Last week, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing met with a group of local business leaders organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) for a “frank, closed-door discussion” on the latest developments impacting the country’s economy and society. This he explained on Facebook yesterday (17 February) following reports on the leaked 25-minute audio of the discussion.
In the recording, Mr Chan can be heard describing the panic buying as as “xia suay” or “disgraceful”, adding that he was “ashamed” by these people who gave into panic and rush to stockpile essential items due to fear of the outbreak, calling them idiots.
On his Facebook post, Mr Chan explained that the leaders had many questions on the evolving Covid-19 situation, with some raising concerns on how the government is handling the situation while others worried about the declining rate of visitor arrivals and the spate of panic buying.
Mr Chan said that the business leaders were looking for assurances from the government that it would provide support to them in this challenging time. These leaders were also interested in the government’s assessment of how other nations are dealing with the virus outbreak.
They also wanted to know how they could strengthen local defences, both physically and psychologically, in dealing with the outbreak, the fallout, and the future once the situation has been stabilised.
Mr Chan explained that he “provided a frank assessment to the business leaders”.
He added, “Many of them have attended my closed-door dialogues and they know that I do not mince my words when presenting hard truths and trade-offs.”
He said she shared frankly the challenges, difficult decisions and trade-offs because he sees them as part of “Team Singapore” and ”recognise the role they play” in supporting the country’s continued survival and success.
Mr Chan added, “In order for us to continue to take difficult decisions together, it is critical that we have a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities that we face.”
In his post, Mr Chan said that members in attendance expressed their appreciation for the frank discussion and felt that dialogues like these are useful in helping them understand the issues at hand.
“Such dialogues are important in helping us build trust and awareness within the community,” said Mr Chan, adding that he hopes to always be able to have these “sometimes difficult but frank” discussions.
“Trust and confidentiality will be critical in sharing such sensitive matters in closed-door sessions,” said the minister.
“Hearsay taken out of context will be unhelpful to trust-building and collective actions in these difficult times.”
Panic buying has long term implications on the country’s global standing
In an article yesterday, TOC reported on Mr Chan’s dialogue session with the business leaders during which he said that the behaviour of panic buying and hoarding essential items by people in Singapore “has long term implications” on the country’s international standing.
Describing the entire thing as “xia suay” or “disgraceful”, Mr Chan said, “We embarrass ourselves, disgraceful, we disgrace ourselves.”
Mr Chan added that he was “ashamed” at the behaviour of some Singaporeans—calling them idiots—who were stocking up on so-called essential items in fear that the country would run out due to supply chains being affected by the global outbreak.
He pointed out that even a small group of people in Singapore panicking and behaving in this way could severely affect international confidence in Singapore, which in turn would “kill our current price negotiation strategy, it will kill our future business opportunity.”
Advises business leaders to not lay off employees
During the session, Mr Chan also advised his grassroots leaders to not sack their workers during this difficult time of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Mr Chan said: “When you have spare capacity now, can you’ll don’t sack the workers immediately. Take the Government’s help to train the workers, use some chance to help the workers to stay around for a while, so you prepare for the next phase.”
He added, “If you let go of the workers immediately, then we are all in trouble again.”
However, upon hearing Mr Chan’s point, a member of the audience raised a question to the Minister.
She said that although she agrees with what Mr Chan said on training her employees during this difficult time, she was given different advice by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) which had recommended that she should lay off her employees if she can’t retain them.
“I don’t want to sack my staff but MOM is asking me to sack my staff,” she said while in tears.
As a reply for this, Mr Chan said that people have to change their business model and diversify it.
“If you don’t change it and if you don’t diversify, even if we help you this time, we cannot help you the next time. We will make sure we help you, but you have to help yourself,” he expressed.
Elaborating further, Mr Chan said that businesses have to learn the “lesson about diversification” fast as it “affects you, it affects me [and] it affects all of us”.