From a global perspective, the Singapore Government’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic is indeed commendable. However, if anything is lacking in said approach, it is its lack of consideration for the will of the citizens by whom it is elected.
Ultimately, the Government’s approach thus far appears to be reactionary to developments which could have been averted had it paid attention to ground sentiments and gotten its priorities right.
In early 2020, the Government ignored calls to bar incoming travel from China despite growing calls from citizens to do so. By the time this ban was actually put in place, Chinese tourists and travellers had already seeded the disease then known as “Wuhan pneumonia” within our community.
This lack of decisiveness was repeated in 2021 when the Government ignored calls from citizens to ban incoming travel from India altogether until it was too late. By the time this ban was announced, cases involving the highly contagious strain of the virus were already being discovered at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
These events show two things: Firstly, the Government has indeed lost the foresight characteristic of past administrations; and secondly, the Government has failed to represent the voices of the citizens who have elected it to power.
While it is trite that popular voices are not always correct, in this instance, not only had the Government ignored the voices of its citizens, it had also failed to ensure appropriate safeguards in taking contrary routes. In doing so, the Government has recklessly endangered the interests of its citizens.
While Minister Lawrence Wong put up a commendable defence of the Government’s initial inaction on travel from India, it is respectfully submitted that the reasons he cited disclose wrongful priorities.
Any reasonable Singaporean would choose delays or increased prices of their HDB flats over the importation of highly contagious strains of the virus to our shores. As such, the Government has indeed gotten its priorities upside down.
What does all this tell us?
It shows that the current measures, and the ones that have prevailed since early 2020 are simply reactions to crises which could have been averted had the Government been more aware and consideration of the voices on the ground.
In conclusion, there are two takeaway lessons for the Government:
Firstly, it must cease the prevailing attitude that it lords over us citizens. While this attitude may have been justified in past administrations, the administration of the day has clearly lost the legitimacy needed to maintain this position.
Following from this, the Government should take the voices of its citizens more seriously; we have not become more educated only to be treated as imbeciles by the very Government we elected (or at least, the majority of us).
Secondly, the Government should give credit and honour the sacrifices of its citizens in putting up and cooperating with the restrictions that have been promulgated thus far. This is because at the end of the day, the ones who are most effected by these measures are us citizens. We have cooperated to facilitate successfully containing Covid-19, but ultimately, it should not be forgotten that all this pain could have been averted with greater diligence.
While this discussion has been largely retrospective, it provides important lessons for the Government of the day, and for future administrations. It is hoped that these lessons do not fall on deaf ears, lest we citizens have to pick up our Government’s slack again.