On 8 August 2021, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Message to the country was telecast. The message was filmed at the Shaw Foundation Symphony at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. In his message, he addressed the key concerns of people in Singapore. Today, we take a closer look at his response to two major concerns: Singapore’s Covid-19 situation and the ongoing tensions surrounding Singapore’s foreign population.
PM Lee acknowledges the unpredictability of Covid-19, and how it has impacted millions of lives and livelihoods globally. He speaks on the ongoing situation in Singapore, explaining the need to have gone back into a lockdown recently.
Nonetheless, PM Lee acknowledged the ongoing success of Singapore’s vaccination program – approximately 1% of the population are being vaccinated everyday; 85% of all the elderly have received at least one dose of the vaccine; and more than two thirds of the Singapore population have been vaccinated. These numbers are promising for the gradual reopening of Singapore’s economy.
With a more positive outlook concerning the pandemic considering the high rates of vaccination in Singapore, the country can expect a gradual reopening of borders, and a renewed robustness in tourism as well as international business.
As Singapore plans on transitioning its view of Covid-19 from a pandemic to an endemic, the Singapore population will be able to look forward to an increase in job opportunities, travel opportunities, as well as trade opportunities, which will bode well for residents and the economy alike.
On the Foreign Population
PM Lee also acknowledged that there are tensions between the local population and the foreign population that have worsened since the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic has brought with it a high level of uncertainty when it comes to employment, and across the globe, many are feeling the untoward implications arising from such uncertainty.
In Singapore, the response from the local population towards this uncertainty has been quite negative towards the foreign population, as there has been much worry over competition for jobs. PM Lee has said that the government is currently adjusting their policies to manage the quality, numbers, and concentration of the foreign population inducted into Singapore.
While this can be concerning to the foreign population looking to secure a future in Singapore, relevant and/or niche-skilled workers need not worry too much. Singapore has a pressing need for the foreign population to be a part of Singapore, due to other concerns like an ageing population, and a rapidly expanding economy. Singapore’s plan to grow its population by 2030 remains unchanged.
The only thing that appears to have changed is the type of people that will increasingly be inducted into Singapore to be part of the country’s foreign population – these are people who will possess the relevant skills and knowledge the country needs to further develop and move forward in various key industries.
Ultimately, the prognosis for the country remains good. With a successful vaccination program, Singapore will be able to move forward to the next stage – adjusting to treating Covid-19 as an endemic. With this comes a renewed security in the economy, as job opportunities and travel flourish once more. Singapore also commits to remaining open in a more selective manner, which indicates a commitment to further develop its economy and create new jobs locally, which will help greatly with economic recovery and growth.
PM Lee says: “Turning inwards is against our fundamental interests. It would damage Singapore’s standing as a global and regional hub. It would cost us jobs and opportunities. Most importantly, it goes against our values of openness, and of being accepting of others who are different from us. We uphold these values, because they have anchored us, and helped us progress over the years as a nation.”