PM Lee confident of the future

PM Lee confident of the future

SINGAPORE - Asian economies may have lost some lustre recently, but the situation is different from 1997, when a financial crisis hit the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he believes Asia and the world are in a stronger position now.

Addressing the three-day Singapore Summit, which opened yesterday evening, Mr Lee pointed out that banks are better capitalised, external balances are generally stronger and countries have lower foreign debt and significantly higher reserves. Also, exchange rates are more flexible and firewalls are in place.

But he said there are deeper issues facing many Asian economies. He listed four of them: Demographics, generational changes, social and economic transformation, and ensuring peace and security.

How these are addressed would determine how well these countries fare in the long term.

Asia is home to some of the most rapidly ageing societies in the world. Some countries have more youthful populations but have to educate and find jobs for their young people.

Asian countries have to restructure their economies, build social safety nets and update their political systems to keep up with the times.

There is no guarantee that all countries will manage these issues successfully. But Mr Lee said he felt confident about Asia's future.

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