SG must reconnect to the world, reopen economy: Lee

"A key part of reopening our economy is reconnecting with the world, which is critical for a small and open economy like ours," Lee said.

Singapore National Development Minister Desmond Lee addressed the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) 13th ASEAN and Asia Forum last 9 September, where he stressed the importance of reopening Singapore to the world with the Emerging Stronger Taskforce initiative.

According to Lee, the first thing on the agenda is to work towards making the COVID-19 pandemic an endemic in the country. "It is no longer possible to completely eradicate this virus in Singapore, given the virulence of the new variants, and I think the same is so for the rest of the world. But it is also impossible for us to maintain indefinite restrictions on our society and our economy."

The second item in his speech is the reconnection of Singapore to the rest of the world, not only physically, but digitally. Lee states migrant worker-dependent sectors, such as construction and marine and offshore engineering have taken a toll because of restrictions. The travel and tourism sectors have also been adversely affected because of global disruption. Therefore, he says, SG should stay relevant in the digital space by establishing alliances for action (AFAs) for supply chain digitalisation and common data environment standards.

Lastly, he stressed the importance of reconnecting with their ASEAN neighbours. He noted that supply chains were disrupted in many sectors, thus the increasing focus on supply chain resilience and efficiency. Singapore has also established digital economy agreements, concerning his second point, various international partners, building on Singapore’s extensive networks of free trade agreements and other digital collaborations to establish digital trade rules and digital economy agreements.

The EST has also found that private-public collaboration amidst crisis has been critical for rebuilding. Because of this, they institutionalised the AFA model through the work of the Future Economy Council, tapping on the complementary strengths of industry, unions, and government.

Lee also congratulated the SIIA on the launch of the New Horizons: Global and Regional Strategies for Singapore’s Future report, which covers the political and economic developments in the region amidst COVID.

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