Addendum to the President’s Address at the Opening of the First Session of the 14th Parliament
PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE (STRATEGY GROUP)
ADDENDUM TO THE PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS
MR HENG SWEE KEAT
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF STRATEGY GROUP
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed the gravest challenge for Singapore since independence. We are confronting an unprecedented public health as well as economic crisis, with serious social consequences. To get through the crisis and to emerge stronger and better, a concerted whole-of-society response needs to be led by the Government, with all Singaporeans playing their part. This in turn requires a well-coordinated Whole-of-Government effort, to navigate our way through the crisis, and to build back a better Singapore post-crisis. In this challenging and uncertain environment, the Strategy Group organises the Public Service to develop and implement the Government’s key policy priorities, in a coherent and coordinated manner.
Organising the Whole-of-Government response to Emerge Stronger from COVID-19
The Government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic is led by the Multi-Ministry Taskforce. Beyond this, the Government also needs to adjust its policy responses to the new challenges and opportunities that have arisen from this crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated geopolitical tensions, and altered the regional and global economic landscape. A comprehensive review of the Government’s medium-term policy agenda is needed, in order to tackle new challenges but also seize new opportunities, so that Singapore can manage this crisis well, and continue to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.
In the midst of crisis, the Strategy Group will organise the cross-Ministry effort to review our policy agenda and set new ambitions for our future. Even as we support businesses and workers to cope with the severe disruption to our economy, work is underway with economic agencies to look ahead in partnership with businesses, to identify and seize new growth opportunities for businesses and create new good jobs for Singaporeans. We will work with social agencies to review our social support policies in the light of the impact of COVID-19, especially to help vulnerable groups that have been more adversely affected. This will form the basis of a refreshed social compact. Given that climate change is also a storm of great proportions, we will also review our infrastructure plans for a sustainable city, taking into consideration new industry needs and emerging new norms of working and living.
Tackling these complex challenges will require closer alignment across different policy areas, stronger sense-making capabilities, and effective implementation of the policy agenda. We will have tighter co-ordination between our economic and social policies, to ensure that Singaporeans can access jobs and opportunities in the post-COVID-19 economy, with vulnerable groups of workers receiving additional support, and social mobility continuing to be a feature of our society. To strengthen our sense-making capabilities, we are growing new capabilities in data analytics and citizen engagement to better understand the concerns of our citizens, so that we can develop better, more citizen-centric policies. Finally, we will set the pace for the effective implementation of these policies across the Whole-of-Government through close monitoring of implementation plans and outcomes, and ensuring that strategic priorities are given the support and resourcing needed to succeed.
Our Population – Supporting a Strong and Resilient Economy and Society
Singapore continues to face stark demographic realities, including low birth rates and an ageing population. Local workforce growth will slow over the next decade. COVID-19 has intensified some of these challenges, for example with couples delaying their marriage and parenthood plans.
The Government remains committed to keeping Singaporeans at the heart of our population strategies. Our population policies aim to ensure a sustainable Singapore with a cohesive society and vibrant economy that improves Singaporeans’ lives. We will continue to support Singaporeans in their parenthood aspirations and support families especially in housing, preschool, parental leave, and the cost of raising children. We will also partner with employers and the community to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the marriage and parenthood plans of young couples.
We will continue to take a calibrated approach to immigration and maintain a careful balance in our foreign worker flows. We welcome those who can contribute to our society and want to make Singapore their home, while ensuring that our policies allow Singaporeans to benefit from better jobs and opportunities. To build a cohesive society, we will strengthen efforts to integrate new members of our community and help them adapt to the Singaporean way of life.
Our Response to Climate Change – Building a Sustainable Singapore
We must manage the disruptions caused by climate change, which may be more protracted than the impact of COVID-19. We must continue with efforts to enable Singapore’s transition to a sustainable, low-carbon, and climate and resource resilient future.
To do so, we will continue to actively support global climate action, as no one country can prevent climate change alone. Earlier this year, Singapore submitted our enhanced 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) to underscore our commitment to continued global climate action. Notwithstanding the disruptions and uncertainties brought about by COVID-19, we remain committed to achieve these goals. To enable our low-carbon transition, we are among other initiatives, studying ways to deploy technologies such as Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), exploring the use of hydrogen, and pushing the bounds of ambition in solar deployment within our urban environment.
The fundamental shifts to a post-COVID-19 “new normal” also present new opportunities to advance our sustainability agenda. We will study green recovery pathways to rebuild our economy, in line with our long-term low-emissions aspirations, so that we not only emerge stronger but also advance our sustainability agenda. We will catalyse and generate new green growth areas for Singapore and create new jobs for Singaporeans. We will build resilience to future crises and supply shocks, such as enhancing our food security, in a resource efficient manner. We will build on the adaptations that Singaporeans have made during this period of COVID-19, to reduce transport emissions through increased telecommuting and wider use of public transport, and make a decisive move to adopt cleaner energy vehicles such as electric vehicles.
Rebuilding our Future Together
Over the years, this Government has maintained focus on serving Singaporeans well both today and in the long term. Our capability in long-term strategic planning and foresight has served us well, and will remain essential as we navigate this crisis and chart our path beyond. We have outlined the broad strategies we will adopt, including for population and climate action, and the relevant agencies have provided more details on specific plans under their charge.
But the Government cannot achieve this alone. More than ever, Government, individuals, communities, and businesses must each do our part and work together, to overcome the pandemic and build a better and stronger post-COVID-19 future. As part of the SG Together movement, we will work with Singaporeans and businesses to develop new ideas and translate them into action, through the Emerging Stronger Conversations, Singapore Together Action Networks and Alliances for Action. The Strategy Group will play its part in strengthening partnerships, especially in the areas of parenthood and climate change.
In responding to the immense challenges at hand, and shaping our plans for tomorrow, we look forward to Singaporeans partnering with the Government to realise our hopes and dreams for a better Singapore.