Straits Times: Low Thia Khiang defends export-driven economy

MPs offer ways to keep economy strong, seek help for SMEs to grow

BY SUE-ANN CHIA

THE Government’s export-oriented economic growth model, which has come under attack recently, received support from an unexpected source yesterday – opposition leader Low Thia Khiang.

The Workers’ Party chief and Hougang MP defended the long-held growth model, saying in Mandarin: “I believe it is correct to attract foreign investments to encourage competition in a free market, to open up our market and to go global and…integrate with the global economy.”

While acknowledging the strategy would make Singapore vulnerable to the ups and downs in the world economy, he believes the country will continue to prosper when the current economic storm blows over.

“Hence, I believe our economic model is basically correct,” he said.

Mr Low was among 15 MPs who spoke yesterday on the President’s Address, which mapped out the Government’s priorities for the remaining legislative term.

President SR Nathan had stressed that a key focus was to sustain economic growth, which had been viewed as a rebuff to critics who had questioned the “grow-at-all costs” economic strategy.

In his address, the President also called for new ideas to tackle the crisis.

Yesterday, several MPs offered ways to strengthen Singapore’s economy.

Mr Low urged the Government to focus on growing local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). He pinpointed the knowledge-based and creative sector, describing them as “sunshine industries”.

Helping the SMEs was also a call of Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who said it was “timely” to review Singapore’s growth model to reduce dependence on multinationals (MNCs).

He noted that the resources allocated to growing SMEs were a “far cry” from what was invested in the MNC strategy, resulting in weaker local enterprises.

“I cannot shake the feeling that this is because we have not been wholehearted in wanting to create our future Singapore MNCs, contented as we are with the foreign MNCs coming to Singapore,” said the vocal businessman MP and long-time champion of the SME cause.

Other MPs such as Mr Alvin Yeo (Hong Kah GRC) suggested boosting consumer spending here as a way to reduce Singapore’s dependence on exports.

Some ways to do so, he said, were snipping personal income taxes, scrapping the 10 per cent service charge in restaurants and subsidising the goods and services tax by giving out GST vouchers.

But one MP, Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), questioned if the growth-at-all-cost model was realistic.

Singapore should aim for “modest, sustainable economic growth”, he said, adding: “We need to feel proud of Singapore for what it is, and to take care of it, to protect overexploitation, overcrowding and unsustainable growth.”

Two MPs – Dr Amy Khor (Hong Kah GRC) and Mr Singh – also renewed their calls for the Government to set up an Economic Review Committee to plot new strategies for growth.

sueann@sph.com.sg

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Posted in 2009 05. Comments Off on Straits Times: Low Thia Khiang defends export-driven economy
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