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Singapore's economy to grow by 'around 2.5%' this year: PM Lee

Among issues he will focus on in his National Day Rally speech will be improving the pre-school sector, dealing with the diabetes problem and the Smart Nation drive

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Mr Lee said Singapore wants to make full use of IT to create opportunities and jobs, and make the country an "outstanding place" to live, work and play.

Singapore

THE government expects Singapore's economy to grow by around 2.5 per cent this year, which would be higher than last year's growth of 2 per cent.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this latest forecast of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in his annual National Day message on Tuesday evening.

The 2.5 per cent projection is at the higher end of the growth forecast of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) - between 1 and 3 per cent for the year.

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Based on advance estimates released in July, the economy grew by 2.5 per cent year on year in the second quarter, the same pace of growth as in the first three months.

On Friday morning, MTI will release the latest Economic Survey of Singapore, containing preliminary GDP estimates for the second quarter, including performance by sectors, sources of growth, inflation, employment and productivity.

In his National Day message recorded at Bay East Garden, Mr Lee said the world is unsettled and the outlook, uncertain. He noted that terrorism continues to be a major threat, with frequent attacks around the world, and some taking place closer to home.

"International trade, a key engine of our growth, is at risk from protectionism. We are busy upgrading the economy. Our students and workers are mastering new skills and staying up to date with technology."

He stressed that the government is busy working with Singaporeans on these issues and making progress on all of them.

"We are stepping up vigilance to protect ourselves against extremist terrorism, and one major task is to strengthen our racial harmony.

"We are working with businesses and workers to transform industries one by one, and to prepare for the future economy."

Mr Lee also gave a sneak preview of the ground he will cover when he addresses the nation at the National Day Rally - the most important political speech of the year - on the evening of Aug 20.

He listed three issues on which he would speak at length - improving the pre-school sector, dealing with the problem of diabetes and the need to become a Smart Nation.

On the latter, Mr Lee said Singapore wants to make full use of IT to create opportunities and jobs, and make the country an "outstanding place" to live, work and play.

"This is why we aim to be a Smart Nation. We have a natural advantage - we are a highly-connected and digitally literate society; we even have more smartphones than people. But we need to do much better," he said.

He pointed out that other countries are using electronic payments to go cashless, building sensor networks to enhance public security and analysing big data to improve public services.

"We must learn from them, catch up, and get ahead. By using IT for practical applications, big and small, we can improve our lives, and make this a fun and happening place."

He also underscored the need for Singapore to look ahead and build for the next generation, just as the country's forefathers did so in the past.

He recalled that his late father, Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, once asked: "At the end of the day, whom do we owe our deepest obligation to as a government?"

His own answer to that: "To the future. Not just to the present, certainly not to the past."

PM Lee: "This is the spirit of Singapore. Always looking ahead, planning ahead, and staying ahead, so that when the future arrives, we are prepared for it, to ride it and to grow with it. That is how we got here. That is what we must keep on doing together, to open up fresh opportunities for ourselves and our children."

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