Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to join you for this year’s Spring Reception. Let me start by wishing a very happy Lunar New Year to everyone.
Today marks the third day of the new Year of the Tiger. Tiger years typically signify times of change. Beyond our fight against Covid-19, there are uncertainties over the horizon, like economic and geopolitical challenges.
On Covid-19, we are in much better position today than two years ago, when the virus first emerged. In 2020, you would recall we had to impose a Circuit Breaker to keep everyone safe. As a result, our economy shrank by more than 5% – the worst decline since independence. Last year, we experienced the Delta wave. We went into Heightened Alert and tightened some restrictions. But we managed to weather it without having to go back to a Circuit Breaker and lock down the entire economy.
This year, we are experiencing the Omicron wave. The daily infected cases are higher than before. But fortunately, the vast majority of vaccinated persons only have mild symptoms. So, we will do our best to ride through this Omicron wave without having to tighten our existing measures. With each wave, we have strengthened our defences and become more resilient. So, I am confident that in this Year of the Tiger, we will be able to make further progress in our journey towards living with Covid-19.
In about two weeks’ time, I will be announcing the Budget for 2022. We are heartened that the Budget is taking place amidst a strong and steady recovery of the economy.
Amidst this backdrop, we know that a few sectors continue to face difficulties. For these sectors, we will provide support. We will also help Singaporeans manage concerns over more immediate issues like the cost of living.
At the same time, we have to look ahead and focus on measures that will put Singapore in a stronger position for the post-pandemic world. We will build new capabilities for the future. We will continue to grow and transform our economy, and create good jobs and opportunities for all Singaporeans. We will strengthen our social support system, to give Singaporeans greater assurance to cope with life’s uncertainties. We aim to forge a fairer, more inclusive, and a greener home for us and our future generations – so that all of us can continue to be proud to call Singapore our home.
As we welcome the new year of the tiger, let us be imbued with the bravery, courage and strength of the tiger, and unite as one people to meet the challenges ahead.
Let me continue with a few words in Mandarin.