MM Lee says Singapore at centre of world’s highest growth region

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew believed Asia will not go into recession, citing not only strong growth in China and India, but also the strength of commodity prices boosting growth in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Speaking to some 1,200 people at the Tanjong Pagar Lunar New Year dinner on Monday night, Mr Lee said Singapore is at the centre of the world’s highest growth region, and is in a period of steady growth.

Mr Lee is also positive that Singapore can maximise its chances to reach a higher quality of development in the coming five to ten years.

“This is quite remarkable, for it will be the first time that when the American economy slows down and reduce imports from Asia, Asia will not go into recession. The reason is the dynamics of the domestic growth momentum in China and in India – two very huge countries. Furthermore, our neighbours are doing well. Singapore is in the centre of the world’s highest growth region,” he said.

While some may be lamenting the financial crisis, Mr Lee said he sees a blessing as property prices have cooled down for the time being.

He added that Singapore’s Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Temasek have also been able to increase the value of their assets, especially during such downturns.

The two companies recently invested some S$22 billion into UBS, Citigroup and Merrill-Lynch.

“When the share prices of these banks recover (the) S$22 billion investments, it will be worth S$50 to S$70 billion. But never believe that assets will always go up. There will be downturns. And so we must have these reserves to see us through these troughs. Singapore has got to this level through hard work and thrift. We must continue in this mode,” Mr Lee pointed out.

On the home front, Mr Lee said higher food and energy prices, and a widening income gap are cause for concern and must be addressed.

He also said that while there are massive investments, such as the Marina Barrage, to develop Singapore into a global city, those living in the heartland housing estates will not be left behind.

All estates will be upgraded and beautified to ensure all Singaporeans can benefit from the growth, Mr Lee added. – CNA/ac

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Feb 2008

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