Tomer Avital in the wake of the approval of the 2023-24 budget For the sake of the journalists and presenters…
Singapore July 2020 –
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // April 27, 2023 // Asia // Comments Off on Singapore July 2020 –
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Fareed Zakaria: What America can learn from Singapore about racial integration
(25 June 2015)
2 Chinese navy ships head to Singapore for joint drills
(AP) — China’s military has dispatched a pair of navy ships to take part in joint drills with Singapore’s navy and join in a regional maritime security exhibition.
The exercises starting Friday in the Southeast Asian city state come amid China’s growing presence in the South China Sea, which it claims sovereignty over virtually in its entirety.
Singapore still leads the way as the world’s best place to do business
(Straits Times) Singapore has retained its position as the world’s leading business environment for the 15th consecutive year and should remain the best place to operate for the next five years, according to a leading market analyst.
Canada and Denmark were placed equal second in the annual rankings by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), with four European countries plus the United States, Hong Kong and New Zealand making up the top 10. Regional economies Australia, Taiwan and South Korea made it to the top 20.
It found that Singapore had perfect scores in the areas of policy towards foreign investment and foreign trade and exchange controls.
It was also the highest-scoring country in terms of technological readiness, a sign of government policies to develop technology infrastructure and the start-up ecosystem. The Government is also a pioneer in rolling out high-technology solutions throughout public services, the EIU added.
He [Lee Kuan Yew] Made His Country Rich, but Something Has Gone Wrong With the System
(NYT) Benevolent dictators are hard to find. There’s no guarantee that they will stay benevolent or that their successors will be as competent. After a country successfully transitions its economy, the advantages of this system seem to fade. But by then, a system of nearly unchecked power at the top has become entrenched.
Singapore is a case in point. Lee Kuan Yew contended that people don’t pine for democracy. First and foremost, he said, “they want homes, medicine, jobs, schools,” according to the 1998 book “Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas.” He provided those things by pairing business-friendly policies from the West (predictable courts, low taxes, zero tolerance for corruption and an embrace of meritocracy) with socialist-leaning policies from autocracies (heavy government involvement in economic planning and little tolerance for dissent).
…now, eight years after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore is at a crossroads. It’s being run by his eldest son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who leans heavily on his father’s legacy. Elections for the largely ceremonial post of president are expected in September and parliamentary elections are due by 2025. The prime minister’s potential successor has already been picked. But the ruling People’s Action Party has never looked so vulnerable.
Critics say Singapore is becoming more like a plutocracy, in which well-paid yes men with the right connections to the Lee family rise up the ranks. Today, Singapore is a place where forklift operators can face jail time for taking one-dollar bribes but executives from the Singaporean conglomerate Keppel — who paid millions in bribes, according to the U.S. Justice Department — got off with “stern warnings.” (Officials in Singapore have said that they didn’t have enough evidence to take the case to court.)
The trouble is that the system requires someone like Lee Kuan Yew at the top — strict and charismatic, as Michael Barr, author of “Singapore: A Modern History,” told me. “But no one who has that political skill would ever rise to the top today because that person would be regarded as a threat,” he said.
Perhaps the clearest sign that something has gone wrong in Singapore is the fact that Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest son and one of his grandsons say they are now living in exile, fearful that they would be arrested if they ever returned.
Singapore plans tighter cryptocurrency rules to limit risks for retail investors
Proposed new rules from the central bank include banning incentives such as referral bonuses and introducing a test for would-be investors
The measures are set to be discussed with industry players before being first introduced as guidelines then eventually written into law
(SCMP) Singapore’s central bank on Wednesday outlined plans to introduce fresh measures that raise the threshold to trade cryptocurrencies for retail investors, as it reiterated the investment risks surrounding highly volatile digital assets.
The proposed new rules, which would include banning monetary and non-monetary incentives such as referral bonuses for consumers, were highlighted in a set of consultation papers published by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which also acts as the city state’s financial regulator.
Among other measures, the MAS has proposed that firms should not accept credit card payments or offer credit facilities to retail investors as this could result in a “magnification of losses”.
Will Sunak’s rise in UK prompt soul-searching in Chinese-majority Singapore?
Singapore’s three prime ministers are all of Chinese descent, but observers note Sunak’s rise should not be ‘romanticised’ as he was chosen by a small circle of Tory MPs
Observers also question whether takeaway should be about a person from an ethnic minority group being PM or that a ‘ridiculously rich elite’ could take the top job
Record. À Singapour, avoir une voiture coûte le prix d’un appartement
Le coût du permis indispensable pour pouvoir posséder une automobile dans la cité-État atteint un sommet historique. Pourtant la politique de Singapour en matière de limitation du trafic pourrait inspirer d’autres métropoles mondiales, estime “Bloomberg”.
K. Shanmugam: Will Singapore have to choose between the US and China? (audio)
(BBC Hard Talk) Stephen Sackur speaks to K. Shanmugam, Singapore’s minister of home affairs. Economically open, socially conservative and highly politically controlled, Singapore has thrived in the era of globalisation, but could rising US/China tensions force it to take sides?
The Man Who Helped Create Singapore’s Housing Boom Is Getting Worried
Glossy, cosmopolitan Singapore is playing host to a very unusual balancing act. The city is one of Asia’s most expensive property markets — and at the same time, boasts one of the highest home ownership rates in the world.
(Bloomberg City Lab) As the chief architect of Singapore’s Housing Development Board, Liu Thai Ker was instrumental in establishing a housing model that has underpinned decades of astonishing economic growth.
Outcry as Singapore executes man with learning difficulties over drugs offence
Campaigners decry ‘broken system’ in Singapore that disproportionately punishes drug mules rather than those who coerce them into work
Russia’s Ties to Southeast Asia and How They Affect the Ukraine War: Part 3, Singapore and Vietnam
The latest in our series on Southeast Asian relations with Russia looks at two important U.S. partners. Singapore, a small city-state that has always felt itself surrounded by major powers, certainly could see some of the dangers of a world in which giant autocrats wield power with no limits – and the dangers of a world in which any rules and norms collapse.
(Council on Foreign Relations) Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong recently appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations, and he clearly explained this view, summarizing in essence why Singapore has gone along with the tough approach toward Russia, even as some other major Southeast Asian states like Indonesia have just offered platitudes about the conflict and about neutrality, or tried to say as little as possible about Ukraine. The Singaporean prime minister noted, when asked by CFR President Richard Haass why Lee thought the war has a negative impact on the Indo-Pacific region:
“It [the war] [has] damaged the international framework for law and order and peace between countries. It violates the U.N. charter, it endangers the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all countries, especially small ones. [italics added by me]. And if a principle is accepted that crazy decisions and historical errors are the justification for invading somebody else, I think many of us are going to be feeling very insecure in the Asia-Pacific, but also in the rest of the world.”
A Conversation With Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (30 March)
The Struggle of Mental Health Care Delivery in South Korea and Singapore
(Harvard International Review) …in both South Korea and Singapore, mental health issues have been increasingly significant. In both cases, long-standing societal factors, exacerbated and catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, presented a major national mental health challenge. … In the initial wake of lockdowns in the country, rates of depression, isolation, and suicide drastically skyrocketed, resulting in fears of a widespread mental health epidemic.
… While mental healthcare is stigmatized in both societies, Singapore’s government has pushed landmark overhauls to its mental health system in the years prior. Singapore first invested significant resources towards destigmatizing mental health, including raising US$13 million for community efforts to raise awareness about the problem.
Second, the Singaporean government has actively partnered with major employers to help employees access mental health services, an important step in combating the crisis.
Third, the Singaporean government has largely overhauled the Singaporean mental healthcare system creat[ing] online portals to allow Singaporeans to better access mental health services and centraliz[ing] the political apparatus around mental health to offer better care.
Singapore to impose sanctions on Russia, including bank transactions
(Reuters) – Singapore will impose “appropriate sanctions and restrictions” on Russia, its foreign minister said on Monday, including banking and financial measures and export controls on items that could be used as weapons against the people of Ukraine.
Singapore’s move is the first among its regional neighbours and comes independent of the Association of 10-member Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which it is a member.
Singapore to hike taxes on rich as it winds down COVID-19 spending
By Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin
(Reuters) – Singapore will begin implementing a long-flagged increase to its goods and services tax next year, its finance minister said in his budget speech on Friday, while also announcing a slew of tax hikes aimed at higher income groups.
The moves come as Singapore emerges from a pandemic-induced economic slump, but walks a tight rope in maintaining its attractiveness as a global financial hub while guarding against local concerns about rising wealth inequality and rising costs of living.
GST will rise to 8% from January next year and to 9% in 2024, Lawrence Wong said, from 7% now. The government also plans to increase income taxes for high earners, hike taxes on residential properties and impose higher levies on luxury cars.
“These tax adjustments will help to raise additional revenue and also contribute to a fairer revenue structure,” Wong said.
Singapore has been seeking to raise revenues to fund future spending that it estimates could reach more than 20% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, especially as its ramps up spending on healthcare in one of the fastest ageing countries.
Singapore Grapples With Keeping the Rich Happy — and Taxing Them Too
Growing fears about inequality are pushing the government to reconsider its policies.
(Bloomberg) To much of the outside world, Singapore is a capitalist utopia of low taxes and prosperity for all. In reality, the city-state is starting to have serious doubts about its widely admired model.
A growing fear among locals that social mobility has slowed is pushing the government to re-examine some of the policies that have made it one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
Workers from overseas were among the first to get caught in the cross hairs. Hiring criteria got tighter after competition for jobs became a theme of the 2020 election, with the ruling People’s Action Party suffering the worst parliamentary results since taking office in 1965.
Singapore, a low-tax jurisdiction where several multinationals including Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Facebook (FB.O) have regional headquarters, has a rate of 17% but provides incentives and schemes which reduce the effective rate.
Expats head for the exit as ‘easy’ Singapore’s COVID controls bite
Risk-averse Singapore is trying to balance its approach to living with COVID – aiming to protect people in the densely populated island from the disease while reopening its economy and borders to maintain its reputation as a hub for capital and talent.
Companies and expatriate professionals have long been drawn to the business-friendly country, one of the safest places in the world with a high quality of living, political stability, a skilled workforce, ease of travel and low taxes.
But COVID has prompted soul-searching among many relatively affluent expats in Singapore, where foreigners workers make up a fifth of the 5.5 million population.
The Current for Dec. 7, 2021 (audio)
is a billionaire software mogul in Australia, and a sharp critic of his country’s environmental policies. He tells us how he’s putting his money where his mouth is for a decarbonized future by building a giant solar farm in the Australian outback.
Singapore floating PV company targeting offshore expansion
Floating PV is a growing niche in the solar sector, but its offshore segment has proven more difficult to activate, largely because of the difficulty of open-water energy generation. Nevertheless, one company in Singapore, G8 Subsea, aims to leave the safety of harbors and reservoirs
One of the world’s largest renewable energy infrastructure projects, the Australia-Asia PowerLink, is set to supply Singapore and Indonesia with solar energy harvested from Australia’s Northern Territory. Five consultancies have been selected to support the delivery team for the ambitious plan.
…the Australia-Asia PowerLink is forecast to be capable of supplying up to 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs, with full capacity available from 2028.
Modelling meanwhile shows the Australia-Asia PowerLink could reduce Singapore’s emissions by 6 million tonnes per year, matching the entire climate abatement gap in Singapore’s announced 2030.
The AAPL is being developed by the Singaporean firm Sun Cable and is projected to begin construction in mid-2023, as Sun Cable intends to secure all financing by that time (at an expected cost of AU$30 billion).
Singapore Deploys Public Compliance Robots
Concept: Singapore has begun testing two autonomous robots to patrol public spaces and prevent bad social behavior as part of its ongoing attempt to expand its surveillance arsenal. The robots, known as Xavier, will weave their way among the crowds in Toa Payoh Central for three weeks starting on September 5 to identify undesirable social behaviors like flouting COVID-19 safety measures (not wearing masks), smoking in forbidden locations, and incorrect bicycle parking. It is a joint project that involves five public agencies, namely HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency), National Environment Agency, Land Transport Authority, Singapore Food Agency, and Housing & Development Board.
Nature of Disruption: The patrol robots have 360-degree cameras that may identify inappropriate social conduct. If the robots see any potentially dangerous activity, they send real-time alerts to the command and control center, which subsequently displays the relevant message (depending on the circumstance) to educate the public and prevent such behavior. With its IR and LED lighting, as well as low-light cameras, Xavier robots can take photos and movies in low light and the dark. In addition, the footage they take will be evaluated by an AI system to see if there is anything that requires human intervention.
À Singapour, Xavier le robot a commencé à faire la police
Une nouvelle étape dans la surveillance ? Pendant quelques semaines, des robots dotés de caméras à 360 degrés ont patrouillé dans les rues de Singapour et interpellé des passants, cyclistes ou vendeurs en faute. Un projet pilote que certains voient comme annonciateur de nouvelles atteintes aux libertés individuelles.
Singapore watchdog examines Pandora papers investigation findings about Asiaciti Trust
Leaked documents shed fresh light on activities of offshore provider and some of its customers
Singapore parliament to debate ‘foreign interference’ law
Controversial legislation has been described as having ‘totalitarian leanings’.
(Al Jazeera) Singapore’s parliament is debating controversial legislation [Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA)] that the government says is necessary to counter alleged foreign interference, but opposition parties, rights groups, social media platforms and others worry is too broad in scope.
The law will give authorities sweeping powers, including compelling internet, social media platforms and website operators to provide user information, block content and remove applications.
The government would also be empowered to designate organisations or individuals “politically significant persons” if their work is perceived to be directed towards a political end in Singapore, without allowing them an opportunity to challenge the designation.
“Above all, under the pretext of preventing possible foreign influence on the state, this bill institutionalises the persecution of any domestic entity that does not toe the line set by the government and ruling party, starting with independent media outlets. As it stands, this utterly Kafkaesque project contains within it the seeds of the worst totalitarian leanings.”
World’s biggest clean energy project to power Singapore from Australia
A colossal US$22-billion infrastructure project will send Australian sunshine more than 3,100 miles (5,000 km) to Singapore, via high-voltage undersea cables.
Australia’s Northern Territory has abundant space and sun; Singapore is pressed for space, and looking to transition to renewable power. The two could soon be connected in one of the largest and most ambitious renewable energy projects ever attempted.
Singapore marks the end of a more liberal era in higher education
The winding up of an experimental partnership comes amid a surge in anti-foreigner sentiment
(Financial Times) The students strolling around the lush green campus of the Yale-National University of Singapore, the city-state’s first liberal arts college, were unusually subdued one recent afternoon.
The Singaporean institution had suddenly announced on August 27 that it would end its partnership with the Ivy League university, leaving students and faculty in a state of shock as the new academic year began.
… the dismantling of the Yale-NUS community comes amid a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment among the public, fuelled by economic anxiety and hardship.
New political parties have exploited this shift in opinion, putting the ruling People’s Action party on the back foot. As pragmatic as the government is about the need to maintain Singapore’s reputation as a business hub, it also wants to recapture ground taken by the opposition.
Some in Singapore had hoped that the country would gradually become more open and tolerant. Yale-NUS embodied those hopes. In tightly controlled Singapore, many of its students were emboldened to be politically active in a way that those at other universities were not.
Graduates went on to Oxford, Princeton and other elite universities, or entered top jobs in finance, public service, technology and law. At one point Yale-NUS was harder to get into than any of the US Ivy League schools — including Yale.
What’s behind the decision to close Yale-NUS College?
(Straits Times) More than a week since the shock announcement that Yale-NUS College will close its doors in 2025, students and alumni are still wondering if they will get a more detailed explanation of the decision.
On Aug 27, the National University of Singapore (NUS) said in a statement that this year’s intake at Yale-NUS, a liberal arts institution that it set up with America’s Yale University in 2011, would be its last.
Calling the move a “merger”, NUS said the best elements of Yale-NUS and its own 20-year-old University Scholars Programme (USP) will form the basis of a yet-to-be-named new college, which will open next year.
Despite the amicable comments from university leaders, many students, alumni and faculty members have expressed anger and unhappiness at the decision and the lack of prior consultation.
There is also much speculation on the “real” reasons for what many in the Yale-NUS community see as the closure of Yale-NUS.
Interviews with decision-makers, students, alumni and faculty of NUS and Yale-NUS have posited three possible reasons for the decision:
• NUS wanting to go it alone in offering a liberal arts curriculum that is in line with its priorities;
• Concerns over Yale-NUS’ funding and the high costs of a liberal arts college education to taxpayers and students
• Controversies the college has been embroiled in
As China cracks down on cryptocurrency, crypto groups gather in Singapore
(Finance Feeds) In the last months, China has been toughening its stance against cryptocurrency, often causing major price fluctuations. In June, it caused Bitcoin to dip below $30,000 for the first time since January, after telling the country’s financial giants to stop trading in cryptos. At the beginning of July, the Chinese dragon roars were heard again with a new crypto crackdown led by the government. More recently, the Chinese authorities punished a company for allegedly being involved in crypto trading activities. As a result, the country’s persecuted crypto traders are exploring other options. Some of them are moving to Singapore, according to an article by the Financial Times, to join the crypto trading movement.
So far, over 300 crypto companies from different parts of the world have applied for licenses to operate in Singapore, according to Bloomberg, and many have already launched their trading operations in the city-state.
Racial prejudice rears its head in Singapore
The city state is less racially harmonious than its government likes to think
(The Economist) …the country is diverse—nearly three-quarters of Singapore’s residents are ethnic Chinese, 13.5% are Malay, and 9% Indian. It prides itself on how well everybody gets along.
Yet over the past few months several racist incidents have seized public attention. The rising tide of ugliness has provoked a reckoning over race—until recently a taboo subject—which has penetrated even the halls of power.
Recently came across Singapore’s Foreigner Problem – A sharp rise in the foreign population has ratcheted up racial tensions from more than seven years ago. Have things changed?
Bloomberg Politics: Singapore is attempting a feat no country has achieved so far: reopen from the pandemic with a death toll still in the double digits. To do that, it’s trying to snuff out an outbreak driven by the delta variant and reach a vaccination level of 80%, which the government says will put it in a position where it can live with the virus.
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.
The scourge of racial prejudice in Singapore
By Professor Tommy Koh
There are legal safeguards but we must mobilise the weight of public opinion against prejudicial views about minorities.
… I am concerned that such incidents seem to be on the increase. …I am concerned by the appearance of Chinese chauvinism. …I am concerned that members of our Indian community seem to be the target of these recent attacks.
… A Channel NewsAsia-Institute of Policy Studies (CNA-IPS) Survey on Race Relations in 2019 revealed some important findings. … It would seem from the survey that racial prejudice is quite widespread in Singapore, especially by the Chinese towards the Malays and Indians.
I see evidence of Chinese chauvinism in Singapore. This could be due to several developments outside Singapore.
The rise of China in the world has naturally engendered pride in many Chinese Singaporeans. There is nothing wrong with this.
However, pride in China’s achievements should not be allowed to cause the Chinese in Singapore to become chauvinistic, meaning to feel superior to the other races.
There are two other factors at work. These are the growing strength of ethno-nationalism and of identity politics. We must not allow ethno-nationalism or identity politics to come to Singapore.
… Why are the Indians being targeted? I don’t know the answer.
It could be due to perception. There is a perception that there are too many expatriate Indians in Singapore. There is also the misperception that our free trade agreement with India – the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement or Ceca – has created a loophole for Indian professionals to work in Singapore.
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.
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.
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.
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 Quayside@Robertson 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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
‘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.
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.
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
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.