Parliament: Government stands ready to act in event of economic downturn, says Lim Hng Kiang

Global Palm Resources Holdings bought back 10,000 shares yesterday at 31 cents apiece, spending a total of $3,144.14.
Global Palm Resources Holdings bought back 10,000 shares yesterday at 31 cents apiece, spending a total of $3,144.14.PHOTO: ST FILE
Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang has said that the Government is ready to respond in case of an economic downturn.
Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang has said that the Government is ready to respond in case of an economic downturn.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Government stands ready to respond should Singapore slip into an economic downturn, Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang told Parliament on Monday (Oct 10).

"Depending on the nature and severity of the downturn, the Government is prepared to consider introducing a range of contingency measures, which could include broad-based as well as sector-specific measures," Mr Lim noted, as he addressed concerns over rising unemployment, slower growth and weak global economic outlook.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) had asked whether a recession was imminent, given weak economic indicators for the past several months, and what are some of the measures the Government was contemplating.

In his reply, Mr Lim added that companies that are adversely affected by the slowdown can also consider tapping on measures that are already in place.

These included the SME Working Capital Loan scheme - introduced as part of Budget 2016 - that helps small firms with cash flow concerns and financing needs for growth.

The Government has also deferred the foreign worker levy increases for the marine sector for a year, amid challenging conditions faced by companies in the sector.

Singapore's economy is projected to grow by 1 per cent to 2 per cent this year, with slower growth expected in this half of the year -which is forecast to be lower than the 2.1 per cent achieved for the first six months of 2016.

MTI will be releasing the advance estimates of third quarter GDP growth this Friday (Oct 14) and the updated growth forecast for 2016 in November.

Mr Lim said the global economic outlook is expected to remain weak in the near term, owing to sluggish investment demand in advanced economies, slower growth in China, low oil prices and weaker global trade flows.

Britain's vote to leave the European Union in June - Brexit - has dampened and added uncertainties to global growth outlook, he added,

Against this backdrop, economic growth in Singapore has tapered from 4.7 per cent in 2013, to 3.3 per cent in 2014, and 2 per cent last year.

Despite the slowdown in growth, Mr Lim highlighted some bright spots in the economy.

"Tourism-related sectors such as accommodation have benefited from the recovery in tourist arrivals. Growth in 'other services industries' and the information & communications sector is also expected to remain resilient, supported by growth in the education, health & social services and IT & information services segments respectively," he said.

Mr Lim also emphasised the importance in pressing on with efforts to steer Singapore's economy towards a "more sustainable growth path driven by productivity and innovation".

There is also a need to continue to transform the industries and create good jobs for citizens over the longer term, he added.

wongsy@sph.com.sg