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  Today Online 11 Sep 07
S'pore revving up Casinos will help it shed its 'museum' image: PM

SINGAPORE'S two casinos, which will be completed by 2010 as part of integrated resorts in Marina Bay and Sentosa, will not dominate the city-state's diversified economy and will help the island shed its "museum" image, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

"The casinos are not going to be Singapore," said Mr Lee in an interview with Bloomberg during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney. "This is not going to be like Macau, where the casinos are the economy."

Singapore will also play host next year to what is likely to be Formula 1's first Grand Prix to be held at night part of its move to tap an increase in global travel.

"We are not a museum, we are a living city, we have to evolve," said Mr Lee. "This is not 1950s Singapore, this is Singapore in the 21st century. Our policies have to change."

The Government expects to double the number of overseas visitors to 17 million annually and triple tourism receipts to $30 billion by 2015. Singapore, which will impose a $100 daily levy on citizens and Permanent Residents entering the casinos, is studying rules and procedures in countries where casinos are permitted to curb problem gambling, money-laundering and other vices, Mr Lee said.

Singapore's US$134 billion ($204 billion) economy is forecast to grow as much as 8 per cent this year, from 7.9 per cent in 2006.

Last month Mr Lee forecast annual growth for the next five to 10 years of between 4 and 6 per cent.

"In the short term, we hope to be at the higher end of that range, maybe even do better if we are lucky," he said. "If Asia is prospering and we make ourselves competitive, then we can grow in Asia."

China and India, the world's two fastest-growing major economies, are spurring growth around the region, he added. "This is an entire continent on the rise."

The region's developing nations are almost twice as reliant on exports as the rest of the world, with 60 per cent of their sales abroad ultimately destined for the United States, Europe and Japan.

While Singapore's expansion is not as dependent on US growth, the island still isn't "decoupled" from the world's largest economy, said Mr Lee. "We are a little less dependent If the US economy goes down, it will still affect us, but we are somewhat buffered." BLOOMBERG

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