Singapore’s reliance on external connections and visitors necessitates us to adopt a ‘risk management’ instead of a ‘risk elimination’ approach, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said.
For Singapore, remaining an open economy does not just refer to the trade in goods and services. It is also about the regular exchange and flow of ideas, talents and people.
“This has been the cornerstone of Singapore’s success, and will remain so for the years to come,” Mr Chan said.
Shutting ourselves off from the world is not an option as Singapore is unable to tap on a large local population or domestic travel to sustain our tourism sector. We also cannot expect to eliminate risks entirely all the time.
Thus, learning how to manage the risks will be a far more productive approach. It will place us in good stead as ‘we never know what would be the next crisis that might hit us, or what might be the next virus that would disrupt air travel’, Mr Chan said.
Therefore, ‘risk management’ rather than ‘risk elimination’.
Risk and safety: then and now
In the early days of the pandemic, Singapore made the difficult decision to close our borders. We imposed travel restrictions because the safety and health of Singaporeans was the government’s first priority.
Today, safety remains a priority. But since then, several developments have given us confidence to resume travel and connect with the rest of the world.
For instance, we now know much more about how the disease and its transmission. We also have stronger and wider variety of testing options. Not only that, we now have better tracing capabilities to quickly isolate cases and identify clusters.
World Economic Forum’s confidence in Singapore
The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently announced that their special annual meeting will take place in Singapore in May.
“After careful consideration, and in light of the current situation with regards to COVID-19 cases, it was decided that Singapore was best placed to hold the meeting,” the WEF said on Monday in explaining the change in location.
The move by WEF reflects their confidence in Singapore’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Singapore should not be complacent, Mr Chan said.
Three levels of assurance needed for a job well done
“We are at this point in time, stepping up to bat. It’s like a baseball game, we are stepping up to bat. We have not scored the home run yet, we will get the home run after May when we stay focused and get the job done well,” he said.
To do the job well, there are three levels of assurance that Singapore needs to achieve, said Mr Chan.
The first is to assure Singaporeans that the meeting can be held safely with visitors entering the country. Next, participants need assurance that people from different countries can interact safely.
“Then there’s a third level of assurance that we must provide our participants that after attending this meeting before they go onward, or back to their own countries or to other places, they are given a clean bill of health, so that there will be no misunderstanding that anyone has contracted the virus in Singapore, while they were here,” said Mr Chan.
Without a large domestic market to support the MICE industry, Singapore’s orientation is always the large international markets, Mr Chan said. This is why the government has come up with health protocols that can allow us to safely allow people from different countries to come and meet in Singapore, he added.
Working with WEF on logistic details
“They have seen the options that Singapore can provide. And now they are making their own internal decisions on how they want to conceptualise the thing … and we’ll be working with them to execute this,” Mr Chan said.
This will be the first time that the WEF is holding its meeting in Asia since its inception in 1971, and the second time it is doing so outside of Switzerland.