A strong mandate to show world we are one united people: PM Lee

This article is more than 12 months old

Investors will scrutinise the results of the election to see if Singaporeans are still one united people, strongly supporting the leaders they have chosen to overcome the coronavirus crisis, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore's friends and adversaries will be watching closely as well, he added. That is why the People's Action Party (PAP) seeks not just the people's mandate, but a strong mandate to lead the country through the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking at an online lunchtime rally yesterday, PM Lee said maintaining Singapore's "high reputation" is a matter of survival for the country, so that it can attract investments from multi-national corporations and be taken seriously by other countries.

"Will we show the world that Singaporeans are still one united people, strongly supporting the leaders they have chosen, and working together to overcome the crisis?" he asked.

"Or will we reveal ourselves to be fractious and divided, withholding our full support from the Government we have elected, in a crisis where swift, decisive action is vital to save jobs and lives?"

PM Lee drew parallels with the recession of 1985, when Singapore lost its competitiveness and he was tasked to chair the Economic Committee to re-position the country's economy for the future. Drastic measures such as cutting Central Provident Fund contributions were taken, he said.

"We did not just make one speech, or hold a press conference, and expect people to simply swallow the bitter pill," he said.

"Singaporeans understood the message and supported the tough measures. The measures worked, and within a year our economy was growing again. That is what political leadership is about."

After the situation stabilised, the political leadership went on the offensive to reassure investors and bring more of them in, he said, recounting how he had gone around the world on a marketing pitch together with the Economic Development Board (EDB).

"We placed a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, with an eye-catching headline: 'Who would be mad enough to invest in Singapore in a recession?' Nowadays, people might call this clickbait," he quipped.

PM Lee said multinationals such as Apple, Seagate and Motorola chose to invest in Singapore even during an economic crisis for four reasons.

First, they knew Singaporeans were industrious and capable workers, he noted.

Second, the country's unions cooperated closely with employers and the Government to generate growth and jobs for workers.

Investors also had high regard for Singapore's public service, with the EDB a one-stop shop where they could settle all their problems.

"Other countries have one-stop shops too. The difference is their governments do not work as one, so their one-stop shops cannot make things happen, as EDB can," he said.

The fourth reason was Singapore's "first-rate Government".

"(The companies) had interacted with our ministers, and knew their quality," he added.

"And finally, they knew the Government enjoyed Singaporeans' strong support, so the ministers could take decisive steps if necessary, and make the right decisions to promote growth and create jobs," he said.

Stressing the high stakes in this election, he said maintaining Singapore's reputation is essential, as it is a small country with many limitations.

"We must show the world that we are indeed special, and can sustain our edge over other countries and cities. Then MNCs will invest in us, other countries will take us seriously, and Singapore has a place in the sun," he said.

"Otherwise, we will just fade away and be forgotten, like so many city-states in history."