Many downside risks to Singapore economy despite recent jump in exports: Official

Aerial photo taken on April 26, 2020 shows HMM Algeciras docking at Qingdao Port in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. HMM Algeciras, the largest container vessel on earth with a TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) capacity of 24,000, started its maiden voyage from the port of Qingdao on Sunday. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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SINGAPORE, May 20, 2020, Bloomberg. Singapore Trade & Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said there are many “downside risks” to the economy despite recent data showing a surprise improvement in exports, The Straits Times reported.

“We are quietly encouraged by some of the positive numbers coming in for the first quarter despite the headwinds,” Mr Chan said in an interview on Wednesday (May 20) with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin. Still, the government is “not complacent” as “the downside risks are still many”.

Singapore’s heavily trade-reliant economy has taken a beating from the coronavirus outbreak and restrictions imposed to contain it, with preliminary data showing gross domestic product plunged 2.2 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the worst performance since the global financial crisis.

Data this week showed non-oil domestic exports unexpectedly gained 9.7 per cent in April, though that was mostly due to a jump in the volatile pharmaceuticals category from a low base in the same period last year.

Mr Chan said it’s “too early to say if the worst is over for the global economy” as infection rates rise in some places where they previously were under control.

Singapore announced on Tuesday it will begin reopening some businesses from June 2, resulting in three-quarters of the economy resuming operations. Sectors like manufacturing, finance, insurance and wholesale trade will be able to restart.

He also warned against countries responding with trade protectionist measures and competitive currency devaluations.

The government is set to release a final first-quarter GDP data on May 26 and may then revise its current projection that the economy will contract 1 per cent to 4 per cent this year. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is also expected to announce details of a fourth stimulus package on the same day.

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