Singapore's economy turned in a better-than-expected report card for the third quarter, which led several economists to upgrade their full-year growth forecasts. The economy grew 2.6 per cent year on year in Q3, down from 4.1 per cent in Q2, and 4.6 per cent in Q1, according to advance estimates released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. This makes Q3 the weakest print this year, but it still managed to beat economist expectations of a 2.4 per cent expansion. For the first three quarters of 2018, the Singapore economy clocked growth of 3.8 per cent - the best 9-month performance since 2013. The manufacturing sector was still the main growth driver in Q3, but its momentum has slowed considerably as earlier anticipated, hit by base effects, a fading electronics cycle, and trade war concerns. Even with trade tensions and emerging market uncertainties casting a pall on the outlook, the economy is still on track to grow at a steady but more subdued clip for the rest of the year and 2019.
Singapore exports up 8.3%, but come in below expectations
Singapore's export growth clocked a strong showing last month, led by non-electronic shipments and supported by the volatile pharmaceuticals sector again. The Republic's non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) rose 8.3 per cent from a year ago in September, up from 5 per cent in August, with expansion in non-electronic exports outweighing a dip in electronics. This figure, however, remained below analysts' expectations of 11.1 per cent growth reflected in a Bloomberg forecast poll. Non-electronic exports grew by 11.9 per cent last month, up from a 7.8 per cent rise the month before - with pharmaceuticals, non-monetary gold and food preparations contributing the most to this. Electronic Nodx declined 0.9 per cent year-on-year as well, following a 1.5 per cent dip in August. Contributing most to this slip were shipments of personal computers, diodes and transistors, as well as parts of integrated circuits. In particular, exports to China dropped 17.8 per cent from the year before, with declines in both electronics & non-electronics. However, shipments to US jumped 41.5 per cent overall compared with a year ago.
Singapore and Indonesia deals likely to boost confidence
A planned US$10 billion (S$13.8 billion) currency swap deal and US dollar repurchase agreement between Singapore and Indonesia will boost confidence in uncertain times, say analysts. They say both would serve as a second line of defence, complementing the existing Chiang Mai Initiative, a multilateral currency swap arrangement among Asean members plus China, Japan and South Korea. The Indonesia-Singapore deals would also signal growing trust between the two neighbours. Under the planned swap that the central banks of both countries are finalising, Bank Indonesia could turn to the Monetary Authority of Singapore for up to US$10 billion worth of Singapore dollars for an equivalent amount of rupiah at the prevailing exchange rate. After a pre-determined period of time, the two central banks will return the swapped currencies to each other at the same exchange rate as when the transaction was first made. Normally, the central bank that requested activation of the swap pays interest to the counterpart central bank. Under the US dollar repurchase agreement, one central bank will provide the other with US dollars in exchange for pledged assets such as United States treasuries or government bonds. This would prevent the fire sale of assets that would exacerbate the situation in the event of a tight financial squeeze.
Singapore 3rd in global life expectancy rankings
Singaporeans are expected to remain among the longest-lived people in the world in 2040, according to a new study published in the medical journal, The Lancet. Researchers estimate the average lifespan in Singapore will go up from 83.3 years in 2016 to 85.4 years by 2040, placing it third out of 195 countries. Spain is expected to place first with an average lifespan of 85.8 years, while Japan will come in second at 85.7 years. Other countries predicted to be in the top 10 include Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Israel, France, Luxembourg and Australia. The study also highlighted the top 10 causes of death in each country. For Singapore, the top three in 2040 are forecast to be lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, followed by dementia and ischaemic heart disease.
The average size of new private dwelling units (including executive condominiums) in the Outside Central Area will have to be at least 85 sq m, a regulatory change that will cut the number of units allowed in a project - something that developers say would sound the death knell for en bloc deals and moderate condo and land prices in the affected areas.
This comes as the URA has observed smaller unit sizes in new private housing projects, which in turn could put pressure on local infrastructure. The revised maximum number of allowable dwelling units will help to manage potential strains on local infrastructure and safeguard the liveability of residential estates, while encouraging developers to provide a more balanced mix of unit sizes to cater to the diverse needs of homebuyers. The 85 sq m and 100 sq m limits reduce the number of units in a development by 18 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, curbing developers' ability to prop up profit margins by launching smaller units. The number of shoebox units entering the market will also come down in the longer term.
New private dwelling units in nine areas (Marine Parade, Joo Chiat-Mountbatten, Telok Kurau-Jalan Eunos, Balestier, Stevens-Chancery, Pasir Panjang, Kovan-How Sun, Shelford and Loyang) will face a stricter criteria of 100 sq m • This will reduce the number of dwelling units by 18% and 30%, respectively
New guidelines may price some buyers out of market: Redas
The revised rules to cut the maximum number of private housing units allowed in a project outside the central area may make private properties out of reach for millennials and retirees and price these buyers out of the market, said the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas). With developers expected to build fewer and bigger units, the overall average prices of new private apartments may rise on reduced future supply, analysts say. The rules kick in for new development applications submitted on or after Jan 17. The move will curb the proliferation of shoebox units and is aimed at reducing potential strains on infrastructure.
New rules on condominium balcony size and width
n the light of a growing trend of oversized condominium balconies, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) moved on Oct 17 to cap balcony sizes for the first time. The URA will impose a limit on the sizes of condominium balcony size in private homes to no more than 15 per cent of the internal floor area of the unit. Balconies must also now have a minimum width of 1.5m so that the outdoor space can be used meaningfully by residents. There are no such limits currently. The rules will come in for new condos with development applications submitted after Jan 16 next year, and do not apply to units that are already built.
More companies are looking to lease existing buildings for data storage, and some tech companies are building their own facilities. With the announcement from Google and Facebook that they are setting up data centres here, this burgeoning new sector has been thrust into the limelight. Across the Asia-Pacific, the data centre market is expected to grow by 27 per cent annually, , and Singapore is set to be a key beneficiary. This wave of demand presents excellent opportunities for investors, creates jobs, and elevates Singapore's status as a tech hub. South-east Asia's rising Internet and social media use, as well as the growth of e-commerce mean that the city-state is becoming a hotbed for tech companies looking to use it as a gateway to enter other markets. Singapore is one of the "Big Four" in the region when it comes to data centres, along with Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo. While both Hong Kong and Singapore are popular choices for companies looking to set up headquarters, Singapore has an edge with its stable geopolitical climate, supportive regulatory environment and relatively cheaper land costs. The Singapore government has also prioritised diversity of locations and greenfield availability for data centres, allowing the market to evolve and meet demand.
Skilled workforce key in shaping future of manufacturing in Singapore
Singapore's approach towards Industry 4.0 is "not simply about technology", said Senior Minister for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon. At the heart of its manufacturing strategy is how the city-state can better organise itself, and how the workforce and companies can respond more nimbly to rapidly-changing economic and technological trends. One instance of collaboration is the Industrial, Internet of Things, Innovation (I3) Platform established by A*Star as a consortium to develop and accelerate the adoption of Internet-of-Things technologies and solutions by the industry. To date, some 17 companies, including Rolls-Royce and local SME Genesis Networks, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish long-term partnerships with I3. The platform will focus on developing and integrating smart manufacturing technologies such as sensors, industrial data analytics, and cybersecurity.
3D printing facility to be set up at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal
The world's first 3D maritime printing facility will be built at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal, to create parts that can be used for port equipment. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) signed an agreement to set up the facility. It will feature state-of-the-art printers and use a specialised maritime digital cloud supported by blockchain technology for increased security of file transfers. With additive manufacturing, customised ship parts such as propellers previously produced by original manufacturers at specific locations can now be printed whenever and wherever needed, at ports-of-call or even on-board ships.