Issues that will matter in 2019

Start-ups leading charge towards final frontier

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): Singapore does not have a dedicated space agency, nor does it have a rocket launchpad. Yet, its space industry is taking off, led by a host of homegrown small and large companies. And that would significantly boost the small country’s interconnectivity and big data push as it aims to become a smart nation.

Autonomous vehicle technology quietly taking over driving

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): Early this year, the future of driverless cars appeared bright. There were several trials being carried out, in various countries, on both closed circuits and open roads. But progress may have taken a step back after a fatal accident involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) that were being trialled. In March, an Uber self-driving test vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

Electric car race is on, but infrastructure needs to keep up

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): From 2019, only hybrid or electric cars will be rolling off the production lines at Volvo. The Swedish carmaker, now owned by Chinese company Geely, said in 2017 that it would stop producing cars that rely only on fuel combustion engines. It is set to launch five electric car models by 2021, as well as offer hybrid models across its whole product line.

Blockchain moves out of crypto's shadow, develops in potential and utility

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): In May, the Monetary Authority of Singapore issued a warning against an unnamed company to stop the offering of digital tokens, or its initial coin offering, to investors here. ICOs raise funds in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. In a statement, MAS said it had determined that the issuer’s tokens represented equity ownership in a company and were therefore considered securities under the Securities and Futures Act. The offer was being made without a MAS-registered prospectus and therefore contravened the SFA.

Securing your data is only going to get more challenging

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): In December, news emerged that social media giant Facebook had been playing fast and loose with its users’ data. Internal documents and emails published by the UK government show that the company considered employing the data for strategic and commercial purposes. Advertisers and partners would be sold access to the valuable information, while rivals would be kept out.

Sustainable investing to pick up pace, but greenwashing may be a problem amid lack of global standards

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): There is currently some US$24 trillion ($33 trillion) in sustainable investing — or investment strategies that take into account environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards while earning returns. The amount under management represents nearly one-third of the total value of stocks traded on the world’s major stock exchanges last year. And, by most estimates, this investment field is only going to grow. But it faces challenges, namely how to measure the actual impact that such investments have had, on the environment or the community, for instance.

After spate of corporate scandals, more shareholder protections in view

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): Strengthened. Horrible. Oppressive.

When asked to describe the state of minority shareholder rights in 2018, market watchers gave mixed reactions. S Suressh, Eversheds Harry Elias partner, says it is stronger, but to corporate governance don Mak Yuen Teen, it is “horrible”. And some retail investors, like Teo Hee Huat, say they feel suffocated by the spate of corporate shenanigans.

Malaysia's remarkable redemption

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): The arc of great stories often traces a glorious rise, a dramatic fall from grace, followed by a bittersweet redemption. Malaysia’s general election on May 9 was arguably its day of redemption, after rapid economic develop­ment in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by a long period of social and political malaise in the wake of the Asian financial crisis (AFC).

Inequality a rising challenge for Singapore's policymakers

SINGAPORE (Dec 31): Rayner Loi was taken aback when the mother of a boy he was mentoring teared up while thanking him for taking her son to dinner. Loi then realised the boy would have gone to bed hungry otherwise. “She told me how much it meant to her and her son because on most days, she couldn’t afford to put dinner on the table,” says Loi. “I walked away from that feeling a great sense of injustice because around that time, I had also read about Singapore’s food waste situation.

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