More than 140,000 employers to receive S$4 billion in Jobs Support Scheme payouts from Jul 29

SINGAPORE: More than S$4 billion in Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) payouts will be disbursed to employers from Jul 29.

More than 140,000 employers, with 1.9 million local employees, will receive the payouts to help retain their workers, the Ministry of Finance said on Sunday (Jul 19).

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said with this July disbursement, more than S$15 billion would have been paid to employers to support wage costs for local employees.

“I urge all employers to do your utmost to retain your staff, and to take the opportunity to transform your operations and upskill your employees during this period,” he said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Employers who have made mandatory Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions for their local employees will be qualified to receive the JSS payouts.

READ: Singapore’s economic situation remains dire, with recovery likely to be ‘slow and uneven’: MAS

For the payment in July, employers will receive up to 75 per cent support for the first S$4,600 of wages paid to local employees in February and March this year.

Employers in the aviation and tourism sectors will receive 75 per cent support, while those in the food services, retail, arts and entertainment, land transport, as well as marine and offshore sectors will receive 50 per cent support.

Employers in all other sectors will receive 25 per cent support.

Employers will also receive 75 per cent support for wages paid in April 2020, during the “circuit breaker” period.

“Part of this wage support was disbursed as an advance in the previous payout in April to provide immediate cash flow support. As the amount disbursed was calculated based on October 2019 wages, necessary adjustments will be made in the upcoming payment in July, in accordance with actual wages paid in April 2020,” said MOF.

Eligible employers will be notified by post of their payout amount. They can also log in to myTax Portal to view the electronic copy of their letter.

Employers with PayNow Corporate or GIRO arrangements with Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) can expect to receive the JSS payouts earlier from Jul 29, while other employers will receive their cheques from Aug 4.

MOF encouraged employers to sign up for PayNow Corporate by Jul 24 to receive their payouts more easily.

“Employers are to ensure that mandatory CPF contributions made for their employees are accurate, so that they receive the right amounts of JSS payout,” the ministry added.

There are severe penalties for any attempt to abuse the JSS. Other than having their JSS payouts denied, those found guilty may face up to 10 years’ jail and a fine.

READ: COVID-19: 32 companies return Jobs Support Scheme wage subsidies worth S$35 million

Businesses or individuals who wish to report any malpractices or potential abuses of the JSS may do so via email to jssreport@iras.gov.sg or online

As part of the checks for JSS eligibility, a very small number of employers will receive letters from IRAS asking them to verify a self-review of their CPF contributions and to provide declarations or documents to substantiate their eligibility for JSS payouts.

“Their July 2020 payouts will be withheld for the time-being, pending the self-review and verifications by IRAS. Once the information is in order, they will receive the payout promptly,” said MOF.

First announced by Mr Heng in February’s Budget, the JSS is a wage subsidy programme to help companies retain and pay their workers as businesses take a hit from the impact of COVID-19. 

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From Wuhan to Singapore: Ex-national swimmer Tao Li recounts anxious moments amid COVID-19 outbreak

SINGAPORE: When former national swimmer Tao Li flew to Wuhan to visit her family for Chinese New Year in January, she had no idea a potentially deadly virus was spreading in her hometown. 

She arrived in Wuhan on Jan 22, a day before Chinese authorities ordered a lockdown of the city to stem the spread of COVID-19. The virus has now infected more than 68,000 people and killed more than 1,600 worldwide.

“We knew there was a virus going around, but everyone thought it was in the hospitals, not in the streets or the city. The airport was still busy when I landed,” said the swimmer, who was one of 92 Singaporeans eventually evacuated from the city on a Scoot flight on Jan 30. 

READ: 92 Singaporeans flown home from Wuhan; some remain in the city as they are symptomatic

She spoke to CNA on Saturday morning (Feb 15) by the poolside at Temasek Club, where she runs her Tao Li Swimming Club. 

Two days earlier, she had finally been cleared to go home after serving a 14-day quarantine order at a chalet in Jalan Loyang Besar. 

A VIRUS IN THE AIR

While in Wuhan, Tao was still optimistic that the lockdown would be lifted after a few days, and that she would be able to go back to Singapore on Jan 26 as planned. 

But her initial calm gave way to anxiety as news and rumours flooded Chinese messaging app WeChat. 

“You read, and you begin to suspect that everything is true,” she said. 

READ: China virus death toll exceeds 1,600

Tao spent most of her time at home in Wuhan, except for some quick grocery runs. “I still have to buy my daily needs. When I step out of the door, I wonder, ‘is there a virus around me’? You get a fear deep in your heart,” she said.

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 5
Tao Li (back row, right), her cousin and her grandparents. (Photo: Tao Li)

She was eager to come home as she had coaching commitments in Singapore. On a friend’s suggestion, she contacted the Singapore Embassy in Beijing and was told to stand by for an evacuation flight on Jan 29 or 30. 

Then, she was told that her mother, a Chinese national, would have to remain in the city. The 55-year-old had moved to Singapore to take care of her daughter in 2001. 

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 4
Tao Li was told that her mother, a Chinese national, would have to remain in Wuhan. (Photo: Tao Li)

“Of course I miss my mum,” said Tao. “This house feels very empty. I miss her voice … I see my dad sending messages on WeChat, telling me they are safe. But deep in my heart, I worry for them.”

THE WAY BACK TO SINGAPORE

The night before her flight, Tao made her way to Wuhan Tian He International Airport decked out in a mask and gloves. 

But she didn’t have to worry about passing an infected stranger on her way to the airport – the streets were empty, and only cars with prior approval could get on the major highway out of the city. 

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 2
Workers disinfecting streets in Wuhan, China. (Photo: Tao Li)

The airport too, was similarly deserted, save for the other Singaporeans departing on the same flight. 

“We were the only group of people there. There were maybe six airport staff helping us to check in, and take our temperatures … The atmosphere was very tense, everyone seemed to be scared of getting infected,” said Tao. 

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 1
Tao Li eventually made it back to Singapore on a Scoot flight. (Photo:  Tao Li)

The passengers went through multiple temperature screenings before being allowed on the Scoot flight. While the flight was scheduled for 3am, the passengers waited until 7am to board as the plane had to be disinfected. 

The airline crew donned N95 masks and surgical gloves while attending to the needs of the passengers on board. Tao was full of gratitude for them. 

“They knew the virus situation was getting worse, but they were still brave enough to fly us back to Singapore. I really want to thank them for their brave actions,” she said. 

READ: Discrimination of healthcare workers due to coronavirus ‘disgraceful’: Amrin Amin

READ: Commentary: Don’t forget the vulnerable in the fight against COVID-19

Tao was aware of the sacrifices frontline staff have to make – her aunt is among the army of healthcare workers battling the disease in a Wuhan hospital. She said she was upset to hear stories of discrimination against medical staff in Singapore. 

“When I heard that nurses were asked not to board buses, I think this is very sad,” she said. “Without them, we can’t sit here and have a normal life. We could all be sitting in places like a quarantine centre.”

“We have to show appreciation for all those ambulance drivers, nurses and doctors.”

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 9
Tao Li’s aunt is among the army of healthcare workers battling the disease in a Wuhan hospital. (Photo: Tao Li)

THE QUARANTINE

When the Scoot flight landed in Singapore on Jan 30 at around 11.30am, Tao Li, along with the other passengers was screened before being sent to a Government quarantine facility at Aloha Loyang. The buses they were in were escorted by the police. 

At the chalet, the Wuhan evacuees alighted from the bus one by one, and were given keys to their rooms. Initially apprehensive about the conditions of the quarantine centre, Tao was pleasantly surprised at the facilities provided. 

“When I opened the door (to my room), I thought, wow. It’s a good life here. I told myself to just take this as a holiday,” she said. 

Tao said all her needs during the 14-day stay were taken care of. Masks and thermometers were provided, and all three meals were placed at her doorstep every day. 

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 7
Some of the meals provided at the quarantine facility. (Photo: Tao Li)

Those under quarantine could even arrange for deliveries – which would be dropped off at the quarantine centre’s guard house, and later sent to their rooms. 

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan during COVID-19 outbreak 6
Some of the food provided at the quarantine facility. (Photo: Tao Li)

Tao had a friend pack some lightweight clothes for her, as she only had winter wear in her luggage. 

“You can order Grabfood, Foodpanda or bubble tea every day if you want,” she joked. 

“WHAT A WONDERFUL LIFE”

She said the two weeks were a mix of boredom, and sometimes, anxiety – especially after some passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The Wuhan evacuees had to undergo nasal swab tests twice to check for the coronavirus. During the procedure, a thin swab is inserted through the nostrils to the back of the nose to obtain a mucus sample. 

Although the process took “only a few seconds”, Two described it as an uncomfortable experience. 

“When they inserted the (swab) all the way in, I started crying. It’s very painful actually,” she said. Five of the 92 evacuees were eventually confirmed to have the COVID-19 infection. 

Tao Li evacuated from Wuhan quarantine facility
Upon arrival, the passengers were screened and then taken to a Government quarantine facility. (Photo: Tao Li)

On Feb 13, the other 87 Singaporeans were finally cleared to go home. 

“I was so happy, I couldn’t wait!” she said.

“Before this virus, I would think about being rich or famous … Of course I still have dreams, but that slows down … Now I think about my health, my family, and the ones I love – those are more important than anything else.

“And when they opened the gates (of the quarantine centre), I just thought – what a wonderful life,” she said.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of COVID-19 and its developments

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PM Lee sends condolences after mass shooting in Thailand

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written to this Thailand counterpart, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, following a soldier’s shooting rampage that left 29 people dead. 

In a press statement on Friday (Feb 14), Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said PM Lee expressed condolences over the tragic loss of lives in the shooting incident in Nakhon Ratchasima on Feb 8. 

READ: 29 dead after “unprecedented” mass shooting – Thai PM

READ: Thai army chief tearfully apologises for mass shooting by soldier

In his condolence letter dated Feb 11, Mr Lee told PM Prayut he was “shocked to learn of the mass shooting”, which “took many innocent lives and injured dozens”. 

“On behalf of the Singapore Government, I convey my deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, and wish the injured a swift recovery.

“This senseless act of violence deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms. Singapore stands in solidarity with Thailand during this difficult time,” Mr Lee said.

READ: One gunman, four locations, 29 dead – How the mass shooting in Thailand unfolded

READ: Thai mall shooting survivors tracked killer via CCTV

Armed with automatic weapons, Jakrapanth Thomma shot people in several locations and held out for more than 12 hours at the Terminal 21 shopping mall before being gunned down by officers of a commando unit. 

The killing spree began with the gunman shooting his commanding officer and the commander’s mother-in-law over a business dispute. He then drove to his army base, stole more assault weapons and ammunition and shot his way through a Buddhist temple before going to the shopping centre. 

Photos and videos of the incident showed enforcement officers working the mall floor by floor to evacuate people, many of whom had barricaded themselves in cupboards, storage rooms and toilets. 

Singapore to reduce toll charges at Woodlands, Tuas checkpoints from Mar 2

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s toll charges for cars, buses and taxis at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints will be reduced from Mar 2, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a news release on Sunday (Feb 9).

This is in response to Malaysia’s reduction of toll charges for cars, buses and taxis at the Sultan Iskandar Building Toll Plaza (Causeway) and Tanjung Kupang Toll Plaza (Second Link) on Feb 1, LTA said.

The revised toll charges are as follows:

Singapore toll charges
Singapore’s revised toll charges with effect from March 2, 2020. (Table: LTA)

NEW DIGITAL SERVICE FOR ASEAN PUBLIC SERVICE VEHICLES

Singapore is also set to roll out a new digital service to enable owners of public service vehicles such as buses and taxis registered in ASEAN countries to apply for a permit through the OneMotoring website.

This initiative will be implemented from Feb 10, LTA said.

It is aimed at making it more convenient for vehicle owners and will add to the suite of digital services currently available for foreign-registered vehicles. 

Vehicle owners can look forward to online payment for and delivery of VEP and Autopass cards in the near future, LTA said.

Vehicle owners may refer to the online video guides on the OneMotoring website on the use of these digital services. 

Those who require assistance may also approach LTA’s Service Centre located in Johor where digital kiosks are available for motorists to submit their applications.

Second flight bringing Singaporeans from Wuhan lands; medical screening and quarantine for 174 passengers

SINGAPORE: A second flight bringing Singaporeans and their family members back from Wuhan, Hubei landed at Changi Airport on Sunday morning (Feb 9).

There were 174 Singaporeans and their family members on the flight, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in its statement on Sunday, adding that its Consular Officers and medical personnel accompanied the Scoot flight to facilitate the operations.

“The returning passengers will undergo medical screening upon arrival at Changi Airport,” the statement added.

READ: 7 new coronavirus cases in Singapore, including taxi and private-hire drivers

READ: Singaporeans who want to return from Hubei should contact MFA, embassy

Those with fever or respiratory symptoms will be taken to designated hospitals for further examination, while the remaining passengers will be quarantined for 14 days.

“The Singapore Government expresses its appreciation to the PRC government, Hubei provincial government, Wuhan city government, and the PRC Embassy in Singapore for facilitating their safe return,” the MFA said in the statement.

The flight also brought some Chinese nationals back home to Wuhan, it added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan welcomed the passengers on the flight in a Facebook post.

“The MFA crisis response team, medical personnel, pilots, and crew of Scoot TR5121 who volunteered for this operation deserve our deepest admiration for their courage and sense of duty. They exemplify the best of humanity in tough times,” he said. 

In a separate post, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also welcomed the passengers and reiterated that Singapore will “work closely” with China and the international community to overcome the global challenge. 

In a press statement on Saturday, MFA said that the Chinese authorities agreed to its request to launch the second flight to bring Singaporeans and their families home.

Scoot flight TR5120 departed from Singapore on Saturday afternoon.

The plane delivered humanitarian assistance from the Singapore Government, including medical supplies and about 10,000 diagnostic test kits.

On Saturday night, Singapore confirmed seven new cases of novel coronavirus, including a taxi driver and a private-hire car driver, taking the country’s tally to 40.

scoot wuhan
An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) handing out masks to returning Singaporeans and their family members before they boarded the flight home. (Photo: MFA)

Of the confirmed cases, four are in critical condition, with one requiring additional oxygen support. 

Two have been discharged, and the remaining are mostly “stable or improving”, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release.

Last week, Singapore flew 92 Singaporeans home from Wuhan, four of whom have since been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

READ: Coronavirus outbreak: Singapore raises DORSCON level to orange; schools to suspend inter-school, external activities

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at the time that some Singaporeans were unable to come back because they were already symptomatic.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament on Monday that Singapore will not leave any overseas citizen behind, in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has since killed more than 700 people and infected more than 35,000, mostly in China.

On Friday, Singapore raised the DORSCON level following several cases of novel coronavirus without any links to previous cases or travel history to mainland China. 

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage on the Wuhan Coronavirus and its developments

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About 30,000 Chinese work pass holders yet to return from China: Josephine Teo

SINGAPORE: About 30,000 work pass holders of Chinese nationality are currently out of town and when they return, they may have to take a leave of absence from their jobs.

The number is less than one per cent of Singapore’s workforce, according to the Manpower Ministry but it will affect some sectors more than others.

The absences are likely to cause a small impact on individual companies, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said on Sunday (Feb 2), adding that her ministry is monitoring the situation.

READ: Wuhan coronavirus: Licence fees waived for hotels, travel agents and tour guides, cleaning costs subsidised

READ: No new cases of Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore, total remains at 18

“Our best estimate is that at the present moment, there are about 30,000 workpass holders of PRC nationality who have left Singapore but have not returned.” Mrs Teo said told reporters on a visit to the Oasia Hotel Downtown with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing

These workers make up less than 1 per cent of Singapore’s workforce, she said. 

“Of course that does not include Singaporeans who may also have a travel history, including China, and who upon return may be affected by the requirement to go on a leave of absence,” she added.

Manufacturing is more affected than services and construction, Mrs Teo said.

READ: Singapore supportive of China, confident it can deal with Wuhan coronavirus: Shanmugam

“In our interactions with the trade associations and chambers … our understanding is that most companies are talking about one or two, fairly small numbers, manageable at the company level.

“But at the sector level, there could be some impact too, so we’re working closely with these associations, and if there’s a need to help them, we will certainly do so.”

Meanwhile, she says frontline staff may also be unsure on how to serve customers who are unwell during this period of time. 

She says the Singapore National Employers Federation and Singapore Business Federation will be sending out guidances on what employees can do when they encounter those who are unwell.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage on the Wuhan coronavirus and its developments

Download our app or subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on the Wuhan virus outbreak: https://cna.asia/telegram 

Government orders that Lawyers for Liberty’s website be blocked in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Singapore has ordered that the website for a Malaysian human rights group be blocked in the country.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has been directed to issue access blocking orders for the website of Lawyers for Liberty.

The orders mean Internet access service providers will have to disable access for users in Singapore to Lawyers for Liberty’s website.

IMDA was directed to issue the orders by the Minister for Communications and Information, the ministry announced on Thursday (Jan 23).

This comes after Lawyers for Liberty’s “non-compliance” with a correction direction issued against a statement on its website, said the ministry.

READ: Yahoo Singapore adds correction notice to Facebook post about Malaysian group’s claims of ‘brutal’ executions

READ: Singapore invokes online falsehoods law against Malaysian rights group’s ‘preposterous’ claims on execution methods

On Jan 16, Lawyers for Liberty released a press statement alleging brutal execution methods at Singapore’s Changi Prison.

In its statement, it alleged that prison officers were instructed to “pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him” and “kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it”, whenever the rope broke during a hanging. 

The group was subsequently issued a correction direction by the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office, along with three other parties for spreading the allegations.

However, Lawyers for Liberty said it would not comply with the correction direction, saying it stood by its claims that prisoners on death row at Singapore’s Changi Prison are executed brutally.

In its statement on Thursday, the Ministry for Communications and Information (MCI) said the correction direction had “required the facts to be juxtaposed against the falsehoods, so that end-users in Singapore can read both versions and draw their own conclusions”.

“LFL (Lawyers for Liberty) chose not to comply,” said the ministry. “The access blocking orders will ensure that the falsehoods do not continue to be communicated in Singapore without the facts placed alongside them.”

It added the access blocking orders would be cancelled should Lawyers for Liberty subsequently carry the correction notice required by the correction direction.

Lawyers for Liberty’s website was still accessible as of 11.30am, Singapore time. 

Wuhan virus: ICA to begin temperature screening at Woodlands, Tuas checkpoints

SINGAPORE: Temperature screening for travellers arriving at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints will begin at noon on Friday (Jan 24), in response to cases of the novel coronavirus pneumonia that began in Wuhan, China and which has since spread to other countries. 

The screening is also being implemented in anticipation of increase in travel volume leading up to the Chinese New Year holidays, according to an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) news release on Friday morning.

Singapore confirmed its first case of the Wuhan virus on Thursday evening – a male Wuhan resident, 66, who arrived in Singapore with his family on Jan 20. He is currently in isolation at the Singapore General Hospital and is in stable condition. 

Singapore authorities had announced on Thursday that border screening would be expanded to all land and sea checkpoints, while a travel advisory has been expanded for Singaporeans to avoid travelling to Hubei province, where Wuhan city is located.

ICA on Friday said temperature screening will be conducted by “healthcare assistants” for travellers arriving at the land checkpoints, and suspect cases will be referred to hospitals for further assessment.

The screening will be implemented “progressively” for all modes of transport as follows:

  • By bus: Travellers will be screened at the alighting bus concourse or bus hall before immigration counters. Bus drivers will be screened at the security check area.
  • By train: Travellers will be screened at the alighting platform before entering the train hall for immigration clearance.
  • By car: Travellers are required to wind down their car windows for temperature screening at the security check area before immigration counters.
  • By motorcycle: Travellers are required to remove their helmets for temperature screening at the security check area after immigration counters.
  • By lorry: Travellers will be screened at the cargo platforms or immigration counters.

READ: Wuhan virus patient’s hotel room ‘thoroughly disinfected’, workers who cleaned room quarantined: Shangri-La Group

China’s National Health Commission confirmed 830 cases of patients have been infected as of Thursday, while the death toll from the virus has risen to 25.

Elsewhere, the virus has infected at least one person in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the US.

READ: ‘This is an emergency in China’ says WHO, as Wuhan virus death toll rises

Commentary: The Wuhan virus clock is running down on scientists

READ: PM Lee says Singapore “better prepared” for another virus after SARS outbreak

READ: Singaporeans should be ‘calm but watchful’ after first Wuhan virus case, says PM Lee in Chinese New Year message

HOLIDAY TRAFFIC EXPECTED TO BE HEAVY: ICA

Traffic is expected to be heavy between Saturday and Tuesday during the Chinese New Year holidays.

“Coupled with the implementation of temperature screening for travellers, delays are expected and travellers are advised to check traffic conditions before embarking on their journey,” said the agency.

“We seek travellers’ understanding and cooperation to work with our officers on site.”

Health advisories have been put up at the land checkpoints to advise travellers on the precautions they are to take when traveling to or arriving from China.

“Singapore residents who need to travel to the affected areas are advised to regularly check MOH’s website for updates.

“Travellers to China are also advised to stay vigilant, monitor developments and heed the advice of the local Chinese authorities while in China,” added ICA.

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

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Singapore partners with ICC, 17 firms to accelerate digital adoption in trade and commerce

DAVOS: Singapore on Wednesday (Jan 22) signed an agreement marking its partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and 17 international corporations in accelerating the adoption of digital technologies in trade and commerce. 

The deal was signed at the ICC Trade Digitalisation Forum on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. 

READ: Singapore unveils new initiatives to build consumer trust in artificial intelligence at WEF

Mastercard, PSA International, Sumitomo Corporation and Standard Chartered are among the companies participating in the agreement.

They will partner on the development of TradeTrust, a framework aimed at facilitating the exchange of digital trade documentation on a public blockchain.

First announced last year, TradeTrust is spearheaded by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) as well as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, and is supported by Enterprise Singapore. 

Announcing the agreement in Davos, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said the newly forged partnership “establishes the fundamentals to imbue trust in the digitalisation of trade”.

The TradeTrust framework, he noted, supports a multilateral rules-based trading system and enables interoperability. 

He cited the “legal harmonisation” provided for under the framework to prove the legal validity of digital trade documents, as well as the standards development for the exchange of digital documents across different ecosystems. 

The partnership also taps on ICC’s influence and extensive network, he noted. 

Headquartered in Paris, the ICC works to promote trade and represents more than 45 million companies in more than 100 countries. 

One of the first platforms built on the TradeTrust framework was ICC TradeFlow, co-developed by ICC together with IMDA, trade tech firm Perlin, commodities trader Trafigura and DBS Bank. 

In November last year, the first trade using ICC TradeFlow, a US$20 million shipment of iron ore between South Africa and China, was conducted. 

Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, noted this initial trade saw documentation time reduced by more than half, from 45 days to 20 days.

“Parties can digitally map out trade instructions, track their execution and more efficiently manage finance transactions,” he said, noting the “real value” generated through partnership with the private sector. 

In a joint statement, ICC and IMDA said the newly forged partnership would be “a significant leap forward to shift international trade from a paper-based system to digitally enabled trade”.

“It will create enormous potential value based on time and operational cost savings combined with the greatly reduced incidence of fraud and human error,” they said.

ICC secretary-general John Denton said the move to digital platforms would lower existing barriers to international trade and enable more businesses to participate in the global economy.

“In line with ICC’s 21st-century purpose, we are committed to enabling the broadest possible adoption of these digital technologies and support the development and recognition of universally accepted best practice standards for digitalisation, based on global consensus and the work being done by our partners today,” he said.

Standard Chartered group chief executive Bill Winters said the bank saw
“tremendous opportunities to leverage digital solutions to enable faster, safer, more efficient, and transparent trade transactions across our global network”. 

“Standard Chartered has a strong track record in using distributed ledger and other emerging technologies to digitise banking processes and we will continue to support initiatives such as TradeTrust to create a connected and integrated global trade system.”

Singapore invokes online falsehoods law against Malaysian rights group’s ‘preposterous’ claims on execution methods

SINGAPORE: Claims by a Malaysian human rights group that Singapore carries out “brutal” executions are “untrue, baseless and preposterous”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which on Wednesday (Jan 22) invoked the online falsehoods law against Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) and three parties for spreading the allegations.

The Home Affairs Minister has instructed the POFMA (Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act) Office to issue a correction direction against LFL’s statement on its website, Kirsten Han’s Facebook post, an online article by The Online Citizen and a Facebook post by Yahoo Singapore, said MHA in a press release.

They will be required to carry a correction notice, stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods.

READ: POFMA – Government not ‘training our sights on certain types of people or organisations’, says Iswaran

“LFL has been publishing various falsehoods to seek attention in hopes of getting Malaysian prisoners, who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore, off the death penalty,” said MHA.

“Regrettably, there are some individuals and groups in Singapore who are spreading LFL’s latest allegations,” it added.

READ: Shanmugam rejects States Times Review’s application to cancel correction direction – MHA

“ENTIRELY UNFOUNDED”

On Jan 16, LFL released a press statement alleging brutal execution methods at Singapore’s Changi Prison.

In its statement, it alleged that prison officers were instructed to “pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him” and “kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it”, whenever the rope broke during a hanging. 

“LFL also made spurious allegations that prison officers were ‘given special training to carry out the brutal execution method’, that the Singapore Government approved of these ‘unlawful methods’, and suggested that specific measures were adopted to cover up these methods,” said MHA.

“These allegations are entirely unfounded,” it added.

READ: Singapore defends online falsehoods law in response to articles by SCMP, Bloomberg

ROPE HAS NEVER BROKEN BEFORE: MHA

The ministry said that no effort is spared to ensure that all executions in Singapore – which are done in the presence of the prison superintendent and a doctor – are carried out in strict compliance with the law.

Under the law, a coroner is also required to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of an execution to ensure it was carried out duly and properly, said MHA.

“For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any ‘special training to carry out the brutal execution method’ as alleged,” said MHA.

“Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with.”

READ: SDP directed to correct Facebook posts and article under online falsehoods law