PM Lee says Singapore will continue to develop financial sector

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will continue to develop the financial sector as more activities are being moved to the city-state.

Mr Lee, who was speaking to 120 bankers at the hour-long Thomson Reuters Dialogue on Tuesday, added that more would be done to ease capacity constraints, such as the crunch in office space and accommodation.

The financial sector in Singapore grew by some 17.5 percent last year. But the prime minister said Singapore needs to level up to cope with this upsurge in activities.

He said: “We are running up against constraints because we don’t have enough office space, we don’t have enough accommodation and rentals have gone up.

“We don’t have enough schools for the expatriates’ children. (But) we are addressing this – we are helping the United World College to build a new school in Tampines, and they told me that places are already fully taken.”

Mr Lee added that rentals are likely to come down, with more offices and apartments coming on stream in the next few years.

On the whole, he is optimistic that Singapore will be able to weather the economic slowdown in the US.

Responding to a question, Mr Lee said while the value of export in the electronics sector is down, the volume has increased and there are other sectors that are doing well within the manufacturing sector, such as the pharmaceutical and petrochemical businesses.

On the issue of inflation, the prime minister said food prices will continue to rise for some time as consumption continues to increase.

Another reason for the price hike is an under-investment in the agricultural sector previously. This shortage in food supply has resulted in hoarding and some countries have limited the export of rice.

Mr Lee said he hopes ASEAN member countries can coordinate efforts and not work against one another so as to ensure that rice gets to the people.

The topic of foreign talent was also raised at the dialogue session. Mr Lee said that like London and New York, Singapore needs to tap on a range of expertise from all over the world.

“We are not only a city, we are a country. We have to have a hard core of Singaporeans so that the character of the place remains Singaporean, while being cosmopolitan,” he said.

As for leadership renewal, Mr Lee said Singapore needs to keep it contestable while focusing on building a good team that can meet future challenges and find new ways of engaging the population.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 6 May 2008

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