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Singaporeans’ next 10 years will be more complicated than the last, trade-wise, says PM Lee

"They are not temporary issues which can blow away. You sign a document, a US-China trade agreement, and then that's the end of the matter. These are very deep conflicts of interest," he said.

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With no current resolution in sight for the continuing trade tensions between China and the US, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is prepping up all Singaporeans to be prepared for rough sailing as the next 10 years will be more complicated than the last.

According to PM Lee, neither the US nor China is expecting quantum leaps in their trade war, and this ambivalence is crippling investment, sapping business confidence and undermining consumer spending throughout the world.

The next 10 years will be more complicated than the last, PM Lee warned.

“It’s one of the factors why our GDP growth this year is lower. We still hope for something positive but (it) will likely be less than 1 per cent,” said PM Lee. Last month, the official growth forecast for Singapore was cut to between zero growth and 1 per cent for 2019.

“They are not temporary issues which can blow away. You sign a document, a US-China trade agreement, and then that’s the end of the matter. These are very deep conflicts of interest,” he said.
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The same was true of action to mitigate climate change, he said: “There is no magic, no 100 per cent safety net. You press this button, you sign this paper and you are safe for 100 years. There is no such solution.”

The prime minister also added that Singaporeans must also be conscious of the current shifts in their political, social, and economic environment including the problems happening for them to better understand their situation.

He highlighted how America was preoccupied this week with House Democrats moving forward with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, adding: “If they are preoccupied, it is going to have an impact on their perspectives of the world and have an impact on us on the other side of the world.”

But with a positive note, PM Lee says that in comparison to the other countries in the world, Singapore is better prepared to handle the challenges ahead.

“We are more united, we are more cohesive, we have more resources, we’re better able to train our people and to deliver results and be competitive,” said PM Lee.

He also made mention that it is imperative for Singapore’s leaders to also address practical issues which people are so concerned about, and to work together with them in finding solutions so that people can see that “I do have a path forward”, he added.

“If we don’t tackle the problem and we just explain that it’s rough weather, I think that will not cut a lot of ice with Singaporeans. But if we do the best with our own problems in Singapore, people can see that things are getting better,” he said.

What people are so concerned about

PM Lee noted that people are also anxious over costs of living “because there are things which they feel they need, which are not quite within reach.” Singapore tackles these concerns by making sure that good public transport, healthcare and housing are available and affordable, he added.

At a reception attended by 350 Singaporeans in New York on Friday evening, PM Lee said that the Government has done quite a good job of providing for these needs. “If you try to buy a flat in Manhattan, you’ll know that housing prices in Singapore are quite reasonable,” he said.

“How do we cope with all these uncertainties in the world? The answer is to stay together and deal with them as one,” he said, adding that was how Singapore had made it thus far.

“What now looks like an escalator for 50-something years was not an escalator, it was a very tough climb. So if you look ahead and think it looks tough, just remember, you got here… so I think we can keep on working and we will get there,” he added.

How prepared are Singapore’s leaders?

However, the prime minister was realistic enough to admit that there is no amount of preparation that could make anybody 100% ready for anything until they are actually in the hot seat, in charge and making decisions, he added.

“One great advantage they have is that we will all work together to support them and to make sure that they succeed, whether they are old or whether they are young. We want them to succeed. They are the Singapore team,” said PM Lee.

“It’s not just the team of leaders but really the team of younger ministers as well as these younger Singaporeans whom they’ve got to form the bond with, and mutual confidence.”

He added: “And if we can work together, then we can see through the rough weather ahead… Therefore, let us all get together and support the Singapore team, wear the same badge and we pull in the same direction. We are better off than nearly any other country in the world.” /TISG

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