S'pore economy to grow by nearly 3% this year: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee with Singaporeans at the Singapore Embassy in Washington on Sunday. Flanking them were (from left) Singapore Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri and his wife Gouri Mirpuri, Foreign Minister Vivian Balak
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee with Singaporeans at the Singapore Embassy in Washington on Sunday. Flanking them were (from left) Singapore Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri and his wife Gouri Mirpuri, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

He cites Q3 performance in giving upbeat assessment to 250 S'poreans in Washington

Singapore's economy should grow by close to 3 per cent this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

He gave his upbeat assessment of the country's growth prospects to more than 250 Singaporeans living in and around Washington at a reception at the Singapore Embassy in the United States.

It comes as advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry this month put year-on-year growth for the third quarter at 4.6 per cent.

PM Lee noted that this was due to a strong showing by the manufacturing sector, and added that services performed "sort of okay" as well.

The Government had in August revised its growth estimates for this year to between 2 per cent and 3 per cent, and PM Lee said on Sunday: "I expect it will be at the upper end of this because the third-quarter results look good, and I hope that it will continue."

While services are not as strong as they could be and construction has been slow, PM Lee noted that the latter sector could be lifted - "if we need to build more, we can build more".

ENDURING TIES

These go on, whoever is in the White House and whichever administration is in power or whichever party is in the administration. It is also important for us to establish working relationships with the key people in every administration, to get them to know us, to understand them, to appreciate their perspectives, to be able to work together and to take the relationship forward.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, on Singapore's strong ties with the US, which range from the economy to education.

PM Lee, who is on a six-day visit to the US, also gave an update on Singapore's strong relations with America - ranging from the economy to defence to security, as well as education, culture and the arts.

"These go on, whoever is in the White House and whichever administration is in power or whichever party is in the administration," he said.

"It is also important for us to establish working relationships with the key people in every administration, to get them to know us, to understand them, to appreciate their perspectives, to be able to work together and to take the relationship forward."

Much is at stake in ties with the US, he said, noting that America is a big factor in the region and it was important to know what it is thinking and which way things are going.

It was also important for Singapore to put its point of view across to US business and opinion leaders so they have a feel of what is happening in Asia, he added.

As for Singapore's economy, PM Lee said one difficult aspect is the need to work on improving productivity, especially in services.

"If you have a haircut, you have a haircut. It is very hard for the barber to cut your hair 20 per cent faster than last year," he said. "And yet, we would like barbers to also improve their lives and have better incomes."

"We have to work at it patiently, sector by sector," he added, noting that 23 Industry Transformation Maps are being rolled out to help.

ANZ economist Ng Weiwen said Singapore's economy has largely been driven by a pickup in advanced economies this year, which has fuelled trade activity.

The bank has revised its gross domestic product forecast for the year from 2.6 per cent to 3 per cent after the third-quarter GDP numbers were released.

"The strength in the external sector has surprised us, but it masks the weaknesses in the domestic sector, particularly in the labour and property markets," Mr Ng said.

"Property is showing signs of recovery but if you look at its peak in 2013 compared to now, prices are still 10 per cent lower. The labour market is still subdued - there are still more job seekers than there are job vacancies. So, the external strength hasn't filtered through to the broader economy."

• Additional reporting by Yasmine Yahya

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore economy to grow by nearly 3% this year: PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe