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Covid-19 White Paper debate: Govt's procurement in pandemic fight mostly awarded to non-Temasek firms, says DPM Wong in response to WP

SINGAPORE — Most of the Government's procurement contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic were awarded to entities not linked to state investment firm Temasek Holdings, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (March 21) in response to the opposition Workers' Party (WP).

Covid-19 White Paper debate: Govt's procurement in pandemic fight mostly awarded to non-Temasek firms, says DPM Wong in response to WP
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  • Most of the Government's procurement contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic were awarded to non-Temasek entities, DPM Lawrence Wong said 
  • He was responding to Workers' Party MP Gerald Giam's comments on state investor Temasek Holdings' role in the Covid-19 fight
  • Mr Wong said that Temasek did not draw on Singapore's past reserves for its community initiatives such as free mask distribution during the pandemic
  • Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong also spoke during the debate on a White Paper on Singapore's response to the pandemic
  • He said there were times that the Government had erred too much on the side of caution during the crisis

SINGAPORE — Most of the Government's procurement contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic were awarded to entities not linked to state investment firm Temasek Holdings, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (March 21) in response to the opposition Workers' Party (WP).

This was one way the Government tapped broader national resources. Drawing on Temasek's capabilities in the fight against Covid-19 was not a form of dependence or over-reliance on the state investment firm or the private or people sectors in general, he added.

Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, was responding to comments a day before by WP Member of Parliament (MP) Gerald Giam about the role of Temasek-linked companies during the pandemic on the second and last day of the debate in Parliament on the Covid-19 White Paper.

In a wrap-up speech, Mr Wong said that Temasek entities were involved in very specific operations, such as the setting up of the Covid-19 community care facility at the Singapore Expo in Changi.

“And that was invaluable, because it helped us get through the emergency situation with our dormitory outbreak,” he added.

A total of 12 MPs, Nominated MPs and political office-holders spoke for more than four hours at Tuesday's debate. Another 22 of them had spoken on Monday.

At the end of Tuesday's debate, Parliament endorsed the motion on Singapore's Covid-19 response with a voice vote.


On the first day of the debate, Mr Giam had asked how much Temasek Holdings and its related organisations spent on Covid-19 initiatives, such as giving away free masks and hand sanitisers. He also asked if this expenditure was considered a draw on the country’s reserves.

Noting that “almost all” of the private-sector partners the Government named in the White Paper were linked to Temasek Holdings, Mr Giam questioned if this pointed to an over-dependence on the “Temasek ecosystem” and if the Government should diversify its partners in the private sector during a crisis.

In response to Mr Giam, who is an MP for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Mr Wong gave a breakdown of the Government’s spending during the pandemic:

  • 80 per cent of the Government spending went towards beneficiaries
  • 10 per cent went towards grants for medical providers
  • 10 per cent went towards procurement contracts with third parties

On the amount spent on procurement, most of it went to non-Temasek entities such as vaccination centres and Covid-19 treatment facilities, Mr Wong said without specifying the sums.

During the pandemic, healthcare providers such as Raffles Medical Group and Parkway Shenton ran vaccination centres and Covid-19 treatment facilities. They are not linked to Temasek Holdings.

As for the money that Temasek spent for the Covid-19 fight, such as the distribution of masks and test kits, this came from a portion of its funds that the firm set aside for community initiatives.

Mr Wong said that Temasek had redirected “a significant proportion” of these community funds to support Singapore's fight against Covid-19.

“This was a decision that Temasek and its board made independently of the Government and there was no draw on (Singapore's) past reserves from such spending,” he added.

He also said that the firm's community initiatives did not detract from its aim to deliver long-term sustainable returns.

Tapping Temasek’s capabilities, and those of the broader private and people sector, was just one way the Government harnessed nationwide resources during the pandemic, Mr Wong said.

“This is not a form of dependence or over-reliance by the Government, which Mr Giam seems to suggest, but a manifestation of Singapore’s distinct and unique strength.” 

In his speech, Mr Wong also addressed concerns raised by other MPs, including that of improving public communication and caring for vulnerable communities such as migrant workers during a crisis.

On concerns over the country's healthcare capacity, Mr Wong said that the Government will need to build up its primary care, hospital capacity and vaccination capabilities.

He also acknowledged that the Government needs to do more to improve public communications, including frontline crisis management communications.

It also needs to provide better care for vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, a matter raised by several MPs over the course of the debate.

To do so, the Government will need to go beyond working with its usual corporate and tripartite partners, but also other stakeholders such as community groups and non-government organisations, Mr Wong added.


Other MPs who spoke during Tuesday's debate drew attention to Covid-19 vaccines and housing needs, for example.

Mr Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) said that the designs of one- and two-room public flats should be improved so that it is possible for residents to self-isolate in the event of another pandemic.

He said that self-isolation was “almost inconceivable” for residents in such flats during the pandemic because there were multiple dwellers sharing the same bedroom and only one toilet or bathroom. This increased residents’ risk of infection and affected their financial security.

Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC) is hoping that the Government will look into helping Singaporeans who had suffered severe reactions to the Covid-19 vaccines using messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology.

She added that some of her residents were unable to receive compensation under the Government’s Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme for various reasons given by the Ministry of Health.


Besides Mr Wong, other political officer-holders who spoke on Tuesday were Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry and the former co-chair of the Government's Covid-19 task force, as well as Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower.

Mr Gan said that there were times when the Government “erred too much on the side of caution”, causing uncertainties for businesses and workers.

He cited the example of how the authorities suspended the entry of long-term pass holders into Singapore when there was a spike in domestic infections, in order to minimise the risks of imported cases and overloading the healthcare system.

Mr Gan said that the move to do so affected Singapore’s global reputation as a hub and open economy, and strained the manpower situation of businesses here.

Touching on the coronavirus outbreak at migrant worker dormitories at the height of the pandemic, Mr Zaqy said that the Government will explore the development of facilities that can be used both during peacetime and during a crisis, such as by retrofitting suitable state properties.

One example of how the Government had done so is the Quick-Built Dormitory in Sengkang West.

The dormitory is used for new migrant workers undergoing medical examination and as a residential onboarding space when they arrive in Singapore. The centre can be quickly converted into a quarantine facility for newly arrived workers as well.

Two new migrant worker dormitories that the Ministry of Manpower will operate with the private sector will also have features that can be used during both peacetime and during a disease outbreak.

For example, these dorms will have larger recreation spaces such as sports courts, which can be converted into medical facilities, he said.

Related topics

Covid-19 White Paper Lawrence Wong Temasek Holdings

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