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Singapore will take economic slowdown in its stride: PM Lee

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SINGAPORE will take the upcoming slowdown in its stride, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his annual National Day Message on Thursday night.

Notwithstanding slowing economic growth, weaker global demand and trade, and the worldwide electronics down-cycle, other parts of the economy are doing well, he said.

"We have experienced such slowdowns before, and we will take this one in our stride," Mr Lee said. "Should it become necessary to stimulate the economy, we will do so."

More fundamentally, the world is entering a more troubled period with grave challenges: economic uncertainties, strategic risks amid friction between major powers, and existential threats such as global warming and rising sea levels. These will disrupt supply chains, alter trade patterns and shift investment flows, he warned. "We must get ourselves ready for a very different future."

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But Mr Lee said Singapore survived past tribulations as it reinvented and renewed its economy, people and city. "And this is what we must keep on doing."

He noted Singapore's good progress in transforming its industries, from servicing advanced jet turbines to medical research and fintech services. Both port and airport are expanding, the integrated resorts are being enhanced, the tech and startup scenes are flourishing, and government agencies such as Enterprise Singapore are supporting entrepreneurs and companies to grow and go abroad.

The country is also making good progress in reskilling and upgrading its workforce, with the help of SkillsFuture. Said Mr Lee: "All these structural measures will not only address our longer-term challenges, but also help see us through a more immediate downturn."

Noting that enabling citizens to fulfil their potential is a joint endeavour, he said the government will make preschool and tertiary education "even more affordable, especially for lower- and middle-income families".

For older Singaporeans who wish to work longer, the retirement and re-employment ages will be raised. "I will say more about these matters at the National Day Rally," he added.

Finally, Singapore must continue to renew the city, Mr Lee said, raising the example of Changi Airport's Jewel – where his address was filmed. But Jewel is just one of many things that Singapore is doing to remake itself, he added, naming other projects such as Changi Terminal 5, the Tuas Megaport, the Jurong Lake District, the redevelopment of Paya Lebar Airbase, and the Greater Southern Waterfront.

"All these projects will keep us busy, and create new opportunities for Singaporeans for decades to come.

"To stay in front of the pack, we must constantly come up with fresh ideas, always be ready to break new ground," Mr Lee concluded. "What limits our possibilities is not the physical size of our island, but the ingenuity of our people and the boldness of our spirit."