A Person Has Been Tasked With Reviewing the Government’s Response for COVID-19

Even though the end of the COVID-19 pandemic may seem slightly clearer and in sight for us, it’s clear that the Government’s job is far from complete.

For now, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, one of the co-chairs of the COVID-19 task force, announced yesterday (9 May) that former head of civil service Peter Ho will be in charge of handling the Government’s after-action review (AAR) for COVID-19.

According to Minister Wong, the AAR has already started.

He also mentioned in Parliament that the Government has split the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic into two parts according to the time frames.

What the AAR is Going to Cover

Currently, the AAR will be looking into the “first phase” of Singapore’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will cover the time period from when the COVID-19 pandemic started to August 2021.

During this period of time, the Government’s main aim was trying to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Thereafter, when we had vaccinated a high proportion of people in Singapore, we shifted our approach to learn to live with the virus. For now, the pandemic is still not over, but the situation has improved,” Wong noted.

He then highlighted a point that Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean brought in Parliament last year, which was that the Government would start conducting the AAR “when the situation has stabilised and we are out of the woods”.

Touching on Ho’s role in reviewing the Government’s response to the pandemic, Wong also said that Ho was given “all information with regard to the Government’s response”, which would allow him to conduct a “thorough exercise in reviewing” the Government’s actions.

Wong highlighted, “(This) is our intent. To learn thoroughly and rigorously from what we have experienced so far, in order that we can do better for the next pandemic, which will surely come.

“This was also the approach we took and when we reviewed the lessons from Sars… We put in place a Dorscon framework. We set up NCID (National Centre for Infectious Diseases). And likewise, we will learn many lessons, many useful lessons from Covid-19, particularly the first phase of the experience so far.”

How the AAR Will Benefit Singapore

As for how the AAR will help the country, Wong revealed that there will be a “wide range” of learning points from the AAR, which will in turn teach us “how we can be more resilient as a nation, how we can improve our supply chains, how we can improve our national resiliency in a broad range of areas”.

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) then raised a question regarding the COVID-19 budget.

In particular, he asked if a “more detailed assessment of how the S$100-billion Covid-19 (budget)” has been utilised would be produced during the AAR.

Responding to Leong’s question, Wong replied that the AAR will be more centred on the issues pertaining to strategic and national importance.

However, it will still consider “the whole range of issues”.

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“The question that Mr Leong asked really is more pertaining to accountability with regard to money spent, which is an important issue. But I think (it’s) a slightly different one and MOF (the Ministry of Finance) will be happy to take that up. And we do that with regard to all areas of spending, and where relevant, we will put out information on how the monies are spent,” he mentioned.

“But let the AAR focus on the more strategic and important issues that will enable us to be better prepared for the next pandemic.”

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