Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Post-Covid-19 world will be ‘dangerous, disrupted and divided’: Vivian Balakrishnan

SINGAPORE — The world after Covid-19 will be "dangerous, disrupted and divided", Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said. And a small country such as Singapore needs a “rules-based multilateral order” in which countries big and small interact as equals and their voices are taken into account.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (pictured) said that foreign service officers here have to adapt to a new normal by first remembering that they are to serve Singapore and all Singaporeans.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (pictured) said that foreign service officers here have to adapt to a new normal by first remembering that they are to serve Singapore and all Singaporeans.

  • Tensions, threats and disruptions will continue to loom large even after Covid-19 crisis is over
  • Small countries such as Singapore need stable, reliable and trustworthy friends who interact as equals
  • Singapore and its foreign service officers must learn how to adapt to this new normal

 

SINGAPORE — The world after Covid-19 will be "dangerous, disrupted and divided", Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said. And a small country such as Singapore needs a “rules-based multilateral order” in which countries big and small interact as equals and their voices are taken into account.

Speaking at his ministry's town hall on Monday (June 22), Dr Balakrishnan listed four reasons why there are still hurdles even after the crisis is over:

  • Transnational threats such as climate change retain their potency

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened longstanding problems with the global economy

  • The rivalry between superpowers United States and China has sharpened

  • Existing regional tensions can ignite quickly and unexpectedly

TRANSNATIONAL THREATS

Aside from climate change, long-term threats including terrorism and cyber attacks are still as potent as before the pandemic struck, Dr Balakrishnan said.

In a transcript of his speech provided to the media by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), he also said that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected 8.9 million people and killed close to 470,000 globally, "may not have been the big one". 

"There have been other pandemics in human history with far higher mortality rates. We may still see another with greater potency."

PROBLEMS IN GLOBAL ECONOMY

An explosion of global debt, the pushback against globalisation and free trade, as well as rising inequality are some of the fundamental problems in the global economy that have been exacerbated due to the Covid-19 crisis, Dr Balakrishnan said.

Supply chains are expected to be shorter and more fragmented as the global economy reopens. Governments are starting to develop new supply chains, giving priority to resilience instead of efficiency. 

This shift would have obvious implications for business hubs such as Singapore, which has thrived on open trade links.

At the same time, as businesses and individuals digitalise in response to lockdowns, this has emphasised the disparities in terms of digital access, he said. 

"It’s worth remembering that ‘work from home’ also means ‘work from any country’, and this means there will be greater competition for everyone, everywhere," he added. 

SUPERPOWER RIVALRY

Domestic politics as well as the impact of Covid-19 would mean that the US and China will less likely accommodate each other.

Dr Balakrishnan said he hopes that a "'hot conflict" will not erupt, but the risk of miscalculation has gone up now that both countries are less trustful and less interdependent on each other. 

"Even without overt conflict, the world is likely to be less stable and less prosperous," he added.

"For now, US-China rivalry in trade, cybersecurity, or technology will sharpen. And we can probably expect hard or harsh words from time to time, especially if they touch on sensitive domestic issues, or issues that China considers as its core interests like Hong Kong or Taiwan." 

REGIONAL TENSIONS

Existing regional tensions can ignite quickly and unexpectedly, such as the recent border dispute between India and China at the Galwan Valley, Dr Balakrishnan said. 

Closer to home, disputes on territorial claims and maritime rights over the South China Sea have erupted between member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

HOW TO RESPOND TO THESE PROBLEMS

Dr Balakrishnan said that foreign service officers here have to adapt to this new normal by first remembering that they are to serve Singapore and all Singaporeans. 

MFA’s staff members have embarked on its largest consular operation in Singapore's history to bring overseas Singaporeans back home because of Covid-19.

"When countries imposed lockdowns, when universities closed, and when airlines began to cancel flights, we had to work with foreign governments, airlines and colleagues in other ministries to bring our Singaporeans home," he said. 

Small countries such as Singapore need stable, reliable and trustworthy friends who interact as equals, he said. 

And these networks have helped Singapore cope with Covid-19 — Asean countries came together to exchange information and best practices, and others further afield have agreed to keep supply lines open.

"The alternative is a world where everyone acts only in their own interest, hurling accusations and putting up barriers, each scrambling to secure their share. It would be a world where the only law is the law of the jungle," he said.

Foreign service officers also need to strengthen Singapore's resilience in the new normal by diversifying sources abroad while domestic production is expanded. 

"Underpinning all of this, we need a flexible, resilient and responsive foreign service to carry Singapore forward in the new normal," he said.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus Vivian Balakrishnan foreign affairs ASEAN MFA

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.