SINGAPORE: A “global effort” is needed to tackle the growing economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, in addition to coordinating public health measures, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (Mar 17).
Noting that countries around the world have been "realising the seriousness of the situation" and more are actively pursuing containment and mitigation measures, Mr Wong said: “Doing all that unfortunately means there will be more economic impact. Because the stringent measures that are needed to save lives and to flatten the epidemic curve will lead to more economic impact.
"And the actions that you talk about at the global level goes beyond public health coordination now. There is also a need for economic coordination in terms of monetary and fiscal policies.
"Because we do need to ensure that while we address the public health emergency, attention and global effort is also needed to tackle a growing economic crisis."
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Mr Wong noted that the G7 and G20 leaders have met to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors had met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in February, he added.
“This was still at the early stage, at that time the epidemic had not broken out in such a major way in Europe and America. There continues to be close communication since then at the G20 level, but more importantly at the G7, where the major economies have been discussing,” said Mr Wong.
“This is a twin emergency. It is a public health emergency, it is also an economic emergency, an economic crisis,” he added.
“It is a crisis where I think for perhaps the first time in modern history where you have an economic crisis where supply chains are disrupted in a very significant way and where travel, international travel, is grinding to a halt.”
Stressing that all major economies are “concerned”, and that some countries have already made changes to monetary policies, Mr Wong said: “We do what we can for Singapore.
“But if you talk about the global economy, then you do need the major economies with policy space on both the fiscal and monetary front to do something promptly."
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong also highlighted that the measures implemented in Singapore are affected by the actions taken by other countries.
"A significant number of our cases are actually imported cases. Therefore it’s important to us to work with countries around us as well as beyond, to best manage the infection and spread within each country, so as to minimise the risk that we’ll have imported cases.”
On Tuesday, Singapore reported 23 new COVID-19 cases, of which 17 were imported cases.
As of Sunday, 90 per cent of the imported cases were Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who had returned to Singapore from overseas, the Ministry of Health had said.
Mr Gan noted that a few weeks ago, ASEAN foreign ministers met to discuss the possibility of coordinating COVID-19 efforts. This continues to be in progress, with several more discussions with other ASEAN ministers scheduled, he added.
“I think collaboration within ASEAN is an important effort towards regional cooperation,” said Mr Gan.
“Beyond ASEAN, we also need to look to other countries to see how we can coordinate, share experiences, exchange views and also coordinate our collective effort in battling this crisis.”