Singapore July 2020 –

Written by  //  July 14, 2021  //  Asia  //  No comments

1880
1880 is born out of an idea that is as simple as it is grand:
that conversations can and will make the world a better place.
We believe that where diverse minds gather, great ideas bloom.
Our club is an expression of this –
a salon for creators and explorers to meet, connect and relax
in good company and exceptional comfort.

Fareed Zakaria: What America can learn from Singapore about racial integration
(25 June 2015)

Bloomberg New Economy: Singapore’s economy lost momentum in the second quarter as weeks of tightened mobility restrictions weighed on this year’s expansion. Gross domestic product in the three months through June contracted a seasonally adjusted 2% from the previous quarter. After months of success limiting outbreaks, Singapore was forced to tighten restrictions in mid-May to curb the spread of the virus, halting dining-in at restaurants and limiting social gatherings. Still, it’s faring better than most of its neighbors, which are seeing virus cases surge in a threat to the region’s recovery.

31 May
Singapore “on track” to bring COVID-19 outbreak under control: PM Lee Hsien Loong Full speech video
Barring any super-spreader events or large clusters, Singapore “should be on track” to bringing its COVID-19 outbreak under control, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (May 31) in a televised address to the nation. He added that if community cases continue to fall, the country “should be” able to relax existing restrictions after Jun 13.

17 May
Media Advisory – Special Annual Meeting
The World Economic Forum has been preparing a Special Annual Meeting in Singapore to take place just three months from now.
Regretfully, the tragic circumstances unfolding across geographies, an uncertain travel outlook, differing speeds of vaccination rollout and the uncertainty around new variants combine to make it impossible to realise a global meeting with business, government and civil society leaders from all over the world at the scale which was planned. This is despite the excellent support provided by the Government of Singapore.

14 May
Stocks fall as Singapore re-imposes COVID-19 curbs
(Reuters) Singapore announced on Friday its strictest curbs on gatherings and public activities since a coronavirus lockdown last year, amid a rise in locally acquired infections and with new clusters forming in recent weeks.
The measures, which will be in force from Sunday to mid-June, include limiting social gatherings to two people, a halt on dining in at restaurants and for employers to make working from home a default arrangement for staff.
Singapore posted its worst recession last year due to pandemic and is now charting an uneven recovery. read more
The return of restrictions come as the city-state was gearing up to reopen to visitors and businesses and host international events, including next month’s annual defence and security meeting, the Shangri-La Dialogue, and the World Economic Forum’s summit in August.

3 May
Life after advertising with 1880 founder Marc Nicholson
While its live events arm was deeply impacted by the much needed social restrictions put in place by COVID-19 last year, private member club 1880 found itself in an interesting position when it saw member applications going through the roof. In fact by November 2020, Marc Nicholson, founder of 1880, said the club had its highest ever number of applicants and the team had to reassess the number of applicants it could allow.
The club which is currently hosted on the third floor of [email protected] Quay prides itself as being one which connects non-homogenous groups of people, giving individuals “access to minds”. At the heart of it all, is former ad man Nicholson who was previously running an agency called Rocket X Media – who deeply believes in the power of human connections and that “conversations can and will make the world a better place”.

30 April
Singapore warns of ‘tougher action’ if infections spread wider
(Reuters) It confirmed nine new local cases on Friday, following 16 the day before, including a growing cluster at a hospital.
Though those are only a fraction of the number being reported among Singapore’s Southeast Asian neighbours, a jump in infections would be a setback for the Asian business hub, which has successfully contained its earlier outbreaks.
Health authorities on Friday said the scale of social interactions should be reduced and more crowd control measures would be imposed over the next two weeks.
Singapore adds 23 charges against founder of oil trader Hin Leong
Owned by Lim and his children Evan Lim and Lim Huey Ching, Hin Leong, set up in 1973, was once one of Asia’s top oil traders.
But it failed in a year-long effort to restructure debt of about $3.5 billion after an oil crash in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic bared huge losses.
Lim admitted in a court document last year to directing the firm not to disclose losses running into hundreds of millions of dollars over several years.

27 April
I discovered a new appreciation of my American home after I moved far away from it
(WaPo opinion) In the summer of 2019, my family and I moved temporarily from our small town in New Jersey to the city-state in Southeast Asia. Being in a new country invariably means homesickness, a familiar feeling from when I immigrated to the United States from Vietnam almost 40 years ago. Inside a Singaporean neighborhood park, I discovered a community and a newfound appreciation of my American home.

23 April
Singapore PM names new finmin, reshuffles cabinet as succession question looms
(Reuters) Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong named Lawrence Wong, tipped as a contender to be future premier, as the new finance minister in a broader cabinet reshuffle which comes at a time when the country is resetting its leadership succession plan.
Wong, the face of the government’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, is among a crop of younger political figures who have been touted by analysts as potential successors to Lee. He is currently education minister and second minister for finance.
Wong replaces Heng Swee Keat, whose unexpected move to step aside as the country’s leader-in-waiting, has raised uncertainty over who will succeed Lee, 69, when he retires.
The reshuffle comes after Singapore, a global finance and trade hub, suffered its worst ever recession last year due to the pandemic. The government has pumped more than S$100 billion ($75.34 billion) into the economy to cope with the fallout.

A tiny island nation has lessons for the next stage of the pandemic
No country has had a perfect pandemic response, and Singapore’s strategy comes with its own concerns. Nor is it easily replicable elsewhere; the country benefits from a small, compliant population, and its island status allowed it to seal borders effectively. But Singaporeans understood something important about the pandemic early on: that to achieve a semblance of normalcy, we’d have to give up the dream of returning completely to normal, at least until everyone was vaccinated. It was clear that the alternative, in a densely populated urban jungle with an aging population, would be devastating. That attitude has kept us safe — and has lessons for the world.
(WaPo) Since last March, Singapore has imposed strict quarantine rules, mandating that all travelers into the country, including citizens like me, must quarantine, most commonly in hotels for 14 days. Soon after, it launched a lockdown that involved closing nonessential workplaces and schools and restricting gatherings. As community transmissions dwindled, the government began relaxing measures, allowing workplaces to reopen with limited capacity and schools, malls and other public spaces to operate with preventative measures in place.
Singapore now sees just a handful of locally transmitted covid-19 cases each month. Though there have been multiple outbreaks in crowded facilities housing migrant workers — revealing the stark inequalities that underpin Singapore’s development and leading to continued restrictions for these vulnerable communities — in the past week, there have been just 11 positive cases found outside quarantine. In total, just 30 people have died from the coronavirus in Singapore.
Early on, the government deployed a phone app for contact tracing. To enter any building or crowded space, everyone must scan a “SafeEntry” QR code to “check in,” and then “check out” when they exit. Attendants sit near each entrance to help those without smartphones and ensure people are following instructions, but I didn’t see anyone push back against the process, which typically takes a few seconds. In malls, every store has its own QR code, and every entrance comes with a temperature scan and sanitizing station. It is mandatory for people to wear masks outside their homes, with a few exceptions, such as when exercising.

Lessons from Singapore: How to generate solar power in a city without much space
(WEF) Singapore is betting on floating solar farms and vertical panels to increase its clean-energy supplies and cut carbon emissions, a model that could work in other densely populated cities, urban experts said.
With renewable energy options such as wind, hydro, nuclear and biomass ruled out, solar photovoltaic (PV) is the most viable option for Singapore, despite limited land for large-scale farms, and challenges such as frequent cloud cover.

13 April
BlackRock, Singapore’s Temasek in mammoth climate investing push
New joint venture aims to raise billions of dollars for firms that help reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

25 March
Cash splash: how Sea became south-east Asia’s biggest public company
Ecommerce powered one of the pandemic’s biggest winners
(FT) From relative obscurity in Indonesia’s tech landscape, Shopee has risen to become the country’s most visited ecommerce platform, according to digital research firm iPrice, and ShopeePay the most used digital payments service, according to Ipsos Indonesia. That has helped make Shopee’s parent, Sea Ltd, one of the most successful companies of the pandemic.
The company made huge inroads into payments and ecommerce last year while quietly moving into other areas such as food delivery. Investors seem to believe that Sea can be all-conquering: The surge in its share price last year made the company the most valuable public entity in south-east Asia. The stock seems to price in the likelihood that, one day, the entire region’s market will belong to it.
So rapid has been Sea’s growth that it is forcing rivals in the region to weigh up their options to compete against the Singaporean company’s onslaught.

3 reasons why Singapore is the smartest city in the world
(WEF) It’s official: Singapore is the world’s smartest city. That’s according to a new survey Published by Swiss business school IMD and the Singapore University of Technology and Design – the IMD Smart Cities Index – which looked at how well cities are adopting digital technologies and improving the lives of the people who live there.
While there is no universal definition for the term ‘smart city,’ it is a concept that was devised at the advent of the internet of things (IoT). Smart cities are committed to improving the provision and development of urban services through the use of digital technology.
1. A healthcare ecosystem that celebrates continuous learning and innovation, builds communities and offers reliable specialist care
2. Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HDB) offers all citizens access to free public housing. Furthermore, the country’s leaders have created public housing that is more than just an apartment space; it also stretches into larger community areas that integrate liveability, sustainability and growth.
3. [The Land Transit Authority] LTA is building a system of transport infrastructure in which daily commutes can integrate active mobility modes like walking and cycling with public transportation services like mass rapid transit (MRT) and buses. By applying advanced technologies to mobility, the city enables citizens to lead more active lifestyles through convenient and cost-effective transportation. (November 2019)

8 February
A doctor explains how Singapore has kept COVID-19 cases low
Dr. Lim Hui Ling, 51, is the medical director for the International Medical Clinic in Singapore.
Lim says going through the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic helped prepare her and other healthcare workers to deal with COVID-19.
She also credits fellow Singaporeans for helping stop the spread of the virus by willingly wearing masks, social distancing, and using a contact tracing app.

2020

22 December
Singapore’s Digital Banking Race is On
Digital newcomers face serious challenges in poaching customers from Singapore’s traditional banking sector.
All of these newly licensed digital banks will be facing an uphill battle against Singapore’s entrenched traditional banking sector. The three largest banks – DBS, UOB and OCBC – had a combined 1.475 trillion Singaporean dollars ($1.1 trillion) in assets at the close of 2019, and millions of existing customers, many of whom already use digital and online banking services. Will fusing Singtel’s mobile penetration with Grab’s array of consumer-facing services be enough to woo customers away from the massive brick and mortar banks with their established customer bases? That will be one of the key stories to watch.

21 December
Young people regarded COVID-19 as a threat to the older generation but not to themselves
(Nanyang Technological University) During the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, young Singaporeans understood the infectious disease to be risky for their parents and older relatives, but not themselves, a Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) study has found.
Young Singaporeans were more concerned about the dangers of fake news surrounding COVID-19 rather than the health threat posed by the disease and believed misinformation about the pandemic affected the older generation more than them.
Through the focus groups, the two authors from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) found that rather than actively seeking information about COVID-19, many young adults got their news about the virus from social media platforms and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.
This in turn shaped their view that the virus was risky for older generations but not for themselves, which in turn shaped their behavioural response to the outbreak, such as not wearing face masks, which was not mandated in the early stages of the outbreak.

4 December
Singapore to have 4 digital banks, with Grab-Singtel and Sea getting digital full bank licences
(Straits Times) The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Friday (Dec 4) it will award digital full bank licences to the Grab-Singtel consortium and tech giant Sea, in a first for the city-state and a highly anticipated move that aims to liberalise the financial industry.
Like traditional banks, these players will provide retail customers with services such as opening accounts, deposits as well as issuing debit and credit cards.
However, digital banks will not have a physical presence and all banking services will be done online.

16 October
Singapore embarks on a million-tree planting spree to protect its future
(WEF) Singapore plans to plant 1 million trees by 2030, in a bid to boost biodiversity.
The city-state has also launched a new 990-acre park in the northern portion of the island that will act as is a refueling site for migratory birds and house a number of native animals.
… The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is also an important stop for migratory waterbirds as they fly from Russia and Alaska to Australia and New Zealand along the East Asian-Australasian flyway. By forming the Sungei Buloh Park Network, Singapore is effectively tripling the size of the protected area comprising the reserve. This new park aims to safeguard the biodiversity of multiple areas, including the Kranji marshes, the Mandai mangrove and mudflat, and the coastal Lim Chu Kang Nature Park, which is state land. Within this patchwork of habitats, researchers have recorded 279 species of birds. These areas comprise many different kinds of ecosystems; Lim Chua Kang Nature Park alone boasts mangrove, woodland, scrubland and grassland habitats, and its diversity has attracted coastal birds such as the gray-headed fish eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) and baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus).

6 September
‘End of Singapore’ for expats as government tells firms to hire locals in coronavirus crisis
The city-state looks to cut expat workforce as unemployment rates rise
(The Telegraph UK) Singapore has long been a favoured destination for foreign expatriates seeking a smooth passage into Asia, with its reputation for cleanliness and efficiency being matched with generous salaries, low tax rates and a comfortable lifestyle.
But as the pandemic-fuelled recession begins to bite and unemployment rates soar, the lure of the city-state is fading as recruiters face increasing barriers to hiring and foreign employees expect to bear the brunt of job cuts. Some have become alarmed at a rise in hostile rhetoric and no longer feel at home.
Last week Gan Siow Huang, the minister of state for manpower, said employers should view Singaporeans favourably when hiring and retain citizens over foreigners if retrenchment cannot be avoided.
Despite growing interest in Singapore as an alternative global hub to troubled Hong Kong, the government last month raised the costs of employing foreigners by increasing the minimum wage requirement for an “Employment Pass” work visa.
Under domestic political pressure, the government also added 47 companies to a watch list for suspected discriminatory hiring practices between foreigners and locals. The list, mainly from the financial and professional services sectors, adds to hundreds of other firms already under scrutiny.
… the financial stress of the pandemic has caused underlying tensions between the local population and expat communities to surface.
One recent Singaporean graduate told the Telegraph that “many of my peers and I are completely disillusioned by the government…We see ourselves completely at odds with the foreign population. At every turn, citizens are disadvantaged. There really isn’t any prominent country that has such high foreign population.”
Foreigners living in Singapore said that on top of worries about the shrinking job market, they also felt increasingly ill at ease. One suggested government phone alerts indicating new Covid-19 cases by visa category was driving anti-foreign vitriol.

5 August
Singapore’s 2020 Election: Explaining the PAP’s Stagnation
Moving forward, the PAP will need to consider how to manage the electoral impact of several key trends.
By Conrad Guimaraes
(The Diplomat) Singapore’s 2020 general election saw the opposition achieve its highest number of elected seats in parliament since 1963. Much has been made about the relatively low share of the vote (61 percent) won by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). However, observers must also acknowledge that, in the nine elections since 1984, the PAP has secured less than 65 percent of votes in six polls. The more significant outcome of the election was the announcement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that Workers Party leader Pritam Singh would officially be given the title of leader of the opposition. This development effectively consolidates the WP as the alternative government.
Three structural changes over the last decade have led to this pivotal moment in Singaporean politics.
First, government cash transfers to the population and businesses have had a diminishing effect on Singaporean elections. Since the 2011 elections, the government has adjusted its positioning and policies to increase handouts and training assistance packages significantly.
Second, voters seem to reject the PAP’s approach to allowing junior candidates to be elected into Parliament by fielding them as junior members of a group representation constituency (GRC) under a high-profile senior minister. In a society where meritocracy is extolled by the government, the idea of well-connected, white-collar professionals being elected on the coattails of experienced politicians has hit a nerve.
The final reason for the PAP’s decline is what can be called the “Clinton Effect,”… Since the 2011 election, the PAP government has erected several legal barriers to opposition success, all of which seemed to create a political environment where voters are more inclined to vote for the opposition.

4 July
Hype beasts, fan cams: does Singapore opposition have an online edge in election 2020?
With mass rallies out due to Covid-19, online campaigning could play a big role in Singapore’s digital-first election
Some analysts believe it will boost the opposition, with even a PAP stalwart saying the ruling party faces a ‘tough election’
(SCMP) While Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s PAP – in power since 1959 – is all but certain to return to power, some observers believe the elections may be far more of a contest than in the past because of a “levelling of the playing field” brought about by restrictions on physical campaigning.
As part of prevailing pandemic control measures, candidates, while allowed to conduct walkabouts and house visits, are only allowed to do so in groups of five or fewer.
With the restrictions in mind, the PAP stalwart K. Shanmugam described the contest to local media this week as a “tough election” for the ruling party as its strengths were in campaigning on the ground.
In pitching policies to voters, the incumbents enjoy an advantage, according to Woo. “For the opposition, the onus is on them to tell voters what alternative policies they could offer,” he said. “The ground work now is being limited … and there are fewer people out on the streets so the level of engagement will be far less.
Singapore GE updates, July 4: Where are the parties’ big guns
(Straits Times) The parties are also hoping to shift voters’ attention to what they feel should be the core issues in this election. For the PAP, it is steering Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis. For the opposition, it is the need for a constructive opposition in Parliament.
Singapore election: the present and future of the People’s Action Party
The party is fielding 27 new candidates and replacing 20 current MPs including former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.
Lee, his designated successor Heng Swee Keat and the younger so-called 4G or fourth generation ministers are fronting the party’s effort to win its 13th consecutive general election
THE ‘4G-16’
With the PAP likely to return to power, this year’s election has been characterised as a referendum of sorts on Heng and the 15 other younger ministers who make up the PAP’s 4G leadership.
The team will helm key ministries after the election, and Heng, 59, is expected to succeed 68-year-old Lee, who had previously indicated he would step down by the time he turned 70. … Heng, who is also finance minister, is the oldest in the group while 43-year-old Desmond Lee, the Minister for Social and Family Development, is the youngest.
5 reasons why Singapore’s upcoming general election is worth watching
(CNBC)  The Southeast Asian country is not the first to hold a national vote in the middle of the pandemic. South Korea in April held parliamentary elections that resulted in a decisive win for President Moon Jae-in’s party.  While the South Korean government was largely praised for its handling of the virus at the time of its elections, Singapore’s response — which was initially seen as a success globally — lost some of its shine due to an outbreak within dormitories that house migrant workers. Those workers — usually men from other Asian countries working in low-wage, labor-intensive jobs — account for more than 90% of nearly 44,000 confirmed infections in Singapore, according to the health ministry’s data.
Singapore is forecasting its worst economic recession since independence in 1965. The economy is expected to shrink by between 4% and 7% this year, according to official estimates.
For only the second time since Singapore’s independence, all 93 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs in the election will be contested. The ruling PAP is the only one that has fielded candidates for every seat. The last election in 2015 was the first time that every parliamentary seat was contested.
Last week, the prime minister’s younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party. Although the younger Lee is not contesting in the election, he is expected to help rally support for the opposition.

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