Singapore’s Ruling Party Pledges to Overcome Virus in Manifesto

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Singapore’s ruling party released an election manifesto that focused on tiding the city-state over the crisis stemming from the global coronavirus pandemic.

In a normal election, the manifesto would concentrate on long-term plans for Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is the People’s Action Party secretary-general, said in a speech streamed online on Saturday. But given the pandemic, the “central focus” of the policy platform is “how we will work together to overcome this crisis of a generation,” he said.

“Right now, keeping Singapore going, flying straight and level through turbulent weather is the most challenging and urgent priority for the government,” Lee said. Challenges include keeping people employed and preventing the virus from overwhelming the health-care system, and to “restart and transform the economy, save jobs and businesses, and re-skill workers for new jobs,” he said.

The trade-dependent island was already suffering from the effects of the U.S.-China trade war when the coronavirus hit, and the economy may contract as much as 7% this year. Nationwide isolation measures compounded the damage as officials tried to stem the spread of the contagion that mainly occurred in packed dormitories housing migrant workers. Covid-19 has infected more than 40,000 people across the island of 5.7 million people.

The PAP has been in power since independence and is expected to remain so in the election set for July 10. Lee has made clear his intention to step aside by the time he turns 70 in February 2022. The man tipped to succeed him, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, will navigate a very different future from the one he had been groomed to inherit.

The PAP introduced 27 new candidates for the general election, which Lee said is more than any previous poll.

Some of its veterans are also retiring. Goh Chok Tong, who was Singapore’s second prime minister for nearly 14 years until 2004, is stepping down as a parliamentarian, while Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who has grappled with issues from train breakdowns to expanding the city-state’s infrastructure, also announced he won’t be contesting again.

During his speech, Lee also warned his party that the election would be tough amid the economic contraction. Lee Hsien Yang, the premier’s estranged brother, has joined the opposition Progress Singapore Party but hasn’t said if he would contest.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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