Singapore premier calls for election amid global uncertainties and COVID-19 crisis

Singapore premier calls for election amid global uncertainties and COVID-19 crisis
By Gurdip Singh

Singapore, Jun 23 () Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday that he has decided to call for general elections to "clear the decks" and give the new government a fresh five-year mandate, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has battered the city-state's economy.


In a televised address to the nation, Lee said that he has advised President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday to dissolve Parliament and issue the writ for election.

He said that holding an election now will clear the decks and give the new Government a fresh five-year mandate to focus on the national agenda and the difficult decisions it will have to make.

Elections must be held by April 2021 at the latest. Lee's ruling People's Action Party holds a majority in the current Parliament.

Lee pointed out that his government has worked hard to contain the coronavirus spread since it was first detected in January 2020 with four fiscal budgets of 100 billion Singapore dollars to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic.


"But we should be under no illusions that we have defeated COVID-19. This is just the end of the beginning phase. A long struggle lies ahead," said Lee.

Singapore on Tuesday reported 119 new cases of coronavirus, majority of whom are foreign workers residing in dormitories, taking the country's COVID-19 tally to 42,432.

"COVID-19 will be with us for at least a year and most probably longer, until a vaccine is developed and becomes available. It is a very difficult and tricky disease to deal with. So, we have to continue keeping a close watch on the situation," Lee said.

He told Singaporeans to economically brace themselves for a very tough period ahead.

Singapore has not yet felt the full economic fallout from COVID-19, but it is coming, he warned.


"Despite all the measures we have taken, there will be more business closures, and more retrenchments in the coming months. Unemployment will go up," said Lee.

But the government is determined to save as many jobs as it can, and create new jobs too.

"And we will do our utmost to help businesses and industries survive and restructure themselves," assured Lee.

"That is how we can keep our capabilities and livelihoods intact through the storm, and pick up again when the sun shines once more," he said.

But the Prime Minister also expressed concern about the external uncertainties.


"Major regional and global developments can affect us. US-China tensions over many issues, now including Hong Kong. The US presidential elections in November. Border clashes between China and India. Political developments nearer home in Southeast Asia. We do not know what surprises may be in store for us within the next year," Lee said.

But as dangers materialise, Singapore must navigate safely through them and protect its security and national interests. This will require diplomatic skills and a deft touch.

"To overcome these challenges, we must stand completely united as one people," he urged Singaporeans. GS RUP ZH RUP RUP

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