Singapore Update: 2017 Committee of Supply Debates Focus on Opportunities of Future Economy

Singapore Update | April 4, 2017
Authors: Kim Yaeger, Sunita Kapoor, and Riley Smith
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

March 20-April 20: Public Consultation on Proposed Carbon Tax for Singapore

April 17: Roundtable with U.S. Congressional Staff Delegation

May 8-9: 2017 Singapore Business Mission

May 10: 2017 Brunei Business Mission

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

2017 Committee of Supply Debates Focus on Opportunities of Future Economy
As part of Singapore’s annual budgeting process, Parliament sits as the Committee of Supply to examine each Government Ministry’s expenditure plans for the coming fiscal year.  This step takes place following the presentation of the coming fiscal year’s Budget Statement by the Minister for Finance, which this year took place on February 20, and usually lasts around seven days.  It is through the Committee of Supply debates, which includes speeches by the various Government Ministers and associated Ministry officials, that a clearer picture of how each Ministry’s budget allocation will be implemented emerges.  After the Committee of Supply debates conclude, the Parliament sends the resulting Supply Bill to the President, whose discretionary role in the budgeting process arises from his duty to safeguard Singapore’s past reserves.  Concluding that the new expenditures from the Supply Bill would not draw on these reserves, President Tony Tan gave his approval of the Supply Bill for Budget 2017 on March 16.  The Supply Act of 2017 came into force on April 1.

In the Committee of Supply debates for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran focused on how Budget 2017 can help the Government of Singapore and the country’s private sector, particularly Singaporean small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), take advantage of opportunities in the surrounding region.  In addition to leveraging existing trade agreements to maintain access to overseas markets, a point brought up by Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang, Minister Iswaran noted that trends such as rapid urbanization and a rising middle class are opening up “next tier” cities and regions in the broader Asia-Pacific region to Singaporean goods and services.  Minister Iswaran specifically highlighted infrastructure and urban solutions and the digital economy as examples of such opportunities.  Integral to taking full advantage of these opportunities, according to Minister Iswaran, would be sustaining the competitiveness and growth of Singapore’s private sector, especially its SMEs, in the long-term.  The Industry Transformation Maps, which were launched as a result of last year’s budget and cover 23 industries, would be the primary modality by which to achieve this goal, and government assistance and development efforts for companies would be directed towards three broad areas: internationalization and financing, innovation and capability development, and skills development.   

The Committee of the Future Economy’s recommendations on developing Singapore’s digital economy and utilizing data as an asset were evident in the prominence given to both topics in the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).  In his speech to the Committee of Supply, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim focused on four main themes: building digital-ready companies, leveraging data for the digital economy, strengthening community bonds, and building a digital-ready workforce.  As with MTI’s presentation to the Committee, MCI’s presentation focused not only on how to make Singaporean SMEs more competitive but also how to sustain their competitiveness and growth while taking advantage of opportunities arising from the broader trend of digital economic transformation.  For example, a key initiative of the theme focusing on building digital-ready companies is the SMEs Go Digital program, which aims to help SMEs “adopt digital technologies to increase their revenues, tap new markets and improve their workers’ productivity.”  As part of the roll out of the program, MCI will partner with relevant agencies and industry stakeholders to focus on sectors where the adoption of digital technology can provide significant productivity improvement, such as the retail, wholesale trade, and logistics sectors.  Another example is MCI’s intention to establish a Data Innovation Programme Office (DIPO) within the Info-Communications Media Development Authority, a goal which falls under the theme of leveraging data for the digital economy.  In laying out the reason why it would be beneficial for Singapore to establish DIPO, the MCI pointed out that data is a source of competitive advantage for Singapore, but that awareness over how companies can fully utilize data to create value is uneven across sectors.  DIPO would attempt to remedy this by supporting specific data-driven innovation projects and the broader development a data ecosystem in Singapore.

The following links provide further information on the Committee of Supply debates for various Ministries:

Public Consultation on Proposed Carbon Tax Open March 20-April 20, 2017
On March 20, the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), Strategy Group, announced that it was carrying out a public consultation on the proposed carbon tax that was mentioned in Singapore’s Budget 2017.  The Government intends to implement the carbon tax in 2019.  The public consultation period will last from March 20-April 20.  A consultation paper, entitled “Climate Change Strategy and Carbon Pricing,” is included in the public consultation announcement.  Submissions can be emailed to NCCS_Contact@nccs.gov.sg.

According to the NCCS, which falls under the Prime Minister's Office, the purpose of the carbon tax is to help Singapore meet its Paris Agreement commitment to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 36% below 2005 levels by 2030, as well as stimulate clean technology development and market innovation.  Even though the city-state is already a marginal contributor to global GHG emissions, accounting for just over 0.1% of emission worldwide, the tax will supplement other emission-reducing and energy efficiency-enhancing measures under Singapore’s Climate Action Plan.  The carbon tax is intended to help the GOS meet its Paris Agreement commitment by incentivizing “large direct emitters” to find innovative ways to reduce their GHG emissions.  The proposed threshold for defining “large direct emitters” will be set at 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent of GHG annually, meaning that power stations and refineries would be subject to the tax.  Overall, GOS data indicates that between 30-40 emitters in Singapore would fall into the “large direct emitters” category.  Even with increased support from the government, the estimated increases in operating costs resulting from the tax risk harming the competitiveness of the Singapore’s refinery industry, which plays an important role in the city-state’s economy.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

IMDA States that Cloud Outage Incident Response (COIR) Guidelines Will Be Voluntary Standards 
On February 9, in a joint letter to Mr. Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive Officer of the Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore, the Council joined the Business Software Alliance in advocating that IMDA adhere to internationally recognized standards when crafting cloud outage incident response (COIR) guidelines.  The letter was in response to announcements from the IMDA that it would instead use locally developed COIR guidelines as the basis for creating a domestic standard for cloud computing services in Singapore.  On March 10, the Council received a reply from Mr. Tan, saying that the guidelines would be developed as a voluntary standard, and that the IMDA would hold a two-month-long public consultation—from May 5 to July 6—once the revised guidelines are available.

MOH Defers Implementation of Plain Packaging After Public Consultation
On March 9, Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that it would not proceed with plain tobacco packaging following a public consultation period that ended last March.  As part of that public consultation, the Council submitted a letter to Mr. Gary Khoo, the Director of the Substance Abuse Division at the Health Promotion Board, arguing that the introduction of plain packaging would violate Singapore's obligations to protect IPR and to abstain from enacting measures that serve as unnecessary obstacles to trade.  Rather than implement plain packaging, MOH said it would hold another public consultation on the issue later this year.  The 2017 public consultation would seek additional and more detailed views on plain packaging measures, as well as study how Australia, France, and the United Kingdom are implementing plain packaging.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Singapore-Indonesia relations should prioritise fighting rising radicalism and terrorism: Wiranto
Malaysia will defend maritime borders while maintaining good ties with Singapore, says its deputy foreign minister

National Affairs
Tackling disruption: Execution holds the key for Singapore
Singapore opens doors and access to funds for foreign entrepreneurs
Singapore gives fiscal boost to firms and workers to go further
Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), During the Committee of Supply Debate Under Head V
Ministry of Communication and Information: Budget Debate 2017
Singapore Budget 2017 Commentary
PwC’s response to Budget 2017
Singapore Budget 2017
Singapore Budget 2017 aims for innovative economy, quality environment and inclusive society
Singapore Budget 2017: Winners and Losers
Singapore budget: Wary of ‘deep shifts’ in global environment, focusing on building local capabilities
Budget 2017: More support for elderly, young families and people with disabilities
Singapore Budget 2017: UOB says enhanced tax reliefs to boost business, purchasing power needed

Customs
PSA, CMA CGM double capacity of container terminal joint venture

Defense & Security
ST Electronics, DSTA to develop next-generation Earth Observation Satellite
MINDEF Internet system breach detected within weeks: Ong Ye Kung
Singapore, Thailand and U.S. to kick off multilateral exercise

Economics
Going regional: Singapore businesses seize opportunities in South-east Asia
Chart of the Day: Inflation pickup is not broad-based
Singapore's gross fixed capital formation to inch up 0.5% in 2017
Singapore CPI expected to climb 1.2% in 2017
Singapore's current account surplus projected to hit $80.3b in 2017
Trade associations, chambers crucial to helping businesses: Chan Chun Sing
Analysts boost Singapore's 2017 growth forecast to 2.3%: MAS survey
Headwinds grow for Singapore's economy as manufacturing orders slow-
Growth in Singapore private sector slows again in February to 4-month low: Nikkei PMI
Business confidence in Singapore economy rises in second quarter
Disrupting the disrupters: Singapore rattles sharing economy with rule change
How far can Singapore’s grand plan for economy really go?

Energy
Electricity prices to rise 6.1% for next 3 months
Extensive gas strategy to propel Keppel
Mandatory energy targets, regular energy audits on the cards for some industries in Singapore
Here's how the government justified the 30% water price hike
Analysts mull outcome as Singapore's Ezra holdings seeks shelter from creditors
Singapore at the front line of water innovation
U.S. crude oil sales to Asia quickly growing
Clean tech investment firm Envirotek deploys tidal energy in Singapore
Industrial sector to face stricter energy laws
Singapore Proposes Carbon Tax
Enhancements to Energy Conservation Act to include better reporting of greenhouse gas emissions
Carbon tax expected to lead to higher electricity prices
Singapore a 'great location' for LNG trading
Analysis: Singapore can't afford to let oil exports lose edge despite carbon tax
Singapore carbon tax would hit refiners, help renewables
Singapore carbon tax set to squeeze oil groups
Singapore Plans Southeast Asia's First Carbon Tax From 2019

Financial Services
MAS signs fintech deals with France
Further Changes to the Singapore Companies Act in 2017
Singapore partners with Bahrain to develop a fintech ecosystem
Amendments to Companies Act to take effect by 31 March: MOF
Singapore ties stronger FinTech relationship with Japan
MAS forges FinTech partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market
Citibank, Visa to launch a cloud-based B2B platform
Citi selects Singapore as demo country for FinTech initiative
Investment in Singapore fintech drops 64.6% to $301.4m
Singapore Regulator Relaxes Lending Restrictions
Singapore: MAS to help financial sector gear up for the Future Economy
Singapore’s central bank wants to relax VC regulations to boost startup funding
MAS assembles Data Analytics Group
Bank of Singapore inks deal to let clients book assets in Switzerland
Brightening IPO market - chance for SGX to get new investors
Pioneering move on cross-border insolvency

Food & Agriculture
Why Wilmar can shrug off lower plantation profits
Del Monte Pacific recovers from losses, records $12m profit
Singapore unveils transformation map for the farming sector
S'pore keeps import curbs on food from Fukushima
AVA halts imports of poultry from parts of the US
Agri-players suffer FFB production slump in 2016
First Resources' crude palm oil production up 38.4% in Q4

Health & Life Sciences
Raffles Medical Group's Shanghai hospital to open early 2019
Health ministry to inject $24m funding to strengthen manpower
Singapore's EDBI and Philips to boost their health care investments in Asia
One in two here under private health plans
Is technology threatening Singapore's healthcare system?

ICT
Here's why Singaporeans will spend more on mobile shopping this year
SingTel aggressively moves to be an integrated telecoms service provider
Changes to Singapore's cybercrime law passed
Taxing the Digital Economy: Impending changes to GST in Singapore
IoT Asia 2017: Asia-Pacific will be a key driver of global IoT innovation
Singapore's 2017 Smart Nation Initiatives
Amazon delays its entry into Southeast Asia
Lazada Brings Alibaba's Biggest Bazaar to Singaporean Shoppers
Singapore just landed another multi-million dollar data centre
Mobile shopping in Singapore to grow by 42 percent this year: PayPal
Singapore govt to pump US$1.7B to transform country into digital powerhouse

Infrastructure
CapitaLand mulls over boosting $2.1b multi-asset presence in Vietnam
Construction activities in Singapore to grow 0.8% this year
Singapore is the third most expensive city in Asia for construction
Singapore is working to become ‘Asia's Infrastructure Exchange'
Over 8,000 jobs in public transport to be created by 2030

Manufacturing
Lazada teams up with Unilever to boost e-commerce market share
Biomed drags Singapore manufacturing down
Motorcycle COEs set to continue to reach record highs
Singapore's manufacturing sector expands for 7th straight month in March
Singapore's manufacturing output forecast to grow 4% in 2017
Singapore manufacturing may show the way for future economy
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Singapore-Indonesia relations should prioritise fighting rising radicalism and terrorism: Wiranto The Straits Times 6th Mar 2017
Indonesia's coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Wiranto said that rising radicalism and terrorism are problems that Indonesia and Singapore should prioritise and work together to fight. Former armed forces general Mr Wiranto made the statement after meeting Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Jakarta, ahead of the opening of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Business Summit in Jakarta on Monday (March 6), where leaders and senior officials from the 21 member countries are meeting. Mr Wiranto praised the good relations enjoyed by Singapore and Indonesia that are focused on mutual benefits. "Our relations must be marked with how we jointly fight terrorism and radicalism that are growing," Mr Wiranto said in a statement, pointing out that Indonesia and Singapore have common enemies and common conditions.

Malaysia will defend maritime borders while maintaining good ties with Singapore, says its deputy foreign minister The Straits Times 6th Feb 2017
Malaysia's deputy foreign minister said the country will defend its maritime borders and sovereignty if newly discovered historical facts prove that Pulau Batu Puteh belongs to Malaysia. The island, some 40km east of Singapore at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait, is known as Pedra Branca in Singapore. Britain, and later Singapore, has maintained control over the island since the 1850s. The Star Online quoted Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican as saying on Sunday (Feb 5) that while the Malaysian government would continue to foster good ties with Singapore, it would also explore the possibilities of gaining sovereignty over the island. "In 2008, when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague gave the island to Singapore, it did not tarnish our relationship," he said. "Trade between Malaysia and Singapore has even increased." Meantime, a retired top admiral said he's confident that Malaysia has a strong case to apply for a revision of the ICJ judgment, the New Straits Times reported.

National Affairs

Tackling disruption: Execution holds the key for Singapore The Business Times 9th Mar 2017
SINGAPORE businesses and the government are cognizant of disruption, according to Minister of State Janil Puthucheary. But what is more important is how they execute their response to the phenomenon, and this will determine Singapore's success in tackling disruption. In an exclusive interview with The Business Times, the Minister of State for Education, as well as Communications and Information, affirmed that the Republic's organisations have always had a mindset of wanting to seize opportunities. "The question is now, whether we see disruption as a threat or opportunity. If we see disruption as an opportunity, are we looking to slow down the pace of change or to embrace it and be part of the change?" That said, Dr Puthucheary, who is also co-chair of the Deep Dive on Disruptive Technologies under the Committee on The Future Economy, noted that there is no singular strategy for organisations in responding to disruption, as they face varied needs and challenges. Organisations in Singapore, however, "start from a relative position of strength". He attributed this to a tech-savvy population, in addition to a public and private sector that are already deploying digitalisation strategies. The government in particular, through the Smart Nation Programme Office, is looking to see how it can leverage data and artificial intelligence to automate processes and ultimately "disrupt ourselves, from the policy side". "So we're very willing, but it's easy to say and hard to do. And I think that's the key, for both businesses as well as the government. The execution and the operational issues are what's going to determine if this is a success or not." Dr Puthucheary acknowledged that existing legacy systems that have had "some degree of success" could be impeding both businesses and the government in adapting to disruptive technologies. "If now, you want to put in a new solution, the barriers are a little bit higher. That can sometimes slow us down, and we do need to then literally disrupt ourselves.

Singapore opens doors and access to funds for foreign entrepreneurs AsiaOne 6th Mar 2017
While economies elsewhere are shutting foreign talent out, Singapore is making moves to poach some of the world's brightest minds to feed its ambition to become the next Silicon Valley. The city-state's government officials announced on Friday a slew of initiatives aimed at beefing up its startup scene, as the economy moves into a higher-value, innovative space. Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will therefore be changing regulations to attract foreign talent, facilitate funding and strengthen a state identity for the local startup scene. Koh Poh Koon, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said in Parliament: "Given Singapore's small size, we need to remain open to promising global talent. On Friday, Dr Koh said that for a start, the eligibility requirements for the EntrePass scheme, which is aimed at foreign entrepreneurs keen to start a business in Singapore, will be eased in some parts. Currently, to qualify for an EntrePass, applicants have to register a private limited company, and inject at least S$50,000 in paid-up capital. The requirement for applicants to have a paid-up capital of at least S$50,000 in their startups will now be removed. The validity of each EntrePass after the initial renewal will be extended from one year to two. Singapore is also enhancing financing schemes for startups in "deep-tech" sectors so as to catalyse private-sector investment. These sectors include medical technology, clean technology and advanced manufacturing. Firstly, the government will double the investment cap for its co-investment portion for deep-tech startups from S$2 million to S$4 million, enabling tiered funding support according to startups' differing needs. Secondly, it will increase the proportion of its co-investment funding support for supported investments, from 50 per cent to 70 per cent. The city-state will also bring together startup support schemes under an overarching umbrella called "Startup SG"; there are now five schemes under it.

Singapore gives fiscal boost to firms and workers to go further The Business Times 4th Mar 2017
Singapore is doubling down on efforts to tap into external markets and beefing up its domestic sectors to ensure that the economy can grow steadily. From facilitating the flow of innovative ideas and entrepreneurial talent to a financing scheme for small local firms taking on infrastructure projects elsewhere and helping such firms get the know-how and tools to scale up, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) unveiled a barrage of initiatives aimed at helping local companies grow and reach deeper into markets overseas. The initiatives introduced on Friday underscore trade-reliant Singapore's urgency in looking for new opportunities globally, even as a recent seminal economic restructuring report noted a "dark shift" away from globalisation last year. In shaping Singapore as the next Silicon Valley, the ministry will consolidate all schemes for local startups under a new umbrella called "Startup SG", which it hopes will cast more attention on the local startup scene. The ministry will also strengthen funding and talent-attraction schemes for startups. Efforts are also being made to help local companies and workers explore markets abroad, such as for the infrastructure sector; a non-recourse financing option will be set up by the second quarter for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) taking on infrastructure projects elsewhere. Under this initiative, introduced under the existing Internationalisation Finance Scheme, IE Singapore will co-share up to 70 per cent of default risk for the non-recourse loans for projects in the post-construction phase, and participating financial institutions, the remaining 30 per cent. Even as the Singapore government introduced a multitude of schemes to help local entities go further, it also sought to shore up support for smaller companies to put them on a steadier footing. Under an S$80-million programme called PACT through Government Lead Demand (Gov-PACT), it will put out calls for proposals which SMEs can work on to develop and test new solutions.

Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), During the Committee of Supply Debate Under Head V Ministry of Trade and Industry 3rd Mar 2017
Thank you Madam Chair. I would like to thank all the Members who had spoken on the MTI debate so far. At the debate on the Budget Statement, I emphasised that we need to gear up our economy and enterprises so that they can seize the significant opportunities presented by the growth of Asia and the rise of the middle class here. Let me now elaborate on the work of MTI and our economic agencies towards that objective. Our backdrop is, as many Members have observed, a confluence of political, economic and technological trends that is quite unparalleled in recent times. As many Members have emphasized, anti-globalisation and protectionist sentiments appear to be gaining momentum in the US and Europe. Global trade and production patterns are changing, and value chains are being reconfigured. Technological advances are disrupting business models and changing the nature of jobs. It is increasingly harder to anticipate which sector, enterprise model or job type will be the next to see a major transformation. For example, the impact today of Uber, the sharing economy, and fintech was not fully appreciated even as recently as 5 years ago. We expect more industries to be “Uberised”; but we can’t be sure which ones, when and to what extent. Given such uncertainty, the most durable strategy is to focus on the fundamentals that will keep Singapore relevant to the world and its needs. That is why the CFE has emphasised two basic points: Openness and Capability. Strengthening these fundamentals is the surest way to prepare Singapore for the future. Minister Lim has already explained how Singapore must remain connected to the world and open to trade, investments and talent, despite contrarian trends in some parts of the world. Minister Lim has explained how we are doing this. Secondly, it is also important for our people to deepen their skills, and companies to transform by building capabilities for higher levels of productivity, innovation, and internationalisation. I will elaborate on this aspect.

Ministry of Communication and Information: Budget Debate 2017 Ministry of Communication and Information 3rd Mar 2017
The digital economy is the next phase of growth for Singapore and the infocomm media and design sectors are key engines to support it. We will continue to develop manpower capabilities, prepare our workforce for technological changes, and ensure that Singapore and Singaporeans are ready for the digital future. This year, our key focus will be to help companies build strong digital capabilities.

Singapore Budget 2017 Commentary Deloitte Singapore 20th Feb 2017
The Finance Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, presented the Budget Statement on 20 February 2017. With Budget 2017 and its focus on digitalisation, innovation and internationalisation, the Government is focusing on building deep partnerships and developing strong capabilities to help our businesses and society re-position for the future. Coming on the back of a report issued by the CFE outlining long-term strategies to maximise the chances of Singapore’s success, there was a general expectation that Budget 2017 would contain ‘big-bang’ tax policies to address the challenges ahead. However, from a tax perspective, Budget 2017 is arguably a muted one. The most notable tax change appears to be the introduction of a ‘BEPS-compliant’ patent box regime that incentivises income from the exploitation of intellectual property. In addition, several tax incentives and measures deemed important to Singapore, including the Global Trader Programme, have either been enhanced or extended. Modest tax rebates were also announced for both corporate and personal income taxes. Most of the measures in Budget 2017 were introduced in response to the economic strategies highlighted by the CFE. These range from the SMEs Go Digital Programme where SMEs are given advice on the technologies to use at each stage of their growth, to the establishment of a Global Innovation Alliance for Singaporeans to gain overseas experience, build networks and collaborate with their counterparts in other innovative cities.

PwC’s response to Budget 2017 PwC 20th Feb 2017
A confident Budget in an uncertain world: expansionary, modern, inclusive and progressive with a focus on growth from within, but global uncertainty still looms large. The following comments are responses from PwC Singapore to Singapore Budget 2017, organised into several categories – (1) Economy and businesses; (2) Industry sectors; (3) Workers and job seekers; (4) Vibrant & connected city; (5) Environment; (6) Household; (7) Community; (8) Fiscal sustainability.

Singapore Budget 2017 KPMG 20th Feb 2017
Many of the assumptions that would have gone into planning for the future have been disrupted this past year. As noted by the Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech, we are in a time of change. What is unprecedented, is that there was no herald to this change. It is a stark reminder of how quick and unpredictable change has become in the world today. This period of change drives the theme of the entire 2017 Budget - Moving Forward Together. It lays out in a way that best befits this time of change - a strategy, rather than a plan. Not prescribing, it instead enacts policies to help Singapore stay agile and adaptive, especially as our external environment changes rapidly. As technology brings forth the convergence of industries and new business models disrupt traditional businesses, leveraging the benefits brought on by digitalisation and increased connectivity can promote innovation. Beyond measures promoting innovation capability building to ensure our people have the right skills, there are also proposals to encourage our local enterprises to digitalise so as to improve their operations. Besides business related measures, building an inclusive and caring society by introducing more household support measures have also been announced. Totalling an expected $850 million, it will include GST vouchers, education bursaries and more service and conservancy charge rebates, and also provides more support to the disadvantaged. The Budget is far-sighted. It encourages greater innovation through initiatives such as the Global Innovation Alliance, Innovators Academy and Innovation Launchpad. It also pushes local enterprises to change their mind-set and embrace the need to digitalise, as evident in the new SMEs Go Digital programme. Overall, Budget 2017 strikes a balance between the need to be responsive in a rapidly changing world while remaining fiscally prudent.

Singapore Budget 2017 aims for innovative economy, quality environment and inclusive society Channel NewsAsia 20th Feb 2017
The Government’s Budget statement for financial year 2017 was delivered on Monday (Feb 20) by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat who outlined three main themes of economy, environment and society. "Advances in technology are picking up pace, disrupting traditional businesses and jobs," said Mr Heng, in his first speaking appearance in Parliament since suffering a stroke in May last year. "These deep shifts around the world will create new challenges but also open up new opportunities for many years to come. We must understand these shifts and do our best to adapt and thrive." He added: "Singapore is undergoing a key transition as our economy matures. With falling birth rates and a rapidly ageing population, labour force growth will eventually fall to zero." Hence the need for Singapore to develop deep capabilities and partnerships in its economy, firms and workers as well as establish a balance between Government action and community initiative, he said. "It is critical we take decisive action to re-position ourselves for the future," said Mr Heng. "We will take a learning and adaptive approach, try new methods, continue with them when they work well, cut losses when they do not, and draw on feedback and experience to adjust and refine our plans. That is the Singapore way."

Singapore Budget 2017: Winners and Losers Bloomberg.com 20th Feb 2017
In a bid to boost growth and productivity amid global economic and geopolitical uncertainties, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced measures to support infrastructure projects and industries like marine and processes. The 2017 budget comes less than two weeks after a government-appointed panel, led by Heng, outlined initiatives to propel the economy into its next phase of growth. The range of measures aim to help spur growth to 2 percent to 3 percent a year over the next decade. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers of the Singapore budget.

Singapore budget: Wary of ‘deep shifts’ in global environment, focusing on building local capabilities CNBC 20th Feb 2017
The changing global landscape, underpinned by protectionist politics and advances in technology, presents both challenges and opportunities for Singapore, and the city state's firms and workers must enhance capabilities to thrive, according to the country's finance minister. Presenting the annual budget statementin Parliament on Monday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore must take "decisive action" to position the country amid such "deep shifts" in the global economic environment. Outlining the government's revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2017-2018, Heng said Singapore is expected to see an overall surplus of S$1.9 billion ($1.3 billion). The city state, an economy that has long hung its hat on its openness, is particularly vulnerable to any slowdown in global trade. Its maturing economy and aging population also threaten to stall growth. "Many developed economies going through this same experience have seen their annual GDP growth decelerate to 1 percent or lower. We can aim for quality growth of 2 to 3 percent, if we press on in our drive for higher productivity and work hard to help everyone who wishes to workfind a place in the labour force," Heng said. The release of Singapore's budget statement came hot on the heels of better-than-expected growth figures that showed a 12.3 percent quarter-on-quarter economic expansion in the last quarter of 2016 on improved manufacturing performance. This was up from the government's initial estimate of 9.1 per cent. Despite that, the government has kept official growth estimates for 2017 at between 1 and 3 percent.

Budget 2017: More support for elderly, young families and people with disabilities Channel NewsAsia 8th Feb 2017
More support will be given to the elderly, young families and people with disabilities in the upcoming Budget 2017, according to Senior Minister of State for Finance Indranee Rajah. Speaking at the Enabling Village on Tuesday morning (Feb 7), Ms Indranee said: "For the elderly, as they grow older they have needs and they worry about a whole host of things, so you want to make sure they are well supported.  "For young families, especially working parents, they have needs too, so you want to make sure they are well supported," she said. Ms Indranee added that more backing will be given to people with disabilities to ensure that they live happy, productive lives and are fully integrated into society. When asked if more emphasis will be placed on enabling people with disabilities or encouraging employers to employ them, Ms Indranee said this year's Budget will focus on a combination of both, stating that these points cannot be taken in isolation.  "Budgets by their nature have to be broad-based, but you hope that whatever you do in the Budget flows down and enables different groups to be able to do different parts of it," she said. "So training may be one part, helping them to integrate is another part, but getting people to participate like employers or people who can take them on to give employment to participate, that's important as well." Budget 2017 will be delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on Feb 20. 

Singapore Budget 2017: UOB says enhanced tax reliefs to boost business, purchasing power needed The Business Times 8th Feb 2017
Singapore Budget 2017 must address the short-term needs of businesses and provide enhanced tax reliefs to boost sentiments and raise household's real purchasing power, UOB economist Francis Tan said on Wednesday. In a research report, Mr Tan is hoping that Budget 2017 - which will be delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on Feb 20 - will unveil a single-year tax relief measure to tide businesses and households during difficult times. He noted that economic growth has been very slow and protracted due to structural and cyclical reasons. While Singapore has largely avoided a technical recession in 2016, it "continues to bear the burden of weaker global economic fundamentals" and risks in certain sectors like the offshore and marine. The economic outlook has also been clouded by anti-globalisation rhetoric. Singapore's overall unemployment rate has also edged to 2.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, the highest since 2010, Mr Tan said. "At a time when external demand drivers are weak, an economy's growth potential depends more on domestic consumption as well as business investments."

Customs

PSA, CMA CGM double capacity of container terminal joint venture The Straits Times 27th Mar 2017
Port operator PSA and French shipping giant CMA CGM have launched the second phase of their container terminal joint venture in Singapore. This brings the total operating capacity at the CMA CGM - PSA Lion Terminal (CPLT) to four million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) - double the initial annual capacity of two million when the terminal first started operations in July 2016. The terminal, which now spans four mega container berths at Singapore's Pasir Panjang Terminal 5, has achieved high service levels with an average gross berth productivity of more than 160 moves per hour for the mega vessels since the beginning of this year, said CMA CGM and PSA in a joint press release on Monday (March 27). It is "well-primed to serve the mega vessels of CMA CGM and the affiliate shipping lines of the group", said the release, adding that the expansion also enhances Singapore's standing as a premier international maritime centre. Mr Jean-Yves Duval, senior vice president of Asia at CMA CGM Asia Regional Office said: "This is another exciting milestone for CMA CGM as part of the group's continuing efforts to make Singapore our main hub in the region, while reiterating the importance of Singapore to our global strategy." CMA CGM completed its S$3.38 billion buyout of home-grown shipping firm Nepture Orient Lines (NOL) last year. French President Francois Hollande and Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, Singapore, officiated the launch on Monday.

Defense & Security

ST Electronics, DSTA to develop next-generation Earth Observation Satellite Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
New satellite to stake Singapore’s position in the global space market. Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (ST Electronics) has announced a partnership with the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) to build the next generation Earth Observation Satellite, TeLEOS-2.  With TeLEOS-2, ST Electronics and the DSTA aim to support government agencies such as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, and the National Environment Agency for their satellite imagery requirements.

MINDEF Internet system breach detected within weeks: Ong Ye Kung Channel NewsAsia 3rd Apr 2017
The breach in the Ministry of Defence's (MINDEF) I-net system was detected on Feb 1 this year, but the attack took place "weeks before", the Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Monday (Apr 3). "The modus operandi was consistent with a covert attack, with means used to mask the perpetrator’s actions and intent," he said. The breach, which was revealed by MINDEF on Feb 28, resulted in the personal data of 854 national servicemen and employees being stolen, although no classified military data was stolen. Classified military information is stored on a separate system that is not connected to the Internet and has more stringent security features, the ministry said then. The stolen personal data included NRIC numbers, telephone numbers and dates of birth - information which was stored on the system for account management, such as to track usage and surfing behaviour. No passwords were lost, the ministry added. Mr Ong, in response to questions by MPs Lim Wee Kiak and Vikram Nair, said that due to security reasons, findings from the ongoing investigations into the breach will be kept confidential. He also told NCMP Dennis Tan during question time that, for the same reason, he cannot disclose the identity of the hackers and how they were identified. As ongoing initiatives to strengthen cyber systems, MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces will develop better assessment tools, data analytics and content scanning engines to enhance our response to cyberattacks, the minister said. The storage of personal data on our Internet systems to minimise risks of cyber theft will also be reviewed, he added. 

Singapore, Thailand and U.S. to kick off multilateral exercise Pacific Air Forces 7th Mar 2017
Air and ground units from the United States, the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Republic of Singapore will participate in the Cope Tiger 2017 exercise in Thailand March 20-31, 2017. Cope Tiger is an annual, multilateral aerial exercise aimed at improving combat readiness and multi-national interoperability between the Republic of Singapore Air Force, Royal Thai Air Force, and U.S. Air Force, while concurrently enhancing the strong defense relations among the three countries.

Economics

Going regional: Singapore businesses seize opportunities in South-east Asia The Straits Times 2nd Apr 2017
As Singapore goes through economic restructuring, a key strategy for growth is for its people and businesses to deepen links with the region. The Committee on the Future Economy made this point in its report in February, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated the message to Singaporeans he met in Ho Chi Minh City last month. "If we are to prosper, we have to be able to go overseas and venture and take opportunities and uncertainties," Mr Lee said. A good number of Singaporeans have done just that. Mr Ivan Tan, group director for South-east Asia and Oceania at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, which helps businesses seeking to venture abroad, tells The Sunday Times: "It is critical for Singapore companies to go global to find new revenue streams and sustain growth, especially with the current economic climate." Singapore's fellow Asean members remain a first stop for many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expanding overseas. Economic growth in South-east Asia is sustainable, and supported by such factors as a young population and a rising middle class, the availability of natural resources and rapid urbanisation, says Mr Tan.

Chart of the Day: Inflation pickup is not broad-based Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
Price pressures are driven primarily by supply-side considerations. The pass-through to more broad-based price pressures does not appear strong, said Standard Chartered. It also noted that the current rise in inflation is in line with expectations. Here's more from Standard Chartered: We believe the MAS has little impetus to change its monetary policy stance, due to the pickup in inflation. The current rise in inflation is in line with its expectations. The central bank forecast in its October MPS that headline inflation should pick up to about 0.5-1.5% in 2017 from -0.5% in 2016, and core inflation to about 1-2% from 1%. The projections remain valid. In the February CPI inflation report, the central bank maintained its previous inflation projections. More importantly, even though headline deflation ended its 24-month streak in November, price pressures are driven primarily by supply-side considerations. The pass-through to more broad-based price pressures does not appear strong considering a still-subdued growth outlook and soft labour-market conditions.

Singapore's gross fixed capital formation to inch up 0.5% in 2017 Singapore Business Review 30th Mar 2017
Infrastructure projects worth $700m will commence in FY17-18. RHB Research expects gross fixed capital formation in Singapore to increase 0.5% in 2017, a rebound from a contraction in 2016, supported by a low base effect and a ramp-up of existing public infrastructure projects. Here’s more from RHB Research: The Government further announced the acceleration of S$700m worth of public sector infrastructure projects to start in FY17-18. However, the size and impact of these measures are expected to be small. At the same time, private investment is expected to remain tepid, as external demand is still fraught with risks, not to mention the impending increase in water tariffs and yet-to-be determined carbon tax costs. Moreover, the domestic supply of residential and industrial properties coming online is set to peak this year. On the whole, we expect domestic demand to climb 0.6% in 2017, after barely growing in 2016. 

Singapore CPI expected to climb 1.2% in 2017 Singapore Business Review 29th Mar 2017
Partly because of increased commodity prices. Inflation has been on a rising trend since December, noted RHB Research, with the island’s consumer price index (CPI) rising 0.6% year-on-year over 2M17, compared to a 0.7% fall in the corresponding period last year. The gains were broad-based, with transportation and domestically oriented services sectors such as healthcare and education leading the charge. “Going forward, we forecast for CPI to climb 1.2% in 2017, from a 0.5% fall this year, underpinned by improving economic growth, a low base effect, higher water tariffs, and increased commodity prices,” said RHB.  

Singapore's current account surplus projected to hit $80.3b in 2017 Singapore Business Review 29th Mar 2017
According to RHB Research, Singapore recorded a balance of payments deficit of S$3.9b in 4Q16, recoiling from its S$5.4b surplus achieved the quarter before. “Current account surplus decreased to S$18.1b, from S$22.8b in the previous quarter, dragged by a smaller goods surplus and increased services export deficit,” said RHB. Here’s more from RHB Research: On top of that, outflows in the capital and financial account increased to S$22.7b, from S$18.2b the quarter prior. Other investments saw intensified outflows, outweighing moderation in portfolio outflows and an increase in direct investments. Going forward, we project for the current account surplus to expand to S$80.3b, or 19.2% of GDP in 2017, from S$78.1b or 19% of GDP in 2016, underpinned by improved exports. At the same time, other investment outflow is expected to be large in line with Government encouragement for SMEs to internationalise. This should also lead to an increase in demand for financial demand as a hedging tool. In aggregate, we forecast for a S$0.9b deficit in the balance of payments for 2017. 

Trade associations, chambers crucial to helping businesses: Chan Chun Sing Channel NewsAsia 16th Mar 2017
Trade associations and chambers (TACs) play an important role in helping businesses overcome the challenging economic environment, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said. Mr Chan said the Government is adopting a targeted approach to help businesses in an economic climate with diverse challenges. This differs from policies during the global financial crisis in 2009, which were more broad-based, he added.  He also suggested that an "Enterprise Future" programme - similar to the Government's SkillsFuture initiative to encourage learning at every age - be led by trade associations and chambers to strengthen the capabilities of Singapore companies.  Industry knowledge can help with designing targeted measures for small- and medium-sized enterprises to overcome cyclical and longer-term challenges better, he added. 

Analysts boost Singapore's 2017 growth forecast to 2.3%: MAS survey Channel NewsAsia 15th Mar 2017
Analysts have boosted their growth forecast for Singapore’s economy for 2017 to 2.3 per cent, up from 1.5 per cent, according to a quarterly survey released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Wednesday (Mar 15). This reverses a trend of declining expectations in the industry. Economists had forecast growth of 2.5 per cent in 2017 in March last year, then 2.1 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively in the following quarters. The Government has forecast 1 per cent to 3 per cent growth for the year. 

Headwinds grow for Singapore's economy as manufacturing orders slow- Nikkei Asian Review 6th Mar 2017
Singapore's economy appears to be losing momentum after a recent surge, with the latest purchasing managers' indexes showing a softening in sentiment and business activity. The pace could weaken further in coming months due to rising U.S. interest rates, which Singapore rates tend to track, and a slowdown in China, the city-state's largest trading partner. Although the Chinese economy is still expected to grow around 6.5% this year, recent comments suggest officials there are more concerned about reining in debt levels than boosting economic growth. A pick-up in exports to China propelled Singapore's economy towards the end of last year. Manufacturing surged 11.5% year-on-year in the last three months of 2016 even as activity in other parts of the economy remained subdued. The sector currently accounts for about 20% of the city-state's gross domestic product. Many economists described the sharp slowing in manufacturing growth to just 2.2% year-on-year in January as a blip caused by the larger number of holidays that month. The Chinese New Year festival fell in January this year while it was celebrated in February last year. However, more recent numbers have only underlined the downside. The latest Nikkei Singapore Purchasing Managers' Index report for February showed pessimism among businesses in the city-state was at the worst level since the series began nearly five years ago, said Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. The monthly Nikkei Singapore PMI survey, which tracks sentiment and activity across the whole economy, eased to 51.4 from 51.6, according to Friday's report. Citigroup noted in a recent report that Singapore's manufacturing sector continued to shed jobs during the fourth quarter of last year despite a recovery in production and exports, while the debt-to-disposable income ratio for households has continued to edge higher, making it more difficult for policymakers to rely on increased consumer spending.

Growth in Singapore private sector slows again in February to 4-month low: Nikkei PMI The Straits Times 3rd Mar 2017
Growth in Singapore's private sector eased again in February to its slowest in four months, according to a survey released on Friday (March 3). Notably also, private sector businesses were the most pessimistic in the near five-year history of the survey, with the downbeat sentiment attributed to slowing economic conditions, global geopolitical uncertainties and low growth in certain sectors such as marine engineering and construction. The headline Nikkei Singapore Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) stood at 51.4 in February, marginally lower than 51.6 in January. A separate survey on Thursday that covers just the manufacturing sector showed that factory activity expanded for the sixth straight month in February but at a slower pace due to weaker new orders and exports. Slower expansions in output and new orders also drove the decline in the Nikkei PMI. Foreign sales also dipped, while further stock depletion weighed on the index. However, higher buying levels continued to be reported. But there was anecdotal evidence that promotional activities and, in some cases, bulk discounts supported demand, said the survey report. Much of the headline expansion was underpinned by domestic demand as foreign orders for Singaporean products and services contracted in February after growing for the last five months, said the report.

Business confidence in Singapore economy rises in second quarter The Business Times 1st Mar 2017
Business confidence in Singapore's economy for the second quarter of this year has bounced back up, led by rising optimism in the services and wholesale trade sectors from a gloomy outlook in the preceeding quarter, according to a latest quarterly survey. The quarterly Business Optimism Index (BOI) rose to an expansionary 2.66 percentage points for the second quarter from a -1.22 percentage points in the first quarter, based on a survey by Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau (SCCB) that gauges the perception among businesses based on key parameters such as net profits, selling prices, new orders, inventory levels and employee count. On a year-on-year basis, BOI is up marginally from +0.89 percentage points in Q2 2016 to +2.66 percentage points in the quarter under review. Sentiments over five indicators - sales volume, net profits, selling price, new orders and employment levels - except for inventory levels have improved on a quarter-on-quarter basis. On a yearly basis, all five areas are showing signs of improvement. Both services and wholesale trade sectors have emerged as the most optimistic sectors for the second quarter with five business indicators in the expansionary zone. While sentiments within the manufacturing sector have improved significantly with visible increases seen in the five indicators, the outlook for the construction sector has deteriorated with all six business indicators moderating downwards. "The unprecedented surge in optimism within the wholesale trade sector reflects a recovering overall global demand which is expected to provide growth support to our local economy in the coming months," said SCCB chief executive Audrey Chia in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Disrupting the disrupters: Singapore rattles sharing economy with rule change NST Online 23rd Feb 2017
SINGAPORE: Singapore, a keen early adopter of the sharing economy, has fired a warning shot across the bow of Airbnb and Uber with tighter rules that could shake up their business models and growth ambitions in Asia. The rules, some say, are a sign that even governments sympathetic to companies that allow citizens to rent out their expertise or property have a hard time striking the right balance between encouraging disruptive technologies and keeping them in line.

How far can Singapore’s grand plan for economy really go? South China Morning Post 13th Feb 2017
Having waited a year for some of Singapore’s brightest minds to distill their wisdom on how to reverse a rut of slowing economic growth, observers could be forgiven if they felt a nagging sense of disappointment this week. Soundbites such as “loosen regulation”, “embrace risk” and “strengthen free-trade deals” caused some initial excitement when the report by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) was finally released to the public on Thursday. These were among the ways the Southeast Asian city state, already one of the most open economies in the world, could adapt to what the report theatrically described as the world’s “dark shift from globalisation”. Warning of Donald Trump-inspired protectionism and Europe’s swing to the right, it noted the Lion City and its workers had little choice but to adapt and prioritise innovation. Workers should reinvent themselves with new skills; the government should give more support to emerging industries and smaller firms; companies should embrace the digital world. So far, so good. But those who closely perused the report’s 109 pages could be forgiven if they had the impression that what was on offer was a case of same wine, different bottle. Several of the strategies have been announced before. Most of the strategies offered appear to be tweaks to current policies. Rather than new ideas, the committee advocates a new approach – one aimed at connecting the dots between various policies and rallying the entire country to get involved in the new economy.

Energy

Electricity prices to rise 6.1% for next 3 months Channel NewsAsia 31st Mar 2017
SINGAPORE: Electricity tariffs will rise by an average of 6.1 per cent for the next three months, SP Group said on Friday (Mar 31). For households, the electricity tariff will increase from 20.20 to 21.39 cents per kWh for Apr 1 to Jun 30. This means that the average monthly electricity bill for families living in four-room HDB flats will increase by S$4.21, SP Group said. “The increase is largely due to the cost of natural gas for electricity generation, which increased by 12 per cent compared to the previous quarter,” it said. SP Group reviews the electricity tariffs quarterly based on guidelines set by the Energy Market Authority (EMA), the electricity industry regulator. The latest tariffs have been approved by the EMA.

Extensive gas strategy to propel Keppel Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
Yearly demand for gas is rising at 1.5% till 2040. Keppel Corporation chief executive Loh Chin Hua expressed his optimism with the group's position in the offshore market amidst the industry downturn. In the company’s annual report, Loh said the group is riding out the offshore downturn on a firm footing, anchored by its multi-business strategy.

Mandatory energy targets, regular energy audits on the cards for some industries in Singapore Channel NewsAsia 3rd Apr 2017
A Bill that would make it mandatory for some companies to set energy targets, audit their energy consumption and adopt industrial equipment that meet minimum energy efficiency standards was passed in Parliament on Monday (Apr 3). Non-compliance with the enhancements to the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) could mean energy-intensive companies might face heftier penalties, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli. The Act, introduced in 2012, requires 180 energy-intensive companies to implement basic energy management practices. They include monitoring energy use and appointing energy managers to look into ways of improving energy efficiency for these companies. In tabling the Bill, Minister Masagos Zulkifli said 60 per cent of Singapore’s carbon emissions in 2014 came from the industrial sector. The sector also makes up about two–thirds of the nation’s total energy consumption rate. He said changes to the Energy Conservation Act are thus necessary to ensure Singapore meets its annual energy efficiency improvement rate of between one and two per cent annually, double or triple the current amount. Mr Masagos said such improvement rates are to ensure Singapore achieves its pledge set out in the Paris Climate Change Agreement to reduce emissions targets. Enhancements to the Act will include improving the energy-efficiency of industries, improving their greenhouse gas emissions reporting and the new Vehicular Emissions Scheme to encourage motorists to buy greener vehicles.

Here's how the government justified the 30% water price hike Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
It is to reflect water's true scarcity value. The Singapore government, as announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during Budget 2017, will raise water prices by 30% in two phases The hike will commence from July 1, 2017, with ain increase of less than $25 per month for three-quarters of businesses once the increase is fully phased in on July 1, 2018. During the Budget 2017 debate, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli explained that the reason behind the decision is to reflect the water’s true scarcity value. The hike is to boost investment in desalination and NEWater plants to ensure resilience in supply. bbed from PUB

Analysts mull outcome as Singapore's Ezra holdings seeks shelter from creditors CNBC 20th Mar 2017
Singapore-listed Ezra Holdings has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection in the United States, with the oilfield services firm becoming the highest profile victim regionally of a crippling fall in oil prices since highs above $100 a barrel in 2014. Ezra Holdings is one of the largest offshore marine services providers in Asia, but the business has struggled to overcome a series of headwinds that cast doubt over its ability to operate as a going concern. The filing comes after months of demands from its patient but unsympathetic creditors, and wasn't a surprise to investors or analysts who watch the space. "Oversupply of offshore supply vessels along with the influx of newly built vessels resulting in low competitive charter rates compounded the financial difficulties of Ezra's business divisions," said Robin Chiu, the company's chief restructuring officer, in a court filing. The decision to file for bankruptcy comes just weeks after its associate, EMAS Chiyoda-Subsea, also filed for Chapter 11 in the United States, underpinning the concerns in the sector. Ezra was once a $2 billion company, competing with great success for lucrative offshore contracts. But its market value has seen an aggressive decline in recent months, as investor worries over its debt and liabilities continued to mount. Its shares have fallen around 80 percent this year alone. Experts who spoke to CNBC say nervous investors sensed that its contracts were getting cancelled or delayed and the turnaround wasn't progressing as fast as it should. By February, Ezra acknowledged its deteriorating outlook and warned the market that it faced a going concern issue, further testing the confidence of key stakeholders.

Singapore at the front line of water innovation The Straits Times 12th Mar 2017
The so-called water industry is much more than about making money, because a clean and reliable water supply is vital not just to business but also mankind's survival. For this reason, Singapore is at the front line of water innovation, becoming a hub for mutually beneficial technology collaborations and exchanges as it shores up its own water security. "We're in that pivotal moment where we're building on data, robotics, smart manufacturing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage," Mr Subbu Kanakasabapathy, regional managing director for Asia Pacific at international environmental engineering company CH2M, tells Insight. "The entire industry is changing. There is a beautiful fusion of physical, digital and biological knowledge." Playing a key role in stimulating this exchange of ideas from multiple disciplines is the Singapore International Water Week, an annual convention started in 2008 where people and organisations from all over the world meet and share the latest ideas in water technology, management and education. At present, there are 180 water companies in Singapore, and national water agency PUB has collaborated with more than 170 businesses, academic institutions or government agencies in just about every region of the world. In terms of technology, Mr Kanakasabapathy says Singapore is moving towards a "water, energy and waste nexus" to increase water production while reducing energy consumption and waste generation.

U.S. crude oil sales to Asia quickly growing UPI 10th Mar 2017
The growing influence of U.S. crude oil exports to Asia was a topic at a recent oil conference in London. It had been 40 years since crude oil was exported from the United States to points outside North America. Export restrictions were repealed in 2015. Virtually no crude oil was sent to Asia in 2015, but between January and November 2016 the figure rose to 50,000 barrels per day, U.S. Energy Information Administration figures said. Exports to Singapore, China, Japan, Thailand and South Korea have already grown in 2017 as well. Demand for benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil is now about 14 percent of WTI's global volume of sales, and its crude oil futures are part of Asian investors' risk management tools. About 80 million barrels of WTI are currently traded, making it the most liquid major energy derivative traded during Asian working hours. Increasing efficiency in U.S. shale oil production has made it competitively priced in comparison to West African and Asian sweet crude oil, and U.S. exports are redrawing the world's energy map, CME Group reported Friday. Crude oil futures closed down on Thursday, with April contracts falling 1.00 to $49.28 per barrel, May contracts down 1.00 to $49.53, June contracts down 0.99 to $50.25 and July contracts down 0.98 to $50.59.

Clean tech investment firm Envirotek deploys tidal energy in Singapore Asian Power 10th Mar 2017
In mid-February, ENVIROTEK, together with an international team of experts, has successfully deployed a SCHOTTEL Instream Turbine (SIT) in the waters off the Sentosa Boardwalk in Singapore to showcase the viability of tidal energy in the region. ENVIROTEK, a Singapore -based clean-technology investment company, aspires to lead tidal in-stream energy projects in South East Asia. "This demonstration is about using appropriate technologies in suitable locations to address real energy needs of South East Asia. We are keen to develop projects that involve marine renewable energy -- a resource that is yet to be tapped effectively in the region." said Jefferson Cheng, Chairman and Founder of ENVIROTEK Pte Ltd. Floating integrated renewable energy platforms are envisioned for the usage of local stakeholders (e.g. island or coastal areas) helping them increase energy resilience, decrease fossil-fuel dependence, explore multiple applications, and showcase the viability of harnessing tidal in-stream energy (TISE) and its potential to supply clean, renewable, and safe electricity to island as well as coastal communities. Dr. Michael Lochinvar Sim Abundo , Managing Director of OceanPixel Pte Ltd noted that ocean renewable energy is currently not in the energy mix in South East Asia and remarked, "There is tremendous potential for harnessing ocean/marine renewable energy in the region especially for archipelagic countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. We are looking at marine renewable energy to be part of the energy mix -- not just in off-grid areas but eventually to feed into micro-grids and the main grid."

Industrial sector to face stricter energy laws The Straits Times 9th Mar 2017
Singapore will tackle climate change by targeting the biggest culprits - the industrial sector, responsible for 60 per cent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. From next year, the Energy Conservation Act will be enhanced and made more stringent, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday. The Act now requires large energy users to appoint an energy manager, routinely monitor and report energy use and annual emissions, as well as submit annual energy efficiency improvement plans to the National Environment Agency. After the laws are tightened, companies will have to ensure common industrial equipment and systems meet minimum energy performance standards, among others. During the debate on his ministry's budget, Mr Masagos said: "These practices are in line with that of leading jurisdictions and will help companies to adopt more efficient equipment, conserve energy and enjoy life cycle cost savings." Having a structured measurement, reporting and verification system will help pave the way for the carbon tax scheme the Government plans to impose from 2019. The scheme will tax power stations and other large emitters based on the amount of greenhouse gases they produce, likely in the range of $10 to $20 per tonne. Other changes to the Act require companies expanding their facilities to factor energy efficiency into their designs, as well as measure and report energy usage for key energy-consuming systems.

Singapore Proposes Carbon Tax CSIS 8th Mar 2017
On February 20, Singapore released its 2017 budget, which included a proposed carbon tax to begin in 2019. The budget awaits approval from Singapore’s parliament and final assent from the president. The government will consult with stakeholders before specifying details about the tax, though the budget document suggested the tax would fall between S$10 and S$20 (US$7 and $14) per metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The budget document states that “the tax will generally be applied upstream, for example, on power stations and other large direct emitters, rather than electricity users.” Singapore would be the first country in Southeast Asia to levy a carbon tax. Elsewhere in the region, Japan has a national carbon tax, while Kazakhstan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan have emissions trading schemes. China has experimented with regional cap-and-trade programs and is expected to launch the world’s largest national carbon market later this year. The decision to levy a carbon tax is an important gesture signifying that Singapore is committed to addressing climate change, although the country is a marginal emitter of GHGs, accounting for barely more than 0.1 percent of total global emissions. By shouldering a price on carbon, Singapore can assume a leadership role in a region whose GHG emissions are expected to nearly double by 2040. Depending on how the carbon tax is implemented, however, Singapore’s refining, petrochemicals, and power sectors could be significantly affected as the city-state relies heavily on fossil fuels. Singapore is the world’s third-largest exporter of refined petroleum products and has a refining capacity of 1.51 million barrels per day (bpd). The petroleum refining and petrochemical industries account for approximately 40 percent of Singapore’s exports.

Enhancements to Energy Conservation Act to include better reporting of greenhouse gas emissions Channel NewsAsia 8th Mar 2017
Large industrial emitters in Singapore will need to improve how they measure and report greenhouse gas emissions, in order for them to better understand and manage emissions. These requirements will be set out in the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) which will be enhanced to help companies adopt more energy-efficient processes, announced Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 8). "To pave the way for a robust carbon tax regime, we need to have a sound measurement, reporting and verification system in place," he said in his ministry's Committee of Supply speech. It was announced during last month's Budget that the Government will introduce a carbon tax on large direct greenhouse gas emitters from 2019. Providing more details in a statement, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said large industrial facilities will need to submit a monitoring plan and, once approved by NEA, will have to submit an improved emissions report based on the plan. Mr Masagos added that companies looking to expand their facilities will have to factor energy efficiency into their designs from the start. They will also have to measure and report the performance of their key energy-consuming systems. Enhancements to the ECA will come into effect from 2018. As part of the Paris climate change agreement, Singapore pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. It also committed to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030. Based on feedback that the Government needs to improve on its current schemes to help companies improve upon their energy efficiency, Mr Masagos said NEA will consolidate its existing incentive schemes into a single fund. He said the new Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F) will be redesigned to better support companies to identify and undertake energy efficiency retrofitting.

Carbon tax expected to lead to higher electricity prices The Straits Times 25th Feb 2017
The carbon tax announced in Monday's Budget will push up costs for power generators and translate into higher electricity prices for consumers, companies and economists say. But some welcomed the move, saying it could spur the development of cleaner technologies. The tax will start from 2019, and be levied on greenhouse gas emissions at between $10 and $20 per tonne. It will be applied to power stations and other large direct emitters, rather than electricity users. Revenue from the carbon tax will help fund measures by industries to reduce emissions, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech. "The impact of the carbon tax on most businesses and households should be modest." But some cost increase is likely to be inevitable. Most electricity here is generated using natural gas, which already results in relatively less emissions than other sources like coal, said Mr James Allan, a director of consultancy Frontier Economics. Singapore's land scarcity also means power generators have limited scope to invest in zero-emission energy sources like wind or solar power, he noted. This means the carbon tax will push up costs for power generators, which will in turn pass these on to consumers. "Singapore enjoys a competitive wholesale electricity market. It is likely that the generators, facing similar increases in costs, would pass the carbon tax through to the market, retailers and ultimately consumers in the form of higher electricity prices," Mr Allan added.

Singapore a 'great location' for LNG trading The Straits Times 23rd Feb 2017
Singapore is an "obvious location" in Asia to trade financial products related to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, according to a top executive at energy giant Shell. Mr Steve Hill, the executive vice-president for gas and energy marketing and trading, told an LNG outlook briefing yesterday: "I think it's a great location both in terms of the trading community that's here, the regulatory environment that's here and all the support infrastructure." But the challenge now is for the industry to identify the "right product" to use, said Mr Hill, referring to financial instruments like futures contracts. He added: "You hear a lot of energy from certain Asian buyers about wanting an Asian LNG index, but you actually see very little activity from those same buyers on the markets that already exist today. "To sign term contracts (for LNG), the product has to be credible. And ideally you want it to represent real deals, and not just the views of the market. Some of the challenges we have today is that some of the indices are based on opinions and very few real deals." There have been several schemes promoted but none have really gained the credibility of players, he noted. But Mr Hill is confident about the global LNG market as a whole, which could see the industry take off in a bigger way here. Mr Hill noted that final investment decisions last year fell to its lowest in recent years, which means the LNG industry will need to make large investments to supply demand growth after 2020.

Analysis: Singapore can't afford to let oil exports lose edge despite carbon tax S&P Global Platts 23rd Feb 2017
Singapore will need to strike the right balance in implementing a planned carbon tax from 2019 to ensure its refining industry remains competitive as the sector faces headwinds from volatile margins, growing exports from China and rising capacity in the region. Singapore Monday announced it will implement a carbon tax starting 2019. The tax, which will be Southeast Asia's first carbon tax, will likely cost between $10-$20 per mt of emissions. The tax is aimed at helping Singapore meet its commitment to cut emissions by 36% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Analysts told S&P Global Platts Wednesday that the tax will raise the cost of operations and pose new challenges for the refining sector, but the way the tax is implemented will determine the final impact. Wood Mackenzie estimates that the increase in cost for the refining sector from this carbon tax regulation could be between 40 cents/b and 70 cents/b. "By 2019, we expect gross refinery margins to be $4-$5/b. So the profit margins could be impacted by 10-15%," said Sushant Gupta, research director for refining and chemicals at Wood Mackenzie.

Singapore carbon tax would hit refiners, help renewables Reuters 21st Feb 2017
Singapore's proposed plan to tax greenhouse gas emissions would probably hit oil refiners hard, ramping up costs in an industry that has been central to the city-state's rapid development over the last half-century. Monday's announcement that a carbon tax on direct emitters is to be introduced from 2019 shows that Singapore, Asia's main oil trading hub, could be moving towards a longer-term future dominated by cleaner technology and resources. "It is the first time in the history of Singapore that a budget has placed such a high emphasis on green initiatives linked to tax revenues," said Isabella Loh, chairman of the Singapore Environment Council, an independent non-profit body. "The announcement clearly underpins the priority of a future-ready and greener economy." In parts of Europe and countries such as Australia, the introduction of carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes has often driven a decline in established refining industries and a parallel surge in investment in clean energy technology. "The proposed carbon tax on emitters would prove a significant drag on industry profit-margins," said Peter Lee, oil and gas analyst at BMI Research in Singapore. The government said the carbon tax would probably cover 30 to 40 "large direct emitters" including power stations, petrochemical facilities and semiconductor makers.

Singapore carbon tax set to squeeze oil groups Financial Times 21st Feb 2017
A carbon tax plan revealed this week by Singapore will cover refineries in the city-state, officials confirmed on Tuesday, adding to pressure on international oil groups in one of Asia’s biggest refining centres. The measure, which will be implemented from 2019 and apply to power stations and other large emitters, raises costs for an industry where margins have been squeezed by a surge in diesel and gasoline exports from China. Singapore lured western oil companies with tax incentives in the 1960s and is now home to some of the world’s biggest refineries, with total capacity of about 1.5m barrels of crude oil per day. Singapore’s carbon tax, announced by the finance minister in his budget speech this week, will be set between S$10 (US$7) and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. Operating costs for Singapore refiners could rise by US$3.50-US$7 per barrel as a result of the tax, the government estimates. The proposed threshold for the Singapore tax is 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. There are up to 40 companies operating in Singapore that exceed this threshold, according to a government estimate. The proposed tax is the latest indication that countries in Asia, the world’s biggest oil market, are moving to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

Singapore Plans Southeast Asia's First Carbon Tax From 2019 Bloomberg.com 20th Feb 2017
Singapore plans to implement Southeast Asia’s first carbon tax starting in 2019, a move that would raise energy costs in the island nation and require more than 30 big polluters such as power plants to pay the levy. The proposal would charge between S$10 ($7) and S$20 a ton on emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a speech outlining the government’s 2017 budget. The tax is equivalent to a $3.50-to-$7-a-barrel increase in the cost of oil for combustion. It would raise electricity costs by 2 percent to 4 percent, according to a government report released after Heng’s speech. The revenue from the tax would help fund industry measures to reduce emissions, Heng said. The government also hopes the move will spur job creation in clean energy. Singapore would be the first Southeast Asian nation to put a price on carbon. Japan has a national carbon tax along with some regional emissions trading markets, and South Korea and New Zealand have national emissions trading. China has several regional trading markets and is planning to launch the world’s largest national carbon market this year. The biggest impacts would be felt on power generators and heavy industrial users, such as oil refineries, he said. Singapore uses natural gas, the cleanest burning fossil fuel, for the vast majority of its power generation. The tax may spur some investment in renewable energy, although Singapore doesn’t have much land for such developments, and increased energy efficiency by end-users, Graham said. The government will have to work with industrial users to make sure the tax doesn’t raise the cost of business to a level that makes them unable to compete with similar firms in the region that don’t have to pay for emissions, Graham said. The tax will be applied on direct emissions of petroleum burned in refineries, but not on the crude oil being processed into gasoline and diesel and other fuels, Singapore’s National Climate Change Secretariat said in a statement.

Financial Services

MAS signs fintech deals with France Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
Part of the collaboration involves information sharing about emerging fintech trends. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Monday signed cooperation agreements with the Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution (ACPR) and the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) of France to enhance fintech cooperation between the two countries. The announcement said the cooperation agreement provides a framework under which ACPR, AMF, and MAS will share information about emerging fintech trends, potential joint innovation projects, and regulatory issues pertaining to innovative financial services.

Further Changes to the Singapore Companies Act in 2017 Lexology 30th Mar 2017
There are certain key legislative amendments to the Companies Act ﴾Cap 50﴿ of Singapore which will take effect from 31 March 2017. These changes are intended to enhance transparency, reduce the administrative burden on Singapore companies and increase the ease of doing business. At present, Singapore companies who wish to execute a document as a deed would usually do so by way of the affixation of a Common Seal in accordance with its constitution, which typically requires the Common Seal to be affixed in the presence of a director, and a second director or the company secretary. With effect from 31 March 2017, Singapore companies will no longer be required to use the Common Seal as a means of executing a document as a deed, or other documents such as share certificates. Instead, companies will have the option to execute deeds by having them signed by authorised persons. In an effort to enhance the level of transparency in relation to the ownership and control of a company and to reduce opportunities for the misuse of corporate entities for illicit purposes, certain Singapore companies will be required to maintain additional statutory registers with effect from 31 March 2017. It is important to note that these additional statutory registers will be kept only by the corporate entity and will not be made available to the public. The relevant Singapore companies however must give the Registrar and the officers of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore, as well as public agencies (e.g. law enforcement authorities such as the Commercial Affairs Department, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore) access to these registers. A grace period until 30 May 2017 will be provided to existing entities to comply with the maintenance of these statutory registers, while new entities will have 30 days to comply from the date of its incorporation or registration.

Singapore partners with Bahrain to develop a fintech ecosystem Singapore Business Review 29th Mar 2017
The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) inked a partnership with fintech incubator and ecosystem builder Singapore Fintech Consortium (SFC) to establish a fintech ecosystem and regulatory framework. Dubai-based asset management and advisory firm Trucial Investment Partners is also part of the agreement. Together with the SFC, Trucial will support Bahrain in developing related commercial and legal infrastructure required to initiate, nurture and sustain Bahrain’s fintech ecosystem. This collaboration will pave the way for a strengthened interaction between fintech firms in the Middle East via Bahrain and those in ASEAN via Singapore. It will also facilitate the entry of Singaporean fintech companies into Bahrain. Other initiatives which are being considered include building a dedicated fintech hub, an incubator accelerator platform and fintech-focused venture capital.  

Amendments to Companies Act to take effect by 31 March: MOF Singapore Business Review 13th Mar 2017
These will boost Singapore’s efforts to stay known as a clean financial hub. In two weeks, the amended law governing companies will come into effect, boosting Singapore's ongoing efforts of maintaining its reputation as a trusted and clean financial hub. According to senior minister of state for law and finance Indranee Rajah, one of the key amendments is improving the transparency of companies. "The first set of amendments seeks to make the ownership and control of business entities more transparent and thus reduce opportunities for the misuse of corporate entities for illicit purposes. This will help Singapore to better meet the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force or FATF," she said. The two changes under this category include the registers of controllers, members, and nominee directors. The other is the requirement of locally incorporated companies and foreign companies registered in Singapore to maintain registers of their controllers at prescribed places. Another key amendment is reducing regulatory burden and improving the ease of doing business in Singapore. Three key changes will be in effect. One will be the inward re-domiciliation regime. There will also be changes in requirements on annual general meetings and annual returns. Moreover, there will be a removal of the requirement for a common seal to execute documents such as deeds and for certain documents such as share certificates. Rajah also stated there will be an amendment of the debt restructuring framework, citing recent high-profile cases including Hanjin Shipping’s attempted rehabilitation in Korea and ongoing efforts for Singapore-listed businesses like Swiber and Ezra.

Singapore ties stronger FinTech relationship with Japan Singapore Business Review 13th Mar 2017
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Financial Services Agency (FSA) of Japan are forging a cooperation framework to boost FinTech linkages between both countries. The framework enables MAS and FSA to refer FinTech companies in their countries to each other’s markets. More so, it outlines how the referred companies can initiate discussions with the regulatory bodies in the respective jurisdictions and receive advice on their regulatory frameworks, such as required licences. MAS chief FinTech officer Sopnendu Mohanty said with this framework, the regulatory uncertainty and barriers to market are reduced. "Technology and innovation remain key enablers of financial sector growth in Singapore and Japan. The setting up of the framework is a great opportunity for the FinTech ecosystems in Singapore and Japan, and enhances the already strong financial and economic cooperation between the two countries,” noted Mohanty. Meanwhile, FSA vice commissioner for international affairs Shunsuke Shirakawa said they are excited to work with MAS, which is actively promoting FinTech based on its Smart Financial Centre Vision. "We believe that this framework strengthens the relationship between FSA and MAS and promotes innovation in our respective markets,” he said. 

MAS forges FinTech partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market Singapore Business Review 9th Mar 2017
To further foster and boost closer collaboration on developments and initiatives on FinTech, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) signed a Cooperation Agreement (CA). This new partnership was the result of meaningful exchanges between the FinTech teams of MAS and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of ADGM. MAS and FSRA share the same objective to develop robust FinTech ecosystems that support the needs of the financial industry and promote innovation in their respective markets. Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, MAS said the CA establishes a strategic framework for both regulators to assist start-ups and innovators to better understand the regulatory regime in each jurisdiction and provide support through the application and authorisation process. Both Authorities will also undertake and explore joint innovation projects on the application of key technologies including digital and mobile payments, blockchain and distributed ledgers, big data, flexible platforms (API), and other new technologies.

Citibank, Visa to launch a cloud-based B2B platform Singapore Business Review 3rd Mar 2017
Citibank Singapore and Visa are launching a cloud-based business-to-business (B2B) platform aimed at addressing complex purchasing requirements for businesses. Dubbed Renepay, the e-procurement platform is based on a reverse auction methodology and has an ecosystem of B2B suppliers in Singapore across 10 product categories—beverages, contingent labour, facility management, financial services, freight services, IT hardware and consumables, marketing services, print and stationery, real estate services, and telecom equipment. Available to Citi Visa Commercial Cardmembers, Renepay provides buyers an extended interest-free repayment period while streamlining purchase mechanisms and eliminating paper-based processes. The platform also aims to reduce time spent on negotiation and boost savings through increased efficiency. Through Renepay’s centralized tracking feature, companies can further view electronic purchase orders, invoices and payments and minimize errors in reconciliation.

Citi selects Singapore as demo country for FinTech initiative Singapore Business Review 1st Mar 2017
Citi has selected Singapore as one of the countries to hold a Demo Day for its latest global FinTech initiative, the Citi Tech for Integrity Challenge (T4I), targeting the public sector. T4I is structured as a global open innovation competition, where companies of any type or size can submit tech solutions for specific challenges facing public sector companies such as government transactions and procurement; culture, ethics, and citizen engagement; cutting red tape; and information security and identity. Through T4I, Citi works with public and private sector allies to facilitate exchange between public sector entities and tech innovators aimed at developing solutions for process transparency and efficiency. T4I also provides the support and infrastructure that tech innovators need to tailor their technology solutions for the public sector. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has committed to support the initiative as a RegTech Contributor for the event, which will be held on June 9. “We believe that this initiative will forge closer collaborations and further strengthen the ecosystem in Singapore’s agile sandbox environment,” said Amol Gupte, Head of ASEAN and Citi Country Officer for Singapore.  

Investment in Singapore fintech drops 64.6% to $301.4m Singapore Business Review 24th Feb 2017
The latest KPMG's Pulse of Fintech report noted that in Singapore, overall investment in fintech companies saw a 64.6% drop from US$605m to US$214m ($301.4m) in 2016. This came as the number of deals only decreased by two to 28 in 2016, indicating an overall fall in average deal value. Meanwhile, KPMG noted that in Singapore, many of the larger VC fundings were concentrated among online payments, remittances, or foreign exchange trading platforms. In terms of capital injected through venture investment in fintech companies, the number of deals recorded was the same in 2015 at 25, however, the capital went down from $172m to $79m. KPMG Singapore Head of Digital Village Jan Reinmueller said the Monetary Authority of Singapore is working very closely with companies to enable innovation in the financial services sector. In Asia, total investment reached a new high of US$8.6b, despite a drop-off in deal activity. 

Singapore Regulator Relaxes Lending Restrictions Baker McKenzie 23rd Feb 2017
The Monetary Authority of Singapore will relax long-standing rules preventing finance companies from providing comprehensive lending services to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore over the course of 2017.

Singapore: MAS to help financial sector gear up for the Future Economy Asia Insurance Review 15th Feb 2017
Singapore's central bank, MAS, has announced a series of specific measures to build technology infrastructure to drive innovation. The goal is to position the financial services industry, including the insurance sector, for the Future Economy. In the insurance sector specifically, MAS says that it will build data infrastructure for natural catastrophe and cyber risk insurance.

Singapore’s central bank wants to relax VC regulations to boost startup funding Tech in Asia 15th Feb 2017
It’s not even a week since the Committee for the Future Economy report came out, pushing for simplifying the regulatory framework for venture capital fund managers in Singapore. Wasting nary a second, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) got on the case with a consultation paper (PDF link) containing proposals on how to do that, as part of the drive to attract more investment for Singapore’s businesses – especially startups that rely on VC capital for growth.

MAS assembles Data Analytics Group Singapore Business Review 14th Feb 2017
As part of its efforts in pushing for a digital economy, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced the formation of the Data Analytics Group, which will commence its operations on March 15. The newly-formed group will lead MAS’ efforts to harness the power of data analytics to unlock insights, enhance the supervision of financial institutions, make regulatory compliance more efficient for financial institutions, and improve work efficiency across the organisation. It has appointed Dr David Roi Hardoon as its Chief Data Officer and Head of DAG. Dr Hardoon joins MAS from Azendian Solutions, where he was the co-founder and Executive Director, Chief of Analytics. He has a PhD in machine learning, as well as a deep research background and extensive experience in developing and applying analytical models. He will report to Mr Ong Chong Tee, Deputy Managing Director. MAS managing director Ravi Menon said the digitisation of information and the harnessing of data from multiple platforms have created the opportunity to use data analytics to understand the economy and the financial system with a depth that was not possible before.

Bank of Singapore inks deal to let clients book assets in Switzerland The Business Times 7th Feb 2017
Bank of Singapore has upped the ante by giving private bank clients more options - its clients can now book assets in Switzerland via an agreement it inked with Swiss banking group Bank Vontobel AG. This agreement lets its Asian ultra-high and high net worth clients to open an account with Vontobel to place their assets in the Swiss wealth manager's Zurich booking centre, said Bank of Singapore, a unit of OCBC Bank in a statement on Monday.

Brightening IPO market - chance for SGX to get new investors The Straits Times 6th Feb 2017
Things are beginning to look up in the Singapore initial public offering (IPO) market. One month into 2017 and there are already two new listings - one on the mainboard, the other on Catalist - raising about $150.4 million in all. This is a big contrast from the pervasive gloom around this time last year when the IPO market was able to muster only a handful of smallish Catalist listings. The outlook for the IPO market is likely to continue brightening. Singapore Exchange (SGX) boss Loh Boon Chye recently flagged that he is expecting more new listings in the first half of this year, as market conditions improve.

Pioneering move on cross-border insolvency The Straits Times 2nd Feb 2017
With major firms having a footprint all over the world, there is a need for a common court framework that makes tackling cross-border insolvency matters more efficient and less expensive. The first step was taken yesterday, with the Singapore Supreme Court and US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware adopting guidelines for cost-cutting co-operation and communication.

Food & Agriculture

Why Wilmar can shrug off lower plantation profits Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
Lower soybean prices a likely upside for the agri player. As crude palm oil prices started their downtrend in the past week, agri players are expected to suffer from lower plantation profits. For Wilmar, however, this could be more than offset by two things. According to RHB, Wilmar's better processing margins due to lower feedstock costs would give it a boost amidst lower plantation yields. More so, RHB cites moderating soybean prices as a possible upside for Wilmar.

Del Monte Pacific recovers from losses, records $12m profit Singapore Business Review 13th Mar 2017
Operational improvements did their magic. Del Monte Pacific Ltd reported a profit for the quarter ending in January, reversing losses incurred in the previous period. For the past quarter, Del Monte achieved an US$8.46m ($12m) net profit, on the back of strong sales in Asian markets particularly in the Philippines and the operational efficiency improvements resulting in cost reduction. Overall sales were US$604m, slightly higher than in the prior-year period as strong sales in Asia offset lower sales in the United States.

Singapore unveils transformation map for the farming sector Singapore Business Review 8th Mar 2017
Minister Koh Poh Koon enumerates 4 key areas of transformation. With the aim of helping Singapore farmers raise their production levels, Singapore has laid out the Farm Transformation Map which identifies four key areas for development. In a speech by Minister Koh Poh Koon, one of the issues raised was the space constraints. The idea is to help produce food with less space using technology.

S'pore keeps import curbs on food from Fukushima The Straits Times 12th Mar 2017
TOKYO • Singapore is keeping in place curbs on food imports from Fukushima, which six years ago yesterday was hit by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the Agri- Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has told The Sunday Times. This is despite the authority having announced a review on easing curbs in January last year and Japan's repeated insistence that its strict food safety standards already exceed international requirements. The AVA did not say why it is retaining the curbs, but a spokesman told The Sunday Times that it "periodically reviews food import conditions to ensure food safety for our consumers, without unnecessarily impeding trade".

AVA halts imports of poultry from parts of the US Yahoo News 7th Mar 2017
Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has suspended shipment of chickens, eggs and other poultry products from parts of the United States, a day after the news of an avian flu outbreak in the state of Tennessee was reported. Products from parts of the states of Tennessee and Wisconsin were affected. Processed products such as canned chicken and pasteurised eggs were exempt from the suspension, as they are heat-treated for safety before export. Singaporeans should have little to worry about, however – the AVA says products from affected parts of the US make up a very small amount of the supply of processed chicken here. Other Asian nations including Japan and South Korea have also placed restrictions on US-origin poultry products because of the Tennessee outbreak. Some 73,500 birds there were culled once the highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) was discovered, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Agri-players suffer FFB production slump in 2016 Singapore Business Review 7th Mar 2017
All agri-players registered a slump in fresh fruit bunch production in the past year, with outputs declining in the range of 4.6% to 27.7% due to the lagged impact of the severe drought. According to a report by UOB KayHian, Bumitama Agri and First Resources reported the smallest drop in production, merely drop -4.6% YoY and -6.4% YoY in 2016 as supported by the new mature areas and young age profile. However, the report also noted that FFB production is poised for a recovery this year, but it is expected to weaken initially during the first quarter. "All companies guided that FFB production is expected to increase by double digits in 2017 as the impact of El Nino is weakening... [It will] gradually pick up in 2Q17, while strong recovery and yield normalisation is expected to be seen from 3Q17 onwards," the report explained. Bumitama and First Resources is foreseen to show a strong 18% recovery as the two will be supported by new mature areas, speedy yield recovery from young trees and strategic estate location. 

First Resources' crude palm oil production up 38.4% in Q4 Singapore Business Review 7th Feb 2017
Agribusiness giant First Resources reported higher crude palm oil production in 4Q16 in line with the spike in fresh fruit bunch production. According to a UOB KayHian report, CPO production increased 12.7% QoQ and 19.0% YoY in 4Q16 on the back of an improved oil extraction rate (OER). However, for the whole of 2016, CPO production dropped 7.6%. UOB said prices are expected to be higher in the said quarter, as Indonesia Dumai/Belawan CPO prices inched up 3.8% QoQ but surged 38.4% YoY. "The substantial increase in CPO prices was mainly due to tight supply and stable export demand. All in all, we reckon CPO prices will hover at US$650-750/tonne in 1H17, and are likely to decline when production picks up in 2H17," the firm explained. 

Health & Life Sciences

Raffles Medical Group's Shanghai hospital to open early 2019 Singapore Business Review 30th Mar 2017
It’s the company’s first outside Singapore. Maybank Kim Eng recently hosted Raffles Medical at its Invest ASEAN Singapore Conference on 21 March 2017. The company discussed its China expansion plans and future prospects, local operation updates, and restructuring of newly-acquired MCH. In the near term, there are several headwinds, including the restructuring costs of MCH, lacklustre medical tourism, and start-up costs of new projects.

Health ministry to inject $24m funding to strengthen manpower Singapore Business Review 10th Mar 2017
About 9,000 additional staff will be needed until 2020. With the increasing healthcare demand due to an ageing population and growing chronic disease burden, the Ministry of Health will be needing about 9,000 additional staff for new facilities and services in the next three years. According to senior minister of state for health Dr Amy Khor, approximately 50% of these jobs are PMET level roles which include nurses, therapists, administrative executives, and operations managers. "MOH will invest an additional $24m over the next three years to enhance our healthcare conversion and training programmes, to enable more mid-career Singaporeans to take up new careers in the sector," said Khor.

Singapore's EDBI and Philips to boost their health care investments in Asia Singapore Business Review 7th Mar 2017
CXA Group is the first to receive funding from the alliance. Singapore-based EDBI and Royal Philips aim to accelerate their joint investment alliance and partner with more innovative companies in the digital health sector. This ambition is in line with Singapore’s latest focus to strengthen its position as a leading digital health hub. EDBI and Philips announced their joint investment partnership in 2016 to drive the creation and commercialization of leading connected health solutions targeted at the fast-growing Asian healthcare market. The alliance aims to help high-potential digital health companies build technological capabilities to innovate, scale up and expand regionally and globally in order to address the pressing healthcare needs of an ageing Asian population. This will also strengthen the local and regional healthcare ecosystem through collaborative innovation between local companies and multinationals.

One in two here under private health plans The New Paper 15th Feb 2017
Health insurance remains a top priority for people here, new figures from last year show. More than 50,000 Singapore residents took out new health insurance coverage last year, primarily through Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) and IP riders. As at Dec 31, 2.89 million people - about one in two people here - were covered with private health plans and riders, with total premiums of $1.42 billion. For the 12 months ended Dec 31, new health insurance premiums amounted to $241 million, of which IP premiums and IP riders accounted for about 86 per cent or $208 million. The data was disclosed by the Life Insurance Association Singapore (LIA), which held its quarterly briefing yesterday.

Is technology threatening Singapore's healthcare system? Singapore Business Review 13th Feb 2017
With state-of-the-art infrastructure and a reputation for excellent medical practice, Singapore has a well-deserved reputation for first-class healthcare. Singaporeranks second in the world providing its citizens with quality healthcare, and is also a major location for medical tourism in Asia.  However, Singapore’s healthcare system cannot rest on its laurels. With 610,000 people aged above 65 in 2020, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has emphasised the need for 30,000 more healthcare workers by 2020, including doctors who specialise in geriatric medicine. To improve productivity and reduce operational costs, the government has eagerly embraced technology to provide innovative solutions to these challenges.

ICT

Here's why Singaporeans will spend more on mobile shopping this year Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
Mobile shopping is set to increase by 42% to $1.2b. If the new study by PayPal is anything to go by, then it would seem like Singaporeans will be spending a lot more on mobile shopping this year. According to PayPal's study, mobile shopping expenditure is predicted to spike by 42% to $1.2b, forming almost a third of the expected total online spending at $3.5b. Alongside the projected rise in mobile spend this year, total cross-border spend is estimated to increase by 23%. Last year. an estimated half a million Singaporeans spent an estimated $1.2b in cross-border online commerce alone. USA, China, and Japan rose as the top online shopping destinations. More than three in four cited better prices as the reason for shopping online in other countries, while more than three in five said overseas online shopping gave them access to hard-to-find items. The top-three most popular cross-border purchase categories are clothing and accessories, travel, and cosmetics.

SingTel aggressively moves to be an integrated telecoms service provider Singapore Business Review 29th Mar 2017
It’s sealing big deals with OTT, digital service providers. SingTel is positioning itself as an integrated telecoms service provider by forming key partnerships with over-the-top (OTT) and digital service providers to improve the consumer experience, targetting key growth areas such as content, cybersecurity, and Internet of Things. According to BMI Research, the group faces increasing competition from new telecoms entrants and OTT providers, encouraging such alliances to ensure growth. The strategy to address the mature telecoms market is geared toward retaining subscribers and lifting average revenue per user.

Changes to Singapore's cybercrime law passed Channel NewsAsia 3rd Apr 2017
Changes to the existing Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA) were passed in Parliament on Monday (Apr 3), amid observations from members that businesses here need to pay heed to the amendments. Under the amended Act, dealing in personal information obtained via a cybercrime such as trading in hacked credit card details is deemed illegal, as is dealing in hacking tools to commit a computer offence. It is also now an offence for someone committing a criminal act while overseas, against a computer located overseas, should the act "cause or create a significant risk of serious harm in Singapore". The Ministry of Home Affairs define serious harm as injury or death or disruptions to essential services. During the debate on the Bill, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Thomas Chua also noted that in the areas of cyber usage and security, Government agencies have accumulated a wealth of experience, but businesses in comparison, are "obviously lacking" in risk awareness and digital capability. He also urged businesses to pay heed to the newly amended Bill, particularly in the section on criminal offences, which states that anyone who obtains, retains, sells, creates, supplies or uses methods to commit computer-related offences, or deliberately allows these products to be used, will be committing an offence. "Moving forward, businesses must be much more vigilant when they are selling products, to avoid being made use of unwittingly," Mr Chua said.

Taxing the Digital Economy: Impending changes to GST in Singapore JD Supra Business Advisor 3rd Apr 2017
Should digital downloads, streaming services and online purchases from foreign entities be subject to goods and services tax (GST) in Singapore? How about off-premise cloud computing? On 20 February 2017, many in Singapore tuned in to listen to Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat, delivering the Government’s Budget Statement (the Budget Speech). Not many, however, may have noticed a brief, but significant comment made by the Minister regarding the Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, as well as adjustments being made by some countries to their GST systems in the context of increasing digital transactions and cross-border trade. These international developments have far-reaching effects, whether on multinational or local enterprises, or even consumers, given the pervasiveness of the internet in business and daily living. The BEPS Project was initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G20 countries, to combat tax planning strategies which allow multinational enterprises to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity. The BEPS final package of reports was issued in October 2015, and in June 2016, Singapore joined as an associate member to work together with the OECD and G20 countries on the implementation of the final package measures (To find out more, please visit here). Although the BEPS package is heavily focused on direct or income taxes, Action 1 of the final package (Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy) notes that because the digital economy is increasingly becoming the economy itself, it would not be feasible to ring-fence the digital economy from the rest of the economy for tax purposes – and that includes indirect tax, or for Singapore’s purposes, GST.

IoT Asia 2017: Asia-Pacific will be a key driver of global IoT innovation The Next Silicon Valley 2nd Apr 2017
We are increasingly seeing commentaries and reports on how China, India and the Asia-Pacific region will increasingly play a part in driving global technology innovation. At the recent IoT Asia 2017 conference, Singapore’s minister for foreign affairs and minister-in-charge of the country’s Smart Nation initiative, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan,, opened the proceedings by re-iterating his country’s vision in this future. During the opening keynote, he discussed plans to turn Singapore into a smart nation, including the announcement of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore and the National University of Singapore (see separate article) tie-up with over 10,000 public servants to receive data science training over the next five years to deepen their knowledge.

Singapore's 2017 Smart Nation Initiatives Lexology 24th Mar 2017
As major strides are made in digital technology, the Singapore Government is taking aggressive measures to facilitate innovations by both the public and the private sectors. Clever financial incentives, as well as suitable policies have been implemented to nurture a culture of experimentation and entrepreneurship. On 20 March 2017, the Singapore Government announced the formation of Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) in the Prime Minister’s Office which will be responsible for: applying digital and smart technologies to improve citizens’ lives in partnership with public agencies and industries; developing digital enablers and platforms for Smart Nation, to grow economic value and catalyse innovation by companies and citizens; and driving digital transformation for the public service, to strengthen Government ICT infrastructure and improve public service delivery. In line with its goal of digitally transforming the country, the Singapore Government also announced its ambitious plans on the same day to "turbo charge" a set of Smart Nation initiatives. The plans aim to speed up the implementation of three Smart Nation initiatives – a unique online identity, a common e-payments platform, and a national sensor network islandwide.

Amazon delays its entry into Southeast Asia TechCrunch 23rd Mar 2017
Amazon has postponed its much-anticipated entry into Southeast Asia. The company initially planned to launch local e-commerce services in Singapore during the first quarter of this year, as we reported in November, but two sources with knowledge of the plans told TechCrunch that the schedule has slipped to “later this year”. The Singapore launch project has been fairly guarded within Amazon itself, details of the initiative are not widely known by Amazon staff in the region, but it appears that the groundwork required to set its business up has taken longer than the company originally anticipated. The initial launch market hasn’t changed though and it remains Singapore, since the country has a number of elements that favor e-commerce. That includes higher ownership of credit cards, wider internet penetration, more established logistics and delivery networks, and a clearer environment for business compared with other parts of Southeast Asia. Amazon’s eventual entry to Southeast Asia will create a new front for its battle with Alibaba, which purchased a major share in regional e-commerce firm Lazada for $1 billion last year and is already fighting Amazon in India, where it has a major stake in e-commerce and payments firm Paytm. Southeast Asia is an increasingly attractive market for tech companies in China and beyond, which are beginning to dip their toes via investments. The region counts a cumulative population of more than 600 million consumers with e-commerce tipped to surge as more people come online and the middle class grows. A 2016 report co-authored by Google estimates that e-commerce spending across the region will reach $88 billion by 2025 thanks to a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent.

Lazada Brings Alibaba's Biggest Bazaar to Singaporean Shoppers Bloomberg.com 21st Mar 2017
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Lazada Group SA are teaming up to sell select Taobao products direct to shoppers in the affluent island-state, striking their first partnership since the Chinese company took control of Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce operator a year ago. Lazada is launching a dedicated website that links directly to Alibaba’s largest shopping platform, said Alexis Lanternier, chief executive officer of Lazada Singapore. To start with, the new site will add 400,000 Taobao products that aren’t available now to an existing lineup of about 5 million products, he said. It’s another small step abroad for Alibaba, which has ambitions to expand beyond a slowing Chinese home market. The company and Lazada are now preparing to deepen their operations in the fast-growing region, anticipating Amazon.com Inc.’s entry in 2017. The Southeast Asian company has been expanding its delivery network and exploring new areas such as online groceries. In linking Taobao with Lazada, the two are trying to ease a process that’s gained momentum in recent years. Bargain hunters in Singapore already buy directly from Alibaba’s Chinese marketplace, an eBay-like online bazaar where small merchants and individuals hawk items from electronics to bed-sheets. Its items often go for a fraction of retail prices in Singapore, the world’s most expensive city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Singapore just landed another multi-million dollar data centre Data Economy 6th Mar 2017
Building on its booming data centre business, Singapore has secured another investment in the sector that will see a S$60m ($42.5m as of March 6) data centre being built in the West Region of the city-state. Behind the construction is Mapletree Industrial Trust (MIT), a Mapletree Industrial Trust Managmeent business arm. The facility will be built as a ‘build-to-suit’ data centre for “an established data centre operator”. The building has been designed to have six floors and encompass an area of 242,000 sqf which will be fully leased to the non-disclosed client for an initial lease term of more than ten years with staggered rental escalations as well as renewal options. Located in a piece of land measuring approximately 96,800 sqf, the data centre is expected to be completed in H2 2018. The site is located in a specialised industrial park for data centres with ready-built infrastructure catered to support multinational companies and enterprises. The new data centre follows from two other developments by the MIT including the completion of Tata Communications Exchange at Paya Lebar iPark in 2010 and 26A Ayer Rajah Crescent for Equinix Singapore at one-north in 2015. The MIT’s development in Singapore comes at a time when the nation is being targeted by several national and international data centre services providers as well as by telecommunications companies and private businesses.

Mobile shopping in Singapore to grow by 42 percent this year: PayPal MIS Asia 28th Feb 2017
Cross-border online shopping is also forecasted to grow by 23 percent this year. According to PayPal's Ipsos Cross-Border research report in 2016, more than a third of Singaporeans (38 percent) think they will be spending more online this year. Seventy-eight percent of them are turning to e-commerce because it is more convenient (78 percent) than shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, while 36 percent are attracted by discounts offered through online channels. PayPal surveyed more than 28,000 consumers in 32 countries, including Singapore, China, India, Japan, and Thailand.

Singapore govt to pump US$1.7B to transform country into digital powerhouse Yahoo News 20th Feb 2017
The Singapore government is pulling out all the stops to ramp up the country’s digital readiness and innovation drive. In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, Singapore firms — especially those facing cyclical headwinds — need to adapt and innovate in order to thrive. This was the core of Singapore’s finance minister Heng Swee Keat’s message at the Budget 2017 speech in parliament today. He stressed the importance of equipping SMEs and workers with digital skillsets, and building a strong infrastructure that will foster the growth of innovative technologies and solutions. Heng said Singapore would allocate S$2.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) for this digitalisation drive.

Infrastructure

CapitaLand mulls over boosting $2.1b multi-asset presence in Vietnam Singapore Business Review 28th Mar 2017
A Raffles City could be considered. CapitaLand Limited has announced plans to expand its multi-sector real estate presence in Vietnam. It is looking to significantly increase its S$2.1b multi-asset class presence in Vietnam, including a possible Raffles City. CapitaLand plans to acquire more sites in Vietnam for residential development – possibly yielding 2,000 to 2,500 units this year – and will continue to keep a lookout for investment opportunities in offices, serviced residences, and integrated developments.

Construction activities in Singapore to grow 0.8% this year Singapore Business Review 28th Mar 2017
It declined 2.8% last year. RHB expects construction activities to grow 0.8% this year, on the back of a low base effect, ramp-up of ongoing infrastructure projects, and accelerated public civil works as announced in the Budget. “The sector declined 2.8% in 2016, and would be constrained by sluggish contract awards. Of the contracts awarded in 2016, the majority constitute civil engineering work (S$9.4b), followed by residential (S$6.4b), institutional & others (S$4.4b), industrial (S$3.3b), and commercial (S$2.6b),” noted RHB. 

Singapore is the third most expensive city in Asia for construction Singapore Business Review 10th Mar 2017
Find out why it remains an expensive city to build in. The latest International Construction Costs Index published today by Arcadis revealed that Singapore is the third most expensive Asian city for construction, trailing behind Hong Kong and Macau.

Singapore is working to become ‘Asia's Infrastructure Exchange' Singapore Business Review 10th Mar 2017
Asia is forecast to need US$20t of additional infrastructure investments from now till 2030. Recognising the critical demand for infrastructure in the region, Singapore is launching itself as the infrastructure hub of Asia, senior minister of state for law and finance Indranee Rajah said. Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Energy & Infrastructure Finance Forum, the minister said the country is working to develop Singapore as the go-to place where infrastructure demand and supply can connect, dubbing the city-state as Asia's Infrastructure Exchange. "In our 50-year journey of urbanisation Singapore has accumulated expertise in planning, executing, and operating infrastructure over a wide range of sectors, including energy, water, waste management, transport, housing, and ports," she said. From now till 2030, Asia is expected to require US$20t of additional infrastructure investments to meet this growing demand.c"This is the equivalent of developing the infrastructure needed to support the population of one Singapore every week! That’s the magnitude of the infrastructure demand in Asia," the minister said. However, she said there is a need to bridge the bankability gap, as this caused many projects to not get off the ground even with the massive demand. This is the rationale behind Singapore positioning itself as the infrastructure hub of Asia. Rajah said the city-state's strategic location in the region and its strong position in world capital markets make Singapore an ideal place to develop bankable projects to mobilise private sector and institutional investments.

Over 8,000 jobs in public transport to be created by 2030 The Business Times 9th Mar 2017
The public transport sector will create more than 8,000 jobs by 2030, as current positions are developed and new careers created. The Land Transport Authority said that the Singapore Rail Academy and Singapore Bus Academy will build local capabilities for bus captains and railway engineers; new careers will also be created for data scientists, service controllers and rail and bus engineers and technicians. Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, speaking at the Committee of Supply debate, described the transport sector as a "key pillar of the Singapore economy". "Many Singaporeans make a good living working in it. Collectively, the industry employs more than 300,000 people. The potential for further growth is great. Many well-paying jobs are waiting to be filled," said Mr Khaw, who is concurrently Minister for Transport. He added that the Singapore Rail Academy, launched last month, will develop programmes to train workers in critical areas of rail operations and maintenance; it will also work with the rail operators and institutes of higher learning to offer pre-employment programmes and continuing education and training. He also disclosed that tenders will soon be called to upgrade the North-South and East-West Lines' power-supply system, and to replace the first-generation MRT fleet with 66 new trains. He added that the expansion of the rail system is on track, with the network growing by one km every month on average. The opening of Downtown Line 3 will be a "game-changer" for residents in the east, just as Downtown Line 2 was for residents in the west and north-west. "Over the next five years, we expect to subsidise public bus services by some S$3.5 to S$4 billion." The government also replaces rail assets under the New Rail Financing Framework; it will cost S$4 billion over the next five years.m"And all this is on top of about S$20 billion we will be spending to build new public transport infrastructure."

Manufacturing

Lazada teams up with Unilever to boost e-commerce market share Singapore Business Review 31st Mar 2017
Southeast Asia's online retail market is expected to reach US$25b by 2020. A report from CNBC said Southeast Asia's dominant e-commerce player, Lazada, has partnered with Unilever in hopes of grabbing a bigger slice of the region's online retail market in fast-moving consumer goods. The deal will see the two companies working closely together on supply chain, fulfillment, data, marketing, social commerce, and talent development to grow their regional reach.

Biomed drags Singapore manufacturing down Singapore Business Review 2nd Mar 2017
The sector posted a 13.5% decline in output. Due in part to base effects, with Lunar New Year falling in January this year compared to February last year, growth in Singapore’s manufacturing output slowed down to 2.2% last month, down from the 22.1% y-o-y recorded in December 2016. Data from the UOB Global Economics and Market Research show that contraction in several sectors has also weighed on the overall performance, with the biomedical manufacturing cluster falling 13.5% y-o-y, owing to a decline in pharmaceutical production, and the transport engineering cluster declining 3.8% y-o-y. Marine and offshore engineering also contracted 18.9% y-o-y, while general manufacturing fell 13.8% y-o-y. On the other end, the biggest gainers include the precision engineering cluster, which gained 24% y-o-y on the back of higher demand for semiconductor-related equipment, and the chemical cluster, which increased 3.5% y-o-y from gains in the output of petrochemicals. The electronics cluster has also expanded 14.8% y-o-y, supported by strong growth in the semiconductors segment, which grew 25.8% y-o-y.

Motorcycle COEs set to continue to reach record highs Channel NewsAsia 3rd Apr 2017
With Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) for motorcycles reaching a record high of S$8,081 on Wednesday (Mar 29), motorcycle dealers and owners alike are bracing for further increases. Coupled with the three-tiered Additional Registration Fee (ARF), average motorcycle users who wish to buy a new set of wheels are feeling the financial pinch. Already, there are not enough motorcycle COEs to meet demand, according to the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association’s honorary general secretary Norman Lee. A portion of the COE quotas that are generated from the scrapping of old motorcycles goes to the Open category instead. “There were never enough COEs to begin with, especially so in the past three years where the supply of COEs can’t meet the demand,” he said. “From 2003 to 2013, the average was 12,000 new motorcycles registered per year. But in 2014 to 2016, the amount of COEs available was only about 8,000 each year." Given the current out-of-reach ownership costs coupled with the limited supply of COEs for motorcycles, dealer Eugene Mah of Mah Ltd is unsure whether things will get better for the average buyer. “The increase in COE since the implementation of the three-tiered ARF has been both unexpected and unsettling.

Singapore's manufacturing sector expands for 7th straight month in March Channel NewsAsia 3rd Apr 2017
The manufacturing sector in Singapore expanded for the seventh straight month in March, with nearly all indicators showing a faster rate of growth, according to data released by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM) on Monday (Apr 3). The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) - an early indicator of manufacturing activity - came in at 51.2 last month, an increase of 0.3 point from February. A reading above 50 means the manufacturing economy is expanding, while a reading below that indicates a contraction. All indicators showed a faster rate of growth, except for slower expansion recorded in finished goods and order backlog, SIPMM said. The institute attributed the increase in manufacturing activity to an increase in new orders and new exports, higher factory output, as well as higher inventory and employment. “Manufacturing employment continued to remain on the expansion track albeit marginally for the third month, and this could signal employment stabilisation,” it said. A corresponding index for the electronics sector also posted an expansion, with the PMI for March at 51.8, an increase of 0.4 point from the previous month. The latest readings indicate that the local manufacturing sector has managed to sustain gradual growth despite uncertainties in the global environment, SIPMM said.

Singapore's manufacturing output forecast to grow 4% in 2017 Singapore Business Review 27th Mar 2017
Singapore’s Industrial Production Index (IPI) rose 12.6% year-on-year in February, surging from a 3.8% rise the month before. The acceleration in growth was driven by semiconductors yet again, but there are signs that growth is broadening into supporting sectors like precision engineering and petrochemicals, according to RHB. The island’s IPI grew 7.9% yoy in 2M17, moderating from +11.7% in 4Q16. Nevertheless, going forward, RHB envisages manufacturing activities to be higher over the course of the year and maintain its projection for manufacturing output to grow 4% in 2017, picking up from +3.6% last year, underpinned by: Higher external demand led by firming US economic growth and potential fiscal stimulus from G3 nations; Improving growth in ASEAN economies, supported by higher commodity prices; Stabilising economic growth in China; Slightly improved domestic consumption. Electronics output rose 39.8% yoy in February, picking up from a 22.2% gain the month before. Semiconductor production grew 63.6% yoy, after rising 35.7% in January. Meanwhile, production of data storage and computer peripherals contracted, capping some of the upside. Things were further improved as activity in the precision engineering and general manufacturing clusters advanced 26.2% and 3.3% yoy in February, compared to readings of +22.2% and -15.8% respectively the month before, suggesting that there are legs to this rally. Meanwhile, the transport engineering cluster declined at a quicker pace of 9.6% yoy, from -6.4% in January. Aerospace engineering demand slowed sharply to +3.3% yoy in February, from +27.3% the month before. Meanwhile, the marine & offshore engineering segment contracted at a slower pace but remained weak nonetheless, reflecting a lower level of rig building activity and lacklustre demand for oilfield & gasfield equipment amidst the backdrop of the low oil price environment.  

Singapore manufacturing may show the way for future economy AsiaOne 27th Feb 2017
Take a look at the underdog manufacturing sector and you may see what Singapore's economic restructuring can turn out to be, observers told The Business Times. Long deemed as being in decline, the sector's surprise output surge at end-2016 has suddenly made it everybody's darling. There's even an übermensch quality to it: its performance was so stellar, it helped lift overall economic growth well beyond earlier forecasts. Observers say manufacturing's performance is an early indication of how its restructuring has borne fruit. "If we haven't been moving manufacturing to the higher-value space, it would have hollowed out, and not be as competitive as other hubs in the region," said Song Seng Wun, CIMB economist. The sector's purchasing manager's index (PMI) also recorded more than a year of contraction, before picking up in September 2016. Industrial production, an indicator of factory output which is closely linked to gross domestic product (GDP) numbers, started posting healthy growth in the second half of 2016. It ended the year with a big bang, chalking a strong 22.1 per cent year-on-year jump in December. Manufacturing's rebound rode on a recent improvement in global demand, said economists, with data from Taiwan, South Korea and China seeing the same upswing. A dip in January 2017's industrial output numbers might have cast some doubt on the pace of recovery, but observers attributed this to the Lunar New Year effect, where production lines in the region shut down.