Briefs

The Week

Briefs

By: 
Stanislaus Jude Chan
29/04/19, 08:00 am

SINGAPORE (Apr 29): “I suggest you build and not just buy. You are more likely to win the race this way.”Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, urging financial institutions to invest more in training their workforce.

Biden enters Democratic race for president

Former US vice-president Joe Biden has announced that he is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, throwing his hat into a field that now includes 20 candidates.

The 76-year-old enters the race as a front runner, and positions himself as the only candidate who can defeat President Donald Trump.

Biden has run for president twice before. But this is the first time he is entering the race as a leading candidate, making him a magnet for attacks.

Some Democrats have begun to more openly question whether Biden would be the right candidate to take on Trump, after several women came forward in late March to say they had felt uncomfortable with the way Biden had touched them.

Biden says he plans to frame the race as a battle for the soul of the nation and will focus his campaign on an agenda of rebuilding and expanding the middle class, as well as bridging the country’s partisan divide.

Putin and Kim meet for first time

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met face-to-face for the first time on April 25, some two months after the collapse of denuclearisation talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

Observers say Kim sees the meeting as a way to show North Korea has “options” amid the nuclear stalemate with US President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Putin will seek to score diplomatic points by demonstrating Russia’s relevance and ability to act as a global power broker.

Putin and Kim revealed little about the content of their nearly two-hour meeting — more than an hour longer than scheduled — held at a university in Vladivostok.

Russia had extended the invitation to Kim almost a year ago, but the North Korean leader only accepted it after his second summit with Trump broke down in February. Speaking after the high-profile summit, Putin said Kim wants to denuclearise, but needs “security guarantees” to do so.

Tension remains high in Sri Lanka after Easter Sunday bombings

After a series of bombs on Easter Sunday that killed 359 people, Sri Lankan authorities on April 25 briefly locked down the central bank and shut the road leading to the capital’s airport following another bomb scare as tensions remain high in the nation.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks on April 21, but did not offer firm information to back up its claim.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s government has blamed local jihadist group National Thowheed Jamath for the coordinated attacks on Easter Sunday at churches and luxury hotels.

The government says other nations had shared intelligence ahead of the blasts — one of Asia’s deadliest terrorist attacks in years — which had been carried out by seven suicide bombers.

The assaults targeted foreign tourists and Christians, marking a shift from the violence that fuelled a three-decade civil war on the Indian Ocean island nation.

Indonesia warns against public displays of discord as both candidates continue to claim victory

Indonesian authorities have warned against public displays of discord after both candidates in the presidential election on April 17 — Indonesian President Joko Widodo and challenger Prabowo Subianto — continued to claim victory at the polls.

The Election Commission is still counting the vote, which is due to be released by May 22. However, a dozen unofficial quick counts showed Jokowi, as Joko is known, beating his rival by a margin of almost 10 percentage points.

Prabowo disputed the tally to claim more than 60% of the vote, even as he alleged “massive irregularities” in polling.

Since the vote, Prabowo’s campaign team has flooded social media platforms with pleas for followers to help fight efforts to undermine the result.

Hundreds protested outside the main office of the Election Supervisory Board in Jakarta on April 24, demanding a halt to election irregularities. There have also been reports of clashes in Madura, an Indonesian island off the northeastern coast of Java.

Prabowo, who was backed by hard-line Islamic groups and parties, is said to have garnered overwhelming support in some of the most conservative regions such as West Java, West Sumatra and Aceh.

[See also “Indonesia: Will a re-elected Jokowi rise to the occasion?”]

Heng Swee Keat promoted to deputy prime minister

Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has been promoted to deputy prime minister in the sole cabinet promotion announced on April 23, in a move that is seen to position him to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after the general election.

Heng was named first assistant secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party in November last year, a designation considered as second in command to Lee.

Heng will become Lee’s deputy on May 1 while retaining the finance portfolio. He will also continue chairing the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the widely popular deputy prime minister who will step down after almost three years as DPM, says Heng is the “best person to move up to become DPM and take over as PM during the next term of government”.

Boeing abandons financial forecast amid 737 Max crisis

Boeing has abandoned its 2019 financial forecast amid one of the worst crises in the planemaker’s century-long history.

In an earnings statement on April 24, Boeing said the previous outlook does not reflect the grounding of the 737 Max jet-liner following two deadly crashes.

Aviation authorities grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft operations in March ­after a 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on board. It was the second fatal accident involving the best-selling Boeing aircraft in less than five months.

Boeing’s first-quarter results were weighed down by US$1 billion ($1.36 billion) in extra cost as the manufacturer slowed 737 production following the suspension.

The company also booked charges to revise training for pilots and update the Max’s software, which has been linked to both disasters.

In the earnings statement, Boeing also revealed it had not repurchased shares since mid-March after spending US$2.3 billion on its stock in the quarter.

Shares in Boeing have fallen 11% since the crash in Ethiopia — the biggest drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.