SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has warned of a possible severe slowdown in the global economy due to the debt crisis in Europe.
He said that this could test the leadership of Singapore's government and union movement.
Mr Tharman said: "Unfortunately, troubles are brewing once again, this time in the eurozone... We have to prepare for the possibility, the very real possibility of rough times ahead, a severe slowdown in the global economy. Once again, this will test leadership, leadership not just within government but leadership within the union movement."
He was speaking at a graduation ceremony for the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute, where Mr Tharman and Labour Chief Lim Swee Say gave out certificates and diplomas to 99 graduates.
Mr Tharman's comments come a day after the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) warned that the global economy is at its most fragile state since the last financial crisis.
However, Mr Tharman believes Singapore will be able to use crises to become fitter, more skilled and more ready to take on future opportunities.
He said: "That has been the way we have dealt with past crises, not become all defensive, not retreat, but use the crisis as an opportunity to build up skills and build up competitiveness.
"And if we go through difficulties once again next year and possibly beyond, we will be able to once again show the world how we use crises to build up our competitiveness and to emerge even stronger, just like we did the last time."
Mr Tharman said Singapore's brand of tripartism (where the union works together with the government and companies), has resulted in Singaporean workers today enjoying better working conditions and higher salaries - something not many other countries have been able to achieve.
But he added that there is still the ongoing battle to uplift those with low wages who are struggling to survive, and to correct working conditions which are still substandard in pockets of the economy.
During the ceremony, Mr Tharman also highlighted graduates who made an effort to upgrade. One of them was 50-year-old Mohd Rasi Taib, president of the National Transport Worker's Union, who did not let age stop him from upgrading his skills.
Another is Mr Ramanathan Doraisamy. He was retrenched but picked up leadership skills learnt at the institute and secured a new job as a quality assurance engineer.
The graduates included union leaders, as well as industrial relations and human resource practitioners.