2023 Roundup (Mar-Apr): An ovation for pandemic frontliners. A vital ingredient for a country’s prosperity.


In this annual year-end roundup series, Petir.sg looks back at key moments of 2023. 

THE HALLS of Parliament rang with loud clapping this March 21. Frontline workers like nurses, drivers, doctors and supermarket staff had helped see Singapore through the darkest days of the pandemic. On that day in March, our political office holders and MPs rose in a moving standing ovation for them.   

“Our population rallied together in this crisis. Through all the trials and tribulations, we held together as a society, and pulled through as one united people. We kept faith with our fellow Singaporeans, took care of the non-Singaporeans in our midst, and everyone did our part in the interest of the common good,” said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, choking up with emotion (Mar 20).

Source: Lawrence Wong / Facebook, MCI 

Indeed, the national response to the pandemic, with Singaporeans and our Government working hand-in-hand against this crisis of a generation, was exemplary.  

On the ground, brave frontline workers kept essential services like healthcare and transport running day-to-day. For its part, the Government led the crisis response with multi-ministry initiatives and spent a hefty $72.3 billion to counter the pandemic. Our policies financially supported businesses and workers, kept our healthcare system resilient, vaccinated Singaporeans, and, all in all, made sure that Singapore remained an excellent economic hub after the crisis is over. As a responsible and far-sighted Government, we never forgot to invest in the long term despite the existential pandemic,  

There is always room for improvement, though. Plus, the next pandemic is an inevitable fact. So that March sitting of Parliament focused upon the White Paper on Singapore’s response to COVID-19. Our Government will prepare Singapore better for the future and will use even more science-based solutions and expand the nation’s healthcare capacity in order to do so. 

“The aim of this White Paper and this debate is not to rate the government’s, or Singapore’s, performance in this pandemic.  …In the final analysis, the long arc of history will judge how well we have responded to this crisis of a generation, and how well we have learnt and remembered the lessons of COVID-19,” said DPM Wong. 

Trust will take us forward  

One other note: When DPM Wong mentioned the nation rallying together, he was very right. A Pew survey eventually (Aug 11) found that nearly four in five Singaporeans felt more united with each other as a result of the pandemic. That makes us an outlier and a positive example in this polarising world.  

It was against this backdrop of bonds and fellowship forged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to Parliament and Singaporeans about trust. He mentioned trust in every section of his 50-minute speech. PM Lee underscored how it is vital for having a country work well, in all aspects from international investment, overcoming crises and maintaining harmony between diverse communities.   

Source: MCI, Odua Images / Canva 

PM Lee especially pointed out that strong political leadership steered Singapore through the pandemic, and that the incoming 4G ministers would need people’s strong support when they take over the full leadership.       

“I ask you to give [DPM] Lawrence [Wong] and the 4G ministers your fullest support. I ask you to give them your fullest support for now as members of my team, but in due course when they take over the reins, as the next leadership for Singapore,” said PM Lee. 

“Help me make this leadership succession, this leadership renewal a success for Singapore, and for you. Show your support for a government that works hard and works well for you. Elect leaders whom you can trust to take us forward. Give yourselves the best chance to keep our system working well for Singaporeans for many years to come.” 

It was a timely call. As Singapore’s pandemic experience showed, our Government can, with the support of Singaporeans, put forth an exemplary response to the future.