Issues that could shape 2016

2016: Key events to watch out for in the year ahead

Fireworks going off at Marina Bay on Jan 1, 2016.
Fireworks going off at Marina Bay on Jan 1, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

From the US presidential elections to the Fifa presidential race, from grappling with a slowing global economy to managing expectations of a Singapore populace, The Sunday Times takes a look at the key issues affecting the world and Singapore in 2016.

Here are the issues at a glance: 

SINGAPORE - POLITICS

After the heat of the hustings and last year's general election, politics looks to be one defined by how the Government manages the demands brought by an economy that is slowing down and in the midst of restructuring. Singaporeans will have ample opportunities to be part of the decision making process this year, as a number of consultative panels and committees seek inputs on issues ranging from how to memorialise Singapore's founders to the economy's future direction. Read more here.

Government

  • Set priorities for the term ahead - tackle a slowing economy and the job market; address the diversity of needs in society, from transport, healthcare and housing, to education, skills and the needs of the aged.

PAP

  • Provide opportunities and showcase the next generation of leaders and newly elected MPs.

Opposition

  • Demonstrate that they are in a position to offer and champion fresh and practical ideas and solutions, whether they are in or out of Parliament.

SINGAPORE - HOME

Transport and healthcare will take centre stage this year as a nation expects improvements in both sectors to deal with increased demand. The new year will also see new directions in housing and education, which will aim to present Singaporeans with more choices. Read more here.

Education

  • Credits for courses
  • More university places and degrees
  •  More MOE kindergartens

Healthcare

  • Standard coverage beyond MediShield Life
  • Easing of bed crunch
  • Tackling dengue worries

Housing

  • More new flats
  • Fresh start for some families
  • Sprucing up old estates

Transport

  • New bus operators
  • More trains
  • Regulations for private car hire services and mobility devices

WORLD

A new year could mean new beginnings for nations looking for a fresh start. New leaders will be elected in the United States and the Philippines. But there is also a sense that more of the same is the way forward. Read more here.

China

  • AIIB to disburse first funds
  • Beginning of military reform
  • Acceleration of government anti-graft inspections

Malaysia

  • More subsidy cuts if government revenues remain under pressure from low oil prices.
  • Renewed assault on PM Najib's leadership over cost of living issues if inflation soars as forecast.
  • Sarawak state elections will be a test of Mr Najib's and the ruling BN's popularity.

Indonesia

  • The government's infrastructure projects are expected to give the economy a fillip.
  • The Joko administration has to make good on its pledge to tackle the root cause of last year's transboundary haze, which could cost Indonesia up to 475 trillion rupiah (S$48.6 billion).

Philippines

  • Turbulence on the horizon as Filipinos elect a new president in May.
  • Manila may take the opportunity to reset ties with Beijing in the new year, even as the South China Sea remains an issue.

India

  • The Modi government needs to engage opposition parties to get their support in Parliament.
  • Regional parties set to dominate in state elections.
  • Diplomatically, India has to move forward to improve ties with Pakistan and also carefully balance ties with the US, Japan and Australia on one side and with China on the other.

Indochina

  • Political transition looms for Myanmar and Thailand.
  • Entrenched ruling regimes such as those in Vietnam and Cambodia face mounting challenges.
  • Laos takes over as Asean chair, a big role for a small but resource-rich country still run by a relatively opaque communist party.

Thailand

  • Military government will look to stimulus measures and infrastructure to boost economy and make up for weak growth in 2015.
  • Farmers' income - and therefore their spending - expected to remain weak due to El Nino-induced drought, lack of water for planting and poor global commodity prices.

United States

  • Presidential election: Americans will pick a new president in November in a high-stakes election. Control of the Senate - now in Republican hands - will also come into play.
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership: Negotiators from 12 countries agreed to a sweeping free trade pact in 2015, and it is now up to domestic legislatures to ratify it. The US process is far from straightforward and timing will be critical.
  • The fight against ISIS: President Barack Obama ended the year under heavy pressure to step up his battle against ISIS. Observers will be keen to see if and how his strategy changes in 2016.

Europe

  • Economic woes continue with key problems of low competitiveness in global markets and rigid labour markets which result in abnormally high youth unemployment unlikely to be solved
  • Risks of over-reaction to inflow of asylum-seekers, including imposition of immigration controls that will require decades of efforts to lift
  • Terrorist security challenge that Europe is now better equipped to deal with; but broader approach to prevent extremism remains elusive

Australia

  • General election that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's coalition is likely to win
  • Twin challenge of a lagging economy and a growing deficit
  • Delivery of a long-delayed defence blueprint that could show stance on security challenges

SINGAPORE - ECONOMY

It will be a challenging year ahead for markets and the global economy, with economic growth in China slowing, higher interest rates and wobbly commodity prices. How will these impact Singapore's economy, as well as stock and property markets? Read more here.

Stock market

  • Small IPOs likely to dominate market. But that big listing is unlikely to happen
  • External headwinds from slow global growth and interest rate hike will put pressure on corporate performance, making stock market recovery an uphill struggle
  • Focus for SGX is to raise investor interest in the market as raising market liquidity remains its biggest challenge

Property market

  • Weak economic growth, rising interest rates, and continued cooling measures will weigh on property prices
  • Prices could fall a further 6 per cent to 8 per cent over the course of this year
  • Rents should continue to weaken on rising private home completions
  • Buyers may end up returning to the city fringe and suburban property markets even without changes to cooling measures

Manufacturing

  • Developed markets like the United States are gradually recovering but this has not translated into a lift for regional exports
  • On top of external headwinds, Singapore manufacturers are being hit by domestic challenges
  • Factories here are also affected by longer-term structural shifts in global supply chains

SPORT

Sports fans will have plenty to cheer this year as the planet's best sportsmen gather for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, while the cream of Europe battle it out in football's European Championship. But away from the arenas, there will also be plenty of action as world football, tainted by corruption charges and politics, elects a new head, just one of many boardroom dramas unfolding in the new year. Read more here.

Singapore sport

  • Table tennis has been delivering the goods at the past two Olympics. But this year, it could be swimmer Joseph Schooling and sailor Colin Cheng who shine the brightest
  • The new National Youth Sports Institute will begin operations with the hopes of catering better to elite youth athletes and help produce more world-class talent
  • In sports administration, new leadership at Singapore Sports Hub and the Football Association of Singapore could bring needed lifts

World sport

  • Fifa look to appoint a new leader to lead them through a trying period
  • Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will again lead the stars in action at the Rio Olympics
  • The race for Pep: where will the world's most sought-after football mind end up?

LIFESTYLE

From the possible visit of the Material Girl to the launch of the Michelin Guide, the arts, entertainment as well as food and beverage scenes will see some significant developments in the new year. Read more here.

Arts and entertainment

  • More debates over censorship and the funding of controversial works
  • Some 15 Singapore films are expected, including new releases by Michelle Chong and Eric Khoo

Food and beverage

  • Launch of Michelin Guide in Singapore could see not just the quality of food on the island improve, but also the quality of service.
  • It could affect the F&B sector's manpower crunch