Singapore achieved 3.5 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 – after negative growth in the first and second quarters, and 0.6 per cent growth in the third quarter.
But for the whole year, growth is still negative at minus 2.1 per cent.
The Trade and Industry Ministry had forecast GDP growth for 2009 at minus 2.5 per cent to minus 2.0 per cent.
Charting out the goals for 2010 in his New Year Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country must shift gears to grow by a qualitative improvement. And that would involve transforming the economy, developing skills, and growing talent – both locally and from abroad.
Prime Minister Lee said it has been a volatile year for the Singapore economy.
In the first quarter of 2009, trade plunged by a third and GDP fell 10 per cent.
But the country responded vigorously by focusing on keeping people in jobs, and helping those who lost their jobs to find new ones.
Today, the situation is brighter. The economy is growing again, and has recovered much of the ground since the recession began in 2008.
Mr Lee said that while the government continues to track short-term economic trends closely, it must also secure Singapore’s long-term position.
For this, companies must add value – by doing things more efficiently, restructuring businesses as conditions change, and venturing into new, promising areas.
Workers must up-skill, re-skill and multi-skill.
And now that job prospects have improved, Mr Lee cautioned that workers must not think this was no longer urgent.
The Economic Strategies Committee, set up in the middle of 2009, is reviewing the longer term strategies for growth, and will propose policies to achieve the country’s full potential.
It will publish its main recommendations soon, which the government will respond to in the coming Budget.
Mr Lee said Singapore must grow the economy and sustain good jobs, so that all citizens can share in the benefits.
However, he cautioned that in terms of total GDP, the economy is likely to expand more slowly than before.
Singapore must make up for this by expanding its external wing and focusing on raising per capita income, through up-skilling and economic upgrading.
In that way, Singapore can continue to prosper and every Singaporean can look forward to a better life.
So Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to give of their best, and stay united – for a brighter future in the post-crisis world.
Mr Lee added that as Singapore transforms its economy, it must also deal with new long-term issues, and one of them is climate change.
He said: “Our lifestyles must change, for example by driving less and relying more on public transport. Buildings must become more energy efficient, for example through improved insulation and more efficient air conditioning.
“Industries, especially those with energy-intensive operations, must find ways to produce more output with less energy. Over time, our economic structure must evolve to require less energy inputs.”
Mr Lee wishes all Singaporeans a Very Happy New Year.
Source: Channel News Asia, 31 Dec 2009