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Singapore’s 2018 Year-in-Review by PM Lee is surprisingly upbeat

In his 2019 New Year’s message, PM Lee uses quite a lot of positive adjectives to describe Singapore’s growth this past year.

Describing 2018 as a ‘productive year for Singapore’, PM Lee first noted that the local economy grew steadily at 3.3%, exceeding expectations. He then moved on to review Singapore’s year on three fronts: international, domestic, and local leadership.

Singapore on the international stage

PM Lee described 2018 as eventful – touching on the US-Korea summit hosted in Singapore and ASEAN summits chaired by SG. He also mentioned ‘special initiatives’ launched at the ASEAN summit to enhance regional stability and integration.

He then briefly mentioned geopolitical tensions between US and China as well as the rising tensions with Malaysia, noting that Singapore hopes to maintain a constructive partnership with her neighbours. Details on how this would be achieved was expectedly scarce in his message.

Domestic front

Domestically, PM Lee noted that Singapore has been making progress and have ‘coped better than most countries’ to societal stress over stagnating wages and malfunctioning of political systems. He said, ‘The economy has grown, unemployment remains low, and incomes have risen across the board’. He also noted improvements in healthcare, education, housing, and public transport. He mentioned the opening of new hospitals, a shift in focus on education from exams to a holistic approach, and improvements in the housing and transport networks.

Curiously, though not surprisingly, nothing was mentioned about the rising voices of discontent or the rough patches Singapore has experienced this past 12 months from a crackdown on independent media to politically charged lawsuits, the formation of new opposition political parties or even the worsening flood issue.

Leadership transition

Finally, PM Lee talked about the leadership transition that Singapore is undergoing. Specifically, the PM noted that younger political office holders have settled on Heng Swee Keat as their leader and Chan Chun Sing as his deputy. This, he says, is a good outcome that inspires confidence that Singapore will be well taken care of in the long run.

The PM then called for Singaporeans to work with these younger political leaders to create the best team for Singapore. He also said that the country’s model of governance is ‘exceptional’ and has served Singapore well. He cautioned that ‘Singapore politics cannot afford to be riven and destabilised by the rivalries, contestations and factions so often seen elsewhere’ – possibly a reference to what happened in Malaysia last year.

Ending his message, the PM said ‘Despite the uncertain external environment and economic outlook, we are entering our Bicentennial Year with renewed vigour and purpose.’

You can read the PM's full message here.