Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says his country is expected to exceed expectations this year by recording economic growth above 3 percent.
Addressing his People’s Action Party’s 2017 convention on Sunday, Lee said Singapore was benefiting from an improved world economy, but would have to press on with plans to restructure and upgrade the economy to sustain growth.
“Our unemployment remains low, wages have gone up, and most significantly productivity has picked up,” said Lee. “Initially we expected 1.5 percent growth, then we revised it up to 2 to 3 percent, now it looks like we may exceed 3 percent.”
After surging to nearly 4.5 per cent in 2013, economic growth dipped below 2 percent in 2015-16 as the trade-reliant nation was buffeted by an unfavorable world economy. While a pick up in manufacturing and financial services has added momentum to the economy, a series of blockbuster land deals this year suggests the city-state’s property market is also set to break out of a prolonged slump.
Looking ahead, Lee said he expected government spending on healthcare, infrastructure, and other social services to keep rising, meaning that “raising taxes is not a matter of whether, but when.”
And, despite a rail collision last week on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit network that injured over 30 people, Lee said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan retained his “full support and confidence.”
Noting his recent visits to Washington, DC and Beijing, Lee said Singapore’s relations with both countries were in good shape.
“It’s not always easy to be good friends with both the U.S. and China at the same time,” Lee said. “But as a small nation, we have to make friends with as many countries as we can.”
Lee said that on his recent visit to Beijing ahead of the 19th Communist Party Congress, he met with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang and that both sides recognized the value of the bilateral relationship. Lee said it was his job to keep Singapore “a blip on the radar” of U.S. officials.
“Last month I visited the U.S. and met President Donald Trump and his key officials just before their trip to Asia,” said Lee. “I shared with them my perspectives, including how Asian countries wanted the U.S. to stay engaged in the region.”