Singapore’s economy grows at slower pace

Expansion: Workers at a construction site in Singapore. The country’s construction sector’s growth was largely due to low base effects given the slow resumption of activities. — AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s economy expanded at a slower annual pace in the third quarter compared with the previous three-month period when growth was boosted by a low-base effect.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rose 6.5% on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis in the July-September period, moderating from 15.2% growth in the previous quarter, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) yesterday.

The pace of growth was weaker than the 7% forecast by economists in a Monetary Authority of Singapore survey last month, while a Bloomberg poll had predicted a 6.6% expansion.

However, on a quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) seasonally adjusted basis, MTI data showed the economy expanded by 0.8% in the third quarter of this year, a reversal from the 1.4% contraction in the preceding quarter.

MTI said the strong annual growth recorded in the second quarter of this year was largely due to the low base in the corresponding quarter of 2020 when GDP fell by 13.3% due to the circuit breaker measures implemented from April 7 to June 1 last year, as well as the sharp fall in external demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

A higher than expected y-o-y growth in the April-June period, plans for a gradual reopening of borders and easing of Covid-19 curbs had raised hopes of a faster economic recovery for Singapore this year.

But analysts have also warned that the path to the higher official full-year growth forecast of 6% to 7% may still face challenges.

Growth in the second half of the year will also be compared with the relatively high base set in the same period of 2020, they said.

They said that electronics, which accounts for about a quarter of Singapore’s exports, may be nearing a peak in its growth cycle and the sector’s expansion may start to taper off later this year.

The retreat in momentum was evident in Singapore’s disappointing August non-oil domestic exports, which expanded at an annual pace of 2.7% – the slowest since November last year.

That was due to supply chain disruptions caused by a global shortage of semiconductors, delays in shipping schedules due to port congestion and a shortage of containers, as well as skyrocketing freight costs.

The supply chain disruptions have further worsened in recent weeks due to ongoing power shortages in China and Covid-19-related restrictions due to a Delta-variant resurgence across the Asean region.

The manufacturing sector in the third quarter of this year grew 7.5% y-o-y, extending the 18% growth in the previous quarter.

Manufacturing growth during the quarter was supported by output expansions in all clusters, except for chemicals.

The electronics and precision engineering segments of manufacturing continued to post strong growth, driven by sustained global demand for semiconductors and semiconductor equipment.

On a q-o-q seasonally adjusted basis, the value-added of the manufacturing sector remained unchanged in the third quarter, an improvement from the 2.1% decline recorded in the second quarter.

The construction sector expanded 57.9% y-o-y in the third quarter of this year, following a 117.5% growth in the preceding quarter.

MTI said the construction sector’s growth was largely due to low base effects given the slow resumption of construction activities after the circuit breaker period last year.

In absolute terms, the value-added of the sector remained 25.1% below its pre-Covid-19 level – during the third quarter of 2019 – with activity at construction worksites weighed down by labour shortages due to border restrictions on the entry of migrant workers.

Within the services sectors, the wholesale and retail trade, as well as transportation and storage, sector grew 5% y-o-y in the third quarter of this year, extending a 8.5% growth in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, the information and communications, finance and insurance, and professional services sectors collectively expanded 7.7% y-o-y, extending the 10.1% growth in the preceding quarter. — The Straits Times/ANN

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