PM Lee to G-20: No avoiding reforms for long term

PM Lee to G-20: No avoiding reforms for long term
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) welcomes Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the start of the G20 summit on Sept 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg.

RUSSIA - Turmoil in the financial markets might be an immediate concern, but the need to generate growth and jobs remains the longer-term challenge, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking at a G-20 leaders' discussion on Thurday, he noted that the immediate priority for leaders was to manage the economic impact arising from fears of a sudden winding down of the United States' massive financial stimulus measures.

But, he urged his counterparts to keep their eyes on the longer-term prize.

"Our bigger challenge goes beyond current concerns over monetary policy, to generating growth and jobs for the long term," he told leaders gathered at Konstantinovsky Palace, near St Petersburg, for a two-day summit.

"This requires countries to adapt to profound and powerful forces which are transforming our economies and societies."

How the world responds to these forces will determine if it faces "a future of repeated instability or prosperity", he added.

Mr Lee noted that countries would have to undertake difficult budget reforms, invest in educating their young, and work out global rules for taxation.

Speaking at the first working session, held soon after the leaders' arrival, he outlined two challenges countries faced: changes in technology and globalisation.

Technology was creating new jobs and industries - from digital media to 3-D manufacturing - which governments had to prepare people for through education and training. It was also reshaping social norms and politics, he said.

And globalisation was drawing nations closer, giving them more of a stake in each other's prosperity.

Both forces were a boon, but also caused inequalities and insecurities that called for "deep and continuing structural changes".

Developed nations could not avoid major fiscal and spending reforms, while changes to pensions and health care were "difficult political challenges, but critical".

"Indeed all our societies need to strike a fair balance between older citizens, who have major social needs, and the younger generation, who look forward to growth and jobs," he said.

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