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Singapore: Manufacturing sector silver lining of 2020

Singapore’s manufacturing sector was the silver lining of 2020, with the sector posting growth for the full year, according to data released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) on January 26.

The sector expanded 14.3 percent year on year last month. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, output grew 19.8 percent.

Overall, manufacturing output increased 7.3 percent last year, compared with 2019.

The chemicals cluster grew by 12.3 percent year on year last month, with all segments except petroleum recording output growth. But for the whole of last year, the chemicals cluster’s output dipped by 1 percent compared with 2019.

The precision engineering cluster picked up 11 percent in December, with the machinery and systems segment growing 12.6 percent on the back of higher output of semiconductor equipment and measuring devices. Precision engineering output increased 10.6 percent for the year.

General manufacturing output also grew, by 5.9 percent, with increases in the food, beverages and tobacco segment, thanks to higher production of beverage products and milk powder. Overall, full-year output of the general manufacturing cluster fell 11.3 percent last year.

Meanwhile, biomedical manufacturing output fell by 13.2 percent last month. The medical technology segment grew 7.3 percent with higher export demand for medical devices. But the pharmaceuticals segment fell 22.8 percent, with lower production of biological products.

Overall, the biomedical manufacturing cluster’s output still rose 23.7 percent last year compared with a year earlier.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, transport engineering output fell 31.5 percent year on year in December and 25.7 percent for last year.

The future remains bright for manufacturing, experts said.

UOB economist Barnabas Gan said on the back of an economic recovery in 2021 amid potentially higher oil prices, sectors which had previously seen a full-year contraction could revert to positive growth. These include transport engineering, general manufacturing and chemicals clusters.

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