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The Government is watching the uncertain global economic situation closely, but does not expect a severe downturn like in the global financial crisis of 2008, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.
In his traditional Chinese New Year message as Singaporeans usher in the Year of the Monkey, Mr Lee noted that the world economy is slowing, China's economy is softening, stock markets are down and business sentiment here is guarded.
He pledged the Government's continued support for businesses and workers as they restructure and upgrade so they can prosper again "when conditions improve, as they will".
"We should take these ups and downs in our stride. We still enjoy full employment, and there are still opportunities to be seized, in Singapore and in the region," he said.
Mr Lee hoped Singaporeans would continue to take on these opportunities, and be quick-witted and dexterous, "just as the monkey leaps onto higher branches to pick peaches, and through his wit and agility takes care of himself, and stays at least one jump ahead of others".
Slowdowns in global demand and local labour supply meant local employment here grew at its slowest pace last year, a rate not seen since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.
But companies reported 60,000 vacancies as of September last year, down 11 per cent from a year ago.
Mr Lee devoted a large part of his message to the significance of Chinese New Year as a time when many catch up with their extended families, and welcome new additions.
He was delighted that more Singaporeans were born last year - 33,800, the highest in 13 years. The figure surpassed the figure for 2012, the last Dragon Year which is seen as a propitious time to have children and which has seen more births.
"I hope we will have more babies in the Year of the Monkey," he said, adding that the Government will continue to support Singaporeans in the many responsibilities and joys of parenthood.
Besides babies, family is also about living a full life and sharing joys and sorrows over a lifetime with loved ones, said Mr Lee.
He cited a recent short film commissioned by the Pioneer Generation Taskforce to raise awareness of MediShield Life.
It depicts the love story of an elderly couple over the years, and Mr Lee felt it encapsulated what family means: a pillar of support in good times and bad.
The family is also the model for how Singaporeans should relate to their fellow citizens, "seeing one another as members of an extended Singapore family", he added.
Mr Lee wished Singaporeans a Happy Chinese New Year.
The Sunday Times