Monday, January 26, 2009

Recession May Stretch But Govt Ready: MM Lee

Source : The Business Times, January 24, 2009

THE big question is just how long Singapore will remain in a recession. The government, on its part, will be ready to deal with all possible fallouts from the economic slowdown, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

'We don't know how long it will last, that's the big question mark. So we are prepared for all eventualities, it may last one year, two years, or it may go on for three years. But we must be prepared for it,' he told reporters after a visit to the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network yesterday.

Giving his views on the Budget statement, which was delivered in Parliament by the Finance Minister on Thursday, Mr Lee described the $20.5 billion package as 'not over-generous, but not ungenerous'. He reiterated how the priority this year was always to save jobs as well as help the low-income and jobless in society.

'There is no better way of fighting this recession than to have jobs. For the lower-income, those who are out of work or retrenched, we have got to help them go through this rough patch. There's $2 billion-odd dollars in various GST (Goods and Services Tax) credits and U-Save and S&C (service and conservancy) charges and so on,' said Mr Lee.

The park connector network that Mr Lee toured yesterday at East Coast together with National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan is the longest of the seven loops in Singapore that have been planned island-wide.

To date, about 105km of park connectors have been completed, and NParks says it aims to develop a 300km-long network of green corridors across Singapore by the year 2015. The Urban Redevelopment Authority has already safeguarded land for 360km of park connectors over the next 10 to 15 years.

For the coming financial year, NParks says it will accelerate the development of the park connector networks in light of the economic downturn. Instead of the planned 20km track to be built in FY2009, it is aiming to complete a total of 42km at a cost of $40 million. Mr Lee said he has been encouraging the park connector networks initiative over the years, adding that it was important for all stakeholders to think of 'ingenious ways and means' to keep Singapore a clean and green city.

'For everyone who wants to get out of the urban jungle, they can come here and find the surroundings completely different. We have to do this in many parts of Singapore. By the time we have about 350km (of park connectors), within 700 sq km of land, there are not very many countries that can say they have that,' said Mr Lee.

He did acknowledge that the problem of littering continues to be a 'constant battle' the government has to contend with, given that there are a million foreign workers in Singapore who may come here with different habits.

'But they need to do the jobs that Singaporeans don't want or cannot do, so you can't say that (the foreigners) have to go and do a training course before they start work. We have to put up with all these aberrations,' said Mr Lee.

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