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Good government needed to fight Covid-19, support economy: PM Lee

Investors will take their cue from the result of this GE, and keeping their confidence up is a matter of survival for Singapore, he says

The PAP has laid out the challenges ahead and its plans to overcome them, says PM Lee. Whether these can become reality depends on voters giving the party a strong mandate.


PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has once more stressed the need for a strong mandate and a good government to lead Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis, pledging that he and other older ministers will see this through with the fourth generation or 4G leadership.

"This is what this election is about - whom do you trust to get you through the very difficult times ahead," he said on Monday.

In an online lunch-time rally, he said the opposition parties have been "completely silent" on how to tackle the pandemic or how to get Singapore out of this historic economic downturn - the very issues, he added, at the heart of this General Election (GE).

Streamed live from the People's Action Party (PAP) headquarters, the speech was meant as the digital equivalent of the party's customary lunchtime rally at Fullerton Square, usually held after the midpoint of the nine-day campaign as an occasion to take stock and "refocus everyone's minds on what is at stake", he said.

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What is at stake this time, he said, is getting through the crisis. "All our experience since the beginning of this year has made clear just how important a good government is to fight Covid-19, support the economy, and get out of this crisis intact."

He gave an overview of how Singapore has managed to get to a stable Covid-19 situation. Without a team of ministers working closely together, the government would not have been able to implement the anti-Covid-19 measures, and would have lost the confidence of the people, he said.

The second major challenge is the economy, with the government having moved decisively to tackle the historic economic crisis resulting from the pandemic, he said.

But beyond emergency budgetary and legislative measures, Singapore must maintain international confidence in the country, to keep attracting investments and creating jobs.

Mr Lee recounted that foreign investors were prepared to invest in Singapore during the 1985 recession because of their confidence in the workforce, the tripartite relationship, the public service, ministers, and public support for the government.

"Maintaining this high reputation is a matter of survival for all of us," he said, adding that the world is watching this GE.

"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?

"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?"

"Investors will scrutinise the election results, and act on their conclusions," he said, adding that this is why the PAP seeks a strong mandate.

GE2020 has long been seen as one of leadership transition, but Mr Lee said: "What I did not expect - what no one expected - was to meet this overwhelming crisis in the last stretch of my premiership."

He promised that he and his older colleagues, such as Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as the younger 4G ministers, will see this crisis through, adding: "I am determined to hand over Singapore, intact and in good working order, to the next team."

The PAP has consistently focused its electoral messaging around the issue of the Covid-19 crisis. The opposition parties, he charged, "show no recognition that we are facing the crisis of a generation", and have been silent on how to tackle Covid-19.

He asked what contribution they would be able to make in Parliament if elected, and what would happen to Singapore if the opposition formed the government.

In response, various opposition parties noted that they had raised the Covid-19 issue during the campaign, with some having included related proposals in their manifestos.

As for economic policies, Mr Lee dismissed the opposition's calls for a minimum wage or universal basic income as "fashionable peace-time slogans, not serious war-time plans".

A minimum wage will not help the unemployed, and "all the GST (goods and services tax) increases in the world" will not be enough to pay for a universal basic income, he said.

The PAP has laid out the challenges ahead and the plans to overcome them, but whether these can become reality depends on voters giving the party a strong mandate, said Mr Lee.

He urged voters not to "confuse signals" by voting for the opposition even if they truly want a PAP Member of Parliament to look after their constituency and town council, and a PAP government to look after Singapore.

"Do not undermine a system that has served you well," he said, pointing to the PAP's six decades of being in power.

Monday's digital rally began with archival footage of past Fullerton rallies, and ended with Mr Lee's musings on his own political journey - from his first Fullerton rally 36 years ago - and the transformation of the surrounding area, with the development of Marina Bay.

"If we all work together and build well, generation after generation, then another 36 years from now, the Fullerton rally will be held in a vastly transformed Singapore, and future Singaporeans - today's young ones - can be proud of what they have built," he concluded.

READ MORE: Covid-19 proposals include independent inquiry and medical board: WP

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