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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        3  February 2011

Singapore to help residents

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The government has pledged to help Singaporeans, especially lower-income households, cope with rising costs.

In his Lunar New Year message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the government has more scope to implement schemes after last year's strong economic performance.

It was a roaring good year for Singapore's economy in the Year of the Tiger, with the economy growing at 14.7 percent last year.

While this meant better bonuses for workers, it also brought its own set of problems such as rising costs.

Those aspiring to own cars found it more expensive, as fewer were made available in a bid to curb the car population and reduce congestion on the roads, even as demand rose amid rising incomes.

Together with external factors such as higher oil prices and food shortages due to bad weather, prices of consumer goods shot up.

Property prices also rose significantly in the past year, boosted by positive market sentiments, low interest rates and high liquidity.

Prices of HDB resale flats and private homes rose 14.1 per cent and 17.6 per cent respectively in 2010, setting new records.

In his message, Mr Lee said the government has acted to curb speculation and cool the property market. He added more will be done to stabilise the market if and when it becomes necessary.

Mr. Lee pledged that housing, especially public flats, will be kept affordable to Singaporeans.

He added that in a prospering economy, home owners should see their properties appreciating in value over the long term.

Mr. Lee also acknowledged concerns among some Singaporeans about the rapid changes in society and the competition from new immigrants.

He said the country needs immigrants to reinforce the ranks. But there must also be a clear majority of locally-born Singaporeans who set the tone of society and uphold core values.

Mr. Lee added that while many want to become permanent residents and new citizens, only those who can add value to Singapore will be selected.

He also called on Singaporeans to produce more babies - a task that has proven to be extremely challenging.

Singapore's total fertility rate fell to an all-time low of 1.16 last year. The decline was across all races, but it was sharpest among the Chinese, where the fertility rate fell to 1.02, far short of the needed replacement level of 2.1.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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