Published 2 April 2011
The Business Times
By Lee U-Wen
By 2020, per capita GDP will reach around US$55,000, from US$43,900 now, he says, making S’pore one of top 10 richest countries
SINGAPORE’s economy, should it meet the target of expanding 3-5 per cent annually over the next decade, will help generate two jobs for every one local that enters the workforce each year.
The government is forecasting that 50,000 new jobs will be created every year during that period, which would be twice the net number of Singaporeans and permanent residents joining the labour force, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.
And as many as four in 10 of these new jobs will be in ‘high-end manufacturing and modern services’ positions, covering areas such as finance, business infocomm, arts and lifestyle businesses, he said in a speech during a dialogue titled ‘What is Singapore’s Future?’ organised by the Singapore Polytechnic Graduates’ Guild.
‘We will grow real incomes by 30 per cent. By 2020, Singapore’s per capita GDP will reach around US$55,000, from US$43,900 now. We will be one of the top 10 richest countries in the world,’ he told his over 300-strong audience, largely comprising the polytechnic’s staff, alumni, student leaders and guild members.
Mr Goh said that all Singaporeans would benefit from this growth as the population continues to aspire to have higher wages and better jobs.
The questions from the floor that followed during the hour-long session were plentiful, covering issues such as the rising cost of living, how to tackle Singapore’s record-low fertility rate, the national productivity movement and the challenges facing the country’s incoming fourth-generation leadership.
Addressing concerns about the increasing living costs and inflation, Mr Goh – who is also chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore – said that this was a ‘perpetual problem’ faced by every generation in Singapore.
Costs can go up as a result of several factors, such as the price of the oil, food or other important items that the country imports, he said.
One way that the government can help mitigate the prices of goods imported into the Republic, said Mr Goh, is to have a stronger Singapore dollar. This, however, could be done provided there is economic growth to begin with.
‘But you cannot let the Singapore dollar go up too much because it will affect our exports,’ he cautioned.
Wages, too, must be kept in check even as workers continue to expect higher salaries over time. Said Mr Goh: ‘While we want wages to go up, we must remember that wages are actually a component of total costs. The higher the wages for workers, the higher the costs. Then there are also land and rental costs to consider.’
One participant also asked Mr Goh if, given that Singapore was facing a rapidly ageing population, the government would consider increasing medical subsidies or even make healthcare completely free for the elderly.
Mr Goh said that it was better to take a ‘targeted approach’ and help individual cases who are in financial need, rather than implement a broad policy that would also subsidise those who could afford it.
As he gazed into the crystal ball, Mr Goh said that the ‘future is bright’ for Singapore.
‘I see ourselves as having a strong economy with good, sustainable growth and a higher standard of living across the board. Ours will be a well-integrated, cosmopolitan society with lots of vigour, drive, creativity and ideas,’ he said.
‘It will be a gracious, compassionate society where Singaporeans can look out for each other and help those in need. Singapore will be a united, stable country with a superb physical and social living environment.’