PM Lee meets over 250 Singaporeans based in the United States. (Photo: Bharati Jagdish)
WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he expects Singapore's economic growth this year to be at the upper end of the 2 to 3 per cent range.
The Singapore economy was PM Lee's focus during his reception speech on Sunday (Oct 22) as he met more than 250 Singaporeans based in the United States.
He is currently in the US for an official working visit at the invitation of US President Donald Trump.
PM Lee's optimism stems from strong third quarter results in areas such as manufacturing and services.
The strong showing by the manufacturing sector helped Singapore’s economy grow 4.6 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter from a year ago, advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) showed on Oct 13.
In August, the Government narrowed the full-year growth forecast for the Singapore economy to 2 to 3 per cent, from the earlier range of 1 to 3 per cent.
Mr Lee acknowledged that productivity is still a challenge.
"With services particularly, that's very hard work because we're talking about retail, logistics, healthcare and personal services. It's very hard to make a sudden transformation and it's also very intensive on personal services.
"If you have a haircut, you have a haircut. It's very hard for the barber to cut your hair 20 per cent faster than last year. Yet we would like them improve their incomes. So we have to work very patiently sector by sector.
"Our buzzword is to have an Industry Transformation Map for each of the sectors and find out what it is they need and how they can be helped, and what are the challenges to be overcome. We're going to put in the effort. It's going to be a lot of work. It's not easy to do.
"But it can be done and if we persist, I think we can improve our performance and that means we can get better jobs for our people and better assurances for our people that they will be able to have jobs - good jobs either in the same industry or if they move to another sector, they can pick up the skills and learn what they need to learn to get into a new job."
STRONG SINGAPORE-US TIES
Mr Lee also said he is keen to take the relationship with the US forward noting that Singapore has strong economic, defence, security and cultural ties with the country.
"These go on whoever is in the White House and whichever party is in the administration. It's important for us to establish working relationships with key people in the administration to get them to know us, to understand them, to appreciate their perspectives, to be able to work together and to take the relationship forward.
"It's important to us in Singapore because we have so much at stake in our ties with the US. It's important to us as a country in Southeast Asia because America is such a big factor in the region and we want to know what America is thinking for the region and how we fit in and which way things are going."
During his six-day visit, Singapore Airlines (SIA) will finalise an order for 39 Boeing aircraft worth US$13.8 billion (S$18.8 billion) at list prices.