In Focus
ECONOMY | Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena, Singapore

Year in Review: Here are the Singapore Business Review's most talked about news in 2016

And check out two external risks awaiting Singapore in 2017.

There is no doubt that with a trade-driven economy, Singapore would be affected even with just a flap in global economic conditions. The past year has seen quite a number of world events that could pose threat to the city-state. These events include the United Kingdom's move to ditch the European Union, the struggles of the oil and gas sector, looming threats against the Chinese economy, and Donald Trump's win at the United States election.

At the start of the year, Swiss billionaire investor Felix Zulauf warned that Singapore’s largest banks are at risk of massive capital outflows if the Chinese economy experiences a hard landing. Experts and analysts were quick to argue that Zulauf's pronouncement might be on the lower end of possibilities. MAS backed it up, saying that local banks have low non-performing loan (NPL) ratios and ample capital buffers which function as safeguards against the turning credit cycle. 

Much of the banks' headaches were due to the flailing oil and gas sector, which has caused bad loans to tick up. This has led to some lawyers believing that there could be another Asian Financial Crisis as these soured assets spike. 

Singapore also braced for the effects of UK leaving EU. Analysts believed that Brexit would affect Singapore property stocks by hurting the sentiment, leading to residential prices correcting by 5%-8% this year. 

Meanwhile, some of Singaporean companies have made the headlines as they succumb to the challenges of their respective sectors. For instance, Keppel Corporation started the year by revealing that it has slashed over 6,000 offshore and marine workers in the past year in a bid to cut costs and optimise the current operations of the segment. 

Going along the not-so-vibrant overall retail scene of Singapore, Sheng Siong had been making a buzz with its recent setbacks. For starters, it has failed to secure any HDB supermarkets in the month of December. What made matters worse is it losing to a new kid on the block.

On the aviation sector, Singapore Airlines continued to push through cloudy skies with the oil price volatilities and uncertainties in the corporate travel market. And as the fuel cost surged, the Singapore flag-carrier were on tract to tighten its budget on passenger giveaways

Bad news was also ahead of the telcos, as the Infocomm and Media Development commenced the search for Singapore's fourth mobile network operator. Singtel firmly believed that the city-state does not need a new mobile player.  However, even before the eventual win of the cash-rich TPG, incumbents were already shaking their knees especially StarHub, which reportedly lost over 11,000 payTV subscribers

There were also talks on the transport sector involving ride-hailing firms Uber and Grab, which has been reported to cut drivers' incentives. And while they posed headaches to traditional cabbies, analysts argued that the threat was just overhyped, noting that earnings from driving a taxi is more stable and higher than signing up for the booking apps.

After all these hot topics, one would guess what would be in store for Singapore next year. Going back to the city-state being trade-driven, some analysts fear that it would face a tough 2017 ahead against the backdrop of tepid global growth, near-term fundamental growth challenges to key financial services, property and energy-related sectors plus the growing risks from rising protectionism in many western markets. There are two specific external risks that are waiting just around the corner for Singapore: the threat of countries in the region tightening their measures to restrict capital outflow and the potential geopolitical risk arising from cooling-off in Singapore-China relations.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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