SINGAPORE – The introduction of Covid-19 vaccines in Singapore will help the economy recover – but not bring it back to what it was before the pandemic, the country’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Thursday.
“I think we should be talking about a new normal. So yes there will be a rebound in 2021. The question is to what extent that rebound will happen. But it will be a fallacy, it will be very dangerous to assume that we there are.” I’ll be back to work as usual, “Balakrishnan told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia.
“We all need to focus on economic restructuring,” he said, explaining that technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics will transform jobs and economies around the world.
Singapore expects the first shipment of Pfon and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine this month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Monday. The government has allocated more than $ 1 billion Singapore dollars ($ 752.9 million) to purchase various Covid vaccines and plans to have enough shots for everyone in the country by the third quarter of 2021, Lee said.
So yes, there will be a recovery in 2021. The question is to what extent this recovery will occur. But it will be a fallacy, it will be very dangerous to assume that we will work as usual again.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister
The Prime Minister also said the vaccines will be free for all long-term residents regardless of nationality. Admission will be voluntary, and government ministers will be vaccinated early to show that the vaccines are safe, Lee added.
Balakrishnan told CNBC that the government has decided to make Covid vaccines free so “cost is not a factor in people’s decision-making” about whether to fire the shots. Singapore has no target for the percentage of the population to be vaccinated, he added.
“We don’t have a specific destination at this point,” he said. “So let’s see how it goes, personally I would hope we have a slow, gradual, and progressive start to this program.”
Green shoots in 2021
Singapore, an open and trade-dependent economy, has been hit hard by global uncertainties resulting from the pandemic and decreased activity during a partial lockdown to contain Covid-19.
In addition to the pandemic, the uncertainties that weighed on the global economic outlook last year also include the intensification of tensions between the US and China, the US presidential elections and the future relationship between the UK and the European Union after leaving the bloc in January.
Balakrishnan was optimistic as he discussed the outlook for the external environment in 2021.
The minister said he hoped the future government of Biden would take an “open, consultative, moderative and more collegial approach” to foreign policy. He is also confident that the US could solve its domestic political problems to play a leading role on the world stage and in Southeast Asia.
Britain could also focus on Southeast Asia and the wider Asian region, said the minister. The UK signed a trade deal with Singapore last week after signing an agreement with Japan in October as it adapted to its exit from the EU.
“My point is that these are green shoots,” said Balakrishnan. “Provided nothing unusual happens in the next few months, we can look forward with optimism to a world that is slowly but surely recovering from Covid.”