SINGAPORE: New, good jobs will be available to Singaporeans and they will come from new industries, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Jul 8).
Mr Lee was speaking in a “live” online session moderated by Senior Minister of State Dr Janil Puthucheary on the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s online channels from 9.30pm on the last night of campaigning before Cooling Off Day.
Mr Lee, said that there were many temporary positions being created due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the long term, new jobs will be created in new industries in the future as there were still companies investing in Singapore even in a recession.
“Today we are still getting people who are crazy enough to invest in Singapore in a recession, because they have patience. And therefore, there will be jobs, thousands of new, good jobs for our people,” he said.
“And I think we want to keep that reputation, expanding that credibility, that sense that this is a special place … and in a crisis, we know how to hang together so that we will come through successfully.”
Job creation and the COVID-19 crisis were the main themes discussed by the panel that also comprised National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling and first-time candidate Nadia Samdin.
Mr Lee also said that currently there were a lot more service jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including healthcare workers, people conducting virus testing, contact tracers, safe distancing ambassadors and those organising this “massive operation”.
“Just these last few months … tens of thousands of people have been brought in to organise the testing,” he said.
As COVID operations were expected to last for some time, these were not necessarily temporary positions, said Mr Lee and Mr Wong, who co-chairs the government task force fighting the virus.
PAP ministers as well as opposition politicians have said throughout the election period that jobs, job security and an economic downturn are the main issues on people’s minds.
Mr Lee said that people were also concerned about their incomes and those with jobs were worried that they might not be able to keep them, while fresh graduates are also worried about joining the workforce. But he pointed out that the Government has pushed out many schemes to help tide people through the difficult times.
The Government has promised that 100,000 jobs and training places will be created, and a National Jobs Council has been set up to co-ordinate this.
“These are things on their minds and really, they are things which any leader, any government of Singapore, must now focus on once the elections are over, which is one of the reasons why I decided to call the elections now so that we can clear our minds and focus on these big things,” he said.
CALLING THE ELECTION AT THIS TIME
Calling the election at this time, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a “major decision”, Mr Lee said.
“I had to make sure that it was safe to do, safe for people to conduct the campaign, safe for people to vote and safe, also, for … voters to focus their minds and think about what the election is about,” he said.
Overall, the country has to be in a “reasonably” stable situation he said.
Looking at the trends after Singapore exited the “circuit breaker” period, Mr Lee said he was “satisfied that it looks stable enough for us to be able to do it safely”.
He added that the Government had to get the election “out of the way”, as he does not know what faces Singapore in the next one to two years.
The timing of the elections has been raised by opposition parties repeatedly. Among the criticisms of it is that it was “reckless”.
“There are many uncertainties and very likely many difficult spots to come and therefore decisions which have to be taken, actions which have to be dealt with very very rapidly,” he said.
“It’s best that we got this done, and you’ve got a team in place, which is going to be able to deal with that with the full support of the population who elected you knowing that you’re going into a very tough spot.”
He weighed these “very carefully” before making the decision, he said.
He added that so far, “touch wood”, the COVID-19 situation has remained stable, and Singaporeans will be able to vote safely.
“UNUSUAL CLOSING RALLY”
Concluding the session, Mr Lee said that it was a “very unusual closing rally for a General Election campaign”.
Normally, it is a moment of “high emotion” involving rousing everybody to get ready for “battle”, he said.
“But this one, we are discussing soberly, seriously, calmly issues, priorities, challenges, solutions- what does the country, face, what can we do, how should we do it together,” he said.
“I think it is appropriate in this moment that we should be in this frame of mind, serious, collected, a little bit detached.”
Singapore is going to face a “very difficult time over the next couple of years”, he reiterated, citing the need to deal with COVID-19 and getting jobs.
The question, he said, is: “How can we get the strongest team to be given the mandate, to be looking after Singapore and working with you to see you through this and making sure that after this, that Singapore has a bright future?”
If the session helped the viewers “understand better, feel better why we are worried about certain things, why we are confident about certain things, why we want to do things with you”, the time will be “well worth it and pay you back many times over”, he said.