A 25-minute audio recording of Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing’s dialogue with business people from the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) was leaked since Feb. 17, 2020 at least.
The content of Chan's speech in Singlish, peppered with colloquialism, has been reported on.
Multiple versions of his dialogue have been spliced, edited and reassembled to be disseminated online, with some recordings zeroing in on certain parts without the benefit of context of his prior point.
The SCCCI president, Roland Ng, has since said that the 25-minute clip was an “edited audio recording”.
It is still unclear if Ng meant that the clip was edited unfairly or whether the clip was an extract of a more than two-hour-long dialogue, but he did say it was “clearly edited out of context”.
Here is a full 4,200-plus-word transcript of what Chan said in 25 minutes, in the interest of transparency for those keen on comparing various versions against the full version.
Start of 25-minute leaked audio
This silly thing you talk about social media right. Everybody start to run for a surgical mask.
But is the surgical mask the solution anot?
Then if the surgical mask is not the solution, and no matter how many millions of masks we have, we will never have enough.
And the whole world is fighting for this right?
Escalating prices of masks
Now as we speak, the mask used to be 20 cents one piece, now is $2 one piece.
And now you pay $3 you also may not get a mask.
So, it's a very difficult decision. If we don't issue mask, and if we don't issue surgical masks, everybody scold us.
Everybody say that we don't care.
If we still issue surgical masks, and give everybody surgical masks just to make them feel shiok shiok, because they saw Carrie Lam wore masks right, at the conference right, everybody must wear mask right?
Hong Kong's issue with masks
Today you see newspaper? What is happening to Hong Kong now? What did South China Morning Post just report about Hong Kong?
They are down to less than one months' supply of masks for their medical people.
Which means that when the medical people don't even get the masks you think they dare to go and take care of the sick people?
Singapore to avoid masks shortage
If we have done what we have done like Hong Kong without thinking, and ask Carrie Lam, PM, myself, Lawrence Wong, Gan Kim Yong go to press conference everyone wear a mask, today everybody panic.
I can guarantee you, today our hospital system would have broken down.
They would be no more surgical masks for our hospital people because people would have all used up like tissue paper.
If every Singaporean used a surgical mask, one day we would burn 5 million surgical masks, if not more.
And since we don't know how long we got to fight this war right, and the supply lines are cut already right, how long must we conserve the surgical masks to make sure that our medical system still can work?
It could be three months, it could be six months, correct?
You all now understand the difficulty?
But then we have a problem.
Because everybody is clamouring for a mask.
And we know that the surgical masks will all be wasted and we will end up like Hong Kong one of these days without masks for their medical workers.
So what did we do?
Masks distribution was a gamble
Can I be frank? We took a gamble. I took a gamble.
To calm the nerves, I distribute four to everybody to use only when you are sick and go to a hospital, to calm the nerves.
But to issue four to every family, I burn another 5 million masks from my limited stockpile.
When China now asks for masks right, China is burning at a rate of hundreds of millions per day you know?
Which country and which production line can even meet China's needs?
I examine you know, go down to this level.
One machine, one machine, the three-ply one.
One month, 2 million masks. Max rate. One machine.
So we took a gamble.
Give people the masks. Damn bua hang like that.
Give you the masks. Don't kan cheong.
Because first of all why use that mask when it is not community outbreak of that sort, when it is not proven effective?
Keep the surgical masks as much as possible to the medical people first.
And if the evidence proves so, my next line of people is not to give everybody.
My next line of people will be those at the front line: Drivers, service staff, or whatever.
So we need to prioritise and track.
So you can see right, I am having to do this literally like a military operation.
When to give masks to which group of people, tier by tier.
So we hear bus drivers concerned, taxi drivers concerned, we even think of how to save the masks like during SARS.
You know SARS you know we got no masks right?
Don't have enough of the N95 one, what did we do?
Prioritise giving of masks
We literally wind down the window. Seriously!
But today the bus want to wind down window also cannot.
All air-con bus. See, First World Problem. (Laughter)
You tell me which bus can wind down window one? Your bus can wind down window one?
You find me one bus can wind down window, I'll bring the bus to the museum already.
See, so I hope you all understand, I'm being very blunt, being very frank, how we manage this thing.
Now, will we issue mask to the bus driver and the taxi drivers?
I'm thinking very hard now. Because I can issue you the haze masks if it is just a security blanket.
But I have to ask the same thing, how long must we last in this fight?
Fear of running out of masks
Because the fear that we have issuing the four masks to every family was this: Everybody anyhow use, next week all come and ask you for more masks ah, what will our government do?
If government cannot give more masks the next week, the whole country will panic right if people never calm down and listen to government and say only use when you need it.
If everybody take four masks, that's why, everybody scold us. "Wah lau eh my family got five members you give me four masks, how to enough?"
I say, "Uncle, only when you sick."
"Then what if my whole family all five fellows fall sick together?"
Then what's my answer? Stay at home call the ambulance take the whole family there together already. (Laughter)
No need to go and take five masks already.
I mean seriously, if your whole family sick until like that then we really get ambulance, quarantine you, go and send you to NCID already, won't be taking you mask by mask.
So actually, the Chinese say, chen zhuo yi zhan (face the war calmly, 沉着应战).
Comparisons between countries
But the problem today in social media is this: People like to compare.
Eh why other country do this you all never do?
Then how come today the social media never ask, "How come Hong Kong run out of masks, we never run out of masks?"
"How come China run out of masks we never run out of masks?"
So you see we like to choose the type of thing that we like to select and compare but we never think about how long.
Because my number one question in my mind now is exactly what Mr Lee said: "I don't know how long we must fight this."
"And I must prepare for the day where I have to at least fight this for six months."
Correct? SARS took us at least six months.
How SARS differs from Covid-19
That was a very good case because SARS the lethality, usually is like that, lethality very high, the disease die off very fast one.
The lethality like flu very low one, it will lasts for long time. So we don't know which one to be happy or sad.
You want the slow boil one or you want the sharp one.
Because that also then later affects the economic recovery plan.
So these are the real unknowns that we have to deal with.
So, DORSCON orange did we anticipate it? Yes.
Did we go and place the thing? Yes.
But can we tell you all and get you ready before we announce? No.
Because if that is the case, everybody get different speed, even more luan (messy).
Ok, mask I explain to you already.
Runs on supermarkets
Then the next thing I want to explain to you all and share with you is this.
Why did the run happen?
The run on the supermarket right?
Actually this one I damn ashamed.
You know why?
Sia suay. (Laughter)
I don't know how to say in English. Anyone? English sia suay called what?
[Disgrace, crowd says.] (Laughter)
We embarrassed ourselves.
We disgrace ourselves.
Don't say Third World. Third World some people also quite nice one.
Like Tommy Koh said, don't criticise people Third World.
Actually it's not kiasu.
Actually never think.
First of all, what is there to run?
Of all things, rice?
Rice since 1970, we've been stockpiling.
In fact I can tell you I'm very happy now.
Finally got people turnover my rice stockpile. (Laughter)
Actually that night, Friday night, I buay tahan.
I was thinking maybe some retailers, eh are you all involved anot?
Retailers trying to clear their old Chinese New Year stock, Christmas stock, send out all the video and everybody go and chiong.
So now when you go to Sheng Siong and NTUC, you buy all fresh stock. (Laughter)
Because all the suckers have bought the old stock. (Laughter)
Who responsible? Put up your hand? (Laughter)
Who circulate one?
Ok, but today, come to social media that Rose talked about.
Today the problem is not psychological defence.
We can teach 95 percent to be steady.
5 percent not steady, actually that night, over the weekend ah, I really analyse all the picture and video circulated, you know?
And I concluded there's only about less than 10 video and less than 30 picture circulated.
I can almost name you all the photos and videos I have seen.
The first one is the Auntie Bukit Indomie.
Correct anot? The one 15 one?
That one photo kenna send to me like five, six times.
Even my WhatsApp group I don't know you all kenna how many time.
Then another two idiots wear masks wear goggle, young couple go and buy things. (Laughter)
But actually the number of photos is finite you know?
The number of people accessing it is disproportionate so everybody scare everybody.
Then the videos also same thing mah.
There's only two videos circulating, damn haolian one, damn show off.
Show their bomb shelter, "Wah lau I got my minimart here." You think I never see? (Laughter)
So then everybody wah lau, he got minimart I also must have minimart.
Then so I buay tahan I went to scold people already but of course, PM won't scold people.
Scold people must leave to people like me to scold people.
So, you think about it.
Rice you scared ah, shi jie mo ri (end of the world, 世界末日), cos people think DORSCON Orange means Wuhan.
You want to stock rice, stock noodle, I can tahan.
Then why stock toilet paper? (Laughter)
If you eat all the rice and instant noodles you confirm diarrhoea. (Laughter)
You explain to me lah.
Toilet paper stockpiling
Then why Hong Kong people stock toilet paper?
Because monkey see monkey do.
Hong Kong people stock toilet paper because people scared toilet paper come from China, tomorrow China no toilet paper, we all cannot go pang sai.
Our toilet paper come from where?
Indonesia and Malaysia.
So got Indonesia and Malaysia cut off our toilet paper supply anot?
Cut off that one, the famous word from Sun Xueling, "bo zhuar zui ah ho". (Laughter)
No paper, water also can. So why do we behave so idiotically I cannot tahan.
Then the selfish idiot go and take all the alcohol swab because got no more clean wipe right?
Take alcohol swab, you know the small small one, to clean table ah.
That one people use for medical, you know the diabetic patient must clean the skin then poke the needle through one?
Wah lau eh you take that one to clean table, clean finger.
That one I really cannot tahan.
Why condoms also get run out of stock. (Laughter)
Press lift? (Laughter)
In case of lockdown self-entertainment? (Laughter)
I thought at least lockdown nine months later TFR (Total Fertility Rate) go up still got chance. (Laughter)
So can you explain to me why Singaporean like that?
So buay tahan. So that night some of you right were at PM's chap gao mei.
80 percent of you were not listening to PM's speech.
I know because I watching behind.
Everybody forwarding all the stupid photo and video to the friends correct anot?
You all don't bluff me I from behind I see everyone. (Laughter)
Nobody listening to PM.
You are listening? You multitasking. (Laughter)
Then I also have to 8:30 wah have to send out "everybody steady steady".
Wah I never had my Facebook post in one hour few thousand people see one you know?
Today I check the thing, 700,000 people saw that Facebook post to tell people steady lah.
You see now social media how fast the thing viral.
I got reason anot? No reason.
No to rationing
Then people ask me, eh got people shout. Eh, why don't you all ration?
So why did I hold back the decision to ration?
Because once you see people run right, got problem.
Because if we that day if we say ration then the people must be, "You confirm don't have that's why you ration, right?"
Lagi panic right? Like this steady lah.
Anyway since I got to clear rice stock and noodle stock right, so you all carry on.(Laughter)
You really think about it, sia suay you know.
Then ah I really cannot tahan already.
Until Saturday night I got to scold people.
That's why got this viral thing going around say supposedly from me, haha is from me lah because I cannot tahan already.
I must tell my grassroots leader.
You know why this is so bad?
Hong Kong behave badly. Okay lah, their problem lah, correct?
But if Hong Kong behave badly, and even if they behave like idiots, somebody will do business with them because they are part of China.
If we behave badly, people think that our society is like that one, we lose our brain one, and cannot be steady one, got anybody want to do business with us after this anot?
Singapore held ransom
And already people chen huo da jie (take advantage of someone else's misfortune, 趁火打劫), people try to raise the price already.
Then we all behave like idiots like that, the foreign supplier will all lagi raise their price.
We all buy masks almost have to send the SAF to guard the masks.
Pay money already, before the thing move out of the factory must pay one more time.
Go to the airplane must pay one more time.
Every step, in order to fight for mask worldwide behind the scene.
And if Singaporeans behave like that, all my ESG officer, ST Log officer, all will die.
People will say that, "Aha! Your country like that right? All kan cheong already right?
Mask ah, instead of 20 cent go $2, now got 20 cent go $3.
So you see, we all in trying to be - not we all lah, some of us, just a small group behaving like idiots like that ah will kill all of us.
You will kill our current price negotiations strategy.
You will kill our future business opportunities.
Urge business leaders to do their part
So can you all do me a favour?
Next time you see an idiot ah, queuing up at NTUC buying 16 packets of rice, can you just go up to him and ask: "Eh friend you need so many packet of rice for what?"
"You open provision shop ah?"
Yesterday my wife go and buy bread, the fellow say got one auntie come and buy 36 loaves of bread. (Laughter)
For the neighbour, so caring right?
So caring for the neighbours.
So you see, why do we behave like that?
So seriously, I was very upset on Saturday, because it has long-term implications on our international standing.
Every country can behave like idiots, Singaporeans must not behave like idiots.
Then we behave properly, then we show the world how different we can be.
Then people will have confidence.
Now the world haven’t even peak yet, you know.
Then we all zhen jiao da luan (panic and lose psychological ground, 阵脚大乱).
We all gabrah ourselves. Then how to go and convince people we all steady one? Right?
Ok, so I come out very nicely, say nicely, say nicely.
So of course when I talk to the media I say nicely lah, hoping that they will carry the message nicely.
But when I talk to my own grassroots leader, I point blank one.
If we continue to behave like that, the virus won’t kill us.
Our own behaviour will kill ourselves. Correct or not? It’s exactly what’s happening.
So now I’m trying to stop this.
So today, I think things are more calm already ah.
Other future runs
But you just wait ah. How many of you believe that in two days’ time ah, something will run again?
Maybe hand sanitiser, I don’t know lah. I don’t know what else people will run.
Then hand sanitiser is a First World Problem, know.
If don’t have hand sanitiser, use what? (Audience member: Soap.)
Soap lah. Don’t have Lux soap also got Ayam soap, the long long one, the brown, the yellow colour one.
Those who don’t know how to laugh, very young one.
That one must cut into square cube one, last time Ayam brand one.
So sanitiser is really for front line staff really got no time to wash hands.
But the rest of us every five metres got one toilet one, please go and use soap and wash hands. Correct or not?
Then people say, how can the government be so bad? Never stock up hand sanitiser?
Hand sanitiser essential goods or not? Don’t have right?
Ok ah, I’m telling you how we intend to stock up essential goods and I need your cooperation because all in the business.
Let me ask ah, when in emergency like this ah, contingency like this, can we still choose whether I want kangkong or taugey or not?
As far as I’m concerned ah, I choose carbohydrate, rice noodle. Right?
Make sure I have enough for prolonged period of time.
Protein. Ah? Meat, whether it is chicken, fish or whatever, all substitutable one right?
Vegetables. Greens. Whether it is frozen, canned food, all substitutable right?
That’s how we stockpile our things. Where got people “Wah, I go down there got no more kangkong!”
Wah, this is really ah, very Singaporean you know.
I mean canned food cannot.
If really worse come to this ah, the supply lines cut for three four months ah, you tell me I must still go and find kangkong and taugey?
We will use what we have, and we must be a bit more hardy than this.
Cannot be like that lah.
So I don’t know where to hide my face when I hear this kind of thing.
Other issues that cloud planning
Then ah, another one ah, the mask one I cannot tahan, must tell you all.
Today I must vomit blood.
We give four masks right? Then the question come, “Eh I got children. You got children size or not? Then don’t have children size, how the children use the mask?”
Surgical mask ah. Now what’s the answer? (Silence from the audience)
What’s the answer. (More silence)
Eh, surgical mask surgical mask right?
If really need to cover up the children, if the mask is too big what do we do?
If cannot, if you put the surgical mask over the children right, too loose right, what do you do?
Tie a knot lah, can or not?
We all know right?
This one elastic one right, rubber band right, tie one knot can already what.
Like that also must make a big song and dance.
That’s why ah, government ministers very busy.
I’m trying to think of two steps down the road, what to do ah.
But you see, so this type of thing ah, outside this room ah cannot scold people right, must be very nice right.
So can you all, next time you see this kind of behaviour, can you help me ah, get rid of all these kind of questions at least we all can think clearly, two steps down the road what to do.
Wah lau eh, I tell you, last one two week ah vomit blood.
So mask one settle already ah.
Help for businesses
So why February 18? It’s not why February 18, actually whatever we can do, we do... ok?
Then when it comes to that type of thing, we won’t be so specific one, ok.
Cash is cash. Cash is fungible one. We will try to help all those affected one, the tour agents, the tourist industry, the buses, the whatnot.
We will try to give you some... the most difficult problem you all have told me, over the last two weeks that SCCCI have helped me is the zi jing zhou zhuan (cash flow, 资金周转).
The cash flow. Right?
So, wherever I give you the cash flow then you flow lah.
But I don’t want to be so prescriptive and say “I give you car park.”
Because I give you car park, the other fellow don’t need car park, then he scold me. Correct or not?
So we just help you, whether you tourist... tour agency and whatnot, we try to give you some ways whereby you can flow your cash. Correct?
Now, having said this, ok, then what are we going to do for the Budget?
Now, go back to Mr Lee’s question again.
A lot of people are now trying to get over the difficult times, du guo zhe ge nan guan (get past this difficult time, 度过这个难关) Right?
But this one will be very short-sighted.
Ok, learn from SARS.
SARS everybody, every country only prepare to get past SARS, correct?
But actually, what is most important?
The most important is to position ourselves after SARS, to make sure that we recover fastest.
That’s why the global financial crisis, everybody fall like a rock right?
Then we the next year went up 14.5 per cent.
Because while we’re dealing with the current, we must make sure that we think two steps down the road.
So in the Budget, you will hear the following things.
There’s one part of the Budget that will help to stabilise the situation and support all the difficult challenges that you all are facing now.
But I must ask you all this favour.
Don’t just - bu yao zhi shi kan yan qian (don't just look at the present, 不要只是看眼前).
Don’t just look at the here and now.
Take this chance to ask ourselves.
When the recovery finally comes, whether it is six months, nine months, how do we position your business, our economy to go out faster than the rest of the people?
I can tell you, Hong Kong, they’re not thinking of this.
Because they are all only here and now.
We must distinguish ourselves as Singapore to think of the beyond here and now.
So there will be, beyond the immediate help package, there will be a package which I hope you all seriously take advantage of, which is to position your business beyond the crisis.
Then when finally the recovery come, we can all do much better. Can?
So that one, you must do.
That one you must plan. And I need to ask you all to do this.
Don't sack workers
When you got now got spare capacity right, can you all don’t sack the workers immediately?
Take the government help, train the workers, use some chance to help the workers to stay around for a while so that you prepare for the next phase.
I don’t know whether three months or six months.
But if you let go of the workers immediately, then we are all in trouble again.
[Audience: Ok, in fact I actually try to talk to Ministry of Manpower... I agree with what you say, we should think after this critical period. How we better groom up our business, I mean the turnover, all these thing. But then MOM was saying to me that if let’s say you’re not able to retain the staff, then let them go.]
Don't be so ji dong (agitated, 激动)
[Audience: I don’t want to sack my staff, but MOM was asking me to sack my staff.]
Ok, first ah. Steady ah. Take deep breath first. (Laughter)
Urge business leaders to change business model
So now let’s be very frank ah. Just now I was very blunt already.
Some of you have to change the business model one.
If you don’t change the business model, and you become... if you don’t diversify and have concentration risk, even if we help you this time, we cannot help you the next time.
So if we help you, can sumpah or not?
We make sure we help you, but you all must help yourself. Ok?
If we still have not learned the lesson about diversification, and I don’t mean just China.
I mean China, India and everything ah, we better learn it fast.
Because it affects you, it affects me, it affects all of us.
Tourism in Singapore not numbers game
So I give you an example. Tourism.
Actually, do you know that in Singapore, our tourist market can grow up even faster.
I got tonnes of tourists queuing up to come to Singapore.
You know that I tell STB, don’t take them. We now don’t go for numbers game.
And I will not allow the Chinese tourists to grow more than 20 percent.
Not the Indian market, not the Indonesian market, because we will be held ransom.
You look at what happened to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan.
When the market is turned off, either for political reasons or economical reasons, we are dead, correct or not?
So I have done what I can do at the national level.
I need your help. At your local level, can you all also do that.
That applies to tourists. That also applies to supply chains.
Avoid single source supply chains
Today, a lot of us depend on the cheap Chinese import, but we end up single source.
Ok, having from two Chinese cities doesn’t mean it’s double source ah. (Laughter)
Eh you all don’t laugh, got people tell me, “Eh I diversify, I got one Hubei, one Hunan." Because sometimes the problem is this. Well we do have a problem. Which are the two biggest factories in the world now? It’s China -