Petir Explains: How will S’pore stay resilient during this globally challenging time?


“Even in this new environment, there will be new opportunities for small countries like us. In fact, if you look at the Singapore Story, it has always been about turning every challenge into opportunity, converting every vulnerability into strength,” outlined Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong during Reinventing Destiny: A Conference on the Occasion of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s 100th Birthday earlier this week (Aug 14). 

“We have more resources, we are better equipped to deal with our vulnerabilities, we have a good system in place to adapt and adjust and put in place effective long-term policies, and we have a solid reputation as a reliable and trusted hub for the region and the world,” pointed out DPM Wong. 

In that spirit, explains how these will help us going forward.  

More resources and dealing with vulnerabilities 

Singapore does not come to mind when pundits think of a place with natural resources like ore, oil or land.  

This lack did not deter our founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew from taking us from Third World to First within a generation. Singapore has the best workforce in Asia, and globally we are #2 – just behind Switzerland but ahead of 131 countries. Initiatives like SkillsFuture and the government’s belief in lifelong growth for everyone help sharpen this expertise. 

Meanwhile, infrastructure projects like Changi Airport, a world-class transport and port network and a research ecosystem which prizes innovation and timely solutions together keep Singapore competitive and relevant.      

Source: Changi Airport Group 

As for dealing with our vulnerabilities, the 30 by 30 programme envisioned by Minister Grace Fu’s Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment is in place to strengthen Singapore’s food supply with home-grown produce. Our water supply is robust and diverse too — a far cry from the decades when the precious resource was a bargaining leverage against us. There are centres and personnel as well for deterring cyberattacks; especially needed during this digital-centric era.  

A reliable and trusted hub 

A whole-of-nation effort to bolster the resilience of our supply chains kept daily life in Singapore largely undisrupted during the toughest months of the pandemic, notes DPM Wong’s Ministry of Finance. This strengthened resilience remains.  

At the same time, Singapore has 27 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with major economies worldwide, allowing local merchants quick access to, and preferential treatment in, these markets. 

Our nation is also one of the top destinations in the world for foreign direct investments, which means more capital and knowledge inflows. These investments come because of the strong international reputation which Singapore Inc enjoys — people tend towards dependable trading partners during difficult times and so Singapore will benefit from its deep reservoirs of international trust.    

A good system for long-term policies 

All these opportunities, programmes, centres, investments and reservoirs of trust were not predestined. Nor were they preordained, nor did they come about by chance.  

Source: Lawrence Wong / Facebook 

They are grand, long-term projects. They were made possible by a political system responding adroitly to the needs of the day, yet which proved stable enough to keep these important plans going, thereby benefiting Singaporeans past, current and future. 

Singapore only had one FTA in 1999, for a relatively recent example; the PAP government sourced and maintained new Agreements at the rate of more than one a year. Similarly, Changi Airport did not become world-class overnight; it started in 1981 with one single terminal and runway; successive PAP governments built it up together with generations of Singaporeans. 

Indeed, the Singapore system is a far cry from other nations, where the shifting loyalties of the electorate and a rotating cast of leaders unable to stay the course have meant major flip-flopping on every issue from climate change to national healthcare plans to rail projects.  

The result in those other places: A special vulnerability to global storms, and the country moving in circles, not progressing forward. 

Source: Institute of Policy Studies / Facebook 

In the end, our ability to reinvent destiny as it were, depends not just on the Government, but on all of us in Singapore, because Singapore will always be an improbable and unlikely nation forged out of the collective will of our people,” pointed out DPM Wong. 

“So if we keep faith with each other, we will be able to chart our way forward in this uncertain world and continue to write many more chapters of the Singapore Story.”