If there is anything good that has emerged out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the reaffirmation of the Singapore spirit, President Halimah Yacob stated in her speech at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet, on July 27.
The latest Cabinet line-up was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on July 25.
In adding that she was heartened by the manner in which Singaporeans from "all walks of life" had mobilised to help each other, Halimah stated:
"I ask Singaporeans to similarly unite behind the government that we have elected, and give it our full support to see Singapore through this crisis."
Singapore has made steady progress despite global developments
Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, Halimah noted that Singapore had been progressing steadily in upgrading its economy and workforce, developing physical infrastructure, and strengthening social safety nets.
This was despite global developments such as the retreat of globalisation, growing geopolitical tensions between big powers, and a rise in nativism and protectionism, manifesting in the form of Brexit in the UK, the Yellow Vests in France, and the loss of moderate political leaders in U.S., Europe and elsewhere.
However, Singapore was able to cope to such pressures, even though it was exposed to them, as a result of Singaporeans' unity and the government's focus on addressing their concerns and improving their lives, she added.
Halimah then highlighted the following measures that had been made to strengthen Singapore economically and socially:
- The Future Economic Council, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat to transform the country's industries and retrain workers,
- Enabling young Singaporeans to buy flats earlier to start families,
- Investing in preschools and enhancing preschool subsidies,
- Implementing schemes such as the Pioneer Generation Package, Merdeka Generation Package, MediShield Life and CareShield Life,
- Enhancing Silver Support, Workfare and ComCare.
Covid-19 is a "crisis of a generation"
As for Covid-19, Halimah described the outbreak as the "crisis of a generation" which could derail the country, setting it back several years.
Here, the President pointed out that the government had been occupied in the past six months with the outbreak and the economic fallout.
Apart from the expansion of medical facilities, introduction of social distancing measures and efforts to bring the outbreak in migrant worker dormitories under control, close to S$100 billion, in the form of four Budgets by the Ministry of Finance, were used to soften the impact of the pandemic on jobs and income.
Government asked her for permission to draw on the reserves
On this point, Halimah stated that the government had sought her permission to draw more than half of the amount from the Past Reserves.
In approving the request, Halimah stated that she had considered the request and consulted the Council of Presidential Advisers to do so.
"I concurred with its (the government's) assessment that we needed to bring all our resources to bear to deal with this existential challenge – the most serious since our nation’s independence – and protect Singaporeans’ lives and livelihoods."
Situation has stabilised
Since then, the situation has stabilised after "six months of unremitting effort and the tireless work of our frontline heroes," she said.
However, emphasising that the crisis was "far from over", Halimah added that the purpose of the GE2020 was to "secure a fresh mandate" so as to be able to make the challenging decisions for the time ahead.
Calling for focus on the agenda ahead, Halimah concluded:
"Prime Minister, I have confidence that you and your team will steer Singapore safely through these tumultuous times, so that we can resume our journey to build a better future for ourselves."
Top image screenshot from PMO via Mothership YouTube