The prime minister's office yesterday reaffirmed that the government was sticking with its growth forecast of between 6 per cent and 7 per cent this year after Premier Goh Chok Tong set alarms bells ringing while on a trip to the United States. Questioned in Chicago on the likely impact of the recent currency turmoil on Singapore growth, Mr Goh said: 'I think it will affect us by perhaps 1 to 1.5 per cent growth.' Mr Goh gave no time frame with his surprise remark, causing confusion among nervous market watchers in the city state. The International Monetary Fund had earlier announced in its World Economic Outlook that its GDP forecast for 1997 had been cut from 7 per cent to 6 per cent. Mr Goh's office later clarified that the prime minister did not expect the currency crisis to have an immediate impact on Singaporean growth this year, but would in coming years if other regional economies slowed as expected. This is the first time the government has conceded that its economy would be troubled by the difficulties of its Southeast Asian neighbours. After addressing the US-Asean Business Council in Chicago, Mr Goh said: 'The Singapore economy depends also on the performance of the regional economies. We buy, we sell, we invest in these countries. 'When their growth is affected, ours will also be affected.' He said Asean countries could expect to see growth rates curtailed by about one to two percentage points due to depreciations and austerity measures enacted to rein in their current account deficits. 'Some countries will lose more, some countries will do better, but on average, maybe we should all scale down by 1 to 2 per cent,' Mr Goh said. Singaporeans had been expecting an economic recovery in the second half of this year, thanks to a manufacturing pick-up on the back of greater global electronics demand. Banks, construction companies and hotels are expected to be hurt by the regional slowdown. Friedrich Wu, head of economic research at DBS Bank, said it was good that Singaporeans had received a 'reality check'. 'Some brokers had still been going around insisting that everything was still alright,' he said. In his speech, Mr Goh said the slowdown was not necessarily a bad thing. 'Asean countries have seen near double-digit growth rates for years. They have liberalised their economies, and allowed foreign capital to move in and out of the region with ease,' he said. 'Asean will simply have to learn to cope with globalisation and financial liberalisation.' Asked whether he shared Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's view that international speculators, such as US financier George Soros, were to blame for the crisis, Mr Goh said: 'I don't blame anyone.'