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Briefs: Trump clinches Republican nod; MAS survey forecasts 2024 GDP growth at 2.4%

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 7 min read
Briefs: Trump clinches Republican nod; MAS survey forecasts 2024 GDP growth at 2.4%
Despite two impeachments and facing multiple criminal charges, Donald Trump has made a political comeback driven by resentment and retribution. Photo: Bloomberg
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Quoteworthy: "This is a common-sense measure to protect our national security." –— Representative Mike Gallagher, who led the bill passed by the US House to force ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban in the US.

Trump clinches Republican nod, setting the stage for Biden rematch

Former US President Donald Trump has secured the Republican presidential nomination, capping off a political comeback fuelled by grievance and vengeance and formally entering what is poised to be the longest and costliest general election in recent memory.  

The Associated Press reported that on March 5, the 77-year-old crossed the threshold for delegates needed to become the Republican Party nominee. That allows him free rein to consolidate the party’s political operation and fully turn his attention toward a rematch with US President Joe Biden.

If elected, Trump has vowed to root out the so-called “deep state” of civil servants, crackdown on illegal immigration, enact protectionist trade policies and curtail the US’s role in the world. 

Trump left the presidency as a national pariah after his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in the US Capitol Building riot on Jan 6, 2021.

See also: A new trade war offers no easy way back for old global order

He was the first American president to be impeached twice. Since leaving office, Trump has been charged in four criminal cases, battling 91 felony counts over allegations regarding his attempt to reverse his loss to Biden, his handling of classified documents and payments to an adult film star. 

Trump declared his third presidential bid in November 2022 after Republicans faced disappointing results in the midterm elections, which some party members attributed to him.

More than a dozen Republican hopefuls, including former allies such as his vice president Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, ran against Trump.

See also: Should we fear a trade war?

Yet, Trump’s criminal charges galvanised Republican voters around the former president while his competitors ran flawed campaigns and flamed out. Trump’s last remaining rival, Haley, ended her campaign after March 5’s Super Tuesday contests. Trump’s dominance in the 2024 primaries, where he won all but two races, signals that the Republican Party still belongs to him.

With a victory in the Georgia Democratic primary on March 12, Biden won enough delegates to secure his party’s nomination. He had already driven his chief Democratic competitor, Dean Phillips, out of the race with a string of Super Tuesday wins. On March 7, 81-year-old Biden delivered a fiery State of the Union address to quell voter concerns about his age and lay out the stakes for his second race against Trump. 

The latter’s triumph, which his campaign intended to secure by mid-March, highlights his team’s ability to turn legal woes that would have ended any other politician’s career into his battle cry. This energises supporters who have bought into his unfounded claims of political persecution. He will have to harness that energy to refill his campaign coffers, dwarfed by Biden’s. Trump’s campaign has now met the criteria set forth by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to merge its efforts with the national party.

This will allow Trump to raise higher dollar amounts through joint fundraising agreements with the RNC. On March 8, Trump moved to seize control of the party operation, installing three allies — including his daughter-in-law Lara Trump — in leadership roles after pressuring former chair Ronna McDaniel to resign.

The 2024 election is expected to be one of the most expensive on record. In recent American history, there has not been a campaign with candidates who have been in the public eye for so long and with such low approval ratings. That will require them to spend billions of dollars to persuade voters to cast ballots for them. — Bloomberg

MAS survey forecasts 2024 GDP growth at 2.4%

The Singapore economy is expected to expand by 2.4% in 2024, according to the economists and analysts who responded to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) March 2024 survey of professional forecasters.

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This figure slightly exceeds the 2.3% estimate from the December survey. Within sectors, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and construction are anticipated to witness higher y-o-y growth rates, whereas wholesale and retail trade, along with accommodation and food services, are expected to experience lower y-o-y expansions. The rest of the segments and Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) remain unchanged.

In the current survey, the respondents expect the economy to grow by 2.6% y-o-y in 1Q2024 after Singapore’s GDP expanded by 2.2% y-o-y in 4Q2023, above the respondents’ median forecast of 1.8% in the December survey.

Based on the mean probability distribution, the Singapore economy is most likely to grow by 2% to 2.4% in 2024, with an average probability of 36%. This is followed closely by the 2.5% to 2.9% forecast range, with a probability of 31%. In the previous survey, the respondents similarly assigned the highest probability of growth outturns between 2% and 2.9%.

The median forecast for CPI-All items — or headline inflation — for 2024 is 3.1%, lower than the 3.4% estimate in the December survey. The median forecast for MAS core inflation remains unchanged at 3% for the year. The respondents also expect Singapore’s unemployment rate to be 2.1% at the end of the year. — Felicia Tan

‘More than a third’ of Singapore’s 1,100 family offices banks with DBS

DBS banks “more than a third” of Singapore’s family offices and these high-net-worth individuals are drawn here not just from North Asia but from “all around the world”, says Shee Tse Koon, group executive and group head of DBS’s consumer banking group and wealth management.

Speaking at the Wealth Management Summit Asia on March 14, Shee says 76% of DBS Private Bank’s growth over the past two years came from global markets, including South Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

In June 2023, Singapore’s largest bank by assets claimed it banks a third of Singapore’s 700-odd family offices. It appears DBS has maintained this proportion of clients, even as the number of family offices here has risen to “an official number” of 1,100, as Shee puts it.

According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the number of single-family offices in Singapore nearly tripled from 400 in 2020 to about 1,100 by the end of 2022.

Singapore has been a leading destination for wealth management because the rise in wealth in Asia “cannot be ignored”, says Shee. “Many of us in the room would agree with that — not just the rise of wealth in Asia but also the shift of wealth to Asia.”

Shee acknowledges that some family offices hope to obtain Singapore citizenship or permanent residence here. “Certainly, that is one potential area, but a lot of that is about tapping into Asia’s growth and doing things more professionally, looking at legacy planning, the transition of wealth from one generation to another.”

He also agrees that the industry has been “bruised” by Credit Suisse’s collapse, which Shee calls a “wake-up call” for financial industry professionals and their customers. “Many times, people in the past talked about return on capital. I think these days, it is not just about return on capital; what’s important is the return of capital,” he adds.

Singapore’s crackdown on a massive money laundering case has seen more than $3 billion in assets seized or frozen. An audience member who claims to have his own family office here in Singapore asked if this has tarnished the nation’s reputation as a financial hub. 

“What has happened in recent months is a positive thing for Singapore to have done,” says Shee. “I believe that if there are nefarious players, they exist in many parts of the world, if not all over the world.”

Shee points to how the authorities cracked down on the suspects. “I think the key is how, as an industry and as an ecosystem, we deal with it in a very robust and resolute way. And I think that was what we’ve seen in how we’ve dealt with it in Singapore; the entire ecosystem is coming together, involving, I think, many of us in this room. As we do that, that is ultimately about building a system of trust.”

This will continue to be Singapore’s “differentiating factor”, he adds. “The whole element of trust, the whole rule of law, the whole stability of the economy, the stability of politics and all that will put Singapore in [a] very, very good light.” — Jovi Ho

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