Shanmugam says Singapore economy a key issue, as elections loom

[SINGAPORE] Singaporeans will be asking who they can trust to steer the city state through economic uncertainties when they go to the ballot boxes, according to one of the country's most senior ministers.

With Singapore reporting on Friday a surprise economic quarter-on-quarter contraction, Law Minister K Shanmugam said earlier this week that an upheaval in trade and the impact on the economy could be among the top concerns of its citizens. An election is due by early 2021.

"People are following the news on US and China very closely, and they know that we can be affected," Mr Shanmugam said in an interview with Bloomberg. "For the younger people, they're looking at ‘hey this is a new environment, this is a new economic environment, how is our economy shaping up?' So, creating the value and creating the opportunities have been important, and who do they trust to continue to create it."

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Home Affairs and part of the ruling People's Action Party central executive committee, said matters relating to healthcare and retirement adequacy are also important in Singapore's aging society.

Trade-reliant Singapore's economy unexpected contracted in the second quarter from the previous three months as exports continued to plunge amid a slowdown in world growth and tariff wars. Singapore unveiled a budget in February that included more support for a graying population and measures to help local businesses.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in May that the ruling party is already working on a manifesto and selecting candidates. In an interview with Bloomberg in November, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong signaled that a 2019 general election is possible.