Singapore Update: Digitalizing Economy Reason for GST Expansion, Government Official

Singapore Update | September 12, 2017
Authors: Riley Smith and Ian Saccomanno
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

September 14: U.S.-Singapore Third Country Training Program on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

September 26-28: 2017 Mission to the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) 

September 28: 2017 Business Mission to the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry

October 12-13: 2017 Business Mission to the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting

October 26: Joint ACE-USABC Roundtable at SIEW 2017: 20% in 2020 - Unlocking ASEAN's Energy Efficiency Potential

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Government Official Cites Digitalizing Economy as Reason for Proposed GST Expansion to Online Sales of Low-value Goods
In a speech last month at the SMU-TA Centre for Excellence in Taxation Conference, Ms. Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, presented the Singapore Government’s case for expanding the country’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) to cover low-value e-commerce goods. She argued that it was in response to an increasingly digitalizing economy and elaborated on Singapore’s three-pronged approach to adapting the country’s tax system to the challenges arising from this shift:

  • “First, Singapore is committed to providing a stable business environment for our businesses by upholding international principles and participating in international efforts;
  • Second, Singapore will continue to engage businesses to ensure that our tax system remains growth-oriented; and
  • Third, specific to the taxation of the digital economy, Singapore advocates three high-level principles - (i) tax certainty for businesses, (ii) tax neutrality between traditional and digital business models; and (iii) international consensus.”
    • Rajah cited how the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has worked with Singapore’s treaty partners to ensure businesses can avail themselves of efficient dispute resolution mechanisms.
    • Tax neutrality, and by extension the GST expansion, is meant to level the playing field between traditional brick-and-mortar stores that fall under the current GST and the newer digital business models where foreign vendors of low-value goods are not required to pay the GST.
    • Singapore has been a signatory to all three multilateral agreements on the exchange of information, and that last year it joined the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS), making it one of the first few non-G20 and non-OECD countries to do so.

The full text of Rajah’s speech is available here.

The way in which the Government of Singapore has proposed to level the playing field is likely to increase the regulatory and compliance burdens for the newly affected vendors. Currently, both physical and digital goods fall under the GST if they are supplied locally. The proposal by IRAS would expand GST to also cover low-value goods sold online, an attempt to improve the competitiveness of local vendors by reducing their price disparity. To enact the expansion, the Singapore Government would create a registration system for firms that sell above a certain amount in goods and services in Singapore’s business-to-consumer market. The proposal sets the amount at S$1 million, which would appear to exempt small firms. However, online platforms and shipping agents would also have to register the firms that use their services and collect GST on behalf of these firms. As the Asian Trade Centre argues in a June Policy Brief entitled “Should E-Commerce and Digital Trade be Taxed,” (available here) the prospect of requiring online platforms and shipping agents to register and collect taxes from potentially thousands of foreign firms selling goods in Singapore seems unrealistic. They also argue that the regulations risk making e-commerce transactions more burdensome and expensive, reducing the attractiveness of the sector to consumers.

On behalf of Members, the Council transmitted a submission in response to IRAS's call for input on June 30. A copy of the submission, which notes the increased administrative burden the GST expansion would place on foreign online vendors of low-value goods and digital services, can be found here.

Cabinet Reshuffle Refines Fourth-Generation Leadership Line-up
Prime Minister Lee’s September 5 announced that he was again reshuffling his Cabinet and nominating Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin to be the next Speaker of Parliament. This decision by the Prime Minister has very likely reduced from four to three the number of “fourth-generation” leaders vying to be Singapore’s fourth prime minister. Tan had served as Minister for Social and Family Development since 2014, after first entering politics in 2011 with his election to Parliament. Prior to being an MP, he served in the Singapore Army, rising to the rank of Brigadier-General. Tan’s rapid ascent into the Cabinet and his popularity among Singaporeans left many observers of Singapore’s politics to place him among the six contenders for the premiership out the country’s fourth generation of leaders. However, in order to take the position of Speaker of Parliament, Tan will have to resign from his Cabinet post, which removes him from playing a role in formulating policy. While the Speaker presides over Parliamentary debates and in terms of hierarchy is ceremonially third in rank (after the President and the President’s primary adviser), the position is not a policymaking one. Tan having to take a step back from policymaking responsibilities very likely indicates that he is no longer a contender for the Singapore Government’s top spot. Tan is replacing former Speaker Halimah Yacob, who resigned last month to run in this month’s presidential election.

Tan’s move to the Speaker of Parliament position, which was confirmed with a parliamentary vote on September 11, leaves only three current Cabinet members to be in the apparent running to be the fourth Premier of Singapore. These three Cabinet members are Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat. Sometimes the list of potential contenders is expanded to include Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong. Out of the core four, observers consider Chan and Heng the most favored. Since the 2011 General Election Prime Minister Lee has emphasized the need to cultivate the next generation of Singapore’s leaders. He reiterated this point following the most recent General Election in 2015, and then last October he once again emphasized that building the fourth-generation leadership team is one of his top priorities. Since then he has shuffled his Cabinet three times, including this most recent reshuffle, a metric that underscores the importance Prime Minister Lee places on refining the next generation’s core leadership. The expectation is that Prime Minister Lee, who has publicly stated that he does not intend to remain in office past the age of 70 (he is currently 65 years old) is expected to retire soon after the next General Election, which is currently slated for 2021.

In addition to Tan’s nomination to be Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister Lee’s announcement also mentioned that Mr. Desmond Lee, the youngest member of the Cabinet, will be replacing Tan as Minister for Social and Family Development. He will also continue in his role as Second Minister in the Ministry of National Development, but relinquish his appointments in the Minister of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office. Mrs. Josephine Teo will replace Mr. Lee as Second Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs and will continue in her roles as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister in the Ministry of Manpower. However, she will relinquish her appointment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The fresh portfolios handed to Lee and Teo indicate that they are likely to represent the next generation of leaders in the Cabinet, but these specific appointments are most likely to accommodate Tan’s nomination for the Speaker role. The full text of Prime Minister Lee’s September 5 announcement can be found here.

Madam Halimah Yacob Only Presidential Aspirant to Qualify for September 23 Polls
Madam Halimah Yacob, the former Speaker of Parliament who resigned in August to run in Singapore’s presidential election later this month, was the only presidential candidate to receive a certificate of eligibility to contest the office, according to a press release issued by the Elections Department (ELD) on September 11. The ELD’s decision leaves Mdm. Halimah as the only person running in the September 23 presidential election, essentially guaranteeing her the office. The former Speaker of Parliament is still required to submit her official nomination papers in order to run. After the ELD issued its press release, the two other candidates in the race, Mohamed Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, confirmed that their applications had been rejected. Presidential hopeful from the private sector must have the equivalent experience of a chief executive of a company with at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity in order to be eligible to run. Neither Marican nor Khan met this requirement. The ELD’s official press release can be found here.

The tightening of the eligibility requirements for private sector presidential hopefuls was one of several major changes made to Singapore’s presidential election system over roughly the last year, first with Parliament’s passage of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2016 last November (full text available here) and then the amending of the Presidential Elections Act (PEA) in February (full text available here). The other most notable change is the implementation of the reserved election system. Under the new system, “an election for the office of the President will be reserved for a certain community (i.e. Chinese, Malay or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community has held the office of the President for any of the last 5 terms of office,” according to the ELD. The reserved election system is meant to ensure that the President is able to fulfill his/her first role of office, which is “serving as a symbol and unifier of a diverse and multi-racial Singapore.” Critics of the reserved election system claim that it discriminates against Singapore citizens on the basis of race. In Singapore’s system of government, the President is a largely ceremonial role that serves as the Head of State for a term of six years. In addition to representing Singapore’s diverse cultural make-up, the President also serves as a “custodian of our nation’s past reserves and the integrity of our public service.” More information on Singapore’s presidential elections can be found on the ELD’s website here.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Cybersecurity Bill Consultation Update
On 22 August, US-ABC, BSA | The Software Alliance and AmCham Singapore members met with Mr. David Koh, Chief Executive of the Singapore Cybersecurity Agency (CSA). The objective of the meeting was to review key points from our joint submission (submitted 24 August and available here) on the draft Cybersecurity Bill and to better understand CSA’s policy position.

The four key areas of the Bill were addressed:

1. Protection of Critical Information Infrastructure (CII), their designation and owners.
In response to concerns about a lack of clarity regarding the definition of CIIs, CSA stated that CIIs were defined to be vital services that met criteria jointly set by CSA, the CII owners and sectoral regulators. Only the core owner will be deemed the CII owner, while third party obligations will be governed by contract. Key management of CII owners will be held responsible.

2. Powers to respond to cybersecurity threats
The seemingly broad scope of investigatory powers led CSA to give assurances that it is not their intention to extend investigations beyond what is necessary. Section 24 of the Bill is based on the CMCA, and there are checks and balances and penalties to prevent mishandling of information.

3. Facilitation of sharing of cybersecurity information
With regard to doubts over the desirability of incident reporting, CSA highlighted the need to build awareness of threats that can spread between sectors. While guidelines for information sharing are still under discussion, CSA is aware of its desirability and the need to protect information. In addition, CSA is exploring a voluntary disclosure scheme though this is not included in the current draft.

4. Cybersecurity industry regulation
CSA hopes to adopt a light system of licensing to ensure that companies are resilient against cybersecurity risks.

CSA aims to introduce the Bill in early 2018 and begin implementation a few months after. If you have any follow-up comments or questions, please contact Shay Wester at swester@usasean.org.

Personal Data Protection Commission of Singapore Announces Public Consultation for amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act
The Personal Data Protection Commission of Singapore (the Commission) announced that it will be conducting a public consultation on its proposed amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) from 27 July to 21 September 2017. The amendments would introduce: (1) two new bases for data collection, use, and disclosure; and (2) a mandatory data breach notification framework.

The Council has drafted a submission together with BSA | The Software Alliance. Below is a brief summary of its recommendations:

  • Two new bases for data collection, use and disclosure:
    • We support the inclusion of both bases for handling data.
    • However, they should not be subject to conditions as they create ambiguity.
  • A mandatory data breach notification framework:
    • We propose that the Commission require notifications only when there is an actual risk of material harm.
    • In addition, the timeframe for breach notification should be "as soon as practicable" instead of a fixed number of hours.

Please review the submission and send any feedback to Shay Wester at swester@usasean.org by Thursday, September 14.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Strengthening U.S. and Singapore partnership during Tiger Balm 2017

Economics
Singapore braces itself for a massive drop in workers
Singapore's 2017 growth forecast to remain at 2.5%: MAS survey
Singapore to be hardest hit in Asia by fall in working population growth: Report
Domestic wholesale trade grows 18.5% in Q2
Business services sector grows 1.8% in Q2
Singapore has solid fiscal metrics: Moody's
Singapore's consumer sentiment rebounds from pessimism
Singapore economy grew faster in Q2, up 2.9%
Singapore GDP Growth Beats Forecasts on Strong Trade Rebound

Energy
Keppel O&M to explore LNG developments in Indonesia
Is the worst finally over for the offshore and marine sector?
Singapore's installed solar capacity reaches 129.8MW

Financial Services
Personal data of 5,400 AXA Singapore customers exposed in cyberattack
Singapore lags its Asia Pacific peers in mobile wallet usage
More cooperation in the financial space
Singapore banks face creative destruction
PolicyPal is first start-up to graduate from MAS programme
Singapore’s Payments Council seeks road to common QR code
Taxi Fare Evasion on the Rise: Is it Time to Adopt Cashless Payments?
Singapore: Mitsui Sumitomo buys First Capital Insurance
Singapore banks make big investment in staff digital transformation
MAS clarifies digital token regulation in Singapore and advises on ICO risk
Singapore: Government cautions against risks of digital tokens and virtual currencies
SGX's Trading Of Ringgit Futures Criticised By BNM
Ringgit Derivative Products In Offshore Market Against Malaysia's Policy - BNM
Buyers Beware: Singapore Central Bank Issues ICO Warning
Equifax and AXA Singapore become the latest victims of cybercrime

Food & Agriculture
Schools have key role in helping kids keep healthy lifestyle
Beverage manufacturers to cut drinks' sugar content by 12%
Chart of the Day: Accommodation, food sector growth shrink by 2.2% in Q2
PHL poultry products banned in 3 countries
Farmers to compete on concept in new land tender

Health & Life Sciences
1.8m Singaporeans to get letters on cheap health screening
NUS, A*Star, 3 pharma giants sign MOU for manufacturing improvements
MOU inked to develop Singapore's pharma manufacturing sector
New centre in Singapore to conduct Asia's largest study on undernutrition among the elderly
Clinical research coordinators to receive S$35m funding in salaries and training
More tech start-ups in healthcare springing up
Pharma exports plunge to 8-year low

ICT
Iswaran: Going digital will help SMEs be competitive
The future of payments in Singapore's Smart Nation
Why Singapore's accountants need to embrace the cloud before they can take advantage of AI
Singapore Smart Nation - How the law is changing with big plans for Big Data | Lexology
Smart facilities management crucial to Singapore’s digitisation drive
Singapore leads use of in-app payment systems in Asia
SME digitisation drive vital to Singapore’s growth: IMDA
Infocomm output growth eases to 1.8% in Q2
Singapore Is Seeking Business With Startups to Spur Them

Infrastructure
Infrastructure the key for S'pore in Asean's second 50 years
We are not done building Singapore yet: Lawrence Wong

Manufacturing
Ipos and Deloitte to nurture 100 companies through IP commercialisation
Singapore factory output outperforms with 21% surge in July as electronics manufacturing soars
Tech Access to help SMEs innovate and tap advanced manufacturing technologies
Singapore's manufacturing PMI at its highest since November 2014
Electronics production surges 49.1% in July
Manufacturing output rises 21% in July
Chart of the Day: Manufacturing growth slows to 8.1%
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Singapore, Indonesia sign MOUs, launch stamps to mark 50th year of bilateral ties Today Online 8th Sep 2017
Singapore and Indonesia on Thursday (Sept 7) signed a slew of agreements on education as well as disaster relief, as both nations commemorated five decades of diplomatic relations. The signing of the Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, after they held talks at the Istana.

National Affairs

IE Singapore, SPRING to merge and form new agency Channel NewsAsia 8th Sep 2017
Government agencies International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and SPRING will merge and form a new agency to help companies grow and internationalise, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said on Tuesday (Sep 5). The merged agency, named Enterprise Singapore, will be officially set up by the second quarter of next year. It will be led by the ministry's Second Permanent Secretary Png Cheong Boon. "By integrating the resources and capabilities of IE Singapore and SPRING, Enterprise Singapore will be able to better address the needs of Singapore companies and strengthen their competitiveness," MTI said in a media release. The merged agency will work at developing more streamlined and comprehensive assistance programmes for companies. Efforts are also ongoing to simplify schemes for companies with different needs across various industries. Enterprise Singapore will also continue to be the lead agency for trade promotion, support the internationalisation needs of large companies and retain its role as the national body for standardisation, accreditation and legal metrology.

Why is Singapore PM moving young minister to speaker’s chair? South China Morning Post 6th Sep 2017
Singapore has inched closer to finding out who will succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, after the premier surprised the Lion City by reassigning a popular minister thought to be among six contenders for the top job. The prime minister’s announcement on Wednesday that he was recommending the social and family development minister Tan Chuan-Jin as the city state’s next parliament speaker was “confounding and confusing”, one observer said, as the move all but snuffed out the former army brigadier general’s chances for top political leadership. Tan will need to quit as a cabinet minister to take up his new role. He will be appointed by lawmakers when parliament next sits on Monday. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) holds 83 out of 89 elected seats. The speaker position fell vacant in August after the incumbent Halimah Yacob resigned to stand in the country’s impending presidential election. Tan, who made his political debut in 2011, was previously seen as among a group of six “fourth generation” ministers who were being primed to take over from Lee and his key lieutenants upon their expected retirement soon after the next polls due in 2021.

Digital push to add 10,000 jobs in trading sector by 2020 TODAY 6th Sep 2017
A new push to digitalise the trading sector and provide skills-based training will help to create 10,000 new jobs by 2020, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran. Launching the wholesale trade industry transformation map (ITM) at a seminar organised by trade agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore yesterday, Mr Iswaran noted that the wholesale trade industry employs more than 325,000 people, accounting for 9 per cent of Singapore’s total workforce. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry announced that from the middle of next year, a new government agency, Enterprise Singapore, would be formed through the merger of IE Singapore and Spring Singapore to drive the transformation of the wholesale trade industry. “Enterprise Singapore will continue to strengthen partnerships with industry players, trade associations, educational institutions and unions, to develop holistic strategies for the sector.

Desmond Lee: Youngest minister in current Cabinet to helm his first ministry Channel NewsAsia 5th Sep 2017
Four months ago, Mr Desmond Lee became the youngest minister in the current Cabinet. Come next Monday (Sep 11), he will helm his first ministry at the age of 41, making him one of the youngest Cabinet ministers in Singapore to do so. Mr Lee will take over Mr Tan Chuan-Jin's portfolio at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), in view of Mr Tan's nomination as Singapore's next Speaker of Parliament. Mr Tan will resign as Minister for Social and Family Development, as the Speaker cannot hold political office. Mr Lee, who is currently a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, is also Second Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development. He will relinquish his appointments in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office, but continue as Second Minister in the Ministry of National Development.

PM Lee will nominate Tan Chuan-Jin as Speaker, Desmond Lee to be Minister at MSF Channel NewsAsia 5th Sep 2017
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will nominate Mr Tan Chuan-Jin as the new Speaker of Parliament when the House convenes next Monday, announced the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in a statement on Tuesday (Sep 5). Mr Tan, who is currently Minister for Social and Family Development, will have to be elected by Members of Parliament (MPs). He succeeds Mdm Halimah Yacob who resigned last month to contest the Presidential Election. It added that Mr Tan will resign as the Minister for Social and Family Development, as the Speaker cannot be an office holder. Taking over Mr Tan's portfolio at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will be Mr Desmond Lee. He will continue as Second Minister in the Ministry of National Development, but will relinquish his appointments in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office. The PMO also announced that Mrs Josephine Teo will be appointed as Second Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs - taking over from Mr Lee - and will relinquish her appointment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She will continue as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister in the Ministry of Manpower.

Speaker of Parliament 'very important position' in Singapore's system of Government: Chan Chun Sing Channel NewsAsia 5th Sep 2017
In the wake of the announcement that Minister Tan Chuan-Jin will be nominated as Speaker of Parliament, Government Whip Chan Chun Sing said the role of Speaker is a “very important position” in Singapore’s system of Government, and is likely to get even more significant. Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, noted that there will be “even more complex challenges” Singapore will have to overcome as a country in the coming years, and he expects the debates in Parliament to be more robust. “We need somebody with the stature, who is open-minded, who is fair, balanced, and can command the respect of all parliamentarians,” he said. “From what I know of Chuan-Jin personally, I think he will do a good job in this aspect.” Mr Tan, who is Minister for Social and Family Development, will have to resign from the position, if he is elected by Members of Parliament as Speaker. When asked by reporters to respond to the suggestion that Mr Tan is dropping out of the race to be part of Singapore’s fourth-generation leadership core, Mr Chan stressed that “all of us play different roles”. Mr Chan said in response to questions if the appointment was a downgrade or demotion for Mr Tan, that “we have never considered it in that perspective”.

Singapore now more liveable than Hong Kong Singapore Business Review 16th Aug 2017
Singapore beat its rival in the liveability ranking for the first time. Singapore has become more liveable than Hong Kong according to the latest findings of The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Ranking. Survey editor Jon Copestake said Singapore's jump up the rankings can be attributed to consistent and impressive improvements in educational attainment, which has delivered a perfect score for education and pushed the overall score for the city-state above 90% for the first time since the survey began. The Lion City rose 11 places to 35th in the ranking which provides scores for lifestyle challenges in 140 cities worldwide. This is Singapore's highest ever position in the global ranking. It is also the first time in the history of the ranking that Singapore features above Hong Kong, which fell two places into 45th place, despite an unchanged score. "However it is worth remembering that, although ten ranking places now separate Hong Kong and Singapore the difference between them is marginal at just 1.6% and both comfortably sit in the top tier of liveability where there are few, if any, challenges to lifestyle," Copestake said.

Halimah Yacob set to be next President after other potential candidates fail to qualify Channel NewsAsia 11th Sep 2017
Madam Halimah Yacob looks set to become Singapore's next President after the two other potential candidates fell short of the qualification criteria. The Elections Department (ELD) on Monday (Sep 11) said only one Certificate of Eligibility had been issued for the contest. Shortly after its announcement, presidential hopefuls Mohamed Salleh Marican and Farid Khan confirmed that their application to stand had been turned down. Mdm Halimah said the ELD issued the certificate of eligibility to her, which "paves the way" for her to take part in the Presidential Election. She still has to submit her nomination papers on Wednesday. "I can only say that I promise to do the best that I can to serve the people of Singapore and that doesn't change whether there is an election or no election," she told reporters gathered at the ELD. 

Customs

Singapore Discusses Digital Economy Tax Challenges Tax-News 24th Aug 2017
Singapore is taking a three-pronged approach to tackling the international tax challenges posed by the digital economy, the country's Senior Minister for Law and Finance, Indranee Rajah, has said. Speaking at the Third Annual Conference organized by the SMU-TA Centre for Excellence in Taxation on August 17, 2017, the Minister said that Singapore is committed to providing a stable business environment for businesses by upholding international principles and participating in international tax reform efforts.

Turkey, Singapore ratify free trade agreement in significant bilateral milestone The Straits Times 21st Aug 2017
Turkey and Singapore announced on Monday (Aug 21) that they have ratified a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), hitting a new milestone in their relationship. The agreement, which will come into force on Oct 1, was announced at a news conference at the Istana by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after meeting Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. The Turkey-Singapore FTA (TRSFTA) signed in November 2015 is a comprehensive agreement that covers a wide range of areas including good and services, e-commerce, competition and transparency.

Transport sector extends output growth in Q2 Singapore Business Review 25th Aug 2017
It recorded a 3.5% expansion thanks to the marine segment. The transportation & storage sector managed to extend its 4.4% growth in the first quarter of the year, recording another 3.5% expansion in Q2. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the growth was supported by the water transport segment. The growth in the said segment was due to the increase in container throughput and sea cargo handled at Singapore ports. On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally-adjusted annualised basis, the sector grew by 1.5 per cent, extending the 1.0 per cent growth in the previous quarter.

SG testing 7-module project set to automate port operations PortCalls Asia 25th Aug 2017
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and IT company IBM announced the joint completion of the pilot trial for three modules under the MPA-IBM SAFER project, which will be rolled out progressively beginning September 2017. Project SAFER, derived from “Sense-making Analytics For Maritime Event Recognition,” is a collaboration between MPA and IBM to develop and test new analytics-based technologies aimed at improving maritime and port operations to support increasing growth in Singapore’s vessel traffic.

Defense & Security

RSAF completes 9-day Hurricane Harvey relief operations in the US TODAY 8th Sep 2017
The four Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) helicopters that took part in the Hurricane Harvey relief operations have completed their mission in the United States. In a statement on Friday (Sept 8) the Ministry of Defence said the chinook helicopters and 34 personnel were deployed from their Peace Prairie detachment in Grand Prairie to help out in operations in Temple, Texas. The helicopters flew 30 sorties, conducting resupply, underslung and troop lift missions, said a Mindef spokesman. They had worked closely with the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) over their nine-day deployment to transport personnel and essential supplies such as food, water and equipment.

What’s in the New US-Singapore Maritime Exercise in Guam? The Diplomat 6th Sep 2017
Over the weekend, the United States and Singapore concluded their inaugural bilateral exercise off of Guam. The holding of the first iteration of Exercise Pacific Griffin, which has been planned since last year, represented the latest effort by the two partners to boost their defense cooperation amid shared challenges. As I have written before, the United States and Singapore have long viewed each other as vital strategic partners, and that extends to the security realm as well. The United States is a key supplier of defense technology and facilities for military training for Singapore, while the city-state is a valuable regional partner that across a range of issues from counterterrorism to maritime security while also hosting a U.S. Navy logistics command unit that coordinates regional operations (“Strengthening the U.S.-Singapore Strategic Partnership”).

Singapore Deploys Military Helicopters For US Hurricane Operations The Diplomat 30th Aug 2017
On Wednesday, Singapore announced that it would deploy up to four helicopters to assist the United States with relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The move is an acknowledgement of both the relationship between the two countries as well as the city-state’s presence in the United States. As I have noted before, both Singapore and the United States have long viewed each other as vital partners, including in the defense realm (“Strengthening the U.S.-Singapore Strategic Partnership”). For Singapore, the United States, apart from being a key supplier of defense technology and facilities for military training, has also been the provider of regional stability that has allowed the city-state to emerge as one of the world’s most advanced economies. For Washington, Singapore has played an outsized role as a security partner, not just across issues like counterterrorism and cybersecurity, but also in hosting a U.S. Navy logistics command unit that coordinates regional operations.

Indonesia, Singapore Conduct Mine Countermeasure Military Drills The Diplomat 28th Aug 2017
Last week, the Singapore and Indonesian navies conducted a bilateral mine countermeasure exercise in just the latest defense interaction between the two Southeast Asian states as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship this year.

Exercise Enhances Cooperative Maritime Security Efforts U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 21st Aug 2017
The 16th annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training exercise, known as SEACAT, began today in Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, focusing on shared regional maritime security challenges. The goal of the exercise, which will continue through Sept. 1, is to increase multilateral cooperation and information sharing among navies and coast guards across South and Southeast Asia, officials said.

Ten sailors missing after warship, tanker collide near Singapore Reuters 20th Aug 2017
Ten sailors are missing after a U.S. warship collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore before dawn on Monday, tearing a hole beneath the waterline and flooding compartments that include a crew sleeping area, the U.S. Navy said. The collision between the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and the tanker Alnic MC was the second involving a U.S. Navy destroyer and a merchant vessels in Asian waters in little more than two months. The ships collided while the U.S. warship was heading to Singapore for a routine port call, the Navy said in a statement. "Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft," the Navy said. "There are currently 10 sailors missing and five injured." The USS John S. McCain's sister ship, the USS Fitzgerald, almost sank off the coast of Japan after it was struck by a Philippine container ship on June 17. The bodies of seven USS Fitzgerald sailors were found in a flooded berthing area. Collisions between warships and other large vessels are extremely rare, with naval historians going back more than 50 years to find a similar incident.

Strengthening U.S. and Singapore partnership during Tiger Balm 2017 U.S. Army 9th Sep 2017
Soldiers with the Hawaii Army National Guard (HIARNG), U.S. Army Pacific, 25th Infantry Division and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) participated in exercise Tiger Balm 2017 at Mandai Hill Camp (MHC) from July 17-27, 2017. "Tiger Balm exercise demonstrates a strong commitment to our regional security partnership with all involved, said Col. Steve Logan, chief of staff, HIARNG. This marks the thirty-seventh annual exercise between U.S. Army Pacific and Singapore Armed Forces promoting regional stability and security.

Economics

Singapore braces itself for a massive drop in workers Singapore Business Review 8th Sep 2017
Singapore is facing a new problem with its declining workforce. Oxford Economics said in a forecast that Singapore will face a massive decline in its working population. The institution said a negative shift in the 20 years will be large for Singapore and nearby countries South Korea and Taiwan. Negative impact on labour supply growth could reach 2.5 ppt in 2027 to 2036. Oxford said it could be brought about by the new restrictions on foreign workers. Limitations on foreign workers could harm companies with labour shortages and increased labour costs. Moreover, Oxford Economics said the recent labour market conditions could limit consumer spending. Household spending barely rose by 0.1% in Q2.

Singapore's 2017 growth forecast to remain at 2.5%: MAS survey Channel NewsAsia 6th Sep 2017
Singapore's economic growth this year is expected to remain at 2.5 per cent, according to private-sector economists polled in a quarterly survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released on Wednesday (Sep 6). This forecast remains unchanged from the previous survey in June earlier this year. In August, the Government forecast full-year growth for the Singapore economy of 2 to 3 per cent, narrowing this from an earlier range of 1 to 3 per cent as data showed the economy growing more quickly than expected. The Singapore economy expanded by 2.9 per cent in the second quarter of the year. Manufacturing is expected to continue its turnaround from the end of last year, with economists surveyed predicting growth of 6.6 per cent for the sector, up from their 5 per cent growth prediction in June's survey. The finance and insurance industry is expected to post the second-highest growth of 2.9 per cent, an increase from the 1.9 per cent growth predicted previously. 

Singapore to be hardest hit in Asia by fall in working population growth: Report TODAYonline 6th Sep 2017
While Japan had the biggest slump in its workforce in Asia over the last 10 years, Singapore has the most to fear from an ageing population over the next two decades, based on projections by an international research house. As a result of a shrinking workforce and slower progress than Asian neighbours in getting more people into the labour market, the Republic is expected to face a "massive decline" in its working age population growth by 2036, "in part because of less immigration after a recent policy shift", said the report, which was published on Monday (Sept 4) by Oxford Economics.

Domestic wholesale trade grows 18.5% in Q2 Singapore Business Review 21st Aug 2017
Ship chandlers & bunkering posted the highest growth at 43.9%. Singapore's domestic wholesale trade rose 18.5% YoY in Q2. According to the Department of Statistics, excluding petroleum, overall domestic wholesale trade grew by 4.8%. Meanwhile, foreign wholesale trade also increased 12.2%. Excluding petroleum, foreign wholesale trade grew by 11.8%. Under domestic wholesale trade, ship chandlers & bunkering, petroleum & petroleum products, and chemicals & chemical products industries grew by 43.9%, 37.2%, and 2.6% respectively. This was boosted by higher petroleum and chemical prices. General wholesale trade growth increased 25.5%, whilst electronic components and food rose 10.7% and 0.1%. Meanwhile, industries like metals, timber and construction materials, telecommunications and computers reported sales drops between 0.1% and 7.3%. Under foreign wholesale trade, petroleum, chemical, and ship chandlers industries also showed growth rates of 12.9%, 8.8%, and 2.9%, respectively. Six industries also showed double-digit growth, namely, the industrial and construction machinery at 26.2%, food at 26.1%, metals at 15.9%, household equipment at 14.6%, general wholesale trade at 12.1%, and electronic components at 10.8%. Transport equipment industry experienced a 3.7% in foreign sales.

Business services sector grows 1.8% in Q2 Singapore Business Review 18th Aug 2017
Thanks to the professional services segments. Singapore's business services sector managed to improve its growth from the past quarter, registering a 1.8% expansion from Q1's 0.9%. According to the quarterly report by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the improvement was due primarily to the growth seen in professional services segments and others. The ‘others’ segment consists of rental & leasing, other professional, scientific & technical services, and other administrative & support services. Meanwhile, the real estate segment’s performance improved on the back of a moderation in the decline of private residential property prices as well as healthy sales transactions. 

Singapore has solid fiscal metrics: Moody's Singapore Business Review 18th Aug 2017
Ratings agency Moody's Investors Service lauded Singapore for its diversity, competitive economy, and strong fiscal metrics. According to Moody's, Singapore's stable credit profile reflects its very high per-capita income, a diverse and competitive economy, strong fiscal metrics, and robust institutions. "Singapore currently benefits from the cyclical pickup in external demand, but domestic demand remains muted. In response, the government has implemented targeted assistance to households and other sectors, while adhering to its prudent fiscal framework that prohibits financing deficits through debt," Moody's said.  It added that the ongoing economic restructuring, which intends to shift Singapore away from a historic reliance on the inflow of foreign labour, whilst concurrently increasing labour productivity, also contributes to lower, albeit less volatile, growth. Following an economic expansion of 2.7% year-on-year in the first half of 2017, Moody's projects real GDP growth for the full year at 2.5%, the midpoint of the government's forecast of 2.0%-3.0%. External demand will continue to support expansion. "Over the longer term, Singapore faces similar structural challenges to other high-income economies, including an ageing population and consequently larger expenditure outlays over the long term," it added.  

Singapore's consumer sentiment rebounds from pessimism Singapore Business Review 18th Aug 2017
Singapore's consumer sentiment has recovered from the negative territory, thanks to the bullish outlook on the stock market. According to the latest Mastercard Index of Consumer Confidence, sentiment in the Lion City saw more than a 15-point improvement to 45.4 points, moving from pessimistic into neutral territory. Mastercard said this is due to the bullish outlook on the stock market and employment seen across Asia Pacific. For the whole region, consumer sentiment stays buoyed in the optimistic territory at 66.9 points, a slight improvement from 62.7 points six months ago. Boosted by heightened expectations in its economic performance, South Korea has recorded the largest improvement in consumer confidence in Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, India continues to stay in the optimistic territory at 86.0 points, despite posting the region's largest decline of 9.3 points. Consumer sentiment also saw a slight deterioration of 6 points in Myanmar. According to the Index, pessimism towards Quality of Life was the key driver of decline for both India and Myanmar. Between April and June 2017, 9153 respondents, aged 18 to 64 in 18 Asia Pacific markets, were asked to give a six-month outlook on five economic factors, namely, the economy, employment prospects, regular Income prospects, stock market and quality of life. The Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, with zero as the most pessimistic, 100 as the most optimistic and between 40 and 60 as neutral.  

Singapore economy grew faster in Q2, up 2.9% Singapore Business Review 11th Aug 2017
This is compared to the 2.5% growth in Q1. Things went well for Singapore after it posted a 2.9% economic growth in the previous quarter, a faster growth than Q1’s 2.5%. On a quarterly basis, the economy reversed its 2.1% contraction and posted a 2.2% expansion. The manufacturing sector grew 8.1%, offsetting the construction sector's 5.7% decline. The wholesale & retail trade sector grew by 1.5% along with the transport sector's 3.5% growth. The growth in information and communications sector eased to 1.8%, whilst accommodation and food services dropped 2.2%. Meanwhile, the finance and insurance sector expanded 3.8%. The business services sector also posted a growth at 1.8%.  

Singapore GDP Growth Beats Forecasts on Strong Trade Rebound Bloomberg.com 10th Aug 2017
Singapore’s economy posted faster growth in the second quarter than previously estimated by the government as a recovery in global trade helped to buoy manufacturing. As one of Asia’s most trade-dependent countries, Singapore has benefited from a recovery in global trade since late last year, led by strong Chinese demand for electronics and other manufactured goods. The economy is likely to grow 2.5 percent in 2017, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday, a projection reiterated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Friday. While export-led industries are expanding strongly, there are mounting risks. Consumer-focused industries such as retail remain weak in the face of job cuts and rising debt. There are also doubts over whether China can sustain its growth as the government tries to curb a credit bubble. The Trade Ministry cited three main risks to the global economy -- trade protectionist threats, faster-than-expected interest-rate increases in the U.S. and a pullback in credit demand in China -- but said the potential for these to have a significant impact on growth has eased compared to three months ago. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, the nation’s central bank, has kept its policy stance unchanged for more than a year amid subdued price pressures and weak growth. The MAS uses the exchange rate as its main tool and is scheduled to make its next policy decision in October.

Energy

Keppel O&M to explore LNG developments in Indonesia Singapore Business Review 8th Sep 2017
Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited (Keppel O&M) will look at developing small-scale Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) distribution in Indonesia. According to a press release, it entered a Heads of Agreement (HOA) with Pavilion Energy and Indonesian-owned Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) to collaborate on the small-scale LNG value chain. The HOA will combine the companies' capacities to distribute LNG economically to remote areas in West Indonesia. According to Keppel, LNG can be delivered to both floating and onshore LNG terminals using special carriers. These are regasified and used to generate electricity at PLN's power plants. Keppel O&M does not expect the HOA to affect company performance for the year.

Is the worst finally over for the offshore and marine sector? Singapore Business Review 6th Sep 2017
Two struggling companies got fresh equity injections. Two financially challenged listed offshore and marine (O&M) entities recently nabbed fresh equity injections, and analysts say it buoys hopes that those still holding up three years into an industry downturn may make it to the light at the end of the tunnel. Emas Offshore Limited is in line for $67.6m (US$50m) of new equity from Baker Technology and privately owned buyout firm Point Hope. Moreover, Marco Polo Marine is also looking to restructure under a scheme of arrangement that will see at least $60m injected into its group of companies. According to KGI, at least three others undertaking debt revamp or restructuring, Ezion Holdings, Nam Cheong and Pacific Radiance, are said to have potential investors lining up. "Singapore's banks, as largest lenders to the sector, thus face a tough decision. If they are serious about riding this out with their O&M clients, they may need to bend further backwards to accept haircuts in addition to exchanging debt for equity," KGI said.

Singapore's installed solar capacity reaches 129.8MW Asian Power 10th Aug 2017
Non-residential installations grabbed the lion's share of installed capacity. Mercom Capital Group reported that the adoption of solar PV systems in Singapore has accelerated over the last three years with cumulative solar installations reaching 129.8 MW in the first quarter of 2017, according to the Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore.

Financial Services

Personal data of 5,400 AXA Singapore customers exposed in cyberattack Channel NewsAsia 7th Sep 2017
The personal data of 5,400 AXA Insurance customers in Singapore was compromised in a cyberattack, according to an email the firm sent to affected customers. In the email shared with Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Sep 7), AXA data protection officer Eric Lelyon wrote that the stolen data included the email addresses, mobile numbers, insurance policy numbers and dates of birth of both past and present customers from its Our Health Portal. No other personal data - such as the name, NRIC number, address, credit card, bank details, health status, claims history or marital status of customers - was stolen, he added. Mr Lelyon wrote that "no further action" was required from affected customers as the information that was compromised was "not likely to, on its own, expose you to identity theft". He warned customers, however, to be vigilant against phishing attempts for other personal details that could be linked to the cyber attack. In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, a spokesperson from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said the authority has asked AXA to "initiate a thorough review of its IT security and to remediate control gaps".

Singapore lags its Asia Pacific peers in mobile wallet usage Singapore Business Review 6th Sep 2017
Only 28% of Singaporeans used mobile wallets in 2016. Consumer use of a mobile wallet in Singapore has only reached 28% in 2016, the biennial Global Consumer Survey by ACI Worldwide revealed. In 2012 and 2014, only 23% of consumers used mobile wallets, until the rate increased in 2016. However, this is still lower than most rates in Asia Pacific. In 2016, India's mobile wallet usage hit 56%, whilst those of Thailand and Indonesia recorded 51% and 47%, respectively. Australia and New Zealand had lower usage at 18% and 15%. According to ACI, Singapore has lower rates of adoption "primarily due to more mature card payments infrastructure and consumers’ general comfort utilizing plastic cards." Perceptions of mobile wallet data security have also changed. In 2014, 29% of consumers felt secure with their mobile wallets. In 2016, this dropped to 19%. Currently, 6 in 10 feel only somewhat secure with the data in their mobile wallets. Only 51% also believe security systems are in place.

More cooperation in the financial space The Business Times 6th Sep 2017
Cooperation between the Philippines and Singapore is set to increase as the two countries work towards an agreement to open up the banking industry as part of efforts aimed at greater financial integration and economic development among Asean member countries. Former Philippines central bank Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor Amando Tetangco Jr was reported as saying that while the Philippines has already entered into various agreements with Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia on the Asean Banking Integration Framework (ABIF), it still has yet to sign an agreement with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Singapore banks face creative destruction The Star Online 1st Sep 2017
When is something money and not just a cowrie shell? When you can pay taxes with it. Or that’s the argument of chartalists, the folks who see the state’s hand behind the origins of all manner of money. So don’t be surprised if in a couple of years, the tax authorities in Singapore send a QR (Quick Response) code with their annual bill. Scan this modern-day cowrie shell, and you’ll get a thank-you SMS for contributing to nation-building. The city-state’s enthusiasm for the mobile-readable quick response code can be gauged from a task force set up this week by the central bank’s payments council. The goal is to have the specifications for a common QR code for Singapore ready by the end of 2017.

PolicyPal is first start-up to graduate from MAS programme The Straits Times 30th Aug 2017
PolicyPal, a Singapore-based firm focusing on insurance, has become the first start-up to graduate from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) programme to foster financial technology, or fintech. The firm will start operations as a registered direct insurance broker and exempt financial adviser under its subsidiary BaoXianBaoBao from Sept 1.

Singapore’s Payments Council seeks road to common QR code BankingTech.com 29th Aug 2017
The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) new Payments Council plans to set up interoperable electronic payments and has unveiled a taskforce to develop a common QR code for the city-state. As reported earlier this month, the Council launched and comprises 20 people from banks, payment service providers, businesses, and trade associations. MAS says the setting up of the Council is part of a series of initiatives it is taking towards “realising the vision of an e-payments society in Singapore”.

Taxi Fare Evasion on the Rise: Is it Time to Adopt Cashless Payments? ASEAN Today 29th Aug 2017
Taxi fare evasion cases across Singapore are rising. That is what new data from the Public Transport Council (PTC) suggests. Between May 2015 and May 2016, there were a reported 279 cases of taxi fare evasions, but in a concerning revelation, this figure rose to 345 cases in the May 2016 to 2017 period. The rise in cases occurs despite the introduction of strict new penalties in May of 2016. The fine for first-time fare evaders now stands at S$200 (US$147), with repeat offenders having to cough up S$400 (US$294), double the 2015 punishments.

Singapore: Mitsui Sumitomo buys First Capital Insurance Asia Insurance Review 25th Aug 2017
Japan's Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company (MSI) said yesterday that it had reached an agreement with Fairfax Financial Holdings to enter into a global partnership and to acquire First Capital Insurance, Singapore's largest commercial property and casualty insurer, for US$1.6 billion.

Singapore banks make big investment in staff digital transformation The Straits Times 22nd Aug 2017
DBS Bank announced yesterday it is investing $20 million over the next five years in a broad-based programme to train its 10,000 Singapore-based employees in digital banking and emerging technologies. Singapore's biggest bank said the move supports Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call at Sunday's National Day Rally to do more to make Singapore a Smart Nation. DBS said its programme supports the Monetary Authority of Singapore's vision to create a Smart Financial Centre where technology is used pervasively in the financial industry to increase efficiency, create opportunities, better manage risks, and improve lives.

MAS clarifies digital token regulation in Singapore and advises on ICO risk Lexology 17th Aug 2017
Shortly after the SEC’s report on digital tokens, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has clarified its regulatory stance on the offer or issue of digital tokens in Singapore and has also released a joint statement with the Commercial Affairs Department on the risks associated with initial coin offerings (ICOs). Singapore is a popular jurisdiction for ICOs, in part due to its status as a leading fintech hub in Asia.

Singapore: Government cautions against risks of digital tokens and virtual currencies Asia Insurance Review 16th Aug 2017
Singapore authorities have advised the public to exercise due diligence to understand risks associated with digital tokens. This follows the emergence of initial coin/token offerings (ICOs) and other investment schemes involving these tokens in the country. Digital tokens are cryptographically-secured representations of a token-holder’s rights to receive a benefit or perform specified functions. One commonly-known type of digital token is virtual currency like Bitcoin and Ether.

SGX's Trading Of Ringgit Futures Criticised By BNM Malaysian Digest 13th Aug 2017
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has criticised the Singapore Exchange’s (SGX) move to introduce the trading of ringgit futures in the republic in a statement issued yesterday.

Ringgit Derivative Products In Offshore Market Against Malaysia's Policy - BNM Malaysian Digest 13th Aug 2017
The recent introduction of ringgit futures at the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) and the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) or ICE Futures Singapore is inconsistent with Malaysia’s foreign exchange administration (FEA) policy and rules, said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

Buyers Beware: Singapore Central Bank Issues ICO Warning CoinDesk 10th Aug 2017
Singapore's central bank has issued an investor warning about the risks of initial coin offerings (ICOs). A new notice from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) – published in tandem with the Commercial Affairs Department (the administration layer for the city-state's police force) – advises prospective investors to investigate and understand the risks associated with buying into token sales.

Equifax and AXA Singapore become the latest victims of cybercrime Business Insider 11th Sep 2017
Much scrutiny has been devoted to the state of legacy banks' data security recently, amid a series of high-profile breaches that endangered customers' personal information. Last week, however, two incidents served as a timely reminder that large incumbents in other financial services sectors aren't exempt from such attacks, and also need to reinforce their data protection measures.

Food & Agriculture

Schools have key role in helping kids keep healthy lifestyle TODAYonline 15th Aug 2017
Singapore should be worried that diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children owing to the increased incidence of obesity (Protect your child against diabetes; July 31). Cultivating a healthier lifestyle in children, however, is not only the job of parents but also schools. What children eat in school can influence their eating habits in future. Pupils usually have at least one meal a day from the canteen. Apart from their recess, those who arrive at school early may have breakfast there, and those who have co-curricular activities may eat lunch at school too.

Beverage manufacturers to cut drinks' sugar content by 12% Singapore Business Review 8th Sep 2017
Amidst rising diabetes levels in Singapore, beverage industry leaders have committed to reducing drinks' sugar content to 12% by 2020. According to BMI Research, the Ministry of Health (MOH) seeks to reduce diabetes' burden. Companies that have shown their support so far are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Pokka, F&N Foods, Malaysia Dairy Industries, and Yeo Hiap Seng. According to BMI Research, meeting the requirements made it easier for the companies since they have already started cutting down sugar content for growing health-conscious consumers. The 2020 deadline also gives them more time to pursue related strategies. The declining sugar consumption comes from rising diabetes and obesity rates. This has been driven by increased wealth for consumption, which has led to increased sugar intake. Soft drinks consumption growth will soften by an average of 4.5% per annum between 2017 and 2021, BMI said.

Chart of the Day: Accommodation, food sector growth shrink by 2.2% in Q2 Singapore Business Review 31st Aug 2017
It's the sector's worst performance in three quarters. This chart from the Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (MTI) shows the accommodation & food services sector contracted by 2.2% in Q2 This extended the 1.7% decline recorded in the previous quarter. Continued weakness in the food services segment continued to drag the sector down. Sales for fast food and catering grew by 6.2% and 2.5%. On the downside, restaurant sales fell by 9.3%. Other food and beverage sales also dipped by 1.2%. Meanwhile, the accommodation segment was supported by healthy visitor arrivals in the second quarter, MTI said. In terms of occupancy rates, luxury hotels fell by 0.9ppt, whilst upscale, mid-tier, and economy hotels all expanded by 2.2ppt, 0.6ppt, and 2.6ppt, respectively.  

PHL poultry products banned in 3 countries BusinessMirror 21st Aug 2017
Japan, South Korea and Singapore have imposed a temporary ban on poultry products and pet birds from the Philippines after Manila confirmed the outbreak of bird flu in Pampanga. Documents obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the three Asian countries notified Manila about the import ban after the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced on August 11 that bird flu struck thousands of fowls in San Luis, Pampanga. In an official communication dated August 14, South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Mafra) informed the Philippine Agriculture Office (PAO) in Seoul that it has “prohibited the importation of Philippine fresh, chilled, frozen chicken meat and pet birds” effective August 12.

Farmers to compete on concept in new land tender The Straits Times 14th Aug 2017
New farmland will be released later this month and, for the first time, the 12 plots for growing leafy vegetables in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah will be tendered out on concept and not price, the latter of which will be fixed. This means that farmers growing leafy vegetables will not have to worry about engaging in a price war trying to secure the land. Instead, their proposals will be judged on factors like production capability, track record, relevant experience and qualifications, and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production, and keep their businesses viable. Under this fixed-price tender method, land will be parcelled out by farm type. The other three types to be tendered out this way, over the next few years, will be for quail eggs, food fish and beansprouts. The land price will be fixed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's Chief Valuer's Office, which will take reference from prices of agriculture land sold by the Government, a spokesman for the Agri- Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told The Straits Times.

Health & Life Sciences

1.8m Singaporeans to get letters on cheap health screening The Straits Times 31st Aug 2017
Letters are being sent out in batches to 1.8 million Singaporeans aged 40 years and older, inviting them to go for health screening for up to five diseases by paying $5 at most. All the letters will be sent out by the year end. The Enhanced Screen for Life, announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat during the parliamentary debate on his ministry's Budget in March this year, starts tomorrow. Under it, all eligible people can be screened for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Woman can be screened for cervical cancer, and people aged 50 years and older can test for colorectal cancer.

NUS, A*Star, 3 pharma giants sign MOU for manufacturing improvements Singapore Business Review 7th Sep 2017
International pharma giants GSK, Pfizer, and MSD signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with A*STAR and National University of Singapore (NUS) to establish the Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (PIPS). According to a speech by Trade and Industry minister S Iswaran, PIPS will combine the expertise of the public sector and industry players to improve manufacturing operations and technologies. PIPS will focus on continuous manufacturing, bio-catalysis, process analytical technology, advanced process control, and enhanced pharmaceutical operations. Iswaran's speech opened the Future of Manufacturing Summit @ Singapore, A*Star's two-week series on improving Singapore's industries.

MOU inked to develop Singapore's pharma manufacturing sector Channel NewsAsia 5th Sep 2017
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the National University of Singapore (NUS) and three pharmaceutical companies inked a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday (Sep 5) to mark the launch of an initiative to develop the country's pharma manufacturing sector. 

New centre in Singapore to conduct Asia's largest study on undernutrition among the elderly The Straits Times 31st Aug 2017
Undernutrition in the elderly is a worldwide problem, but most of the available data is based on Western research, say experts. A new study in Singapore aims to gather more data on Asians, given the differences in body types and habits between Westerners and Asians. A new centre that was launched on Thursday (Aug 31) will manage the study. The Nutritional Health for the Elderly Reference Centre, launched at Changi General Hospital (CGH), has been set up to study nutrition issues facing elderly people in Asia.

Clinical research coordinators to receive S$35m funding in salaries and training Human Resources Online 29th Aug 2017
According to The Ministry of Health Singapore (MOH), it will allocate S$35m to fund the salaries of 100 clinical research coordinators (CRC) for the next five years, along with the implementation of national training and certification programmes. Speaking at the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI) 3rd Annual Scientific Symposium, Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health commented: “As Singapore’s population ages and the prevalence of chronic diseases increases, we need to build a future-ready and sustainable healthcare system to meet these challenges.” In fact, the National Medical Research Council (NMRC) will continue to provide funding to strengthen the clinical research landscape in Singapore through its research grants and human capital awards that support translational and clinical research.

More tech start-ups in healthcare springing up The Straits Times 28th Aug 2017
With connectivity at nearly everyone's fingertips, the tech-drive consumer healthcare industry is estimated to be worth billions of dollars today. Associate Professor Sarah Cheah, from the Department of Management and Organisation at the National University of Singapore Business School, told The Straits Times that close to 900 investors helped seal tech-health deals in 2015 in Asia, up 25 per cent from 2014. And the industry keeps growing. Prof Cheah said that given the factors of an ageing population, growing middle-class affluence and rising healthcare costs, more healthcare start-ups can be expected in areas such as chronic disease management and digital diagnostics as well as consumer health and wellness.

Pharma exports plunge to 8-year low Singapore Business Review 21st Aug 2017
Exports from the sector dropped 54%. The volatile pharmaceutical segment has seen a 54% plunge in exports for the month of July.  According to Maybank Kim Eng analyst Chua Hak Bin, the pharmaceuticals dropped to record the lowest level since Dec 2008. The decline seen in the sector has caused the non-electronics exports to moderate to a 5.2% growth for the month. Overall, Singapore's non-oil domestic exports continued to post robust growth, extending June's 8.8% to an expansion of 8.5%, which was led by electronics exports.  

ICT

Iswaran: Going digital will help SMEs be competitive The New Paper 7th Sep 2017
Digital marketplaces will allow companies to pool resources and complement their product offerings to sharpen their competitiveness. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which lack market reach to supply-and-demand networks, and volumes for economies of scale, will benefit from this, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran in highlighting the key elements of digitalising the wholesale trade sector.

The future of payments in Singapore's Smart Nation Singapore Business Review 8th Sep 2017
At this year’s National Day Rally on 20 August, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the most important challenges and opportunities facing Singapore, the Smart Nation initiative was at the top of his agenda. Mr. Lee called on Singaporeans to embrace the unprecedented possibilities that technology has placed at their fingertips; remarking, “[The] Smart Nation is for all of us, young and old…the world is changing. Unless we change with it, we will fall behind.” Being a Smart Nation means not only adopting complex technology, but also using it to thoughtfully address challenges and uncover bright new opportunities – from healthcare solutions that leverage robotics and automation to supporting Singapore’s growing elderly population, to enhanced public data collection and analytics to optimise transportation when space is limited. Payments are a key arena through which Singapore’s Smart Nation drive is being realised; and businesses that explore the future of payments today will be best poised to capture new opportunity tomorrow. 

Why Singapore's accountants need to embrace the cloud before they can take advantage of AI Singapore Business Review 7th Sep 2017
Singapore climbed the rankings to be the second most cloud ready environment in Asia, according to the latest edition of the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) Cloud Readiness Index. This follows a series of strategic investments by the government into technology infrastructure, such as appointing public sector agencies to manage cybersecurity, and the launch of initiatives such the Smart Nation drive to support better living using technology. Singapore’s accounting industry, like many others, can significantly benefit from a cloud ready environment. There have been major technology changes on a global scale in the last few years, and the introduction of the cloud has enabled connectivity between accountants, businesses, and banks that never existed before. Earlier this year, global accounting firm PwC published the results of a study into what they refer to as the ‘AI revolution’, and how this will impact today’s businesses. Their findings show that AI will drive global GDP 14% higher by 2030, adding an extra US$15.7 trillion to the global economy - more that the current output of China and India combined.

Singapore Smart Nation - How the law is changing with big plans for Big Data | Lexology Lexology 6th Sep 2017
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Smart facilities management crucial to Singapore’s digitisation drive Digital News Asia 5th Sep 2017
1. Smart management would lower costs and conservancy charges; 2. Calls for close collaboration between the government and private sector

Singapore leads use of in-app payment systems in Asia Singapore Business Review 31st Aug 2017
Singapore leads Asia's adoption of in-app payment systems with 19% able to use the technology, Paypal reported in an Asia Pacific study. According to the survey made by Blackbox Research, this could be due to the prevalence of transport apps such as Grab and Uber. In-app payments also rank highest among respondents from Singapore, with 29% aware of the technology. However, PayPal said awareness does not necessarily translate into use, but Singapore had the highest rate for people that used the applications. On the other hand, 43% in Singapore still use cash for payment, albeit lower than the Asian average of 57%. Singapore also makes the most contactless payment through credit cards at 49%. Hong Kong followed with only 19%.

SME digitisation drive vital to Singapore’s growth: IMDA Digital News Asia 29th Aug 2017
THE importance of digitisation for Singapore’s growth was laid bare by the chief executive of Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). In front of a packed audience, Tan Kiat How (pic) described the digitisation of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) as key to Singapore’s growth, emphasising the need to bring human capital and technology together for this national effort.

Infocomm output growth eases to 1.8% in Q2 Singapore Business Review 24th Aug 2017
It saw a pull back from the telco segment. The growth in the information & communications sector eased for the past quarter, the data from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) showed. According to MTI, the output growth slowed to 1.8% from 2.1% in the preceding quarter. This is due to a sharper pullback in the telecommunications segment. By contrast, the IT & information services segment saw robust growth as a result of strong corporate demand for IT solutions. Meanwhile, on a quarter-on-quarter seasonally-adjusted annualised basis, the sector grew by 2.2%, moderating from the 7.0% growth in the preceding quarter.

Singapore Is Seeking Business With Startups to Spur Them Bloomberg.com 22nd Aug 2017
Singapore’s government will support technology startups by doing business with them rather than having them rely on grants as the city-state pushes ahead with a plan to become a high-tech hub, a top minister said. The government wants to fuel private-sector innovation, especially among small and medium-sized firms, in a bid to create a digitally integrated economy, Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister in charge of the country’s "Smart Nation" initiative, said in an interview in Singapore on Tuesday. “We’re going to feed the private sector, not by giving grants, but by buying services,” he said. “It’s a demand-driven model. I don’t believe in a grant or grantocracy.” Trade-reliant Singapore is trying to restructure its economy to make it a global center of innovation, spending billions of dollars on research and development, reskilling people and building a cashless society. Balakrishnan said it was crucial for Singapore to reach its goals to create a digital economy in order to preserve incomes and jobs for the middle class.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure the key for S'pore in Asean's second 50 years The Straits Times 18th Aug 2017
Singapore's future prosperity depends heavily on the international channels that it builds and the international partnerships that it nurtures. And infrastructure will be key to both of these. As Asean turns 50 and Singapore 52, it is a good time to reflect on whether Singapore's good run and role within Asean will continue. Whatever one's view of the first point, it seems a fairly moot point because Singapore is clearly not leaving its future to chance. Earlier this year, Singapore's Committee on the Future Economy identified several themes and initiatives necessary for its continued prosperity. Perhaps predictably, most of these initiatives were aimed at improving Singapore's international connectivity, especially within Asean.

We are not done building Singapore yet: Lawrence Wong The Straits Times 16th Aug 2017
Singapore may already look "built-up" but major infrastructure projects that will unfold here over the next 10 years will put the economy on an even stronger footing, said Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance, yesterday. Mr Wong told 600 representatives from more than 40 countries at the Singapore Regional Business Forum at the Ritz-Carlton: "Singapore may be a little red dot, very small; some of you may have the impression that we are already very built-up. But, in fact, we are not done building Singapore yet. We have not reached our physical limits. "The infrastructure that we're putting in will include several major pieces. For example, we will be building a new Terminal 5 that will double everything that you see in Changi Airport today.

Manufacturing

Ipos and Deloitte to nurture 100 companies through IP commercialisation TODAYonline 31st Aug 2017
Local companies in the biomedical and healthcare, manufacturing and engineering and deep tech sectors will be targeted in the latest drive to develop innovative enterprises through intellectual property (IP) commercialisation. The announcement was made at the IP Week @ SG 2017, an annual event that brings together the world’s IP thought leaders, legal experts and innovative companies. The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) and Deloitte Southeast Asia Financial Advisory Services on Tuesday (Aug 29) signed an agreement to jointly drive the growth of innovative enterprises and enhance the Republic’s position as an IP and innovation hub. Through the partnership, Ipos and Deloitte will target to build a strong base of 100 growth enterprises that are innovation-driven, and groom them to become future global market leaders.

Singapore factory output outperforms with 21% surge in July as electronics manufacturing soars The Straits Times 25th Aug 2017
Singapore manufacturers started the second half of the year on strong footing despite worries that the pace of growth in the sector might taper. Factory output surged 21 per cent in July from the same month a year earlier, boosted by robust electronics manufacturing - now the brightest spot in the Singapore economy. This blew past economists' expectations of a 12.9 per cent rise, as shown in a Bloomberg poll, and the sector's strongest pace of growth so far this year.

Tech Access to help SMEs innovate and tap advanced manufacturing technologies TODAY 8th Sep 2017
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) needing to use specialised manufacturing equipment without forking out large investments can now do so through the Tech Access initiative, launched by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) on Friday (Sept 8). When they sign up for this initiative, the companies can tap the agency’s advanced manufacturing equipment and facilities, resulting in cost savings as they do not have to buy the equipment themselves. Training will also be provided on how to operate the machinery effectively, said A*Star. At the launch, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon pointed out the benefits to SMEs of such an initiative, first mentioned during the Budget earlier this year. “SMEs can experiment with these advanced tools without the need to make costly investments to acquire them upfront. Subsequently, with the experience gained and a better appreciation of the benefits of such tools, SMEs can opt to acquire the equipment to scale up and capture new business opportunities,” he said.

Singapore's manufacturing PMI at its highest since November 2014 Singapore Business Review 5th Sep 2017
Singapore’s manufacturing PMI rose for the third straight month to 51.8 (+0.8 points) in August, and analysts at OCBC said this is the highest print since November 2014 and the 12th consecutive month in expansion territory (>50). "The optimism came from almost all indicators, including new orders, new exports, factory output etc.," OCBC said. This domestic manufacturing PMI largely mirrored the improvements in regional manufacturing PMI readings. The electronics PMI also improved by 1 point to 53.2 in August, which is the highest since November and marked the 13th straight month of expansion (>50). The improvement was also broad-based. In general, global semiconductor companies have generally benefited from healthy demand for consumer electronics, data center activities fueled by cloud demand, as well as gearing up for the iPhone 8 production cycle (marking its 10-year anniversary) and consumers’ upgrading demand to mid- to high-end smartphones and other large-screen phablets.

Electronics production surges 49.1% in July Singapore Business Review 28th Aug 2017
Semiconductor production reached a new record high. Singapore's electronics sector continues to spark higher industrial production (IP) after it reported a 49.1% growth rate in July. According to Maybank, this was led by growth in the Semiconductors subsector that hit its record high and marked the 17th month of two-digit expansion. It contributed 62% to total Electronics output. Computer and Peripherals manufacturing grew 18.9%, whilst that of Consumer Electronics rose by 5.1%. On the downside, Data Storage and Other Electronic Components output contracted by 27.2% and 5.2%, respectively. Precision engineering production also increased 21.8%. Production of its Machinery & Systems segment grew 25.4%, backed by demand for semiconductor-related equipment.  

Manufacturing output rises 21% in July Singapore Business Review 25th Aug 2017
All clusters posted positive growths in the said month. Singapore's manufacturing output saw a 21% expansion in July, thanks to the robust growth seen in all clusters. The electronics cluster’s output increased 49.1% in July 2017, compared to the same month last year. At the same time, the output of the precision engineering cluster grew 21.8% year-on-year in July 2017. Meanwhile, the biomedical manufacturing cluster’s output grew 5.0% in July 2017 compared to a year ago. For general manufacturing industries cluster, output increased 4.9% whilst the chemical cluster posted a 4.8% growth. The transport engineering cluster's output also increased, up 2.3% in July.  

Chart of the Day: Manufacturing growth slows to 8.1% Singapore Business Review 21st Aug 2017
Three of six subsectors have declining growth contributions. This chart from the Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (MTI) shows that growth for the manufacturing sector has slowed to 8.1% in Q2. The highest growth was recorded two quarters ago in 4Q16, which hit 11.5%. Electronics was the highest contributor to manufacturing growth at 10.6%, followed by precision engineering at 1.8%, and chemicals at 0.4% Meanwhile, three other subsectors suffered a decline in contribution to growth: general manufacturing at -1.0%, transport engineering at -1.1%, and biomedical manufacturing at -2.5%.