Singapore must renew economy to stay prosperous: PM Lee

PM Lee Hsien Loong during the CNY light up ceremony at Fengshan 85 Centre.
PM Lee Hsien Loong during the CNY light up ceremony at Fengshan 85 Centre.PHOTO: PM LEE/FACEBOOK

At a time of uncertainty in the global environment, Singapore must renew its economy again to remain vibrant and prosperous, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says.

"This emphasis on renewal is even sharper in this Year of the Rooster, whose crowing signals a fresh dawn," Mr Lee said in his traditional Chinese New Year message.

He noted that Singapore has always grown by taking its economy in fresh directions, opening new markets and fields of business, to stay relevant to the world.

The Committee on the Future Economy has been working on this over the past year, and will soon deliver its report setting out strategies for growth in the next 10 to 15 years.

"It will identify new and promising industries and sectors, and plans to ensure our children and grandchildren will enjoy many opportunities when they enter the workforce," he said.

 

The Budget, on Feb 20, will spell out concrete measures to implement the committee's proposals as well as respond to more immediate economic needs, Mr Lee added.

Chinese New Year comes at a time when economic growth has slowed and the labour market has weakened, with employment growth at its lowest level since 2003 and layoffs hitting a seven-year high.

One bright spot is the manufacturing sector, which surged in the fourth quarter last year and helped lift full-year growth for last year to 1.8 per cent. Mr Lee hopes the pickup will continue through this year.

He acknowledged that economic restructuring is hard for businesses and workers, adding: "But we have to persevere with upgrading, because it is the only way to improve the lives of Singaporeans."

The Government is doing all it can to help young couples with "renewal" - starting a family and having children - he said. It is substantially expanding pre-school, childcare and infant care facilities, providing more affordable and good kindergartens, and shortening waiting times for Housing Board flats.

"I hope that the New Year brings with it the lusty cries of many more newborn babies!" he said.

Mr Lee noted that even as the world changes, families keep alive traditions such as reunion dinners. Many non-Chinese also join in the festivities, visiting Chinese friends and enjoying the holiday.

He expressed confidence that Singapore can succeed as its people tackle challenges together.

"Government, businesses and workers all play their part, coming together to plan ahead, support one another and seize new opportunities. This is how our children and their children can dream bigger dreams than us, and live better lives than ours," he said.

Mr Lee wishes all Singaporeans a Happy Chinese New Year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore must renew economy to stay prosperous: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe