Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. — Ecclesiastes 9:15, NIV.
Last evening, 16th March 2020, Malaysia’s prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, announced a national lockdown which will begin tomorrow, 18th March. The national lockdown was enforced as a way Malaysia is taking to curb the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As part of this measure, Malaysia will close off all houses of worship and businesses with the exception for supermarkets, public markets, convenience stores and convenience stores selling everyday necessities .
As the impact of the COVID-19 begin to hit home, concerns about daily survival become to surface. With with the enforced closure of businesses, how are businesses going to sail through the period of the lockdown? In a global capitalist state like ours, experts are beginning to raise concerns regarding how small businesses will not be able to sustain through the period of the lockdown . Not every country has social safety nets that will assure people with unemployment benefits. On top of that, people in rural places struggle with the lack of resources because urban benefits are not readily available for them.
Even if loans are available for business owners to pull through the crisis, the lack of business opportunity will cause businesses to spiral downhill. Social service sector with no consistent funding will struggle to keep community services afloat. In the worst case scenario, the lockdown will bring the entire nation’s economy to a standstill. However, we know that at the lowest point of modern history, there is still a way out.
Let’s call it, Singaporization .
In a sense, we see Singapore standing at the highest point along the way. Where the path meets, she take her stand. Beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.”
The answer to the entire saga stands right before us, but we cannot see it. The answer shouts into our ears, but we cannot hear it.
“For how long will this tedious horror go on? That depends on the quality of public action and private behaviour. If the US could Singaporize on both counts, we could be through the worst within a month.” — Luce, 2020, Financial Times .
Thing about Singaporization is this. It isn’t solely about making the city a business hub with a highly deregulated economy . Rather, it is also about providing a sustainable structure to nurture resilient individuals, strong families, and a caring society . The government does this by building social safety nets to ensure that assistance are given to its people at every stage in their lives regardless of what the country is facing.
In response to the national lockdown of Malaysia, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. Chan Chun Sing, said that Singapore has made contingency plans for a disruption of food supply and has more than three months’ worth of stockpile if Singaporeans buy responsibly .
You see, even though Singapore has a relatively high amount of cases of COVID-19, the World Economic Forum still praises Singapore for her job well done in containing COVID-19 . On the surface, Singapore’s top-notch health system, draconian tracing and containment measures, and small population, are reasons why COVID-19 may be contained with minimal panic amongst its citizens. But much more than that, the Singaporean strategy goes beyond providing tangible guidelines to operationalise the containment of the virus and into providing contingency plans for the well-being of its citizens. Take the distribution of resources from Singapore’s national stockpile to provide four masks for each household for example . On top of what was done on the day-to-day basis to contain the virus, the distribution of masks from the national stockpile was done as an act to reassure Singaporeans of Singapore’s national ability to provide for its citizens.
In a sense, Hejimans (2020) has a point. Through all the things that Singapore is doing, Singapore is trying to make a point to the world by telling it that “when all the stars are aligned, the virus may not be as uncontrollable as feared” . That meant, if the world were to turn their heads towards Singapore and to learn from how Singapore is containing the virus, maybe even allowing Singapore to participate in global meetings to contain the virus, then the fight against the virus may not appear so frightening after all.