Strong growth, social tinkering

Strong growth, social tinkering

Throughtout 2013, Singapore's macroeconomic management revealed the economy's strengths.

Official estimates of Singapore's real economic growth of between 3.5 and 4 per cent for 2013 compare favourably with the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook of October 2013, which showed an average growth rate of 1.25 per cent for developed economies and 5 per cent for developing economies.

Unemployment remains low at about 2 per cent and job openings continue to outnumber job seekers.

Meanwhile, inflation eased relative to previous years and is expected to be in the range of 1.5 to 2 per cent for 2013.

Singapore's attempts to find new growth niches also had some success this past year as evidenced by its new role as an offshore renminbi clearing centre.

Yet in affluent and rapidly ageing Singapore, the impact of raw growth on quality-of-life concerns is increasingly limited.

The concerns of the population are nuanced and require the fruits of growth to be channelled towards specific social outcomes.

These concerns include relative poverty; access, equity and affordability in health care; and retirement income provision.

Consistent with similarly situated countries, the Singaporean public desire higher-quality urban amenities, especially in public transport and recreation spaces, and meaningful participation in issues affecting them.

Yet policymakers continue to respond to these desires by slightly tinkering with existing philosophies, policies and programmes, even when there is a strong case for more substantive reforms.

A report published in early 2013 found a continued rising trend of uneven income distribution.

The unadjusted Gini coefficient for wage income stood at 0.47, and just under 0.46 after government transfers and taxes.

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