Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) has said in his Mayday speech that the cases of COVID-19 must ease before the economy restarts.
He expounded that any relaxation of the Circuit Breaker (CB) measures would be progressive and piecemeal to ensure that the spread is under control.
This is of course the responsible thing for any government to do. The risk of easing CB measures too soon could mean another deadlier surge of the virus that could have an even greater impact on the physical and economic health of the country.
However, even as PM Lee warns that things won’t ever go back to what they were before, it is noteworthy that his government has still yet to postpone the general election which — many Singaporeans believe — is looming.
In his own words, PM Lee has said that in any reopening of the business and social life in Singapore, “places that draw crowds, such as entertainment outlets and large-scale sporting events, will have to wait.”
How then can we justify the imminent holding of any election? Elections require walkabouts and campaigning which might in turn draw crowds.
Is PM Lee suggesting that elections go ahead without the usual rallies and walkabouts? If so, will that be fair to the opposition parties who have not had as much interaction with the voters as the elected (mostly Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament (MP)? Would it not equate to an unfair advantage for the elected (mostly PAP) MPs?
PM Lee has also said that despite the government having “made significant progress”, it still had “more to do”. The corona virus has proven to be one that cannot be underestimated. With that in mind, why not just focus solely on combating it instead of having the possibility of an election in the back burner?
If things are as serious as PM Lee has admitted in his televised warning of “significant structural changes” to the economy that are likely to endure even after the virus subsides, with some industries permanently disrupted, and some jobs simply disappearing, why is his government still ostensibly planning a general election?
Surely, that can wait. Singapore has had uninterrupted PAP rule since its inception as an independent state – this is not likely to change unless there is something that voters hitherto do not know about.
With the number of COVID-19 cases still on the rise and the immediate effects of a lost of livelihood for some, Singaporeans may well prefer their government to focus on getting the country back on track before an election.
Postponing it till the number of new infections drop to zero will reinforce the government’s commitment to getting the country back on track and might be the most reassuring thing for Singaporeans at this point.