fbpx

 

PM Lee on doing all they can to stabilise economy, preserve jobs, help companies stay in business

By March 27, 2020Current

TL;DR – We are in a very grave situation. 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a doorstop interview to the mainstream media today, and he has some very important messages for Singapore.

He touched on the Resilience Budget and also the impact of COVID-19 on Singapore and Singaporeans.

The media also took the chance to ask PM Lee some very important questions which I’ve shared in a separate post. Or check out the playlist of interview videos on PMO’s Youtube channel.

PM Lee Hsien Loong tackled tough questions, from reserves to school closure to GE to 4G leadership

First things first, surely you realise by now that we’re in very challenging times? I’m not even sure if we’re midway through the COVID-19 outbreak, my guess is not. It’s a long battle ahead. And even after we get through this outbreak, the economic recovery is likely possibly just as, if not more, painful than the actual virus outbreak crisis.

It’s even been said COVID-19 will bankrupt more people than it kills. If you still are not taking this seriously, please sit up and listen. This is deadly serious and it impacts all of us, and the hardship will be for quite a long time.

So now, let’s messages PM Lee has for us:

  1. We are in a very grave situation.
  2. Health-wise, COVID-19 is a global pandemic.
  3. Economy-wise, the impact is huge on economies all over the world and on Singapore.
  4. In terms of social cohesion, we need people to have confidence in the country, in the Government and ourselves.
  5. We are in a very grave situation.
  6. We could be looking at many many months, or even more than one or two years to tide through.
  7. PM Lee asked for everyone’s cooperation to slow the spread of the virus – safe distancing, personal hygiene, cooperation when we are contact tracing and discipline when people come back, stay home notification, stay home.
  8. We are in a very grave situation.
  9. The Government is doing all they can to stabilise the economy, to preserve jobs, to help companies stay in business, so that they can survive this and be able to come back to life when the opportunities come.
  10. The Resilience Budget comes with a very drastic wage support scheme – help for the self-employed, the gig economy, help for the companies, help for the households.
  11. It’s about saving jobs, supporting Singaporeans and protecting our livelihoods.
  12. We are in a very grave situation.
  13. There will be uncertainty, there will be pain, there will be job losses, there will be more cases of the COVID-19 and as time passes, there will be people who will succumb to the disease. We have to expect that.
  14. It is critical that we go into this eyes open, strong leadership, good government, united and determined to see this through.
  15. We are in a very grave situation.

Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s doorstop interview

27th March 2020

PM: I wanted to have a chance to talk to you because we had the Resilience Budget yesterday – it was a very major package. I wanted to give you my take on the situation and why we did this and what lies ahead.

READ MORE:  Korean fans turn the Avengers: Endgame fan event in Seoul into a concert

We are in a very grave situation. Health-wise with a COVID-19 pandemic. Economy-wise, with the impact on economies all around the world and on Singapore. Also, in terms of the cohesion of the society, the confidence and response which is necessary.

It is absolutely crucial for us to hold together, to respond effectively to the immediate challenge, and also to give people confidence that we can cope with this – we have the resources, we know what we are doing, we are ready for what lies ahead. And what lies ahead is very uncertain. Many possibilities, which are very worrying. We have to be prepared for them, and we must be ready if it comes, we are able to respond to them.

That is why yesterday, DPM Heng made the Resilience Budget, which had $47 billion, and $17 billion draw on the reserves with the President’s approval. It is unprecedented, but in this situation, it is absolutely necessary.

On the health side, the COVID virus. My analogy is that tide has not turned. We have been fighting, and the tide is still coming in. What has changed is that we have put up our dykes, we have held the water out, but the dyke leaks. We have got bits coming in, people coming home, the virus gets into Singapore. We have to keep a very vigilant eye on it continuously, and make sure that every drop which comes in we mop it up quickly before a drop becomes a rivulet, a rivulet becomes a stream, then I have a flood, and we are sunk.

Why do I say this? Because you can see what is happening around the world. In China they have a tremendous outbreak, with superhuman effort they have brought numbers back down to zero. Now they are very worried about the virus coming back to them from other countries in the world. You see it taking off exponentially in Europe now – Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Britain. It is a very grave situation and they are imposing drastic emergency measures – lock downs.

Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister, tells his people, my instruction to you is very simple, just stay at home. Because they have decided that it is not tenable to let it just carry on and burn out. They have to do their best to put the fire out. But it is going to be very hard.

You see it in America, taking off now. Now the American numbers I think have exceeded or are about to exceed the Chinese numbers, and still increasing rapidly in places like New York State, on the West Coast.

It is a crisis situation. In Chinese they say 一波未平 一波再起, one wave not settled, the next wave has come. This is not the last wave, because you look at other countries in the region who are very worried. India is very worried, Russia, Southeast Asia, Malaysians have locked down, the Thais have closed their borders and Indonesians are also very anxious.

READ MORE:  Alice Fong, the woman who had a meltdown at JEM, has apologised

This is all around us and the waves are going to take many, many months and maybe more than a year or two to settle.

We in Singapore, we are sitting, watching our dyke. Trying to keep ourselves safe and preventing any of this from coming in, and I have a situation which going out of control. So I am in this for a very long time to come in.

To sustain this, I need everybody’s cooperation – safe distancing, personal hygiene, cooperation when we are contact tracing and discipline when people come back, stay home notification, stay home. That way we slow the spread of the virus. If you have a spot pop up, we have a good chance to mop it up before it gets out of control and then we have a public health disaster.

I think the healthcare part is a very big problem. The economy part is also an unprecedented problem, because it is so disruptive – production has stopped in the countries with which are locked down, so our supplies cannot come in.

I went to my market last weekend at Teck Ghee, and chatted with tropical fish shop, who has been there donkey years. She says she has a problem – she cannot get her supplies. Her supplies come from Malaysia and Malaysia is locked down. Tropical fish is not an essential item, (so) how does she get her business going? That is just a small example. People are not moving. The goods are still flowing but impacted, but the economies are drastically down.

America this week – their unemployment, people are applying for unemployment benefits. Usually they have a couple of hundred thousand. This week, they had 3 million people applying for unemployment benefits.

All around the world that is happening, that hits us, and in Singapore, it hits us particularly hard because we are so dependent on trade and our industries like aviation, tourism, travel, hotel, I mean business has gone to zero. SIA’s business had gone down by 96%. It has come to a halt. This is not going to go away in a hurry, because we are protecting our borders until everything calms down.

Other countries are doing that. China, having brought their cases down to zero, have now instead of relaxing controls on their borders, have now put up more stringent border protections around themselves, because they are dead scared of COVID-19 coming back into China. That is all going to affect the civil aviation industry as well as globalised economies like Singapore.

It is going to last quite a long time. It is not a V-shaped down dip, it is not a U-shaped dip. It has come down. If you are lucky, you can sustain it at a diminished level for quite a long time. If you are not lucky, it will keep on going down and some pieces are going to have a lot of difficulty, just staying in existence.

The economic challenge is very grave. Therefore, in this situation, we must be quite clear, people must be quite clear that we are doing all we can to help them to stabilise the economy, to preserve jobs, to help companies stay in business – reduce their costs, to help the key industries which are drastically hit like aviation, to stay and be able to continue in semi-suspended animation, but able to come back to life when the opportunities come.

READ MORE:  Why should Khaw Boon Wan take the hit for MRT breakdowns? He is not Minister for Trains

Whatever it takes to do that, we will do them.

That is how we came up with the package yesterday – very drastic wage support scheme – help for the self-employed, the gig economy, help for the companies, help for the households. In fact, we tripled the household support and assistance package. We want to see people through this.

We are under no illusions that this is the end of the story because nobody can tell what lies ahead. In February when we made the Budget, we knew it would not be the last word but we thought that it would buy us a few months, and then we will have some time to assess the situation and down the road, we will do more and put together the next package and then see us through the next stage. But we did not expect within one month, the picture was totally changed, the health picture was totally changed, the economic picture was totally changed. Therefore, the policy response, the action from the Singapore government had to be totally changed.

Within one month, we have the supplementary budget, which for these pieces, are four, five (or) six times bigger than the original February budget. But it is necessary and we have the dry powder.

If we need to do more, when we need to do more, we will do that down the road.

But even then, there will be uncertainty, there will be pain, there will be job losses, there will be cases of the COVID-19 and I am sure along the way as time passes, there will be further people who will not survive and will succumb to the disease. We have to expect that. There will be ups and downs. Therefore, it is critical that we go into this eyes open, strong leadership, good government, united and determined to see this through.

That is what I explained to the President. I did not really have to say in all that detail because the President is reading the newspapers and reading the cabinet papers. She knows and she has her own feel for what is the situation. When we made the case to her, she understood and she supported what we are doing.

That is what she said in her letter to Parliament, which the Speaker read out yesterday.

So that is where we are now. I wanted to give you this backdrop, and I am happy to take any questions you have.

 

 

Don't be selfish... Click here to share this on Facebook!

If you like what you read, follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates.

Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

Join the discussion 4 Comments

Leave a Reply