Singapore

PM Lee calls for Singaporeans to unite to tackle current crisis

He says Cabinet is the strongest he could form to deal with current crisis

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on Singaporeans to unite to help the country face the difficult months and years that lie ahead in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a ceremony to swear in his new team, he said that he has formed the strongest Cabinet he could, to vigorously deal with the severe economic and public health challenges confronting the nation.

Now that the General Election is over, the work of the new Cabinet and government has already begun. Apart from developing the ability to stamp out any fresh Covid-19 outbreaks, the nation needs to get its economy going again, save jobs and reskill workers for new ones.

"The elections are behind us. Whatever our political persuasions, never forget that we are first and foremost Singaporeans," said PM Lee. "Let us all unite and focus our energies on the major challenges ahead."

He was addressing colleagues at the Istana's State Room in a ceremony to swear in the Cabinet that included a video link to Parliament House, where Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and another group of ministers were assembled in keeping with safe distancing requirements.

Presiding over the ceremony, President Halimah Yacob said the Covid-19 pandemic has reaffirmed Singaporeans' resilience as one people.

PM Lee noted that the global Covid-19 situation has taken a turn for the worse. Cities, such as Hong Kong and Seoul, that initially brought the virus under control are suffering repeated outbreaks.

This is why the Government is building up the capacity to test and contact trace, so as to stamp out new outbreaks quickly, he said.

He also pledged to save as many jobs as possible and help workers who lose their jobs to find new work. The Government will help businesses that have been shut down by the pandemic to start up again, he said, especially in the badly-hit construction, tourism and aviation sectors.

But he cautioned that some industries might fail and workers may have to reskill.

"The better, long-term solution is to invest our resources to develop new capabilities, grow new industries and create new jobs. Then we can help firms in declining industries to reinvent themselves or pivot to other fields of business," said Mr Lee.

Beyond economic prosperity, Singaporeans also wanted a fair and just society with opportunities for all and the hope that their children would have better lives than themselves, he said.

For this, the political system must continue to work well for Singapore, Mr Lee added.

He said the recent election has shown a strong desire from Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics. This trend, he noted, is here to stay.

"We have to give expression to it, and evolve our political system to accommodate it, while maintaining our cohesion and sense of national purpose."

Mr Lee urged the 10 MPs from the Workers' Party, and two Non-Constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party, to play their role of a responsible and loyal opposition, and put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated.

In all, 33 ministers and ministers of state, starting with PM Lee, took their oaths of office, from Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, during the one-hour ceremony.

Singapore Politics