Singapore Update: January 20, 2019

Singapore Update | January 20, 2019 
Authors: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, Kim Yaeger
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Singapore forecasts growth at 1.5%-3.5% in 2019 

In his New Year’s message, Prime Minister Lee stated that GDP growth in 2019 is expected to be between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent. He warned of major uncertainties in the global economy amid growing trade conflicts, nervous financial markets and signs of slowing growth. In the fourth-quarter flash estimate, 2.2% growth was just a notch below market expectations of 2.3 per cent. Manufacturing drove growth through robust output expansions in the biomedical manufacturing and electronics clusters, which more than offset the output decline in the precision engineering cluster. Services industries, which make up two-thirds of the economy, grew 1.9 per cent over the same period from a year earlier. Construction continued to decline in the last quarter of the year. Meanwhile, housing prices started to drop after extra constraints since July 2018 have included higher stamp duties, tougher loan-to-value rules, curbs on the number of “shoe-box” apartments, limiting transactions at the cheaper end of the market, and anti-money laundering rules that imposed an additional administrative burden on developers. The government is slowing the release of land for residential use in the first half of 2019, citing a spike in supply and cooling demand. Authorities in Singapore have kept the property market on a tight leash since the early 2010s to avoid runaway prices like those seen in Hong Kong.

Blogger files countersuit to Singapore PM Lee’s defamation case

Financial adviser and blogger Leong Sze Hian’s filed a defense and countersuit against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, claiming PM Lee's defamation suit against him over his Facebook share of a news article alleging Lee’s complicity in a financial scandal in neighboring Malaysia is an abuse of the process of the court. Mr. Leong is former president of human rights NGO Maruah (maruah means dignity in Malay). According to Leong’s lawyer, Lim Tean, an opposition politician and leader of the newly registered People’s Voice party, the predominant purpose of PM Lee’s suit is to use legal process to chill freedom of expression in Singapore and to restrict reporting on any role the government may have had in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal. Considered fake news by the Singapore government, the article subject of litigation is entitled "Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB's Key Investigation Target - Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements With Hsien Loong In Exchange for Money Laundering".

The lawsuit reopens Singapore’s record in dealing with negative news and hints at the Lee family conflict anew. In 2014, PM Lee sued for defamation blogger Roy Ngerng who was ordered to pay the prime minister S$150,000 in damages, beginning from S$100 a month until April 2021, when he will pay S$1,000 a month until the compensation is complete. At the end of December 2018, the Prime Minister’s younger brother, former head of Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority Lee Hsien Yang, confirmed to the press contributing to Leong’s legal defense fund. In November 2018, he was reported having breakfast with former Presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock at a hawker center.

Singapore launches 2nd government bug bounty program 

The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will partner local and overseas ethical, or white hat, hackers from December 2018 to January 2019 to search for vulnerabilities in five highly used government systems in return for rewards. These are the Gov.sg website, the REACH website, Ministry of Communications and Information's Press Accreditation Card Online, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website, and MFA's eRegister. Rewards for vulnerabilities found can range from US$250 to US$10,000 depending on severity. Reported bugs will be addressed by the relevant organization. Key findings will be shared in March 2019. In a joint press release, both agencies stated they will partner with HackerOne – the world’s largest community of cybersecurity researchers and white hat hackers. This is Singapore’s second government bug bounty program after the Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) opened its Internet-facing systems to hackers from Jan 15 to Feb 4, 2018 and paid out US$14,750 in bounties to 17 successful hackers last year. About 300 selected white hat hackers from around the world were invited to find vulnerabilities in eight Web-facing systems - MINDEF’s website, the NS Portal, the Central Manpower Base website, the Defence Science and Technology Agency’s website, eHealth, Defence Mail, LearNet 2 Portal, and myOASIS Portal. Bug bounty programs are not new globally with the United States’ Department of Defense holding “Hack the Pentagon” exercises, while companies like Google and Facebook conducting similar initiatives. The Government Bug Bounty Program (GBBP) is part of the Singapore Government’s ongoing efforts to build a secure and resilient Smart Nation.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 
The Council reminds members who wish to submit views on Singapore’s Possible Measures for Pre-Packaged Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) to email inputs to Ms. Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org. On December 4, 2018, Singapore’s Ministry of Health (“MOH”) and the Health Promotion Board (“HPB”) opened public consultation on four possible measures including mandatory front-of-pack nutrition label, advertising regulations, excise duty on manufacturers and importers of pre-packaged SSBs, and a nationwide ban on the sale of higher sugar pre-packaged drinks. The PDF of the Public Consultation Paper on Possible Measures for Pre-Packaged SSBs may be found https://www.reach.gov.sg/sugarydrinks. While measures are proposed to lower sugar intake and achieve public health objectives, they impact companies who deal with SSBs and may have implications for sugar in general. Public feedback may be sent to sugary_drinks@hpb.gov.sg. Public consultation closes on January 25, 2019.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements
Singapore's Lee sounds alarm over trade tensions

Regional Affairs
Johor gets Singapore help on water
Singapore-Malaysia tensions put Lion City’s lawyers to the test
Singapore and Britain launch new partnership to forge broader, deeper ties
North Korea ‘Singapore shops’ reveal familiar sanction gaps
Maritime dispute: Malaysia has taken steps to de-escalate tensions, 1 ship left in Singapore waters, says Khaw

National Affairs
How a House Provoked a Feud in Singapore’s Lee Family: QuickTake
Singapore activist found guilty of hosting ‘illegal assembly’ via Skype
Surreal photos of 'fairytale' Singapore
Being black in Singapore: Our African history might go back to Bugis ancestry
No rest for the dead: Singapore digs up graves for highways
Ex-PM Goh takes veiled jab against “veteran politician” likely aimed at Tan Cheng Bock
Singapore-Malaysia tensions still simmer ahead of bilateral talks
Same-old in Singapore
Blogger Leong Sze Hian files defence and countersuit against PM Lee
Digging deep: Singapore plans an underground future
Gay father permitted to adopt biological son born via surrogacy, in first for Singapore
Scale of theft at Shell's Singapore refinery much greater, court documents show

Market Development
Tesla's Musk Says Singapore Government Has Been ‘Unwelcome’
The top 2018 trending Google searches in Singapore: From Malaysia Elections to Black Panther

Asset Management
Noble Group Says Rescue Is Done as Singapore Probe Drags On

Customs
Do more to promote new China trade corridor: Chan Chun Sing
Three-quarter tank rule to apply to Singapore-registered diesel vehicles leaving country from April

Defense & Security
Proposal for Singapore's F-15 fighter jets to train in New Zealand cancelled: Mindef
Hackers get invite to find holes in Singapore Govt's digital systems in 2nd bug bounty exercise
Why Are Border Disputes Rocking Malaysia-Singapore Ties After Mahathir’s Return?

Economics
Singapore's private home prices rise nearly 8% in 2018
Singapore’s Q4 GDP slows slightly to 2.2%, misses expectations: MTI advance estimates
Singapore Home Prices Post First Drop in Six Quarters
Singapore's Export-Reliant Economy Ends 2018 on Slower Note
Singapore Economy Grows 3.3% in 2018
Singapore vulnerable to rising sea level, severe floods: Masagos

Energy
Owners of Singapore diesel-powered vehicles unbothered by three-quarter tank rule
Biofuel firm Neste to invest $2.2b in Singapore production
Electricity, gas tariffs to drop in 2019 first quarter

Financial Services
Singapore central bank bans former Goldman Sachs director Tim Leissner for life

Health & Life Sciences
Commentary: The year Singapore attempts to snuff out tobacco
Staying ahead of the healthcare game in Asia
Smoking ban for Orchard Road kicks in
Health ministry launches online calculator for CareShield Life premiums
No asbestos found in Johnson & Johnson's baby powder in Singapore: HSA
Tax reliefs for insurance policies and new mothers may benefit Singapore's economy
Singapore's staggering healthcare costs may be pushing medical tourists away
New integrated care model for elderly patients under trial

ICT
Top 25 tech stocks hit average returns of 5.7% in December
Singapore defends crown in Asian Digital Transformation index
SingPost customers may soon receive SMS alerts half an hour before delivery
Faster patent for fintech firms in Singapore

Infrastructure
China's Zhoushan to go after Singapore marine hub's top billing

Insurance
Government to take over administration of ElderShield from 2021

Manufacturing
Singapore non-oil exports drop 2.6% in November, following 7 straight months of increase

Travel & Tourism
Two Strategic Days in Singapore: Where to Splurge, Where to Save
Tennis: Singapore one of five cities on shortlist to host ATP Finals from 2021
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements

Singapore's Lee sounds alarm over trade tensions Nikkei Asian Review 31st Dec 2018
SINGAPORE -- Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his New Year's message expressed concern that the U.S.-China trade war will force others to choose sides.

Regional Affairs

Johor gets Singapore help on water The Straits Times 7th Jan 2019
Singapore has supplied additional treated water to Malaysia, at Johor's request, after production there was disrupted due to pollution. In response to media queries, national water agency PUB said yesterday that an additional six million gallons per day (mgd) of treated water was supplied between Jan 2 and Jan 4. PUB added that production at Johor's water plants was disrupted recently due to pollution in the river catchment. PUB's Johor River Waterworks was not affected by the incident. The 6 mgd was on top of the 16 mgd that Singapore usually supplies Johor. PUB added that it has supplied the additional treated water on "a goodwill basis" at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

Singapore-Malaysia tensions put Lion City’s lawyers to the test South China Morning Post 7th Jan 2019
Singapore’s government lawyers played a crucial role in negotiations and providing advice to officials as the Lion City’s ties with Malaysia were “put to the test” in 2018, the country’s attorney general said on Monday, a day ahead of talks between the two neighbors over recently frayed ties.

Singapore and Britain launch new partnership to forge broader, deeper ties The Straits Times 4th Jan 2019
The Singapore-United Kingdom Partnership for the Future was launched by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt during Mr Hunt's two-day official visit, which ends on Saturday (Jan 5). The bilateral relationship "is as broad as it is deep", both ministers said in a joint statement that highlighted their countries' shared belief in free trade and international law, as well as their commitment to the rules-based multilateral system and to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. The partnership will see both sides build on existing links and strengthen collaboration, especially in these four areas: the digital economy; sustainable business and innovation; security and defence; and education, culture and youth.

North Korea ‘Singapore shops’ reveal familiar sanction gaps Washington Post 28th Dec 2018
Despite the unwanted publicity of a criminal trial for one of their main suppliers, business is booming at Pyongyang’s “Singapore shops,” which sell everything from Ukrainian vodka to brand-name knock-offs from China. The stores stock many of the very things United Nations’ sanctions banning trade in luxury goods are intended to block and provide a nagging reminder that not all potential trade partners are lining up behind the U.N.’s pronouncements or the Trump administration’s policy of maximum pressure on the North. Especially when there’s a buck, or a few million bucks, to be made.

Maritime dispute: Malaysia has taken steps to de-escalate tensions, 1 ship left in Singapore waters, says Khaw Channel NewsAsia 18th Dec 2018
SINGAPORE: One Malaysian ship remains in Singapore's territorial waters as of Dec 12, said Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan as he noted the steps taken by Malaysia to de-escalate tensions on the ground. There were three Malaysian government vessels in Singapore's waters on December 7. 

National Affairs

How a House Provoked a Feud in Singapore’s Lee Family: QuickTake Bloomberg 7th Jan 2019
Singapore’s most famous family became embroiled in a very public feud in 2017 when a spat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two younger siblings spilled onto Facebook. The argument centered on the fate of the house that belonged to their late father, the country’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew. It marked a rare public display of acrimony from the family that’s been at the forefront of Singapore’s establishment since the country’s independence in 1965 -- and that largely kept private any discord before the elder Lee’s death in 2015. It’s a dispute that continues to simmer.

Singapore activist found guilty of hosting ‘illegal assembly’ via Skype TechCrunch 4th Jan 2019
An ongoing case in Singapore is testing the legal boundaries of virtual conferences. A court in the Southeast Asian city-state this week convicted human rights activist Jolovan Wham of organizing a public assembly via Skype without a permit and refusing to sign his statement when ordered by the police. Wham, 39, is a social worker at Community Action Network Singapore consisting of a group of activists, social workers and journalists advocating civil and political rights. He previously served as executive director of migrant worker advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. In Singapore, it is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to organize or participate in a public assembly without a police permit. The police described Wham’s act as “recalcitrant” in regard to organizing and participating in illegal public assemblies. Commenting on the charge against Wham, a joint statement from Joshua Wong and members of CAN Singapore argued that the event was “closed-door.” “Skype conversations that take place within the confines of a private space are private matters that should logically, not require permits before they can be carried out,” raged the statement. “Wham’s discussion with Wong ended peacefully and would not have drawn any further attention if authorities hadn’t decided to act.”

Surreal photos of 'fairytale' Singapore CNN 4th Jan 2019
With their pleasing colors and playful compositions, Nguan's images of Singapore portray the city-state as a dreamy wonderland. But this is somewhat at odds with the photographer's view of his hometown as a high-functioning but sterile place. So Nguan, who goes by his given name, subverts the city's reputation by turning his lens on older parts of the city. "Singapore is clean and efficient but you don't feel anything when you think of the country," said Nguan in a phone interview. "Nobody would refer to (it) as beautiful.I wanted Singapore to look like an illustrated fairytale." Since returning from studying filmmaking in the US in 2007, the photographer has been capturing neglected corners of the country, from its hawker centers to pastel-colored spiral staircases.

Being black in Singapore: Our African history might go back to Bugis ancestry Channel News Asia 3rd Jan 2019
A new play at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival looks at the history of black people in Singapore.

No rest for the dead: Singapore digs up graves for highways Thomson Reuters Foundation 3rd Jan 2019
With some 5.6 million people in an area three-fifths the size of New York City, Singapore is running out of space. When Singapore's government said it would exhume about 4,000 graves in the defunct Bukit Brown cemetery for an eight-lane highway, an unusually vocal campaign grew quickly to save one of the last remaining artefacts of the past in the modern city. The cemetery, a rare patch of jungle surrounded by manicured gardens and high rises, has about 100,000 graves, including hundreds of early Chinese immigrants. It is also considered an important relic of the Japanese occupation and World War Two. Although the cemetery closed for burials nearly 50 years ago, descendants still visit their ancestors' graves. But that ritual will soon end, as Bukit Brown is scheduled to be cleared for housing by 2030.

Ex-PM Goh takes veiled jab against “veteran politician” likely aimed at Tan Cheng Bock The Independent Sg 3rd Jan 2019
On New Year’s day, former Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong took to Facebook to warn Singaporeans to be “sceptical of any veteran politician’s practised words”. Although Mr Goh did not refer to any particular “veteran politician”, several political observers suggested that the former Prime Minister was most likely referring to Dr Tan Cheng Bock who had said a day before that he was retiring from the practice of medicine to serve the people of Singapore.

Singapore-Malaysia tensions still simmer ahead of bilateral talks Nikkei Asian Review 3rd Jan 2019
The fresh spat came as the two countries, which earlier said they would meet in the second week of January, have confirmed that their foreign ministers will meet on Jan. 8 in Singapore to discuss the airspace issue as well as the maritime dispute in which Singapore claimed Malaysian vessels' had made "intrusions" into its territorial waters. The tensions rose again through the new year as the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia in late December issued a Notice to Airmen -- a written notification issued to pilots -- saying that Malaysia would set a permanent "restricted area" near the Singapore border for military activities. "Non-military flights are not permitted except prior approval is obtained," the notice read. 

Same-old in Singapore Nikkei Asian Review 2nd Jan 2019
November's elevation of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to a top party position -- first assistant secretary-general -- promises no break from this pattern. It positions him to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who intends stepping down after the next election, which could be this year. In doing this, the PAP has bypassed an opportunity to revitalize its appeal, project a strong and distinctive multiethnic Singaporean identity, and dispel its aura of an exclusive, self-selected elite. In going for the bland, it risks a popular revolt at the ballot box -- perhaps worse than the shock it got in 2011. Malaysia has just shown what can be done, without the sky falling in.

Blogger Leong Sze Hian files defence and countersuit against PM Lee The Straits Times 26th Dec 2018
Financial adviser and blogger Leong Sze Hian has filed a defence and countersuit against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, claiming PM Lee's defamation suit against him is an abuse of the process of the court.

Digging deep: Singapore plans an underground future Thomas Reuters Foundation 23rd Dec 2018
SINGAPORE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From its towering “supertree” vertical gardens to a Formula 1 night race, Singapore is known for many attractions; underground space is not one of them. But that may soon change, as the city-state prepares to unveil an Underground Master Plan in 2019.

Gay father permitted to adopt biological son born via surrogacy, in first for Singapore Channel News Asia 17th Dec 2018
SINGAPORE: The High Court of Singapore on Monday (Dec 17) allowed a gay man’s application to adopt his five-year-old biological son who was born through a surrogate mother in the United States. Despite public policy in favor of parenthood within marriage - and against the formation of same-sex units - the court decided it would be imperative to place the welfare of the child as first and paramount.

Scale of theft at Shell's Singapore refinery much greater, court documents show Channel NewsAsia 14th Dec 2018
SINGAPORE: Around US$150 million worth of oil was stolen from Shell's biggest global refinery over several years, Singapore court documents reviewed by Reuters show, far more than reported when police first revealed the heist earlier this year. Almost a year on from raids that led to over a dozen arrests, including of several former employees of the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell, charge sheets state that around 340,000 tonnes of oil were stolen from the oil major's Pulau Bukom site in Singapore, in incidents dating back to 2014.Besides the former Shell employees, there have been related charges filed against former employees of one of Singapore's biggest marine fuel suppliers, Sentek Marine & Trading; a Singaporean who worked for Intertek, a British-listed company specializing in quality and quantity assurance, including for fuel products; and three Vietnamese nationals who allegedly received stolen property aboard ships.

Market Development

Tesla's Musk Says Singapore Government Has Been ‘Unwelcome’ Bloomberg 3rd Jan 2019
Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk reiterated that Singapore has been “unwelcome” to the company, doubling down on his previous assertions that the government isn’t supportive of electric vehicles.

The top 2018 trending Google searches in Singapore: From Malaysia Elections to Black Panther The Straits Times 12th Dec 2018
What were Singaporeans most curious about in 2018? Sports and current affairs, Google says.

Asset Management

Noble Group Says Rescue Is Done as Singapore Probe Drags On Bloomberg 19th Dec 2018
Noble Group Ltd. finally completed its mammoth debt-for-equity restructuring, handing control of its assets to creditors as Singapore regulators continue to probe the commodity trader and its officers for possible breaches of the law. After its preferred rescue plan was blocked by Singapore’s refusal to let it relist in the city-state, Noble pursued its Plan-B in Bermuda, where a court appointed an officer to carry out a kind of insolvency process. Under the plan, so-called New Noble Group assumes all of the company’s assets, new bonds have been issued and $800 million in new financing has been made available.

Customs

Do more to promote new China trade corridor: Chan Chun Sing The Straits Times 7th Jan 2019
More needs to be done to attract users to the new land and sea trade corridor that connects western China to South-east Asia, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. "Coordination among the western provinces in China is key as we work towards the common vision of enhancing trade flows and achieving greater regional integration," he said in an e-mail interview with Chongqing Daily published today. Mr Chan said while good progress has been made in linking railway networks in western China to the Qinzhou port in southern Guangxi - which connects to South-east Asia via sea - more effort is needed to boost cargo volumes to further lower costs.

Three-quarter tank rule to apply to Singapore-registered diesel vehicles leaving country from April The Straits Times 2nd Jan 2019
SINGAPORE - From April 1, Singapore-registered vehicles running on diesel will be required to have at least three-quarters of the tank filled when leaving Singapore via the land checkpoints. The Singapore Customs said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 2) that the expansion of the three-quarter tank rule is in line with the recent introduction of a usage-based diesel duty. The measure, which was announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at Budget 2017, is meant to encourage drivers and fleet owners to use the fuel more judiciously and, consequently, pollute the air less. Currently, the three-quarter tank rule applies only to Singapore-registered vehicles powered by petrol and compressed natural gas. But from April 1, drivers of diesel-powered vehicles who do not comply with the rule could face a composition fine of up to $500, or be prosecuted in court, the Singapore Customs said. Drivers may also be required to perform a U-turn at the land checkpoints if they are caught committing the offence. In the statement, the Singapore Customs also urged drivers to follow the rule to avoid any inconvenience to their overseas trips. The agency has also informed logistics and transport associations of this change as well as put up posters to remind drivers at the land checkpoints.

Defense & Security

Proposal for Singapore's F-15 fighter jets to train in New Zealand cancelled: Mindef The Straits Times 7th Jan 2019
A proposal for Singapore's F-15 fighter jet training to be conducted in New Zealand on a long-term basis will not be taking off, said the Ministry of Defence on Monday (Jan 7). The decision follows nearly two years of discussions between the two countries, and confirms a New Zealand media report in December 2018 that the plans have been scrapped because of "excessive costs".

Hackers get invite to find holes in Singapore Govt's digital systems in 2nd bug bounty exercise Channel NewsAsia 21st Dec 2018
A second bug bounty programme targeting five Government systems and websites in Singapore is currently underway, according to a joint release by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA). Issued on Friday (Dec 21), both agencies said they will partner local and overseas ethical, or white hat, hackers to search for vulnerabilities in these systems in return for rewards.

Why Are Border Disputes Rocking Malaysia-Singapore Ties After Mahathir’s Return? The Diplomat 11th Dec 2018
The renewed disputes over air and maritime boundaries between the two countries represent just the latest in a series of incidents that have spotlighted the revival of old tensions in the Malaysia-Singapore bilateral relationship since Mahathir’s return to power. More broadly, they reflect the challenges both sides have faced in recalibrating their ties as Malaysia transitions to a post-Najib era and Singapore also prepares for its longer-term domestic transition away from current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Economics

Singapore's private home prices rise nearly 8% in 2018 Channel NewsAsia 3rd Jan 2019
SINGAPORE: Private home prices in Singapore rose 7.9 per cent in 2018, compared with a 1.1 per cent rise the year before, according to flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Wednesday (Jan 2). However, the rise appeared to have slowed significantly after the Government introduced more measures in July to cool the red-hot market. Private home prices slowed to a 0.5 per cent increase in the third quarter of 2018, and fell 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter, URA's estimates showed.

Singapore’s Q4 GDP slows slightly to 2.2%, misses expectations: MTI advance estimates Channel NewsAsia 3rd Jan 2019
SINGAPORE: The Singapore economy grew 2.2 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the final three months of 2018, easing slightly from the previous quarter and missing economist predictions, according to advance estimates released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Wednesday (Jan 2).

Singapore Home Prices Post First Drop in Six Quarters Bloomberg 2nd Jan 2019
Singapore home prices posted their first decline in six quarters as the government’s cooling measures imposed in July started to bite.

Singapore's Export-Reliant Economy Ends 2018 on Slower Note Bloomberg 1st Jan 2019
Singapore’s economic growth slowed and home prices fell toward the end of last year as global trade tensions and rising interest rates took their toll on the export-reliant city state.

Singapore Economy Grows 3.3% in 2018 Bloomberg 31st Dec 2018
Gross domestic product expanded 3.3 percent in 2018, Lee said in his New Year message on Monday. That matches the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 14 economists. Singapore is forecast to grow 1.5 percent to 3.5 percent next year, he said, citing "major uncertainties" in the global economy amid trade conflicts and nervous financial markets.

Singapore vulnerable to rising sea level, severe floods: Masagos Channel NewsAsia 12th Dec 2018
Small island developing states such as Singapore are at risk of "dire consequences" if current warming trends continue, said Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli. The minister was speaking at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP24) on Wednesday (Dec 12) in Katowice, Poland.

Energy

Owners of Singapore diesel-powered vehicles unbothered by three-quarter tank rule Channel NewsAsia 4th Jan 2019
SINGAPORE: Owners of Singapore-registered diesel-powered vehicles do not have major concerns about the need to have at least three-quarters of a tank of fuel when leaving Singapore via the land checkpoints.  This minimum requirement, commonly referred to as the "three-quarter tank rule", takes effect from Apr 1 for diesel-powered vehicles. It currently only applies to Singapore vehicles running on petrol and compressed natural gas. "This is in line with the introduction of a usage-based diesel duty announced in Budget 2017 to reduce diesel consumption and resultant air pollution,” Singapore Customs said in a news release on Wednesday (Jan 2). 

Biofuel firm Neste to invest $2.2b in Singapore production The Straits Times 12th Dec 2018
Finnish biofuel producer and oil refiner Neste said on December 12 it will boost its biofuel production capacity in Singapore with a bigger-than-expected investment of €1.4 billion (S$2.2 billion). Neste, 44.75 per cent owned by the state of Finland, has in recent years emerged as one of the leading players in the renewable diesel market thanks to its global sales and wide range of feedstock including waste and residues like animal fats. The investment will boost Neste's renewable production capacity to 4.5 million tonnes annually by 2022 from a current 2.7 million tonnes. Neste had previously talked about increasing the capacity by one million tonnes. Neste makes biofuels in Singapore, Rotterdam and Porvoo, Finland, and it also does conventional oil refining in Finland. The new production line is due to start in 2022. Shares in the company were up 0.9 per cent by 0806 GMT.

Electricity, gas tariffs to drop in 2019 first quarter Channel NewsAsia 30th Dec 2018
Electricity tariffs will decrease by an average of 1.2 per cent or 0.28 cent per kWh from Jan 1 to Mar 31 next year, compared to the previous quarter, SP Group announced on Sunday (Dec 30). Households’ electricity tariff will fall from 24.13 cents to 23.85 cents per kWh. In effect, the average monthly electricity bill for four-room HDB flats will decrease by S$1, SP Group said. The lower tariffs are mainly due to the lower cost of natural gas for electricity generation compared to the previous quarter. This marks the first fall in tariffs since the last quarter of 2017, when the household tariff was 20.30 cents per kWh. SP Group reviews electricity tariffs quarterly based on guidelines set by the Energy Market Authority, the electricity industry regulator. In a separate news release, City Gas also announced on Sunday that gas tariffs will decrease in the first quarter of 2019 by 0.81 per cent or 0.16 cent per kWh, from 19.67 cents per kWh to 19.51 cents per kWh. This is due to a decrease in fuel costs compared with the previous quarter, City Gas said in its media release.

Financial Services

Singapore central bank bans former Goldman Sachs director Tim Leissner for life Channel NewsAsia 3rd Jan 2019
SINGAPORE: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced on Wednesday (Dec 19) that it has issued a lifetime prohibition order against former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner, after he admitted to criminal charges brought against him by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The charges relate to an investigation into troubled Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).Leissner was charged by the DOJ on Nov 1 and pleaded guilty to charges which included conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Health & Life Sciences

Commentary: The year Singapore attempts to snuff out tobacco Channel NewsAsia 1st Jan 2019
Singapore appears to be systematically de-normalising tobacco use as a habit, and painting it as a socially unacceptable and undesirable activity. Apart from hiking up excise taxes on all tobacco products in February 2018 to make smoking more financially costly, the Smoking Act was amended to make it more difficult to smoke in public spaces. The passed amendments additionally bans smoking in reservoirs and parks, compounds of autonomous universities and private education institutions, and more recently, public areas within the Orchard Road precinct, with the latter to be implemented come Jan 1, 2019.

Staying ahead of the healthcare game in Asia Asia-Pacific Biotech News 3rd Jan 2019
Collaboration between healthcare leaders in the public and private sectors through funding and various training avenues is what will help the medical industry overcome their challenges and drive the acceleration of the adoption of new, less-invasive technology. The wheels have been set in place around the region to ensure that access to quality health care improves. It is vital that both the public and private healthcare sectors continue this commitment in working together to stay ahead of the healthcare game. This ensures that the best care is made readily available across generations for a better future

Smoking ban for Orchard Road kicks in The Straits Times 1st Jan 2019
SINGAPORE - Orchard Road is now smoke-free, as a precinct-wide smoking ban kicked in on Tuesday (Jan 1) prohibiting smokers from lighting up in public areas except within designated smoking areas (DSAs).

Health ministry launches online calculator for CareShield Life premiums Channel NewsAsia 27th Dec 2018
SINGAPORE: Some members of the public will now be able to get an estimate of how much in premiums they might have to pay under CareShield Life, with the launch of an online calculator by the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Thursday (Dec 27). CareShield Life is an enhanced version of ElderShield, the current long-term care insurance scheme for those with severe disability. The scheme will be compulsory for Singapore residents born in 1980 or later, and will be launched in 2020. In its press release on Thursday, MOH said that the online calculator will provide Singaporeans with information on their estimated premiums before and after applicable subsidies and incentives, for the initial years of the scheme from 2020 to 2025.

No asbestos found in Johnson & Johnson's baby powder in Singapore: HSA The Straits Times 22nd Dec 2018
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has said that it did not find any asbestos in Johnson & Johnson's baby powder or other talc products sold here. HSA has also not received reports on adverse reactions associated with the use of talc in cosmetic products in Singapore, including J&J baby powder, the regulator told The Straits Times.

Tax reliefs for insurance policies and new mothers may benefit Singapore's economy Singapore Business Review 19th Dec 2018
Deductions could be subject to a cap which could be scaled according to age. Enabling a tax write-off for health insurance premiums may encourage more taxpayers to take up health insurance policies for themselves and their families amidst arising chronic conditions and growing demand for health services which place complex pressures on Singapore’s healthcare system, according to PwC Singapore’s Budget Proposal 2019.

Singapore's staggering healthcare costs may be pushing medical tourists away Singapore Business Review 18th Dec 2018
The rising cost of healthcare in Singapore is increasingly diminishing the city’s attractiveness as a medical tourism hub with patients opting to turn to neighboring countries for their medical needs, according to RHB Research. “As healthcare costs in neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Thailand are much lower, they have been attracting medical tourists from the region – thereby eating into Singapore's market share,” analyst Juliana Cai said in a report. The strengthening of the Singapore Dollar against regional currencies also adds to the already expensive cost burden even as healthcare providers in other countries have been investing in the quality of their services whilst keeping costs down.

New integrated care model for elderly patients under trial The Straits Times 15th Dec 2018
Under a new model of care, being piloted in Singapore for the first time at Alexandra Hospital, patients will be cared for by the same team from admission to discharge and stay under the same hospital roof, instead of being moved from an acute hospital to a community one. Called the integrated general hospital model, it aims to better meet the needs of a growing group of elderly patients, many of whom have multiple medical conditions, said Alexandra Hospital and the Ministry of Health's Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT), which collaborated on the initiative. If successful, the model could be implemented at other hospitals.

ICT

Top 25 tech stocks hit average returns of 5.7% in December Singapore Business Review 14th Dec 2018
Venture's total returns was recorded at -25.3% in December YTD. The Singapore Exchange (SGX) revealed that the returns of the top 25 technology stocks saw average returns hit 5.7% in December YTD whilst median returns were recorded at -15.9%. Total returns of the said stocks in 2017 hit 87.3% and median returns recorded at 72.1%, data from SGX showed.

Singapore defends crown in Asian Digital Transformation index Singapore Business Review 14th Dec 2018
It clinched the top spot for the digital infrastructure and human capital measures. Singapore is still the king of Asian digital transformation as it remained on top for the second year of the study by the The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with its score of 78, sealing a 14.5 lead over its runner up, Japan. Meanwhile, Hong Kong clinched the third place with a score of 62.3. The Lion City clinched the top spot in the measures including digital infrastructure and human capital.

SingPost customers may soon receive SMS alerts half an hour before delivery Channel NewsAsia 14th Dec 2018
National postman Singapore Post may soon be able to send SMS alerts to customers half an hour before their courier arrives, thanks to a new artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled logistics platform. The postal service provider announced in a news release on Monday (Dec 10) that it is introducing AI to its regional logistics platform LaMP (Last Mile Platform), in a move that will allow it to improve parcel traceability, better plot courier delivery routes and alert customers to deliveries.

Faster patent for fintech firms in Singapore Channel NewsAsia 14th Dec 2018
Applying for a patent from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore usually takes up to four years. But the agency is now hoping to speed things up with a new initiative which could shorten the waiting time to as little as six months.

Infrastructure

China's Zhoushan to go after Singapore marine hub's top billing Channel NewsAsia 3rd Jan 2019
ZHOUSHAN: China's port city of Zhoushan is planning to challenge Singapore's dominance of the multi-billion dollar shipping fuel industry, relying on proximity to some of the world's biggest ports and Beijing's support to give it an edge. The port facilities in the cluster of islands around Zhoushan have annual marine fuel sales of 3.6 million tonnes, less than a tenth of the record 50.6 million tonnes of shipping or bunker fuel Singapore sold in 2017. Zhoushan, though, was ranked fourth in global container traffic in 2016, according to the World Shipping Council, and it sits 150 kilometres from the world's biggest container port at Shanghai, and within a day's voyage of other major ports including Ningbo and Nanjing. Zhoushan wants to go after the fuelling business represented by this traffic, and many shippers and analysts expect it to mount the first serious challenge to Singapore in decades. A thriving bunker market attracts valuable secondary businesses - shipping supplies, maintenance and repairs, insurance and other maritime financial services - worth billions of dollars more a year.

Insurance

Government to take over administration of ElderShield from 2021 Channel NewsAsia 7th Jan 2019
SINGAPORE: The Government will take over the administration of ElderShield from private insurers in 2021, a move that will allow policyholders a smoother upgrade to CareShield Life, a new national disability insurance scheme scheduled to be introduced next year. The announcement was made on Monday (Jan 7) by the Ministry of Health (MOH), who said that the government will administer the ElderShield scheme on a not-for-profit basis.

Manufacturing

Singapore non-oil exports drop 2.6% in November, following 7 straight months of increase The Straits Times 17th Dec 2018
The fall of 2.6 per cent marked the first drop in non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) after seven months of continuous increase, and follows October's 8.2 per cent growth, according to Enterprise Singapore data on Monday (Dec 17). Electronics exports finally saw growth, rising 4.5 per cent in November, after a 3.6 per cent drop the month before, led by expansions in shipments of integrated circuits (27.9 per cent), consumer electronics (11.5 per cent) and telecommunications equipment (3.4 per cent). Non-electronics shipments, however, declined by 5.2 per cent after a 12.7 per cent rise in the previous month. Falls in non-monetary gold (77.9 per cent), specialised machinery (12.8 per cent) and petrochemicals (7.8 per cent) contributed the most to the decline.


Travel & Tourism

Two Strategic Days in Singapore: Where to Splurge, Where to Save WSJ 4th Jan 2019
Regularly rated as southeast Asia’s most expensive city, Singapore has a hefty supply of fine hotels and designer shopping enclaves as well as 39 Michelin-starred restaurants. Just slightly larger in area than Chicago, with twice the population, this city-state is a mecca for luxury lovers. Compared with other world capitals, Singapore also offers considerable bang for the buck. The wealth of cultural activities are surprisingly affordable, while food-obsessed locals justifiably crow about the city’s stellar street food regulated by an army of hygiene-conscious inspectors.

Tennis: Singapore one of five cities on shortlist to host ATP Finals from 2021 The Straits Times 14th Dec 2018
Singapore is one step closer to welcoming the top men's tennis stars after the Republic was yesterday included on the shortlist of five cities vying to host the season-ending ATP Finals beyond 2020. The ATP, which governs professional men's tennis, said in a statement that Singapore, Manchester, Tokyo, Turin and current host London are being assessed in the final phase of the bidding process for the 2021 to 2025 season-enders. A decision on the tournament's next host will be made no earlier than March.