The COVID-19 Crisis: Change in a post-covid Singapore

The COVID-19 Crisis: Change in a post-covid Singapore

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Dr Joanne Yoong

“(On the possibility of a Green recovery). Part of the challenge of climate change was that there wasn’t a way for the impacts to be visualized and really felt by humanity in a meaningful way. We can take advantage of this moment in time, to have the foresight to put in place new arrangements that create a new norm.”

Dr Yoong shared that Singapore needs to acknowledge the fact that health, social care and the economy are very tightly linked. In Singapore, where people are our assets, what we may think of as a public health emergency or what we think of as a social protection issue are tightly linked to economic implications. There is a need to rethink the integration of health and social policies to ensure that our people are connected to healthcare financing and social safety nets that are adequate.

On the Covid-induced economic impact, Dr Yoong shared that most of the industries that support globalization are currently the ones that are hard hit, and we are likely to see de-globalization to some degree, temporarily if not in the longer term. For Singapore, this implies that a number of industries we have traditionally relied on are not going to come back, or at the very least not in the same way. The extent of the economic downturn and the nature of the likely comeback is a very large question for Singapore: how long will it last, what radical shifts will take place, and what other comparative advantages can we find or develop?

Mr Chew Kheng Chuan

“A robust, autonomous and independent civil society and a more liberal democratic society is vital for the greater flowering of the arts. The arts power the engine of the Creative industry in the new knowledge economy. Government should look upon civil society as its partner in progress and supporter of common objectives. Civil society is not its enemy to curb, control and restrain- not even those members who may be highly critical of it, holding the government to account and keeping it honest.”

Mr Chew shared three key points Singapore needs to focus on to grow the arts and our nation. Firstly, more serious funding of the arts, particularly from the government and from private philanthropy. Secondly, freedom of thinking and expression, protected by civil liberties, is essential for the full flowering of the arts. Diversity, not group think, is vital for progress. Lastly, the Government must step up and do the heavy lifting on funding the minimum standards of living for Singaporeans so that civil society and private philanthropy can address the uplifting of quality of life that will make us a thriving prosperous, gracious and great society.

Ms Liyana Sulaiman

“I am very concerned about creating job and income security, particularly involving women. Women, especially in the informal economy, where many are employed, will stand to lose their jobs. Women are largely the ones that help to keep their households well, help children stay in school; and hence there cannot be a better time to help women gain employment and income.” 

Ms Sulaiman shared that Covid 19 has laid bare the digital divide and exposed our society’s vulnerability as well as inequalities that have been there all along. Globally, there is an acceleration of the adoption of technology at all levels of society. The adoption of technology has changed from a luxury to a must-have means to adapt and survive. While there are various projections of massive Covid-induced job losses in the world, especially for lower skilled workers, Singapore needs to focus on adopting a longer-term strategy to rethink our growth model and to encourage more locally-driven entrepreneurship. From an entrepreneur’s perspective, the crisis also brings great opportunities to address the many vulnerabilities that were exposed through Covid. Singapore needs to leverage technology to address underlying issues such as self-sufficiency, job and income security as well as food security. 

Dr Munidasa Winslow

“There is a silver lining to this Covid situation. If it makes us step back and think about how we treat those with mental conditions and how we treat people who are poorer or disadvantaged, it would have served a really good function. It is up to us, the living and those have the influence to change society, to pick up the mantle and help society and government make the changes that are necessary.”

Dr Winslow spoke about the main effects of Covid 19 and social distancing on the mental health of the people. It has been observed that there is increased demand, globally and locally, for psychological support, both for mental health issues as well as domestic violence incidents. Given the possibility of lingering longer term repercussions from this, it is crucial to prepare and scale up resources to support the mental well-being of our people, even after the Covid 19 crisis subsides.

As a society, there is a pressing need to increase de-stigmatization of mental health issues, to encourage more affected persons to come forward to express their problems and seek help. We need to do a lot more to let people see that mental health is driven by nature; and one can get back to becoming a fully productive member of society, if given the support and opportunities. He also called for better regulation of professionals other than psychiatrists, to uplift the standards in the mental and social care field. Lastly, Dr Winslow urged greater commitment from the government to channel more resources towards mental health as mental health is just as important as physical health.

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