In times of need, leadership truly shines

Last weekend’s stockpiling shows us what heard mentality really means. I don’t think people actually meant ill when they went out to load-up on stock. Some wanted to help their friends and family, others truly feared that they couldn’t get enough milk for their children and some are urged by lists to go and stock-up.

It is a phenomenon, we can’t help it. This is why it is important to have leadership that is anchored in preparation, certainty and clarity. After the first wave of panic buying, Singapore’s leadership swung into action. The very first task was to re-establish supply chains so that the country does not actually fall into actual emergency. It then went full swing into communicating the message that: there is no need. After than, through FairPrice, purchases were limited to discourage any more of such behavior.

Similar immediate actions were done for masks.

In case you don’t see how important these moves were, this panic buying could quickly devolve into a situation where the rich buy up all the stock leaving none for those who cannot afford it. There could have been bank runs. There could have been looting and profiteering in black markets.

Hong Kong’s government lost control of the buying of masks and they are now in a situation where healthcare workers cannot get access to them. This is leading to a worsening situation, healthcare workers are now at risk of being infected and spreading the disease further.

On the other hand, in Singapore, we have people queuing peacefully for free masks that the government is handing out.

Today, there are thousands of opinions and articles out there: should we wear masks or not? Should we close schools or not? Is this life as normal or not? Some of these are empty opinions that are written to sell a newspaper, some of these are mischief makers who are just happy to see people suffer, not all of them mean well.

If we had a government that had to pander left and right to populist groups, lobbying groups and various other interest groups, we would be done for. Supermarkets would want to take the chance to sell as much as they can, why would they want to stop it? Students would be pushing for schools to shut. People would rather stay at home at not go to work.

This is a time when strong leadership is needed to direct the country to do things that is important for the good of all. And right now, what is important is for the country to continue operating as close to business as usual as possible and to minimise the economical impact of the virus.

After a while, the virus will go away (or who knows, it may just be added to mankind’s portfolio of diseases), but one thing is for sure: taxi drivers need to drive, restaurants need to cook, banks need to transact, our entire country needs to work to feed our families.

Whether it is serious or not, we need a strong leadership who knows how to manage the situation and to direct this country out of harms way.

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