THE Singapore economy is both slowing down and undergoing a period of transition, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his New Year Message on Thursday.
His comments come ahead of next Monday's release of advance estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter and for 2015.
A quarterly survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in December showed that economists expect GDP to expand by 1.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the final three months of 2015, down from 1.9 per cent growth in the third quarter.
This latest survey also showed that full-year growth for 2015 was expected to be 1.9 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent previously. The government's official forecast is for growth "close to 2 per cent".
In his message, Mr Lee stressed that the world today is "very different" from the one that Singapore's pioneers lived in 50 years ago. "Yes, we have many more opportunities in the globalised world, but we also face fiercer competition. Yes, we have more resources, but we also have higher aspirations."
While he made the point that Singapore "cannot expect" an easy ride as the country begins life post-SG50, the journey can be just as exciting as the first 50 years of nation-building. "Because we know come what may - challenges, disappointments and sorrows - we will be here for one another. We will celebrate our successes together, because we know we can only succeed together."
Mr Lee also released a video recording of his annual New Year Message for the first time - on his Facebook account and the Prime Minister's Office official YouTube channel.
In what was a busy and eventful 2015, he singled out four moments that stood out for him over the past 12 months.
The first was on March 29, the day of the state funeral of his father, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. He recalled how thousands of Singaporeans lined the streets to bid the 91-year-old a final farewell under the pouring rain.
"As the gun carriage left Parliament House, people shouted his name. I was deeply moved to see everyone's faces - drenched, grieving, but not downcast," said PM Lee. "We were one people, grateful for what our pioneers achieved, resolved to take Singapore further forward."
He also highlighted the weekend of July 4 when he attended five religious events in the space of three days. These events collectively reflect the "diversity of our society, our racial and religious harmony, and the Singapore identity" that have been built up since 1965.
His third memorable moment came on Aug 9 when the nation celebrated its Golden Jubilee at the Padang. Mr Lee shared that, beyond the scale of the mobile column and flypast during the National Day Parade, it was how the Singapore story was told through the lives of ordinary Singaporeans past and present.
The final stand-out event was on Sept 11, Polling Day for the last General Election. On that day, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) was returned to power with 69.9 per cent of the votes, a nearly 10 percentage point swing from the 60.1 per cent it garnered back in 2011.
"As the results came in, I felt gratified and happy that voters had delivered a big win for Singapore. We were united in our desire to secure our shared future, to achieve the best for Singapore," said Mr Lee.
These four events of 2015 were memorable because they showed the world, and Singapore, what a determined and united people can do and illustrate why Singapore is a "shining red dot".
"Despite the threats of ISIS and jihadist terrorism, when other societies are troubled by intolerance and racial tensions, here in Singapore we rejoice in our multi-racial harmony," he said.
"Where other countries are mired in political gridlock and pessimistic for the next generation, we in Singapore are united, hopeful and confident about our future."
But most of all, Mr Lee emphasised that these were times when the entire country came together and took responsibility for one another. "We wept, we sang, we celebrated, we bonded together, and emerged stronger as one united people."