united population, that gives the leaders they have chosen full support.
Our Lives

We have been fighting COVID-19 since the beginning of this year. It has been a tough and relentless battle. There were some heart-warming stories of recovery. A centenarian, an old lady aged 102, caught the virus, recovered and is now again enjoying her favourite durian. A Bangladeshi worker, hospitalised for five months, is now discharged, and looking forward to going home and seeing his new born son for the first time. These stories have encouraged and motivated our people working tirelessly on the frontlines.

But we are still in the thick of this fight. Up to now, we have kept Singaporeans safe, through a heroic effort. The Ministerial Task Force has led our efforts to combat COVID-19. The Task Force has mobilised the whole public service, with support from many volunteers and activists. Singaporeans have played your part too, by following safe distancing rules, minimising social contact, wearing masks when outdoors, and maintaining good personal hygiene. Your cooperation has made all the difference.

We will have to sustain this collective effort for perhaps a year, or even longer. We are opening up in phases, businesses are restarting, Singaporeans are getting back to work, extended family and friends can meet again. But as we open up, we must be prepared for a resurgence in cases. It has happened in South Korea, Germany, and several states in the US, which have opened up after initially curbing the virus.

How can we prevent this from happening in Singapore? On the government’s part, we are expanding testing capacity and improving our contract tracing, to identify and stamp out new cases faster. But this is only half the solution. We must all continue to maintain discipline and comply with the safe distancing rules. Even if our daily cases have come down, and the problem appears to have gone away because this is the only way to keep the number of cases low, and to protect our families and others around us. Our success depends on the government and people working together and trusting each other. If we are careless or lax, a major outbreak can happen, and we may have to lock ourselves down again and that would be a severe setback.

An equally essential task for the government is to restart our economy. COVID-19 has caused a global recession, the deepest since the Great Depression. We have avoided massive job losses and company closures so far, because we acted decisively.

But the worst of the economic downturn is yet to come, especially since the virus is surging again in the US and elsewhere. There will be more retrenchments and some of these jobs may never come back.

Therefore, one key focus of the government, in the coming months and years, must be jobs. We are doing our best to encourage companies to keep their workers and take on new ones. We aim to create 100,000 new job and training opportunities and we are investing heavily in SkillsFuture, so Singaporeans can pick up new skills and move on to better jobs.

But beyond subsidies and support schemes, fundamentally we must grow our economy in order to create more new jobs in total and new investments are an important way to do that. EDB is working very hard to attract investments to Singapore. They secured $13bn in new investments in only the first three months of this year and this is extraordinary, because in an ordinary year we attract around $10bn only during the whole year. This $13bn of investments in the first quarter will generate several thousand jobs over the next few years

How was EDB able to do this, during a pandemic and a recession? It is because Singapore enjoys a strong reputation internationally, and investors have confidence in us. Investors know the quality of our government – they have met our Ministers and worked with our public service. They also know our government has strong popular support. They are confident that 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. In a crisis, it is even more critical for us to reinforce these fundamentals, in order to attract more investments and jobs to Singapore.
Our Future

Even as we deal with the immediate priorities of fighting COVID-19 and reviving our economy, we must not lose sight of our longer-term mission to improve Singapore. One day, the pandemic will pass. The recession will be over but the world after COVID-19 will look very different. Our external environment will be less stable. The world economy will be less integrated. It will not just be a changed world, but a changing one. We will have to be resilient and adaptable, to earn our living in this new world.

But we cannot only be responding to changes in the world. We must know where we want to go, and how we will get there. What do we want for Singapore? How can we make it happen, despite the great changes around us? Even as we battle through the worst of the storm, we must not let the wind and the waves carry us where they will. We may have to take down some sails, divert around the worst weather, shift our present course but our ultimate destination does not change.

The PAP has many long-term plans for Singapore. Every National Day Rally, I have been sharing these plans with you, to give you a sense of where we are going, and what Singapore can be. We have ideas for more and better pre-schools, for affordable healthcare for the elderly. We want to transform Singapore’s landscape by developing new HDB towns and parks, by building new MRT lines and Changi Terminal 5, by realising the Punggol Digital District and the Greater Southern Waterfront and we have begun preparing for climate change.

These are ambitious plans, spanning decades with the crisis, we will have to revise some of them. E.g. delaying Changi T5 for two years while we reassess the aviation industry post-COVID-19 but our basic ideas remain valid, and we are resolved to realise them. Because we are determined to always be exceptional, always distinguishing ourselves in an ever-changing world. So that every generation improves on what they have inherited, and can pass on a better Singapore to their children.

Capable government leadership is essential in this endeavour. But the leadership can only succeed if it wins the strong support of the people. Our people too must feel that we are building Singapore not just for the current generation of Singaporeans, but as a sustained effort spanning generations. The world may be uncertain, and many dangers lurk which can derail our plans. 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.
Leadership

In this election, Singaporeans are choosing the leadership team to take Singapore safely through the current pandemic and economic pain, and also to lead you beyond the crisis, into better days ahead.

My PAP team has worked very hard to put together the best team to serve you. It is an experienced team anchored by Ministers and MPs who have seen Singapore through past crises, and therefore know what to expect, what to do, what pitfalls and traps to avoid. We have also refreshed the team with a younger generation of promising Singaporeans. They come from all walks of life. Indeed, our new candidates this time are among the most grounded, the most organic, the most relatable we have had in years. They have been knocked about and learnt about life, made mistakes and learnt from them. They reflect our evolving society, and they each have their individual perspectives and passions. Most importantly, they all share core values and convictions, and the courage to do right by Singapore, like every generation of PAP leaders before them.

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. This is why the PAP has an unremitting focus on leadership renewal. My duty as PM is not just to take good care of Singapore during my own time in office. I must also prepare younger leaders to be ready to take over the baton from me and my older colleagues

That is why I put the younger Ministers in charge of the Ministerial Task Force. They are directing our response to COVID-19. 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. I am happy that over the last six months, the younger Ministers have proven that they are up to the task. This is what it means to be a responsible steward of Singapore, and of our future.
Conclusion

For 60 years, the PAP has served Singaporeans faithfully. We led the Pioneer Generation to fight for self-government and independence. We worked with the Merdeka Generation to take our country from Third World to First. Singapore has made it thus far against all odds, only because generations of Singaporeans have trusted the PAP, and worked with us to build this country. Your support has been the PAP’s greatest strength. And the PAP has never let you down.

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. Please vote for the PAP . So that we can work with you, for you, and secure our lives, our jobs, our future. Thank you.

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