Speech by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the South East CDC District Virtual Conference on 29 July 2020.
Mayor Fahmi Aliman
Fellow Grassroots Advisers
Corporate and Community Partners
I am glad very happy to meet all of you here today, in this virtual format, and be part of our South East District. Let me start by thanking Maliki for steering South East CDC as Mayor for the last nine years. And also to congratulate Maliki on his promotion as full Minister. Let me also warmly welcome Fahmi, who has taken over as the Mayor.
We are now in the midst of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 16 million people have been infected, and more than half a million lives have been lost. This very smart and agile virus has disrupted the global economy, and resulted in countless job losses.
But no matter how stormy the weather, in Singapore, no one will be left to walk his journey alone. We will do our utmost to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people; we will work as a community to provide extra support for the vulnerable among us; and we will remain united in the face adversity, and face the challenges ahead head-on.
We committed close to $100 billion over four Budgets to support workers and businesses, help families tide over this difficult period, and press ahead.
We rolled out a number of important schemes, such as the Job Support Scheme to help workers stay in their jobs, SIRS to help our self-employed persons, and the COVID-19 Support Grant for workers who have lost their jobs or a big part of their income. We were able to act decisively because of the reserves built up over the years. We must thank our founding generation for their foresight, for not just thinking about themselves but future generations. We too, must have that same value - so that we can create a better future not just for ourselves, but also our children.
These national-level schemes have allowed us to reach out to all Singaporeans, but some of them face more unique or urgent circumstances. Some face multiple challenges, which require different parts of society to come together and complement the national schemes.
This is where the CDC comes in, to complement national efforts, and ensure that help will always be there for those who need it. CDCs can harness and catalyse partnerships to improve the lives of people around us on a sustained basis. Importantly, as the name suggests, community development is a big part of our work so we need to build a sense of ownership and identity in the community, and develop this spirit strongly.
The CDC Vouchers Scheme is a good example of how the five CDCs worked together, with a $20 million grant from the Ministry of Finance. This is an island-wide scheme to defray the cost of living for lower-income families, and support local heartland shops and hawkers who are facing the impact of the pandemic. I have been walking around our hawker centres quite a bit. Each time I see the CDC Vouchers Scheme decal being displayed, I asked if the vouchers have been used. I am very glad to hear that families are using their vouchers, and hawkers are happy that they are supported. In South East District, the Voucher Scheme will benefit more than 40,000 households.
Another example is the COVID Support Grant @ South East, where eligible residents are offered a one-time assistance of $500. This was possible with support from the Business China network. Beyond financial support, I am most heartened by the community efforts initiated by our people in South East District.
An example is the Homemade Mask @ South East. 90 homemakers and home-based seamstresses came together to make 20,000 cloth masks, for families in South East District. During the Circuit Breaker, community groups such as Filos Community Services – one of our SG Cares Volunteer Centres – pulled together various partners to launch new digital initiatives for families, children and seniors. This includes online tuition and reading programmes for children, as well as weekly tele-befriending for vulnerable seniors in the community. These are all very meaningful activities.
COVID-19 has strengthened our sense of common purpose and brought us closer together as one society and one people. We must continue to think ahead and chart a better future for ourselves, and for our children. How do we do this? We can tap on our collective strength, ideas and energy. We have started a series of Emerging Stronger Conversations. Post-COVID, Singapore can emerge stronger. One of the things that we have started and will build on is the Singapore Together Action Networks, where we bring partners across different sectors to turn ideas into action.
Indeed, Singapore Together is a two-step process – the first step is about conversations where we understand the needs and concerns of different segments of society much better. This is what I sought to do earlier when I led Our Singapore Conversation – the idea is to build better understanding among people in our community. The second part is to turn ideas into action. It is only by taking action that we can achieve results.
My team at East Coast is also embarking on a series of East Coast Conversations. You can do likewise in your constituencies, as we seek to build a better home for all our residents.
In the same way, at South East CDC, we face difficult challenges. But there also many opportunities, especially for our young people, to work with various community stakeholders to envision our future and turn ideas into action. I am encouraged to know that South East CDC has kick-started a South East Youth Conference with 300 youths, to discuss ways to help vulnerable seniors and to facilitate community bonding.
I am also happy to announce that SECDC is launching ‘Create Change @ South East’ programme. This is a very good example of the Singapore Together effort. CDC will set aside more than $300,000 to support youths in initiating and executing projects that will benefit the South East District community.
Together, these partnerships at the national and community level will help strengthen community ties and networks in our neighbourhoods; sharpen policy-making and implementation; and build a shared future for our people, one where every Singaporean has a stake.
COVID-19 is a very serious global pandemic. It is far from over, but I am confident that if we stay united and stand in solidarity with one another, we can get through this storm together.
Let us start by building a more vibrant, caring and resilient South East community. I look forward to meeting and getting to know you better. Together, we can overcome this crisis and emerge stronger.
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