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Singapore PM criticizes U.S. `game of chicken'

By Pamela Boykoff, CNN
updated 11:59 PM EDT, Mon October 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Singapore prime minister criticizes U.S. shutdown as a "game of chicken"
  • Prime Minister Lee fears the squabble could have long-term impact for world's largest economy
  • The economic fate of the city-state is closely linked with the health of the U.S. economy
  • U.S. President Obama canceled his visit to the 21-nation APEC summit over the shutdown

(CNN) -- Singapore's prime minister openly criticized the United States over the government shutdown and ongoing deadlock over the debt ceiling, calling them "problems you have created for yourself in a game of chicken."

In an interview with CNN's Patricia Wu on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Americans "are unable to get their act together," and that Washington's behavior sends a "negative signal which will last much longer that the shutdown."

The government shutdown led U.S. President Barack Obama to cancel his attendance at the APEC Leaders' summit just days before he was meant to arrive. The summit finishes today in Bali, Indonesia. Aside from Taiwan, Obama is the only leader missing among the 21 economies of the APEC group, which together account for half the world's output, 45% of its trade and 3 billion of its inhabitants.

READ MORE: Obama APEC absence boon for Xi, Putin

U.S. shutdown and APEC
General Electric talks long-term growth

The U.S. government is also facing an October 17 deadline to raise its debt ceiling or risk a possible default.

Prime Minister Lee said he was more worried about the long-term message the U.S. was sending than the prospect of a direct hit to U.S. growth.

FORTUNE: Debt ceiling scenarios freaking out traders

Asked if the U.S. would benefit from a system like Singapore's -- where government ministers are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries -- Lee said he believes his country runs a clean system in which officials are paid "what their job is worth."

He criticized the conflicts of interest that result from the "revolving door" between the United States government and the private sector. Lee is paid more than $1 million to serve as Singapore's prime minister.

Singapore is heavily dependent on exports and trade, so the fate of the city-state is closely linked with the health of the U.S. economy. Both Singapore's property and stock markets have boomed over the last few years as investors flooded in seeking higher returns thanks to loose liquidity from the U.S. Federal Reserve and China.

The prime minister said he is comfortable with Singapore's footing as the United Stated considers turning off the flow of easy money.

"The emerging economies, many of them are concerned. They didn't want the money to slosh in. They are afraid when the money sloshes out, but the tapering has to take place and we have to be able to manage it," Lee said.

CNNMoney: Fed taper won't cause another financial crisis in Asia

He also expressed concern over the stiffening tone in territorial disputes between Asia's power players, including Japan and China.

"It is very hard for any government to give up what it has claimed, because it will lose face and standing and domestic support, so you can only manage these issues, you cannot solve them," Lee said.

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