New economic task force kept small ‘to move nimbly’, plans to engage more Singaporeans: Desmond Lee :

SINGAPORE: A new task force looking at Singapore’s long-term economic recovery was formed with a “relatively small” membership so that it can “move nimbly” amid an unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic and keep up with changes in the global economy, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Thursday (Jun 18).

But it recognises the value of diversity and has “every intention of seeking participation, feedback and comments” beyond its 17 members, said Mr Lee, who co-chairs the Emerging Stronger Taskforce.

It will announce plans to engage more Singaporeans and stakeholders soon, he added.

Mr Lee was responding to an open letter submitted to the Government on Monday, which called for the task force to have a greater representation of women, minorities, vulnerable communities and those committed to green causes.

The letter said efforts to rebuild Singapore should include those who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Government has said it would consult multiple stakeholders during the process, a “more formal engagement of issues” is needed, the letter stated.

The letter was signed by representatives from 36 not-for-profit, social enterprises and arts groups, as well as other individuals including Nominated Members of Parliament Anthea Ong and Walter Theseira.

Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim had also raised questions about the diversity of the new task force during the debate on the Fortitude Budget in Parliament earlier this month.

Apart from not having enough female representatives, Ms Lim also highlighted a weak representation of multi-racial voices and the absence of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Emerging Stronger task force, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat two months ago, aims to look at how Singapore can stay economically resilient beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is chaired by Mr Lee and PSA International’s group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng.

Other members include 15 business leaders from across various industries such as banking, property, healthcare, technology and aviation. Of which, two are women.

In his response on Thursday, Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for National Development, said: “We have been encouraged by the many suggestions from individuals, corporates and community groups. This includes feedback for more diverse representation in the (task force).”

He noted that meetings are under way. For a start, Mr Tan and him have met the co-chairs of the six sub-committees under the Future Economic Council (FEC) to understand how each sector has been affected and to discuss plans moving forward.

These six sub-committes have diverse tripartite representation across different sectors, business segments, and stakeholders, the minister said.

There are also conversations with “a number of Singaporeans to share their COVID-19 experience and aspirations for a more caring and resilient Singapore”.

“There will not only be many more such conversations, but more opportunities for Singaporeans to come together, to make a difference to the lives of people around us,” said Mr Lee, adding that details of these plans will be announced soon.

“I encourage all Singaporeans to actively participate in these efforts to build a better Singapore for all, and for our future generations,” he said.

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