MAS to help consumers access simple, lower-cost investment products

SINGAPORE - Singapore's regulators will make it easier for consumers to buy simple, lower-cost investment products, in a bid to deter them from unconventional and often risky investments.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said during the release of its annual report on Thursday that it will introduce a direct channel for consumers to buy insurance products. More details will be announced by the end of the month.

These will be cheaper as consumers will not need to pay for distribution costs, said MAS managing director Ravi Menon.

The MAS will also publish a set of proposals next month aimed at helping retail investors gain better access to fixed income products.

There has been growing retail investor interest in such products, such as plain vanilla corporate bonds, Mr Menon said, but these are not readily available to them.

Separately, Mr Menon said the several rounds of property cooling measures that the Government has introduced here have helped to stabilise the property market.

Private property prices have moderated by 3.3 per cent over the last three quarters and this has eased overall inflation.

Household balance sheets are also in better shape, with household debt growing a slower 5.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year from the previous year, down from growth of nearly 13 per cent in the third quarter of 2011.

Still, it is too early to ease the cooling measures, Mr Menon said, echoing similar statements by other top government officials.

Property prices remain at elevated levels, global interest rates are still at historical lows and the level of debt among highly leveraged households remains high, he added.

Touching on the outlook for the Singapore economy, Mr Menon said the external environment is generally favourable with growth in both the United States and China still on track.

Sectors of Singapore's economy that depend on regional demand, such as business services and chemicals should do well. Domestic-oriented sectors should also stay resilient.

As a result, Singapore's economy remains poised to grow 2 to 4 per cent this year.