Speech by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance
Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the IMF
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam
at the Launch of the Corporate Citizen Foundation
Friday, 31 October 2014, 6.35pm
Mr Charles Quek, CEO of HSL Constructor
Mr Lim Choo Leng, Chairman of the Corporate Citizen Foundation
Mr Said Faizal, Executive Director of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre)
Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to join you this evening at the launch of the Corporate Citizen Foundation (CCF), which has been set up with the aim of:
- Improving the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities in the region; and
- Contributing to local and regional efforts in responding to and coping with natural disasters.
Both these areas are very meaningful endeavours.
Singapore’s role in regional disaster management
Southeast Asia is one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world. Many of us will remember the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, which claimed the lives of more than a quarter million people in Indonesia and Thailand, as well as India and Sri Lanka. Just last year, Typhoon Haiyan saw more than 6,000 lives lost in the Philippines, and over 4 million people displaced.
Our hearts go out to the communities affected by these disasters. In the Philippine city of Tacloban, people are still picking up their lives a year after Typhoon Haiyan.
As individual countries and as a region, we have made significant efforts to strengthen our resilience in anticipating, managing and recovering back from disasters. For example:
- Indonesia and Thailand have established sophisticated tsunami early warning systems.
- The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) was launched in 2011, to coordinate emergency response across ASEAN countries.
- In Singapore, we are hosting the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre (RHCC), to facilitate military-to-military coordination in disaster response.
However, there is still much we can do, to improve our individual and collective disaster response capacities: to raise our understanding of the physical and earth sciences that enable us to anticipate natural calamities, to harness the skills and resources available in our enterprises and people, and to educate and strengthen the preparedness of local communities.
Singapore is a small country, but we seek to make a useful contribution to these international efforts – knowledge and expertise in niche areas, as well as the logistics links and networks to facilitate the swift movement of aid workers and supplies into disaster areas. Speed of response makes a crucial difference. Because the first 48 to 72 hours is the crucial period for the search and rescue of survivors. It is also the period where humanitarian assistance is most needed.
Companies can play an active and important role
Beyond governments and NGOs, corporations can make important contributions in disaster response. Our corporate sector has been and still is an important source of donations. But our companies are also increasingly a source of specialised resources and skills, organisational capacity and rich contacts.
I am therefore heartened that HSL and your partnering companies are stepping up, with the launch of CCF today.
A key plank of CCF is Swift Emergency Evaluation Deployment (or SEED in short).
- A major challenge during disasters is the lack of early and accurate information about what is exactly happening on the ground – what is the scale of the devastation and the needs of survivors.
- Access to affected areas is often hampered. Commercial flights may be suspended, roads flooded or destroyed, and jetties damaged.
- Skilled personnel who are able to do a proper ground assessment may also be unavailable.
SEED seeks to help fill this gap by contributing to the resources and expertise needed to go into the disaster zone quickly and provide a first-hand assessment of the situation to guide the response of incoming relief teams. In other words, “bridging the first mile”.
CCF pulls together a good team of companies with complementary strengths and resources to play this role.
- Pacific Flight Services (a subsidiary of ST Aerospace), which has the planes for gaining access to disaster zones.
- HSL Constructor and Thomson Medical, which can provide engineering and medical personnel.
- Golden Season, which provides portable water purification systems.
- And MediaCorp, which has the capabilities to report and broadcast the situation to the rest of the world.
CCF is also engaging various governments and organisations to build the local and regional networks and partnerships that would facilitate its disaster response work.
Disasters are a fact of life in the region, like they are globally. Our hope, of course, is that CCF’s SEED initiative does not need to be activated too often, and that it will have a lot of time in between any disasters – enabling it to deploy resources to other good purposes. So in its “idle” time, another key plank of CCF is its livelihood programme for disadvantaged communities, which will focus on education and skills training.
The launch of CCF today is also a milestone for HSL Constructor. It marks the evolution in HSL’s corporate giving, from contributing monetary donations to an active form of giving – by providing not only funds and resources but also leadership in establishing CCF.
Before closing, I would like to congratulate HSL, and its partnering companies on the launch of CCF. And also my best wishes to HSL management and staff on your 20th anniversary!