Singapore's economy is expected to grow at 1-3 percent in 2013 and an average of 3-4 percent for the rest of the decade, according to Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang.

Lim said in the Parliament earlier this week during the ministry's 2013 budget debate that due to the weak external environment and the tighter labour situation domestically, Singapore’s economy could grow at a modest tempo.

For the whole 2012, Singapore’s GDP growth slowed to 1.3 percent from 5.2 percent in 2011.

He added that the slowdown would be most acutely felt in the workforce as the population ages and the citizen workforce shrinks over time. To deal with this slowdown, companies must restructure and aim for higher productivity.

Lim informed the Parliament of his ministry’s two strategies for achieving quality economic growth. The first is staying open and flexible to tap global and regional opportunities, and the second is restructuring the economy so that companies and workers can achieve higher productivity and sustainability.

According to the minister, free trade agreements (FTAs) are also another way to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) globalise through a large and comprehensive network of trade agreements with major trading partners such as China , Australia and India .

He elaborated that FTAs improve market access for Singaporean companies as they expand overseas. In 2012, more than 1,700 companies benefited from FTAs, and this number is expected to increase as Singapore expands FTA networks.

Lim said the Singaporean government sees opportunities for local companies seeking to tap Asia's growth and the continuing economic integration of the region in four sectors, namely pharmaceuticals, baby products and services, silver industry and high-end logistics services.-VNA