Meeting between Minister Gan (MTI) and Foreign chambers

Author: Monica Portillo

Last week, NZ Chamber President Nicholas Lee joined with Minister Gan Kim Yong and representatives from over 20 foreign chambers in a closed-room dialogue organised by the Singapore Business Federation.   The dialogue was open and constructive.  Alongside the other foreign Chambers, the NZ Chamber thanked the Singaporean government for keeping us all safe and well during the pandemic, and expressed appreciation for the excellent roll-out of the vaccination programme, where Singapore was quick to secure supplies of ahead of other nations.  Many NZ Chamber members have already been partially or fully vaccinated, ahead of friends and family back home in Aotearoa.

Common challenges and opportunities emerged across the foreign Chambers.  Most frequently highlighted amongst the Chambers was the topic of re-opening of borders for Employment Pass holders: for bringing in much needed foreign talent for high-growth areas of the economy where there are shortages in the local economy; for essential business travel; and for families separated from loved ones for more than 2 years, oftentimes with critical family health issues.  Minister Gan reassured participants that the Singaporean government is working hard to create the framework for re-opening borders, fundamental to Singapore’s continued role as an open and trusted hub in the global economy.  Primary to this re-opening is achieving a significant vaccination level amongst the general population, which current models forecast will be in place by September/October.   Minister Gan shared that Singapore has made good progress in vaccination efforts, and that the government was exploring ways to live with the virus in the short to medium term, while enabling most activities to resume in a safe and sustainable manner, including air travel.  This would also involve creating awareness, support and acceptance in the general population that we need to become used to Covid-19 being in our midst: like all other pandemic diseases, it will transition to an endemic status, part of the general move towards the new normal.  Significant vaccination rates in the population, while never being able to guarantee 100% immunity, would provide high levels of protection from the worst consequences of Covid-19.  Alongside this, the Singaporean government was working intensively with foreign governments on the concept of a mutually recognized digital vaccination document: a further critical enabler towards normalization of international business and personal travel.

In closing, Minister Gan reassured them that Singapore is fully aware of the importance of remaining an open and connected hub for global businesses and talent, and we will continue to do so. He also underscored the importance of fair employment practices as well as the role played by tripartite partners.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) would continue to work closely with SBF and our foreign business chambers to foster trust in our system, overcome challenges, and uphold Singapore’s reputation as a trusted hub for business and investments.