Singapore Sees Growth as Much as 3.5% as Lee Reviews Strategies

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong narrowed the government’s forecast for economic growth this year and said the country must review its strategies as its needs evolve.

The Southeast Asian nation’s growth domestic product will probably expand 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent this year, Lee said in a televised message yesterday. The range is narrower than a previous prediction of 2 percent to 4 percent. The economy grew 3.5 percent in the first half, the leader said.

“We must keep up this growth over the next decade to help you improve your lives,” said Lee, 62. “We are now at a higher level, from which we can scale new heights. Hence we must reassess our position, review our direction, and refresh our strategies.”

Lee, son of the nation’s first prime minister, is guiding the city-state through a 10-year plan to restructure the economy that includes reducing a reliance on cheap foreign labor and boosting productivity. The island will mark 49 years of nationhood today with an annual parade where likely guests include 90-year-old Lee Kuan Yew, who guided Singapore from independence to its emergence as Southeast Asia’s only advanced economy.

Having built its economy on a business-friendly environment and strict laws in the past decades, Singapore has increased support for citizens in recent years as the nation adjusts to an aging population and tighter labor supply. The government has also stepped up efforts to lure new industries such as research and development and casinos.

Pension Program

The government is studying how to make it more convenient for retirees to get cash out of their state-subsidized housing in a “prudent and sustainable way,” Lee said. The existing pension program can also be improved, he said.

Singapore’s GDP probably fell an annualized 0.1 percent in the three months through June from the previous quarter, when it expanded 1.6 percent, according to the median estimate of nine economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of data due Aug. 12. Initial government figures released last month showed an unexpected 0.8 percent contraction. The economy probably expanded 2.4 percent from a year earlier, compared with the earlier estimate of 2.1 percent, a separate survey showed.

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