Task force guiding S'pore to post-Covid-19 recovery urges Govt to be open to private sector-led recommendations

SINGAPORE – Concerns about protecting lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic have evolved to the protection of livelihoods, and the Emerging Stronger Taskforce on Thursday (July 23) urged the Government to be open to the solutions it will offer by early next year.

PSA International chief executive Tan Chong Meng, who co-chairs the task force with Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, said the private sector will be taking the lead in formulating the recommendations that will rehabilitate companies that are struggling.

Speaking at the DBS Asian Insights Conference, he said this “more action-oriented approach” is a break from tradition.

“We are a small country. There’s a very strong public sector, often providing good leadership, but also a bright, vibrant private sector comprising local, good and strong companies, and many international companies.”

There has been a history of good exchange, he added, pointing out that traditionally, the public sector sets the direction and the private sector carries out the implementation.

“But now, it’s the private sector that is saying these things need to be done,” Mr Tan said.

Previously, businesses helped the Government by thinking through and shaping policies and being a sounding board, and in “six to nine months’ time, help to stamp the policy”, he added.

“But with this crisis, the concerns have gone from initially lives, how do we stay safe, to livelihoods, how do we create jobs, and you need healthy companies (for that),” he said.

“Today, companies are becoming unhealthy. You can’t rescue that just by public sector policy. Companies must rehabilitate themselves.”

He suggested that the recommendations could include digital solutions such as maximising the use of e-commerce technology in education and steps that take into account climate change, and which can be implemented quickly.

Mr Tan urged the Government to take the attitude that the public will also be drawn into seeing that the task force’s recommendations will be good “not just for livelihoods, but ultimately for the future living environment”.

DBS CEO Piyush Gupta, who is also on the task force set up to guide Singapore’s economy to a path of recovery post-Covid-19, said in a virtual briefing on Tuesday that steps are being taken to ensure that the recovery will factor in environmental concerns.

Mr Tan said that the issue of sustainability applies to jobs as well, and attention will be paid to creating opportunities for jobs that are future-proof.

The 17-member task force comprises Mr Lee and representatives from the private sector, including CapitaLand Group chief executive Lee Chee Koon, Changi Airport Group CEO Lee Seow Hiang, ST Engineering president and CEO Vincent Chong and Pontiac Land Group head of hotels Kwee Wei-Lin.

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