Asian Insider July 12: Singapore’s economy, Sandiaga Uno, Rodrigo Duterte

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

In today’s bulletin: Singapore’s economic growth grinds to a halt amid trade pressures, Jakarta wants to learn from Brasilia, Duterte’s future in the Philippines and we talk to Sandiaga Uno, a rising star in Indonesian politics.

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SINGAPORE’S ECONOMY STALLS

Singapore’s economy stalled in the second quarter, with flash estimates putting GDP growth at just 0.1 per cent - well below analyst expectations of 1.1 per cent. Singapore is now bracing itself for a technical recession though Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has said that he does not yet expect a full-year recession.

A bellwether for the global economy: Singapore's numbers are worth watching as an indicator for the impact the US-China trade war on the global economy. It is an open, trade-dependent economy with reliable data and reporting. Trade amounts to three times the country’s GDP and it is more susceptible than most to changes in global sentiments.

Latest reports on Singapore’s latest GDP figures:

Singapore's economy grows just 0.1% in Q2, lowest in decade and worse than expected

Singapore not expecting full-year recession at this point, says DPM Heng Swee Keat

INDONESIA LOOKS TO BRAZIL

As the plan to move the capital of Indonesia away from Jakarta gathers steam, Indonesia to learn lessons from a country on the other side of the world: Brazil. National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said his team will conduct study visits to Brazil to learn about its experience moving the capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in 1960.

Why Brazil? While Indonesia doesn’t have to look all that far to find countries that have relocated capitals - Malaysia moved its administrative capital from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya just 20 years ago - the Indonesians see some key similarities with Brazil. For one thing, Brazil’s move helped address the unequal development in the country, and Indonesia sees the spreading out of development as a key benefit of moving the capital. Java - the island where Jakarta is located - is home to 58 per cent of the country’s population. The current plan is to move the capital to an underdeveloped area in Kalimantan on Borneo island.

Read the full report from Indonesia Correspondent Linda Yulisman: Indonesia looks to Brazil's success in relocating its capital city

Further reading on the plan:

Four locations show their credentials to be Indonesia's new administrative capital

ST EXCLUSIVE: AN INTERVIEW WITH SANDIAGA UNO

Sandiaga Uno, the defeated vice-presidential candidate at Indonesia’s last election, says he intends to stay in politics as a credible opposition voice though he stopped short of saying he would reject offers from President Joko Widodo of a Cabinet position. In an interview with Regional Correspondent Arlina Arshad while in Singapore, the businessman-turned-politician did not directly answer questions on whether he would turn down an offer to be in government, saying: “Jokowi has plenty of available candidates, these are great people.”

Big picture: As President Jokowi sets about forming his government after being officially declared the winner of the election, talk has emerged that the popular 49-year-old might be made an offer. Sandiaga has been tipped as a future presidential candidate and most observers assume he has few qualms working on either side of Indonesian politics. 

Read the full story: Former Indonesian vice-presidential pick Sandiaga Uno wants to be 'critical, credible and constructive' opposition

ST EXCLUSIVE: WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE REST OF DUTERTE’S PRESIDENCY

As Phillipine President Duterte crosses the halfway mark of his six-year term, he has a lot to be happy about. His coalition won a landslide victory in this year’s midterm elections and his approval ratings are through the roof.

Yet, as Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel writes, none of that strength actually means it will be smooth sailing for the remainder of his term. For one thing, Duterte is not seeking re-election and that means politicians who are have little incentive to tie themselves to his agenda. On top of that, the first three years of his tenure has shown that popularity does not always translate into legislation. Some of his key legislative goals - like restoring the death penalty - remains stuck in Congress. But Duterte does still have a trump card to play. His daughter is currently well-positioned in the race to succeed him.

Read the full analysis: Rough ride likely for Duterte in second half of presidency

AN ILL-TIMED SUIT FITTING

For the final item today, I thought I’d share this story about some questionable decision-making by managers at Deutsche Bank at a time when the bank isn’t exactly burnishing its reputation as a place with good sense. The German bank made headlines around the world this week after announcing major restructuring that left thousands - many in Asia - out of work. But amid all the people being asked to pack-up their belongings, some people were actually heading into the bank’s London office: tailors. On the day the layoffs were announced, two managers in London thought it would be a good idea to arrange for high-end suit fittings in the office. Tasteful.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Protesters demanding the full withdrawal of a now-suspended extradition Bill have called for further protests this weekend, as they rebuffed Chief Executive Carrie Lam'speace offering made on Tuesday.

South Korea called on Friday (July 12) for an international investigation of what it said were accusations by Japanese officials that it had passed some high-tech materials imported from Japan on to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.

China's top diplomat Wang Yi warned the United States on Friday (July 12) that it should "not play with fire" on the question of Taiwan, expressing anger about a planned US arms sale to Taiwan. During a visit to Hungary, Mr Wang said that no foreign force could stop the reunification of China and no foreign force should try to intervene.

That’s a wrap for today. Thanks for reading and have a good weekend. See you on Monday.

-Jeremy