Singapore Update: Singapore Announces Plans for 5G Public Consultation and Test Trials

Singapore Update | February 1, 2017
Authors: Sunita Kapoor and Riley Smith
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

February 9: Singapore Office Grand Opening and Networking Reception

February 9: ASEAN Committee Quarterly Call

February 10: Country Briefings with the Council's Regional Representatives (Singapore)

February 13: Energy Committee Quarterly Call

February 21-22: 2017 Business Mission to Cambodia

March 6-9: 2017 Business Mission to Vietnam

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Singapore Announces Plans for 5G Public Consultation and Test Trials
In its ongoing drive to encourage greater innovation in Singapore’s economy, the Government of Singapore continues to position the country as a test bed for new technologies with its recent announcement of a public consultation and real-world trials of fifth generation (5G) mobile networks starting in 2017.  On January 17, the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) announced that it plans to undertake a public consultation on the deployment of 5G in 2017.  The public consultation will be the next step in ongoing efforts to eventually introduce and commercialize 5G services and technologies in Singapore.  While speaking at the Next Generation Mobile Networks Forum, IMDA assistant chief executive Aileen Chia announced that, “IMDA will continue to promote greater technological innovation by encouraging trials in 5G technology to explore its potential benefits and applications,” noting that 5G’s enhanced reliability, ability to accommodate high-bandwidth applications, ultra-low latency, and increased mobility allows the technology to support a larger range of applications.  The real-world trials of 5G will also examine optimal deployment strategies for the technology.  One of the groups that is in the process of identifying operator-end requirements and technologies for real-world trials is Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance—an industry group that counts more than 80 firms and research institutes worldwide, including Singaporean telecommunications company Singtel, among its members.  Several of the technologies that NGMN has identified as potential candidates for 5G trials are remote surgery, remote excavation for construction, and self-driving cars—all of which will benefit from 5G’s more than one-gigabit-per-second speed and improved latency, which will allow for faster communication between devices and networks.  NGMN hopes to have 5G rolled out commercially in Singapore by 2020.  The public consultation and test trials will also come ahead of the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference, where the standards and spectrum for 5G are expected to be finalized.

Singapore Business Federation's SME Committee Releases Recommendations for Budget 2017
At a press conference on January 4, the SME Committee (SMEC) of the Singapore Business Federation—which advocates on the behalf of the Singapore business community on issues relating to trade, investment, and industrial relations—released its recommendations for the Government of Singapore’s (GOS) 2017 Budget (Budget 2017), recommendations that SMEC contends will provide a boost to Singapore’s economy.  The recommendations centered on two main themes: encouraging the development of globally competitive firms and implementing broad-based support for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  Pointing to multi-national corporations and government-linked companies as the two engines of Singapore’s economic growth historically, SMEC recommends that GOS consider developing a “third engine of growth”—domestically-based globally competitive companies.  In order to achieve this, Singapore will have to attract entrepreneurs and cutting edge technology firms that would be willing to form joint ventures with local enterprises, according to SMEC.  The introduction of incentive schemes to encourage technology firms to base their regional headquarters in Singapore, on the condition that they enter into a joint venture with local companies, was one policy recommendation.  SMEC also recommends that GOS examine the benefits of establishing a private bourse that innovative technology companies could use to raise capital, as well as consider revising employment regulations, for example, by introducing a special pass for entrepreneurs who enter into joint ventures with certain local companies.  In terms of support for SMEs, SMEC recommends that GOS refrain from increasing the foreign worker levy across all sectors for 36 months; consider providing rental rebates for commercial, industrial, and retail properties; adopt the Fair Tenancy Framework, which would set leasing guidelines and negotiation principles for SMEs; and increase the maximum amount—as well as the amount of risk shared by GOS—of the working capital loan that the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING Singapore), the country’s enterprise development agency, offers to local enterprises.  The loan is currently capped at S$300,00 (US$212,841), while GOS shares 50 percent of the risk.  SMEC would also like to see greater flexibility in how incentives are crafted for R&D initiatives.  Lawrence Leow, Chairman and CEO of Crescendas Group, chairs SMEC, and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann and Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck serve as advisors.  

Earlier this month, the Council submitted its own set of recommendations for Budget 2017 (a copy of which can be found here).  The Council’s recommendations, which were based on member company input, emphasize the benefits that GOS can glean from maintaining a focus on investing in longer term support for technology and business innovation, skills development, and industry transformation so that it can establish positive conditions for long term competitiveness.  Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will deliver Budget 2017 in parliament on February 20.    

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Cambodia and Laos welcome S'pore firms

National Affairs
5 new EDB board members appointed
Singapore 7th-least corrupt economy in the world: Annual index
New chief appointed for Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority
Singapore among the world’s most innovative economies: Bloomberg
Ahead of Budget 2017, NTUC calls for support to help workers transition into new economy
Credit card usage and personal loans surge amongst Singapore households
Budget 2017: SMEC recommends developing competitiveness, providing support for businesses
Budget 2017 to be delivered on Feb 20

Customs
Advocate General issues opinion that the EU does not have exclusive competence to conclude the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

Defense & Security
Singapore, Philippines and US militaries organise multinational disaster relief exercise
Philippine Secretary of National Defense makes introductory visit to Singapore
Singapore, India renew air force agreement for another 5 years

Economics
More services firms expect the worst for the first half of the year
ASEAN CEOs tag Singapore as the most important city for their business growth
Unemployment rate spikes to its highest since 2010
Companies still innovating despite slowdown: SPRING Singapore
Will raising the re-employment age loosen up Singapore's tight labour market?
Singapore inflation up 0.2% in December
Singapore's Workers Have It Easier Than They Might Think
Singapore economy on steady, stable path, says PM Lee
Chart of the Day: Check out Singapore's improving NODX
2017 to see stable hiring activity, IT professionals in demand: Survey
Surge in exports no cause for joy, experts warn
Singapore on track for modest growth amidst global headwinds: MAS
Singapore exports extend rebound, rising 9.4% in December
Singapore’s economic restructuring a work-in-progress: MAS chief Ravi Menon
Here's why there is a need for Singapore to create an innovation-friendly tax regime
Singapore hits slowest economic expansion since 2009
Singapore to Deliver New Growth Map With Economy Under Strain
Singapore Defaults Seen as Bellwether for 2017 Asia Distress

Energy
Gas prices to go up from Feb for Singapore households
Singapore rig builder Keppel cuts jobs amid industry slump
Singapore LNG Market to Grow at 10.39% through 2025, Finds TechSci Research
Singapore Exchange to Launch LNG Index
Singapore-made solar panel more efficient, works even if partially shaded
Laws to be amended to drive industrial energy efficiency
Singapore Power unveils global programme for energy startups
Singapore bunker volumes expected to set record high in 2016

Financial Services
Bank lending sees 1.1% uptrend in December
Securities and futures (amendment) bill 2016 moved in Singapore Parliament for second reading
Mint seals deal with Global Payments for Malaysia, Singapore markets
Chart of the Day: Singapore banks' NPL ratios higher than their global peers'
Singapore to prop up Southeast Asia's muted IPO market in 2017
MAS urges business trusts to adopt new financial reporting framework
DBS, AXS develop mobile payment for condo fees
Will bad loans continue to haunt Singapore banks this year?
Monetary Authority of Singapore Consults on Regulations for Short Selling
Will a FinTech tax incentive encourage Singapore firms to innovate?
Law that strengthens safeguards for retail investors passed in Parliament

Food & Agriculture
No fake food products from China detected in Singapore: AVA

Health & Life Sciences
Singapore urged to increase tax deduction on medical expenses
MOH to reorganise healthcare system into three integrated clusters
Chart of the Day: Ageing population expected to double in 2030
MOH reorganises public healthcare system
Dengue cases may increase in next few months
Healthcare re-organisation a boost for primary care, career pathways of healthcare workers
Improving productivity key to delivering good healthcare service: MOH
Singapore, Cambodia sign MOUs in healthcare, vocational training
Singapore government is developing a national action plan to tackle the antibiotic resistance menace
On high alert for bugs from abroad
Pulse check: 4 predictions for Singapore's healthcare in 2017

ICT
Say goodbye to 2G mobile phone network
Chart of the Day: Check out the expected boom in Singapore's e-commerce market
Chart of the Day: Check out the trend in mobile revenue growth of Singapore telcos
Singapore closer to launching 5G mobile networks: IMDA
Singapore to boost Asia's smart home market
IMDA to seek public, industry feedback on 5G mobile developments
4 in 5 firms confident of preventing and resisting cyber attacks
Touch and go: Singapore company launches biometric payment platform

Infrastructure
Tuas viaduct to open on Feb 18; Tuas West MRT extension to open in Q2

Manufacturing
Singapore’s December Manufacturing Surges 21% as Exports Pick Up
Singapore firms urged to tap 3D printing tech
Singapore firms tapping 3D printing tech for new growth opportunities
Why the strong performance by the manufacturing sector will be short-lived
Private sector PMI slows down to 52.0 in December
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Hong Kong denies Beijing role in seizure of Singaporean troop carriers South China Morning Post 25th Jan 2017
Hong Kong’s customs chief has categorically denied Beijing’s hand was behind the seizure of nine Singaporean military vehicles that are due to be returned to the Lion City after two months of diplomatic wrangling that plunged Sino-Singapore relations to a new low. He also claimed on Wednesday that the Singapore government had never been a target for investigation since the Terrex armoured troop carriers were intercepted at Kwai Chung Container Terminals on November 23 on their way home from Taiwan. Singapore also kept it bilateral yesterday, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saying it reflected the “good and friendly relations” between the city state and Hong Kong. Beijing said it hoped Singapore had “learned a lesson” and urged it to respect the one-China policy. The seizure of the vehicles in transit on a container ship after a military exercise in Taiwan was widely seen as a warning from Beijing over military ties between Singapore and the island, which China considers a renegade province. Hong Kong has stuck to the official explanation that it took action over a suspected breach of laws governing the import, export and transshipment of strategic commodities. Tang said his department completed the probe on Tuesday and found that the Singapore government could not be held responsible, as it was only the consignee of the military carriers. APL, the shipping company that was transporting the vehicles from Taiwan back to Singapore, is likely to face criminal prosecution over the matter. Tang would only say the responsible party would soon be taken to court, based on sufficient evidence that “someone” had violated import and export regulations.

Singapore to pursue other free trade initiatives as TPP collapses Singapore Business Review 25th Jan 2017
Singapore is shifting its gears to other regional free trade initiatives as the United States ditches the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement that the US has indicated that it will pull out of the TPP agreement. "Without the participation of the US, the TPP agreement as signed cannot come into effect," the trade ministry said. It noted that there are other regional integration initiatives still ongoing, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. "Singapore will continue to participate in these initiatives. We will have to discuss the way forward with the other TPP partners first. Each of the partners will have to carefully study the new balance of benefits," MTI noted. 

Singapore will have to ‘wait to see’ what Trump’s policies are and adapt: Shanmugam Channel NewsAsia 21st Jan 2017
Singapore will have to adopt a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the trade policies under the new US administration and adapt accordingly, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (Jan 21). His response came after the White House indicated that the US will pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and instead commit to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Newly sworn-in President Donald Trump also struck a protectionist note in his inauguration speech with a call to "buy American and hire American". While Singapore believes that free trade is in everyone's interest, “every country designs for itself what it thinks is in its best interest”, said Mr Shanmugam on the sidelines of a groundbreaking ceremony for a new building to house the Automobile Association of Singapore (AA Singapore). "We'll have to wait to see what measures are implemented,” he added, while noting that Singapore as a small country “will have to adapt”.

Singapore, Indonesia economic ties set to strengthen: Lim Hng Kiang Channel NewsAsia 17th Jan 2017
Robust economic ties between Singapore and Indonesia are set to strengthen following 50 years of diplomatic relations, Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang said on Tuesday (Jan 17). Speaking at the Singapore Manufacturing Federation’s (SMF) Business Seminar, Mr Lim noted that Singapore was Indonesia’s third-largest trading partner in 2015 and Indonesia was Singapore’s fourth-largest trading partner that year. Singapore was also Indonesia’s largest foreign investor. “We should continue to build on our existing bilateral relations to further expand economic cooperation and strengthen ties between businesses that will produce concrete and mutually beneficial outcomes,” said Mr Lim. Also speaking at the event which was attended by around 250 government officials and business leaders from both countries, Indonesia’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir said more can be done to further economic ties between the ASEAN neighbours. Dr Fachir added that partnership between both countries should contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity, and strengthen both countries’ competitiveness in the long term. In particular, he highlighted that economic growth in certain parts of Indonesia, such as Maluku and Papua, came in around 13.7 per cent last year. Indonesia’s economic growth reached 5 per cent last year, he added.

Singapore firms should seize first-mover advantage in Cambodia, Laos: President Tan Channel NewsAsia 14th Jan 2017
Singaporean firms should move quickly and seize first-mover advantage in developing markets like Cambodia and Laos, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Saturday (Jan 14). Speaking to the media as he wrapped up his state visit to both countries, Dr Tan urged small- and medium-sized enterprises to enter emerging markets early in order to carve out niche areas for themselves. He cited tourism as one area where there could be more collaboration between Singapore companies and their regional counterparts. With cultural sites like the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and the town of Luang Prabang dotting Cambodia and Laos, coupled with its positive spillover to other adjacent sectors like food & beverage and hospitality, tourism could be a low-hanging fruit to unlocking further growth and development. Dr Tan said in his meetings with the Cambodian and Lao heads of state, both nations were eager to build up business links with Singapore. Singapore has recently signed pro-business policies with both countries like the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, which came into effect for Laos this year and is awaiting ratification with the Cambodian government.

Singapore Demands Hong Kong Return Seized Military Vehicles Bloomberg.com 9th Jan 2017
Singaporean Defense Minister Ng En Hen called on Hong Kong to return nine armored personnel carriers seized by customs officials late last year, saying the equipment was sovereign property and could not legally be held. Ng told parliament that Singapore had shipped troop carriers commercially for 30 years without incident, and that Singapore and Hong Kong had long enjoyed good and friendly relations. Singapore has been left seeking answers for almost six weeks, with no word from Hong Kong customs as to why the SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles were seized en route from Taiwan on a commercial ship after being used in training exercises. Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department said the case was under investigation. The shipment prompted a formal protest from Beijing, which warned Singapore to follow Hong Kong law and the One-China principle that China uses to guide its affairs with Taiwan, which it considers a province. Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told parliament that Singapore’s relations with China should not be seen as a zero sum game. The seizure raised tensions between the two nations, with China in recent months bristling at Singapore’s perceived alignment with the U.S. against Beijing’s actions in the disputed South China Sea. While any spat with its largest trading partner threatens to distract Singapore from its preferred focus on trade and investment, failure to get the vehicles released could also risk a backlash at home, especially after the U.S. secured the return of a drone seized by China in the South China Sea within a matter of days.

Cambodia and Laos welcome S'pore firms The Straits Times 15th Jan 2017
There are many opportunities for Singapore companies in Cambodia and Laos, and leaders of both countries have encouraged Singapore to increase trade and investments, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said. Urging Singapore businesses to venture into these markets, he said: "Businessmen who come here have to be prepared to take a long-term view and put in the hard work now before the situation is settled." He was speaking to Singapore reporters in an interview at the end of state visits to Cambodia and Laos. Both Asean members are old friends of Singapore and their development priorities are opportunities for Singapore companies, Dr Tan said. Their economies have also been growing at a rapid 7 per cent a year in recent years.

National Affairs

5 new EDB board members appointed Channel NewsAsia 31st Jan 2017
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Tuesday (Jan 31) announced board changes at the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), which will take effect from Wednesday. Five new members were appointed to the EDB Board, while three current board members will step down, said MTI. The new board members are: Mr Ichiro Iino, Chief Executive (Asia-Pacific), Hitachi; Professor Ilian Lubomirov Mihov, Dean, INSEAD; Mr Randy Isaac Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, IBM Asia Pacific; Mr Loh Chin Hua, Chief Executive Officer, Keppel Corporation; Mr Loh Boon Chye, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Exchange. The three members who will complete their term and step down on Wednesday are: Mr Vinod Kumar, Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer, Tata Communications; Mr Tan Pheng Hock, Advisor, ST Engineering; Mr Mark Nelson, Vice President, Strategic Planning, Chevron Corporation. The ministry extended its appreciation to the outgoing members for their contributions and welcomed the new board members.

Singapore 7th-least corrupt economy in the world: Annual index Channel NewsAsia 25th Jan 2017
Singapore has been placed seventh in an annual ranking of economies that are considered least corrupt in 2016, moving up a notch from eighth position in 2015. According to Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index released on Wednesday (Jan 25), Singapore scored 84 for the year 2016. The score runs from a scale of zero, which is highly corrupt, to 100, which is very clean. The index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide, with country experts and business people giving their rating. The latest report ranks 176 economies. Within the Asia Pacific region, Singapore was second only to New Zealand despite dropping one point from 2015. New Zealand is tied with Denmark for top place worldwide, with a score of 90. The next highest scores in the Asia Pacific region were given to Australia (79), Hong Kong (77) and Japan (72). Nineteen out of the 30 Asia Pacific economies included in the index scored 40 or less out of 100.  In a statement, the director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) of Singapore Wong Hong Kuan said the results were a testament to "Singapore’s continued vigilance, commitment and zero-tolerance" in its fight against corruption.

New chief appointed for Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority Channel NewsAsia 25th Jan 2017
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) will have a new chief executive come April, after the Minister of Finance appointed Mr Ong Khiaw Hong to take over its reins.  Mr Ong is currently the Deputy Commissioner (Corporate and Services Group) at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and will be chief executive-designate of ACRA come Apr 1, the Ministry of Finance said in a press release on Wednesday (Jan 25). He will take over from Mr Kenneth Yap who has led the agency since Feb 1, 2013. The incumbent will relinquish his appointment from Apr 1, and will return to the Singapore Legal Service to assume his next appointment, it added.  "The Ministry of Finance and ACRA would like to place on record our deep appreciation to Mr Yap for his dedicated commitment and invaluable contributions to ACRA," the ministry said. 

Singapore among the world’s most innovative economies: Bloomberg TODAYonline 19th Jan 2017
Singapore is the 6th most innovative economy in the world, according to the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index released on Tuesday (Jan 17). The Republic’s global position was unchanged from the previous year, though it managed to usurp Japan as Asia’s second most innovative economy after the Japanese fell from 4th to 7th spot. South Korea topped the rankings ahead of Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Finland. Rounding up the top 10 were Denmark, the US and Israel. Singapore ranked first in the world for tertiary efficiency, which was a study into the total enrollment of the population that had a tertiary education, together with the percentage of the labour force which had a degree, and the ratio of new science and engineering graduates against the total number of graduates and a share of the labour force. Singapore also placed 5th for manufacturing - value added (a measure of manufacturing output as share of a country’s economy); and came in 6th for researcher concentration (defined by the number of professionals, including postgraduate PhD students, engaged in R&D per million population). The other categories all saw Singapore placed among the top 20 — coming in 14th for R&D intensity, 12th for productivity, 17th for high-tech density, and 12th for patent activity.

Ahead of Budget 2017, NTUC calls for support to help workers transition into new economy Channel NewsAsia 17th Jan 2017
The labour movement on Tuesday (Jan 17) called on the Government to provide more support to help workers transition into the new economy. It said it is particularly concerned about people's ability to maintain their competitiveness, given the fast-changing labour market brought about by rapid technological disruption, new requirement for skills as well as an ageing and shrinking workforce. In its recommendations for Budget 2017, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) outlined four key areas to focus on, among them to improve the system to help the unemployed find jobs. NTUC suggested that the Government share Jobs Bank information with its Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST) capability and Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), so that both parties can better match workers to jobs. The labour movement said this would also help it identify the new skills which are required and put in place relevant training programmes. To ensure workers remain employable, the labour movement called on the Government to "plug existing structural gaps" in the current systems of training, citing a recent survey it conducted which showed that almost half of the respondents did not attend training or upskilling courses in the past year. To help women who want to re-enter the workforce, the labour movement suggested a "returnship programme" - similar to an internship - where these women enter a job trial for several months, before they are formally employed. More support for businesses is required as they adopt measures that are less labour-intensive, said the labour movement. "The Government can take the lead in industry transformation projects ... tripartite partners will need to help all companies up their productivity game, and ensure that such gains are shared with their workers," it said.

Credit card usage and personal loans surge amongst Singapore households Singapore Business Review 12th Jan 2017
Citing data from the Department of Statistics, a ValuePenguin study noted that the average debt of a Singaporean household is about $54,285 per capita. Most of this debt is home loans, which comprises of 74.8% of the debt. Motor loans take up 31%. The study pointed out that the high interest debt like credit cards and personal loans have been the fastest growing debt category, now comprising 21% of total household liabilities. "In total, household debt has been increasing at around 2.85% in 2016, which is slightly faster than 2.4% we saw in 2015. It’s important to note that this growth rate is meaningfully slower than the average growth rate of 9% that household debt growth saw from 2009 to 2014. However, despite the slight acceleration in debt growth, household balance sheet remained in a good shape as its assets and net worth (asset – liability) grew at an even faster rate," the study stated. 

Budget 2017: SMEC recommends developing competitiveness, providing support for businesses Channel NewsAsia 4th Jan 2017
The government should consider developing globally competitive companies and introducing broad-based support for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These are the two key ideas the SME Committee (SMEC) hopes the government will implement for the upcoming Budget 2017, the committee announced at a press conference on Wednesday (Jan 4). The SMEC, which is chaired by Crescendas Group’s chairman and CEO Lawrence Leow, with Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann and Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck serving as advisors, said these recommendations were submitted to the government on Dec 30, 2016. According to the Singapore Business Federation’s (SBF) assistant executive director Koh Tat Liang, the suggestions came amidst an uncertain global economic outlook. As reflected in a recently released national business survey, local SMEs are increasingly pessimistic about the situation. Under its recommendations, SMEC hopes the government will develop globally competitive companies, as Singapore’s third engine of growth apart from multi-national companies and government-linked companies. One method to achieve this is to introduce incentive schemes to attract innovative companies to establish their regional base in Singapore, with the condition that they enter into a joint venture with local companies, said the SMEC. It also suggested studying if setting up a private bourse for innovative companies to raise capital is feasible. And to address the issue of attracting talent, the committee urged the government to look into current employment regulations to take into account “entrepreneurial talents”, and introduce an “Entrepass” for entrepreneurs that enter a joint venture with qualified local enterprises.

Budget 2017 to be delivered on Feb 20 Channel NewsAsia 3rd Jan 2017
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver Singapore’s 2017 Budget Statement in Parliament on Feb 20. In a press release on Tuesday (Jan 3), the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said there will be live television and radio coverage of the Budget Statement. A live webcast will also be available on the ministry’s Singapore Budget website. The Budget Statement will be uploaded on the website after the speech has been delivered, MOF added. Members of the public who wish to receive the Budget Statement via email after it has been delivered can visit the Singapore Budget website to subscribe to the Budget Statement mailing list, the ministry said. In preparation for the upcoming Budget, MOF is seeking views and suggestions from members of the public through various channels. Singaporeans can visit the REACH Pre-Budget 2017 website to submit their views online. They can also take part in a live Facebook Q&A session to be held on Wednesday (Jan 4) from 8pm to 9.30pm on REACH’s Facebook page.  

Customs

Advocate General issues opinion that the EU does not have exclusive competence to conclude the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Herbert Smith Freehills - Arbitration notes 22nd Dec 2016
In an opinion issued on 21 December 2016, EU Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston QC has concluded that the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) will need to be finalised by the European Union and the Member States acting jointly, i.e. entered into by the EU and all of its Member States (as a so-called "mixed agreement"), not just by the EU alone. Although the opinion does not bind the CJEU, the court tends to follow the approach adopted by the Advocate General. The CJEU is expected to issue its own judgment in 2017.

Defense & Security

Singapore, Philippines and US militaries organise multinational disaster relief exercise Channel NewsAsia 25th Jan 2017
What happens when an active volcano erupts in the Philippines followed by a Category 5 typhoon striking the same area just five days later? That was the scenario presented to participants of a multinational drill called Exercise Coordinated Response (EX COORES), as they gathered in Singapore this week to practice real processes in the area of disaster relief. The aim is to strengthen co-operation among militaries during aid and disaster relief operations through a common coordination centre. In this case, the three-day exercise which started on Monday (Jan 23), was conducted at the Changi Command and Control Centre. It involved about 150 participants from 18 militaries, including that of Singapore, the Philippines, other ASEAN nations like Malaysia Brunei and Thailand as well as the US and China. "Many of the international militaries that are participating are interested to know how they can get into a country, how they can bring in the military equipment, fly in the airplanes into the country,” said exercise co-director COL Lee Kuan Chung. "So this exercise actually provides them a platform to exchange information, exchange point of contacts so that they are clearer - if the next disaster happens, they do not have to start scrambling." Non-military groups like the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) were also present on Wednesday (Jan 25) to observe the exercise.

Philippine Secretary of National Defense makes introductory visit to Singapore Channel NewsAsia 24th Jan 2017
Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana has reaffirmed the "warm and friendly" defence relationship with Singapore during his introductory visit here. Mr Lorenzana, who arrived in Singapore on Monday (Jan 23), inspected a Guard of Honour at the Ministry of Defence on Tuesday morning before calling on Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. Both ministers discussed ways to enhance cooperation on regional and international security issues, including counter-terrorism and cyber security, according to a news release by Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). Dr Ng also expressed Singapore's support for the Philippines' chairmanship of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) this year, as well as its co-chairmanship of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Cyber Security with New Zealand. As part of his three-day visit, Mr Lorenzana delivered a special address at the delegates’ dinner for the Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting on Monday night. He is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he will be visiting the Changi Command and Control Centre to tour the Information Fusion Centre and to witness the inaugural Exercise Coordinated Response. The exercise will be the first multinational Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise jointly organised by the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC), the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States’ Centre for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance.

Singapore, India renew air force agreement for another 5 years Channel NewsAsia 19th Jan 2017
Singapore has renewed a bilateral air force agreement with India, allowing the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to continue its joint military training at Kalaikunda Air Force Station in India for another five years, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced on Thursday (Jan 19). The Bilateral Agreement for the Conduct of Joint Military Training and Exercises in India between the RSAF and the Indian Air Force (IAF) was concluded in 2007 and last renewed in 2012. Under the agreement, the RSAF will have regular opportunities to train with the IAF’s advanced Su-30 fighter aircraft. The renewed agreement was signed by Singapore’s Permanent Secretary for Defence Chan Yeng Kit and India’s Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar, and witnessed by Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and India’s High Commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf at MINDEF on Thursday. Mr Kumar was in Singapore from Wednesday to Thursday to co-chair the 11th Singapore-India Defence Policy Dialogue with Mr Chan.

Economics

More services firms expect the worst for the first half of the year Singapore Business Review 31st Jan 2017
The latest Business Expectations Survey of the services sector released by the Department of Statistics showed that services firms are becoming more negative in terms of the business environment for the next six months. A net weighted balance of 14% of firms in the services sector expects less favourable business conditions for the next six months. This is less optimistic compared to the net weighted balance of 8% registered in the previous survey. The survey revealed that firms in the accommodation and food & beverage services industries expect slower business after experiencing brisk business during the year-end holidays. The transport & storage industry, as well as the real estate industry, is also expected the business environment to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the Business Expectations of the manufacturing sector by the EDB Singapore points out that majority of firms at around 76% expects the business situation in the first half of this year to remain similar. Among the manufacturing sector, the electronics cluster is the most optimistic in the next six months. This optimism is led by the semiconductor segment, which expects the current improved market conditions to continue into 2017.

ASEAN CEOs tag Singapore as the most important city for their business growth Singapore Business Review 26th Jan 2017
If the latest PwC survey of CEOs worldwide is anything to go by, then it would seem that ASEAN CEOs look at Singapore as the most important city for their organisation's growth. According to the study, 37% of ASEAN CEOs tag Singapore as a launch pad for their firms. This came against the the backdrop of CEO confidence in growth prospects that are rising slowly around the world but dropping in ASEAN. PwC Singapore executive chairman Yeoh Oon Jin said Singapore still received high confidence because of it being one of the most open economies in the world. Meanwhile, ASEAN CEOs' 37% confidence in revenue growth are at a three-year low compared to 47% in 2015 and 38% in 2016. In Singapore, although 50% of Singapore CEOs are “somewhat confident” of revenue growth over the next 12 months, only 26% are “very confident”. When asked about the longer term of three years, 56% of Singapore CEOs are “very confident”. More so, Singapore CEOs’ top concerns are uncertain economic growth (88%), over-regulation (85%) and terrorism (85%) and protectionism (79%).  

Unemployment rate spikes to its highest since 2010 Singapore Business Review 26th Jan 2017
Singapore overall unemployment rate rose 2.2% in the 4Q16 up from a 2.1% uptick in the previous quarter. According to the latest figures by Ministry of Manpower, the unemployment rate for residents grew from 2.9% to 3.2% while rate for citizens ticks up from 3% to 3.5%. "This occurred even as employment grew as more people entered the labour force to look for work," MoM said. For the said quarter, total employment grew by 1,900, compared to the contraction in the 3Q16 at -2,700, but growth was lower than the 4Q15's 16,100. For the whole year, the annual average unemployment rate in 2016 rose to its highest since 2010 at 2.1%. Unemployment rate for residents was up 3% while the rate for citizens scales up to 3.1%. "The increase was broad-based across most age and education groups, with residents aged 30 to 39 and 50 & over, as well as those with secondary and degree qualifications particularly affected," MoM said. 

Companies still innovating despite slowdown: SPRING Singapore Channel NewsAsia 25th Jan 2017
About 16,300 enterprises started on projects to improve their business capabilities in 2016 despite the economic slowdown, and this is expected to add 21,400 skilled jobs and create S$7.8 billion in value to Singapore's economy when fully implemented. This was according to a media release by SPRING Singapore on Wednesday (Jan 25), which stated that the creation of value and jobs were an increase of 13 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, compared to 2015. The agency added that it supported these projects through the Capability Development Grant and Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV), and many of the supported projects last year were in the areas of productivity improvement and technology innovation.  Of the 16,700 projects the enterprises mentioned had embarked on, SPRING said the CDG supported 2,400 - almost twice the number of 2015 and the highest number over the last five years.  SPRING also highlighted its involvement in fostering Singapore's startup scene, stating that with its support, 42 startups received third-party financing last year. The investment arm of SPRING, SPRING Seeds Capital, co-invested S$10.2 million in 16 early-stage companies and catalysing private investments of S$26 million, it added. The agency added that for 2017, it will focus on the implementation of the Industry Transformation Maps to drive industry transformation, as well as scale up promising small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and enhance the business ecosystem to support growth. 

Will raising the re-employment age loosen up Singapore's tight labour market? Singapore Business Review 24th Jan 2017
The two-year difference in Singapore's re-employment age will be positive for the city-state's efforts to ensure a continued supply of labour despite its ageing workforce and maintain labour market flexibility. According to BMI Research, the continued participation of older workers in the labour market will also be positive for the government's fiscal position, ensuring a steady flow of revenue while keeping social spending low. "We believe that these changes will be positive for Singapore's tight labour market as well as the government's ongoing efforts to keep the population working for as long as they are willing and able to. In addition, the government has been trying to move the economy away from its overreliance on foreign labour towards one that is knowledge based," the firm said. BMI noted that as such, the retention of these older workers, particularly in skills-intensive industries, will be positive for the ongoing efforts to increase the level of human capital as these workers can pass on their skills. "Furthermore, employers are only required to rehire workers if they have satisfactory work performance and are healthy and able to continue working. This will also help Singapore overcome the problem of an ageing workforce, with the proportion of residents aged 60 and above in the labour force having increased to 12% in 2015, compared with 5.5% in 2006," BMI added.  

Singapore inflation up 0.2% in December Singapore Business Review 23rd Jan 2017
Singapore inflation rose 0.2% YoY in the past month from a flat line in November, a joint release by Monetary Authority of Singapore and Ministry of Trade and Industry said. The spike was mainly attributed to the private road transport cost, which increased by 1.7% in December, following the 0.2% rise in November, as a result of higher petrol prices and car park fees. Meanwhile, services inflation edged up to 1.6% from 1.5% in the preceding month, mainly on account of a faster pace of increase in holiday expenses, which more than offset the larger contraction in telecommunication services fees. Food inflation was 2.0% in December, unchanged from the previous month. Price increases for both non-cooked food items and prepared meals were broadly stable. However, accommodation cost fell by 3.8% in December, similar to the previous month, reflecting continued softness in the housing rental market. Overall retail goods inflation eased to 0.0% in December from 0.2% in November, largely on account of a fall in the prices of personal care products following the rise in November. For the whole of 2016, CPI-All Items inflation came in at -0.5% for the second consecutive year. 

Singapore's Workers Have It Easier Than They Might Think Yahoo Singapore Finance 22nd Jan 2017
Job cuts in Singapore may be at the highest since 2009, but official data shows workers still have it easier than most. As local politicians seek to appease the population, the most recent figures show Singapore remains one of the easiest countries in the world to find work. The median period of unemployment for job-seekers last year was eight weeks, which is less than half that of Australia's and compares well with other developed economies. Singapore's jobs market remains tight partly due to recent curbs on immigration and despite slowing economic growth. Indeed, there's a bigger concern than lack of work, according to Krystal Tan, an economist with Capital Economics Ltd. It's skill mismatches that are the problem as some workers lose long-term manufacturing jobs that are slowly moving away from the small and costly city-state. “People often don’t have the kind of skills the job market demands, so the government is focusing on that now,” said Tan. There is another worry: the unemployment rate for Singapore citizens and permanent residents may climb above 3 percent for the first time since 2010 in fourth-quarter data out Jan. 26. The rate for all residents is currently just 2.1 percent.

Singapore economy on steady, stable path, says PM Lee Channel NewsAsia 20th Jan 2017
The Singapore economy as a whole is on a steady path and at a stable level, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Fri (Jan 20) at a forum jointly organised by the EDB Society and The Straits Times. Responding to questions on Singapore’s rate of GDP growth in recent years, Mr Lee said the Government was not too anxious or concerned about the situation but would watch the economy closely and carefully to see which way it goes. “1.8 per cent last year was less than what we hoped for, but more than what we expected,” he said. “This year, we hope the momentum will improve. There’s some chance of that. In the fourth quarter last year, things sped up and if it continues this year, it will be a good thing.” “If we can make two to three per cent every year over the next 10 years, we will be doing well,” said Mr Lee. “That’s over the longer term. It means steady improvement in standard of living, income, and what the economy can provide for our people.” “But in the shorter term, we also want to make sure the ups and downs are controlled and the downs are not too down, and if we need to stimulate the economy we can do so. If we need to give it an extra boost, we will.”

Chart of the Day: Check out Singapore's improving NODX Singapore Business Review 19th Jan 2017
Singapore's non-oil domestic exports continued the strong uptrend in December with a 9.4% growth, following the 11.5% growth in the previous month, latest data by International Enterprise said. Meanwhile, total trade rose 9.9% in December, after the 8.7% increase in the previous month. Total exports grew by 9.5% while total imports expanded 10.2%. Electronic products rose 5.7%, mainly driven by the expansion ICs, parts of PCs and consumer electronics at 29.9%, 4.9% and 8.8%, respectively. Non-electronic NODX also increased, registering a 11.3% growth. Specialised machinery, petrochemicals and primary chemicals grew by 63.6%, 28.5% and 58.2% respectively, contributing the most to the rise in non-electronic NODX.

2017 to see stable hiring activity, IT professionals in demand: Survey Channel NewsAsia 19th Jan 2017
Even as the economy slows, hiring by firms in Singapore is expected to remain stable in the year ahead as more multinational companies and start-ups choose to set up their operations here, according to an annual global salary survey released by recruitment firm Robert Walters on Thursday (Jan 19). In particular, these companies are on the lookout for technology specialists, digital marketers, investment professionals, skilled contractors, as well as regulatory and compliance professionals. The Information Technology (IT) job market will likely continue to see "high levels of recruitment" in 2017, according to the report, as more companies jump on the digital bandwagon. Government support, including the Singapore National Research Foundation's plans to boost the local start-up ecosystem, will also underpin "very high demand" for technology professionals such as user experience and user interface designers, as well as cybersecurity experts, said the report.

Surge in exports no cause for joy, experts warn Singapore Business Review 18th Jan 2017
Singapore impressively outperformed dreary economic forecasts in December, with latest export data booking a strong 9.4% increase. However, analysts warn that the outperformance does not mean that the domestic economy is finally out of the woods. “Even if exports and GDP outperform our forecasts, domestically oriented and interest rate sensitive sectors may underperform in 2017 on headwinds from elevated debt levels and rising interest rates, amidst continued job market slack – a classic dual economy scenario,” Citi noted in a report. Citi highlighted MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon’s cautiously optimistic tone in his recent speech, in which it was noted that significant risks remain from trade restrictions, tightening global financial conditions from Fed hikes, and potential stresses in the regional corporate sector. “MAS’s cautiously optimistic tone suggests a Jan inter-meeting easing is unlikely, and the case for further easing has weakened. Nonetheless, MAS’ downward re-centring remains possible in the event of a full blown materialization of protectionist measures, which could lead to renewed broad-based economic contraction, given significant exposure to US final demand and FDI,” the report added.

Singapore on track for modest growth amidst global headwinds: MAS Singapore Business Review 18th Jan 2017
The local economy is expected to continue on its modest pace of expansion this year, Monetary Authority of Singapore Managing Director Ravi Menon said in a speech. On the global front, Menon noted that chances are that growth will be slightly higher this year compared to the last. However, some caution is still warranted as there remains considerable uncertainty as to the actual policy changes in store, which may not pan out as expected. "Strong showing in the last quarter of 2016 indicates that the Singapore economy retains the capacity to ride on cyclical upswings in demand for our exports. That is not to say that all is well. Economic restructuring remains work-in-progress and we need to do more to raise productivity growth," Menon said. "Singapore will not be immune to the global tightening of financial conditions, volatility in capital flows, and potential stresses in the regional corporate sector. But our macro fundamentals are sound and we will weather these storms. And as we continue to invest in the future – in skills, in technology, and in infrastructure, we will emerge a stronger and more dynamic economy," he added.

Singapore exports extend rebound, rising 9.4% in December Channel NewsAsia 17th Jan 2017
Exports in Singapore rose further last month, extending a rebound from November, according to figures released by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore on Tuesday (Jan 17). Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) expanded 9.4 per cent in December, following an 11.5 per cent growth in the previous month. The increase was due to a rise in both electronic and non-electronic shipments, IE Singapore said. Electronic exports rose 5.7 per cent, following a 3.5 per cent increase in the previous month. ICs, parts of PCs and consumer electronics expanded by 29.9 per cent, 4.9 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively, contributing the most to the growth in electronic shipments. Non-electronic exports grew 11.3 per cent, following a 15.3 per cent expansion in the previous month. Specialised machinery, petrochemicals and primary chemicals grew by 63.6 per cent, 28.5 per cent and 58.2 per cent respectively, contributing the most to the rise. Overall, shipments to six of Singapore’s top 10 markets expanded. The largest contributors to the increase were China (33.5 per cent), Taiwan (54.8 per cent) and Hong Kong (20.6 per cent). Non-oil re-exports (NORX) rose 3.9 per cent last month, following a 3.1 per cent increase in November. Both electronic and non-electronic re-exports increased, IE Singapore said. Still, despite the strong December figures, exports for the whole of 2016 fell 2.4 per cent, down from 2015’s 0.2 per cent expansion, she said.

Singapore’s economic restructuring a work-in-progress: MAS chief Ravi Menon Channel NewsAsia 16th Jan 2017
Economic restructuring remains a work-in-progress in Singapore and more must be done to raise productivity growth, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon said on Monday (Jan 16). Speaking at the UBS Wealth Insights Conference, he said Singapore is not immune to the global tightening of financial conditions, volatility in capital flows and potential stresses in the regional corporate sector. “But our macro fundamentals are sound and we will weather these storms. And as we continue to invest in the future - in skills, in technology and in infrastructure - we will emerge a stronger and more dynamic economy,” he said. Mr Menon also said the Singapore economy is expected to continue its modest pace of expansion this year, with GDP growth likely to come in the 1 to 3 per cent range. "Our trade-oriented industries groups benefit from the mild upturn in global and regional electronics. In fact, the strong showing in the last quarter of 2016 indicates that the Singapore economy retains the capacity to ride on cyclical upswing in demand for our exports," he said. Mr Menon added that he expects the rise of fiscal policy in the United States and other major advanced economies to be a key driving force of the global economy, along with monetary divergence and tightening financial conditions.

Here's why there is a need for Singapore to create an innovation-friendly tax regime Singapore Business Review 9th Jan 2017
Ahead of the Budget 2017, some experts are expecting the Singapore government to spearhead an innovation-friendly tax regime as it builds on the strong foundations laid in the previous Budgets and as it helps Singapore businesses survive and thrive amidst uncertain economic conditions. According to Deloitte Singapore, 2016 has been marked with certain economic challenges for the city-state, buffeted by events happening many miles from its shores. In its Budget 2017 feedback submitted to the Ministry of Finance, Deloitte said Singapore must ensure that its tax regime remains transparent and acceptable in the international tax arena as it courses through the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project, which has undergone the implementation phase in 2016. This is where creating an innovation-friendly tax regime comes in, Deloitte explained. As the popular Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme is set to end in 2017, the firm noted that Singapore needs to exert more support for innovative activities to complement existing incentives for research and development. Deloitte Singapore regional managing partner for tax Low Hwee Chua said this could come in the form of enhanced tax deductions for spending incurred on “innovative activities” that lead to the creation of new products or services. Meanwhile, Deloitte Singapore tax partner and tax leader for public sector Daniel Ho said, Singapore could also consider introducing enhanced tax deductions to encourage digitisation, such as designing and implementing e-billing systems or workflow systems, so as to subsidise part of the upfront costs. This is in line with the government's Smart Nation Initiative. The accounting and consultancy firm argued that these proposed enhancements to Singapore's existing R&D tax regime may lead to both local and foreign businesses continuing to anchor their r&D activities in the city-state.

Singapore hits slowest economic expansion since 2009 Singapore Business Review 9th Jan 2017
Singapore’s economic growth quickened to the fastest pace in more than three years last quarter as manufacturing and services rebounded, according to a report from Bloomberg. Gross domestic product rose an annualized 9.1% in the three months to December from the previous quarter, when it declined a revised 1.9%, the trade ministry said in a statement. The median estimate of nine economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a 4% expansion. GDP rose 1.8% in the 4Q16 from a year earlier, compared with the 0.3% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The Singapore expanded 1.8% in 2016, the slowest pace since 2009. Singapore, among Asia’s most-export dependent nations, is seeking new growth engines to boost incomes as its population ages and trade falters. With global growth under pressure and the U.S. threatening to turn more protectionist under Donald Trump, the outlook remains cloudy. That will be a consideration for the central bank in its April policy review after it signaled in October it will stick to its neutral currency policy for an extended period of time.

Singapore to Deliver New Growth Map With Economy Under Strain Bloomberg.com 4th Jan 2017
Singapore is due to deliver a blueprint outlining strategies to boost the economy as the export-dependent nation seeks new growth engines. The Committee on the Future Economy will publish its recommendations in a few weeks time, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his New Year Message, days before the government reported that growth slumped to a seven-year low in 2016. Southeast Asia’s only developed economy faces risks including rising trade protectionism in the U.S. and a slowdown in China. Singapore has a history of success with similar committees in helping to drive economic change. Recommendations from the previous group -- known as the Economic Strategies Committee -- released in 2010, were mainly followed. These included raising fees companies must pay to hire foreign workers, a measure designed to curtail immigration growth, and setting up a National Productivity Fund to finance programs to boost productivity. The CFE is likely to focus on financial technology and nanotechnology as well as ways to improve productivity with the working population set to decrease in coming years, said Song Seng Wun, a regional economist at CIMB Private Bank in Singapore. Singapore is no stranger to innovation. In the 1990s, it shifted its focus to chemicals, electronics, engineering and developed biomedical sciences. In 2015, the biomedical industry had an output of S$26.9 billion ($18.6 billion), about 10 percent of overall manufacturing production. Employment may feature more prominently in the committee’s recommendations at a time when the city-state is shedding jobs at the fastest pace since 2009. In particular, there is expected to be a focus on initiatives for the re-training of older workers, said Nomura’s Tan.

Singapore Defaults Seen as Bellwether for 2017 Asia Distress Bloomberg.com 27th Dec 2016
Singapore’s commodities-related defaults could turn out to be the canary in the mine. Despite a modest rebound in resource prices, restructuring specialists including KPMG and Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee see more Asia-Pacific commodities and shipping companies being pushed into delinquency. Law firm DLA Piper said there could be choppy waters ahead on rising interest rates and President-elect Donald Trump’s overhaul of trade with China. Regional non-bank borrowers face $76.4 billion of dollar bonds maturing in 2017, 24 percent more than this year, Bloomberg-compiled data show. While oil prices have jumped 17 percent since Trump was elected, they are about half what they were in 2014. Resource prices as a whole are down 64 percent from their peak before the 2008 global financial crisis, the Bloomberg Commodity Index shows. Singapore, whose economy relies on shipping and oil service firms, was exposed first because the companies were smaller and less able to tap government support.  “Singapore is a bellwether for the larger Asean and Asian region,” said Andy Ferris, Singapore-based partner at Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee. “Some of the fundamental problems those industries face won’t go away. Many of the companies in the commodities sector have high levels of debt and depressed revenues.”

Energy

Gas prices to go up from Feb for Singapore households Channel NewsAsia 31st Jan 2017
Gas tariffs for households will increase by 4.5 per cent or 0.76 cent per kilowatt hour (kWh) from Feb 1 to Apr 30, 2017, City Gas announced on Tuesday (Jan 31). This means the tariff will be 17.61 cents per kWh for the three-month period. The higher price is mainly due to a 20.8 per cent increase in fuel costs compared with the previous quarter. City Gas said it reviews the tariffs based on guidelines set by the Energy Market Authority, the gas industry regulator. 

Singapore rig builder Keppel cuts jobs amid industry slump Channel NewsAsia 26th Jan 2017
Keppel Corp, the world's biggest oil rig maker, said Thursday (Jan 26) it cut 10,600 jobs last year and mothballed two overseas shipyards as weak crude prices continued to batter the industry. The cuts were in the conglomerate's Offshore and Marine (O&M) division, which has been hard hit by the downturn in oil and gas exploration following a prolonged slump in crude prices since 2014. Three shipyards in Singapore are also in the process of being closed, Keppel Corp chief executive Loh Chin Hua said at a media briefing. While a landmark deal between OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC countries such as Russia to cut production came into effect on Jan 1 and led to a rise in oil prices, Loh said "challenging conditions" remain. The agreed production cuts are aimed at soaking up a global supply glut that has brought prices down from highs of more than US$100 a barrel in June 2014. Prices fell to near 13-year lows of below $30 in February 2016 before recovering to current levels of more than $50. Keppel Corp, which also has businesses in property and infrastructure, said its 2016 net profit came in at S$784 million (US$552 million), down 49 per cent from the previous year, in part due to lower contributions from the O&M division. Full-year net profit for that division plunged 94 per cent to S$29 million as orders for oil drilling rigs dwindled. The job cuts comprised 35 per cent of the O&M division's total direct workforce.

Singapore LNG Market to Grow at 10.39% through 2025, Finds TechSci Research Yahoo! Finance 24th Jan 2017
Growing demand from power generation sector, favorable LNG prices and government initiatives to setup Singapore as LNG hub is expected to drive Singapore LNG market  According to TechSci Research report "Singapore LNG Market Demand & Supply Analysis, By Region, By Application, By LNG Terminal, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011-2025", market for LNG in Singapore is projected to grow at a CAGR 10.39% during 2016-2025, due to the push from Singapore government towards adoption of cleaner energy sources, capacity addition of natural gas / LNG based power plants and emergence of Singapore as a regional trading hub for LNG in Asia-Pacific. Pavilion Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pavilion Gas Pte Ltd. inked an agreement with BP in 2016, under which the British company would supply around 0.4 million tonnes per year of LNG for 20 years from 2019, thereby increasing the supply of LNG in the country.

Singapore Exchange to Launch LNG Index The Wall Street Journal 23rd Jan 2017
The Singapore Exchange is set to start an index that will track the price of liquefied natural gas in the Middle East and Indian markets, the latest move by exchanges looking to establish a benchmark for this rapidly growing source of energy. The exchange has already launched a spot price index for Asian LNG, known as Singapore SLInG. It has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s Tokyo Commodity Exchange to explore potential co-operation on derivative products. The latest move is in collaboration with brokerage Tullett Prebon, for LNG delivered to ports in Dubai, Kuwait and India. The LNG market doesn’t yet have a benchmark that provides a standard price used throughout the market, in the way that oil, for instance, has the Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude futures contracts. Major exchanges around the world are eyeing the rapid growth of the LNG market.

Singapore-made solar panel more efficient, works even if partially shaded The Straits Times 23rd Jan 2017
Local solar firm REC Solar believes it has found a possible solution to tackle Singapore's lack of space for solar panels. It said its new panel can convert more of the sun's energy into electricity, compared with a conventional panel of the same size. The REC TwinPeak solar panel can produce 280 watts, compared with the usual 260 watts generated by a conventional solar panel. Professor Armin Aberle, chief executive of the National University of Singapore's Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, said that considering Singapore's limited space, it is important to maximise the energy output from every square metre available for solar panels. He worked with the REC team on developing the new solar panel, which is also able to work even if part of it is shaded, something conventional panels cannot do. TwinPeak has higher efficiency because of a number of novel technologies, such as using smaller solar cells which reduce energy lost to heat, said Dr Shankar. A solar panel is made up of many solar cells, and the REC panel uses cells about half the size of conventional ones. This halves the current running through the cell, and reduces heat loss. The REC team also maximises the amount of sunlight absorbed by the panel. Besides capturing sunlight that hits its surface, the panel harnesses the infrared energy that passes through it, thanks to a reflective material at the rear of the solar cell. The infrared light is reflected back into the cell to be converted into electricity.

Laws to be amended to drive industrial energy efficiency TODAYonline 12th Jan 2017
The Government will announce measures this year to give the industrial sector a bigger push to become more energy efficient, with changes to be made to the Energy Conservation Act, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday. This is to achieve Singapore’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030. The ministry will announce its plans at its parliamentary Committee of Supply debate in March, and Mr Masagos told about 40 representatives from the sector at a consultation session yesterday that there will be new initiatives as well as the enhancement of some existing measures. Industry is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Singapore, accounting for about 59 per cent of total emissions in 2012. The sector pledged to improve energy efficiency — which essentially means producing the same amount of goods using less energy — by 0.7 per cent in 2014, but fell short of the target with actual improvement of 0.4 per cent. “Certainly we can do more,” said Mr Masagos, pointing to Belgium and the Netherlands improving industrial energy efficiency by 1 to 2 per cent annually.

Singapore Power unveils global programme for energy startups Asian Power 11th Jan 2017
It has partnered with seven other utilities including Japan's TEPCO and UAE's DEWA. Singapore Power (SP) announced the launch of Free Electrons, a global accelerator programme in partnership with a global consortium of utilities and accelerators. The programme aims to recruit energy start-ups to drive the next generation of ideas and solutions that address emerging and future energy trends in clean energy, energy efficiency, e-mobility, digitisation, and on-demand customer services. Free Electrons is the first-of-its-kind in the energy sector that is initiated by eight international utilities – SP, AusNet Services, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), ESB (Electricity Supply Board), EDP (Energias de Portugal), innogy, Origin Energy, and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). These utilities are leaders in clean energy transition, and have extensive experience in driving technological innovation. Together, the eight utilities represent a global footprint covering 73 million end customers across more than 40 countries, with a combined net income of USD $148 billion (more than SGD $211 billion). Twelve start-ups will be selected to participate in the six-month long accelerator programme, consisting of three separate week-long „customer adoption‟ modules in Silicon Valley (San Francisco), Lisbon and Dublin, and Singapore. At the modules, the start-ups will gain exposure to various markets all around the world by collaborating with major utility companies. The programme is designed for energy start-ups to further refine their products and services, with the potential of testing and developing them on a global customer base.

Singapore bunker volumes expected to set record high in 2016 Reuters 11th Jan 2017
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) expects 2016 sales of bunker fuel for ships to rise to a record for a second consecutive year, with early estimates showing volumes increased 7.7 percent to 48.6 million tonnes, it said on Wednesday. This compares with the 45.2 million tonnes sold in 2015. "It's really no surprise we broke the record, 2016 was a strong year for Singapore bunkers," said a Singapore-based bunker fuel trader who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media. Volumes of marine fuels sold in Singapore averaged 4.1 million tonnes a month in 2016, compared with 3.8 million tonnes a month in the previous year. Despite the challenges faced by the shipping industry last year, "maritime Singapore sustained its position," said Andrew Tan, chief executive of the MPA, adding 2017 would be another pivotal year in light of continued uncertainties facing the industry. The growth in bunker sales follows a 6.3 percent increase in annual vessel arrival tonnage which reached 2.66 billion gross tonnes in 2016, the highest in at least five years, the MPA said. Total cargo tonnage handled in the city-state was also at its highest level since at least 2012, up 3 percent over 2015 to 593.3 million tonnes. Estimates of container throughput, however, remained unchanged from the previous year at 30.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2016, said the port authority.

Financial Services

Bank lending sees 1.1% uptrend in December Singapore Business Review 31st Jan 2017
Bank lending in Singapore continued its upward trend in December, with loans growing 2.9% YoY to $617.35b in December, up from $599.8b in the past year. On a month on month basis, loans saw a faster pace of growth in December at1 1.1 %, compared to a slow 0.4% growth in the previous month, latest figures from MAS said. The strong performance was mainly on the back of the growth in business loans to $367b, a 1.67% increase from the previous month's $360.98b. Of the sectors, only loans to individuals fell, albeit only slightly, to $8.93b from $8.97b. Meanwhile, loans to manufacturers grew to $26.3b as lending to agriculture spiked to $5.8b. Loans in the construction sector ballooned to $121b, general commerce to $63.96b, transport to $21b, business services to $7.9b, and financial institutions to $80.3m. On the other hand, consumer loans also see an increase to $250.3b, on the back of an increase in housing loans to $192.1b.  

Securities and futures (amendment) bill 2016 moved in Singapore Parliament for second reading Lexology 26th Jan 2017
On 9 January 2017, the MAS announced the Second Reading of the Securities and Futures (Amendment) Bill 2016 (Bill) in the Singaporean Parliament. The Bill introduces wide-ranging amendments aimed at strengthening the regulation of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets, enhancing regulatory safeguards for retail investors, enhancing the credibility and transparency of Singapore capital markets, and strengthening the enforcement regime against market misconduct. This e-bulletin provides an overview of some of the key changes to the Securities and Futures Act (SFA), which were based on extensive consultation with the industry in the period between 2012 and 2015.

Mint seals deal with Global Payments for Malaysia, Singapore markets ITWire 25th Jan 2017
Australian payments solutions provider Mint Payment has secured an agreement with payment technology and merchant acquiring services provider Global Payments to provide integrated payment solutions and global payments for merchant acquiring services to each other’s customers in Malaysia and Singapore.

Chart of the Day: Singapore banks' NPL ratios higher than their global peers' Singapore Business Review 25th Jan 2017
According to Moody's Investors Service, driven by the Singapore banks' diverse geographic mix, particularly in higher risk markets in other parts of Southeast Asia and Greater China, the banks’ NPL ratios are above those of their global peers, which tend to have limited operations outside their home markets. "Among the three banks, OCBC has the highest proportion of NPLs due to its overseas (outside Singapore) exposures of 79% at end-September 2016, with the bulk of the NPL increases in 2016 belonging to oil services companies domiciled in Indonesia and Malaysia. In contrast, UOB has the highest proportion of NPLs due to its Singapore portfolio, driven by oil services borrowers, its sizable exposure to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), mortgage NPLs related to a fraud incident in 2014, as well as legacy NPLs in the shipping industry," adds Moody's.

Singapore to prop up Southeast Asia's muted IPO market in 2017 Reuters 22nd Jan 2017
Singapore is set to be 2017's hottest spot for initial public offerings (IPOs) in tropical Southeast Asia with sales of stakes in business and real estate trusts, while currency volatility and weak investor sentiment curb deals elsewhere in the region. Singapore's stock exchange has promoted itself as a center for business trusts and real estate investment trusts (REITs), which offer stable dividends. That has helped it partly make up for a drop in major share sales as large Chinese firms favor the higher valuations and liquidity of Hong Kong. Fundraising via IPOs in Singapore hit $1.7 billion last year, up fivefold from 2015 when it slumped to its lowest since 1998, Thomson Reuters data showed. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, significant fluctuation in the rupiah over the past year could dampen appetite for listings in Indonesia, while firebrand politics and a drop in the peso are risks for the Philippines, bankers and analysts said. Higher benchmark interest rates under a new government in the United States could also tempt international investors to pull money out of riskier emerging markets, they said.

MAS urges business trusts to adopt new financial reporting framework Singapore Business Review 20th Jan 2017
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced today that registered business trusts will adopt a new Singapore financial reporting framework that is identical to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), while authorised collective investment schemes will continue to prepare financial statements using accounting practices recommended by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA). To recall, the Accounting Standards Council (ASC) announced that Singapore-incorporated companies must apply the new Singapore financial reporting framework for annual periods beginning on or after January 2018. This decision, however, does not cover financial statements of registered business trusts and authorised collective investment schemes includind REITs. MAS has decided that registered business trusts wiil be required to prepare financial statements in accordance with the New Framework for annual periods, aligning the treatment for such with that of Singapore-listed companies. On the other hand, authorised CIS will not be required to prepare financial statements in accordance with the New Framework. "Authorised CIS should continue to prepare financial statements according to the Statement of Recommended Accounting Practice 7 : Reporting Framework for Unit Trusts (RAP 7), issued by ISCA. This treatment for Authorised CIS is consistent with practices in other major fund jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America," MAS said.

DBS, AXS develop mobile payment for condo fees Singapore Business Review 20th Jan 2017
Starting mid-January, residents of over 30,000 condo units can look forward to paying their condominium management fees via AXS Payment Services, a service that is developed specifically for the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. With the popularity of online and on-the-go payment options in Singapore, AXS Pay was jointly developed with DBS with the aim to assist SMEs in transforming their mainly cheque and cash-based fee collection to digital e-payment collection over the 3 AXS’ payment channels – the AXS Station, the AXS e-Station (Internet), and the AXS m-Station Supporting AXS Pay is part of DBS’ larger plan to drive cashless and chequeless payment behaviour in Singapore – something that the bank is uniquely positioned to do given that it banks most of the nation. With close to five million customers in Singapore, DBS has been relentlessly expanding its payments partnerships in order to provide an entire ecosystem of options to meet customers’ diverse payment needs and preferences. “AXS Pay is the continued effort of AXS to extend more services that promote cashless transactions, catering to various businesses that may not have the economy of scale to embark on such activities. This will also help consumers, in this case the residents of the condominium and apartments, to consolidate their payment needs,” said AXS CEO, Mr. Joey Chang. AXS Pay will be launched in phases, and gradually be expanded to include Home Services like gas delivery, air-con servicing and Student Services like home tuition service and enrichment classes.

Will bad loans continue to haunt Singapore banks this year? Singapore Business Review 17th Jan 2017
Singapore's three largest banks, DBS Bank Ltd., Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd, and United Overseas Bank Limited, face continued downward pressure on their solvency metrics of asset quality and profitability in 2017, but the impact will be manageable, according to Moody's Investors Service. Moody's vice president and senior analyst Simon Chen said declining asset quality and profitability for the three large Singapore banks contributed to the recent downgrades of their standalone credit assessments. "Problem loans will increase in 2017, but new problem loan formation, primarily from the embattled oil services sector, will slow from the peak levels observed in 2016. The gradual recovery of oil prices from the troughs seen in early 2016, if sustainable, will lead to a re-start of production activities and higher utilization of oilfield services," Chen said. Furthermore, Chen noted the deterioration in the banks' regional loan quality will stay mild as the banks remain cautious on business growth amid continued macroeconomic headwinds. Meanwhile, downside risks on profitability will continue over the next few quarters due to elevated credit costs and slower loan growth, somewhat offset by higher interest rates. Profitability metrics are just in line with highly rated global peers, despite the banks' relatively larger exposure to higher yielding emerging markets.

Monetary Authority of Singapore Consults on Regulations for Short Selling Sidley 12th Jan 2017
On December 14, 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued a Consultation Paper on Regulations for Short Selling (Consultation Paper). The Consultation Paper seeks to introduce requirements to enhance transparency on the level of short selling in securities listed on Singapore’s approved exchanges.

Will a FinTech tax incentive encourage Singapore firms to innovate? Singapore Business Review 12th Jan 2017
Ahead of the Budget 2017, groups have proposed different ways on how to ensure that Singapore economy can thrive even in the midst of tough times. One such proposal is for Singapore government to encourage firms to look at innovation as a source of growth. In its wishlist, global leader in assurance, tax, transaction, and advisory services EY said there are five ways how Singapore can push enterprises to innovate. One way is by introducing a patent box scheme or similar tax regime. In recent years, a number of jurisdictions such as the UK and Belgium, has introduced patent box regimes. Such regimes usually offer preferential tax rates on income derived from intellectual property, and their key objective is to attract R&D or innovative activities into the country. Another way to encourage firms is by enhancing writing down allowance for IP rights. When a Singapore-based company acquires IP rights, such costs can be eligible for a writing down allowance only if the company acquires both the economic and legal rights to the IP. For companies that create IP in Singapore, such costs can only be deductible if they fall within the R&D criteria. MAS could also introduce and administer a targeted tax incentive.

Law that strengthens safeguards for retail investors passed in Parliament Channel News Asia 9th Jan 2017
Safeguards have been stepped up for retail investors in the securities and derivatives markets, with the Securities and Futures Amendment Bill passed in Parliament on Monday (Jan 9). It gives the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) increased powers and flexibility to bring non-conventional investment products within regulatory perimeters, as well as tighten the classification of accredited investors.

Food & Agriculture

No fake food products from China detected in Singapore: AVA Channel NewsAsia 17th Jan 2017
After scores of Chinese factories were busted for making counterfeit branded food products, Singapore authorities said no fake food products from China have been imported into Singapore. "As part of AVA’s food safety surveillance programme, imported food products are regularly inspected and sampled for testing to ensure compliance with our food safety standards and requirements. So far, we have not detected any fake food products imported from China," said an Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) spokesperson on Tuesday (Jan 17). The spokesperson added that food products that do not meet AVA requirements will not be allowed for sale. "Enforcement action will be taken against anyone found guilty of contravening our regulations," AVA stated. Nearly 50 factories in the Chinese city of Tianjin were found to have manufactured the counterfeit food products with ingredients that included “leftovers and industrial-grade salt” unfit for human consumption, Chinese media reports said. The products had fake labels of popular brands such as Lee Kum Kee, Nestle and Knorr, according to a report by The Beijing News.

Health & Life Sciences

Singapore urged to increase tax deduction on medical expenses Singapore Business Review 26th Jan 2017
As the city-state's population starts to age and adopt unhealthy lifestyles, one in four Singaporeans over the age of 40 now has at least one chronic disease. Rising medical costs have hampered access to healthcare treatment, and Deloitte Singapore believes that this should urge employers to provide more healthcare benefits for their employees. The accounting and consultancy firm recommends increasing the cap on tax deduction for medical expenses. It argued that in order to support employees in managing chronic diseases, expenses incurred on preventive health screenings and the like should be fully deductible. It stated that it is very timely for the government to relook its objectives of the cap on medical expense deductibility and determine whether the current cap has impaired the provision of medical benefits to employees due to healthcare costs rising much faster than wages, and whether this should be given a higher priority than a worry on the over-consumption of medical services in the long run. As an alternative to raising cap, Deloitte said the government could consider excluding expenses relating to preventive health screening and/or the management of chronic diseases from the definition of medical expenses.

MOH to reorganise healthcare system into three integrated clusters Channel NewsAsia 25th Jan 2017
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will reorganise the healthcare system into three integrated clusters, from the existing six regional health systems. In a media release on Wednesday (Jan 18), MOH said this will better meet Singaporeans’ future healthcare needs. Singapore’s public healthcare system is currently organised into six regional health systems: Alexandra Health System, Eastern Health Alliance, Jurong Health Services, National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and Singapore Health Services. With the reorganisation, the six regional health systems will be merged into the following three clusters: In line with the three new clusters, the polyclinics will also be re-organised into three groups: NHG Polyclinics, SingHealth Polyclinics and the new National University Polyclinics. This is up from the current two groups. The reorganisation is expected to be completed by early 2018, said MOH.

Chart of the Day: Ageing population expected to double in 2030 Singapore Business Review 20th Jan 2017
In the past decade, the population has aged. According to Maybank Kim Eng, the number of citizens aged 65 years and above went from one in 11 in 2005 to one in eight in 2015. Based on the government’s 2013 Population White Paper, this is expected to increase further to one in six by 2020. In addition, hospital admission rate increases with age. In 2030, this is expected to increase further to one in four.  

MOH reorganises public healthcare system Singapore Business Review 19th Jan 2017
The Ministry of Health will reorganise the public healthcare system into three integrated clusters to better meet Singaporeans’ future healthcare needs. It reorganized the system intro three clusters: central region, where National Healthcare Group (NHG) and Alexandra Health System (AHS) will be merged; eastern region where Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) and Eastern Health Alliance (EHA) will be put into one; and western region, where National University Health System (NUHS) and Jurong Health Services (JurongHealth) will be merged. The polyclinics will also be reorganised, in line with the three new clusters. The National University Polyclinics group will be formed under NUHS, joining SingHealth Polyclinics and NHG Polyclinics as Singapore’s third polyclinic group. MOH said each new integrated cluster will have a fuller range of facilities, capabilities, services and networks across different care settings. Commenting on the reorganisation efforts, Minister for Health Mr. Gan said the ministry has significantly improved the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare in Singapore under the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan. Meanwhile, the National Healthcare Group CEO Prof. Philip Choo said the reorganisation will provide more integrated care for patients, care providers and the community.  

Dengue cases may increase in next few months Channel NewsAsia 19th Jan 2017
The number of dengue cases could increase in the next few months and peak in the middle of the year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (Jan 19). A key concern is the higher population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in the past month. NEA’s Gravitrap surveillance system detected about 60 per cent more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in December 2016 compared to October that same year. Another factor which may lead to an increase in dengue cases is the high diversity of circulating dengue serotypes or strains. DENV-2 dominated much of 2016, but it is uncertain which serotype will prevail in 2017. "Historically, a change in predominant dengue virus serotype has been followed by a spike in dengue cases," said NEA. "The Ministry of Health and NEA will continue to monitor the situation closely." So far this year, the number of dengue cases has been relatively low. According to latest data on NEA’s website, 202 cases have been recorded since the start of the year. “If left unchecked, the high Aedes aegypti population may lead to a surge in dengue cases in 2017,” said NEA in a media release. “NEA therefore urges all members of the public and stakeholders to stay vigilant, and work together as a community to stem dengue transmission.”

Healthcare re-organisation a boost for primary care, career pathways of healthcare workers TODAYonline 18th Jan 2017
Primary care will be strengthened and healthcare professionals will get a wider and deeper range of career opportunities as a result of the six regional health clusters merging into three, said senior healthcare officials on Wednesday (Jan 18) following the Ministry of Health’s announcement. Since 2000, even as the number of regional health clusters grew from two to six, the polyclinics here remained under two clusters, SingHealth and National Healthcare Group (NHG). With the re-organisation, the National University Health System (NUHS) will manage polyclinics for the first time. This means all three clusters will each oversee several polyclinics, as they continue the partnerships already forged with other players including nursing homes, social service providers and private doctors.

Improving productivity key to delivering good healthcare service: MOH Channel NewsAsia 17th Jan 2017
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is making it a key priority to improve productivity at all levels of healthcare services to achieve greater efficiency and improve the quality of patient care. This point was made on Tuesday (Jan 17) by Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, who noted the challenges posed by an ageing population - growth in the labour force slows while demand for healthcare grows. One way to address this is to automate labour-intensive tasks in healthcare. "By stretching our limited manpower resources with automation, reinventing care models and streamlining work processes, our healthcare staff can focus more on patient care and serve more patients," he said. Mr Chee cited the example of the new robotic bottle medication dispensing system at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Pharmacy. It automatically loads, picks and packs bottles as well as fastens water-proof and tear-proof labels onto medication bottles. The system - which has been in use for a year - has helped the hospital increase its pharmacy workload capacity by close to 30 per cent with the same staffing. This means staff can spend less time packing medications and more time with patients, reducing the waiting time during peak hours at the pharmacy.

Singapore, Cambodia sign MOUs in healthcare, vocational training Channel NewsAsia 10th Jan 2017
Two memoranda of understanding - one in healthcare and the other in vocational training - were signed on Monday (Jan 9), witnessed by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Dr Tan is in Cambodia until Jan 11 for a state visit. The agreements inked on Monday include an MOU to renew the working relationship between Singapore's Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and Cambodia's Calmette Hospital. An earlier MOU covered a three-year training collaboration on trauma care and resuscitation from 2014 to 2016.  The renewal will include a broader range of training, including intensive care nursing, intensive care medicine and clinical quality for another three years. 

Singapore government is developing a national action plan to tackle the antibiotic resistance menace Biotechin.Asia 3rd Jan 2017
In May 2015, a global action plan to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly at WHO. One of the key objectives of the plan was to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training. The World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016 was celebrated worldwide from 14-20 November 2016 to meet these objectives. In line with these recommendations, Singapore government is currently developing a national action plan to tackle the issue of antibiotic resistance. Speaking to The Straits Times, the Ministry of Health (MOH) told that it is working in conjunction with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the National Environment Agency and the National University of Singapore (NUS) to develop a nationwide strategy for antimicrobial resistance in Singapore. It is likely that awareness campaigns, educating the masses about the illnesses which require antibiotics and regulating their usage, will be the key points.

On high alert for bugs from abroad TODAY 3rd Jan 2017
It was a year in which infectious diseases — namely Zika and tuberculosis (TB) — claimed the spotlight. And the threat is set to stay and might even intensify as Singapore continues to see large numbers of people and goods flow in and out of its borders, say experts. While Singapore is now better equipped with hardware to tackle various infectious diseases, its health system will continue to be tested more frequently, as recent events have shown. And this calls for the ability to be flexible and to respond in a nimble way, the experts said.

Pulse check: 4 predictions for Singapore's healthcare in 2017 Singapore Business Review 22nd Dec 2016
Since gaining its independence a little over half a century ago, Singapore has made giant strides forward and stands out not only within the Southeast Asia region but also the world. In particular, healthcare in the country has been exemplary, with Singapore recently sharing the top spot with Iceland and Sweden in a ranking by the United Nations of the healthiest places to live in the world. With such promising developments in the works, the next step for Singapore is to increase coverage of digital healthcare by making it more accessible and available to a wider pool of citizens. Digital healthcare adoption looks promising as a recent healthcare attitude survey conducted by Accenture showed that Singaporeans are very willing to use technology to improve their healthcare experience, compared to other countries like Japan and Australia. With that in mind, we can expect to see a couple of developments moving into 2017: 1. Singapore turns to smart healthcare to tackle its aging population issue; 2. Doctors get support from automation; 3. The app economy comes to healthcare; and 4. Singaporeans want easier and better access to healthcare.

ICT

Say goodbye to 2G mobile phone network Singapore Business Review 24th Jan 2017
According to a report from AFP, when Singapore pulls the plug on its 2G mobile phone network this year, thousands of people could be stuck without a signal -- digital have-nots left behind by the relentless march of technology. "From technophobic pensioners to cash-strapped migrant workers, some 140,000 people in highly-wired Singapore still use the city-state's second generation (2G) network and cheap, robust handsets. First rolled out in 1994 -- when playing Snake was the pinnacle of mobile entertainment -- 2G has long been superseded technologically, with new gold standard 5G offering lightning fast connectivity for a generation used to streaming movies and TV directly to phones," the report said. Telco giant Singtel said from April this year, the 2G network across all telcos in Singapore will gradually be closed. All three telcos, including M1 and StarHub, have laid out their handset deals for both prepaid and postpaid subscribers. Stating the reason for the cessation of the 2G network, Singtel said, "To cater to increasing demand for data and faster access speeds, it is necessary to close the older 2G network so that faster, more advanced 4G services can be deployed on the same spectrum. Customers using 3G and 4G handsets will not be affected." 

Chart of the Day: Check out the expected boom in Singapore's e-commerce market Singapore Business Review 24th Jan 2017
According to OCBC Investment Research, the growth of e-commerce will continue to shape the competitive scene of Singapore’s retail sector, and evolving consumer preferences will continue to create challenges for traditional retailers. "According to a report by Google and Temasek, Singapore’s e-commerce market formed 2.1% of total retail sales in 2015 with a value of US$1b," it said. OCBC added, “This is projected to increase at a CAGR of 18% to reach US$5.4b in 2025, and is expected to contribute 6.7% of Singapore’s retail market. Hence, although e-commerce sales are forecasted to increase at a faster pace as compared to traditional retail channels, we can see that the latter would still have significant weight in the value chain."

Chart of the Day: Check out the trend in mobile revenue growth of Singapore telcos Singapore Business Review 23rd Jan 2017
Singapore is facing an all-but-certain entry of a new competitor. But Maybank KimEng said it would be M1 who will have to work twice to keep up with other giants. "As a pure mobile operator, it has no other levers to defend its subscriber base other than pricing, unlike StarHub or Singtel which can bundle other services such as Pay TV, broadband to keep subscribers sticky. Its reliance on the consumer market also makes its earnings particularly vulnerable, unlike the other two that have a bigger corporate business balance," the firm said. Over the past time periods, industry mobile revenue growth is on the rise, peaking at December 2014. But the latest showing at June 2016 showed declines in overall revenue.

Singapore closer to launching 5G mobile networks: IMDA TODAYonline 18th Jan 2017
The Republic is another step closer to seeing 5G networks being deployed here, with the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) announcing yesterday that it will launch a public consultation later this year on mobile technology developments related to 5G and the spectrum required for it. At the Next Generation Mobile Networks Forum, organised by Singtel, IMDA assistant chief executive Aileen Chia noted that it is anticipated that 5G will support a larger range of applications, meeting requirements from “high reliability and high bandwidth applications, to ultra-low latency and mobility”. Potential applications tapping 5G technologies include autonomous vehicles, which require a very low latency rate so that they can communicate almost instantaneously to avoid collisions, for example. Another application is in robotic arms to perform remote surgery. Hence, there is a need for new spectrum resources to fuel the next generation of mobile services, she said. “IMDA will continue to promote greater technological innovation by encouraging trials in 5G technology to explore its potential benefits and applications. The telco industry largely expects 5G mobile services to be commercially launched in 2020, and a variety of trials are being undertaken now.

Singapore to boost Asia's smart home market Singapore Business Review 18th Jan 2017
Singapore, amongst other highly-connected economies, will play a vital role in boosting Asia's smart home market, which is expected to reach US$115m in 2030. This would account for 30% of the global share, according to global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The firm said the global smart home market to grow to US$50b by 2020 and surge to US$400b by 2030, from US$15b currently. More so, it noted that the growth in Asia will be driven by China and Japan, with highly-connected economies such as Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan also playing a key role. The firm also noted that the idea of the connected, intelligent home is becoming a reality in Asia due to four major shifts that are accelerating market expansion. These four shifts include connectedness & intelligence, interoperability, product availability and cost, and new monetization models.

IMDA to seek public, industry feedback on 5G mobile developments Channel NewsAsia 17th Jan 2017
The Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) plans to have a public consultation later this year on developments relating to fifth generation mobile networks (5G) and the spectrum required to run them, it announced on Tuesday (Jan 17). According to IMDA's assistant chief executive, Aileen Chia, the move is part of efforts to facilitate the introduction and commercialisation of 5G services and technology in Singapore. This includes the promotion of real-world trials to help the industry better understand how 5G will work in Singapore’s business environment as well as their optimal deployment scenarios, she said. Such preparatory work comes ahead of the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in 2019, where final decisions on standards and spectrum will be made. Ms Chia said the authority strongly encourages the industry’s participation in the consultation to help it better understand the industry’s needs and how to respond to them, as well as the spectrum plans that will enable innovation to flourish. "This will then better help shape our spectrum roadmap and the regulatory framework going forward,” she explained. The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance - an association of more than 80 industry players worldwide of which local telco Singtel is a member - aims for 5G to be rolled out commercially by 2020 to meet business and consumer demands.

4 in 5 firms confident of preventing and resisting cyber attacks Singapore Business Review 16th Jan 2017
According to the annual EY Global Information Security Survey, 80% of Singapore businesses are confident of their ability to detect a sophisticated cyber attack, surpassing the global average of 50%. EY Asean cyber security leader Gerry Chng said Singapore has been driven by strong regulatory guidance in both the government and financial sectors to uplift the adoption of digital platforms as well as address the corresponding risks. "This has resulted in a comparatively matured ecosystem of regulators, businesses, customers, and service providers,” he said. The study garnered responses from over 1,735 organizations globally regarding some of the most compelling cybersecurity issues businesses face today. The top security threats that the Singapore respondents mentioned are attacks that disrupt or deface the organization, spam, zero-day attacks, and phishing. Meanwhile, the survey found out that the top cyber security priorities for Singapore respondents are data leakage and data loss prevention, security testing for attack and penetration, and identity and access management.  

Touch and go: Singapore company launches biometric payment platform Channel NewsAsia 12th Jan 2017
As many as 150 hotels, clubs and restaurants could eventually have a new payment platform that will allow customers to pay their bill simply by scanning their fingerprints. The technology, developed by local fintech company Touche, was launched at participating restaurant Grignoter on Thursday (Jan 12). It involves a device with a biometric sensor that extracts more than 90 unique points from a person's fingerprints to ensure accurate identification. “This means that we have a large data set to authenticate (your identity). We also have life detection and anti-spoofing technology, which make sure that if your fingerprints are copied, the solution would not work,” said Sahba Saint-Claire, CEO of Touche. First-time customers at participating merchants can link their fingerprints to their credit card for payment. Credit card details and fingerprint images are kept secure, said Mr Saint-Claire, adding that the details are not stored on the device. Instead, the information is “tokenised“ and fingerprint images are encrypted on a cloud system. The company also aims to expand to Japan and the United States, where tech adoption is relatively more mature. It is receiving help from IE Singapore, which is introducing it to potential partners and helping it better understand the market.

Infrastructure

Tuas viaduct to open on Feb 18; Tuas West MRT extension to open in Q2 Channel NewsAsia 19th Jan 2017
The Tuas viaduct, a 4.8-km stretch linking Tuas South Avenue 3 to Tuas Road, will open on Feb 18 at 6am, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Thursday (Jan 19). Built at a budget of S$3.5 billion over five years, the viaduct is the first in Singapore to integrate road and rail, and is aimed at enhancing transport connectivity to businesses in Tuas. The stretch forms part of a 7.5-km rail viaduct linking the MRT stations of Tuas Link, Tuas West Road, Tuas Crescent and Gul Circle - slated to open in the second quarter of this year - with Joo Koon station on the East-West Line. Once opened, commuters to the Tuas area can save up to 35 minutes in travelling time, LTA said. From Tuas West Road station to the area around Tuas Road, the rail viaduct runs directly above the road viaduct. The road viaduct in turn runs two lanes in each direction above the busy Pioneer Road over a 2.4-km stretch, with capacity for conversion to three lanes depending on future traffic needs.

Manufacturing

Singapore’s December Manufacturing Surges 21% as Exports Pick Up Bloomberg.com 26th Jan 2017
Singapore’s industrial production surged the most in five years in December, led by a boost in electronics exports, according to data from the Economic Development Board. Manufacturing climbed 21.3 percent in December from a year earlier, compared with a median estimate of 10.4 percent in a Bloomberg survey of 15 economists. Output rose a seasonally adjusted 6.4 percent in the month. The median forecast was for a contraction of 4.5 percent. Excluding biomedical production, output expanded 16.1 percent in December from a year ago. For the full year, manufacturing rose 3.6 percent. Singapore avoided a recession last year after the economy rebounded from a contraction in the third quarter, and early signs of a trade pick-up is helping to support growth in the export-reliant city state. Despite an increase in unemployment to a six-year high last quarter, export growth beat forecasts for a second consecutive month in December. Preliminary data showed gross domestic product grew at the fastest pace in more than three years in the fourth quarter.

Singapore firms urged to tap 3D printing tech Singapore Business Review 24th Jan 2017
The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) has made it possible for tissue implants to be 3D-printed using a technology being developed by Nanyang Technological University and a Singapore-based 3D printing start-up focused on healthcare. This new printer can print the supporting structure layer by layer and insert living cells to form a live tissue that could aid in the regeneration of particular tissues or organs. According to a joint release by NAMIC and NTU, since the formation of NAMIC by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore and SPRING Singapore last year, the cluster has reached out to about 400 local and international companies to help them adopt additive manufacturing, also known as 3D-printing, as part of their business. NAMIC has also successfully established joint funding for 39 joint projects between companies and academic research institutions and has 80 more projects in the pipeline. NTU’s innovation and enterprise company NTUitive is leading NAMIC, in partnership with SPRING Singapore and the Singapore Economic Development Board. The cluster’s three founding members are Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Singapore firms tapping 3D printing tech for new growth opportunities Channel NewsAsia 23rd Jan 2017
Tissue implants customised for individual patients and a more cost-efficient way of producing hybrid solid rocket fuel - these are some of the joint industry research projects that are in the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster's (NAMIC) portfolio. In a joint media release on Monday (Jan 23), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the National Research Foundation and SPRING Singapore gave an update on NAMIC since it was formed last year to help companies develop capabilities in 3D printing. It has successfully established joint funding for 39 projects between companies and academic research institutions, with S$3.8 million from the Government via NAMIC and S$2.8 million from the companies, Dr Ho Chaw Sing, managing director of NAMIC, told Channel NewsAsia in an interview on Monday. The entity has reached out to about 400 local and international firms to help them adopt 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, the press release said. Dr Ho added the response from companies has been "positive" despite the use of 3D printing for industrial uses still being in its infancy. 

Why the strong performance by the manufacturing sector will be short-lived Singapore Business Review 12th Jan 2017
The Singapore economy received a significant boost in 4Q16 due to the rapid expansion in the manufacturing sector. According to BMI Research, both manufacturing and services recorded strong performances, with manufacturing growing by 14.6% QoQ, reversing the 8.1% QoQ contraction in the previous quarter. Services also expanded by 9.4% QoQ, compared to the -0.4% in the previous quarter. Construction activity remained in contraction, coming in at -4.7% QoQ versus 14.8% in Q316. However, BMI Research argued that the strong manufacturing print will not be sustained. "We believe that the strong print for the manufacturing sector is temporary and expect the sector to face a difficult outlook over the coming quarters. The restructuring of Singapore's labour force away from a high dependence on foreign workers towards one that is increasingly based on mechanisation will continue to undermine manufacturing output in Singapore," the research house said. It added, "In our view, the uptick in electronics growth in Q416 is unlikely to be repeated over the coming quarters as the global tech cycle winds down slowly in H117. Meanwhile, we expect the Chinese economy to continue slowing gradually as structural weaknesses such as overcapacity continue to weigh on growth in 2017.”  

Private sector PMI slows down to 52.0 in December Singapore Business Review 10th Jan 2017
The latest Nikkei Singapore Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) showed a steady improvement in the health of Singapore's private sector despite the slower pace of expansion at 52 in December. Coming from a 52.8 reading in the previous month, the index still signalled a further improvement in the business conditions of Singaporean private sector companies. However, firms in Singapore decided to slow down growth of input buying at the end of 2016 despite signs of higher demand. "While still on the rise, purchasing activity decelerated from November, with the rate of increase only fractional overall. A number of panellists pointed towards sufficient stocks as the reason for slower acquisitions of purchased items," a release from IHS Markit said. Slower purchases of inputs also partially weighed on the levels of pre-production inventories, the firm said. "The rate of stock depletion in December was the second sharpest in 2016, although there was evidence that the drawdown was largely due to demand outstripping supply," IHS Markit noted. Meanwhile, better delivery times were reported for the fourth month in a row. A combination of slower purchasing activity and shorter turnaround times helped improved vendor performance. IHS Markit economist Bernard Aw commented on the improvement of PMI and said signs of rising external demand saw foreign appetite for Singaporean goods and services increase further in December.