Growth expected to be over 1 per cent, Govt watching economy closely: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his New Year message, cited steps taken to map new ways to boost the economy and help out-of-work Singaporeans.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his New Year message, cited steps taken to map new ways to boost the economy and help out-of-work Singaporeans. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

SINGAPORE - Singapore's economy is expected to grow by more than 1 per cent in 2016, lower than initial forecasts, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (Dec 31).

But the country is "not doing badly" considering the global economic uncertainty, he added, noting that despite the easing off in demand for workers, unemployment remains low and jobs are still being created.

The Government had narrowed its growth forecast for 2016 to between 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent in November. It expects growth to be between 1 per cent and 3 per cent in 2017.

Meanwhile, the slowing economy has cast a pall of gloom over many employers and workers.

And Mr Lee, in his New Year message, sought to lift their spirits by citing the steps taken to map new ways to boost the economy and help out-of-work Singaporeans.

"Rest assured, the Government is watching (the situation) closely," he added.

To help them regain their confidence, Mr Lee urged people to take a leaf out of the books of Singaporeans who embody the "spirit and resilience" of high performers.

He named such achievers as Mr Muhd Shamir, 34, who launched a technology start-up after working seven years as a molecular biologist as well as everyday heroes like volunteer Lalitha Nair, 55, who mentors teens to care for the environment.


Mr Muhd Shamir, 34, shaking hands with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Olympian Joseph Schooling and Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu were also held up as inspiring role models.

But what of the listless economy?

 
 
 

Mr Lee outlined the government action, including schemes that help workers learn new skills

and tailor-made plans that will transform and move each industry up the value ladder.

In a few weeks' time, the Committee on the Future Economy will unveil its recommended strategies for the country's long-term growth.

"Another major focus has been strengthening ties with major partners to create opportunities for Singapore companies and Singaporeans," Mr Lee added.

He cited, among others, the legally-binding agreement with Malaysia to build a high-speed rail line.

But these are difficult times, he said, pointing to the rising nativist nationalism in some developed countries and growing resistance to globalisation.

Singapore, however, cannot take the same route. "Our best choice is to stay open, to continually re-invent ourselves, and to stand out among the countries of the world."

At home, he cited how the Government is making Singapore a city for people of all ages.

About 26,000 households have received subsidies to buy homes and 150,000 needy senior citizens are receiving money for daily living under the Silver Support Scheme.

Also, more parents can send their children to "good and affordable" pre-schools because of schemes that keep childcare fees low, he noted.

But one change Mr Lee is looking forward to is Singapore having a Malay head of state again, after 47 years. This is founded in the changes made to the Presidential elections, which include a provision for a president from a minority community to be elected from time to time.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister remains confident that whatever the challenges, Singapore will pull through because of "our people".

Among the "everyday heroes" he highlighted is pioneer generation ambassador Satyabhama Karunakaran, 73, who not only explained government schemes to senior citizens, but also offered them help.


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with pioneer generation ambassador Satyabhama Karunakaran, 73. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

"Their sustained, collective efforts help to make a strong and cohesive society," he said. "It is because of these Singaporeans and many more that I am confident we can continue to do well despite the uncertain times."

roysim@sph.com.sg