TL;DR – Don’t just look at the here and now. It’s just as, if not more, important to plan for the day after.
Just who or what is SCCCI?
Established in 1906, SCCCI stands for Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry. According to its official site,
SCCCI is an internationally renowned business organisation and the apex body of the Chinese business community in Singapore. The SCCCI has a membership network comprising some 5,000 corporate members and has more than 160 trade association members, representing over 40,000 companies including large financial and business organisations, MNCs, GLCs, SMEs from a wide spectrum of trades and industries.
Betcha SCCCI thought the $1.1 million headline would happen
Before today, the PR and Comms team over at SCCCI was probably thinking about how their $1.1 million donation collected from council members to help communities in China affected by the coronavirus outbreak would make headlines in media and grab eyeballs.
After all, this $1.1 million is no measly amount and it was collected in just four days after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced on Feb 4 that it was contributing $1 million in seed money to the Singapore Red Cross (SRC).
The leaked audio recording happened instead
But nope, what happened instead was that a secretly recorded and leaked audio file made its rounds in many chatgroups and that’s what people remember SCCCI for now.
You see, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing met a group of local business leaders last week for what was supposed to be a “frank, closed-door discussion on the latest developments impacting our economy and society.”
What are these closed-door dialogues about?
Minister Chan does such closed-door dialogues fairly often. He would meet with different groups of Singaporeans, business leaders, union leaders, grassroots leaders and yes, even the average Singaporeans like yours truly.
Yes, I’ve attended a few of such closed-door dialogues and am familiar with how Minister Chan would typically check that we’re all Singaporeans and that we understand that it’s closed-door. What this means is he’s prepared to have a no-holds-barred discussion with the attendees, provided there’s no reporting by the media, no recording and yes, no leaks.
In such dialogues, he takes on all sorts of questions and is always candid. And what I personally like is how he tries to walk us through the thinking and decision-making process in policy formulation. In many instances, I have heard him explain the situation, share the different options and why the Government decides on a certain solution.
And because such dialogues are closed-door and for Singaporeans, his candour would even extend to discussing challenges Singapore faces when dealing with different countries. Surely it is understandable that these are things that no Government would go to the press for, and these are things that no Government would go onto a public stage and share.
No need to take my word for it, just go sign up for one of his Informal Policy Dialogues. Hope he still does it after this episode.
What went down at the SCCCI closed-door dialogue
When he met with the businessmen from SCCCI last week, someone, presumably one of them in this photo that Minister Chan had put up in his Facebook post today, did not play ball.
According to Minister Chan, this was what went down at the supposedly closed-door dialogue,
I provided a frank assessment to the business leaders. Many of them have attended my closed-door dialogues and they know that I do not mince my words when presenting hard truths and trade-offs. I shared frankly our challenges, difficult decisions and trade-offs. This is because I see them as an important part of Team Singapore and recognise the role that they play in supporting Singapore’s continued survival and success. In order for us to continue to take difficult decisions together, it is critical that we have a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities that we face.
Like what Minister Chan said in his post,
“Trust and confidentiality will be critical in sharing such sensitive matters in closed-door sessions. Hearsay taken out of context will be unhelpful to trust-building and collective actions in these difficult times.”
One netizen shared his thoughts about the leak. He thought that the person who recorded it did not respect the rules of the engagement.
“It is unfair to Minister Chan, who had spoken candidly in that occasion because he thought the audience deserved the candour.”
Anyway, that audio clip was leaked and shared in many chats.
Minister Chan had spoken about the mask situation and more importantly, he touched on the important lesson from SARS, about how it is not enough to just focus on riding through the COVID-19 storm, but also to plan now what steps we should take after the storm so that we can recover stronger and quicker than everyone else.
Uniquely Singapore, we will always look and plan forward, and we will always consider two steps ahead of everyone else. While most are scrambling with the COVID-19 situation, Singapore is doing more than that. We are already thinking about the day after.
Once the storm’s over, what steps can we quickly take to revive our economy and bring everyone up to speed once again?
Since the audio recording is already leaked everywhere and more because what Minister Chan said is so important, we’ve decided to just publish the transcript of the later part of his dialogue, where he touched on the lessons from SARS, and what we should do now and after COVID-19.
And oh, the part where the Minister appealed to the business leaders not to let go of their workers, awwww…
“A lot of people are trying to get over the difficult times. 度过这个难关. But this would be very short sighted. Learn from SARS. (With) SARS everybody and every country only prepared to get past SARS.
But actually what is most important?
The most important is to position ourselves after SARS. To make sure that we recover the fastest. That’s why the global financial crisis everybody fell like a rock, then we (Singapore) went up 14.5% next year. Because while we are dealing with the current, we must make sure that we think two steps down the road.
So in the Budget, you will hear the following things: There is one part of the budget you will hear about what we do to help stabilise the situation and support the difficult challenges that you all are facing now.
But I must ask you all this favour. 不要只是看眼前。 Don’t just look at the here and now.
Take this chance to ask ourselves, when the recovery finally come, whether it is six months or nine months, how do we position your business, our economy to go out faster than the rest of the people? We must distinguish ourselves as Singapore to think of the beyond here-and-now. So there will be beyond-the-immediate-help package, there will be a package that I hope you all will seriously take advantage of, which is to position your business beyond the crisis. Then finally when the recovery comes, we can all do much better. That one you must do, that one you must plan.
And I need to ask you all to do this. When you now have got spare capacity, can you all don’t sack the workers immediately? Take the Government’s help, train the workers, use the chance to help the workers to stay around for a while, so that you prepare for the next phase. I don’t know whether it will be three months or six months. But if you let go of the workers immediately, then we are all in trouble again.”