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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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MAS unlikely to ease monetary policy this month: Analysts

SINGAPORE: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will likely stand pat on its exchange rate-based monetary policy this month, most economists told Channel NewsAsia ahead of the central bank’s final scheduled policy review for the year.

While the outlook for the Republic remains dim amid global headwinds, the situation does not seem dire enough to justify further easing, these experts said.

“Things are not great but they seem more like different shades of dull, instead of flashing warning lights,” said Bank of Singapore’s chief economist Richard Jerram, adding that the city-state is likely to see gross domestic product (GDP) figures between 1.5 and 2 per cent this year.

Even with the latest official data indicating a rising unemployment rate, Mr Jerram did not think the “slight deterioration in the labour market” would “make alarm bells ring”. “So I think MAS will leave policy unchanged,” the veteran economist added.

Singapore’s GDP held steady at 2.1 per cent in the second quarter, but analysts largely foresee dimmer prospects in the final six months of 2016 amid additional uncertainties due to Brexit. As such, the Government in August shaved its full-year growth forecast to between 1 and 2 per cent, while Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam cautioned last week that the local economy will be “in for a tough period that will last for a while”.

The MAS, which manages the economy through the currency rather than setting interest rates, had eased policy earlier in April by flattening the slope of the band it uses to guide the local currency against an undisclosed trading basket, reducing the rate of appreciation to zero per cent. 

Given the pre-emptive action taken at its previous meeting, Singapore’s economic conditions would need to “worsen much more” in order for the central bank to ease further by shifting the policy band lower, reckoned Nomura Singapore’s economist Brian Tan.

“When MAS eased in April, that was based on expectations that things won’t be as buoyant as before. The key question now is whether what we’ve seen over the past few months has been worse than what MAS was expecting,” Mr Tan said. “Our view is no.”

Even the initial fears surrounding the outbreak of Zika have eased, with the virus’ related economic impact proven to be “marginal”, the economist added. 

Meanwhile, BNP Paribas’ economist Philip McNicholas went as far to say that policy easing “risks doing more harm to the real economy than good”.

“Easing policy via a re-centering of the Singapore dollar’s nominal effective exchange rate (S$ NEER) lower may boost export earnings but does little to address the underlying problem of weak final demand,” according to the note dated Sep 26.

“Furthermore, in response to MAS easing, domestic borrowing costs may rise as foreign investors seek greater yield compensation to offset lost potential forex gains against a backdrop of reliance on wholesale funding by the domestic banking system.”

Apart from domestic factors, the MAS may also be inclined to retain its current policy stance amid the looming prospect of an interest rate hike in the United States.

Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist for IHS Markit, expects the Federal Reserve to finally raise rates in December amid consistent job growth. With further Fed tightening likely to increase debt service for mortgage holders and business owners, as well as stir up uncertainty in emerging markets, Mr Biswas said he believes that yet another easing move from the MAS would yield little results.

However, there are economists who think otherwise.

Dutch bank ABN Amro expects the Singapore central bank to announce a downward shift in its policy band by 0.5 to 1 per cent this month, in a bid to “signal that further strength in the Singapore dollar is unwelcome”.

Factors that pave the way for further easing include strength in the S$ NEER which has been weighing on both import and export prices, worsening conditions of the labour market and predictions of slower wage growth in the coming months, said the Sep 28 note from ABN Amro bank.

In addition, the pick-up in MAS core inflation will likely be restrained by weak external price outlook, subdued economic growth prospects and the reduction in labour market tightness.

“The recovery in core inflation has stalled around 1 per cent since May this year. Core inflation needs to rise substantially to 1.3 per cent from September to December in order for MAS core inflation forecast to materialise,” ABN Amro analysts wrote. “In our view, this is ambitious given that domestic growth is projected to slow in the second half of this year.”

Follow See Kit on Twitter @SeeKitCNA

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Want to trade like the big boys? This homegrown app could help you

SINGAPORE: Just like any other avid investor, Mr Clemen Chiang has always been on the lookout for a winning strategy to beat the stock market.

A keen investor in US equities since the early 2000s, the Singaporean took interest in analysing the investment styles of American billionaires such as Warren Buffett after noticing that the legendary investor had steered clear of US technology stocks, which were the darlings of the market back then.

“I was looking at many hot technology stocks … for example, when Google (debuted) at US$ 100 on the Nasdaq in 2004, I invested in it,” said Mr Chiang, founder and CEO of homegrown financial technology (FinTech) start-up Aly. “But after some time, I noticed that many of these tech stocks were just too volatile … and Warren Buffett never invested in them, apart from IBM.”

Mr Chiang believed that by knowing the trades of these “big boys”, who have abundant resources to conduct due diligence and access to exclusive information, could help the common man on the street understand the sudden spikes in stock prices and make better investment decisions.

“After 15 years of investing, I’ve come to believe in the thesis of standing on the shoulders of giants such as Warren Buffett … After all, (he) has consistently outperformed the S&P 500 and I’m just not as smart as him,” the entrepreneur, who is in his early forties, told Channel NewsAsia.

“While investors like him won’t reveal their secrets, they have to reveal whatever they invest to the public and I realise that is the path for me to identify which giant I should (follow),” he added.

And that is why Mr Chiang came up with the app Spiking that helps him to do just that. However, on the back of advice from local accelerator Startupbootcamp FinTech, the entrepreneur decided to shift his focus from Wall Street to the local stock market.

Since its official launch in early April, the homegrown app has worked on enlarging its database and now provides information of 11,000 company directors and substantial shareholders in Singapore such as Banyan Tree founder Ho Kwon Ping, tycoons Oei Hong Leong and Peter Lim, as well as DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta.

Via Spiking, users can choose to follow these sophisticated investors and track updated disclosures of transactions and stock holdings. This information is obtained by machine-reading algorithms that scan through publicly-available stock exchange filings and verify them against various sources such as Bloomberg to check for anomalies, explained Mr Chiang.

While targeted at retail investors, the founder noted that Spiking has received positive responses from the senior executives of public companies as well as remisiers. 

“Some remisiers told me they can now tell their clients that there’s information about these big shots buying and so what are they waiting for. It’s like a sales kit for them. Previously they relied on analyst recommendations which can sometimes be difficult for retail investors to understand.” 

The local bourse operator also extended a helping hand, by expressing its willingness to provide the app with more data to work with. “That was a validation to our work,” Mr Chiang said.

Previously backed by China’s Quest Ventures and the National Research Foundation, Spiking announced on Monday (Sep 19) that it secured S$ 1 million in seed funding. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

“I LEARNT AND MOVED ON TO BE A BETTER MAN”

The successful conclusion of a S$ 1 million seed-funding round earlier this week was also a form of validation for the founder himself, who was in 2008 embroiled in a well-publicised expose by The Straits Times for touting qualifications from an unaccredited university.

After the expose, participants who attended Mr Chiang’s seminars on options trading sued him for refunds.

“I learnt a lot from that and I moved on to be a better man,” the entrepreneur told Channel NewsAsia. “It was a test of whether you can still stand up after a fall. I picked myself up … and I moved on to do other things.”

That included the starting up of female shopping portal CozyCot with his wife, and organising the Singapore edition of the Diner En Blanc pop-up picnic from 2012 to 2014.

When asked whether he was ever worried about investors turning him down due to his past, Mr Chiang answered: “The good thing is that when investors look at a start-up or entrepreneur, they have a completely different perspective from a retail investor. They look at what drives the company and the founder, and whether he can stand the test of failure. I think I’m a standing example of that.

“Investors from the capital markets know about my past and I share with them very openly. In the end, they said, ‘We still want to invest in you and we believe in how you’re going to take the company forward’,” he added, with a smile.

NEW FEATURES AND MOVING BEYOND SGX

Now, flushed with fresh funding from prominent capital market investors such as Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo, the start-up is gearing up for a packed schedule ahead. Some of the plans include the addition of an online trading platform for users to place their trades via the app.

But before that, new features such as a forum page which will aggregate recent news headlines, announcements and market activity, as well as an expansion of data coverage to 10 stock exchanges will be rolled out in early December.

Apart from the SGX, Spiking is looking to ramp up its services to include data from the stock exchanges in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as the two stock exchanges in Vietnam and India, respectively.

Among the overseas markets, Mr Chiang singled out India as the biggest challenge given the sheer number of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange.

“There are about 10,000 companies listed in India and for each company, we will have to (identify) the blue whales who are people putting money on the table, the board of directors who make strategic decisions and then the management group,” he explained.

But Mr Chiang remains upbeat about the expansion plans and has his ultimate goal set on Wall Street.

“We are still a start-up and if we go to the US now, we are just killing ourselves. So let’s start off with 10 exchanges in Asia-Pacific and if that works out, we’ll go for another round of funding and go after the US market,” he told Channel NewsAsia.

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Taxi availability rules to be reviewed by this year: Ng Chee Meng

SINGAPORE: Amid growing competition from private car hire services, the Government will look to review Singapore’s taxi availability framework by the end of 2016, Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament on Tuesday (Sep 13).

This is to “further level the playing field” between traditional taxi operators and its new rivals from app-based private car-sharing services such as Uber and GrabCar, said Mr Ng, who is also Acting Education Minister (Schools).

Put in place since January 2013, the taxi availability standards require taxis to clock a minimum daily mileage and ply the roads during peak hours, according to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) website. Private car-sharing services, however, are not subjected to such requirements.

With the rapid growth of newer ride-booking services, there may be room for adjustments to be made to the taxi availability standards, said Mr Ng.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, gathering data on commuter preferences and availability of taxis on the roads so that, where appropriate, we will further level the playing field for the industry and review the taxi availability framework with a balanced view towards commuter needs and also the welfare of taxi drivers,” he added in response to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Desmond Choo.

At the moment, the income of taxi drivers working for traditional operators have remained largely unaffected. According to Mr Ng, the average monthly gross earnings of taxi drivers, including rental feeds and fuel costs, have remained relatively unchanged since 2013, while average monthly net income rose by about 5 per cent in real terms due to lower fuel costs.

Meanwhile, Mr Ng pointed out that nearly 80 per cent of all taxis are able to meet the daily minimum mileage requirement of 250 kilometres per day, with more than 75 per cent of these clocking more than 300 kilometres a day. In addition, the proportion of two-shift taxis have rose to 68 per cent, from 53 per cent, since the roll-out of the taxi availability framework three years ago, he said.

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