SINGAPORE: Keeping the economy growing is one of the Government’s top priorities and there remains many possibilities to do so, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Wednesday (May 16).
Amid the ongoing push with economic restructuring efforts, opportunities can be seen, said Mr Lee during the debate on the President’s address.
“The only question is whether we can seize them,” he said.
Mr Lee raised the digital economy as an example and described how neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, are witnessing “lively” technology sectors.
In Indonesia, four unicorns – companies that are worth at least $1 billion in value – have been produced.
“If we can build up our own tech sector while connecting with theirs, we will prosper together,” said Mr Lee.
Singapore is making “good progress” developing frontier technologies in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), financial technology (fintech) and advanced manufacturing, he added.
For instance, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has built up a reputation as a leading centre in AI. It also partnered Alibaba to open a research institute on AI, marking the Chinese Internet behemoth’s first such institute outside China.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has also developed Singapore into a fintech hub within the last two to three years, said Mr Lee. More than 400 fintech firms are now based here, alongside over 30 innovation labs and research centres set up by multinational companies (MNCs).
In advanced manufacturing, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is collaborating with MNCs, local companies and universities to develop new technologies in aerospace and precision engineering.
Citing the joint laboratory set up with Rolls Royce and Singapore Aero Engine Services last year, Mr Lee said: “These projects will create good manufacturing jobs. SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) will benefit and so will workers because through these research collaborations, they get access to the latest technologies.”
Mr Lee added that Singapore is in a “strong position” at the moment after having “grown steadily” for the past five decades.
“We have enjoyed high growth for much of this half century – even from time to time exceeding 10 per cent per annum,” he said. “Since independence in 1965, our GDP has grown more than 40 times in real terms.”
But as the economy became more developed, the country’s growth forecast has moderated to two to four per cent.
Mr Lee noted that this moderation in growth figures “has made some people anxious”.
“They worry that their children will not have better lives than they themselves do today.”
However, these numbers have to be put in perspective and he noted that “2 to 4 per cent is in fact quite good for a mature economy”.
Mr Lee added that other developed economies like South Korea and Taiwan are also growing at around this rate, while Japan is expanding at a slower pace.
In addition, this growth range is “just an estimate, based on our current stage of economic development”.
“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,” said Mr Lee.
“So there are many possibilities for us to grow our economy, and to reinvent and redevelop Singapore.”