Written Statement by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders' Summit on 26 March 2020.
COVID-19 is the gravest crisis the world has faced in a century. It threatens the health of all 7.8 billion people on our planet, and its economic impact may exceed even the Great Depression. A global solution is needed. I would like to suggest three areas of collaboration.
First, on public health. Many countries, including Singapore, have taken decisive steps to contain the outbreak, by testing, tracing and quarantining suspect cases; tightening border controls; and imposing safe distancing. These measures slow down infection rates, relieve our healthcare systems, and hopefully minimise fatalities. But even if each of us succeed in eradicating the virus within our own borders, we remain at risk of importing new cases from other countries. All of us are only as strong as our weakest link. Thus, we must cooperate, share expertise and experience, and help one another.
Second, on the economic downturn. The global economy, already under pressure before COVID-19, is collapsing. Every government is doing everything possible to save businesses and jobs. At this point, it is critical that financial markets do not seize up. I am glad that our Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors are coordinating fiscal and monetary policies to prevent this.
Third, on science and research. We should bring together our scientific communities and resources to develop a cure or vaccine for COVID-19. This will shorten the crisis and save lives. COVID-19 will end eventually, but it will not be the last pandemic the world will face. We should therefore learn from our experience, and strengthen our preparedness for future pandemics, in the same way as some Asian countries had emerged stronger from our experience with SARS.
Looking further ahead, this crisis will change globalisation as we know it. What was unthinkable just two months ago, for example border restrictions in the Schengen area, is now reality. Naturally, countries will now want more safeguards against the risks of globalization, and to strengthen national capabilities to reduce dependence on others. Stronger assurances of supply chain reliability and safer human mobility will be needed. A more hard-headed, pragmatic internationalism may arise. But we should resist the urge to turn inwards and discard globalisation completely, because autarky will result in a poorer world for all. The pandemic is proof of our interdependence, not an indictment of globalisation. It highlights the need for more cooperation between countries, not less. As leaders, we must work together after the crisis to rebuild domestic confidence in the merits of a globalised world. It will not be easy to find the right balance, but this is how we can emerge from the crisis stronger and more resilient than before.
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