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PM Lee: Sustaining 3% to 4% growth for two to five years would be 'outstanding'

SUSTAINED economic growth of 3 to 4 per cent per year for two to five years would be "an outstanding achievement", Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with diplomat Chan Heng Chee aired on local television.

Reasoning that with the workforce growing at one to 2 per cent per year, and productivity hopefully at 1.5 to 2 per cent per year, annual economic growth of 3 to 4 per cent could potentially be achieved, Mr Lee said.

"But if you ask me, on a sustained basis, for two to five years, if I could do that, I would be over the moon," Mr Lee said.

The prime minister said that Singapore has run out of "easy ways" to grow its economy. Specifically, Singapore had historically reduced unemployment, and then increased its working population by importing foreign labour and getting women and seniors into the workforce. But with those avenues mostly exhausted, productivity must now be improved. Moreover, the country must not be satisfied with a slow rate of growth as this affects the vibrancy of society, Mr Lee said.

"If you go to one or 2 per cent growth, life is not getting worse, but life will not be getting better in the same way. If you look at the countries in that position - Japan, the European countries, America after the global financial crisis for some time - you get an angst, a fractiousness, a despondency, a whole gloom settles over the society. Why is it next year is not better than this year? We want so many things to be better - poor people to be less poor, healthcare to be improved, schools and housing to be improved. The one way to do that is to grow. If you do not grow there is no way to make ourselves better."

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