TODAY Online – In Asia’s eyes, world economy not in a funk, says Tharman

He added that Asean is not doing badly on the investment front and in the trading of goods.

The world economy is not in a pessimistic state, but the present narrative talks itself into believing that the global economic situation is in "a funk", Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday (Sept 16) at The Singapore Summit dialogue.

"Don't let the perceptions of the narrative have their own dynamic. They are overplayed, they are overstated and the future depends on us and what we do," he told about 400 guests from 36 countries at Shangri-La Hotel.

Responding to a question on why the world economy is at its present state of pessimism and slow growth, given that there are job opportunities, labour and liquidity, he reiterated that it is not in a funk.

Adding that the "world economy looks very different when you are sitting in Asia", Mr Tharman said that there is growth and business being done in the region, jobs are being created and incomes are rising.

"There has been an over-emphasis on monetary policy as some sort of solution to all our problems, and an under-emphasis on policies and collective action to boost the real economy - that's the nature of our problem."

In the session moderated by international broadcaster Nik Gowing, Mr Tharman answered questions that centred mostly on globalisation and its effects, in particular, how things that are happening in the United States and the United Kingdom, such as Brexit, could derail the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).

Asked whether Asean was discouraged by Europe's situation, Mr Tharman said that Asean cannot take the wrong lessons from Europe. He added that Asean is not doing badly on the investment front and in the trading of goods.

"I think we are slow on services and... we really need to get a lot more serious (about it), whether it is financial services or a whole range of modern services.... We will all do better if we open our markets (and) develop strengths in things we are good at."

As to whether countries can learn from Singapore's social welfare policy, Mr Tharman said the Republic has used a combination of social and economic policies to help its citizens, who have to be lifelong learners.

There is a very important space in public and economic policies that has allowed state activism to support personal effort and responsibility at work, raising families, and education, he added.

Source: Government of Singapore