SINGAPORE (AP) _ Beefing up its already-strict anti-drug laws, Singapore will introduce the death penalty for traffickers of methamphetamines, an official said today.

The move comes amid worries that an economic downturn in the region could aggravate a growing drug problem, said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said.

``People in financial straits may resort to drug pushing and trafficking,'' he said.

In 1996, there were only five arrests linked to methamphetamine abuse in the tiny Southeast Asian nation. But last year, that number grew to 82, according to the government figures.

Under current drug laws, any adult caught with .53 ounces of heroin can be executed for drug dealing. More than 150 people have been hanged since the law was imposed in 1975.

The amendment announced today has yet to be introduced in Parliament, which usually approves such measures swiftly.