The escalation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may affect the timing of the next General Election (GE), said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wed (11 Mar).
Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, told SPH reporters at a roundtable discussion organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times that the outbreak, with its colossal impact on Singapore’s domestic economy as well as the global economy, will pose hurdles in determining when the next GE will be held.
“If you have big challenges ahead, then surely you want to be able to spend time on these challenges. Therefore the key question is, will the challenges be greater now or will the challenges be greater a year from now? … It depends on our assessment of the situation,” he said.
Mr Heng revealed that he is currently discussing the matter with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
His statement was made in response to questions regarding when the next GE will be held.
The next GE must be held by April next year.
Experts, however, predict that the COVID-19 outbreak will likely remain until at least the end of this year.
Thus, the Government’s priority at the moment is to contain the outbreak and its repercussions on Singapore’s economy, said Mr Heng.
“It’s important that we have all the management attention to deal with this, and I’m afraid the management attention we need to deal with this will get more challenged in the months ahead because the situation is so fluid, so dynamic.
“We need to be able to respond as fully as we can as a country and as a people to this very major uncertainty to our lives as well as our livelihood because we don’t know how the global economy is going to pan out,” said Mr Heng.
When asked if Singapore would proceed with holding an election regardless of the progress of the outbreak, Mr Heng said: “We are looking at all possibilities … We need to respect our Constitution and make sure that election rules are properly followed.”
“But if there’s a need for us to adopt measures to achieve the same objective, then we’ll have to look at the appropriate measures that will allow our people to express their views [and] cast their votes,” he added.