Singapore PM readies ground for general election amid Covid-19 pandemic

File photo of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Reuters
At a time when the world is taking guard against a fresh streak of cases, Singapore has stood out as one to have made significant strides in the battle against coronavirus.

In a televised address to the island nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien-Loong called the general election, saying he has “advised President Halimah Yacob to dissolve Parliament and issue the Writ of Election”.

With the present government’s term nearing its end, the PM’s move holds much significance, given it comes amid the pandemic. In addition, it holds lessons for other nations that have struggled to keep the outbreak in check.

Describing the election to be “like no other”, PM Lee stated that following the detection of the first case in January, the country took decisive steps, the most significant being the two-month ‘Circuit Breaker’. Further, the government took extra steps for the most affected section--migrant workers living in dormitories.

With four budgets passed, resulting in  infusion of SG$100 billion, the government ensured the impact on livelihoods and businesses was largely under control.

Despite the words of encouragement, the PM provided a reality check, saying that the battle has not been won yet. He warned of more job losses and closure of businesses ahead. Further, he noted that external developments, such as the US-China trade tensions, the border conflict between India and China, the upcoming US Presidential polls, and political developments in neighbouring South-East Asia, were uncertainties that could have an impact on the economy.

In calling for an election citing the need to have a stable government — with a fresh 5-year mandate — that could guide the country in tiding these challenges, the PM has made a bold statement.

At the same time, the assurance of “people can vote safely, and political parties can campaign effectively” — with voters to be allotted specific times and seniors to be given priority — shows decisive leadership and a healthy political climate, even during a phase of uncertainty.

With a fatality count of 26 and just one case in the ICU, it would be fair to say that the country has set an example. During the tough times, the government drew from its reserves to support workers and households.

This is in sharp contrast to India, where the Centre and many states have been at odds over lifting of the lockdown and stimulus packages announced. Treatment of migrant workers, too, has been quite different.

With the poll bugle being sounded in Bihar, Covid-19 seems to have become a ‘way of life’, more by compulsion rather than choice, according to political analysts.

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