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February 1, 2009
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February 2, 2009

Singapore minister: Reserves not for welfare

A senior Singapore politician said on Sunday the government would dip into the country's reserves only in times of crisis and not use them to support welfare programmes.

"As a general principle, the government must continue to fund such programmes out of revenues raised in the current term of government, not past reserves," Reuters quoted former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as saying at a community event.

"When this economic recession is over, we must continue our policy of growing our reserves by living within our means and running a modest budget surplus," added Goh, who was PM between 1990 and 2004 and now holds the title of senior minister.

Singapore, a tiny city-state of 4.6 million, last month took the unprecedented step of drawing on its reserves to help finance a S$20.5 billion ($13.59 billion) stimulus package as its economy shrunk for the third consecutive quarter. [ID:nSP404398]

Even with the stimulus, which will result in a budget deficit of about 6 percent of GDP for 2009/2010 before investment income, the government says the trade-dependent economy and regional financial centre may contract by as much as 5 percent this year due to the global downturn.

Goh likened the Singapore economy to a "speedboat in open sea" that will outrun bigger vessels in calm seas but was more vunerable when winds rise and the waves are high. Singapore's two sovereign wealth funds, Temasek and GIC, together manage over $400 billion in investments.

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