"I think they draw from a similar pool of investors, if not the same pool." — Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers, on the current Bitcoin boom which he says is akin to the speculative frenzy over meme stocks GameStop Corp and AMC  Entertainment Holdings

US Democrats signal they will accept short-term debt ceiling hike

US Democrats signalled they would take up Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s offer to raise the US debt ceiling into December, alleviating the immediate risk of a default but raising the prospect of another bruising political fight near the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not respond publicly, but Democrats leaving a meeting with him on Wednesday said they were ready to push through a short-term increase in the debt limit. Still, they said they will continue to oppose using a process called reconciliation to pass a longer-term increase in the limit with only Democratic votes, which McConnell has demanded.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday afternoon delayed an attempt to advance legislation to suspend the debt limit, which Republicans were poised to block.

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McConnell’s offer was designed to call Democrats’ bluff after they said the reconciliation process was too lengthy to be used as a tool to boost the borrowing limit before the deadline estimated for later this month, according to a person familiar with his thinking. It also publicly showed Republicans were willing to be flexible with a default edging closer, the person said.

It also came after President Joe Biden on Tuesday remarked to reporters about discussions underway among Senate Democrats to temporarily change the chamber’s filibuster rule to allow the debt ceiling measure to go through, saying it was a “real possibility”. Still, all Democrats in the Senate would have to go along with that, and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters on Wednesday he would not support doing that.

Democrats said they were still waiting to see McConnell’s proposal in writing, but said the two-month extension would give the party time to focus on internal negotiations over Biden’s US$4 trillion ($5.4 trillion) economic agenda, without spending weeks litigating the debt ceiling on the Senate floor this month.

The Republican plan would increase the limit on federal borrowing by a fixed dollar amount that would be sufficient to tide the Treasury over until December, when Congress would have to vote again to avoid a default. That vote could come at about the same time Democrats attempt to move a massive tax and spending package.

That is also when Congress will have to act again to fund the government as part of regular fiscal-year spending, and avert a shutdown after Dec 3.

Democrats said no decision has been made on what they will do when the debt ceiling issue comes to a head again in December.

“We’re going to pay our debts, we have two months to figure out where we go from here,” Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders said. — Bloomberg

Singapore updates its national cybersecurity strategy

Singapore has launched an updated national cybersecurity strategy. Developed in consultation with ministries, government agencies, industry, and local and overseas academia, the Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy 2021 (Strategy 2021) seeks to address new and emerging cyber threats in the wake of strategic and technological shifts.

Strategy 2021 will take a more proactive stance to address threats, raise the overall level of cybersecurity across the nation, and advance international norms and standards on cybersecurity. It will also emphasise greater workforce and ecosystem development for businesses and citizens to capitalise on economic opportunities in the cybersecurity sector.

“This strategy articulates Singapore’s approach to safeguarding our wider cyberspace in an increasingly complex environment,” said Singapore Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, at the opening ceremony of the Singapore International Cyber Week 2021 on Oct 5.

“It acknowledges the need for consensus-building and deepening collaboration through [international] discussions, and the development and implementation of cybersecurity standards at the national level to raise the minimum standard of cybersecurity in ICT products and services that we use. [It also highlights the need to] build organisational capability and for talent development,” he adds.

The five key areas under Strategy 2021 are: build a resilient infrastructure, enable a safer cyberspace, enhance international cyber cooperation, develop a vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem, and grow a robust talent pipeline.

Since cybersecurity is a team sport, everyone has a role to play. While the government will take the lead in rolling out many of the initiatives within, Strategy 2021 is a call to action for all stakeholders to leverage the resources and opportunities outlined and contribute to the nation’s cybersecurity.

“Let us work together to maintain an open, secure and interoperable cyberspace, to realise the potential and promise of the exciting new possibilities that are fast opening up in the digital domain,” says Teo. — Nurdianah Md Nur

Keppel Corp aims to halve carbon emissions by 2030, achieve net zero by 2050

Keppel Corp has announced its commitment to halve its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 2020 levels, and achieve net zero by 2050.

In a statement by the company on Oct 6, Keppel stated that the target is in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

“As part of Vision 2030, Keppel has put sustainability at the core of our strategy. The target of halving our carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050 reflects our commitment to environmental sustainability and climate action,” says Loh Chin Hua, CEO of Keppel Corp.

“Beyond reducing the environmental impact of our operations, Keppel is also making sustainability our business by providing diverse solutions that contribute to a cleaner and greener world and to combatting climate change, such as renewables, green buildings and data centres, climate-resilient nearshore developments and various decarbonisation solutions,” he adds.

To achieve its targets, Keppel’s initiatives will include refocusing its portfolio on sustainable urbanisation solutions; greening its properties; purchasing and using renewable energy; and investing in clean, new businesses such as solar farms, distributed energy resources and storage, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Keppel has also set a target to invest at least 50% of its R&D expenditure in sustainability-linked innovation by 2030.

On top of the group-wide carbon emissions reduction target, Keppel’s business units also have emissions reduction targets in line with their respective sectors.

The group also plans to leverage its green credentials and sustainability efforts to tap green and sustainability-linked financing to support new investments. Since 2019, the group has collectively secured close to $2 billion in green and sustainability-linked financing facilities. — Atiqah Mokhtar

Photo: Bloomberg