Economy grew 3.3%, above expectations

On the domestic front, PM Lee said Singapore faces pressures common to many countries.
On the domestic front, PM Lee said Singapore faces pressures common to many countries. PHOTO: ST FILE

Global economy faces major uncertainties but S'pore has cause to be confident of future: PM

Singapore's economy grew by 3.3 per cent last year, close to 2017's growth, which was 3.5 per cent, and above expectations, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his New Year message.

He said the economy is expected to grow by between 1.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent this year, but warned that the global economy faces major uncertainties with growing trade conflicts, nervous financial markets and signs of slowing growth.

But with long-term policies in place and a strong team in charge, the Republic has reason to be confident about its future, he added.

In his traditional message released yesterday, PM Lee noted that significant headway was made in leadership succession last year.

The younger political office-holders are being exposed to different responsibilities and working together as a team. They have settled on Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as their leader and supported Mr Heng's choice of Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing as his deputy.

"This is a good outcome. It gives Singaporeans and foreigners alike confidence that Singapore will be in good hands over the long term, beyond the working lives of me and my senior colleagues," PM Lee said.

He and the older ministers will do their utmost to help the new team take over the reins and to succeed in their responsibility to lead Singapore and secure its future.

  • •The Prime Minister wishes all Singaporeans a Happy New Year.

    •The Straits Times wishes all readers a Happy New Year.

Underlining the vital part Singaporeans play in the transition, he asked Singaporeans to work with the younger leaders "to form the best team for Singapore".

The country's model of governance is "quite exceptional, and has served us well", he said, enabling Singapore to make the most of what it has and stand out in a highly competitive world.

"Singapore politics cannot afford to be riven and destabilised by the rivalries, contestations and factions so often seen elsewhere," he said. "Instead Singaporeans must stay united, and work together resolutely to strengthen and renew our social compact."

On the international front, he said Singapore had an eventful year hosting the historic summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as chairing Asean. Under its chairmanship themes of innovation and resilience, it launched practical initiatives to enhance regional stability and integration, he added.

But tensions between the US and China will cause problems for the world and make it harder for countries to be friends with both. "If countries are forced to choose sides, the open and connected global order will be further divided, hurting one and all."

Closer to home, Singapore is also tending relations with its immediate neighbours.

 
 
 

On the domestic front, PM Lee said Singapore faces pressures common to many countries. Societies abroad are under stress because people are angry that wages are stagnating, their lives are not improving and political systems are malfunctioning.

"But we have coped better than most other countries, because we have worked closely together to improve the lives of all Singaporeans," he said, citing how the economy has grown, unemployment remains low and incomes have risen across the board.

"We have created good jobs, and prepared people for them through education and SkillsFuture. Crucially, the Government is focused on people's concerns, and working with citizens to create a better tomorrow for all."

He listed policy improvements in such areas as healthcare, education, housing and public transport. These are critical investments in Singapore's future, and to realise them requires steady and capable leaders who can rally Singaporeans.

"With long-term policies in place and a strong team in charge, we have reason to be confident about the future," he said.

"Despite the uncertain external environment and economic outlook, we are entering our Bicentennial Year with renewed vigour and purpose," he said.

"We are ready to tackle the challenges ahead and make further progress in building a secure, harmonious and prosperous nation."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline 'Economy grew 3.3%, above expectations'. Print Edition | Subscribe