This pandemic sheds light on how often politicians speak with a certainty that turns out to be gibberish.
Trade and industry Minister Chan Chun Sing’s speech at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry takes the cake. Everything that he said – from mask wearing and Hong Kong politicians to panic buying – could be swallowed up in a second.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also been caught in the act. He urged Singaporeans last month to “go about our lives as normally as possible,” to visit local attractions and try staycations.
He reminded us several times that “the situation is under control” and stressed that unlike elsewhere “we are not locking down our city.”
Those words need to be swallowed hook, line and sinker.
Not to be outdone are the co-chairs of the muti-ministry task force, Ministers Lawrence Wong and Gan Kim Yong. Better not revisit what was said about the wearing of masks or the slowing of the spread of the virus without a sharp peak and without any significant impact.
Since the leadership finds the going really tough, they should do the right thing by reaching out to others beyond their orbit for help and counsel. It would require them to swallow their pride, but what’s that compared to going on a journey with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel?
Earlier this week, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin met with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to talk about the pandemic. The Prime Minister took the trouble of explaining to Anwar the steps taken by the government to address the COVID-19 outbreak. On his part, Anwar gave feedback that communication with the public needed to be more transparent and testing of the virus had to be improved.
If this can happen across the causeway, why not here?
Since the Singapore government has acknowledged in the past that it does not have a monopoly on ideas and solutions, this is the best time for the multi-ministry task force to rope in members of the opposition to chip in.
For the government, it would signal that politics must be put aside for a crisis as big as this. For Singaporeans, there’s nothing to lose.
There is another avenue for the government to reach out.
Globally, it is now widely recognised that Taiwan sets the gold standard on the pandemic response. For a country that is located so close to China, it has a very low incidence rate per capita of around 1 in every 500,000 people. As of 15 April, there were only 395 confirmed cases in a country with a population of 23.8 million.
A truly impressive set of numbers. Let’s not even begin to compare with ours — yesterday alone, we exceeded their total number of cases!
It would appear there are lessons we can learn from Taiwan. It’s certainly not too late, since we are told that things will get worse before it gets better and with new COVID-19 cases hitting record highs every other day, the time to act is now.
Is the government prepared to ask Taiwan for help in battling the crisis?
In the same way that the country endeavoured to learn from Taiwan when we experienced massive failures in our mass transit system.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan then urged SBS Transit and SMRT to emulate the Taipei metro system for its reliability and teams were sent to Taiwan to learn from their organisational structure and engineering capabilities.
Since the current crisis is testing the limits of our leadership capabilities, will the government look elsewhere for more firepower before it’s too late?