When Covid-19 struck early final yr, international locations rushed to shut their borders, proscribing motion inside and out of doors their jurisdictions, in a bid to cease the unfold of the coronavirus .

It affected not solely the motion of individuals, but in addition the motion of products world wide.

Fears of shortages have arisen. Scenes of anxious crowds in supermarkets – from Singapore to Hong Kong and Australia – dashing to inventory fundamental requirements similar to eggs and bathroom paper, have flooded social media.

The shifts in pondering which are occurring amongst authorities and enterprise choice makers are a lot much less seen. They’ve stepped up their efforts to strengthen the resilience of their provide chains.

Whereas governments frightened concerning the provide of necessities similar to meals and medical tools, firms have been involved concerning the provide of constructing and manufacturing supplies and completed shopper items.

Centuries of world commerce, which Singapore has loved since its beginnings as a port metropolis, meant that earlier than Covid-19, many provide chains for merchandise starting from meat to smartphones unfold throughout the globe. .

Apple, for instance, manufactures its iPhones in China, the place labor prices are decrease than in america, its largest market.

The end result: lengthy provide chains stretching from manufacturing facilities to markets, all linked by a world community of transport routes and ports through which Singapore performs a number one position as a serious transshipment hub. .

However how are these international provide chains evolving amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the availability shocks it has induced? And what are the implications for Singapore?

Masks and eggs

In January final yr, because the coronavirus was simply beginning to wreak havoc world wide, Taiwanese authorities imposed a month-long shutdown on exports of medical-grade face masks.

The choice to make sure Taiwan itself had enough provides got here as infections started to rise in varied international locations, together with Singapore. It additionally coincided with a break in manufacturing for the Chinese language New 12 months.

The worldwide rush for masks and different medical tools similar to ventilators to deal with Covid-19 sufferers has woken up governments to fragile provide chains within the face of an unprecedented and due to this fact unexpected disaster.

Equally worrying are disruptions within the meals provide because of motion restrictions imposed by international locations to gradual the unfold of the illness. Virtually all international locations import meals to feed their folks. Singapore, a city-state with little arable land, imports about 90 p.c of its meals.

Earlier than the pandemic, 70% of the eggs got here from Malaysia. This staple was among the many first to vanish from grocery store cabinets twice final yr – first, in February, after Singapore stepped up its response to the orange illness outbreak, simply in under the very best degree of purple, and once more in March, after Malaysia introduced a motion management order.

The disruptions have led Singapore to additional diversify its sources of eggs and different meals merchandise.

In June of final yr, eggs from Poland arrived right here for the primary time.

Elevated considerations concerning the resilience of provide chains have led to a shift in pondering that some specialists have described as transferring from “simply in time” to “simply in case”.

The primary is targeted on profitability, the second is extra involved with making certain a secure provide.

For many years, profitability has been a major issue within the design of provide chains. What retains world commerce afloat is comparative benefit, i.e. the flexibility of an financial system to supply a selected good or service at a decrease alternative value than its companions. business.

In March of final yr, a Singapore Airways cargo airplane introduced 300,000 eggs from Thailand. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Profitability is necessary as a result of most customers are worth delicate. But increasingly more, in addition they wish to get the merchandise they need when they need them – which is quick. This, in flip, places strain on firms to cut back the time between when an order is positioned and when a product is delivered to somebody’s door.

On the identical time, firms are more and more uncovered to expensive disruptions of their provide chains – from commerce tensions between america and China, cyber assaults and local weather dangers, from floods to wildfires.

These elements contribute to the will for shorter provide chains, i.e. sourcing items to areas nearer to house, which reduces transport time and helps reduce the influence of interruptions.

The shortest provide chain – and the one most managed by a rustic – is, in fact, to develop or manufacture what its residents want inside its personal borders.

Singapore is working to extend the share of important merchandise that it grows or manufactures regionally. Its authorities businesses have helped a number of small and medium-sized companies flip to the native manufacture of masks. It has additionally set a purpose of manufacturing 30% of its personal meals by 2030, up from lower than 10% at the moment, by serving to native farms make the most of know-how.

From international to regional

A second option to shorten provide chains is to supply regionally somewhat than globally.

Whereas it’s unclear how provide chains will finally be configured after the pandemic, it’s possible that international locations will search to supply extra from their regional neighbors to make sure better resilience within the face of future disruptions on this planet. provide, Commerce and Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing instructed parliament. Final yr.


Nations are more likely to search to supply extra from their regional neighbors to make sure better resilience. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The pandemic, together with the superpower commerce battle, presents a chance for Asean, Chief Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stated.

It is a chance for the regional grouping of 10 nations, with a mixed inhabitants of over 600 million, to emerge as each a rising market and a resilient manufacturing base.

“Principally, now we’ve the chance to construct a extra resilient and built-in Asian provide chain, i.e. an Asian manufacturing area, in addition to Asian markets open to the world,” Mr. Tharman in August of final yr.

As a regional hub, Singapore is properly positioned to take advantage of the alternatives provided by firms transferring their companies from international locations like China and India to Southeast Asia.

Probability to reinvent

As international provide chains evolve, Singapore seeks to journey the wave of change by persevering with to spend money on each its seaport and its airport.

Whereas its seaport held its personal final yr, having skilled a lower of lower than 1% within the quantity of products shipped by it – in comparison with 2019 – its airport has seen a a lot worse scenario.


Singapore seeks to journey the wave of change by persevering with to spend money on each its seaport and its airport. PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Air passenger transport has plunged and can take time to get better. This, in flip, impacts air cargo, most of which is carried within the bellies of passenger planes, lots of which at the moment are grounded.

Nonetheless, previous investments in a temperature-controlled facility, generally known as Sats Coolport, have paid off for Changi. The Coolport permits Singapore to be a key node in international provide chains for life-saving and temperature delicate Covid-19 vaccines.

Past that, Singapore’s aviation and transport industries are additionally searching for methods to work collectively to transship items by sea and air, a brand new methodology of transport the place a part of the journey is completed by sea and the opposite. by air.

Sea-to-air transshipment is properly fitted to commodities similar to microelectronics and high-tech manufacturing merchandise.

Singapore can also be pursuing an bold new undertaking to construct a mega port at Tuas. When accomplished in 2040, will probably be the biggest absolutely automated terminal on this planet, with options similar to automated dock and yard features, and absolutely electrical automated guided autos.

A disaster, it appears, is the right time for this port metropolis and commerce hub to seek out methods to reinvent itself for the long run, a future the place the worldwide financial system will at all times depend upon the free circulation of commerce and transport to maintain turning. .

  • Concerning the Straits Instances Division of Schooling Information Program

  • For 12 Mondays via August 2, within the Opinion part, this text’s reporters will deal with burning points, providing Singaporean views on advanced points.

    The core articles are a part of the Straits Instances Schooling Division’s info program, which goals to advertise an understanding of native and international points amongst pre-college college students.

    The primer will cowl modern matters, similar to moral points in vaccine improvement and the financial system of contemporary cities. Different points embrace the altering panorama of particular schooling and the position of the humanities in occasions of disaster.

    Every introductory subject will present an area perspective to assist college students relate to the implications of the problems for Singaporeans.

    This occasion is collectively organized by The Straits Instances and the Division of Schooling.



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