Singapore's outlook has brightened considerably compared with a year ago, with the global recession turning out to be less protracted than initially feared, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
External trends support the Republic's economic recovery and justify confidence in its prospects, he noted in his May Day message.
While Europe is still struggling with fresh waves of Covid-19 cases, the United States is expected to make a strong recovery this year on the back of a large stimulus package and good progress in vaccinating its population. China's economy is also doing well.
At home, Singapore's unemployment rate is gradually coming down, PM Lee said, and gross domestic product growth this year is likely to exceed 6 per cent, barring a setback to the global economy. This is higher than the 4 per cent to 6 per cent growth the Ministry of Trade and Industry had earlier forecast. "This will bring us back to where we were before Covid-19 struck," he said.
Beyond this year, new opportunities are opening up, with the pandemic accelerating trends such as digitalisation, automation and sustainability across all sectors, said PM Lee, touching on the need to transform the economy for a different, post-Covid-19 world.
The Emerging Stronger Taskforce, set up to guide Singapore's economic recovery from the pandemic, has been busy working on this transformation. He said: "Our workforce is becoming more diverse. Freelancers, entrepreneurs, mature workers and fresh graduates all face different employment challenges. Each group needs customised policies and solutions."
He highlighted how the National Trades Union Congress, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has formed over 600 company training committees to work with firms to identify capability gaps, co-create new jobs and train workers for them. He commended the labour movement for maintaining its collaborative stance through the crisis.
Last year, when job losses became unavoidable, the unions ensured retrenchments were done fairly and responsibly, he noted.
The NTUC's Job Security Council directly helped more than 28,000 workers find new jobs, and offered financial help through the NTUC Care Fund (Covid-19).
In his message, PM Lee touched on how Singapore's model of trade unionism and tripartism has been criticised, especially in the West.
"We have no reason to be defensive. Trade union membership has steadily declined in most Western societies. By contrast, union membership has risen consistently in Singapore, by dint of deliberate policy and unremitting effort," he said.
"The verdict of history is clear: Tripartism and cooperation have been far more effective in securing workers' welfare and livelihoods than militancy and conflict."
Singapore's journey from Third World to First was not all smooth sailing, as it faced many storms such as the Sars outbreak in 2003.
"Each time, our tripartite model saw us through. Workers tightened belts, made sacrifices and accepted pay cuts. Employers shared in the sacrifices, and did their best to save as many jobs as possible," said PM Lee, adding that the Government also offered its support.
The guiding principle of tripartism has always been to stay united and progress together, he added.
"This May Day, let us recommit ourselves to strengthening this partnership, and building a brighter future for Singapore for the next 60 years and beyond."