Singapore Update: April 14, 2020

Singapore Update | April 14, 2020
Authors: Marc Mealy, Kim Yaeger, Shay Wester, Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, Julianne Alberto, J-ren Ong
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

April 16: Q2-2020 ASEAN Committee Call. The Council would like to invite members to our upcoming ASEAN Committee Call. Please see details here.

April 22: 2020 Food & Agriculture Committee Quarterly Call. The Council would like to invite members to our upcoming Food & Agriculture Committee Quarterly Call. Please register before COB Monday, April 20 SGT. If you have questions or would like to submit topics for the call, please contact Thao Nguyen (tnguyen@usasean.org) and Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org).

April 24: 2020 Health & Life Sciences Committee Quarterly Call. The Council would like to invite members to our upcoming Health & Life Sciences Committee Quarterly Call. Please register before COB Monday, April 22 SGT. If you have questions or would like to submit topics for the call, please contact Thao Nguyen (tnguyen@usasean.org) and Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org).

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Singapore National Wages Council issues guidelines on wage and training measures

Cognizant of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, the National Wages Council (NWC) released guidelines on wage and training measures and called on employers to consider the following measures in an order of priority in the management of resources and manpower:

  1. First, reduce non-wage costs, and consider various measures to utilize and manage excess manpower;
  2. Second, tap on Government support to offset business and wage costs, and press on with business and workforce transformation;
  3. Third, trim wage costs; and
  4. Fourth, if it is necessary to retrench workers as a last resort, ensure it is done in a responsible manner.

On the first measure, the NWC recommended focusing on training and upskilling, adopting flexible work schedules, and supporting affected local employees who wish to seek a second job to supplement income. The NWC also called on employees to support cost-cutting measures and reasonable efforts to manage excess manpower.

Regarding the second measure, the NWC urged employers to make full use of the government's Job Support Scheme and to instead focus on business and workforce transformation. Employers can develop and bring forward plans for employee training during the downtime. This is in line with SkillsFuture Singapore's course fee subsidies for sectors affected by the pandemic. Also, employers may redesign jobs and train employees for these jobs and further invest in training employees in emerging skills. They may also set up a Company Training Committee in navigating these upgrades. From investing in employees, employers will benefit from the government's enhanced Wage Credit Scheme whereby the government co-pays qualifying wage increases for Singaporeans.

On trimming wages, the NWC recommended that employers adversely impacted by COVID-19 may exercise wage reduction with management leading by example. Wage reduction should be applied to local and foreign employees fairly while softening the impact on low-wage workers. Management should also factor into reduction of wages whether some component of the wages have already been cut (e.g., no more overtime pay). If it is unsustainable to keep the monthly wage levels, employers can consider adjusting monthly wage components but as far as possible, they should endeavour to pay the Annual Wage Supplement.

Lastly, if retrenchment is necessary, the NWC advices that it should be conducted fairly and based on objective criteria. Employers should submit the mandatory notifications, comply with union consultations, provide retrenchment benefits, and help affected employees look for alternative jobs in associate companies or placement programs. If possible, employers should also provide longer notice periods to employees beyond what is stated in the Employment Act.

The guidelines come as Singapore reports that its economy contracted by 2.2% on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter of 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Singapore passes Temporary Measures Act giving relief from failing to abide by contractual obligations during COVID-19 pandemic

On April 7, Singapore passed a Temporary Measures Act to allow temporary relief to businesses and individuals unable to fulfil contractual undertakings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will complement financial measures Singapore earlier announced so that affected entities need not be bogged down by claims for damages or risk forfeiture.

The Act covers the following contracts: a) loans or finance contracts where the facility is secured by immovable property in Singapore that is used for business; b) Performance bonds for construction contracts or supply contracts; c) Hire-purchase agreements for commercial vehicles, or fixed assets in Singapore that is used for business; d) An event contract or one that is for the provision of a venue, accommodation, amenities, transport, entertainment, catering or other goods or services; e) a tourism-related contract; f) a construction or supply contract; and g) a lease or license of non-residential immovable property.

A party to a covered contract is entitled to relief if unable to perform an obligation due to be performed on or after February 1, 2020. The inability must be materially caused by either the pandemic or any law passed because of COVID-19. There must be proper service of notice to the other contracting party, any guarantor, or other persons who may be prescribed.

A contracting party will be prevented from taking certain legal actions against the non-performing party, including: a) commencement or continuation of a court action or arbitral proceedings against the other party and its guarantor/surety; b) enforcement of any security over any immovable property; c) enforcement of any security over any movable property used for the purpose of a trade, business or profession; d) an application for a meeting of creditors to be summoned to approve a compromise or an arrangement in relation to the party's guarantor or surety; e) application for a judicial management order, winding up, bankruptcy application, appointment of receiver or manager for the non-performing party or its guarantor/surety; g) the commencement or levying of execution, distress or other legal process against any property of the non-performing party or its guarantor/surety, except with leave of court; h) the repossession of any goods used for the purpose of a trade, business or profession; i) the termination of contract for lease or license of immovable property where there is non-payment of rent or other monies; j) the exercise of a right of re-entry or forfeiture under a contract of a lease or license of immovable property; k) the enforcement against the non-performing party or its guarantor/surety of a judgment of a court, an award made by an arbitral tribunal, or a determination by an adjudicator under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act; and l) other actions as may be prescribed.

A key feature is the appointment by the Ministry of Law of independent assessors who shall resolve disputes arising from the terms of the Act. They will have final determination on whether the inability to perform the contract was due to the pandemic and they shall have the authority to grant just and equitable relief. Failure to comply with the assessors’ determination shall be subject to criminal liability.

The measures will cover relevant contractual obligations that are to be performed on or after February 1, 2020 for contracts that were entered into before March 25, 2020. The measures will be in place for six months from effectivity and may be extended.

Singapore Ministry of Manpower introduces temporary scheme to manage need for workers

On April 1, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released guidelines regarding the six-month temporary scheme to help firms in the manufacturing and services sectors to better manage manpower needs. Initially offered to a limited group of Work Permit Holders (WPHs), the expended guidelines will now benefit all other WPHs in Singapore, regardless of nationality. Following this, Singapore will:

1) Allow inter-sectoral transfer of foreign workers whereby firms in all sectors can hire WPHs already in Singapore from other sectors if their current employers agree; and

2) Allow transfer of foreign workers who have expiring permits whereby firms in all sectors can hire WPHs from their own or another sector. This applies to work permits which are within 40 days of expiry.

These measures relax the current rules that restrict transfers within a sector or are only applicable to specific sectors such as construction and process sectors. Hiring firms will still be required to meet prevailing criteria in their respective sectors. These measures will hopefully enable firms to address manpower shortages while saving on search and recruitment costs. The temporary scheme will be in place until August 31.

Singapore reaffirms commitment to maintain open and connected supply chains

Singapore remains committed to ensuring supply chain connectivity amidst COVID-19. On March 25, the country issued a joint ministerial statement with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Myanmar, and New Zealand. On April 2, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing had a productive teleconference meeting with the People’s Republic of China Minister for Commerce Zhong Shan. They reaffirmed commitment to maintaining supply chain connectivity to ensure the free flow of goods, in particular essential medical and food supplies, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They also discussed how they could work together to overcome the health, economic and financial challenges that the region faces today.

On April 1, top foreign ministry officials from Singapore and China made a commitment at a “virtual meeting” to keep their borders open to ensure the smooth movement of essential goods and personnel, while safeguarding public health, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual meeting was co-chaired by the Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry, Mr. Chee Wee Kiong, and Vice-Minister Luo Zhaohui from China’s foreign ministry. Education, trade and industry, customs and immigration, transport, health, and manpower officials also attended the virtual meeting. Both sides also exchanged views on the impact of Covid-19 at the regional level and agreed to explore ways to provide support where necessary to regional countries on epidemic prevention and control.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Singapore's call for feedback on proposed amendments to food regulatory rules

The Council would like to bring to members’ attention that the Ministry of Health (MOH), Health Promotion Board (HPB), and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) are seeking feedback from stakeholders on proposed amendments to the Food Regulations to introduce a ban on the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as an ingredient in all fats, oils and pre-packaged foods sold in Singapore from June 2021.The consultation period is open from March 13, 2020 until May 12, 2020. It may be recalled that MOH announced on 6 June 2019 its decision to introduce a ban on PHOs, the key source of artificial trans fat in diets, as part of the Singapore’s Government ongoing efforts to create a healthier environment for Singaporeans. This will apply to all foods sold in Singapore, including fats, oils, and pre-packaged foods, whether locally manufactured or imported from overseas; and will replace the existing 2% limit on trans fat content in fats and oils sold in Singapore. To give effect to the ban, MOH, HPB, and SFA propose, among others, to insert regulation 36A which bans the import and/or use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as an ingredient or as an ingredient in the manufacture of any other edible fats or oils or any prepacked food. Please click here for the full text of the proposed regulation and more information on the public consultation. For members who are interested to give input through a Council submission, please email Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at lalmonte@usasean.org or Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao at tnguyen@usasean.org. Members could also opt to send submissions directly to moh-ncd@moh.gov.sg.
 

Call for feedback regarding Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures

The Council continues to work with its members in engaging relevant agencies in Singapore which implement the country’s “circuit breaker” measures. We invite our members to update the Council challenges they encounter as they comply with said measures. For members who are interested to give input through a Council submission, please email Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez at lalmonte@usasean.org.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Parliament: Size of reserves cannot be disclosed as a matter of national security, says Heng Swee Keat
June likely window for Singapore election after Bill introduced to make provisions for Covid-19 polls: Experts
Parliament: Proposed law to allow special arrangements for voters and candidates affected by Covid-19 restrictions
Govt to table Bill making provisions for holding a safe election amid Covid-19 outbreak
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee hints at election amid coronavirus pandemic

ASEAN
Response Fund to be created by Asean to cushion COVID-19’s impact in the region
Collective efforts needed for rebound in Asean’s growth, says AMRO

COVID-19
Prolong usage of PPE induces headaches in Frontline healthcare workers
All 20 polyclinics and some GPs can now perform coronavirus swab test
Coronavirus: PM Lee warns that circuit breaker measures will be strictly enforced; still too many gatherings taking place
Covid Support: Singapore Launches S$125 Million Package for Fintechs
Use Snapask app to enhance learning at home
Flights won't recover by next year says Singapore - as it closes airport terminal
Coronavirus: Residents urged to stay home and comply with 'circuit breaker' measures
Coronavirus: Aviation sector commits to filling over 17,500 training spaces, says NTUC
Singapore residents returning from ASEAN countries, France, India and Switzerland must self-isolate at hotels
Coronavirus: Google launches new tool to help public health officials plan social distancing measures

Customs
Singapore taking steps to ensure adequate food supply

E-Payments
Singapore startup using blockchain to keep certificates gets seed funding

Economics
MAS launches Support Package for financial institutions & fintech firms to emerge stronger post COVID-19
Employers urged to use Jobs Support Scheme payout to continue paying salaries during Covid-19 circuit breaker
Parliament: Two initiatives to help S’pore economy bounce back from Covid-19 crisis, build social resilience, says DPM Heng
‘Circuit breaker’ rules to incur more pain for Singapore economy, job market: Experts
Singapore unveils US$3.6 billion third stimulus package to beat Covid
Manufacturing in S'pore falls to lowest level since Feb 2009
Help with debts for those who have trouble repaying both banks and licensed moneylenders
Coronavirus: MOM to allow foreign worker transfers between sectors to help firms with manpower needs
10,000 new jobs could come from ICT, cleaning and logistics
88,000 eligible self-employed to get $9,000 cash each
Singapore to give eligible self-employed persons S$9,000 each
Close to $100 billion earmarked for land transport projects for next 10 years

Energy
ExxonMobil investment builds on presence in S'pore
Electricity tariff to fall 5.1% from April to June
City Gas to lower gas tariffs by 0.7% from April to June 2020
Sembcorp Design and Construction bags $433m biosolid treatment deal

Financial Services
5 Cybersecurity Startups Serving Fintechs and FSIs in Southeast Asia

Health & Life Sciences
Singapore uncovers cancer-causing hereditary mutation in Asians
Medtech firm Biolidics allowed to sell COVID-19 test kit in EU
Singapore-based Doctor Anywhere bags $27m Series B funding
Coronavirus: Firms which fail to implement telecommuting where possible may face fines, stop-work orders
Biolidics to launch ten-minute rapid test kits for COVID-19
Singapore's NGL expands affordable medical healthcare
Singapore designs high resolution medical device
Singapore announces AI platform for cell therapy and immuno-oncology
Elite Dental Group first to adopt dental AI technology

ICT
Covid-19 outbreak has boosted awareness of need for digitalisation: Iswaran
IPOS simplified the trademarks filing process – to a mere 10 minutes
How GovTech created a web accessibility testing tool
COVID-19, 5G, and the indomitable human spirit

Infrastructure
Responding to COVID-19: Temporary Relief in Singapore for Inability to Perform Contractual Obligations
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Parliament: Size of reserves cannot be disclosed as a matter of national security, says Heng Swee Keat The Straits Times 7th Apr 2020
The size of Singapore's reserves are a matter of national security and cannot be disclosed, lest its economic and financial stability be threatened, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (April 7). Responding to Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, who spoke about the size of past reserves during the debate in Parliament, Mr Heng said these funds serve as a "strategic defence" to protect the Singapore dollar from speculative attacks, and bolster the confidence of investors and citizens. He compared the country's reserves to Singapore Armed Forces' arsenal, and said: "No country's armed forces will ever tell you exactly how much ammunition and weaponry they really have.

June likely window for Singapore election after Bill introduced to make provisions for Covid-19 polls: Experts The Straits Times 7th Apr 2020
Singaporeans could go to the polls in June, said political observers, noting that this was the earliest possible window for the general election after the introduction of a Bill setting out arrangements for an election during the Covid-19 crisis. The Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill, introduced by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Tuesday (April 7), lists measures that must be taken for safe conduct of an election during the coronavirus pandemic. While the Elections Department (ELD) has said the Bill forms part of contingency plans for the next general election and has no relation to its timing, the proposed legislation has provided fresh indications of when the polls might take place.

Parliament: Proposed law to allow special arrangements for voters and candidates affected by Covid-19 restrictions The Straits Times 7th Apr 2020
If the general election were to be held during the Covid-19 outbreak, voters subject to restrictions like stay-home orders will be allowed to vote outside their electoral divisions, under a proposed law. Aspiring candidates who are ill would also be allowed to register on Nomination Day without being there in person. These are among the measures in the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill introduced by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Tuesday (April 7).

Govt to table Bill making provisions for holding a safe election amid Covid-19 outbreak The Straits Times 3rd Apr 2020
A Bill will be introduced in Parliament next week to facilitate the temporary arrangements necessary for holding a safe general election while Covid-19 measures are in effect. Responding to media queries about the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill on Friday (April 3), the Elections Department (ELD) said that the health and safety of voters, candidates and election officials are paramount. "The Bill contains the necessary legislative provisions to allow ELD to implement temporary arrangements to ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials during parliamentary elections held on or before 14 April 2021," it stated.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee hints at election amid coronavirus pandemic South China Morning Post 27th Mar 2020
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday gave the strongest signal yet that he plans to press ahead with calling a snap general election soon, even as his People’s Action Party (PAP) and opposition parties froze door-to-door campaigning to comply with tightened social distancing measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. In an interview with local media a day after the government unveiled a mammoth S$48 billion (US$33.4 billion) stimulus package, Lee described the logistical hurdles of conducting an election amid a pandemic as “solvable problems”, adding that he faced a choice between “conducting an election under abnormal circumstances against going into a storm with a mandate which is reaching the end of its term”.

ASEAN

Response Fund to be created by Asean to cushion COVID-19’s impact in the region Khmer Times 10th Apr 2020
In the 25th ASEAN Coordinating Council Meeting via video conference Thursday, ASEAN foreign ministers agreed on the establishment of a response to help all member states alleviate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. The objectives behind the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, according to a press release from Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, is to mobilise financial resources to address the shortage in medical supplies and to support the research and development of COVID-19. The fund also aims to prepare the member state for responding to future emergencies.

Collective efforts needed for rebound in Asean’s growth, says AMRO The Edge Singapore 8th Apr 2020
SINGAPORE (Apr 8): The Asean + 3 Macroeconomic Review Office (AMRO) has slashed its 2020 growth forecast for Asean + 3 nations to 2%, from its previous prediction of 4.9%. The macroeconomic watchdog which monitors Asean, Japan, China and Korea says the upgrade follows the uncertainty from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it expects growth in the region to have a strong rebound to 5.5% in 2021 once the health and economic crises abate. Meanwhile, Asean economies are expected to weaken sharply to grow at an average of 1.1% before recovering to 5.2% in 2021. The data was unveiled by AMRO’s chief economist Khor Hoe Ee in an outlook briefing on Tuesday. Touching on how the data was arrived at, Khor said that preparations for this outlook forecast was “almost impossible”, despite this being the watchdog’s fourth iteration.

COVID-19

Prolong usage of PPE induces headaches in Frontline healthcare workers BioSpectrumAsia 9th Apr 2020
A study conducted by a team of clinical researchers from the National University Hospital (NUH) during the current COVID-19 outbreak found that the majority of frontline healthcare workers developed new-onset headaches due to the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for long hours. The study was conducted from February to March 2020 shortly after a surge in COVID-19 cases in Singapore and involved 158 healthcare workers at NUH who donned PPE while caring for COVID-19 patients in high-risk hospital areas. The study, whose findings have been published in the reputable scientific journal Headache, found that healthcare workers with combined exposure to N95 face-mask and protective eyewear (e.g. goggles) used for more than 4 hours per day were predisposed to the development of new-onset PPE associated headaches. Furthermore, the headaches in responders with a background history of migraine or tension-type headache worsened. In addition, the location of pain or discomfort upon the head was found to correspond anatomically to the areas of compression by either the mask or goggles and their straps.

All 20 polyclinics and some GPs can now perform coronavirus swab test The Straits Times 9th Apr 2020
Swab tests for the coronavirus have been extended from public and private hospitals here to all 20 polyclinics and several general practitioner clinics, The Straits Times has learnt. The ParkwayHealth Laboratory, which comes under the Parkway Pantai group, said it has processed swab tests for more than 33 clinics under the Parkway Shenton chain of GP clinics since late March. It also received samples from 21 GP clinics approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH) for such tests.

Coronavirus: PM Lee warns that circuit breaker measures will be strictly enforced; still too many gatherings taking place The Straits Times 9th Apr 2020
Any group seen gathering in public will immediately be issued a written warning by enforcement officers, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He warned that the authorities will strictly enforce the "circuit breaker" measures from Thursday (April 9), noting there are still far too many public gatherings taking place. Second-time offenders will be fined $300, and those nabbed a third time will be charged in court.

Covid Support: Singapore Launches S$125 Million Package for Fintechs Fintech Singapore 8th Apr 2020
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) today announced a S$125 million support package to sustain and strengthen capabilities in the financial services and FinTech sectors amid the current economic slump. The support package will help to position financial institutions (FIs) and FinTech firms for stronger growth when the threat of COVID-19 recedes and economic activity normalises. The support package, funded by the Financial Sector Development Fund, has three main components: 1) supporting workforce training and manpower costs; 2) strengthening digitalisation and operational resilience; and 3) enhancing FinTech firms’ access to digital platforms and tools.

Use Snapask app to enhance learning at home The Straits Times 8th Apr 2020
A mobile app that connects students doing home-based learning with tutors will enhance learning through a free subscription in partnership with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). The initiative comes at a time when more than 500,000 students will not be able to attend school physically amid strict "circuit breaker" measures that are in place until May 4.

Flights won't recover by next year says Singapore - as it closes airport terminal The Sun 6th Apr 2020
Singapore is closing their main airport's terminal for 18 months as they warn that the travel industry won't recover until next year. Changi Airport, one of the largest in the world, will see terminal 2 closed from May 1 until the end of 2021. All operations from the terminal will now take place at the other three terminals to "save on running costs".

Coronavirus: Residents urged to stay home and comply with 'circuit breaker' measures The Straits Times 5th Apr 2020
Singapore residents have to stay home and go out only for essential activities like buying food, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, as the country saw a record daily spike of 120 new coronavirus cases on Sunday (April 5). He stressed the need for every person to take the latest safe distancing measures very seriously and make individual sacrifices, adding that routines like going out to meet friends "cannot be tolerated any more". The Government had announced on Friday that most workplaces will be shut down and dining in will not be allowed at food establishments from Tuesday (April 7) for a month, as part of a set of "circuit breaker" measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

Coronavirus: Aviation sector commits to filling over 17,500 training spaces, says NTUC The Straits Times 5th Apr 2020
All major firms in Singapore's aviation sector have committed to sending their workers to fill more than 17,500 training places as the industry grapples with the suspension of flights due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said on Sunday (April 5). Top officials from Singapore Airlines (SIA), Scoot and airport and food services provider Sats affirmed this at a closed-door dialogue on Friday with NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng. These firms would use the downtime to speed up workers' training and upgrading, including for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in the sector, "developing real technical capabilities and capacities" through the use of digital technologies, NTUC said in a statement.

Singapore residents returning from ASEAN countries, France, India and Switzerland must self-isolate at hotels CNA 4th Apr 2020
Singapore residents returning from ASEAN countries, France, India and Switzerland must self-isolate for 14 days at dedicated facilities, in an expansion of the stay-home notice requirements to include more countries. This will apply to Singaporeans, permanent residents and long term pass holders returning from Apr 5 at 11.59pm, announced the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Saturday (Apr 4). Previously, only those returning from the United States and the United Kingdom needed to serve their stay-home notice at dedicated facilities.

Coronavirus: Google launches new tool to help public health officials plan social distancing measures The Straits Times 3rd Apr 2020
Providing insights for 131 countries including Singapore, Google's Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports show a percentage increase or decrease in the movement of people to broad categories of places using Google Maps-styled tracking mechanism. It is not a live-tracking tool, but taps historical data 48 to 72 hours old to generate the reports. The insights are created with privacy-preserving sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting, which is off by default, in their Android devices.

Customs

Singapore taking steps to ensure adequate food supply The Straits Times 2nd Apr 2020
The ongoing outbreak of Covid-19 may have highlighted Singapore's vulnerability to global supply shocks, but the Republic has, over the years, taken steps to ensure that its supply of food is not compromised. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday reassured Singaporeans that the nation's food supply was adequate, pointing to various measures that the country has undertaken over the years. It has, for example, collaborated with nations around the world to diversify the sources from which Singapore imports its food, maintained a national stockpile, and is continuously looking to technology and research to boost the productivity of local farms, he told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to a local fish farm owned by Apollo Aquaculture Group.

E-Payments

Singapore startup using blockchain to keep certificates gets seed funding TechinAsia 30th Mar 2020
Singapore-based Edufied, a credential validation startup, said it has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding at a valuation of nearly US$4 million. Edufied offers a blockchain-based system that allows agencies to provide e-credentials easier. It reduces the amount of admin work needed and helps prevent fake certificates or claims from happening. Receivers, in turn, are given academic and training passports to store and share their credentials securely.

Economics

MAS launches Support Package for financial institutions & fintech firms to emerge stronger post COVID-19 OpenGov Asia 9th Apr 2020
The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced yesterday -8 April 2020, a S$125 million support package to sustain and strengthen capabilities in the financial services and FinTech sectors amid the current economic slump. The support package will help to position financial institutions and FinTech firms for stronger growth when the threat of COVID-19 decreases and economic activity normalizes. The support package, funded by the Financial Sector Development Fund, has three main components: supporting workforce training and manpower costs, strengthening digitalization and operational resilience, and enhancing FinTech firms’ access to digital platforms and tools. The support package will take effect today.

Employers urged to use Jobs Support Scheme payout to continue paying salaries during Covid-19 circuit breaker The Straits Times 8th Apr 2020
Employers are strongly urged not to resort to retrenchment or prolonged no-pay leave to manage business costs during the circuit breaker month, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in an advisory this week on salary and leave arrangements. They should tap the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme payout for April to pay local workers their salaries. Most workplaces - aside from those offering essential services and in key sectors - are closed from April 7 until May 4 to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus. Firms that can operate remotely have been encouraged to do so.

Parliament: Two initiatives to help S’pore economy bounce back from Covid-19 crisis, build social resilience, says DPM Heng The Straits Times 7th Apr 2020
When the Covid-19 pandemic is tamed and overcome, two new initiatives will step forward to build up Singapore's resilience, both economically and socially, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (April 7). One is the Emerging Stronger task force on economic resilience while the other is a refreshed Singapore Together movement with a new emphasis on social resilience, he told the House in rounding up the debate on the Supplementary Budget.

‘Circuit breaker’ rules to incur more pain for Singapore economy, job market: Experts CNA 7th Apr 2020
The month-long enhanced safe distancing measures, dubbed the “circuit breaker” by authorities here, could bring about more pain for an already-stalling Singapore economy, economists said. Even with an unprecedented third support package now on the table, it may not be enough to nurse the fallout from temporary business closures and disruptions, and prevent further job losses, according to economists from four financial houses this week. One of them has slashed its forecasts for Singapore’s full-year growth.

Singapore unveils US$3.6 billion third stimulus package to beat Covid South China Morning Post 6th Apr 2020
Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday unveiled the country’s third stimulus package in two months, with the government once again drawing on its deep sovereign reserves to fund new measures aimed at tiding businesses and citizens through a month-long partial lockdown to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases. The latest measures amount to S$5.1billion (US$3.55 billion). Combined with S$6.4 billion (US$4.4 billion) worth of measures in the country’s annual budget in February and a S$48.4 billion (US$33.7 billion) package unveiled on March 26, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government has now committed a fiscal injection worth S$59.9 billion (US$42 billion) to deal with the crisis – amounting to 12 per cent of GDP.

Manufacturing in S'pore falls to lowest level since Feb 2009 The Straits Times 4th Apr 2020
Manufacturing in Singapore fell to its lowest level since 2009 last month. With factories trying to limit their losses from a recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a spike in job cuts is a real risk. The Singapore Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) declined 3.3 points to 45.4 last month, said the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). It was the second contraction in a row and the lowest reading since February 2009, when the index was at 45 points, SIPMM said in a statement yesterday.

Help with debts for those who have trouble repaying both banks and licensed moneylenders The Straits Times 1st Apr 2020
Those who have borrowed from licensed moneylenders and have problems repaying them can approach Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) for help with restructuring their debt from April 1 provided they also have bank loans. The Credit Association of Singapore (CAS) and CCS said that the new debt management programme is different from what they had been doing in the past 15 years. Where previously CCS helped only people who owed banks and credit card companies debt, CCS will now also offer its consultancy services for distressed borrowers who have both bank and licensed moneylender debts.

Coronavirus: MOM to allow foreign worker transfers between sectors to help firms with manpower needs The Straits Times 1st Apr 2020
Work-permit holders of any nationality will be able to take jobs in other sectors from April 1, as long as their current employers agree to the switch according to the Manpower Ministry (MOM). The ministry will also allow companies to hire work-permit holders from any sector, as long as their permits expire in 40 days. The interim measures are to give companies in all sectors greater flexibility in managing their manpower needs amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the ministry said in a statement.

10,000 new jobs could come from ICT, cleaning and logistics The Straits Times 28th Mar 2020
The 10,000 jobs being created through the SGUnited Jobs initiative could be in such industries as infocomm technology, cleaning and logistics, as well as the public sector. Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chief executive Ho Meng Kit said sectors that are still hiring could include security, cleaning, infocomm technology (ICT), manufacturing and engineering. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had said on Thursday, when he announced the initiative, that the public sector will take the lead in speeding up hiring plans for roles in emerging areas, recruiting for long-term roles in essential services and offering temporary jobs to handle the increase in Covid-19-related operations.

88,000 eligible self-employed to get $9,000 cash each The Straits Times 28th Mar 2020
About 88,000 self-employed persons will each receive three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year to help them in this time of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), which will cost $1.2 billion in total, will be open to those who earn a net trade income of no more than $100,000, live in a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000 and do not own two or more properties. They must also have started self-employment on or before March 25 and must not earn any income as employees. If they are married, they and their spouse together must not own two or more properties, and the spouse's assessable income must not exceed $70,000.

Singapore to give eligible self-employed persons S$9,000 each The Star Online 28th Mar 2020
About 88,000 self-employed persons will receive cash payouts of S$3,000 each in May, July and October this year to help them in this time of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), which will cost $1.2 billion in total, will be open to those who earn a Net Trade Income of no more than $100,000, live in a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000 and do not own two or more properties.

Close to $100 billion earmarked for land transport projects for next 10 years The Straits Times 27th Mar 2020
Nearly $100 billion has been set aside to build road, rail and active mobility projects over the next decade, according to Budget 2020 statements. New rail projects account for the biggest chunk of $87.5 billion. The amount includes money budgeted for completion of the Thomson-East Coast line (TEL), Jurong Region Line and Phase 1 of the Cross Island Line (CRL), as well as advanced engineering studies for the western leg of the CRL.

Energy

ExxonMobil investment builds on presence in S'pore The Straits Times 1st Apr 2020
ExxonMobil held a virtual foundation-laying ceremony yesterday for its multibillion-dollar expansion of its Jurong Island integrated refining and petrochemical complex to increase its production capacity for higher-value products and cleaner fuels. This investment, which the international energy company announced in April last year, will create 135 new jobs. It will also have significant spin-offs for the rest of the economy in areas such as logistics, process construction and maintenance, said Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, who participated in the ceremony. In lieu of a physical foundation-laying ceremony, ExxonMobil held a video conference from two locations in Singapore and one in Dallas, Texas.

Electricity tariff to fall 5.1% from April to June CNA 31st Mar 2020
SINGAPORE: The electricity tariff will fall by 5.1 per cent for the period from Apr 1 to Jun 30 due to lower energy costs, said SP Group on Tuesday (Mar 31).  Households will see a drop in the tariff from 24.24 cents to 23.02 cents per kilowatt hour, said SP Group in a media release. Families living in four-room HDB flats can expect their average monthly bill to go down by S$3.89. The move is "in the same spirit" with the Government's recently unveiled Resilience Budget, which is aimed at supporting businesses and managing costs, said SP Group. 

City Gas to lower gas tariffs by 0.7% from April to June 2020 CNA 31st Mar 2020
SINGAPORE: Gas tariffs for households will decrease by 0.7 per cent or 0.12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) from Apr 1 to Jun 30 this year, City Gas said on Tuesday (Mar 31). With the revision, households will need to pay 17.11 cents per kWh, excluding Goods and Services Tax. Households are currently paying 17.23 cents per kWh. The lower tariffs are due to the decrease in non-fuel costs compared with the previous quarter, City Gas said. City Gas reviews the gas tariffs based on the guidelines set by the Energy Market Authority (EMA), which has approved the revisions for the three-month period.

Sembcorp Design and Construction bags $433m biosolid treatment deal The Straits Times 27th Mar 2020
A $433 million contract to build a biosolid treatment facility for the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) has been awarded to Sembcorp Design and Construction (SDC). National water agency PUB said in a statement yesterday that SDC will construct Tuas WRP's energy-efficient biosolids building, digesters and greasy waste receiving facility. Works will start next month and are due to be completed in 2025.

Financial Services

5 Cybersecurity Startups Serving Fintechs and FSIs in Southeast Asia Fintech Singapore 27th Mar 2020
71% of industry participants consider data security and privacy protection to be the biggest cybersecurity issue to address, and 61% already apply anti-fraud applications, dynamic risk monitoring and user behavior analytics etc. to drive financial services. With cybersecurity being now so critical for fintechs, we look today at five cybersecurity startups serving the fintech and financial services industry in Southeast Asia. Most of these startups are newcomers and made significant achievements in 2019 including raising funding, and gaining support from notable organizations: Right-Hand, Keyless, OneKIY, Horangi, and Seconize.

Health & Life Sciences

Singapore uncovers cancer-causing hereditary mutation in Asians BioSpectrumAsia 8th Apr 2020
Researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have uncovered a genetic variant in a gene called MET that is responsible for more aggressive growth of head and neck, and lung cancers. A further probe into the finding revealed therapeutic strategies that could potentially target this genetic alteration, thereby paving the way for clinicians to develop better and more effective treatments for cancer patients of such profile. The study, published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications on 25 March 2020, was conducted in close collaboration with clinicians from the National University Cancer Institute, as well as researchers from the National Cancer Centre Singapore and the Bioinformatics Institute at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore.

Medtech firm Biolidics allowed to sell COVID-19 test kit in EU Health Care Asia Magazine 7th Apr 2020
Medical technology company Biolidics has been permitted to market and sell its rapid test kit for COVID-19 in the European Union (EU) after it received confirmation for a CE Marking, according to a press release. The company has recently been authorised by the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration on 31 March and provisionally by Singapore’s Health Science Authority on 27 March for its rapid test kit to be used in these countries.

Singapore-based Doctor Anywhere bags $27m Series B funding Health Care Asia Magazine 4th Apr 2020
Singapore-based healthtech startup Doctor Anywhere has secured a $27m Series B financing round led by Australia-based Square Peg, EDBI, and IHH Healthcare, according to a press release. The latest investment will help Doctor Anywhere prepare for an extensive expansion. Rounding out this series of funding are Pavilion Capital and existing shareholder Kamet Capital, bringing Doctor Anywhere’s total capital base to exceed $40m. Doctor Anywhere recently launched its platform in Thailand. It also operates in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with announcements on other regional plans in the pipeline due later this year.

Coronavirus: Firms which fail to implement telecommuting where possible may face fines, stop-work orders The Straits Times 31st Mar 2020
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will come down harder on companies that have not made serious efforts to put in place work-from-home arrangements, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said. Speaking at the multi-ministry task force briefing, she warned that MOM is looking into amending laws to increase potential penalties, including fines and stop-work orders, for firms that fail to follow MOM advisories which were announced in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mrs. Teo also said there will be a fivefold increase in the number of enforcement officers. Currently, about 100 officers fan out across Singapore to perform checks on firms.

Biolidics to launch ten-minute rapid test kits for COVID-19 MobiHealthNews 31st Mar 2020
Singapore-listed medtech company Biolidics recently launched its rapid test kit for COVID-19 and has entered into a manufacturer agreement with a diagnostic kit manufacturer to customize and manufacture the rapid test kits. The first batch of Biolidics’ rapid test kits is expected to be available in April 2020. Biolidics has obtained provisional authorization from Singapore’s Health Science Authority (HSA) for its rapid test kit to be used in Singapore. The medtech company, which focuses on diagnostic cancer solutions, is working closely with Clearbridge Health to obtain the relevant approval and/or authorization from the various health authorities in the region for the use of the rapid test kit.

Singapore's NGL expands affordable medical healthcare BioSpectrumAsia 30th Mar 2020
Novena Global Lifecare (the "Company" or "NGL"), entrenches its footprint in Singapore for its medical healthcare division under its group of companies, Novena Global Surgery. As one of Asia's largest integrated medical healthcare and aesthetics group, Novena Global Lifecare has established itself as leader in Taiwan's health screening sector. Currently, Novena Global Lifecare drives a multi-million revenue portfolio that provides lifecare management solutions tailored to Asian demographics to help customers in their journey of well-being across their life stages. The establishment of Novena Global Surgery includes Aptus Surgery Centre ("Aptus") in Paragon Medical Centre and Novaptus Surgery Centre ("Novaptus") at Camden Medical Centre. Both offer health screenings and day surgery facilities to their customers.

Singapore designs high resolution medical device BioSpectrumAsia 30th Mar 2020
Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed the prototype of a handheld medical imaging device that can produce images down to resolutions of 1 to 2 micrometres. This is detailed enough to spot the first signs of tumours in specific cells and is about 100 times higher resolution than what X-Ray, computed tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines can provide. The technology behind the device is a result of six years of optical imaging research and was jointly developed by a team from NTU with researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the University of Alabama, U.S.A.

Singapore announces AI platform for cell therapy and immuno-oncology BioSpectrumAsia 30th Mar 2020
Singapore based Proteona Pte. Ltd. has announced the “DeepSee” collaboration on developing a platform for patient-derived micro-tumors for drug screening and discovery using single cell multi-omics analysis. The strategic partners include the German drug discovery firm Synovo, and the NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University of Tübingen. The project receives funding from Enterprise Singapore jointly with the central innovation program (Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand, ZIM) initiated by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

Elite Dental Group first to adopt dental AI technology BioSpectrumAsia 29th Mar 2020
Elite Dental Group, a cornerstone partner of healthcare giant Novena Global Lifecare, is first in Singapore to adopt a cutting edge Dental Artificial Intelligence(AI) Technology called "SmileMate", created by Dental Monitoring, a Dental Technology and AI-based company headquartered in Paris, France, addressing the needs of patients who have dental anxiety and dental professionals alike, for the provision of remote and virtual general dental consultation services to such patients. Only general dental information will be given to the potential patient and the attending dental surgeon could encourage the potential patient to seek a professional consultation at a dental practice, where proper professional dental opinions will be given . No consultation fee will be collected from this remote dental consultation.

ICT

Covid-19 outbreak has boosted awareness of need for digitalisation: Iswaran The Straits Times 31st Mar 2020
More businesses are seeing the value of increased digitalisation in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said on Tuesday (March 31). While the Government has long encouraged firms to use more digital technology in their processes, the coronavirus has brought into stark relief its relevance and usefulness at a time when companies have had to activate their business continuity plans, he said in an interview. Digital technology has also helped the Government manage the crisis, said Mr Iswaran, citing how the Gov.sg WhatsApp service has provided Singaporeans with "reliable information in a timely manner."

IPOS simplified the trademarks filing process – to a mere 10 minutes GovTech SG 29th Mar 2020
How long does it typically take to file a new trademark online? It generally takes about 45 minutes to an hour. With the recently launched IPOS Go app, the world’s first online trademark filing app, we’ve reduced the trademark application process from one hour to just 10 minutes! Trademark filing has traditionally been a complicated and time-consuming process for business owners. To tackle this pain point, a cross-agency team comprising IPOS and GovTech staff set out to simplify the intellectual property (IP) registration process. The team envisioned a platform that would enable business owners to easily perform IP transactions, as effortlessly as one would transact online.

How GovTech created a web accessibility testing tool GovTech SG 29th Mar 2020
At the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), a team of developers and designers wants to make sure that PWDs are not left out of the digital revolution. For a start, the team has created a customisable, automated accessibility testing tool that allows software development teams to assess whether their products are user-friendly to PWDs. With a list of common pain points surfaced by PWDs, the GovTech team then brainstormed on how they might develop a tool to automatically detect these accessibility issues and rank them according to impact on PWDs.

COVID-19, 5G, and the indomitable human spirit KrASIA 27th Mar 2020
For over a month now, businesses in Singapore have applied protective workplace strategies including team segregation, rotational work-from-home schedules, and constant updates to ensure the well-being of our colleagues. With the prospect of fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) on the horizon, one can hope that it would make using existing digital tools a more seamless experience. Not only can we expect the internet to become faster, latency—generally experienced as the lag time for an internet-enabled device to respond to a user request—is expected to reduce tremendously from the average 60 milliseconds with current 4G connection, to less than 1 millisecond when 5G is deployed for public use.

Infrastructure

Responding to COVID-19: Temporary Relief in Singapore for Inability to Perform Contractual Obligations Morgan Lewis 2nd Apr 2020
The Ministry of Law of Singapore announced the introduction of a new bill on 1 April aimed at protecting individuals and businesses that are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The public health measures imposed by governments around the world in response to the pandemic, including travel bans and restrictions, city lockdowns, and the quarantine of individuals, have resulted in business and supply chain disruptions and manpower shortages – undermining the ability of individuals and businesses to fulfil their contractual obligations.