Singapore Update: December 12, 2019

Singapore Update | December 12, 2019
Authors: Kim Yaeger, Sunita Kapoor, Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, J-Ren Ong and Taylor Dumaine
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

January 14-16: 2020 Business Mission to the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting: Register for the mission here. Please contact Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at lalmonte@usasean.org or Steven Gunawan at sgunawan@usasean.org with any questions. 

January 16: Meeting with the Singapore Joint Cybersecurity Working Group: Register for the event now. Please contact Jamie Lim at jlim@usasean.org with any questions. 

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

HSA recalls 3 versions of diabetes drug amid global testing for contamination

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has recalled three versions of the diabetes medication metformin after they were found to be contaminated with trace amounts of a nitrosamine impurity. The impurity in question, N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is an organic compound identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a potential human carcinogen. On December 4th, 2019, HSA uncovered three metformin variants containing NDMA above internationally acceptable levels. Tests on all 46 locally marketed metformin medications have been conducted by HSA, finding 43 to be unaffected.

Metformin is an oral medication prescribed to patients with type-2 diabetes to control blood sugar levels. The specific metformin variants being recalled are a single batch of Glucient XR Tablet 500mg (batch no. 2881382), supplied by Glorious Dexa Singapore, and all batches of Meijumet Prolonged Release Tablet in 750mg, and 1,000mg supplied by Pharmazen Medical.

Currently, HSA is working with metformin suppliers and international regulatory agencies to verify the source of the contamination. The authority has also advised healthcare professionals to contact patients prescribed contaminated metformin to arrange an exchange for their medication as soon as possible. HSA has also encouraged patients not to stop treatment on their own.

The cancer risk posed by NDMA contaminated metformin is very low, and are associated with long-term exposure. The three recalled metformin medicines had only been circulated for a short period, since last year. Acceptable levels of NDMA are set in nanograms, based on what is considered reasonably safe if a patient continues to take affected medicine every day for a lifetime of 70 years. Furthermore, HSA elaborates that the added cancer risk from additional 6-month exposure is estimated at less than 0.00002%.

Outside ASEAN, the European Medicines Agency now testing metformin sold within the EU but has not detected dangerous levels of NDMA. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also planning to test metformin sold in the US for unacceptable levels of NDMA and will enact recalls if necessary.

Singapore’s Government Agencies to Increase Personal Data Security

On November 27, the Government of Singapore announced that it has accepted recommendations submitted by the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee (PSDSRC) to address safeguarding personal data. New measures include only collecting individual’s data when “strictly necessary.” Citizens will now be notified in a timelier manner if any of their data is compromised, and there will be a single contact point for the public to report data incidents. Public sector officers will also be required to complete a yearly data security training program. The PSDSRC was established in March of this year to develop solutions to protect private data after a string of cybersecurity breaches over the past year. The Committee is chaired by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, and is composed of Ministers involved in Singapore's Smart Nation initiative as well as private sector experts on data security and technology.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to personal data protection, especially in the age of the growing digital economy. The Prime Minister also highlighted that the use of data is essential for economic growth and the improvement of public services, but that citizens should also have a right to data privacy and security. The new measures are aimed at protecting data while continuing to encourage digital innovation.

Earlier this year, the PSDSRC released 13 technical measures to better secure personal data through digital solutions and IT tools. More recent measures are dedicated to changing the systems of e-government that leave data vulnerable, and to improving the detection and response to such breaches. The Digital Government Executive Committee will oversee implementation, and the revisions will be implemented in 80 percent of government systems by the end of 2021, with the remainder implemented by the end of 2023.

Singapore signs Fighter Training Detachment Pact with US to establish RSAF fighter training detachment in Guam

On December 6th, 2019, Singapore Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed the Fighter Training Detachment Pact, to solidify The Republic of Singapore Airforce’s (RSAF) presence on Guam. The agreement will establish a permanent RSAF Fighter Training Detachment in Anderson Airforce Base (AAFB) by 2029. Singapore plans to station a squadron of F-15SG and F-16 fighter aircraft, with supporting assets like the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning system (G550-AEW) at AAFB. This will be the 4th RSAF detachment on US territory, following detachments in Luke Airforce Base in Arizona, Mountain Home Base in Idaho and another detachment in Marana also in Arizona. The RSAF also has two training detachments in Australia and one in Bordeaux France.

From an operations perspective, this most recent security agreement builds upon training that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has conducted in Guam since the 1990s along with periodic deployments since 2017. The fighter detachment in AAFB will allow the RSAF to leverage the vast airspace over Guam to conduct realistic training, improving the operational readiness and capabilities of Singapore's pilots. However, from a wider strategic lens, the fighter training detachment pact signals a heightening in military cooperation between the US and Singapore in 2019. This is further reinforced by large-scale bilateral exercises like Exercise Pacific Griffin and the renewal of the US-Singapore Military Facilities Agreement, exemplifying the deepening defence partnership between the US and Singapore. Singapore has long relied on the US as a key supplier of defence technology and training facilities, whilst the US views Singapore as a valued partner in the region, assisting with critical security issues like counter-terrorism and counter-piracy.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Singapore Budget 2020.

Singapore’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) announced on December 1 that it is seeking views and suggestions from all Singaporeans in preparation for Budget 2020, which is scheduled to be presented next February. Budget themes revolve around security and external relations, business growth/innovation/costs, training/employment, support for families, and support for seniors.

Questions include which areas of enterprise capabilities do businesses need in order to compete better amidst the current uncertainties, how internationalization efforts are progressing, and what are some challenges and opportunities in internationalization for your industry or company arising from ongoing US-China trade tensions. Under training and employment, while there are schemes to support firms and workers, the Government wants to know what are some of the barriers to workers taking up more individual-based training, and the barriers for employers sending their workers for training, as well as how these barriers can be addressed.

The public can also suggest how the Government can further encourage and support older workers in continuing employment. To offer their views and suggestions ahead of Budget 2020, the public can use the Reach Budget 2020 microsite as well as booths and kiosks in areas such as Toa Payoh HDB Hub and more than 20 locations around the island. Members are encouraged to submit views and suggestions no later than December 18, 2019 for inclusion in any Council submission. The Council has also issued a separat call for input on this topic. Please contact Sunita Kapoor skapoor@usasean.org or Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez lalmonte@usasean.org.  

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Asean, South Korea committed to greater connectivity and cooperation despite global headwinds: PM Lee
Walls are being built worldwide, but S'pore must build bridges: Heng Swee Keat at ST Global Outlook Forum

National Affairs
Centre supporting heartland businesses to expand reach
Cleaners to be better trained in safety; higher minimum pay for restroom staff
Government keeps steady supply of private housing for first half of 2020 land sales programme

ASEAN
Companies go 'speed dating' in race for Singapore digital bank licenses: sources
Digital transformation pivotal to future of Singapore SMEs
"Business sans Borders" achieves successful proof-of-concept to enhance SME access to trade opportunities
How Singapore's Business sans Borders will benefit SMEs across Asia

Defense & Security
Singapore and United States sign pact to set up RSAF fighter training detachment in Guam
Singapore has sovereign right to use death penalty against drug offenders: Ministries respond to Malaysian minister

Economics
18 more companies selected to join Enterprise Singapore's scheme to help firms grow faster
Resource centre for mom-and-pop shops sets ambitious targets aimed at revitalising sales
Government stimulus is the new monetary easing for global economy
Public feedback sought ahead of Budget 2020
Workers' Party calls for universal HDB flat buyback scheme in new housing policy paper
Uncertain economic outlook, unsold supply may weigh on private home market: MAS
More help for PMETs and businesses in manufacturing sector
Employers can reduce locals' anxieties about losing out to foreigners by hiring and promoting fairly: Josephine Teo
Job-clustering pilot to begin next year, could provide better progression and wages for workers

Energy
Singapore to take its climate change fight to next level
Total opens Asia Pacific HQ in Singapore to drive regional growth in fossil fuels, renewable businesses
UOB offering financing plans for Singapore firms, home owners switching to solar power

Financial Services
Micro firms' take-up rate of fintech services far behind SMEs in Singapore: Survey
Companies form alliances for Singapore’s digital bank licences
Fintechs lag banks in providing financial services to Singapore businesses: report

Food & Agriculture
New campaign to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce on the cards
Creative solutions key to growing agri-food sector
More than 100 farms benefit from productivity fund as Singapore tackles food security

Health & Life Sciences
MOH accepts proposed 'informed consent' guidelines on what doctors need to tell patients for treatments
New facility in Ang Mo Kio aims to produce 5 million mosquitoes a week to fight dengue
Dengue cases rise fivefold from last year; NEA advises public to mosquito-proof homes before travelling
Greater support for medtech firms in Singapore to thrive
Decline in new HIV cases, even as more go for voluntary screening

ICT
NUS launches new think tank to explore legal issues surrounding the use of technology
IMDA launches $20m fund to boost funding of regional media projects, like movies, in Singapore
Creative and technical talent needed to boost South-east Asian media sector: Iswaran
Level up to avoid creating digital divide: DPM Heng Swee Keat
New programme to train 300 Singaporeans to design, build and maintain 'smart estates'
Singapore invokes 'fake news' law for first time over Facebook post
How to prepare for digital economy jobs
Public and private sectors to join hands on data security
Scheme to draw more women into cyber security
All govt agencies to take steps to safeguard personal data; measures to be in place in most systems by end-2021

Infrastructure
Construction of Jurong West, Bahar Junction stations on Jurong Region Line to start in 2020, end in 2026
About 3,400 warnings issued to PMD riders on footpaths last month: LTA
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Asean, South Korea committed to greater connectivity and cooperation despite global headwinds: PM Lee The Straits Times 26th Nov 2019
At a time when globalisation and multilateral cooperation are under pressure, Asean and South Korea are taking the lead to push back against the tide as they see the benefits of greater connectivity, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He said the progress made on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the resumption of Asean-Republic of Korea (ROK) air services agreement negotiations are a testament to both sides' commitment to closer ties. He called on them to strengthen the Asean-ROK Free Trade Area and collaborate in new areas such as smart cities, digital economy and cyber security. South Korea, the 10 Asean nations and four other countries - Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand - concluded text-based negotiations on all 20 chapters and market access issues of the mega trade pact earlier this month. With a combined 29 per cent share of world GDP, RCEP is on a par with the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and larger than the European Union.

Walls are being built worldwide, but S'pore must build bridges: Heng Swee Keat at ST Global Outlook Forum The Straits Times 22nd Nov 2019
As the world builds walls, Singapore must go against the tide and build bridges, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday (Nov 22). To do so, it must stay united, renew its social compact and work with like-minded partners to keep the world open, he added. "The free, open and rules-based international order is under stress. If countries wall up, or if there is a new Iron Curtain, the cost to Singapore will be significant," Mr Heng said. "Trade is our lifeblood, and multilateralism is how small countries like us have a place in the world."

National Affairs

Centre supporting heartland businesses to expand reach The Straits Times 6th Dec 2019
The move to revitalise the heartland retail scene is well under way, with ambitious plans by Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore (HECS) to upgrade businesses and workers next year. The centre, which was launched in June, aims to train at least 1,000 employers and workers and help 200 heartland enterprises better use technology in their operations, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat. HECS will also work with five more merchant associations to develop rejuvenation plans for their precincts, Mr Chee said at the Singapore Heartland Enterprise Star Award 2019 event at Shangri-La Hotel last night.

Cleaners to be better trained in safety; higher minimum pay for restroom staff The Straits Times 3rd Dec 2019
All resident cleaners will need to be trained in workplace safety and health from 2022 to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls among a workforce that tends to be older. Their employers should also send them for one of the core Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) modules identified by the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners (TCC) for their relevant job level. And the minimum pay for cleaners who look after restrooms must be higher than that of general indoor cleaners from July 1, 2021.

Government keeps steady supply of private housing for first half of 2020 land sales programme The Straits Times 3rd Dec 2019
The Government has kept largely unchanged the amount of private residential housing under the government land sales (GLS) programme for the first half of 2020, in view of the supply overhang and as developers' bids for land moderated after property cooling measures. "The Government will continue to monitor the property market closely and adjust the supply for future GLS programmes, as necessary," the Ministry of National Development (MND) said in an announcement on Tuesday morning (Dec 3). The new supply consists of three confirmed list sites and eight reserve list sites that can yield about 6,490 private homes, 114,000 sq m gross floor area (GFA) of commercial space and 1,070 hotel rooms.

ASEAN

Companies go 'speed dating' in race for Singapore digital bank licenses: sources Reuters 10th Dec 2019
About three dozen firms including ride-hailer Grab, Standard Chartered (STAN.L) and Singapore Telecommunications (STEL.SI) are in talks to form consortiums that can meet tough entry norms to bid for Singapore’s digital bank licenses, sources said. Singapore’s biggest liberalization of its banking sector in two decades seeks to enable online-only banks that can operate at lower costs and therefore offer different services than those of incumbents including DBS Group (DBSM.SI) and OCBC (OCBC.SI). But some conditions are stiffer than in other markets such as Hong Kong, including requiring S$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in paid-up capital for retail banks and local control. This is necessitating bidders to team up to combine banking know-how, consumer facing technology expertise and deep pockets. Singapore’s central bank will issue up to two retail and three wholesale bank licenses. Retail banks can accept deposits from and offer services to both retail and non-retail customers but must be led by a Singapore-based company. Wholesale banks will mostly serve small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Digital transformation pivotal to future of Singapore SMEs The Business Times 6th Dec 2019
HEADING into 2020, digital transformation will continue to be a strong theme for Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), driven by government support and a push for increased productivity. Beyond the laser focus on efficiency, however, digitalisation and technology adoption can address some other long-term issues for SMEs, observers say. These include growing their businesses' scale and geographical reach, and finding and retaining the right talent, said Bidhan Roy, head of small business for Asia Pacific, Japan and China at Cisco. He noted that one possible reason holding Singapore SMEs back from pursuing digital transformation so far is the need to focus on immediate needs in the day-to-day business.

"Business sans Borders" achieves successful proof-of-concept to enhance SME access to trade opportunities AsiaOne 10th Dec 2019
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) today announced the successful completion of its Business sans Borders (BSB) Phase One Proof-of-Concept[1] (POC). MAS and IMDA will proceed with the Phase Two Pilot of the BSB in 1H 2020. BSB is a "meta-hub" or connector of several SME-centric platforms. By connecting these different platforms, BSB helps SMEs seamlessly access a much larger ecosystem of buyers, sellers, logistics service providers, financing, and digital solution providers. BSB utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to enable SMEs to discover prices and sales opportunities in a larger global marketplace, access various supply chains, and easily source for and utilise relevant digital and financial solutions.

How Singapore's Business sans Borders will benefit SMEs across Asia Tech Wire Asia 3rd Dec 2019
CONNECTING small- and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) with government agencies, service providers, and technology enablers can help fuel growth despite a lack of resources to go digital. That’s the brilliant idea that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) piloted last year, with the help of five private-sector partners. Dubbed Business sans Borders (BSB), the initial phase of trials lasting nine months was recently completed, and the next phase was announced. To better understand the initiative, Tech Wire Asia reached out to Mastercard — one of the first private-sector partners to the BSB initiative.

Defense & Security

Singapore and United States sign pact to set up RSAF fighter training detachment in Guam The Straits Times 7th Dec 2019
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will set up a fighter training detachment in the United States territory of Guam under an agreement inked by Singapore and the US on Friday, in a sign of deepening defence ties between the two countries. The permanent fighter training presence at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam will be the RSAF's seventh long-term unit overseas and the closest geographically to Singapore. There are currently three other such detachments in the US - two in Arizona and one in Idaho - as well as two in Australia, and one in Bordeaux, France.

Singapore has sovereign right to use death penalty against drug offenders: Ministries respond to Malaysian minister The Straits Times 22nd Nov 2019
Singapore has the sovereign right to use the death penalty against drug offenders and expects other countries to respect its laws, said the Republic's Law and Home Affairs ministries in a joint statement on Friday (Nov 22). The ministries were replying to a statement by Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong, who had noted with "grave concern" the execution of a Malaysian citizen for drug offences in Singapore. Convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Abd Helmi Ab Halim had his death sentence carried out on Friday (Nov 22) at Changi Prison Complex, after an unsuccessful petition to Singapore's President for clemency.

Economics

18 more companies selected to join Enterprise Singapore's scheme to help firms grow faster The Straits Times 5th Dec 2019
Food and beverage distributor Lim Siang Huat has been doing business in Singapore for 79 years, and currently plans to consolidate operations under a single warehouse, rather than to operate out of three facilities as it does now. The company will be getting help to reach this goal through the Scale-up SG programme, which aims to help high-growth local companies scale rapidly. "I am concerned that as a firm which has been around for so long, we may be too comfortable to challenge ourselves, and this programme is a good opportunity for us to stretch ourselves," said executive director Jack Lim, who is the third generation of leaders of the company, which he runs with his two siblings.

Resource centre for mom-and-pop shops sets ambitious targets aimed at revitalising sales The Straits Times 5th Dec 2019
The move to revitalise the heartland retail scene is well under way, with ambitious plans by Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore (HECS) to upgrade businesses and workers next year. The centre, which was launched in June, aims to train at least 1,000 employers and workers and help 200 heartland enterprises better use technology in their operations, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on Thursday (Dec 5). HECS will also work with five more merchant associations to develop rejuvenation plans for their precincts, Mr Chee added.

Government stimulus is the new monetary easing for global economy The Straits Times 4th Dec 2019
The next push for the global economy may come from governments instead of central banks - and the outcome for financial markets could be messy. Synchronised monetary easing helped keep global stocks and bonds afloat amid a succession of bruising trade disputes and geopolitical flare-ups in 2019. But the effect may tail off soon, and an array of government spending measures designed to fuel growth may produce much more divergent results. The outlook for markets in the next year varies "drastically" from country to country in line with the ability of each to deploy fiscal stimulus, said Hannah Anderson, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. The result will be "incredibly wide dispersion" for stock markets "and quite a bit of volatility therein," she said.

Public feedback sought ahead of Budget 2020 The Straits Times 1st Dec 2019
The public can use booths and kiosks in areas such as Toa Payoh HDB Hub and more than 20 locations around the island to offer their views and suggestions ahead of Budget 2020, which is scheduled to be delivered in Parliament in February next year. The Government is seeking feedback from Singaporeans on a range of topics, including how existing schemes to encourage families to offer mutual care and support can be improved, and the impact the United States-China trade tensions have had on internationalisation efforts by companies. In a joint statement on Sunday (Dec 1), the Ministry of Finance (MOF), government feedback unit Reach, and the People's Association (PA) said: "Individuals, households, and businesses are welcome to provide feedback on topics such as business growth, training and employment, support for families, and support for seniors."

Workers' Party calls for universal HDB flat buyback scheme in new housing policy paper The Straits Times 30th Nov 2019
he Workers' Party has unveiled a working paper on Singapore's housing policy, which outlined recommendations such as a universal lease buyback scheme and the current Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) to be expanded. Through these proposals, Singapore's main opposition party hopes to spark a discussion on how to better preserve the value of Housing Board flats that could lose value once their leases are up - an issue which has gained attention in recent years. Titled Counting Down to Zero: Are There Alternatives to Vers?, the 60-page paper by the party's policy team, drafted after consulting real estate experts, industry professionals, and members of the public, was published on the party's website on Friday (Nov 29).

Uncertain economic outlook, unsold supply may weigh on private home market: MAS The Straits Times 28th Nov 2019
Prospective home buyers should be mindful of risks and remain prudent before entering into long-term decisions like buying a property and taking on a mortgage, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Thursday (Nov 28). This is because ongoing uncertainties in the economic outlook and a softening labour market could negatively affect households' incomes and their demand for property. A large supply of unsold units in the medium term could also weigh on the property market. In its annual Financial Stability Review, MAS pointed out that despite the decline in vacancy rate of completed units, the number of unsold units from launched projects (excluding ECS) has doubled from 2,172 units in Q3 2018 to 4,377 units in Q3 2019.

More help for PMETs and businesses in manufacturing sector The Straits Times 28th Nov 2019
Manufacturers will get increased support so they can hire staff to support their business transformation while workers who want to enter the sector can get more help with their career transition. Business transformation refers to how workers can help a company to innovate with new technology like robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Professional conversion programmes for the manufacturing sector are offering more places to benefit an additional 1,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) over a period of three years.

Employers can reduce locals' anxieties about losing out to foreigners by hiring and promoting fairly: Josephine Teo The Straits Times 22nd Nov 2019
Employers can help to push back against "negative forces" that lead to anxieties among locals about losing out to foreigners, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Thursday (Nov 21). They can do this by practising fair hiring and advancement, she told representatives from about 50 firms at an American Chamber of Commerce human capital conference. "It may be expedient to recruit from familiar sources, but please do not keep jobs to closed circles of 'friends'. Perceptions about competence, or the lack thereof, can also be toxic," she said at the closed-door event. A copy of her speech was released by the Manpower Ministry on Friday.

Job-clustering pilot to begin next year, could provide better progression and wages for workers The Straits Times 22nd Nov 2019
A project exploring the feasibility of clustering cleaning, gardening and security jobs will be piloted early next year. Businesses see the potential to create better jobs by aggregating such roles to increase employees' productivity, and this could provide workers with better career progression and an increase in wages. Several businesses, including real estate developer CapitaLand, security services firm Certis Group and urban greenery company Greenology, are involved in the project.

Energy

Singapore to take its climate change fight to next level The Straits Times 11th Dec 2019
Singapore has indicated that it will do more to cut down its greenhouse gas emissions. The Republic will update its climate pledge to guide its policies over the longer term, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli. Already, Singapore has committed to ramping up its use of solar energy and greening its land transport sector, with the aim of having nine in 10 peak-period journeys by 2040 made via walking, cycling or rides on public and shared transport. It also wants to make electric vehicles more viable here. Mr Masagos reiterated this commitment about five years after the Republic made its first climate pledge - which outlined its plans to limit its planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 - under the historic Paris Agreement.

Total opens Asia Pacific HQ in Singapore to drive regional growth in fossil fuels, renewable businesses The Straits Times 9th Dec 2019
French energy giant Total S.A. reaffirmed its commitment to Singapore as a strategic hub by opening its regional headquarters in Frasers Tower in Cecil Street to manage its businesses across Asia Pacific. Starting its operations in 1982 with oil trading and lubricant products sales, the international oil and gas company has steadily expanded its presence in the Republic retailing petrochemicals, marketing petroleum products and related services. Total's lubricants blending plant at Singapore Lube Park in Tuas is its largest and most modern in the world. Mr Teo recounted Total's recent ventures in the country that include the company's partnership with Singapore's Pavilion Energy to build up the liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering eco-system, and with the Adani Group to supply and market LNG in India. Total is the second-largest private global LNG player, with a global market share of 10 percent.

UOB offering financing plans for Singapore firms, home owners switching to solar power The Straits Times 26th Nov 2019
UOB has partnered home-grown solar companies SolarGy, SolarPVExchange and Sunseap Group for the Singapore portion of its regional U-Solar programme, which connects Asian businesses and individuals with the lender's solar company partners to help clients go green by switching to solar power. Under the collaboration, businesses and home owners will be able to adopt solar energy by choosing from the installation, commissioning, operations and after-sales service packages for solar power systems provided by the three solar firms.

Financial Services

Micro firms' take-up rate of fintech services far behind SMEs in Singapore: Survey The Straits Times 22nd Nov 2019
Micro firms in Singapore are lagging behind their bigger peers in their use of fintech products and services, despite standing to gain the most from adopting such services. Online bookkeeping and invoice management software as well as payroll tools are some products and services that can create more process and cost efficiencies. However, only 58 per cent of micro firms - businesses with annual revenues below $1 million - have adopted fintech services in the past year, according to a report launched on Friday (Nov 22). This is significantly lower than the overall 75 per cent adoption rate among all the 272 micro firms and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) recently surveyed by the Singapore FinTech Association and Ernst & Young (EY) Corporate Advisors.

Companies form alliances for Singapore’s digital bank licences IBS Intelligence 4th Dec 2019
Ride-hailing app Grab, Standard Chartered and Singapore Telecommunications are amongst the three dozen firms who are in the midst of discussions to form consortiums to bid for Singapore’s digital bank licences, news agency Reuters reported citing sources. Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Financial and Singapore gaming company Razer are among others who are considering seeking the licences. Some of the conditions required for obtaining the licence, for instance having $1.1 billion in paid-up capital for retail banks and local control, are rigid as compared to markets such as Hong Kong. This has raised the need for companies to group and team up by combining their banking know-how, consumer-facing technology expertise and deep pockets, the report added.

Fintechs lag banks in providing financial services to Singapore businesses: report The Business Times 22nd Nov 2019
FINTECHS lag banks when it comes to providing financial services to Singapore's businesses, with limited product offerings and most businesses preferring banks to them, according to a report. Businesses' financial needs span a range of products, from payments and loans to treasury management solutions. However, fintechs are limited in terms of product offerings, often restrained by regulations and balance sheet size, said the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) and Ernst & Young (EY) in a report on Friday. In contrast, banks offer the entire breadth of services, noted SFA and EY, who surveyed 272 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). About 60 per cent of them were small and mid-sized businesses, whose annual revenues range from S$1 million to S$100 million.

Food & Agriculture

New campaign to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce on the cards The Straits Times 4th Dec 2019
Next year, fish, eggs and vegetables grown in Singapore could appear on more menus and in shopping carts here, as a campaign to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce kicks off. The campaign on the Singapore Food Story was announced on Wednesday (Dec 4) by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli at the Asian Scientist Writing Prize Award Ceremony held at the Science Centre Singapore. "Next year, my ministry will launch a campaign on the Singapore Food Story to encourage Singaporeans to grow and eat local produce," he said, highlighting the importance of the Republic's agricultural sector to buffer it against global food supply shocks.

Creative solutions key to growing agri-food sector The Straits Times 8th Dec 2019
Agriculture may be older than civilisation itself, but it is still largely an alien concept to Singaporeans. However, it may be precisely because only 1 per cent of the island's 720 sq km is given over to growing food, and because 90 per cent of what it eats has to be imported, that Singapore has the ambition to become what Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last month called "an agri-food node for Asia and the world". Experts say it may well succeed, because of the Government's support and the resources it has committed to backing that up. The sector is booming. At the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, launched a report that projected Asian spending on food would double to $10.9 trillion by 2030, with $1.1 trillion in investments needed to meet it. Singapore's investment company, Temasek, one of the report's publishers, is leading the charge. It has been steadily pumping about $7 billion into more than 30 agri-food firms - local and overseas - over the last five years. The Government has not been sitting on its hands either. To make Singapore's "30 by 30" goal - to produce 30 per cent of its total nutritional needs locally by 2030 - a reality, it has set in motion a slew of initiatives. Just last month, for example, it announced that the Agency for Science, Technology and Research would set up the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation by the middle of next year, to attract international investment and grow more food locally.

More than 100 farms benefit from productivity fund as Singapore tackles food security CNA 28th Nov 2019
More than 100 farms have benefitted from a fund to help them boost productivity as Singapore pushes to enhance its food security. As of Sep 30 this year, the Agriculture Productivity Fund has benefitted 107 farms for produce including vegetables, seafood and eggs, it was announced on Wednesday (Nov 27). The figures come after the Government said in March that the fund would be enhanced. The S$63-million fund helps co-fund systems to control environmental factors and boost production, and also helps farmers fund research and design and technology test-beds.  It is an example of how Singapore is trying to build its agri-food industry as it seeks to enhance food security, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor. As a small island nation, Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food supply, making the country vulnerable to global food market volatility. As such, the country aims to locally produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030 (its "30-by-30" vision), a sharp increase from the current figure of less than 10 per cent.

Health & Life Sciences

MOH accepts proposed 'informed consent' guidelines on what doctors need to tell patients for treatments The Straits Times 3rd Dec 2019
Serious concerns for doctors, including how they treat patients and how complaints against them are dealt with, could be allayed with changes suggested by a work group tasked with identifying and correcting problems facing the medical profession. These include how much information they need to tell patients in order not to be hauled up for wrongdoing, and also the delays of up to six years that they have to face in resolving the complaints made against them. The proposals include the creation of guidelines on what doctors need to tell patients for the more common procedures, and having a new committee dismiss frivolous complaints so they need not be dealt with by a Complaints Committee. The work group set up by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in March has submitted a total of 29 recommendations which have been accepted by the ministry. Some of the changes will require amendments to the law, Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong told reporters on Dec 3 2019 following a press conference by the work group, adding that these will be in place by the first half of next year.

New facility in Ang Mo Kio aims to produce 5 million mosquitoes a week to fight dengue The Straits Times 2nd Dec 2019
The war on dengue has received a boost with the opening of a new facility in Ang Mo Kio that can breed millions of mosquitoes a week to prevent urban female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from producing offspring. The launch on Dec 2 2019 comes at the tail end of a year in which Singapore has experienced its third-biggest dengue outbreak. As of Nov 21, more than 14,470 people here had been infected with the disease, with 20 lives lost. The project involves the release of male Wolbachia-Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to suppress the urban Aedes aegypti mosquito population, which is the primary vector of dengue, chikungunya and Zika here. When the released male Wolbachia-Aedes aegypti mosquitoes mate with urban female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that do not carry Wolbachia, the resulting eggs do not hatch. The NEA said that over time, the continued release of male Wolbachia-Aedes aegypti mosquitoes is expected to bring about a gradual reduction in the urban Aedes aegypti mosquito population, and hence lower the risk of dengue transmission.

Dengue cases rise fivefold from last year; NEA advises public to mosquito-proof homes before travelling The Straits Times 28th Nov 2019
Residents planning to go overseas for the year-end holidays should make their homes mosquito-proof before travelling, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said, amid a spike in the number of dengue cases here. Its advisory comes as the number of dengue cases rose fivefold from last year. From the beginning of the year until last Saturday, there were 14,658 dengue cases, an increase of about 5½ times compared with the same period last year. However, this number is two-thirds that of the volume of cases seen during the 2013 dengue outbreak, which had 22,170 cases for the whole year.

Greater support for medtech firms in Singapore to thrive The Business Times 1st Dec 2019
Singapore has in recent years become a hotbed for the medtech sector. According to government agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG), there were over 250 homegrown medtech companies in 2018, more than double that of 2014, with over half of them being startups. This is in part due to the established medtech ecosystem in Singapore, providing the right resources and environment for their growth. While innovative medical solutions have prolonged life spans and improved the quality of life, healthcare costs are soaring. With mounting costs and growing demand for quality healthcare, it is seen as timely for medtech companies to redefine the delivery of healthcare through innovation. In Singapore, the medtech ecosystem is growing. Official data shows that in 2018, the medtech sector contributed S$13.3 billion to Singapore's economy, from just S$3.1 billion in 2008. But this does not mean the Republic can rest on its laurels. Funding problems aside, the medtech sector faces its own unique set of challenges that have to be addressed to sustain its growth.

Decline in new HIV cases, even as more go for voluntary screening The Straits Times 1st Dec 2019
The number of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases reported among Singaporeans and permanent residents has gone down in recent years, even as more people are going for voluntary screenings. In line with World Aids Day on Sunday (Dec 1), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) released figures that showed a downward trend of HIV incidences here in the last four years - 275 cases were detected between January and October while 265 were diagnosed in the same period last year. The corresponding figures for 2017 and 2016 were 361 and 319 respectively. The full-year figures were 313 last year, 434 in 2017 and 408 in 2016. Doctors The Straits Times spoke to said they have noticed a greater awareness among the young here, especially those within the homosexual community. They said having HIV talked about more has reduced the stigma of the disease, with many now more willing to treat its diagnosis, whether in themselves or their friends, with a more open mind.

ICT

NUS launches new think tank to explore legal issues surrounding the use of technology The Straits Times 5th Dec 2019
In the hope of promoting inter-disciplinary research in technology law, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has opened a research centre for legal issues surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data analytics. The new Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Law (Trail) will be a think tank under the Faculty of Law. It was officially opened on Thursday (Dec 5) by Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong.

IMDA launches $20m fund to boost funding of regional media projects, like movies, in Singapore The Straits Times 4th Dec 2019
To help boost how media projects in the region - be they television shows, animated features or movies - can be financed in Singapore, the Government is setting aside $20 million in a call for partners to jointly fund such projects. There are no restrictions on the types of projects involved, but interested parties must set up in and invest out of Singapore, and have an established track record in media fund management. The announcement was made by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at the Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF) and ScreenSingapore at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Wednesday morning (Dec 4).

Creative and technical talent needed to boost South-east Asian media sector: Iswaran The Straits Times 2nd Dec 2019
Singapore needs to develop more media talent not just in the creative lines, but in the technical fields as well, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Monday (Dec 2). "To bring an idea to fruition, you need technology capabilities, and you need people who are well-versed in the technical aspects of production. And it has to be done at a world-class level in order for the content to be distributable to the global audience. "So I think that's an important area where government and industry can work together with our institutions of higher learning to create more of such world-class talent that can learn from the best from around the world in order to participate in this sector," Mr Iswaran said.

Level up to avoid creating digital divide: DPM Heng Swee Keat The Straits Times 1st Dec 2019
More efforts are being made to get Singaporeans on board the Smart Nation journey, and this includes a tie-up between the Government and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to equip workers with the skills and knowledge for the digital economy. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat said the tie-up would help Singaporeans upgrade and level up. "This is a journey that involves all of us. Whether you are young or old, technology is reshaping the way we live, work and play," Mr Heng said when he announced the signing of the memorandum of understanding between NTUC and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO).

Level up and upgrade skills to avoid digital divide: DPM Heng The Straits Times 30th Nov 2019
More efforts are being made to get Singaporeans on board the Smart Nation journey, and this includes a tie-up between the Government and the National Trades Union Congress to equip workers with the skills and knowledge for the digital economy. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat said the tie-up would help Singaporeans upgrade and "level up". "This is a journey that involves all of us. Whether you are young or old, technology is reshaping the way we live, work and play," he said when he announced the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the NTUC and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO).

New programme to train 300 Singaporeans to design, build and maintain 'smart estates' The Straits Times 25th Nov 2019
SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) have launched a programme to redesign jobs and skills to support the the development of "smart estates" in Singapore. Smart estates refer to estates that leverage smart technologies to enrich the lives of the community. This could include artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and even 5G technology. With support from the Building and Construction Authority, the Smart Estates Talent Development Programme (SETDP) aims to train 300 Singaporeans to design, build and maintain smart estates, they said in a joint release on Friday (Nov 22).

Singapore invokes 'fake news' law for first time over Facebook post Bangkok Post 25th Nov 2019
Singapore political figure Brad Bowyer on Monday corrected a Facebook post questioning the independence of state investment firms following a government request, in the first use of the country's new "fake news" law. Bowyer used "false and misleading" statements alleging the government influenced decisions made by state investors Temasek Holdings and GIC, according to a statement on the official government fact-checking website. Bowyer said he had placed a correction notice with a link to the government statement above his Facebook post following a request to do so under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

How to prepare for digital economy jobs The Straits Times 1st Dec 2019
As the economy embraces technology, digital skills are increasingly needed to succeed at work. These skills, from coding to deriving insights from data, are both enhancing existing jobs as well as creating new ones. But not everyone is ready for the sea change. A survey published earlier this year by cloud computing company ServiceNow found that among 304 working professionals in Singapore, nearly half - 48 per cent - were concerned about learning new skills or processes, and having to change the way they do their jobs, when faced with workplace automation.

Public and private sectors to join hands on data security The Straits Times 28th Nov 2019
The public and private sectors will work as partners when it comes to dealing with data security, said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean who heads the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee. He noted yesterday that many organisations in both the public and private sectors today are data-driven and both sectors "offer good examples of how to maintain high integrity of data". SM Teo was speaking to the media about his committee's recommendations. Adding that the two sides will continue to work together in the future, he said: "We have benefited greatly from the perspectives that the private sector members have brought to the committee."

Scheme to draw more women into cyber security The Straits Times 27th Nov 2019
Shifting her focus from technology marketing to cyber-security marketing in her company five years ago, Ms Sherin Y. Lee then charted her own course, attending seminars and meeting industry practitioners before joining a cyber-security firm in May last year. Today, Ms Lee, 41, is one of 50 mentors taking part in the Ladies in Cyber Mentorship programme, launched yesterday. Organised by the Association of Information Security Professionals (AiSP), the programme pairs the mentors, who hold diverse industry portfolios, with 50 female students from institutes of higher learning, including the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnics.

All govt agencies to take steps to safeguard personal data; measures to be in place in most systems by end-2021 The Straits Times 27th Nov 2019
Public agencies will collect and retain an individual's data only when it is strictly necessary while making sure it is properly safeguarded, as part of new measures that will be rolled out across the entire public service. In case of a data incident involving ministries, statutory boards or other public agencies, anyone affected will have to be notified promptly. A single contact point will also be established for the public to report data incidents as well.

Infrastructure

Construction of Jurong West, Bahar Junction stations on Jurong Region Line to start in 2020, end in 2026 The Straits Times 9th Dec 2019
Construction of two stations on the new Jurong Region Line (JRL) is expected to start in 2020 and is slated for completion in 2026. The two stations are Jurong West and Bahar Junction, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Dec 9 2019. The contract, valued at around $210 million, was awarded to China Railway 11 Bureau Group, the LTA said. The stations will form part of JRL, Singapore's seventh MRT line, which is set to open in three stages from 2026. Comprising 24 stations, the line was announced last year to improve connectivity in the Jurong area, with the aim of boosting the area's transformation into a second Central Business District.

About 3,400 warnings issued to PMD riders on footpaths last month: LTA The Straits Times 5th Dec 2019
In the month since the e-scooters were banned on footpaths on Nov 5 2019, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has issued a total of 3,444 warnings to riders. The authority also impounded 111 personal mobility devices (PMDs) in relation to other offences such as illegal modifications of e-scooters. Until the end of the year, riders caught riding their PMDs on footpaths will be issued with warnings. But from next year, those caught can be fined up to $2,000, jailed for up to three months, or both. The stricter regulations came after a series of PMD-related accidents, in which pedestrians were injured and a 65-year-old cyclist killed.