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Singapore PM: virus hit to economy likely worse than 2008 crisis

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bangkok

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's prime minister warned on Saturday that the negative economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak will likely be deeper and more prolonged than the 2008 financial crisis.

"The economic hit will likely be more serious than the global financial crisis, and longer-lasting too, even beyond the end of the pandemic," Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post. He said the pandemic will likely last at least this year, and possibly longer.

With 200 infections, the Asian travel hub has signalled that there is a chance of a recession this year and has cut its growth forecasts.

Lee's comments came a day after Singapore revised its electoral boundaries, in a move usually seen as a precursor to calling a vote.

Singapore must hold elections by early 2021. Before the virus hit the Asian city-state late in January, the government had been expected to call a vote within a few months.

Lee said the government could hope that the situation will stabilise before the end of its term so that it can hold elections "under more normal circumstances".

"Or else call elections early, knowing that we are going into a hurricane, to elect a new government with a fresh mandate and a full term ahead of it, which can work with Singaporeans on the critical tasks at hand," he added.

If the elections have to be held before the outbreak is over, he said the government would take necessary precautions for parties to campaign and people to vote.



(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by James Drummond)