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Remarks by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Finance and Deputy Chariman, Monetary Authority of Singapore at The Milken Institute Global Conference on 19 October 2021

19 Oct 2021

Distinguished guests of the Milken Institute Global Conference,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

1. Good morning from Singapore.

2. It has been some time since we had the chance to gather together for an in-person conference like this.

3. Indeed over the past 2 years, we have seen how the virus has wreaked havoc around the world, disrupting global economic activity and upending livelihoods.

4. There is growing recognition that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will never be eradicated. But with the help of vaccines and boosters, we can learn to live with this virus, and resume normal activities where possible.

5. In a time of crisis, there’s always a tendency to turn inwards, and to seek refuge from our own tribes.

a. The pandemic has added momentum to this. 

b. Last year the scramble for essential medical supplies reinforced concerns about supply chains.

c. Supply chain bottlenecks have persisted this year and contributed to inflationary pressures.

d. More worryingly, we continue to face an uneven distribution of vaccines worldwide. This threatens to hinder the global economic recovery and could leave developing countries even further behind.  

6. How should countries respond to these trends?  

a. One way is to try to address these challenges alone – embrace nationalism and self-interest.

i. This may appeal to some segments in society, especially when they are disoriented and looking for quick-fix solutions.

ii. We have to show them that this path will only lead to a more divided and insular world; in the end we will all be worse off.

b. The alternative is not to go back to business as usual, or settle for how things were before the pandemic.  

c. Instead we should view this crisis as a spur to forge a stronger model of globalisation, grounded on better cooperation and partnership. 

i. The pandemic has shown how connected and interdependent we are; and our responses to the pandemic have also proven that we are stronger together.

ii. We see this in our public-private partnerships which have achieved tremendous breakthroughs, including the development of the vaccine.

iii. We also see this in our public health responses, which are far more effective when information is shared, and when measures are coordinated across borders.  

7. Being open and connected is embedded in Singapore’s DNA. It has enabled us to attract talent and investments, and to transform into the vibrant business and financial hub we are today.  

a. We serve not just as the gateway to Asia, but also Asia’s gateway to the world.  

b. We take this role seriously.  

c. Hence throughout this pandemic, we have kept our supply lines open; we have continued to serve the world as a global air and sea transhipment hub.

8. Now, we are forging ahead with our reopening plans. 

a. We have established our quarantine-free travel for vaccinated persons with 11 countries – two in Northern America, seven in Europe and two in Asia.

b. We are expanding this network of vaccinated travel lanes, and redoubling our efforts to strengthen our connections with the world.

9. We are charting new directions for our economy in a post-pandemic world. 

a. We are striving for net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and mobilising capital flows to support the green transition for Singapore and the region.

b. We are investing heavily in R&D and enabling a new generation of entrepreneurs to make full use of technology to solve our challenges.

c. We are facilitating enterprise finance, by connecting  startups with family offices and foundations; and we’re promoting the use of Singapore as a hub for philanthropic giving in the region.  

10. That’s why the theme of this year’s conference, “Charting a New Course” resonates strongly with us.  

11. The pandemic has exposed the frailties of our existing global system. But it has shown us that we can change our ways; and created the possibilities for change and reform. 

a. It’s up to us to seize this opportunity or squander it.
b. As owners and stewards of capital, we have the power to create positive impact through our investments.

c. Let’s all do our part to reset our aspirations and chart a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable path for humanity.