SINGAPORE - The economy grew a "moderate" 2.8 per cent in 2014 as productivity gains remained weak for a third straight year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday.
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Here is the New Year message by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong:
2014 has been an eventful year. We have seen rising nationalism lead to tensions in our part of the world, and even to conflict in Ukraine and the Crimea. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is still far from under control. Terrorism continues to loom large: ISIS in Syria and Iraq is a new breeding ground, and even smaller-scale, lone-wolf attacks like the hostage taking in Sydney can be very worrying.
We have also experienced several air tragedies close to home, most recently the loss of AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the loved ones of those on board.
As Singapore prepares to celebrate our 50th birthday, we are reminded that stability, safety and security are precious, and a pre-requisite for safeguarding what we have, and reaching for a better future. SG50 will be a time to look back, give thanks for what we have achieved, and look forward to the future with confidence.
Our economy has performed moderately well in 2014. Growth was 2.8 per cent. Real median incomes continued to rise, leading to a 10 per cent increase over the last five years. Unlike many developed countries, we are not facing unemployment and stagnant wages. We can take heart from this.
However, our productivity performance has been disappointing. For the third year in a row, productivity growth has been weak. For the first three quarters, it is negative: -0.5 per cent. We must do better. Otherwise, our incomes cannot continue to rise, and will soon stagnate. We must redouble our efforts to help companies and workers upgrade, and become more productive.
Even then, our growth will be slower than we are used to. One reason for this is that we have been tightening policies, including on foreign workers, to get our economy onto a path of sustainable, productivity-driven growth.
But please remember that economic growth remains important. Those who say that it is unimportant are gravely mistaken. Growth is not the be-all and endall, but it is the only way for us to create good jobs for all and earn a good living, so that as a nation we can invest in our people and our future. It opens opportunities that give us a sense of hope, and the confidence that our lives can improve with each passing year.
ASSURANCE, OPPORTUNITY AND HOME
Growth also gives us the resources to improve social wellbeing and sustain our social safety nets. This has been a major priority as we make fundamental policy shifts to prepare for the future.
These shifts will give Singaporeans at each stage of life greater assurance, more opportunities, and a better home. 8. First, to give Singaporeans greater assurance, we introduced the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP). The response has been good.
Our pioneers are happy that in their golden years their sacrifices and contributions are being honoured. Their children and family members are also happy as their load too has been eased. The government has set aside sufficient funds to keep its promise to our pioneers.
Another major initiative - MediShield Life - will come into effect in 2015. This will give all Singaporeans better healthcare coverage for life. Both PGP and MediShield Life will help make Singapore a more fair and just society, where risks are shared, and the vulnerable among us receive more help.