1. Emerging Stronger Together Budget to be broadcast live today, 3 p.m. by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat
In a Facebook post on Monday, 15 February, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat said that Singapore must set our eyes on coming out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger, forging partnerships to meet the challenges ahead “as one people”.
He has also named the budget that will be broadcasting at 3 p.m. today the Emerging Stronger Together Budget, citing the need to find new ways to work together, innovate, and “transform our economy”.
Mr Heng alluded to the need to strengthen our efforts in tackling climate change, being prudent in our spending, and staying vigilant to “thrive in a post-COVID world”.
Singapore will be closing this financial year with a record Budget deficit following the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Mr Heng has reminded citizens that our country has been able to fund this deficit due to our past reserves, even though our fiscal situation will “continue to be tight in the coming years”.
In the past year, the Government had pushed out four Budgets and drew an unprecedented S$52 billion from our reserves. Including the two supplementary budgets, close to S$100 billion had been spent on support measures for businesses and individuals, and to deal with the pandemic.
This year’s Budget is expected to look into more targeted support for sectors hard hit by the pandemic, a potential extension of the Jobs Support Scheme, alternative means to raise revenue, creating stronger social safety nets, property cooling measures, as well as more details on Singapore Green Plan 2030.
The Budget Speech will be broadcast live on Channel NewsAsia’s YouTube channel, Facebook page and website, as well as on the MeWatch interactive service on Tuesday, 3 p.m. A live webcast will also be available on the Singapore Budget website and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) Facebook page.
2. ERP rates to be increased at 10 gantries
From 22 Feb, Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates will be raised at 10 gantries to manage congestion during peak periods.
Three gantries on the AYE after Jurong Town Hall towards the city, and on the KPE (ECP) after Defu Flyover and on the Southbound CTE auxiliary lane to PIE (Changi) will have reintroduced ERP charges.
ERP rates at gantries along Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), Central Expressway (CTE) and Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) will be adjusted by $1 during the specified time periods.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that no ERP charges would be applied to other expressways and arterial roads, and that they would “continue to monitor traffic speeds and congestion levels closely and assess if ERP rates need to be further adjusted”.
3. Singapore experiences fall in imports and exports in 2020, maintains 2021 GDP forecast
Singapore’s total merchandise trade fell from S$1 trillion in 2019 to S$969 billion in 2020, marking a 5.2 per cent decrease last year. The decrease in overall trade was attributed to a 31 per cent fall in oil trade, with lower oil prices.
However, Enterprise Singapore upgraded an earlier forecast from between 1 per cent to 3 per cent, to between 2 per cent and 4 per cent, indicating projected growth for trade figures in 2021.
Following a 0.3 per cent decrease in 2019, non-oil trade increased by 0.7 per cent in 2020, while exports and imports fell by 3.2 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively in 2020.
Singapore’s total merchandise trade also decreased by 5.1 per cent in Q4 of 2020 compared to a year before, following a 4.8 per cent decrease in Q3. This was caused by the fall in oil trade, which outweighed the rise in non-oil trade.
An increase of 1.7 per cent in 2020 was recorded for Non-oil exports (NOX), following a 1.9 per cent fall in 2019. NOX is inclusive of non-oil domestic exports (NODX) and non-oil re-exports (NORX).
Enterprise Singapore reported a decrease in exports to China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia, but that NODX to top markets experienced growth as a whole last year. This growth was largely attributed to the US (+38.3 per cent), Japan (+26.1 per cent) and South Korea (+27.2 per cent).
Electronic NODX to top markets also experienced growth last year, with the top three countries that contributed to the rise in electronic NODX being Taiwan (+27.9 per cent), the US (+31.9 per cent) and Thailand (+17.9 per cent).
Non-electronic NODX also recorded a rise in 2020, despite a decrease in exports to China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
In 2020, oil domestic exports contracted by 28.1 per cent, after a 12.9 per cent decrease in 2019. This was caused by lower oil shipments to Malaysia (-47.2 per cent), Indonesia (-47.4 per cent) and Australia (-45.8 per cent).
Enterprise Singapore said that the 2021 global outlook remains unchanged overall, with recovery of the global economy “expected to be uneven across economies”, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast a growth of 5.5 per cent for the global economy in 2021.
Enterprise Singapore added that there remain “risks and uncertainties in the global economy, with growth forecast for some of Singapore’s key trade partners such as the US and Japan.”
Singapore’s economy shrank by 5.4 per cent in 2020, faring slightly better than the estimate of a 5.8 per cent contraction and upwards of the Government’s forecast range of -6 to -6.5 per cent. This marks the nation’s worst recession since its independence, being Singapore’s first annual contraction since 2001.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted last week that most of Singapore’s economy is expected to recover in 2021, but that sectors including transport, tourism and aviation may take a longer time to recover.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that changes in the global and domestic economic environment had been factored into its decision to maintain its 2021 forecast, such as the progress in the development and deployment of vaccines for COVID-19.
MTI said that Singapore’s economy is expected to recover gradually over the period of a year, despite an uneven outlook across different sectors.
4. Netflix Japan offers scholarships and stints with ‘Attack on Titan’ animation studio; Singaporeans eligible (conditions apply)
According to SoraNews24, Netflix Japan is working with WIT Studios, the producer of popular anime Attack on Titan, to offer animation scholarships in Japan, as well as the opportunity to work on a Netflix original anime afterwards.
The course will be held over the duration of six months (April to September 2021) at the Sasayuri Video Training Institute in Tokyo. Classes will be held five days a week.
It is reported that Hitomi Tateno, who has 25 years of experience working as an animation checker for Studio Ghibli, is designing the curriculum and leading it as the representative lecturer. Taterno has worked on Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro.
For its first intake, the course is only looking to take in 10 students aged between 18 and 25 years old. Foreigners are eligible (Singaporeans included) to apply, on the conditions that they are residing in Japan, and that their language ability transcends conversational Japanese.
Interested applicants can apply via this link by 28 February. Three or more of your own works will need to be submitted for the application process.
Additionally, the selection process will consist of “practical skill exams and interviews”, with the final selection taking place in March, according to SoraNews24.