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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Means Win-Win Cooperation
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Means Win-Win Cooperation

Felinka Zhou Fan, director of a corporate advisory service company, in Lianhe Zaobao (December 2, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Prachatai)

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Means Win-Win Cooperation

Leaders of 15 Asia-Pacific nations have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which represents roughly 30 percent of the world’s GDP and population.

Amid a more and more complex backdrop where Covid-19 continues to affect global economic activity, the signing of RCEP represents the determination of these countries to develop free trade, multilateralism and regional economic integration. For international investors outside the RCEP, entering into agreements with any country in the RCEP will be equivalent to entering the entire regional market, which will not only significantly enhance the commercial attractiveness of the region but also help stimulate the recovery of the global economy.

According to the RCEP agreement, at least 92 percent of the tariffs on traded goods will be eliminated between member states. Singapore’s exports to other member states will also enjoy additional preferential treatment. This will reduce tariff costs for businesses and increase profit margins. Meanwhile at least 65 percent of service industries will be fully opened, increasing the ratio of foreign shareholding.

Before the signing of RCEP, economic interactions between China and ASEAN member states, especially Singapore, were already relatively close. Singapore's attractive business environment helped attract many Chinese companies to invest and develop in Singapore, with more than 7,500 Chinese enterprises registered. Chinese enterprises have also accelerated their entry into the ASEAN market in recent years. This has been somewhat imbalanced, however.

Through the implementation of RCEP, achieving multilateral and win-win cooperation will be even more achievable. Meanwhile the relationship between China and ASEAN will be more balanced and all members of RCEP will be able to achieve common development within a harmonious ecosystem.


Cooperate To Develop Sustainable Transportation
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Cooperate To Develop Sustainable Transportation

Aw Kah Peng, Chairman, Shell Companies in Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (December 24, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jason Goh/Pixabay)

Cooperate To Develop Sustainable Transportation

The future of Singapore's transportation sector will depend upon innovation and sustainability. Over the next 50 years, a major challenge facing Singapore will be how to provide clean, economical and reliable energy.

Singapore’s governance advantages include a focus on long-term planning. In 2020, the government launched a sustainable transportation vision, which included the phasing out of all internal combustion engine cars by 2040. The enhanced vehicle emission reduction tax plan implemented from January 1, 2021, will further narrow the price gap between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles.

The government also announced a three-year incentive to encourage consumers to purchase electric vehicles. They plan to expand the electric vehicle charging network to 28,000 charging stations by 2030. In addition to electric vehicles, hydrogen and liquefied natural gas are also designated as important sources of future energy to meet the needs of heavy vehicles.

To popularize electric vehicles, Singapore requires the corresponding infrastructure, including a robust national power grid. The government must also continue to control vehicle growth through measures such as quotas and land-use restrictions, while increasing the use of car-sharing services. In addition, the government should use data and digital technology to expand and improve the public transportation system, while encouraging more people to abandon private cars. This would support the government's goal of ensuring that by 2030 80 percent of Singapore households will be within a 10-minute walk to a subway train station.

As Singapore intensifies its efforts to promote low-carbon and sustainable transportation, the government should establish an energy ecosystem, formulate corresponding regulations to meet specific needs, and work to reshape the commuter experience. Most important is the need for the government, industry, and consumers to work together to identify trends that meet society’s changing needs.


Vaccine Multilateralism is the Best Way forward
Monday, January 25, 2021
Vaccine Multilateralism is the Best Way forward

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 199, in Lianhe Zaobao (December 30, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Lisa Ferdinando/ US Department of Defense)

Vaccine Multilateralism is the Best Way forward

With Switzerland, Singapore co-chairs the Friends of the COVAX Facility initiative. COVAX is the Global Coronavirus Vaccine Global Access, a multilateral mechanism led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the fair global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. So far, 190 countries and economies have signed up, and nearly two billion vaccine doses have been obtained. The US and Russia have not joined.

Singapore has supported this initiative from the very beginning, contributing US$5 million (S$6.64 million) in December. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has encouraged countries to focus on establishing partnerships to promote vaccine multilateralism as this is essential for coordinating international response plans. Singapore looks forward to cooperating with the European Commission and like-minded countries, as well the WHO and other partners, not only in developing vaccines but also in distributing them to all countries fairly and quickly.

The emergence of vaccine multilateralism is a response to vaccine nationalism. The People's Vaccine Alliance (a coalition of organizations and activists, coordinated by Oxfam and UNAIDS, aimed at campaigning for a “people’s vaccine” for Covid-19 that would be freely available to everyone everywhere as a global common good) has warned that rich countries are hoarding excessive amounts of vaccines, several times more than their citizens. The population of wealthy countries accounts for only 14 percent of the world's population yet they now have 53 percent of the most promising vaccines, with Canada, the US and the UK holding the most doses. Meanwhile, in the world’s 67 poorest countries, only 10 percent of the population are expected to be vaccinated before the end of 2021.

Covid-19 is a common enemy of mankind and only when the entire population of the world is immune can everyone be safe. The facts show that vaccine multilateralism is the best way forward.


What if There is No V-Shaped Recovery?
Monday, November 9, 2020
What if There is No V-Shaped Recovery?

Hu Min, electronics industry employee, in Lianhe Zaobao (November 7, 2020)  

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: foam)

What if There is No V-Shaped Recovery?

After 162 years, Robinsons has announced that it will close its last two department stores, representing yet another notable retail-sector victim of the pandemic. Many are questioning when the situation will begin to improve. From constant mask wearing to restricted movement, it is not yet clear when this “new normal” will end.

The term “new normal” was originally used to in to describe the US economy failing to experience a rapid V-shaped recovery after the global financial crisis. Instead, there would be a prolonged period of weak growth and stagflation. Today’s global growth outlook is also struggling to recover due to Covid-19 which not only continues to challenge public health systems but also inflict serious damage to the global trading system.

It is therefore vital to respond to this crisis in accordance with both local conditions and national conditions. China successfully controlled the virus within eight months by taking this approach. While Singapore made some early mistakes, the situation is also now improving. It has been important for businesses to proactively adjust their operations – for example, by introducing flexible working to all staff and finding innovative solutions to new problems. A good example would be companies in the troubled tourism and aviation industry launching novelty services, such as Singapore Airlines offering inflight meal experiences on the tarmac.

In this new normal, and perhaps without a V-shaped recovery to look forward to, it will be essential to develop new skills and be ready to adapt to changes. Only through continually adapting and adjusting, can Singapore and Singaporeans hope to make the most of opportunities when the situation improves.


Support Students in Science and Technology
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Support Students in Science and Technology

Phua Kok Khoo, Fellow of the American Physical Society and visiting professor in the physics departments of both National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in Lianhe Zaobao (October 17, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: jdn2001cn0/Pixabay)

Support Students in Science and Technology

Singapore holds great ambitions to strengthen its higher-education sector and become a center of culture and learning. 

One approach is to follow the British and American route, which is to focus on cultivating elite talent. Another approach emphasizes the widening of education to develop talent in science and technology and other fields. The embodiment of elitism in Singapore has been to provide top talents for national governance, including politics, science, technology, education and so on. In this regard, Singapore needs to work harder, both at home and abroad, while constantly reflecting on its own capabilities.

In relation to the field of science, while Singapore has not yet had any Nobel Prize winners, its achievements in technology are still remarkable. For example, it has many fellows in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Nevertheless, the government should place greater emphasis on improving Singapore’s science capabilities. In addition, Singapore’s universities should provide greater support in academic research and support the pursuit of more outstanding objectives such as becoming a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the US or a fellow of the Royal Society in the UK.

The government should consider adjusting the direction of training in higher education. Singapore has cultivated many outstanding talents for governance and even the military. Singapore, however, should also support students in developing their academic expertise, particularly in science and technology. After all, this is also an important area for national development.


Don’t Blame Foreigners for Unemployment
Friday, September 18, 2020
Don’t Blame Foreigners for Unemployment

Zhan Shaoxiang, financial officer, in Lianhe Zaobao (September 14, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Dickson Phua)

Don’t Blame Foreigners for Unemployment

As Singapore’s economic situation worsens and unemployment rises, the debate over whether government policies allow foreigners to steal jobs from locals has been reignited. But is this true?

First, it is necessary to look at Singapore’s economic environment in comparison to the rest of the world. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many industries are suffering, and layoffs have become inevitable for both foreigners and local. The public, however, has paid too much attention to the number of unemployed locals, overlooking the situation for foreigners.

Second, in response to Covid-19, the Singaporean government has launched a series of measures to assist businesses. This includes an employment subsidy program that supports local workers. Yet there has been no subsidy for wages paid to foreigners

Third, Singapore is an open economy as well as an important financial, service and shipping center. To maintain this international status, it is necessary to recruit talent from all over the world. Foreigners have provided Singapore with knowledge, technology and management expertise, which is now an indispensable asset.

Fourth, the government has spared no effort in attracting multinational companies to Singapore, creating more employment opportunities. It is understandable that many companies will require some employees to be local as they may have a better grasp of the business.

Finally, foreigners consume food, clothing, housing and transportation and also pay taxes. This has promoted the development of the local economy and created income and employment opportunities for locals. Without foreigners, many houses would become vacant and restaurants and cafes would have less business.

The Ministry of Manpower should not interfere too much with a company’s freedom to hire employees. Every worker, whether local or foreign, contributes to Singapore’s economic development. Locals should avoid making excuses for their own problems by blaming the government, foreigners or companies.


At This Turning Point, Take Control of Our Own Destiny
Friday, August 21, 2020
At This Turning Point, Take Control of Our Own Destiny

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 199, in Lianhe Zaobao (August 19, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office Singapore)

At This Turning Point, Take Control of Our Own Destiny

Looking back on the history of Singapore, the process from colony to independence involved coping with continual challenges against a fate that was constantly evolving. Today’s Singapore is the result of its successful response to surviving these challenges. After the division of Singapore and Malaysia, there was no choice but to find a new way to survive and, if it were not for such a group of visionary political leaders, Singapore’s fate would not be what it is today.

The Covid-19 pandemic is yet another major test facing Singapore and all countries. Some may still not yet grasp the seriousness of the problem and fail to realize that this is a life-and-death challenge – another turning point in Singapore’s destiny. The world now is pinning their hope on a vaccine, which is impossible in the short term. Instead, society should actively seek a way out instead of just waiting anxiously. Singaporeans must take control of their own destiny.

During this global crisis all countries share the common desire to seek a solution. This presents a great opportunity and there exists some prospect for a way out. Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing talked about some of the strategies the government plans to adopt, including signing digital free-trade agreements with other countries and working with like-minded nations such as New Zealand and Chile to promote jointly the global digital economy and establish so-called "green channels". These all require not just hard work and perseverance but also wisdom and foresight. This is why Singapore needs a strong team to govern the country.

 


Do the Elderly Suffer from Technophobia?
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Do the Elderly Suffer from Technophobia?

Thang Lengleng, Associate Professor, Department of Japanese Studies, National University of Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (June 26, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Code@SG/Infocomm Media Development Authority)

Do the Elderly Suffer from Technophobia?

The government’s establishment of the new Singapore Digital Office (SDO) will encourage electronic payments throughout society. However, ensuring the elderly can keep up with new technologies remains a challenge. Over a decade ago, the government establishment of the Silver Infocomm Initiative (SII) to address this issue.

The elderly are benefiting from a digitized life. According to one 2018 survey, 55 percent of those over 60 used the internet, an increase of 25 percent in just two years. Nevertheless, there will still be some elderly people still excluded from the digital world. Beyond creating new learning opportunities, we must build deeper understanding of the willingness among the elderly to accept new technologies.

Studies have shown that if seniors understand how technologies would be beneficial to them, that they are not too difficult to use, and that their family and friends also recognize the importance of these skills, then they are more likely to accept them. Yet there are not many seniors who are willing to take on new challenges.

It is important to recognize the diversity of elderly people. While education, income and occupation can all affect the willingness of the elderly to accept new technology, it is also a fact that the higher the age, the lower the rate of using new technology. As such, it is necessary to be more attentive to and respect the older age group, who are more likely to be marginalized.

While the government continues to promote digitalization measures, they have repeatedly stated they will retain non-digital alternatives. In addition to providing assistance to encourage the elderly to learn, the government must also take into account the specific design of products and digital services and embrace the principle of simplicity and ease of use. This can help seniors to embrace the digital transformation.


How Singapore Can Go From Strength to Strength After the Epidemic
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
How Singapore Can Go From Strength to Strength After the Epidemic

Pei Sai Fan, Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore, Co-Founder of the Lee & Pei Finance Institute, and senior official at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from 1999 to 2014, in Lianhe Zaobao (June 15, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Kitty Mao)

How Singapore Can Go From Strength to Strength After the Epidemic

Singapore needs innovative thinking to solve the problems caused by the Covid-19-induced economic downturn. There are several key issues:

First, Covid-19 will permanently change some economic activities – for example, accelerating the rise of contactless businesses and services, online education, remote offices, videoconferencing and other online business activities. Second, Covid-19 has accelerated digital globalization. With more people working from home, the separation of labor and the location of the company has become possible. Third, due to the greater autonomy of jobs, human resources will tend to be a managed more horizontally bringing about new social issues that will differ from the traditional company benefits systems relating to welfare and pensions.

Due to restrictions on international travel, Singapore should focus on creating opportunities at home while using this period to build a more solid foundation for Singapore's long-term survival and development.

First, Covid-19 highlights the importance of digital and information migration in human society. Digitalization and informatization can effectively improve the level of social governance and public safety. Second, it also underscores the importance of investing in digital solutions, from high-definition video and reliable information transmission systems to supercomputers and artificial intelligence. These have proven to be critical in addressing the pandemic and furthering research into treatment and a vaccine. Third, Covid-19 highlights the importance of national strategic materials reserves. Singapore must improve this capacity to prepare for further outbreaks. 

In view of this, Singapore should simulate various disaster scenarios and carefully review which strategic industrial supply chains it should develop domestically. This will create job opportunities. Singapore should also focus its attention on strengthening its “new infrastructure" such as 5G infrastructure and new energy vehicles. Ultimately, Singapore should make use of the opportunities brought about by Covid-19 to strengthen the foundations for long-term sustainable development.


Revise Lee Kuan Yew's Old "Big Fish" Analogy
Friday, June 12, 2020
Revise Lee Kuan Yew's Old "Big Fish" Analogy

Han Shengbao, journalist from China now living in Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (June 11, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

Revise Lee Kuan Yew's Old "Big Fish" Analogy

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stated that the United States and China will embark on a road of confrontation that could last for decades, making the long-anticipated “Asian century” more and more precarious. Southeast Asian countries including Singapore are right to be wary of being caught at the intersection of the interests of the major powers.

“In a world where the big fish eat small fish and the small fish eat shrimps, Singapore must become a poisonous shrimp,” Lee Kuan Yew used to say. In Singapore's early days, to survive alongside neighboring countries (small fish) and major world powers (big fish), it strived to build up its capabilities as a “poisonous shrimp”.

After more than 50 years, the "big fish" analogy has been quietly involving. First, this analogy is a product of Cold-War thinking based upon a complex political and security environment. Today, Singapore has abandoned this thinking and holds a cooperative rather than confrontational approach to its relations with neighboring countries.

Second, a new "big fish" – China – has emerged. Singapore has had frequent military dialogues and exchanges with China. Meanwhile, the United State has become increasingly unfriendly, with President Trump turning the United States into a "shark". Prime Minister Lee concluded that the strategic foundation of “American peace” has fundamentally shifted. We are therefore at a critical and historic moment when Singapore must re-examine the "big fish" analogy.

Prime Minister Lee has stated that Asian countries do not want to be forced to choose between the United States and China. His position could not be clearer: Singapore cannot afford to alienate China. Prime Minister Lee also wishes that the US understands that if other countries deepen relations with China, it does not necessarily mean that they are fighting against the United States.


"Air Bridges" will Lead to Fragmented International Travel
Monday, June 8, 2020
"Air Bridges" will Lead to Fragmented International Travel

Chen Gang, Senior Research Fellow and Assistant Director of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (June 6, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Vasyatka1)

"Air Bridges" will Lead to Fragmented International Travel

International travel has suffered a significant blow as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. With some countries successfully controlling the virus, we are witnessing the resumption of the domestic economy and international travel. Some governments have started to propose “travel bubbles” or “air bridges” with a limited number of neighboring countries in the hope of resuming the movement of people and revitalizing tourism. While this may appear to be a good solution for restarting international travel, it may also lead to fragmentation and mark a new stage of globalization.

When a travel bubble is established between two countries, healthy residents in these two countries can cross each other’s borders without quarantine measures. For example, New Zealand and Australia recently issued a joint statement on such a plan, while Hong Kong and Macau are exploring similar arrangements. Three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia) are considering the establishment of a similar travel-bubble plan.

Travel bubbles are exclusively group together countries with a similar national condition and strong epidemic control. They are regional, rather than global, travel arrangements. The relationship between travel bubbles and global free travel is a bit like the relationships between bilateral, regional and global free trade agreements under the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Not all geographically adjacent countries and regions will establish travel-bubbles arrangements. In addition to meeting the above conditions, there must also be sufficient trust among the countries involved. While there will be many incentives for East Asian countries such as Singapore to introduce travel bubbles if the pandemic persists, overcoming political barriers and strategic differences and conflicts will become a key challenge.


Be Considerate of the Situation of Migrant Workers
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Be Considerate of the Situation of Migrant Workers

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 199, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 27, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Rob O’Brien)

Be Considerate of the Situation of Migrant Workers

The Covid-19 outbreak among Singapore’s’ migrant worker community has become international news. The density of the living conditions of the 323,000 workers is one of the main reasons for the rapid spread of virus. This poses significant challenges for disease control.

Migrant workers in Singapore are fortunate due to the government’s generosity. The resources Singapore invested in controlling the outbreak is unrivalled, and many countries, including the US, are unable to take care of even their own citizens, let alone migrant workers.

Some citizens, however, cannot help but complain that some of Singapore's own poor people do not receive such good treatment. Such emotions are circulating online and generate a lot of negativity.

As the government is willing to bear the additional operating expenses of the migrant-worker accommodations, some are questioning whether this is a fair use taxpayer money. While dormitory operators should bear some of the responsibilities, they are also business owners and have the right to the assistance provided by the government for virus-control measures.

The most important question is, when will the virus be brought under control? Until now, more than 90 percent of the confirmed cases in Singapore are among migrant workers and the government has promised to test more than 300,000 guest workers in all. Therefore, to reduce uncertainty and its negative side effects, it is necessary to provide the public as much information as possible about the entire testing process and its progress.

Singaporeans, however, should be more considerate as this is an extremely complicated task, which involves preventing more migrant workers from being infected and the outbreak spreading within the community. Only in this way can we hope to resume normal economic and social activities in an orderly and gradual manner after the end of the circuit-breaker (lockdown) controls.


Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Shift of Manufacturing from China to ASEAN?
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Shift of Manufacturing from China to ASEAN?

Yu Hong, Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 20, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Shift of Manufacturing from China to ASEAN?

As Covid-19 rages across the globe, both the appeal of globalization and the influence of international organizations have diminished. Instead, this crisis has emphasized the importance of building a strong nation and resilient economy.

ASEAN members are among the countries with the closest economic and trade exchanges with China, with which they have strong ties through global supply chains. The impact of the pandemic is evident in two areas: First, ASEAN's tourism revenue depends significantly on Chinese tourists. The significant decline in their numbers has had a huge negative effect on tourism, aviation, catering and other supporting sectors across ASEAN. Second, ASEAN countries participate in the China-centered global industrial chain, relying upon exports of raw materials and intermediate products to China for final processing and assembly. Many countries, notably Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, have trade deficits with China. Deepening deficits will be detrimental to their industrial development.

As a result of rising production costs in China combined with accelerated domestic economic transformation and the Sino-US trade war, a considerable number of multinational companies are diversifying their supply chains by moving some facilities out of China. Covid-19 has accelerated this process, with the crisis being a turning point in the restructuring of the global industrial chain. While seizing the opportunities brought about by these developments remains crucial for ASEAN’s economic growth, the crisis has demonstrated that economic reliance on China and its industry chains carries significant risks.

With a large young labor force and expanding middle class, ASEAN’s potential is huge. The region’s rich natural resources and low production costs allow ASEAN to play a growing role in the global industrial chain. The restructuring of the global supply chain provides an opportunity for ASEAN countries to implement bold economic and labor reforms to accelerate development of manufacturing.


Chinese-language Education Reform Will Promote Rapid Mass Literacy
Monday, May 18, 2020
Chinese-language Education Reform Will Promote Rapid Mass Literacy

He Zihuang, senior educator, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 16, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Mailer Diablo)

Chinese-language Education Reform Will Promote Rapid Mass Literacy

It is a shame that the Chinese-language teaching reform over recent years seems to have overlooked the issue of rapid mass literacy. Rapid mass literacy refers to the process of students learning a lot of words in a very short period of time with the goal of quickly being able to read independently.

As the recognition of new words will provide an important foundation for students to learn, literacy teaching should be the focus in the lower grades of primary school. Students can only read independently if they have mastered a certain number of Chinese characters and vocabulary. The promotion of rapid mass literacy, therefore, will support early reading and writing ability.

Singapore’s Ministry of Education has mentioned the importance of literacy each time it carries out Chinese-language education reforms. They have, however, always lacked specific implementation measures. The current approach to literacy teaching takes places over a long time period and has minimal benefit to the cultivation of students’ interest in reading. As a result, the level of Chinese literacy among students does not match their intellectual development.

Promoting rapid mass literacy in the first and second grades of primary school offers a feasible approach. This is not only a way to tackle the difficulty of learning Chinese but is also the only way to increase students' interest in learning Chinese. It is therefore hoped that future Chinese education reforms will seek to promote rapid and large-scale literacy.


In Dealing Covid-19, Pay Attention to Mental Wellbeing
Monday, May 11, 2020
In Dealing Covid-19, Pay Attention to Mental Wellbeing

Lin Ming Hui, retired, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 9, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: cattan2011)

In Dealing Covid-19, Pay Attention to Mental Wellbeing

Singapore’s fight against the Covid-19 virus has been remarkable for three key reasons: First, Singapore responded quickly. In addition to the monitoring and management mechanisms already in place, authorities made continual judgments based on the situation. Second, the integrity of the medical system has been maintained and well coordinated. Third, government communication has been consistently transparent. From the prime minister to the ministers, all have ensured the population were informed about the situation.

Now, the battle against the virus is focused on community transmission among migrant workers. It is therefore increasingly necessary to have clearer and more targeted strategies, while also considering associated issues including mental wellbeing.  

After nearly two months of gradual strengthening of virus control measures, the number of people calling for psychological counselling and assistance has increased significantly. At the same time, there have been reports that some people have rebelled against the circuit-breaker measures. We should expect such incidents to increase in the community due to the extension of control measures.

The various challenges that each person experiences – unemployment or loneliness, for example – will influence their reactions. The circuit-breaking measures have already been extended to June 1. If the epidemic continues and they must be extended further, it will bring greater uncertainty and place society under increasing psychological pressure. Simply providing more information cannot bring relief.

While the epidemic will eventually pass, another challenge lies ahead in the form of economic reconstruction. Maintaining mental wellbeing will be essential in promoting national social solidarity and cohesiveness while supporting future economic revitalization and harmonious social development.