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December 17, 2008

Singapore sees lower-than-forecast growth in 2008
Singapore's trade minister said on Tuesday that economic growth this year could be weaker than forecast, as the trade-dependent country suffers from a slowdown in the global economy, reported Reuters.

"We believe the growth for this year will come slightly below our earlier projections of 2.5 (percent)," Lim Hng Kiang told reporters on the sidelines of an Asean trade meeting.

The government has cut growth forecasts several times this year as the financial crisis hurt demand for its exports. The government pledged to spend S$2.3 billion ($1.5 billion) to help firms get credit and said it would run a larger budget deficit to support an economy that it said could shrink 1 percent in 2009 and at best would expand 2 percent.

Singapore fell into a recession in the third quarter and is poised to be emerging Asia's worst-performing economy next year, with an expected gross domestic product contraction of 1.1 percent, a recent Reuters poll showed.

"We are looking at a very difficult trade environment," Lim said.

The country's non-oil domestic exports, which accounted for about 70 percent of its economy last year, fell sharply in October as trade with key export markets such as the United States and Europe slid.

The financial crisis may also blow off course Southeast Asia's hopes for building an economic community of half a billion people. Singapore's Lim, together with other Association of Southeast Asian Nation economic ministers, is expected to sign trade agreements on goods, services and investment on Tuesday.

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