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NEWS UPDATES 31 July 2010

Singapore faces challenge of social cohesion

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Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the challenge of sustaining social cohesion while achieving growth is sharpest now, compared with what Singapore faced over the past 50 years, Channel News Asia reports.

He made the point at the annual dinner organised by the Economic Society of Singapore on Friday.

Addressing about 700 economists, financial professionals, academics and government officials, Mr. Shanmugaratnam said Singapore is facing significant headwinds on the back of sharp upturn in the economy.

He warned that layoffs will continue in developed economies for at least another five to eight years or possibly longer.

Income disparity will also continue as skilled labour from developed nations seek fortunes overseas.

And the reality, said Mr. Shanmugaratnam, is that Singapore needs to provide adequate incentives for those with talent and skill to come here.

Otherwise, he said it will just "hold down" the wages for the rest of the society.

Given this backdrop, Mr. Shanmugaratnam said governments need to question existing policies, re-mould entire social contracts and prepare the ground for a new era of growth.

And to do this, Singapore needs what he called an "activist state".

He said: “An activist state which intervenes with spirit, to promote social mobility especially among the poor. That promotes opportunities for its people, that frees up competition and that is able to sustain optimism in the future.”

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