Singapore continued to make progress in 2013 with the economy growing by 3.7 per cent, even though it hit a few rough spots, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday in his New Year message.
Salaries are up, including for the lower-income, and the growth forecast for 2014 is 2 to 4 per cent, he said. “This means better jobs and new opportunities for workers. It also means that we can do more to make ours a gracious city for all,” he said.
In his annual message, Mr Lee also spoke about putting into action the new way forward he spelt out in his National Day Rally speech in August, with stronger social safety nets and measures to ensure society remains open and mobile.
“These are major shifts in our way forward. We will implement changes progressively, and improve on our programmes as we learn what works best,” he said.
This year will also see the Government set out its new agenda for the rest of its five-year term in office. That will take place in May, when Parliament starts a new session after a mid-term break at the end of the Budget debate in March.
Mr Lee also addressed concerns about foreign workers in the light of the Dec 8 riot in Little India. He said Singapore will continue to treat foreign workers fairly, but it expects them to continue to obey its laws and social norms. “The riot reminds us that we can never take good order, peace and stability for granted,” he said.
On the broader population issue, he noted that difficult tradeoffs cannot be avoided and there are no easy choices, but Singapore will take a balanced approach to reduce but not cut off the inflow of foreign workers.
Another worry is the external environment, particularly tensions in Northeast Asia over historical issues and the ownership of islands, the stability of the Korean peninsula and overlapping territorial claims between China and Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.
Provided nothing untoward happens in Asia, Mr Lee said he is confident that Singapore will do well as it is investing in its future and developing new capabilities for tomorrow’s economy. It is also building new train lines, expressways and expanding Changi Airport.
“We are creating opportunities, to hand on to our children a better Singapore than the one we inherited,” he said.
The Singapore spirit also burns bright, he said, adding: “By trusting and helping one another, we will create a brighter future for ourselves and our children.”
Mr Lee wished all Singaporeans a very happy New Year.