As Singapore presses on with economic transformation, the Government can be expected to further nudge small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate and seek opportunities abroad, said observers ahead of next month's Budget statement. And in the face of technological disruption, the Government will also continue to prioritise helping affected professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) find new careers, they added. The observers were responding to Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's recent comments on the Budget statement, which he will deliver on Feb 18.
Singapore, UK launch partnership to forge broader, deeper ties
As Singapore marks the Bicentennial of Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival and Britain begins a new era, both countries have started a partnership to broaden and deepen their ties in the years ahead. The Singapore-United Kingdom Partnership for the Future was launched by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt during Mr Hunt's two-day official visit. The bilateral relationship "is as broad as it is deep", both ministers said in a joint statement that highlighted their countries' shared belief in free trade and international law, and their commitment to the rules-based multilateral system and to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. The partnership will see both sides build on existing links and strengthen collaboration, especially in these four areas: the digital economy; sustainable business and innovation; security and defence; and education, culture and youth.
Singapore, Malaysia take steps to tackle bilateral disputes
Singapore and Malaysia are taking steps to defuse their air and maritime tensions, as foreign ministers on both sides reiterated their commitment "to preserving the vital relationship between both countries and to improving bilateral ties, on the basis of equality and mutual respect". Both countries are locked in two separate disputes - over territorial waters off Tuas and airspace management over southern Johor. On the air front, the ministers said that Malaysia will immediately suspend its permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang for flights, while Singapore will do the same for new aircraft landing procedures for Seletar Airport.
Re-employment model remains relevant; retirement age should stay at 62: panel
The retirement and re-employment model for older workers continues to be relevant - and the mandatory retirement age should remain at 62 years, according to employer, government and worker representatives. Their views were made at an Institute of Policy Studies' (IPS) forum on older workers, where questions were raised on the retirement age and the working of the Re-employment Act introduced in 2012. However the compulsory re-employment offer made to workers when they retire at 62 doesn't provide them sufficient security because the length of re-employment, which was extended in 2017 from the age of 65 to 67, is in practice determined on a yearly contractual basis.
The Thomson-East Coast MRT line (TEL) will have an additional stop between Tanjong Rhu and Gardens by the Bay stations, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced. The Founders' Memorial station will be named after and situated next to a 5 hectare memorial being built to showcase the contributions of modern Singapore's founders. Both are scheduled to open in 2025. Engineering provisions for an MRT station had already been put in place - in anticipation of future developments in the area - but the station was not announced earlier because plans for the memorial were confirmed only in 2017. The LTA said China Railway First Group has been awarded a S$242.4 million contract to build the station, and construction work will start later this year.
Earn and Learn scheme to be launched for air transport sector
Manpower constraints are expected across all sectors due to Singapore's demographic changes and the keen competition for talent, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat. With little relief in sight, companies will need to step up their business transformation through both technology and skills upgrading, he added. "Technology alone is not enough, because you also need a skilled workforce," he told reporters on the sidelines of a company visit to SATS in-flight catering centre. "The application of technology to transform business operations and the upgrading of skills of the workers to then do these higher-level jobs well - I think that's a powerful combination."
Singapore property agents' track records now available online
Would-be Housing Board flat buyers and sellers can now find out more about property agents' track record with the click of a button. The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) launched the Property Agents' Transaction Records Initiative, which publishes the records of residential transactions facilitated by realtors here in the last two years. The first phase of the initiative has seen the CEA's website updated to include information on completed Housing Board resale transactions. This includes when the flat changed hands, where it is located, and whether the agent represented the buyer or seller. "The additional information can provide consumers with a clearer understanding of the agent's experience in terms of how active he or she has been in the last two years in closing HDB resale transactions, in which HDB towns, and whether he or she was acting for the buyer or the seller," the CEA said.
Trade conflict between the world's two largest economic powers is already inflicting collateral damage, and threatens to do yet more harm to the global economy, the World Bank has warned. And the global slowdown is beginning as government and corporate debt rises, especially among the poorest countries, while mounting interest rates increase borrowing costs, the bank said in its semi-annual Global Economic Prospects report. The report was markedly more pessimistic than a year ago - when the outlook was for synchronised global growth - and peppered with exhortations to take "urgent", "imperative" or "critical" action. Growth of the world economy is expected to slow to 2.9 per cent this year, and 2.8 per cent in 2020, slightly below the previous forecast, and the estimates for nearly all regions and countries were downgraded.
Singapore must continue to transform economy amid global uncertainties: Heng
Singapore must continue to innovate and transform its economy in the face of uncertainties in the global economy and rapid technological advancements, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. At the same time, Singaporeans must also be equipped with the relevant skills so that the country can progress together, Mr Heng said in a Facebook as he called for the public to continue sharing suggestions for the upcoming Budget. Mr Heng will deliver the 2019 Budget statement, which sets out the nation's strategic financial plan, on Feb 18. The Finance Ministry has been garnering feedback for the Budget from Singaporeans since Dec 3 last year through various channels, and will wrap up the exercise on Jan 11.
South-east Asia best market for growth, investment: Poll
Top executives in Singapore say South-east Asia heads the list of markets for growth and investment opportunities, with China coming in a distant second. A poll of 104 head honchos here found that about 53 per cent of them ranked South-east Asia ahead of China (23 per cent). The majority of respondents indicated that trade tensions between the United States and China were the top market concern and challenge, followed by rising interest rates and slowing global growth. The findings came in the third annual survey commissioned by Citibank. The BT-Citibank Outlook Survey polled top managers, including those holding the position of chairman, chief executive and managing director. Most were aged 40 and over. The research was conducted online by Singapore Press Holdings in November. About 86.5 per cent of respondents placed US-China trade tensions as the top geopolitical challenge this year while about 6 per cent considered it to be Brexit. As for global political stability and the international trade situation, most believed that things would worsen in the first six months of this year.
Beyond its traditional task of attracting firms to set up here, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) wants to help firms get involved in the start-up ecosystem - by supporting corporate venture capital. "Risk-sharing financing" is one of the new areas that EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong is keen to explore in 2019, just over a year since he took on the role in October 2017. Before joining the EDB, Mr Chng was principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from Sept 1, 2014 to Sept 30, 2017. His previous roles in the public service included being director of the communications group in the Prime Minister's Office and director of resource industry at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, among others. The EDB will work with big corporates to set up corporate venture arms and evaluate deals, while taking part in financing, he tells The Business Times. "We help them de-risk a little."
Singapore firms' payment performance dips for third straight quarter
The last quarter of 2018 saw a deterioration in local firms' payment performance for three straight quarters, and more companies were also slow in payment compared with the last quarter a year ago, according to the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau (SCCB). SCCB said prompt payments slid 4.48 percentage points quarter on quarter to 43.83 per cent of total payment transactions, while slow payments saw an improvement as there was a 0.92 percentage point dip to 38.02 per cent of total payment transactions. Partial payments increased by 5.41 percentage points to 18.15 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year from 12.74 per cent in the third quarter. From a year-on-year perspective, prompt payments dropped by 6.57 percentage points, while slow payments increased by 1.1 percentage points. Partial payments rose by 5.47 percentage points.