SINGAPORE - Singapore's economic performance last year was healthy, marked by a better-than-expected expansion and encouraging productivity growth.
This year's will hopefully see that improvement spread out across more industries, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Feb 16).
Sharing his hopes for the new year with reporters at the end of visits to SBS Transit and SMRT workers on the first morning of the Lunar New Year, Mr Lee noted that productivity and economic growth have been getting more broad-based but still mainly concentrated in manufacturing and export-driven sectors.
"This year I hope we'll have a good year in terms of growth and covering more of the economy. And I hope it won't just be expansion because of other economies that are growing but continuing upgrading and improving productivity, improving our companies and improving the skills of our workers."
The economy grew 3.6 per cent last year while labour productivity, as measured by real value-added per actual hour worked, expanded 4.5 per cent.
"I hope we'll be able to sustain that and continue to improve people's lives and at the same time improve amenities and services," Mr Lee added.
"The whole world whether the United States, Europe, Japan or Southeast Asia, is growing in tandem. This is quite a rare trend. If there are no problems, this should portend well for the next six or 12 months. So I hope our our economy will do well."
Asked about the upcoming Budget, to be delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday, Mr Lee said: "We are still fine tuning the speech."
The Budget team is still working out the precise language, he added, but "the main shape has been finalised".
The Budget will "deal with immediate problems" while laying down plans for Singapore's longer-term future in terms of investments and fiscal and environmental sustainability, he said.
The prime minister said that he chose to visit rail workers this festive season as they have been under a lot of pressure.
He said while train faults and incidents have been in the spotlight in the past year, transport workers have been working very hard and making quiet progress.
"I look at the data every month to make sure the trends are in the right direction and you can see that there is progress, steadily, gradually."
Mr Lee had started off his morning with a visit to workers at SBS Transit's Gali Batu MRT Depot, followed by a visit to SMRT's Tuas Depot.
At each location he handed out goodie bags to workers, filled with a tumbler, an EZ-Link card, oranges and ang pows.
He was accompanied by National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) president Mary Liew, NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng, NTUC Central Committee members and National Transport Workers' Union Exco members.
In total, they met around 150 workers, comprising rail technicians, traffic controllers and rail engineers.
Mr Lee said Singaporeans are rightly concerned about train incidents, which cause a great deal of inconvenience, but added that rail workers have also been under a lot of stress.
"I hope Singaporeans can support the transport team, particularly the workers, in their very difficult job. Help them and work with them so we can continue maintaining first class operations," Mr Lee said.