Global tech giants including Facebook and Twitter expressed concerns about a possible Singapore government plan to bring in a new law to tackle the threat of fake news, saying sufficient rules are already in place. Officials of Facebook, Twitter and Google attended a parliamentary hearing on how to counter the threat that Singapore said it was particularly vulnerable to due to its size, its role as a global financial hub and its ethnic and religious mix. Singapore is among the countries looking to introduce legislation, so far unspecified, to rein in fake news, a trend that has stirred concern that such laws could be used to exert government control over the media. Singapore is ranked 151 among 180 countries rated in the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.
Singapore retained its top position as the city with the highest quality of living in Asia for expatriates according to an annual Mercer index. Globally, Singapore ranked 25th, after cities like Vienna – that topped the list for the 9th year running – and Amsterdam, which was ranked 12th in the Mercer Quality of Living survey. The findings are based on individual reports from each city that were largely analysed between September and November last year. The index is normally used to enable multinational companies and other organisations to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Singapore’s quality of living and infrastructure have consistently outperformed the other cities in Asia, even though the index shows that other Asian cities have seen an “exponential increase in living standards” due to a “rapidly expanding middle class and more affluent populations”.
The global credit rating agency, Fitch, expects Bank Indonesia to maintain its policy rate unchanged at 4.25% for the 7-day reverse repo until the remainder of the year. In the same report, Fitch also expects Indonesia’s GDP growth to improve to 5.3% and inflation to rise to 4.2% in 2018. Note that inflation was at 3.2% in 2017.
Some 500 companies have been placed on a government watch list for not doing enough to hire Singaporeans, double the 250 on the list this time last year, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say as he warned that such firms will be taken to task. Mr Lim said these companies have the “pre-conceived ideas” that local professionals, managers and executives (PMETs) are “either unable or unwilling to do the job”. “So they write them off without even considering them fairly … Their Employment Pass applications are subjected to additional scrutiny,” the minister added. Mr Lim said then that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had placed 250 companies on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watch list. The firms were from the information and communication technology, professional services, and financial & insurance activities industries. Under the FCF, which was implemented in August 2014, rules were put in place to ensure that firms consider locals for job openings. Being placed on the watch list means that the MOM will scrutinise these firms’ EP applications more closely.
Indonesia is heaven for social media platform providers and for those who wish to earn from their virtual connections. In 2017, the country recorded 143.3m internet users, a 7.9% increase from the year before. About 90% of users needed the internet for chatting, 87% to access social media, 75% to use search engines, 73% to view images, and 70% to download videos, each person usually used several features. With a population of 260m and growing internet penetration, Indonesia is the 5th-biggest Twitter user and the 4th biggest Facebook user, after Brazil, the US and India. Indonesians are also believed to be among the world’s most active Instagrammers
Bulog will supply a higher quantity of rice to the market than its regular monthly distribution in order to slash prices. President Joko Widodo gave the company the go-ahead to supply 400,000 tons of rice to the market this month. Bulog President Director Djarot Kusumayakti said the figure was much higher than its usual monthly supply which ranged between 120,000-150,000 tons. According to BPS, premium rice price increase by 20% to Rp10,382/kg from previous year, while cost of medium- and low-quality rice rose by 13% and 16% respectively to Rp10,251 and Rp9,987/kg respectively. Rice was the biggest contributor to inflation in the first two months of this year. Djarot added the bulk supply was expected to experience a further hike and Bulog would carry out market operations soon. Coordinating Economic Ministry Darmin Nasution said the agency has stockpiles of around 700,000 tons, excluding 281,000 tons sourced from imports.
Indonesia plans to scrap some taxes on electric cars as part of efforts to realize the country’s vision of low-emission models making up at least a fifth of all vehicles produced in the archipelago by 2025. Depending on the model, electric vehicles are currently subject to up to 40% luxury tax and up to 40% import tax. Prestige Image Motorcars, the importer of Tesla electric cars, is currently selling the Tesla Model X 75D sports utility vehicle for $200,000 in Indonesia – at almost double its price in the United States, due to the added taxes. This severely limits the adoption of electric vehicles in Indonesia, restricting it to a niche market, but the government is adamant that it wants to change this. “The luxury tax on electric vehicles will be 0% and import tax will be 5%. But [it is not yet final], as we are still discussing it,” Industry Minister Airlangga Hartanto said. Lower-priced electric vehicles are expected to increase demand and encourage more people to purchase them. This may in turn convince automakers to establish production facilities here. Airlangga said the government is currently formulating a roadmap to encourage the local industry to produce more low-emission vehicles, including electric cars. The minister said the government has set a target requiring 20% of all vehicles produced in Indonesia to be hybrid or electric by 2025.
Bank Indonesia, the country’s central bank, said that the consumer price index rose by 3.2% at the end of the third week of February, compared to the same period last year, indicating only mild inflation going forward. Agus Martowardojo, Bank Indonesia’s governor, said the central bank projects inflation to be lower than January’s 3.25% pace. The bank targets Indonesia’s inflation this year to be between 2.5% and 4.5%. A mild inflation rate would support the central bank’s accommodating monetary stance, having kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 4.25% for six consecutive months. The biggest contributor to that figure is still volatile foods, which, according to Agus, will probably account for the highest volatile foods inflation rate in the last three years. Prices of rice, red chili peppers and garlic have been rising in recent months, reflecting supply-side problems of the commodities in some regions. Volatile foods inflation in February 2015 was recorded at 4.84%, while in February 2016 that figure rose to 7.87%, while in February last year the rate stood at 4.46%. Agus hopes lower volatile food inflation trends in some regions in eastern Indonesia, including Sulawesi and Papua, can help contain overall volatile foods inflation. The central bank targets this year’s volatile food inflation to be below the 4% to 5%range.
Given the construction progress to date, airport developer PT Bandara Internasional Jawa Barat (BIJB) is positive that operations at Kertajati Airport in West Java can begin in May, followed by haj pilgrimage flights in July. BIJB president director Virda Dimas Ekaputra said that, as of Feb 5, the construction progress on the landside has reached 87.9%, with completion scheduled for March. In the initial phase of its operation, the airport will be able to welcome between 5m and 11m passengers annually. PT Angkasa Pura II (AP II) recently acquired 20% of the shares in BIJB, a company controlled by the province of West Java. Combined with the operational cost, the investment for Kertajati Airport will reach about Rp2.6tr. So far, BIJB has relied on capital injections from the West Java government and civil servant cooperatives, among others, amounting to Rp1.8tr. It has relied on its own cash to cover the construction cost gap. The company is slated to obtain another Rp930bn from private equity funds and the stake purchase by APII, which are equal to 18% and 20% of the former’s ownership, respectively. Financial closure on both deals is expected in March.