Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 11/16/2013 14:59 | By Channel NewsAsia

Economic growth must benefit wide segment of society: PM Lee

Economic growth must benefit wide segment of society: PM Lee

Economic growth must benefit wide segment of society: PM Lee

SINGAPORE: Economic growth must benefit a wide segment of society, or else political consensus to support growth will fail, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He made the point on Saturday at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This year's meeting centres on the theme of inclusive development, namely “Growth With Equity: Inclusive Development”.

Speaking to leaders, Prime Minister Lee said for equitable growth to take place, it is crucial for countries to maintain a healthy and growing economy.

But he stressed that prosperity must result in better lives, jobs, living conditions and opportunities for all.

He noted how globalisation has led to growing anxiety among the low-income and middle-income groups.

Mr Lee said governments cannot reverse these trends, but it must mitigate downsides and shield people from uncertainties and inequalities. The challenge, he said, is to do it well.

In some ways, the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth reflect the growing income disparity governments are facing in their own countries.

Commonwealth members are made up of some of the world's richest and poorest states, spanning across Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

One of the approaches to address the problem of inequity is state welfare and observers have pointed out that this does not necessarily work.

Mr Lee said that with state welfare, it is hard to translate noble intentions and social spending into real gains.

Heavy public spending, he said, has often not solved problems of unemployment and lack of competitiveness. Instead, it results in fiscal deficits and growing debt.

One way out of this, said Mr Lee, is to pursue sustainable development -- which means, governments living within its means and pursuing development strategies that sustain growth over the long term.

Mr Lee said: "We need to live within our means, collectively, so we do not indebt our children. Pursue development strategies that sustain sound growth over the long-term, and not a transient, false sense of well-being through deficit spending, asset bubbles, or depleting natural resources."

He said Singapore has tried to adhere to these development principles and it has shared its experiences through the Commonwealth Third Country Training Programme, Singapore Cooperation Programme.

More than 100,000 officials from over 170 countries have been trained under the initiative -- including 20,000 Commonwealth officials -- in matters such as public governance, information technology and trade facilitation.  - CNA/nd

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