lemonade

Singapore researchers turn water into 'virtual lemonade'

SINGAPORE: It looks like lemonade, tastes like lemonade, but it is simply water.

Researchers in Singapore say they have invented a “virtual lemonade”, using electrodes to mimic the flavour of the beverage and LED lights to imitate its colour, that could one day allow people to digitally share drinks over the Internet.

“We are primarily motivated by the fact that our current digital interactions are not supportive for sharing beverages and food, which is something very common in our everyday lives,” said Nimesha Ranasinghe, who led the team that did the research.

The team conducting the research at the NUS-Keio CUTE Center, a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and Japan’s Keio University, decided to focus on the sour taste of lemonade to prove their idea.

A sensor dipped into a glass of real lemonade collects data on its acidity and colour, which is transmitted via Bluetooth to silver electrode strips on the rim of a tumbler.

The action of a drinker running their tongue over the strip in taking a sip causes the electrodes to simulate the sour taste, while a light-emitting diode (LED) flashes yellow.

The technology can also simulate bitter and salty sensations, Ranasinghe said, adding that it could help people on restricted diets who need to cut back on salt or calories.

“We can even help the people who want to cut down their calorie intake,” she added. “If he craves lemonade, and can have a virtual lemonade, he can get the same experience, but zero calories.”

Still, the design needs some improvement, said student Genevieve Low, a volunteer who participated in tests of the drink.

“I think it’s definitely the way the tongue touches the cup, because no one would, sub-consciously or consciously, put their tongue onto the electrode and then drink the water,” she said in a recent test round.

Another volunteer student, Wang Pan, was surprised by the taste.

“I was imagining the electronic taste, but it’s actually quite real to me because it’s really mild, like mild-sweet. It’s less sour than the real lemonade,” she said. 

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Small countries like Singapore, Switzerland must cooperate in fintech: Swiss Finance Minister

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Switzerland are not competitors when it comes to the development of financial technology (fintech) and with both countries being small financial hubs, it is important to cooperate, said Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer.

Mr Maurer was speaking to Channel NewsAsia after his tour of Lattice80 – a not-for-profit fintech hub located along Robinson Road – on Tuesday (Apr 18). The minister is in Singapore as part of a week-long trip in Asia and was leading a 20-member delegation, which comprised of representatives from the Swiss banking industry.

“It is important to have good relationships and today is a step to network between the two countries… I think it is important that small countries (which) are important financial centres have this network and understand the need to cooperate,” he said.

“We are not competitors (and) we can cooperate together.”

Last year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) signed a cooperation agreement to foster greater cooperation on fintech.

Mr Maurer noted that Singapore’s fintech scene is on a “high level” and there are learning points for Switzerland, such as in the case of consumer protection. “We are a little bit not in the same speed like you… but I think we can go step by step.”

The minister also noted that Singapore’s fintech sector benefits from its close proximity to a big Asian market, and can act as a stepping stone into Asia for Swiss fintech start-ups. For Singapore firms looking to expand into Europe, Switzerland can similarly do the same.

Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer listens to a presentation at Lattice80. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

“Singapore’s fintech (sector) is on a high level and we have to learn from you… We can continue this sense of cooperation between Singapore and Switzerland,” Mr Maurer said. 

Lattice80 is one of the organisations that the Swiss delegation is visiting during their time in Singapore. Launched in November 2016, more than 80 foreign and local fintech firms have taken up spaces at Lattice80, which is dubbed the world’s largest fintech hub by Singapore-based private investment group Marvelstone.

Ms Gina Heng, co-founder of Lattice80 and CEO of Marvelstone Group, noted that European start-up founders are among those who have taken up residence at the fintech hub as they view Singapore as the first step for their ventures in Asia.

“They see this as a central location to kick-start their companies. There’s good infrastructure and legal system, with a supportive government. We are also near to many countries which which makes it easier in terms of outreach,” she said.

A report by Deloitte dated September 2016 listed Singapore among the top fintech hubs globally, citing a business-friendly environment, adequate government support and access to expertise.

The report did not rank the 21 fintech hubs that were evaluated. Instead, it assessed the countries based on three main factors –  the Global Innovation index, the Global Financial Centre index and the Doing Business index – and both Singapore and London scored the best score of 10. Switzerland scored 42, coming in behind Silicon Valley, New York and Hong Kong.

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Caldecott Hill in the limelight at this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival

SINGAPORE: Did you know that years before Zoe Tay became the Queen of Caldecott Hill, there was already a royalty of sorts in the area?

During the 1800s, a merchant named Seah Eu Chin – who was known as the King of Pepper and Gambier – had set up plantation houses and grew crops in the area.

Mediacorp’s former home will be in the limelight at this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival (SHF), which is turning up the glitz and glamour by holding one of its main events at Caldecott Broadcast Centre.

This year’s edition, which comprises 110 programmes and activities, will run over three weekends from April 28 to May 14. 

The SHF’s Caldecott Hill events will take place over the first two weekends. Visitors will be treated to a festival village with a flea market and food stalls, as well as guided tours by television stars and crew. There will also be a performance by Cake Theatrical Productions titled Studio 6, which revisits some of Mediacorp’s famous shows such as The Little Nyonya, Under One Roof, and Growing Up.

The exhibition TV50 – which looks at Singapore’s broadcast history and culture from the 1960s and was previously shown at the National Museum of Singapore – will also be presented. At some point, stars from Mediacorp’s upcoming blockbuster Channel 8 drama The Lead are planning to drop by.

A set at Caldecott Broadcast Centre’s Studio 6, where many shows were filmed. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)

The historic Caldecott Hill is the first location for the festival’s new SHF Takes Over! programme.

“Through the years, we’ve seen how people have been very excited to be brought to new places or spaces they don’t normally get to go to, so we decided to try out this new initiative,” said Christie Chua, the festival’s creative director.

Caldecott was a perfect and timely choice as a first location. “Last year, we found out that most of Mediacorp was already moving (to the new Mediacorp Campus), so we thought this was a very good place to bring people.”

She also pointed out it was a place rich in history. Aside from being the site of pepper and gambier plantations, the area was also named after Andrew Caldecott, a British colonial administrator (hence, Andrew Road). In the 1930s, the first broadcasting station by the British Malayan Broadcasting Corporation was set up, which would morph into Radio Television Singapore, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, Television Corporation of Singapore, and, eventually, Mediacorp.

After 80 years at Caldecott Hill, Mediacorp recently completed its move to its new Mediacorp Campus in one-north. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

FROM ZOE TO ZOO, AND MORE

Aside from Caldecott Hill, another unusual place the festival will head for is the Singapore Zoo, where there will be a trail, where people can learn more about some of its “heritage” occupants, such as Inuka the polar bear, Omar the white tiger, Komali the elephant and Astove the giant tortoise.

Introducing events that look at the world of broadcast and entertainment, as well as animals, is a way of expanding one’s idea of what heritage is all about, said Chua.

“That’s what we want to share with people; that after all these years, these are part of our heritage and the whole mind map of Singapore.”

One of the Singapore Zoo’s most senior occupants, the polar bear Inuka, is in the heritage spotlight this year. (Photo: Reuters)

SHF events will also take place at areas such as Little India, Bukit Pasoh, the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) and along the Singapore River.

At Little India, there will be events such as a Ramayana performance, food trails with celebrity chefs, among others. Meanwhile, the clans and associations at Bukit Pasoh will also be participating in various events, and there will be a special focus on Ann Siang Hill. Among the shows are a Taiwanese puppet group.

The Satay Club. (Photo: National Archives Singapore)

The Asian Civilisations Museum will be the focal point of events along the Singapore River on the final weekend, where hawker culture – including a nod to the Empress Place Food Centre and the Satay Club in the vicinity – will be revived through installations and exhibitions. Across the river, the Fullerton Hotel will be holding a performance tour through its area.

Meanwhile, the NMS will also look at other unique places in its festival-related events. Among these is a multimedia exhibition of works by mural artist Yip Yew Chong. Known for his murals found in Kampong Glam and Tiong Bahru, these will be given an animated touch at the museum’s Gallery 10 space.

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Singapore economy logs 2.5% growth in Q1, higher than expectations

SINGAPORE: For the first quarter of 2017, Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 2.5 per cent compared to the same period a year ago, advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) showed on Thursday (Apr 13).

That is higher than the median forecast of 2.4 per cent in a Reuters poll but marks a pullback from the previous quarter’s 2.9 per cent growth.

On a quarter-on-quarter, seasonally adjusted annualised basis, the economy shrank 1.9 per cent during the January to March period, coming in line with expectations. While the annualised GDP reading is a stark reversal from the stellar 12.3 per cent rebound last quarter, economists said it is not a cause for worry.

“The quarter-on-quarter figure tends to be very volatile. A mild pullback shouldn’t be a surprise given the manufacturing surge last quarter,” said Maybank Kim Eng economist Chua Hak Bin, referring to the strong turnaround in factory output towards the end of 2016 which provided a surprise lift to the overall economy.

For the first three months of 2017, Singapore’s manufacturing sector contracted 6.6 per cent on a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted annualised basis, reversing from the 39.8 per cent surge in the previous quarter.

On a year-on-year basis, the sector moderated from growth of 11.5 per cent to 6.6 per cent, which according to Dr Chua is still a “very healthy reading”.

In other sectors, construction continued to underperform by shrinking 1.1 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, extending the 2.8 per cent decline in the previous quarter on the back of a slowdown in private sector construction activities. On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted annualised basis, the sector expanded by 5.4 per cent, accelerating from the 0.8 per cent growth in the preceding quarter.

The services producing industries grew 1.5 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter, improving from growth of 1.0 per cent in the previous quarter. However, on a quarter-on-quarter basis, the sector shrank at an annualised rate of 2.2 per cent after expanding 8.4 per cent in the last quarter.

Such mixed figures show that the local services sector, which accounts for about two-thirds of the economy, continues to “punch below its weight”, said Mizuho Bank’s senior economist Vishnu Varathan.

“Anything related to the property or banking sector is not in high gear and with these uncertain (components), any recovery is not going to come as quickly as what we’ve seen in the manufacturing sector,” he told Channel NewsAsia. “Services will remain a lingering drag.”

MTI will release the revised GDP data for the first quarter, including performance by sectors, sources of growth, inflation, employment and productivity, in its Economic Survey of Singapore in May.

The advance GDP estimates are computed largely from data in the first two months of the quarter – in this case, January and February. They are intended as an early indication of GDP growth in the quarter and are subject to revision when more comprehensive data becomes available.

Private sector economists had forecast Singapore’s first-quarter GDP to be 2.6 per cent, according to the latest quarterly survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in March. For the full year, economists raised their GDP forecast to 2.3 per cent – a sharp hike from the previous estimation of 1.5 per cent.

That marks a pick-up from the 2.0 per cent growth recorded in 2016, and would be in the upper half of the Government’s official 2017 GDP forecast range of 1 to 3 per cent.

Noting the growth figures, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore’s economy “did quite well in Q1” and that the “outlook is encouraging”.

In a Facebook post on Thursday evening, Mr Lee added that he met labour movement leaders during the week to find out “how things are in their different industries”. 

“They spoke about the challenges they are facing, the changes they foresee, and how they are helping workers cope,” he wrote.

Mr Lee added that he will talk about Singapore’s economy and job situation at the upcoming May Day Rally. 

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Commentary: Smart Nation 2.0? Three ideas to keep Singapore smart

SINGAPORE: The provocative power of digital advances lies in the novel ways we can use them to improve lives. The newly announced Smart Nation and Digital Government Office under the Prime Minister’s Office, is recognition of this transformative power. 

Digital advances push us to think more expansively about what is smart. Building on recent major government initiatives, the following possibilities outlined here present opportunities to think beyond physical places and infrastructure constraints and build a more inclusive society. They aim to tackle job disruption precisely, nurture each student’s strength by drawing on global resources, and scale-up solutions more readily.

IDEA 1: THINK TASKS ON TOP OF SKILLS

“The top priority for the Smart Nation (initiative) has to be jobs, jobs, jobs,” Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan stressed during the Budget 2017 debates.  

Global debates about digital disruption and jobs are divided. Techno-pessimists warn us that all jobs are at risk. Techno-optimists assure us jobs will evolve. There is a divergence in thinking on how we should approach these disruptive forces.

Automation has transformed the productivity of manufacturing since industrial robots first started painting, cutting, welding and assembling in the 1960s. (Photo: AFP)

Can we tackle disruption better? We have so far focused primarily on skills. However, emerging evidence suggests we should focus on tasks too, because tasks add precision to skills.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Economics Professor David Autor points out tasks “have played a key role in reshaping the structure of labour demand in industrialised countries in recent decades”. Stanford University’s report Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 states “AI systems are specialised to accomplish particular tasks”. The consultancy McKinsey concluded last year that analyzing “work activities rather than occupations is the most accurate way to examine the technical feasibility of automation”.

Digital advances break down jobs into tasks, which are automated or performed by humans. When all tasks are automated, humans lose jobs. But humans also create new tasks, turning them into new jobs.

By examining tasks, we can see which tasks, and subsequently which jobs, workers, and companies are more likely to be disrupted. We can thus better prepare them for the future and take corresponding steps to do so.

For example, the chart below details the tasks an information security analyst carries out, and shows which of these are shared with other IT professions. Professionals in the latter who wish to become an information security analyst can see which tasks they have experience in, and which they need training in. Workers and companies can thus target their training better.

Chart showing tasks performed by professionals in the IT sector. (Source: SUTD)

There are potential wider economic benefits to adopting such an approach. The Netherlands Bureau of Economic Analysis conducted a study of cities, tasks and skills. They concluded that tasks explained a “significant part of the changes in employment”, and cities with more tasks connected to each other had higher employment growth. Examining how connected tasks are could target economy-wide job growth better.

IDEA 2: FROM MORE TO ALL – GLOBAL MENTORS FOR EVERY STUDENT

Budget 2017 saw greater emphasis on nurturing students’ strengths. More students can now stretch and develop their talent.

The story of an eight-year-old Singaporean I met during our projects suggests we could nurture all students according to their unique diverse strengths.

Adi lives in a HDB flat and attends a neighborhood school. He also represented Singapore at the Asian Youth Chess Championships last year. Interestingly, he picked up chess by chance only three years ago.

How did Adi become championship-ready so quickly? Indeed, he has sparred online against algorithms and top chess players worldwide (who did not know his age).  

But Adi made the most progress with his online coach, Prab. Other coaches – in person and online – had not worked out.

Coach Prab is based in India. He also suffers from double kidney failure. To reduce infection risks, he started coaching online. He watches, reviews and discusses Adi’s online chess games with him. He even uses AI analysis to augment his feedback.

File photo of chess board. (Photo: AFP)

Consider for a moment what has happened.

Now imagine assembling, for each student, their own individual global team of mentors, augmented by technology, to pursue their unique talent.  Imagine what each student could achieve. Each could pursue excellence and become as good as they can be. Some might even be among the best in the world.

Trends in the global gig economy and talent marketplace suggest such global teams of mentors could be affordable: they can come from any part of the world, are hired for only part of their time, and are mentoring digitally. 

Large countries will find it challenging to do this. But a small Smart Nation with annual Primary One cohort sizes of forty thousand can. If we do, imagine the impact we could have on the world.

IDEA 3: GOING GLOBAL – SCALE-OUT BEFORE SCALE-UP

The Committee on Future Economy highlights that Smart Nation digital solutions “can be exported to rapidly urbanising cities in Asia”. The current model: test-bed in Singapore, scale-up here and then scale-out to the region. 

Singapore’s size and single-layer governance offers speed and simplicity for test-bedding and scaling up. But the market is small, and scaling out to cities with more complicated governance is challenging.  

Moreover, our infrastructure and environment have been so carefully honed, that solutions which work well here, might work less well elsewhere. “The environment exacts a price for the survival of the fittest: it captures them,” says Jacob Bronowski in The Ascent of Man. He draws an analogy: the Grant gazelle was “gracefully adapted” to the savannah to escape predators, but “its lovely leap never took it out of the savannah”.

What if for digital solutions, we flipped the current model to first scale-out test-beds concurrently to Singapore and two regional cities, then scale-up in all three? We can still exploit Singapore’s strengths, and concurrent regional test-beds could yield versatile solutions more easily deployed to different cities.

The Marina Bay central business district is home to many businesses in Singapore. (Photo: REUTERS)

Adopting this model means changing how we invest, recruit, and educate. Funding and financing will have to account for additional risks. Companies will need multi-city expertise. And tertiary institutions will have to immerse students in multi-city projects. 

Current business models suggest we cannot afford to do this. But for long-term economic prospects, can we afford not to? 

GET SMART BY DISAGREEING TO AGREE

We often need novel and provocative possibilities to think expansively.

One way to find them might be to disagree to agree. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and pioneering psychologist Gary Klein, who respect each other’s work, arrived at differing conclusions about how people make snap decisions. They did not choose to agree to disagree, and move on with their own work. Instead, they examined together why they disagreed. They found that they “agree(d) on most of the issues that matter”, and collaborated to elaborate on this. They chose to disagree, and used that to subsequently find agreement, and a superior outcome.

Disagreements between citizens, companies, cities and countries are inevitable. We could choose to agree to disagree, and leave it at that. Or if we respect each other, we could do the smart thing: choose to first disagree to agree, so as to search for subsequent agreement and a superior outcome.

Like what Kahneman and Klein did.

That will make our nation really smart. 

Poon King Wang is Director of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. 

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Singapore film company mm2 Asia sets its sights on the region

SINGAPORE: Singapore film production company mm2 Asia is pushing hard to become a bigger player in Asia, starting with an investment of US$ 12.9 million (S$ 18 million) in nine movies from Singaporean, Hong Kong, Malaysian and Taiwanese filmmakers covering a range of genres.

The titles include the fourth instalment of Singaporean director Jack Neo’s popular Ah Boys To Men franchise and Wonder Boy, the biopic and directorial debut of prominent Singaporean musician Dick Lee starring The Sam Willows’ Benjamin Kheng. Hsieh Chun Yi’s Taiwan romantic drama Take Me To The Moon starring Vivian Sung is also in the pipeline.

Mr Melvin Ang, mm2 Asia’s executive chairman and CEO, told Channel NewsAsia that the company sees “huge opportunities” in Chinese speaking markets around the region.

“Given our small market environment, we have to step up efforts in developing projects that can work in all these markets,” he said. “With this strategy, ‘produced and developed by Singapore talent’ is equally important as compared to ‘produced in Singapore’. This will clearly make our presence stronger as a regional producer in the coming years.”

The development of Singapore cinema is still important to the company, which is headquartered here.

But the company’s further expansion into the region does not mean that it will be holding back on making homegrown films. In fact, mm2 is committed to producing more local movies along with their regional projects, said Mr Ang.

“As of today, in our current slate of projects, mm2 has more than 10 new Singapore movie titles in the pipeline over the next 18 months,” he revealed. “Being present in all the Chinese markets in Asia, mm2 is confident that Singapore talents, given the right opportunities and support, will stand an equal chance to produce quality films that can travel beyond our shores.”

He continued: “We have to identify homegrown talents, particularly in the area of scriptwriters, directors and production talent pool who have the capabilities to develop and execute projects for the growing regional markets. For example, successful Singapore scripts and movies can be adapted or remade in Hong Kong, Taiwan or China.”

When mm2’s extensive slate was unveiled at the Hong Kong Film Mart earlier this month, Ha Yu, veteran Hong Kong actor and executive director of mm2 Hong Kong, said that while the projects were considerably smaller than the usual big budget Chinese co-productions, the mainland audience is still seen as one of mm2’s targets.

The focus with this slate, according to mm2 Asia’s chief content officer Ng Say Yong, is about developing new talent, particularly new directors, and exposing them to work in the region. “Leveraging on our multi-market presence, we welcome companies or individuals looking for collaborative opportunities to identify projects and co-produce content that is compelling and relevant.”

The company has been on an upward trajectory ever since it was listed on the Singapore stock exchange market two years ago – the first movie production company to do so – and has diversified from its roots in film production and financing.

Amongst other moves, it acquired a 51 per cent stake in Singapore 3D animation company Vividthree Productions, procured the exclusive rights to produce and broadcast a Singapore/Malaysia edition of the The Voice from Talpa Global, established its own cinema chain, mmCineplexes, through the ownership of five multiplexes in Malaysia, and most recently announced the proposed purchase of another 13 multiplexes in Malaysia from Lotus Fivestar Cinemas.

The company is best known for being behind Singapore’s most successful franchise – Ah Boys To Men – that generated a combined local box office of more than S$ 22 million from the first three films.

The franchise director Neo told Channel NewsAsia that the fourth instalment will commence filming in June and that it will definitely be released this year. 

“Because 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s National Service,” he explained. “This one is going to be about reservists. It’s something most of us have or had to do so many people will relate to this storyline.

“And I’ve also decided to focus on the Armour unit, like all the tanks and artillery. People always gets excited during National Day every year when they see the Armour unit on display.”

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Countering terrorism and violent extremism key concern for Singapore, region: MFA

SINGAPORE: Countering terrorism and violent extremism is a key concern for Singapore and the region, given the risks posed by returning ISIS fighters as well as the group’s radical propaganda in Southeast Asia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday (Mar 23). 

Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and participated in the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS in Washington DC on Wednesday.

MFA said Singapore welcomed the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, hosted by Mr Tillerson.

“Singapore has consistently supported the coalition’s efforts through contributions of military assets and personnel, and believes in the need for a comprehensive response that encompasses addressing economic, social and political factors,” it said in a statement.

At the meeting, MFA said Dr Balakrishnan and Mr Tillerson reaffirmed the “deep and multi-faceted relations” between Singapore and the US in the areas of defence, economic and security.

They also discussed regional developments as well as ways in which the US could build on its enduring strategic and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific and strengthen its engagement of ASEAN, the ministry added.

Dr Balakrishnan will meet Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker before departing the US for Singapore on Friday, according to MFA.  

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Singapore healthiest country in Asia: Bloomberg index

SINGAPORE: Singapore is the healthiest country in Asia and the fourth healthiest country in the world, according to a new Bloomberg index.

The country beat the likes of Australia (ranked fifth), Japan (seventh), New Zealand (19th) and the United States (34th), losing out only to Italy, Iceland and Switzerland in the Bloomberg 2017 Healthiest Country Index, released in a report on Monday (Mar 20).

Based on information from the World Health Organization, United Nations and the World Bank, the index ranked 163 countries based on variables such as life expectancy, causes of death and health risks such as high blood pressure, tobacco use, malnutrition and the availability of clean water.

Each country was given a health grade equal to its score across these variables minus health risk penalties.

The top 50 ranking:

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Singapore to get 2 new radio stations

SINGAPORE: Singapore will get two new commercial free-to-air radio stations, after the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) awarded the vacant radio frequencies on Monday (Mar 13).

The frequencies – FM89.3 and FM96.3 – were awarded to SPH Radio following an open tender exercise.

One frequency will be used for a new Chinese radio station that caters to those above 50 years of age. The station aims to support active ageing by providing seniors with lifestyle information covering health, wellness and retirement planning, said IMDA in its news release.

The station will also feature Chinese pop and “xin yao” entertainment music from the ’80s and ’90s.

The second station is aimed at raising the financial literacy of listeners. The English-language station aims to educate PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businessmen), financial market participants as well as the general audience on money matters, said IMDA.

The new radio stations “will cater to new listener segments and increase the vibrancy of the local radio industry with their unique positioning and programming,” said Patrick Daniel, chairman of SPH Radio and deputy CEO of SPH in a media release.

SPH Radio currently operates three stations.

It said the two new stations will be launched in December.

The new stations will bring the total number of local FM stations to 20.

STRONG INDUSTRY INTEREST

IMDA said its open tender exercise was met with strong industry interest and drew nine proposals from five tenderers.

The proposals included a Tamil radio station by Rex Cinema, a Hindi station with Bollywood music by Asia Today, as well as three proposals by Mediacorp – a Chinese dialect station, a commercial easy-listening English station and a not-for-profit English station targeted at audience above the age of 55.

Said a Mediacorp spokesperson: “The new stations will hopefully provide listeners with even greater variety.”

She added: “Mediacorp has the broadest range of radio platform offerings in Singapore. We are unique in catering to different audience segments and broadcasting in four languages.

“Mediacorp will continue to introduce new programmes and initiatives that engage listeners through the day, not just over the radio but on TV, print, online and at events.

“For example, Class 95’s ‘Back to Class’, where party-goers come dressed in their school uniforms, is drawing a great response from listeners. Gold 905’s ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Solid Gold’ parties are sell-out events every time. We recently expanded LOVE 97.2 FM’s morning show, the top radio programme in the morning, into a TV programme on Channel 8, which has been very well received. A recent series on Capital 958, ‘Where are the jobs?’, analysing the job market, has garnered high praise from listeners.”

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Singapore dollar hits all-time high against Malaysian ringgit

SINGAPORE: The Singapore dollar hovered at an all-time high against the Malaysian ringgit on Friday (Feb 24), peaking at 3.1687 earlier in the day before easing back to 3.1643 in afternoon trade.

An outperformance of the Singapore currency, rather than a weakening in the ringgit, was behind the movements in the SGD/MYR, analysts told Channel NewsAsia.

Alongside broad-based strength in other Asian currencies such as the South Korean won and the Taiwan dollar, the Sing dollar edged up as overnight comments from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulled down the US dollar.

Speaking to CNBC in his first televised interview since taking office, Mnuchin said he wanted to see tax reform passed before Congress’ August recess, but later acknowledged on Fox Business Network that such a timeline was “very aggressive”. US president Donald Trump previously said he would announce a “phenomenal” plan by early March to cut business taxes.

“Overnight comments from Mnuchin seem to suggest that the tax reforms will only be read in August. If that’s the case, dollar strength will only come later,” said Mr Christopher Wong, senior FX strategist for Maybank.

“Even on Trump’s point of declaring China as a currency manipulator, Mnuchin said there’s no plan to do that so there seems to be a contradiction in there,” Mr Wong added. “This sets the stage for Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb 28, which markets will be keeping an eye on for more details of his tax reform and infrastructure plans.”

Little clarity on the US president’s proposed fiscal stimulus has reined in the US dollar’s rally since the start of the year, allowing Asian currencies to take a slight breather.

On Friday, even a below-par industrial production report failed to dampen the spirits of the Sing dollar, which was last seen at 1.4050 per US dollar in afternoon trade. Earlier in the day, the local dollar hit 1.4091 against the greenback, its highest since Nov 10.

“The outperformance of the Sing dollar occurred way before the data release but even that had little impact. Simply because the big swing this month in industrial production was due to the biomedical manufacturing, which is typically quite volatile,” Mr Wong said.

Amid expectations of further bouts of US dollar weakness, analysts expect the Sing dollar to continue outperforming.

“The narrative surrounding Trump and his agenda is fraying and that’s causing these movements. With a little bit of recovery in risk sentiment given the push back in moves that could inflate trade tensions, we see low-yielding currencies like the Sing dollar doing better,” said Mr Julian Wee, senior markets strategist for Asia at National Australia Bank.

On the other hand, the Malaysian ringgit will likely continue to underperform most of its Asian counterparts.

One reason for that is Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) lack of adequate foreign exchange reserves to “smooth out the depreciation” of the currency amid a strong dollar environment, Mr Wee noted.

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