1. Construction sector forecasted to recover in 2021, driven by public sector projects
A moderate recovery in construction demand is forecasted in 2021, bolstered by public sector demand; numerous “major” infrastructure projects are to be awarded this year in construction contracts worth between S$23 billion and S$28 billion, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).
This is up from the S$21.3 billion awarded in 2020.
The Government will contribute approximately 65 per cent of this year’s overall construction demand, amounting to between S$15 billion and S$18 billion (as opposed to the S$13.2 billion worth of public sector projects in 2020).
These projects will mainly be of major public housing and infrastructure, such as the Integrated Transport Hub at Jurong East, the Jurong Region Line, and the Cross Island Land.
Additionally, there will also be approximately S$6 billion worth of smaller public sector projects such as cycling paths and upgrading works.
However, private sector demand is not expected to recover just yet as investors are “likely to remain cautious”, according to National Development Minister Desmond Lee. Instead, private sector demand is projected to fall within S$8 billion to S$10 billion.
In the medium term, the construction sector’s growth will be supported by public sector developments including public housing, transport, and healthcare infrastructure. These projects will contribute S$14 billion to S$18 billion each year.
Stronger recovery is expected over the next five years, with early forecasts that construction demand may further strengthen to S$25 billion to S$32 billion between 2022 and 2025.
Meanwhile, the Government will continue working with industry partners to ease the labour crunch caused by challenges in bringing in new foreign workers. They will also push for the adoption of digital technologies to improve the industry’s resilience in the long-term.
2. New guidelines introduced for financial institutions to combat risks of cyberattacks
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued a revised set of guidelines for financial institutions to better mitigate cyber risks. This includes requiring them to have strong oversight of their third-party service providers and technology vendors.
The new guidelines apply to banks, payment services companies, as well as trading and insurance firms.
These guidelines are announced amid a spate of cyberattacks globally.
Under the new measures, it is stated that financial institutions “should assess and manage its exposure to technology risks that may affect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the IT systems and data at the third party before entering into a contractual agreement or partnership.”
Additionally, they should also ensure that third-party and open-source software codes are subject to review and testing before integrating them into their own software. Cyber exercises should also be conducted regularly to stress test their cyber defences.
A chief information officer and chief information security officer will also need to be appointed and held accountable for managing cyber risks under these new measures.
This is on top of additional guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors and senior management of financial institutions. It is also stipulated that the board itself should include members with relevant knowledge to provide effective oversight of cyber risks.
Firms are expected to observe these guidelines and it will be a part of the risk assessment of financial institutions by the MAS.
3. Singapore’s exports rebounded 6.8% year-on-year in December 2020
Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rebounded by 6.8 per cent year-on-year in December 2020. This is the first positive print for NODX in three months and follows a 5 per cent drop in November 2020.
The rebound was boosted by a rise in shipments of non-electronic products; specifically, there was a 5 per cent year-on-year increase in the shipment of non-electronic goods (as compared with a 5.3 per cent decline for the segment in November.
Specialised machinery was one of the largest contributor to the increase, having risen by 30.9 per cent. This is followed by non-monetary gold (14.5 per cent) and measuring instruments (21.4 per cent).
Meanwhile, electronics also grew from a low base a year ago, having risen 13.7 per cent year-on-year since December 2019. This follows the 4 per cent decline in November.
In the electronics segment, integrated circuits, personal computer parts, and diodes and transistors contributed the most growth, rising by 15.7 per cent, 33.8 per cent, and 16.5 per cent respectively.
By country, exports to Singapore’s top markets mostly rose in December. However, exports to China, the European Union, Indonesia, and Japan declined. Meanwhile, exports to the US, South Korea, Taiwan, and emerging markets grew.
Overall, total trade fell by 0.3 percent in December on a year-on-year basis, as compared to a 7.3 per cent drop in November 2020. This can largely be attributed to the decrease in oil trade and lower oil prices.
4. Americans give back to the community to mark Biden’s inauguration as president
As part of the events leading up to the inauguration of United States President-elect Joe Biden on 20 January, a group of Americans living here in Singapore distributed over 400 care packs to needy families living in a rental block.
The distribution drive, held on 18 January, was part of a National Day of Service in the US that was organised by the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) for Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
It was the first such initiative to be organised outside of the US in collaboration with the PIC. The local event had been organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and the American Association of Singapore (AAS).
The care packs were purchased with about S$10,200 which had been donated by Americans living here; they consisted of rice, Milo, detergents, and toiletries. Distribution was carried out by about 35 volunteers, including AmCham’s staff and board, and members of AAS’ leadership.
The annual day of service falls on Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday in the US. It was first observed in 1986 in memory of the civil rights hero. Since 1994, Americans have been encouraged to commemorate the day through acts of service.
Including this day as part of Mr Biden’s inauguration activities follows the actions of former president Barack Obama’s, who observed it as part of his 2008 and 2013 inauguration activities.
5. Gusty winds in Singapore normal at this time of the year
Gusty winds were recorded on Monday, 18 January, with weather experts attributing this to the northeast monsoon surge. According to them, strong winds are not unusual for this time of the year.
According to the Meteorological Service Singapore, wind speeds reached a high of 49.3kmh at the Admiralty weather station. Generally, high wind speeds also result in strong gusts.
The current strong high pressure system in China is creating a surge of northeast winds over the South China Sea, which is responsible for the windy, cool, and rainy conditions that Singapore has been experiencing.
It is expected that these blustery winds will last for as long as current conditions over China persists, which is predicted to be just a couple of days.
The strongest winds typically occur during the northeast monsoon in January in February. Under normal conditions, winds in Singapore are generally light, with surface wind speed of less than 2.5 m/s. A northeast monsoon surge can see mean speeds of 10m/s or more.
The Met Service has said on Friday that Singapore can expect fair and occasionally windy conditions on a few days in the latter half of January.