EDB upbeat on investments amid global uncertainties

It expects to secure $8b-$10b in investments this year, a range it sees as the new normal

In a year that could be challenging for economies around the globe, Singapore still hopes to attract its fair share of foreign investments, and estimates that these could create between 19,000 and 21,000 new jobs.

This is marginally lower than the forecast the Economic Development Board (EDB) made for 2016 - another tough year - when inbound investment was projected to create 20,000 to 22,000 new jobs.

The EDB said at its year-in-review briefing yesterday that it still expects to secure $8 billion to $10 billion in fixed-asset investment this year amid uncertainties in the global economy such as key elections in Europe and new trade policies in the US.

This investment range could be the "new normal" going forward.

"The overall outlook reflects the steady growth in Asia and Singapore's resilience as a strategic location to drive growth and innovation," said the EDB.

Last year's inbound investment totalled $9.4 billion and is now expected to result in 20,100 new jobs, topping the 16,800 expected jobs in 2015. The bulk of the new jobs last year were in manufacturing as well as headquarters and hub services.

Nevertheless, last year's inflow of investments was well down from the $11.5 billion in 2015 and the lowest since 2005.

EDB managing director Yeoh Keat Chuan noted that last year's results were "in keeping very much with the medium-term sustainable levels" of Singapore's economic development, which has been focused on creating higher value- added activity. "We believe that Singapore is attracting its fair share of investments and that it remains competitive," he said.

Going forward, projections within the range of $8 billion to $10 billion will be the new normal for the medium term, given the resource constraints such as land space that Singapore faces, the EDB noted.

Its chairman Beh Swan Gin said: "We will continue to seize economic opportunities brought about by growth sectors, including advanced manufacturing, hub services and digitalisation, and help Singaporeans take up new jobs with skills upgrading programmes."

One EDB initiative involves trying to consolidate Singapore's position as a high-value manufacturing base by capturing opportunities in advanced manufacturing. It aims to do so by anchoring lead adopters of advanced manufacturing here.

"Despite the uncertain operating environment in 2017, the level of investment interest from companies remain stable," said Dr Beh.

"We will also focus on transforming existing industries to boost our economic competitiveness and uncover new business opportunities for companies in Singapore."

Dr Beh acknowledged that policy changes in the US will bear watching, but noted that the growth of Asia and technological change will offer opportunities. He said Singapore must be agile "to seize opportunities that will come about", adding that its economic fundamentals remain strong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'EDB upbeat on investments amid global uncertainties'. Print Edition | Subscribe