Lest we forget, we are an improbable nation, a little red dot, a most unlikely country as Mr Wong reminded the House.
“We are the only city in the world with a military and foreign service. We are a diverse city in one of the most highly diverse regions in the world. We are the only city of this size that is also a country and a hub for the world.”
Throughout our nation’s history, we have faced many crises. Our pioneers still remember what it was like during the Japanese Occupation. World War Two seems very distant to us. But for the survivors, the experiences left them with indelible lessons, said Mr Wong.
In the subsequent decades, we have confronted many other challenges: the communist insurgency in the 50s, the tumultuous period of the 60s and early 70s with racial riats, separation from Malaysia, and the sudden departure of the British.
“Since then, we have had to deal with one crisis after another – economic recessions, 9/11 and terrorism, SARS, and the Global Financial Crisis,” Mr Wong said.
And so it has been in the last two years as we tackle this pandemic. Mr Wong said that Singaporeans have made many sacrifices, stood together, and measured up as one people.
I will never forget the contributions of our frontline warriors – how they displayed tremendous courage, valiantly took on personal risks to fight the virus, and went above and beyond the call of duty.
I will always remember how different groups from the public and private sectors joined forces to set up the Community Care Facilities at the Expo in 2020, when we were overwhelmed with our first wave of infection. They worked hand in hand and, against all odds, got the facility up and running in a matter of days. Since then, we have launched many more ‘Singapore Together’ projects, involving public-private partnerships and Alliances for Action. They remind us that we are stronger when we stand together.
I was especially cheered by the responses of our youth throughout this pandemic. They have taken the restrictions in their stride, and found new ways to learn online, and to keep in touch with their friends. In these difficult times, many looked beyond their own circumstances to help others in need.
I saw this same resilient spirit at the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final football match last year. The Lions fought hard and gave it their all. Even though they lost the game in extra-time, many fans stayed on after the match, and applauded the team, proud of how they had persevered despite going down to eight men. At the end, the fans in the stadium stood at attention, and everyone started singing the National Anthem in unison spontaneously. It was an unforgettable moment.
I am sure all of us will have our own memories of how the Singapore spirit shone brilliantly in the darkest hours of the pandemic. Let us draw strength from these experiences, and continue to keep faith with one another.
Concluding his budget statement, Mr Wong said the past was not fore-ordained and the future is not predestined.
There will be unexpected problems ahead, just as there were in the past. These problems have to be ‘met, grappled with and resolved’.
But looking back at how Singaporeans have stood together during this COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Wong is confident that we have nothing to fear.