The circuit breaker will come to an end next week, as we move to a gradual reopening of our economy in three phases. Come 2 June, more businesses can resume operations in Phase One, starting with those that operate in settings with lower transmission risks. This will allow about three-quarters of our economy to resume their normal operations, with many continuing with work-from-home arrangements for now.
Yesterday, the Government also announced that we could move to Phase Two of the reopening – with almost our entire economy operating – before the end of June, if community transmission rates remain low and stable over the subsequent two weeks, and the dormitory situation remains under control.
As life will not return to status quo, we must be prepared, as individuals, companies and a country, to enter into a new normal in Phase Three. We do not know yet how long this phase will last. Our companies and workers must work together and take joint responsibility to ensure that health and safety measure are in place. We want a progressive resumption of work; and not a situation whereby we start and stop, moving back and forth between the different settings.
Singapore is headed for our worst recession since independence. Even as Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is predicted to shrink by four to seven per cent, and resident unemployment rate expected to rise, our promise to our fellow Singaporeans is this – we will do our best to protect every worker.
To help Singaporeans and businesses to tide over the crisis and the bleak economic outlook ahead, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a $33 billion supplementary Budget in Parliament on Tuesday (May 26) – a necessary response to an unprecedented crisis. With the Fortitude Budget, together with the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets announced earlier, the Government is dedicating close to $100 billion – or almost 20 per cent of our GDP – to support our people during this crisis.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that saving and creating jobs will be our priority. We will be with you in this journey, be it putting in place the necessary measures required, supporting you to tide over the short-term challenges or building our long-term capabilities.
Challenges and opportunities lie ahead. In the short-term, we must lower unemployment in some sectors. The new $2 billion SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package would create 40,000 jobs, 25,000 traineeships and 30,000 skills training opportunities. In the medium-term, we must shift our economy to a new equilibrium. This involves downsizing sectors with brick-and-mortar outlets and upsizing sectors like e-commerce. At the same time, we must help Singaporeans transit from sectors. We have to carefully watch and manage the evolving situation.
During these difficult times, I am deeply appreciative of our frontline workers who fight the virus tirelessly every day to protect Singapore and Singaporeans. I am also extremely thankful to all the companies and individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to do their part for our country.
Whilst the road ahead will be challenging, I am confident that our foundations remain strong. As long as we work together, we will be able to overcome our challenges, maximise opportunities for growth, and emerge from the Covid-19 crisis stronger.
Chan Chun Sing
People’s Action Party
29 May 2020
Image credit: Ministry of Trade and Industry