“Singapore’s economy expanded at a faster pace than initially estimated last quarter as rising global demand boosted manufacturing and the opening of the country’s first casino spurred tourism” (Why Economy Is Growing So Fast: Singapore’s Total Trade Hit $210B In Q1, Bloomberg, Reuters).
The report, “Why Economy Is Growing So Fast” (May 21, 2010), provides an excellent summary of Singapore’s quarterly economic performance; and how Singapore has been able to ride out of the economic crisis. These positive trends, complemented by the recent fact that Singapore has emerged tops in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010 released by Swiss business school IMD, generally reflect that our economic and fiscal compasses are pointing in the right direction.
Our recovery has been led largely by the manufacturing and tourism sectors. As an export-based economy, our continued specialisation in electronics and chemicals has reaped tremendous dividends because of the surge in global demand after last year’s financial crisis. The construction and establishment of the Integrated Resorts (IR) at Sentosa and Marina Bay, coupled by individual sporting or Meeting, Incentives, Conventions, Events (MICE) initiatives, have brought in volumes of tourists from the region and around the world. The diversification into areas of biotechnology and chemical science has led to a greater assortment of exports available for sale.
However, the ride out of the 2008 to 2009 crisis years was not an easy one. Singapore had endured some hard knocks over the past year, with our unemployment rate ballooning for a period despite the introduction of retraining or upgrading programmes for the workers. Despite the constant rise in the cost of living, many workers had to take pay cuts or modifications – in terms of working less, flexi-hours et cetera – to protect their rice bowls. Many remain relentless and dedicated in their quest for a job. To complement the improving socio-economic situation in Singapore, the administration – together with the respective employers – must ensure that the sacrifices made by the workers have not been in vain. With all possibility, it is imperative to allow wages to rise in tandem with price levels to maintain affordability and essential standards of living.
Help and assistance must for low-income households. These are trying times, because a general economic rejuvenation does not necessarily mean that wealth would naturally trickle down to those who need it the most. Income inequality remains a pertinent blemish on our performance-record; and while figures per se should not be the primary focus, current schemes need to be more specialised, publicised, juiced-up, and catered to the needs of individuals on an essential case-by-case basis.
Ultimately, economic growth on paper would mean very little if the prosperity and affluence is not fairly spread out across the population.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.