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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.
A Story About Masks and National Unity
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
A Story About Masks and National Unity

Hansen Yang (杨瀚森), business leader, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 24, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: observingeye)

A Story About Masks and National Unity

Singapore has gone through four stages of the crisis; imported cases, community transmissions, a second wave of imported infections, and control measures to control the spread of the virus. During the first stage, due to the sudden emergence of cases and the Chinese New Year holiday, many Singaporean people donated a large number of masks to China and their frontline health workers, who were in greater need at that time. As a result, local supply became tight. The Singaporean government had to decide whether to violate international trade rules and restrict the export of masks while taking control all mask production. The government did not take this option. As an open economy, Singapore adhered to international law and trade rules.

National unity helps Singapore overcome difficulties and disasters. Throughout the first three stages, citizens came together to support the government by not stockpiling food and other basic necessities while ensuring medical masks remained available to frontline medical staff who were more in need.

Now Singapore faces a more dangerous fourth stage. Now all citizens have a mask. In addition to the four masks issued to each family, the government has produced a washable and reusable mask for each Singaporean. Meanwhile, medical masks are reserved for frontline medical staff. On online platforms and in retail stores, there is sufficient supply of masks.

When the circuit breaking measures were enforced, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong finally told people that they must wear masks. Implementing this could only be achieved through the joint efforts of government ministers, civil servants, enterprises and citizens. The fierce battle against the virus is still raging, and Singapore will face challenges ahead. Regardless, 2020 is destined to become an important moment in the history of Singapore. Everyone living on this small island is writing Singapore’s story together.


Recognizing How Lethal the Virus Is Will Help Control It
Friday, April 24, 2020
Recognizing How Lethal the Virus Is Will Help Control It

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 22, 2020)

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

Recognizing How Lethal the Virus Is Will Help Control It

The spread of Covid-19 within guest workers dormitories has become the main battlefield for the authorities. Yet the most dangerous place remains within the community owing to the risk of undetected cases that remain hidden.

There are inevitably people in the community who have been infected with the virus but have not been diagnosed. They may not even know that they have contracted the disease as they are asymptomatic or just have mild flu-like symptoms. These cases are all potential sources of infection and could pass the virus to family members, friends or even strangers. The speed at which the virus spreads from person to person is exceptionally fast and persons without symptoms can also be contagious. For this reason, it is important to wear a mask.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently warned about this danger. The problem is that many people do not understand the power and horror of this virus. They cannot appreciate the need for control measures and blame the authorities for the inconvenience of having to abide by restrictions on their movements and activities. Some have even expressed their dissatisfaction by ignoring these measures and using racial slurs such as the term “Chinese virus”.

The reason why China was able to control the epidemic in Wuhan within a few months is that, after determining the risks, they immediately adopted extremely strict measures to seal the city and Hubei province. This gradually cut off transmission of the virus. We must break the chain of community infection in Singapore. There seems to be no other effective or feasible alternative than the current regulations that have been imposed. For the small number of people who do not heed the advice and insist on breaking the rules, there is no choice but to hold them accountable under the law.


A Critical Juncture in the Battle Against Covid-19
Friday, April 17, 2020
A Critical Juncture in the Battle Against Covid-19

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 15, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: huntergol hp / Shutterstock.com)

A Critical Juncture in the Battle Against Covid-19

During the first stage of epidemic, after the first case of Covid-19 was reported on January 23, 2020, Singapore’s approach was seen as the "gold standard”. The second stage started after the epidemic had rapidly spread across the globe, prompting many infected citizens to rush back home. While strict quarantine measures ensured these returnees would be isolated, there were still signs of community spread within nursing homes, preschools, construction sites and offices, while the number of people infected from an unknown source also increased. 

After the number of returnees had decreased, the number of imported cases also fell sharply. Community transmissions, however, have now soared, particularly within dormitories housing foreign workers. This has triggered a dangerous stage of the battle – a third "circuit breaker". 

How can countries can remain under lockdown for so long, with a vaccination still potentially 18 months away? Singaporeans must dutifully comply with the new circuit-breaker measures and be mentally prepared for a long battle. The question now is: What to do next?

First, Singapore must quickly control the epidemic in the dormitories housing foreign workers. There are as many as 43 such accommodations across the whole island, housing tens of thousands of guest workers. The government has already set up a working group to control this problem.

Second, the government must do everything in its power to halt community infection. As the number of cases where no association can be found is increasing, this stage of the battle is challenging and entails high risks. If we lose, it will be difficult to manage the consequences.

If the epidemic is under control by May 4, we can gradually resume economic activity. This is a deadly battle, and everyone must cooperate. The consequences of failure must be emphasized, and society must remain vigilant. 


Not the Sinking Titanic but Noah’s Ark
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Not the Sinking Titanic but Noah’s Ark

Hansen Yang (杨瀚森), business leader, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 7, 2020)

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

Not the Sinking Titanic but Noah’s Ark

As a world economic and transportation hub, Singapore has fought aggressively against the Covid-19 virus. As a small country, however, Singapore must strike a balance between controlling the spread of the virus and maintaining economic operations. Policy measures affect every citizen. It is only when citizens are united and prepared for the worst scenarios can we win this battle.

In the face of this crisis, we must surrender our individualism and move forward in a collective spirit. When governments introduce stricter measures, such as closing borders and cities, citizens cannot selfishly invoke their individual freedom as an excuse to ignore the ban. On a national level, implementing restrictions on the cross-border movement of people to slow and stop the spread of the virus is not the same as shutting down the country. The global supply chain must remain in operation, and the necessities of people's livelihood and medical supplies must be able to cross borders.

In addition, countries must refrain from engaging in a debate over the origins of the virus. This not only leads to discrimination and promotes xenophobia but also is not conducive to international cooperation. It also increases the decoupling of economic and trade links and fuels the risk of political conflict.

During the G20 virtual special summit on March 26, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested that countries should work together on the aspects of public health, economics and scientific research needed to cope with the global challenges stemming from the virus. Leaders of all countries must work together after the crisis to rebuild domestic confidence in globalization. While the epidemic is fierce, this is definitely not the end of the world. We are all on the same ship. This ship is not the sinking Titanic, but Noah's Ark on which humanity will rise again.


Our Constant and Existential Water Challenge
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Our Constant and Existential Water Challenge

Peter Joo Hee Ng, Chief Executive Officer, and Celine Teo, Senior Planner, Public Utilities Board (PUB), in Lianhe Zaobao (March 23, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Adhitya Andanu from Pexels)

Our Constant and Existential Water Challenge

Singapore's water supply system has always been closely linked to the development of the city. A report published by the World Resources Institute in 2015 indicated that Singapore is at a high risk of severe water scarcity by 2040. Today, however, the island state has emerged from this water crisis by implementing a pragmatic water policy – a supply management system with three aspects: optimization, recycling and reusing.

Singapore has long had to deal with the fundamental problem of a lack of water. Ensuring the security of water resources has been a top priority for Singapore's leadership. At the turn of the century, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) rapidly adopted new wastewater recovery and reuse technology to support the mass production of fresh water Meanwhile, the water-supply system, sewer and sanitary facilities, and drainage were combined to operate in unified way, thereby supporting recycling. This has shown that optimizing water systems requires advanced management and operational skills.

Yet Singapore still faces challenges such as wasteful domestic water consumption and loss due to industrial cooling and processing. The two "artificial" water sources, desalination and freshwater, are also both capital and energy intensive. And the effects of climate change threaten to destroy Singapore's water infrastructure and even parts of country because of rising sea levels. This presents an existential challenge. As a result, the PUB is now involved in developing and implementing measures to protect Singapore from rising sea levels.

Singapore’s long-term planning ensures that its water supply system will be able to meet needs while being resilient and sustainable. Through this pragmatic approach, Singapore is able to transform its disadvantages into strengths and its weaknesses into unlimited opportunities.


The Fight Against Infectious Disease Cannot Rely on Medical System Alone
Thursday, February 13, 2020
The Fight Against Infectious Disease Cannot Rely on Medical System Alone

Lim Wooi Tee, physician and author, in Lianhe Zaobao (February 11, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: kandl / Shutterstock.com)

The Fight Against Infectious Disease Cannot Rely on Medical System Alone

Singapore has raised its alert level to orange following reports of several cases of Covid-19 without any travel history or links to existing patients. People have panicked, causing shortages of several products in supermarkets. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged Singaporeans to remain calm.

The government and the medical system have responded correctly to the outbreak with infection control procedures following those adopted for MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The screening of passengers arriving from Wuhan began as early as January 3. Only North Korea and Papua New Guinea were faster than Singapore in banning the entry of people from Hubei Province and Chinese tourists. There has been transparency of information, which the media has been releasing without delay.

Yet more cases are to be expected. PM Lee’s call for patients with mild symptoms to be isolated and treated at home has upset some of the public. But this is reasonable advice as there are a limited number of beds in isolation wards and intensive care units for those who are critically ill and high-risk patients such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Quarantine and treatment at home does not mean that the medical system has abandoned those deemed not to require hospitalization. Prioritizing cases ensures that people have access to medical resources according to the severity of their condition.

Prevention is always better than cure. This epidemic is a good opportunity for Chinese communities across Asia to deepen their understanding of disease and medical treatment and to consider whether they rely too heavily on the medical system. Meanwhile, there is no need to panic and stockpile. Singapore is an important transport hub so there should be no shortage of food and daily necessities.


China-Singapore Financial Cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative
Monday, February 3, 2020
China-Singapore Financial Cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative

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; and Ma Rongbao, Managing Director, CICC Capital Management, Beijing, in Lianhe Zaobao (February 1, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

China-Singapore Financial Cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative

Singapore’s important role in the economic, financial and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN is growing. As one of the world’s advanced international financial centers and a key node in the Maritime Silk Road, Singapore is well positioned to play a significant part in the financing of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), providing both professional and international funding for trade and commerce between countries and regions along the route. 

Singapore is uniquely positioned to connect financial markets and support cross-border financing cooperation. In addition, the city can promote wealth and risk management, while supporting the large-scale and long-term financing support needed for infrastructure projects. Singapore can also expand offshore financial cooperation and accelerate internationalization of the renminbi, China’s currency.

Beyond financial services, Singapore can expand the regional space for cooperation, while promoting coordinated regional development. Furthermore, Singapore can offer a third-party arbitration mechanism to Belt and Road countries to build cooperation and mutual trust. Singapore and China can also deepen cross-border financial regulatory cooperation through the use of fintech. This financial cooperation could include integrating digital financial services such as issuing an encrypted digital currency – a “Belt Road coin” – to provide inclusive financial services and improve cross-border payment systems. 

With the strengthening of mutual political trust combined with the ongoing expansion of economic exchange and the increasing opportunities along the Belt and Road, Singapore-China bilateral cooperation will deepen. Closer financial cooperation can be beneficial to both countries. Through the BRI, Singapore can further utilize its reputation as a global trade, finance and shipping hub to advance regional integration and economic globalization.