SINGAPORE: Singapore must stay focused on containing COVID-19 and provide health assurances that it can host the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting safely next year, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday (Dec 9).
The WEF's Special Annual Meeting, which is usually held in the Swiss city of Davos, will take place in Singapore from May 13 to May 16.
"After careful consideration, and in light of the current situation with regards to COVID-19 cases, it was decided that Singapore was best placed to hold the meeting," the WEF said on Monday in explaining the change in location.
While the move by the WEF reflects its confidence in Singapore's management of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Chan said the country should not be complacent.
“We are at this point in time, stepping up to bat. It's like a baseball game, we are stepping up to bat. We have not scored the home run yet, we will get the home run after May when we stay focused and get the job done well,” he said.
“And to get the job done well, we must make sure that we contain the virus, manage the numbers to the lowest possible to give assurance to ourselves and to give assurance to the guests that will be coming. So this is over and above our previous competitive advantages in being a safe, efficient place to do so."
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of his visit to the Siemens Advance Manufacturing Transformation Center, Mr Chan said there are three levels of assurance that Singapore needs to achieve.
This includes assuring Singaporeans that the meeting can be held safely with visitors entering the country. Participants should also be assured that people from different countries can interact safely, he added.
"Then there's a third level of assurance that we must provide our participants that after attending this meeting before they go onward, or back to their own countries or to other places, they are given a clean bill of health, so that there will be no misunderstanding that anyone has contracted the virus in Singapore, while they were here," said Mr Chan.
He noted that Singapore will have a competitive edge if it can host the event successfully. Unlike other countries that are able to tap a large domestic market to support the MICE industry, it is not the case for Singapore, he explained.
“Our orientation is always the large international markets, which is why we have come up with health protocols that can allow us to safely allow people from different countries to come and meet in Singapore,” said Mr Chan.
In the meantime, Singapore is in talks with the WEF on logistical details that need to be worked out.
“They have seen the options that Singapore can provide. And now they are making their own internal decisions on how they want to conceptualise the thing ... and we'll be working with them to execute this,” Mr Chan said.
It would be the first time that the WEF is holding its meeting in Asia since its inception in 1971, and the second time it is doing so outside of Switzerland. The first was in 2002 when it was held in New York as a show of solidarity with the United States following the 9/11 terror attacks.