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Briefs: Strong demand for tickets on Singapore-Malaysia Causeway reopening; MAS weighs action over DBS service glitch

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore11/26/2021 10:46 AM GMT+08  • 7 min read
Briefs: Strong demand for tickets on Singapore-Malaysia Causeway reopening; MAS weighs action over DBS service glitch
As many as 2,880 people a day will be allowed to travel in the initial phase of the reopening of the causeway.
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Quoteworthy: "I was just in Hong Kong, I made a joke that the Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year. So is JPMorgan. And I’ll make you a bet we will last longer." –— Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. He has since issued two apologies

Strong demand for tickets on Singapore-Malaysia Causeway reopening

The reopening of the land border between Singapore and Malaysia sparked a rush for bus tickets, with thousands of hopeful travellers left waiting online to buy seats.

More than 20,000 people were queuing on the ticket portal of Handal Indah, one of the two operators that will serve the route when it opens on Nov 29. In the late morning of Nov 25, however, the Malaysian bus company’s website would not even open.

Meanwhile, the website of Singapore bus company Transtar Travel directed users to a “virtual waiting room” and said the ticket-purchase page would open when slots became available. “We are experiencing high user volume,” it said.

As many as 2,880 people a day will be allowed to travel in the initial phase of the reopening of the causeway linking Singapore and Malaysia, according to an agreement announced on Nov 24. Each bus has a maximum capacity of 45 passengers.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, some 300,000 people crossed the land border each day, for work on the other side or tourism. Those who have been working in either country will get priority for tickets, the Singapore government said on Nov 24.

“Many workers from both Singapore and Malaysia have not been able to see their families for many months,” Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a statement.

“We seek the understanding of workers who may not be able to purchase a bus ticket to travel home immediately due to limited capacity.”

Transtar’s website showed all tickets for the next 30 days sold out in about 20 minutes, The Straits Times and CNA reported.

“The current quota will allow only a fraction of daily pre-pandemic travel, but it will provide a meaningful economic boost nonetheless,” said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC Holdings.

“With high vaccination rates on both sides, it appears likely that restrictions will be further relaxed in due course, allowing for a much greater number of travellers in both directions over time. Even then, however, it will take some time before mass tourism will resume.”

Those travelling via the land vaccinated travel lane must test negative using a professionally administered antigen rapid test (ART) or polymerase chain reaction test within two days of departure, reported The Straits Times. Those visiting Malaysia are required to take an additional supervised on-arrival ART after they clear immigration. — Bloomberg

MAS weighs action over DBS service glitch

Singapore’s central bank the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it will consider supervisory actions after DBS Group Holdings suffered one of the worst digital disruptions for Southeast Asia’s biggest lender in the past decade.

This is a serious disruption and MAS expects DBS to conduct a thorough investigation to identify the root causes and implement the necessary remedial measures,” Marcus Lim, assistant managing director at MAS, said in an emailed response to questions on Nov 24. “MAS will consider appropriate supervisory actions following the investigation.”

The problems in DBS’s digital services — an area where the Singapore-based bank has invested heavily in — started early Nov 23, resurfaced the following day and, to a lesser extent, on Nov 25.

“The last few days have underlined the fact that despite the opportunities that FinTech provides, banks need to get the basics right,” said Zennon Kapron, managing director at Singapore-based consulting firm Kapronasia. “Being the ‘world’s best digital bank’ is pretty useless if no one can actually use it.”

The issues stemmed from the bank’s access control servers, resulting in customers’ inability to log in to the services, DBS Bank country head Shee Tse Koon said in a video clip on its Facebook page.

“We acknowledge the gravity of the situation and as we work to resolve matters, we seek your patience and understanding,” Shee said.

He also apologised to customers and reassured them that their deposits are safe, adding that banking services at all its branches have been extended by two hours.

The central bank has been following up closely with DBS since the disruptions began, Lim from MAS said. It also agrees with DBS that the priority is to restore services, he added, without commenting on what potential supervisory actions the authority may take.

Under MAS’s regulations, financial institutions need to ensure that the maximum downtime for each critical system does not exceed four hours within any period of 12 months. In 2010, DBS set aside $230 million in regulatory capital after its banking services failed for more than six hours following repairs.

DBS in recent years has invested heavily to digitise its core banking business and set up new technology platforms. Such efforts have helped to boost the bank’s return-on-equity and have enabled the lender to reach more customers in all of its markets.

In a separate comment on Twitter, the Singapore-based bank debunked speculation that the disruption was linked to a bond sale by Myanmar’s shadow government set up by supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was ousted by the army in a February coup.

Singapore has seen other major banking disruptions. In 2018, rival Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) had a glitch that impacted its automated teller machines and online banking systems for several hours over a weekend.

The outages come as DBS prepares to face new challengers with the arrival of more digital banks in the city-state next year. Grab Holdings’s venture with Singapore Telecommunications and Sea are among four firms that won permits from MAS.

Grab also suffered a technical failure last week, which disrupted its ride-booking services in Singapore and some other Southeast Asian countries. — Bloomberg

US Fed officials entering ‘new era’ on overheating, Summers says

Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said that Federal Reserve policy makers are signalling a “new era” in which they recognise the US economy is overheating as inflation runs at its fastest in three decades.

Speaking on Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin, Summers said that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Governor Lael Brainard this week used rhetoric that “portends a new era here for the Fed.”

“They know we do have an overheating economy,” he said. “The new problem is how do you land this economy softly.”

On Nov 22, President Joe Biden nominated Powell to serve another four-year term at the Fed and elevated Brainard to become the central bank’s vice chair. Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg, praised the selections.

At the White House event on Nov 22, Powell said the Fed would seek “to prevent higher inflation from becoming entrenched.” Brainard said it was important to get “inflation down at a time when people are focused on their jobs and how far their pay cheques will go.”

Summers has throughout the year been warning that monetary policy makers, including Powell, were ignoring the risk that a surge in inflation would prove long lasting if not tackled.

The Fed is “late to the party to recognize the overheating,” said Summers. “We’re looking at a challenge of slowing an overheating economy.”

Many Fed officials had argued that the inflation shock would prove “transitory” and indicated a willingness to let the economy run hotter than usual with the aim of boosting hiring. But policy makers decided this month to begin withdrawing their massive asset purchases. Some have subsequently said they may need to pull back even faster than the current pace of tapering. They have yet to announce a timeline for increasing interest rates, tying that decision to achieving maximum employment.

“The Fed very foolishly asserted that it wouldn’t ever start raising monetary policy until we’re at full employment,” said Summers. “They’re going to have to figure out how to manoeuvre in their framework.”

Government data on Nov 24 showed that American consumers kept spending in October and that the number of people continuing to collect regular unemployment insurance dropped to the lowest level of the pandemic this month.

“All the numbers are pointing to a lot of strength,” Summers said. “All the numbers are pointed to limited capacity.” — Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

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