SINGAPORE will take the upcoming slowdown in its stride, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his annual National Day Message on Thursday night. Whenever the island has faced trials, it reinvented and renewed itself to thrive again, he said.
Notwithstanding slowing economic growth, weaker global demand and trade, and the worldwide electronics down-cycle, other parts of the economy are doing well, he noted.
"We have experienced such slowdowns before, and we will take this one in our stride," he 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.
"On the economic front, they will disrupt supply chains, alter trade patterns and shift investment flows. We must get ourselves ready for a very different future," he warned.
"But our past gives us confidence," he 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 firms to grow and go abroad.
The country is also making good progress in re-skilling and upgrading its workforce, with the help of SkillsFuture. "All these structural measures will not only address our longer-term challenges, but also help see us through a more immediate downturn," Mr Lee pointed out.
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.
In March, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that the government, unions, and employers had reached a consensus on the need to raise the retirement and re-employment ages.
Finally, Singapore must continue to renew the city, said Mr Lee, raising the example of Changi Airport's Jewel - where his address was filmed.
The Changi team conceived of Jewel nine years ago, when the airport was facing intense competition. Jewel "shows that Singaporeans not only have the creativity and daring to re-invent ourselves, but also the passion and the competence to turn dreams into reality", said Mr Lee.
While other cities and airports are already planning to emulate Jewel, and "perhaps even do it bigger and better", Singapore "dared to attempt the new, and we did it first", he said.
Still, 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," he concluded.