Singapore

Coming GE will chart Singapore’s direction for next decade: DPM Heng

This article is more than 12 months old

It will chart Singapore's path for the next decade as country deals with challenges on various fronts, home and abroad, says DPM Heng

The coming general election will chart the course Singapore takes not just for the next few months but for at least the next five to 10 years, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

"The election is really about direction setting," he said in an interview, noting there are significant challenges Singapore has to overcome and significant opportunities it has to seize in the coming decade.

"If Covid-19 is a test of a generation, the next five to 10 years will be a test of how our generation overcomes this test... and emerges stronger," he told The Straits Times.

"Beyond party politics and elections, I hope that Singaporeans will focus on this one issue: How do we stay together as one people?"

Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, was responding to a question on how the global flight to leadership - a phrase he had used in Parliament last week - amid the pandemic might translate in terms of a mandate for the People's Action Party (PAP) at the election, expected to be called within weeks.

"We will have to let Singaporeans decide," he told Straits Times associate editor Vikram Khanna.

"But I think beyond the election, the really critical issue for all of us is: How do we bring our society together to cope with this period of massive changes?"

Covid-19 has been a "sudden shock" to the system on many fronts, and how Singapore deals with the challenges that have arisen will define the country in the long term, he added.

At home, restarting an economy battered by the virus is a challenge, alongside the need to find new ways to protect lives.

Abroad, Covid-19 has not reduced but instead sharpened geopolitical tensions, and the lack of global leadership to deal with the pandemic is concerning, said Mr Heng.

"We have to deal with a global front, we have to deal with our economic front, we have to deal with our social front."

TIME AND PLACE

"It's not just this one election, but I see significant changes that we need to make, significant challenges that we need to overcome, and significant opportunities (to seize), not in the next three to six months but in the next five to 10 years.

"These are changes that will define Singapore in the future," he added as he underlined the need for Singaporeans to stay together as one people.

Mr Heng said there is a time and place to review policy decisions. But right now, Singapore is "in the midst of a major battle on many fronts".

"All our people and all our leaders in every segment of our society must first and foremost look forward," he said.

There is value, he acknowledges, in looking back to see if there is something that can be done better as Singapore goes forward in this fight, but calling for accounting and fault-finding at this stage is a distraction from what needs to be done, he added.

"I welcome any good suggestions about how we might do better in this battle. I'm very open to good ideas. You know my style," said Mr Heng.

"Covid-19 is an important occasion for us to reinforce Singapore Together," he added. "How does Singapore come together to build the future of Singapore and to rebuild structures which have been damaged by this gale force wind?"

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES

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