Singapore Breaking News
SINGAPORE - Foreign businesses are reminded to be careful about advocacy on issues in Singapore that could be socially divisive, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said.
Such issues include those surrounding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, said the ministry in a statement on Thursday (Aug 4).
It was responding to media queries arising from United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's call for the business community in Singapore to support the LGBT community here as more American businesses are establishing offices in Singapore.
The ministry said that while foreign businesses are free to promote diversity in their companies, they should be careful about advocating such issues.
"These are matters for Singaporeans to discuss and come to a consensus on how to move forward," it said.
Mrs Pelosi was in Singapore on Monday, and led a group of six US congressmen on a visit to the Indo-Pacific region this week.
She and her congressional delegation met President Halimah Yacob, as well as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, at the Istana. They also had meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Mrs Pelosi also attended a reception organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.
In a statement on the visit, she said: "We engaged with leaders of the business community and underscored the importance of public-private sector collaboration to foster strong economic growth across the region.
"We asked for their support for the LGBTQ community in Singapore, as more American businesses are establishing and adding offices in Singapore," she added.
The statement comes as the Government has been consulting various groups of Singaporeans on Section 377A of the Penal Code in recent months, as it decides on the next steps.
The law - which criminalises gay sex - is not actively enforced, a position that the authorities have reiterated since it was discussed at length in Parliament in 2007.
Last Saturday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the Government is considering how best to balance the issue. He said that while many Singaporeans agree that sex between men should not be a crime, most also do not want the current position of marriage being between a man and a woman to be changed.
The minister also called for moderation from both sides - those for as well as against the repeal of Section 377A - and for them "to avoid extreme positions and demands".
The 51-year-old Singaporean on trial for killing his wife likely knelt on her to restrain her when he smothered her to death with a pillow last year, Newcastle Crown Court heard on Wednesday (Aug 3).
A pathologist explained that pressure on the front of Madam Pek Ying Ling's shoulders caused large areas of bruising and small burst blood vessels to appear shortly before she died.
Fong Soong Hert, 51, also known as Allan, is on trial for the murder of Madam Pek, also 51 and known to family and friends as Evelyn, at County Aparthotel on Dec 5, 2021.
The eldest of their three sons, Mr Alonzo Fong, who is studying in the city, alerted police to the incident after he received a phone call from his father saying that he thought he had killed Madam Pek.
Officers found her lifeless body on the bed in the hotel room the couple were staying at during their four-day trip to the city. A pillow covered her face and her arms were outstretched. An emergency medical team attempted resuscitation but she was pronounced dead soon afterwards.
The trial began on Monday with Fong pleading not guilty to murder.
Home Office pathologist Jennifer Bolton, who conducted the post-mortem on Madam Pek, was the first to answer prosecutor Peter Makepeace's questions on Wednesday morning.
Dr Bolton explained that she carried out the post-mortem at close to 5pm on the evening of the death. During the external examination, she found a series of petechial haemorrhages, seen as small red dots, on Madam Pek's forehead, eyelids, lower right eyeball and in her mouth.
That type of haemorrhage is caused by the person's blood pressure getting too high, and tiny blood vessels under the skin bursting, the pathologist told the court. There were also 11 bruises of varying sizes and colours on the victim's chin, shoulders, arms and left ankle.
Dr Bolton explained to the jury that it is not possible to say "categorically" when each bruise was caused.
However, she noted, that the bruise to the back of Madam Pek's right forearm and the abrasion to her left ankle suggested that they occurred at a different time.
Meanwhile, "the petechial haemorrhages in the face and the bruising on her shoulders, they all have the appearance of having been caused at the same time", the pathologist said. She added that the haemorrhages usually go away within minutes or hours after occurring, so the fact that they were still visible meant they occurred very shortly before the death.
An internal examination found that Madam Pek had heart disease, evident in the narrowing of one of her coronary arteries. However, there was no damage to her heart or evidence that she had suffered from any symptoms.
Dr Bolton confirmed that the toxicology reports showed there was no alcohol or drugs detected in the victim's blood or urine. She also confirmed that Madam Pek's saliva and blood were found on the underside of the pillow and Fong's DNA was found on the top.
The pathologist concluded that while the haemorrhages are not sinister in and of themselves, they are a marker of some form of airway obstruction or pressure to the neck.
Dr Bolton told the jury that all the evidence led her to conclude that the cause of the victim's death was smothering. She explained that for this to happen, there must be an interruption of oxygen getting into the bloodstream for a long enough time for someone to become unconscious and then to die.
"This is not an immediate process. It is likely to take a small number of minutes," the court heard.
The size and position of the bruises on the front of the shoulders "raise the possibility" that the victim had been knelt on while the pillow was held over her face, Dr Bolton suggested. But there was nothing to say that she was the victim of a sustained blunt force assault such as punches or heavy slaps, she told the jury, and there was no evidence of a struggle.
Next to take the stand for the prosecution on Wednesday was Detective Constable Mark Wedderburn, who was responsible for putting together a sequence of events. His evidence included written statements, photographs, maps, videos and audio.
The prosecutor took the court through the events, explaining that on Nov 22, last year, Fong and Madam Pek arrived at Glasgow International Airport before travelling to the Isle of Skye. On Nov 27, Fong returned to the hotel they were staying in, alone and in a "dishevelled state", reporting that he had slipped down a steep bank while taking a photo. Witnesses later said he tripped over some piping and rolled down an embankment.
The next day, Fong was taken to the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Hospital on the Isle of Skye where he was kept overnight and given painkilling medication, including morphine. He was discharged the next morning and given further medication. Later that day, he went to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness but was discharged with no further treatment.
On Dec 3, Fong and Madam Pek checked into room 203 at the County Aparthotel in Newcastle, accompanied by their son. The next day, the couple attended a Premier League football match in the city and, later that evening, Madam Pek called her son to explain that his father had had a fall.
She had fallen along with him and hurt her arm and sustained a small cut to the head, the court heard.
On Dec 5, Mr Alonzo Fong received a call from his mother informing him that his father had had another fall. He learnt that his father was okay, and later joined them to watch football. But after Mr Alonzo Fong left the hotel after 4pm, his mother called him to say that his father had fallen again, this time onto her, causing her to fall onto the coffee table, hurting her wrist. She requested that the hotel reception call an ambulance.
On arrival, Fong was given pain relief and taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary. That evening, Mr Alonzo Fong sent a text message to his mother saying: "Don't scold him. No point. Make him feel comfortable most important."
Fong was afterwards discharged from the hospital and took a taxi with his wife back to the hotel, arriving shortly after midnight.
Mr Alonzo Fong and his mother exchanged several messages over the next hour or so. At 7.07am, Fong called his son, then a minute later they exchanged text messages. The court heard that Mr Alonzo Fong said: "Don't touch her. I'm staying waiting for police and medics."
Fong responded: "K. I want to die. I'm so sorry son."
Mr Alonzo Fong texted "It's okay, just calm down", and Fong responded: "Not okay, I love your mum."
At 7.13am, Mr Alonzo Fong called 999 and, in the audio that was played for the jury, he told the operator: "My dad just called me and just told me that he killed my mum."
After providing details of his location, he added: "I think they got into an argument and then what he told me is he lost it and covered her mouth and just told me she is gone."
At 7.29am, police arrived at the hotel room and, one minute later, the emergency medical team arrived.
More officers arrived and Fong was arrested. Mr Alonzo Fong also sent his girlfriend some text messages in which he said: "I want to cry but no tears. I'm so confused..."
A later message said: "I have a f**king perfect family. I don't know how this happened."
The jury heard that while in the holding cell, Fong was recorded as saying: "I snapped. I just wanted her to keep quiet."
Detective Constable Joanne Glendenning, who is overall in charge of the investigation, was the last to take the stand for the prosecution. She confirmed that at 9.30pm until 10.15pm on Dec 6, Fong was interviewed at the police station but answered "no comment" to all of the questions.
The trial continues on Thursday.
SINGAPORE - The Republic will host a workshop to help governments in South-east Asia explore green financing options for electric vehicles and eco-friendly transport in a few weeks' time, said Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah on the second day of the Asia Infrastructure Forum on Wednesday (Aug 3).
The initiative comes under a tie-up which was first inked in 2019 between government facilitation office Infrastructure Asia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The cooperation agreement has now been renewed, and it will see both parties working together to run a series of finance clinics to encourage governments to build sustainability considerations in developing their infrastructure programmes.
Regional government officials and industry experts will gather at the clinics to showcase successful case studies.
In announcing the collaboration on Wednesday, Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said that the clinics will strengthen and grow the pipeline of bankable sustainable infrastructure projects in the region, allowing it to better tap commercial funding sources and bringing it closer to a net zero future.
She also highlighted the role multilateral development banks (MDBs) like the ADB have in spurring development opportunities in the region.
In a speech at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Ms Indranee said in 2020, MDBs committed US$66 billion to climate finance. This attracted commitments of US$85 billion in the same year from other public and private external parties to co-invest in climate mitigation and adaptation activities alongside MDBs.
"Beyond contributing capital, MDBs also support capability development in the region by sharing expertise and knowledge, offering project structuring advice and conducting capacity building programmes"
Infrastructure Asia also signed a new memorandum of understanding with India's national investment promotion agency Invest India. The collaboration will support infrastructure development in India and promote private sector partnerships through knowledge sharing, and advisory in the funding and implementation of infrastructure projects.
SINGAPORE - In committing various sexual offences, including offering cash to a boy below 18 for sexual services, YouTuber Darryl Ian Koshy had capitalised on his status and influence, said the prosecution on Wednesday (Aug 3).
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Ying Min, who is seeking a sentence of five to eight months' jail, said his offences were highly premeditated, and also brought up a 9min 34sec video posted by Koshy in January which she said was intended to contextualise his charges.
In response, Koshy's lawyer Johannes Hadi said his client did not intend to challenge court proceedings with the video, but was instead looking to address inaccurate reports and false rumours floating around in the public.
He also said psychiatric reports on his client - who was not diagnosed with pedophilic disorder - showed that he was remorseful and had low prospects of re-offending, and urged the court to sentence him to two and a half months' jail.
Better known as Dee Kosh, the 33-year-old Koshy, who is famous for making parody music videos and for his stand-up comedy, had pleaded guilty in May to one charge of offering cash to a minor for sexual services and another charge under the Children and Young Persons Act for the attempted sexual exploitation of a young person.
He also pleaded guilty to a charge under the Films Act for making an obscene film. He had filmed himself in 2016 or 2017 engaging in sex acts with a man aged between 23 and 25.
Four other charges will be taken into consideration during his sentencing, which is expected to be on Friday.
In court on Wednesday, DPP Lim said Koshy had deliberately sought out minors and was persistent.
"The accused used and capitalised on his status as a radio presenter and influencer to lure the victims," she said.
Referring to the video, DPP Lim said that apart from being sub judice, elements of it were attempts to couch his wrongdoing as mistaken assumption.
She said Koshy was misleading the public to think that he did not know one of these victims was below 18 years old and also took issue with him saying that he was unaware that the legal age for commercial sex was 18.
"When seen in this light, his apologies (in the video) are qualified and cannot be seen as a true sign of remorse," said the DPP.
DPP Lim had said previously that while shooting a video on Feb 14, 2017, Koshy approached a 16-year-old boy outside a department store in Orchard Road.
Later, through the boy's friend, Koshy found his number and contacted him, asking for his age and the boy said he was 17.
Eventually, Koshy proposed performing a sex act on the boy, offering him $400, and when the boy declined, Koshy increased the amount to $800, $1,000 and eventually $2,000. The boy rejected the offers.
On March 6, 2018, Koshy messaged a 15-year-old boy using his verified Instagram account and asked the boy if he was 15. The victim confirmed his age.
Moving the conversation to messaging service Telegram, Koshy offered the boy $100 to $250 to perform a sex act on him.
Over four months, Koshy made four sexual offers to the victim. He also offered to fetch the boy to his house so that the sex act could be performed.
Although the boy did not cease communications with Koshy immediately out of fear of offending him, he eventually stopped talking to him. He did not agree to Koshy's requests for sexual services.
On Aug 15, 2020, a 21-year-old man - not one of Koshy's prior three targets - posted on his Instagram page that he had been sexually harassed by Koshy. Shortly after, more victims came forward and shared their encounters with the accused on social media.
Koshy was arrested by police officers on Oct 5, 2020, at his home. Thirty-one obscene videos were found in the devices seized.
For offering cash to a youngster below 18 in exchange for sexual services, he can be jailed for up to two years and fined. For the attempted sexual exploitation of a young person, he can be jailed for up to five years, fined up to $10,000, or both under the Children and Young Persons Act.
SINGAPORE - The son of a Singaporean man accused of murdering his wife in Britain testified on Tuesday (Aug 2) that his father was protective of his mother and he never saw him lay a finger on her.
Fong Soong Hert, 51, is facing trial in Newcastle for murdering his wife, Madam Pek Ying Ling, 51, by smothering her with a pillow in a hotel while they were on holiday last December.
On Tuesday, British broadcaster BBC reported that the couple's eldest son, Mr Alonzo Fong, 26, told the Newcastle Crown Court: "For my 26 years of life, not once had my dad laid a finger on my mum.
"There's never been an argument of physicality, even when he was on his medication or when he was stressed.
"He would always protect my mother."
He added: "I think I know my father very well. I would never think of any circumstance he would seek to hurt my mother."
Madam Pek was pronounced dead at the County Aparthotel in Newcastle at 7.32am on Dec 6 last year.
The couple, who had been married for 27 years, have three adult sons in their 20s and were travelling around the United Kingdom and Europe.
Earlier on Monday, the court heard that Fong called Mr Fong, who was studying in Newcastle at the time, and said he had hurt his mother.
He told his son: "She's gone. She's dead. I just lost it. I tried to cover her mouth to shush her. I just lost it."
Prosecutor Peter Makepeace said the son sent his father several text messages advising him to stay put and wait for him and the police.
Fong replied that he was sorry and wanted to die.
The couple had earlier returned from the hospital on the night of Dec 5, after Fong had fallen and an ambulance was called.
BBC reported on Tuesday that during the couple's stay in the UK, Fong had suffered a number of falls that required hospital treatment, including one from a height of about 15m while he was taking photographs in Scotland.
The court heard on Monday that Fong has "no memory whatsoever of the killing but accepts that he must have placed a pillow over his wife's face and smothered her to death".
He has denied murdering Madam Pek but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arguing that he did not intend to kill her or cause her really serious bodily harm.
Mr Makepeace earlier told the court that Madam Pek would scold her husband for not taking proper care of himself.
According to reporters, when asked what that meant, Mr Fong said on Tuesday: "When I say scold, I'm not sure what the understanding is in the UK for that word, but in Singapore it's mostly like a telling off.
"For example, if my mum saw my dad doing a certain thing she would ask why, that's what I meant by the word scold.
"She would be constantly asking him to go to the hospital to get checked and stop acting so tough."
ST reported earlier that the couple left Singapore on Oct 24 last year and travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Croatia and Scotland, before arriving in Newcastle, where they met Mr Fong on Dec 3.
The couple watched a football match between Newcastle United and Burnley, their youngest son told ST in an exclusive interview.
They had planned to meet their second and youngest sons during their trip, which would have concluded in Germany on Jan 13.
The trial is expected to conclude next Tuesday.
SINGAPORE - A man who was initially represented by lawyer Charles Yeo Yao Hui, 31, in a trial has engaged another lawyer, Mr Rajwin Singh Sandhu, to handle his case.
Addressing the court on the 30th day of the trial on Tuesday (Aug 2), the lawyer from Rajwin & Yong said: "The proceedings have to go on."
Kok Chiang Loong, 41, who is accused of offences including playing a role in a purported marriage of convenience, engaged Mr Sandhu after Yeo failed to turn up in court on Monday.
Yeo, who was earlier charged with unrelated offences including multiple counts of harassment and wounding the religious feeling of Christians, was given permission last month to leave Singapore for Vietnam to meet a witness linked to Kok's trial.
Yeo, who is also the former chairman of the Reform Party, was then offered bail of $10,000, with his mother acting as bailor.
He was allowed to leave Singapore last Wednesday and was supposed to return on Saturday.
The court heard on Monday that he was not back in Singapore.
In a post on social media platform Instagram on Saturday, Yeo had stated that he intended to go to the United Kingdom to seek political asylum.
He had said: "I would be with my asylum solicitors and then barristers in processing my political asylum claim under the 1951 Refugee Convention - persecuted on grounds of political opinion.
"I chose after much deliberation to proceed to the UK because I believe that the English courts would be fair and impartial in examining my case."
In a statement on Monday evening, police said they were aware of what Yeo had done and had issued a gazette for his arrest after he breached the conditions of the court for approval for overseas travel.
The police also said they were working with foreign law enforcement counterparts to trace his whereabouts.
In their statement, they said that Yeo did not return to Singapore last Saturday and did not report to an investigation officer on Monday.
They added: "Police received a report from his bailor (last Sunday) informing that he did not return to Singapore (last Saturday) and had been uncontactable.
"Following the report, police attempted to contact Charles Yeo on (Monday) to no avail."
In another Instagram post on Monday, Yeo said that he had briefed Mr Sandhu on Kok's case and had refunded Kok in full.
Yeo's bail review will take place on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Kok's trial continues.
For each count of harassment, an offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000.
And for each count of wounding the religious feelings of another person, an offender can be jailed for up to three years and fined.
SINGAPORE - Brunei Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah will lead a delegation to Singapore for the 8th Singapore-Brunei Young Leaders' Programme this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Tuesday (Aug 2).
The programme, which was launched in 2013, is a key platform for young leaders from both countries to meet and build ties with one another. Both sides take turns to host the programme.
Crown Prince Billah, who is also Senior Minister at Brunei's Prime Minister's Office, will be on an official visit from Wednesday to Friday at the invitation of Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.
The Crown Prince is accompanied by his wife, Princess Sarah, and their children Princess Muneerah, Prince Muhammad Aiman, and Princess Faathimah Az-Zahraa'.
The Brunei delegation includes Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Amin Liew Abdullah; Minister of Education Romaizah Salleh; Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister's Office Riza Yunos; and senior officials from the Brunei Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Service Department.
The Crown Prince's visit, his first since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reaffirms the excellent and close ties between Singapore and Brunei, MFA said.
"During the visit, both sides will discuss ways to further strengthen bilateral ties in the coming years," the ministry added.
Crown Prince Billah and Princess Sarah will be hosted to lunch by President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, at the Istana.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will also separately host lunch for Crown Prince Billah and the members of his delegation. SM Teo and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong will host them to a welcome dinner.
The Crown Prince will also visit Victoria School and Victoria Hall, Our Tampines Hub and its integrated public service centre, and RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base.
Last month, PM Lee and his wife, Madam Ho Ching, received royal honours from Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah during an investiture. They also attended the Sultan's 76th birthday celebrations.
Singapore and Brunei have longstanding arrangements such as the Currency Interchangeability Agreement, and also cooperate extensively in defence, finance, trade and investment, tourism, health, aquaculture and education.
Fare surges, booking difficulties for PHCs and taxis due to higher demand and fewer drivers: Iswaran
SINGAPORE: The recent fare surges and difficulties in booking private hire cars and taxis were due to a higher demand for rides as well as fewer drivers, Transport Minister S Iswaran said on Monday (Aug 1).
He was responding to a question by Member of Parliament Saktiandi Supaat (PAP-Bishan-Toa Payoh), who asked if the ministry has conducted any studies to find out the causes of the higher fares and booking difficulties.
In his written reply, Mr Iswaran said that since January 2020, the number of active taxi and private hire car drivers has fallen by 18 per cent to about 57,000 drivers as of June 2022.
The drop is due to the lower demand for point-to-point transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. And this is despite the Government setting aside more than S$530 million for support measures such as the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund and the Special Relief Fund, he added.
However, demand for such services has picked up sharply after COVID-19 community safe management measures were eased in March and April this year, Mr Iswaran said.
This includes the reopening of international borders and the return of all employees to the workplace.
“Daily point-to-point trips have increased by 30,000 in June 2022 compared to February 2022,” he said. “However, the number of point-to-point drivers has not increased as rapidly as demand, and this has resulted in fare surges and booking difficulties.”
He added that it will take time for the sector to adjust to the surge in demand after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“We are seeing signs that the market is responding,” he said. “Vocational licence applications have increased recently, and some drivers who left the point-to-point sector may progressively return in response to the higher demand.
“These will boost the supply of point-to-point drivers in the upcoming months.”
In May, reporters interviewed customers who complained of fare surges and longer waiting times for ride-hailing and taxi services, particularly during peak hours.
According to the Land Transport Authority’s statistics, the number of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers has decreased over the last two years. Last year alone, the number of valid private hire car driver vocational licence holders dropped from 56,121 in January to 48,523 in December.
Private-hire companies also said they had started to implement initiatives to attract more drivers, including incentives for drivers who travel further for pick-ups.
However, a spokesperson for ride-hailing service Grab said the shortage of drivers is an industry-wide trend. It previously told reporters that some drivers became "inactive" due to a lack of passengers over the last two years of the pandemic.
On Monday, Mr Supaat also asked if the ministry will consider liberalising current regulations limiting private motor cars to two paid carpooling trips a day.
To this, Mr Iswaran said carpool trips are incidental and non-commercial in nature.
“As private car owners typically take two trips a day – to and from home, the current regulatory regime allows private car owners to charge at cost-recovery basis for up to two trips a day,” he said.
“We have no plans to change this limit as existing avenues, such as the point-to-point framework, are in place for drivers to provide ride-sharing services which are commercial in nature.”
SINGAPORE - Flexible work arrangements have become more common among organisations in Singapore despite the country's transition to living with Covid-19.
Many employers have chosen to continue riding the work-from-home momentum, allowing staff to operate remotely for part of the week.
All employees here have been able to return to the workplace since April 26, alongside the easing of other Covid-19 measures, including group size limits.
Aside from large corporates, the public service has also been a leader in adopting flexible workplace arrangements, with the likes of the Auditor-General's Office and the Government Technology Agency allowing employees to work from home some days of the week.
While flexible work is most closely associated with work from home, it includes other arrangements, such as staggered work hours and job sharing.
Other than telecommuting, public service agencies also allow some staff to stagger their work hours, such as starting earlier or later than the usual time.
This flexibility is seen not only to benefit those with caregiving duties, but could also help to reduce peak-hour traffic congestion.
The broader adoption of hybrid work arrangements here mirrors the shifts seen globally.
Financial institutions such as Citi, HSBC and UBS have flexible work plans.
Citi Singapore, for one, will allow most staff to work remotely for up to two days a week by the third quarter of the year, with some teams already adopting such flexible arrangements. The American bank employs about 8,500 full-time and contract staff in Singapore.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said at an event last week that the Government would like more companies to adopt the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements, which includes having a clear policy on how staff can ask for such arrangements to be put in place.
Workers have noted that telecommuting has contributed to much better work-life harmony for them, said Dr Tan, adding that helping people achieve this harmony is one way in which employers can foster inclusive and progressive workplaces where employees feel valued and empowered.
The White Paper on women's development released earlier this year said that the Government may introduce a new set of guidelines by 2024 that will require employers to consider staff requests for flexible work arrangements fairly and properly.
The Ministry of Manpower has said that the guidelines will establish the norm that it is acceptable to request flexible work arrangements, while maintaining the employers' prerogative to decide, taking into account business needs.
Consultations are expected to be held before the guidelines are finalised.
In the meantime, the discourse on remote working and flexible work arrangements in Singapore remains fluid, with issues such as tax treatment, employers' obligations towards remote workers and employee mental health to be addressed.
SINGAPORE - Some businesses at Changi Airport are optimistic about retail and food and beverage sales picking up as passenger traffic recovers, but concerns about whether they have the manpower to maintain the momentum remain.
With latest figures showing that passenger numbers in June reached a target set originally for the year end, two leading players said on Sunday (July 31) that they expect their sales to consistently pick up over the next few months, as more people travel despite fears of new waves of infectious Covid-19 variants.
The Changi Airport Group said on Sunday that 2.9 million passengers used the airport in June, compared with 5.8 million in June 2019, reaching the target it had set for the end of the year of attaining volumes half that of pre-pandemic levels.
CAG said almost all the shops in the public areas in Terminals 1 and 3 have reopened to the public. Since April, four new food and beverage brands have opened at T1 and T3, which are the only terminals fully operating.
One of the new eateries is Hong Kong street food diner Terrace Kitchen, in T1.
Terrace Kitchen is owned by airport hospitality firm Plaza Premium Group, which has been running operations for over a decade in Changi Airport. The company operates TGM and Root98, a shared concept restaurant that serves Japanese and vegetarian dishes. The group also owns a paid lounge in the T1 transit hall that can be used by all travellers, with charging, Wi-Fi and shower facilities.
Mr Steven Lim, the group's regional general manager, said business has picked up by about 80 per cent since April.
"We are quite fortunate to see it up and running because when we tendered for this space a few years back, we were not sure if the airport was even going to be open because of the Covid-19 situation," he said.
He added that the pandemic had a significant impact on the Hong Kong-based group.
"About 97 per cent of our businesses were closed, and it was literally like a standstill, and we had to retrench almost 60 per cent of the team during the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
While business is picking up, it is still hard to hire staff because people are hesitant now to work in the airport hospitality sector.
Mr Lim said the group started hiring four months ago, and has managed to reach just 70 per cent of its workforce strength.
"We need about 15 to 16 people, including kitchen and service staff in our restaurant, but right now we are running at about 12 staff."
With four new outlets such as Flash Coffee and Matchaya, which opened in T3 in April, food and beverage provider Select Service Partner (SSP) is looking forward to promote its offerings especially with travellers returning.
Mr Jonathan Robinson, chief executive of SSP Asia Pacific, said that even though it is still early to predict if sales from the outlets will be good, they are contented with how passenger traffic is returning and hope the momentum continues.
He said: "It was just a matter of the timing and speed of the recovery, but we've all been pleasantly surprised by the speed of recovery in Singapore and elsewhere."
Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that more than half of the shops have reopened to the public. CAG has clarified that it should be almost all the shops in the public areas in Terminals 1 and 3 have reopened to the public.
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