SINGAPORE: Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung has warned that Singapore cannot take for granted that it will remain an aviation hub even when the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Mr Ong was speaking to reporters on Thursday (Jul 30) after attending a ceremony at the Causeway to mark the official resumption of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project.
Addressing the media for the first time since he was sworn in as Singapore’s new Transport Minister, Mr Ong said the Government’s top priority now was to revive Singapore’s aviation sector which has been decimated by COVID-19.
“I think in the coming weeks and coming months, our top priority is really what steps can we take to revive our aviation hub. MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), MOT (Ministry of Transport) and various ministries are working together.
"We are working on negotiating reciprocal green lanes with various countries who have managed to bring down their transmission,” said Mr Ong.
“So I think going forward, let’s hope more countries are able to do it. You can negotiate more reciprocal green lanes, but if you can do more (and) go beyond that, you should really consider that,” he added.
“Because don't take for granted that when COVID-19 is over, we will still remain as the aviation hub. Others will be vying for it. It's not something we take for granted. It’s something we fought for, and we’ve secured.
"Now COVID has wiped out and decimated the sector. Once again, we need to be able to fight back and secure and revive our aviation sector while being able to keep (COVID-19) transmission level low and maintaining the health of Singaporeans,” said Mr Ong.
Mr Ong noted that Singapore’s overall unemployment rate in the second quarter has risen to its highest level in the last decade, and key to bring back jobs is for Singapore to maintain its status as a sea and air hub.
“This is a top priority for MOT in the coming weeks, months and the next couple of years - particularly two hubs, the seaport and Changi Airport.
"They are like vital organs to the Singapore economic body, almost like our lungs … taking oxygen … oxygenate and vitalise various parts of the body. And that is the role of our seaport and airport. It adds vitality and competitiveness to all sectors,” said Mr Ong.
He noted that COVID-19 has affected both sectors but that the impact on Singapore’s seaport activity is “not too drastic”.
“I expect this year (port operator) PSA to still do quite well but on the airport side because it has to do with people to people connection, COVID has decimated the entire aviation sector,” said Mr Ong.
Another reason for Singapore to maintain its hub status on both the sea and air fronts, Mr Ong explained, relates to ease of movement, a key consideration for investors.
“So you take for example, any investors, any operation that decide to set up in Singapore, a key consideration is always, do my components, intermediate goods and complete products - can they move in and out of Singapore easily? Because of our seaport.
"Another consideration - do my people, my workers, my executive, my key personnel, and they also come in and out of Singapore and connect with different parts of the world easily?” said Mr Ong.
“Can I in Singapore, be able to go out or people come in, such that I can meet my customers, my suppliers meet my partners? Sometimes even my customer can fly from, say China to Singapore without me and then we hop on to Europe,” he added.
“And Singapore as a hub enables us to do that. And that is why Singapore remains competitive,” said Mr Ong.