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January 25, 2009

Singapore: Recession may last for whole of 2009

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday that the government's S$20.5 billion ($13.7 billion) stimulus package will not immediately lift the country out of a recession, which may possibly last for the whole of 2009.

"The recession is a global one, and we must expect to see exports contract, unemployment rise, and growth remain negative for more months, and perhaps for the whole year," Reuters quoted Lee as saying in a message for the Lunar New Year.

Lee, however, said the package would help mitigate the effects of the downturn, which could see Singapore's economy contract as much as 5 percent in 2009, its worst ever performance.

Last week the government in its budget said it will for the first time tap government reserves to pay for a stimulus package to help companies and save jobs, as the country grapples with its worst-ever recession.

Lee also said he hoped Singapore's birth rate remained steady during these tough economic times because in previous recessions the city-state's birth rate has fallen.

"We have implemented many measures to encourage marriage and help you in supporting and bringing up your children. There is also a lag time in procreation, so with luck your babies will arrive in time to enjoy the upswing," he said.

The Singapore government has been trying for years to boost the city-state's birth rate -- one of the lowest in the world-- by encouraging educated young people in particular to have children and providing incentives ranging from tax breaks to "baby bonuses" to couples with kids.

The land-scarce Southeast Asian city has a population of 4.6 million and hopes to increase that figure to 6.5 million in the coming decades by encouraging immigration and incentives to raise more children.

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