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March 21, 2009

Singapore’s top leader warns of long recession
Singapore's recession-hit economy may take up to six years to recover in a worse-case scenario, influential founding father Lee Kuan Yew was quoted by AFP as saying.

"The optimistic scenario is, two to three years, we're out of this," Lee told an audience at a local university late Friday. "At the worst, four, five, six years... Because we are export-dependent," he said, adding the country's "imports and exports are the highest in the world as a percentage of GDP."

Singapore is forecast to slip into its worst recession this year with the economy likely to shrink by up to 5.0 percent. The city-state's worst recession since independence in 1965 was in 2001 when the economy contracted 2.4 percent.

The city-state was the first Asian country to slip into a recession when figures released in October last year showed the economy contracted for two straight quarters in the period to September.

Lee, an adviser in his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's cabinet with the title minister mentor, said earlier this month the economy may contract by as much as 10 percent this year if exports continue to fall sharply.

The latest trade figures released last week showed Singapore's key exports plunged 24 percent in February from a year ago as shipments to its key markets including the US continued to decline.

The government's official projection is for the trade-dependent economy to contract between 2.0 and 5.0 percent this year after growing 1.1 percent in 2008.
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