Having come through Covid-19, Singapore, like any other country, is once again being tested amid geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainties, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In his speech for the National Day Rally 2023 titled "A Better Home, A Brighter Future", Lee said: "Singapore feels acutely the pressures mounting all around us."
He said the rivalry between the US and China affected every country and region in the world and that their mutual wariness and distrust had deepened.
"The rest of the world has to tread a careful path, to avoid being caught in the crossfire," he said.
On the war in Europe, Lee said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a continuing human tragedy and an assault on international norms and values.
"It is a cautionary warning to the rest of the world never to take peace for granted and a reminder to us of the vital importance of a strong Singapore Armed Forces," he said.
Lee also said that the global economic order was fraying and the concept of globalisation weakening.
"Supply chains are splitting up. Countries are layering on multiple protectionist measures. This hurts all countries, especially small, open trading nations like ourselves," he said.
Lee said the world was also experiencing more extreme weather due to global warming.
"From China and Japan to Europe and the US, no region is spared from floods and droughts, heatwaves and wildfires.
"This will affect food production and prices worldwide. We have not fully felt it in Singapore yet, but it is coming," said Lee, adding that economically, Singapore was keeping up.
The prime minister also said he expected positive economic growth this year and hopefully, avoid a recession.
"Inflation is, at last, coming down, but it will probably stay higher than what we were used to. The cost of living is still on everyone’s minds.
"We will weather this storm together," he said.
On Aug 11, the republic’s trade and industry ministry narrowed the 2023 GDP growth forecast range to 0.5%-1.5%, as the external demand outlook remained weak.
This was down from the previous forecast range of 0.5% to 2.5%.
Meanwhile, on July 24, the trade and industry ministry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said thatfor 2023, as a whole, headline and core inflation were projected to average between 4.5% and 5.5% and 3.5% and 4.5%, respectively.
Lee also touched on Singapore’s leadership succession plan, saying that in preparing for the future, one crucial task was leadership renewal.
"As you all know, my original plan was to hand over and step down as prime minister by 2022, before my 70th birthday. But the pandemic disrupted this plan.
"Now, Covid is behind us and my succession plan is back on track," he said, adding that several recent controversies which had drawn Singaporeans’ attention would not delay his timetable for renewal.