Aerial panorama over the towering skyscrapers and busy highways of downtown Singapore surrounding Marina Bay.

Singapore’s economy contracted in the Q3

Singapore’s economy contracted 7% compared with the same quarter a year ago, flash estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) showed. 

However, compared with the previous quarter on a non-annualized seasonally-adjusted basis, it grew 7.9%.

The second quarter of this year bore the brunt of the economic fallout resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, it contracted 13.3% compared with a year ago and plunged Singapore into its worst recession since its independence.

MTI said on Wednesday: “The improved performance of the Singapore economy in the third quarter came on the back of the phased reopening of the economy following the circuit breaker.” 

The circuit breakers refer to the April and May period when the country went into lockdown with restrictions on movement and activities.

MTI kept its forecast of a 5 to 7% economic contraction for the year. 

Taking into account the 0.3% decline in the first quarter, the economy contracted 6.7% in the first half of this year. 

Sectors affected by the contracted economy

The construction and services-producing sectors were being the hardest hit.

The construction sector contracted 44.7% in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago, extending the 59.9% decline in the previous quarter.

“Construction output in the third quarter remained weak on account of the slow resumption of construction activities due to the need for construction firms to implement safety management measures for a safe restart,” MTI said in its statement.

The services-producing sector contracted 8% in the third quarter, compared with a year ago, improving from the 13.6% decline in the previous quarter. 

Within services, aviation and tourism-related businesses continued to see significant contractions due to the decimation of global travel demand. 

Trade-related services sectors, such as wholesale trade, have been affected by weak external demand from overseas markets since major economies are still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, MTI added.

A young woman takes a break to do something analog like writing in her journal and drinking tea. This is a healthy practice for those who experience anxiety.

New mental health taskforce in Singapore.

A new internal agency has been convened by the Singaporean Government to provide a coordinated national response to the mental health needs in the country amid pandemic.

Speaking yesterday at the World Health Organization’s virtual event, The Big Event for Mental Health, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was an example of how Singapore has worked to raise mental health literacy, promote early intervention and improve these services.

The Covid-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce was convened in the virtual conference.

It will review the psycho-social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the population and take stock of the initiatives introduced across the Government to address the impact so far, MOH said yesterday in response to queries.

What will the mental health task force do?

The task force will also identify gaps that will need to be addressed to better meet the mental health needs of the population during this time.

Its members include representatives from the Ministry of Education; Manpower; Social and Family Development; Culture, Community and Youth; Health Promotion Board; Agency for Integrated Care; People’s Association; and the National Council of Social Service.

In his speech, Lee said that ensuring access to quality mental care for every Singaporean is a major priority, with one in seven people here suffering from one of these conditions at some point.

He said awareness of the importance of mental wellness has grown, but people with these conditions are still not well understood or fully accepted.

“With Covid-19, more people are facing stresses, pressures, and disruptions to their lives and livelihoods.

“Authorities around the world must not only fight Covid-19 but also manage its impact on the mental wellness of their populations,” said Lee.

Protecting mental health takes a collective effort, he said, noting efforts like the National Care Hotline which was set up during the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak here to provide psychological first aid and emotional support.

“Today, on World Mental Health Day, let’s resolve to work together to understand it better, and to care for one another during these difficult times,” said Lee

Asian business man wear face mask and he is being fired because of economic downturn due to the covid-19 spread all over the world

The overall unemployment rate in Singapore rise to 3.4

Singapore’s overall unemployment rate rose to 3.4 percent in August, climbing past the high of 3.3 percent recorded in September 2009 during the global financial crisis.

But August’s rate is lower than the highest overall unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, recorded in September 2003 during the SARS outbreak.

The latest job situation report from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Oct 7) showed the overall unemployment rate for August climbed 0.4 percentage points from July.

MOM said it has started to track the unemployment rate monthly to “monitor the labor situation more closely”. Unemployment rates are usually released quarterly.

Overall Unemployment rate breakdown

The citizen unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent in August, up by 0.3 percentage points from July. It is lower than the 4.9 percent recorded in September 2009.

The resident unemployment rate – of citizens and permanent residents – rose to 4.5 percent in August from 4.1 percent in July, but remained lower than the 4.9 percent recorded in September 2009.

“We observe that while monthly the overall unemployment rate has so far generally remained lower than past recessionary highs, it has been gradually rising,” said the ministry in a press release. 

“It remains to be seen if unemployment will rise more quickly in the coming months,” it added.

“We cannot tell at this point, whether in the coming months the unemployment rate will uptick at a faster rate or will it stay around about the same,” said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo.

Despite the “slight uptick” in the overall unemployment rate, jobs are still available in this same period, she noted.

“We also saw the ability to pull together more opportunities. And the vast majority of these opportunities that have been pulled together remain, still, in terms of jobs. And of the 60,000 or so long-term jobs available, a large part of it is still coming from the private sector.”


changi airport, singapure, measures

Changi Airport between green lanes and air travel bubbles

Green lanes and air travel bubbles with countries whose COVID-19 infection rates are low were among the plans outlined by Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday to “revive” Changi Airport.

Taking “proactive steps” to revive Changi Airport is a “top national priority”, said Minister Ong.

However, he pointed out that there was a need to “manage expectations”.

“I need to manage expectations here. For members who are hoping that I’m about to announce some air travel resumption and even possible December holiday destinations, I am sorry I will disappoint you,” he said.

“The key is to make sure we stay safe and manage the risks. We have gone through quite a bit, including a painful circuit breaker, to arrive at the stable situation we have today. And we must not give that up.”

Changi Airport has already set up a facility to swab up to 10,000 passengers a day. In the next few months, there are plans to set up a dedicated COVID-19 testing laboratory at the airport to support aviation recovery, said Minister Ong

More green lanes to revive Changi Airport

Singapore will continue to pursue reciprocal green lane arrangements with partner countries or regions, said Minister Ong.

These are restricted to a small group of essential business and official travelers, who will be subjected to pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests to ensure that they do not carry the virus.

These travelers will also have “controlled itineraries” to minimize any residual risk of community spread, the minister said.

Currently, Singapore has such arrangements with Brunei, China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.

Singapore will also continue to facilitate passenger transfers at Changi Airport, said Minister Ong.

“As an air hub, about a quarter of our passenger volume at Changi are transferred, meaning the passengers do not clear immigration and are using Changi Airport as an interchange to get to their final destinations,” he explained.

TraceTogether app will be upgraded for tourists

TraceTogether Tokens distribution will expand

The distribution of TraceTogether tokens will be progressively expanded to about 100 locations island-wide such as in malls and community centers.

More than 100,000 tokens have been collected since distribution kicked off on Sept 14 at 20 community centers and clubs in the Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar regions, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group said on Sunday.

Collection points were rolled out at a further 18 community centers on Friday, while TraceTogether mobile booths will be deployed at various malls over the coming weeks.

The locally developed TraceTogether program helps with contact tracing efforts by identifying nearby tokens or phones with the app installed, enabling the authorities to identify a person’s close contacts if needed.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary reiterated on Sunday the Government’s target of getting at least 70 percent of the population onto TraceTogether, without specifying how many tokens the Government is aiming to distribute.

The TraceTogether tokens program since its start

The TraceTogether app has been downloaded about 2.4 million times to date, which would represent around 40 percent of Singapore’s population, adding that the Government is making the use of the app or token compulsory for large gatherings and higher-risk activities as Singapore opens up.

Minister Janil said: “Many of the seniors I met today in the queue actually had looked upon the TokenGoWhere website… but we hope that the booths will also reach out to people who would not naturally look it up online”.

“And that’s the key issue. It’s to make sure we have access to as many segments of our Singapore population as possible.”

The app already allows users to scan SafeEntry QR codes, while the token comes with its own QR code that can be scanned for entry, similar to how the process works with the bar code on identity cards.

Source: Strait Times


Tharman: Singapore must remain open to investments

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that Singapore’s future rests on its role as a hub in sectors such as manufacturing, finance and logistics. Stressing that staying open is vital to maximizing opportunities for Singaporeans.

Minister Tharman also warned that the Covid-19 pandemic may lead to a “wipeout” of a significant number of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as many of these companies have been battered by the crisis.

Minister Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, was speaking during a dialogue at the Singapore Summit, an annual forum bringing together leaders from around the world to discuss global trends in business, finance and geopolitics.

The dialogue was hosted by Mr Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of resort group Banyan Tree Holdings. It touched on topics such as the impact of Covid-19 on existing global trends, the tensions between the United States and China, and the future of Singapore’s status as an economic hub.

Elaborating on the need for Singapore to stay open, Minister Tharman said that the country cannot rely on its domestic economy for growth.

“If we are a middling business center or if we think we can get growth out of a domestic economy, not only will we not be able to grow opportunities, but most Singaporeans will leave the place… So it’s clearly not an option.”

To remain successful and competitive as an economic hub, Singapore should not just remain open to trade and investments, but it must also continue to be open to flows of people.

This requires continuous work, he said, and involves trust between the Government and the people, as well as having reliable systems and strong national education systems to ensure that these objectives can be achieved.

Minister Tharman: it wouldn’t be socially sustainable

However, Senior Minister Tharman said that it would not be “socially or politically sustainable” for a country to be “blindly open” to foreigners.

The key is for the Government to manage the flows of people and ensure that opportunities are created for all through this openness, he added.

He then laid out the ways that the Government should achieve this. Firstly, there must be opportunities for Singaporeans to develop at every skill level.

This includes ensuring that Singaporeans are able to adapt and develop adjacent skills in order to switch to new sectors.

The country must also strive to encourage firms to anchor their regional and global business here and attract the best international teams with both foreigners and Singaporeans.

The Government should ensure fair hiring and promotion practices — something that it has taken even more seriously because of the present economic downturn, he said.

Lastly, firms should also be mindful of the need for “adequate diversity of nationalities, even among the foreigners who are with us”, he said.

“Avoid significant concentrations of one nationality, and that, too, is something that we are talking to firms about.”

The overall number of foreigners relative to residents here would also need to be controlled, Minister Tharman said. “If you want to preserve openness to the top-tier talent and entrepreneurs, you have to control the overall numbers and make sure that the broad middle in our society and those in the lower-income level have opportunities and face fair competition.”

TraceTogether app will be upgraded for tourists

TraceTogether Tokens to be distribute by the MOH

TraceTogether tokens will be distributed in the citystate from Sept 14 onwards the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Wednesday September 9. 

The distribution of these tokens, which will star with Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar, due to the higher concentration of senior citizens in these estates, is expected to be completed by November.

These tokens exchange Bluetooth signals with other tokens nearby or with mobile phones that are running the TraceTogether mobile application.

A new self-check service will be introduced today. The service will alert people if they have visited the same venues at the same time as Covid-19 cases, based on their SafeEntry records, said MOH.

About the TraceTogether Tokens

To learn when and where they can get their TraceTogether tokens, which will be distributed free to everyone, Residents can go to the website.

“We encourage every resident in Singapore to either download the TraceTogether app onto their mobile phone, or to collect a TraceTogether token. A higher adoption rate makes the TraceTogether programme and contact tracing efforts more efficient and effective,” MOH said.

Other announcements

The Government also announced that it will be piloting SafeEntry check-ins through the TraceTogether tokens or the app at selected venues, to facilitate the easing of Covid-19 safety measures at these places.

The authorities will increase the number of venues where SafeEntry check-ins are done through the TraceTogether tokens or app, Once the national distribution of the tokens is underway.

Currently, individuals check in to venues via SafeEntry by using their mobile phone to scan a QR code or getting their identification cards scanned. Supplementing SafeEntry with proximity data from TraceTogether will enhance safety for participants, MOH said.

“This will ensure better confidence in mitigating the risk of formation of large clusters, and could allow for a safer increase in capacity limits at these events and premises with any potential future easing of measures.”

Checking in with SafeEntry via TraceTogether was first tested at a business conference event held here at the end of August, MOH said. 

During a virtual press conference on Wednesday held by the Ministry of Health, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who is the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, said that Singapore is now in a phase of opening up for conferences and other business events.

“For these kinds of events with more people interacting, it’s not enough to know who’s been in this building in the last hour. You want to know of that group of people who happen to be in that building (and had been) in close proximity to each other. In order to have that level of granularity, you do need proximity data,” he said. 

Asian traveler business man with luggage, bag wearing face mask looking overhead storage bin on airplane in airport. Male passenger traveling by plane transportation during covid19 virus pandemic.

A fast lane to start between Singapore and South Korea

A fast-lane will start between Singapore and South Korea from September 4. The arrangements, which will allow for essential business and official travel between the two countries, have concluded.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Wednesday that the arrangement will help restore connectivity and support economic recovery. It added that the necessary public health safeguards will be in place.

Eligible travelers will have to abide by the mutually agreed terms and prevailing public health measures in both countries.

These conditions include pre-departure and post-arrival testing, as well as the need to adhere to a controlled itinerary for the first 14 days after their arrival.

More details about the the arrangements and application process will be published on the SafeTravel website by Friday.

MFA said that Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his South Korean counterpart, Ms Kang Kyung-wha, spoke on the phone on Wednesday, with both welcoming the conclusion of the fast-lane talks.

It said the ministers also reaffirmed the importance of bilateral cooperation to jointly overcome both countries’ common challenges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The second fast lane

The city-state also has an agreement for such travel with China and Malaysia and a previous fast lane they announced las month,

Since September 1, Singapore relaxed its measures and has allowed general travel to Brunei and New Zealand, including students studying abroad.

While meeting to discuss issues in the workplace, a young female professional shakes the male human resources representative's hand and smiles. The conversation is taking place in an office and the female employee sits on a comfortable sofa.

Hiring practices will be review by the MOM

Hiring practices of companies will be review by the Ministry of Manpower , as well as those whose Employment Pass and S Pass workforce are “overly concentrated” from a single foreign nationality source, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

The hiring practices review comes amid a heightened sense of insecurity about jobs, in an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announcing the review of hiring practices in Parliament on Tuesday Sep 1, Mrs Teo said MOM will work with other agencies to actively intervene and help such companies reshape their workforce profiles.

The ministry will also engage the human resources community to “do more”, she added.

Mrs Teo was responding to several Members of Parliament, who had posed the issue of job competition between Singaporeans and work pass holders.

She pointed out that work pass policies have been regularly adjusted, slowing down the growth of Employment Pass and S Pass holders.

With COVID-19, the number of Employment Pass and S Pass holders have also come down sharply, she said, adding that this group of workers dropped by 22,000 between January and July this year.

Highest rate level of unemployment in a decade

Singapore’s overall unemployment rate has risen to its highest level in more than a decade, with retrenchments more than doubling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the second quarter, retrenchments more than doubled to 6,700, from 3,220 in the previous quarter.

Mrs Teo said that MOM actively monitors retrenchment exercises, and that the vast majority have so far been conducted fairly and responsibly.

“By and large, there has also not been a weakening of the Singaporean core,” she said.

Nevertheless, these “reassuring observations”, said Mrs Teo, MOM will work with businesses and unions to “advance sound practices” – such as by updating the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment, or through the Fair Retrenchment Framework proposed by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Eases measures

Singapore eases measures and allows some trips.

Singapore’s government eases border measures and from next September 1 will allow travel to Brunei and New Zealand.

From September 1, Singapore eases its measures and will allow general trips to Brunei and New Zealand, including those students studying abroad.

Likewise, Singapore relaxes its controls, so visitors from Brunei or New Zealand, who have stayed in the country for 14 days before their visit, don’t have to deliver a stay-at-home notice when arriving Singapore.

Instead, they will undergo a Covid-19 test in the airport, and will be allowed to continue their activities in Singapore after receiving a negative result.

About eases students’ permission

Minister Lawrence Wong said “Many foreign institutions are resuming terms and we know there are Singaporean students that have to go back to class”.

Wong also noted that the Covid-19 situation remains highly fluid and that Singapore eases its border control measures based on its constant evaluation of data.