Singapore will bring in much-needed migrant workers and ensure international talents feel welcome and are able to complement Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday.
Singapore taps labour, skilled manpower and professionals mostly from Bangladesh, China, India and the Philippines.
"We will also press on to bring in much-needed migrant workers and ensure international talents feel welcome and are able to complement Singaporeans,” the Channel News Asia reported, citing the Prime Minister's New Year message, laying out the recovery path for the Covid-19-battered economy.
Lee added that 2022 will be a "time of transition" as the economy steadily recovers and the city state reconnects with the rest of the world.
Expecting the gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 3 to 5 per cent next year, Lee said Singapore's economy “should grow in step with global economic recovery”, barring fresh disruptions.
The government is “planning ahead to achieve longer-term goals”, he added.
For instance, it will press on with industry transformation efforts to enhance existing strengths, and help companies restructure and workers upgrade their skills.
“As we brace ourselves for the impact of Omicron, we can be quietly confident that we will cope with whatever lies ahead," he said.
Lee said that the government's immediate tasks go beyond managing Covid-19, noting that Singapore must generate new growth, new jobs and prosperity in a post-pandemic economy.
Much will depend on a stable global and regional environment, and central to this are the relations between the US and China.
“The differences between the two powers remain many and deep, but their recent high-level engagements and practical cooperation on climate change are encouraging,” the channel quoted Lee as saying.
“We will continue to pursue trade liberalisation and regional integration for the benefit of our people, including through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which comes into force on the first day of 2022,” said Lee.
The 10 member country economic partnership is the world's largest trade bloc led by China with Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
For its part, Singapore will continue engaging partners “near and far”, Lee said.
Fight against Covid
However, Lee cautioned that the fight against Covid-19 is not over, as the new Omicron variant has brought new uncertainties.
Singapore reported 344 new Covid-19 cases and 158 Omicron variant infections on Friday.
“Thankfully, our position is now greatly strengthened compared to two years ago,” he said.
“We have rolled out booster jabs and started vaccinating children below 12. We have also learnt to better manage the public health challenges while minimising the hit on our economy.
“As we brace ourselves for the impact of Omicron, we can be quietly confident that we will cope with whatever lies ahead.” Meanwhile, Singapore will ease Covid-19 measures for travellers outside the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) arrangement.
From 11.59 pm on January 7, 2022, non-VTL travellers from category 2 to 4 (rated as coronavirus risk) countries will no longer need to take on-arrival Covid-19 tests, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday.
Travellers from category 2 and 3 countries are required to serve stay-home notice at home for seven and 10 days respectively. Those from category 4 countries need to serve 10 days at a dedicated facility.
The earlier requirement for on-arrival tests "was to pick up the Omicron cases early, as the variant was new, and we wanted to learn more about it", said MOH in a press release.
"As we have gathered more information on the Omicron variant, we have further assessed that OATs (on-arrival tests) for non-VTL travellers ... are no longer required," the Channel quoted MOH.
The travellers will have to test negative on a PCR test at the end of their notice period, "further reducing the risk of onward transmission", said the ministry.
VTL travellers will continue to be required to take Covid-19 tests up till day seven of their arrival. This enhanced measure will be extended by four weeks from its initial cut-off date of Jan 2 until Jan 30.
As of Thursday, Singapore has detected 912 imported Omicron cases, 685 of whom were detected through the enhanced testing regime for VTL travellers.
"The enhancement has proven effective in detecting imported Omicron cases amongst VTL travellers and reducing onward transmission," said MOH.
"As the global situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures in tandem with our roadmap to becoming a Covid-resilient nation," it added.
On Friday, Singapore reported 344 new Covid-19 cases, of which 172 infections were imported or those arriving here.
Separately, MOH's website also showed that 158 new Omicron variant infections were confirmed on Friday, comprising 124 imported cases and 34 local cases.