Singapore in a strong position, with potential to seize more opportunities: PM Lee
PUBLISHED ON 16 May 2018
Among the Government’s top priorities is to keep Singapore’s economy growing, and that there are opportunities to do so said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech during the debate on the President’s Address.
The Prime Minister added that Singapore is in a strong position today, as the economy has grown steadily for the past 50 years. Citing the numbers, PM Lee shared: “We have enjoyed high growth for much of this half century – even from time to time exceeding 10 per cent per annum. Since independence in 1965, GDP has grown more than 40 times.”
But as Singapore becomes more developed, the country’s growth forecast has moderated to two to four per cent. This, PM Lee said, has made some people anxious. “They worry that their children will not have better lives than they themselves do today,” he said.
However, PM Lee explained that the forecast has to be put in perspective and added that the numbers are “quite good for a mature economy”. He cited other developed economies such as South Korea and Taiwan are also growing at around this rate, while Japan is growing at a slower pace. Additionally, PM Lee pointed out that this growth range is an estimate, based on Singapore’s current stage of economic development.
Seizing opportunities
“It is not the limit to our efforts or to our ambitions. Individual companies and individual industries can certainly do better, especially if they come up with a more innovative product, or if they expand into new markets,” he encouraged.
“The only question is whether we can seize them,” he said.
PM Lee used the digital economy as an example and described how neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, have witnessed “lively” technology sectors. “If we can build up our own tech sector while connecting with theirs, we will prosper together,” PM Lee added.
Meanwhile, Singapore is making progress in developing frontier technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), fintech, and advanced manufacturing. Citing examples, Mr Lee said the Nanyang Technological University has built a reputation as a leading centre in AI and the Alibaba Group recently opened a research institute on AI together with NTU.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has also developed Singapore into a fintech hub in the last two to three years, with more than 400 fintech firms are now based here. In advanced manufacturing, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is collaborating with multinational companies, local companies and universities to develop new technologies in aerospace and precision engineering. All these, PM Lee said, demonstrate that there are many possibilities for the country to grow its economy, and to reinvent and redevelop Singapore.
Being aware of changes
In his speech, Mr Lee also spoke about how trade tensions of the two bigger economies, US and China will hurt business and threaten global prosperity. Describing the American administration under President Donald Trump as feeling as though "other countries are benefitting more from the global system, and at the expense of the US," he explained that they now want to make sure that the US will always benefit directly.
Mr Lee said that while the US is still stronger, especially militarily, China is growing in power, influence and confidence. "If there is mutual distrust and rivalry between the two, it is but a small step from a trade disagreement to a wider and more serious quarrel... The US and China are far from going to war with each other, but it is not clear which way their relations will tilt."
Therefore, Mr Lee emphasised, Singapore will always have to be aware of what is happening and be prepared for changes and surprise. "As a small and open country, Singapore will always be vulnerable to what happens around us. Quoting Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, he said: “When elephants fight, the grass suffers, but when they make love, the grass suffers also.”
Addressing the historic change that took place in Malaysia last week, Mr Lee noted that Singapore will need to pay close attention to bilateral relations. "The expectations of the new Malaysian government are very high, and I think Dr Mahathir will be very busy in the days to come. But I plan to visit him on Saturday, and tell him I look forward to working with him again for mutual benefit," said Mr Lee.