MORNING MINUTES: What will make headlines today, Feb 23, 2015

Good morning. Morning Minutes is a round-up of stories that will break today and which we think you'd be interested in. It appears on weekdays, available by 7am.

Government to announce the annual Budget

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will deliver the annual Budget in Parliament today at 3.30 pm. Expectations are high that there will be something for all Singaporeans in line with the nation's 50th birthday and a possible early election.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo hinted on Saturday that support for families will be an important theme in this year's Budget. This ranges from help for children's education to caring for elders, Mrs Teo said. The Budget will also continue to strike a balance between looking after the immediate needs of citizens and planning for future generations, she had added. - CHIA YAN MIN

Release of inflation numbers

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The Government will be releasing the Consumer Price Index for January, which analysts expect will show a third straight month of negative inflation due to the slumping price of oil.

Eleven economists polled by Reuters said the headline index likely fell 0.3 per cent in January from a year ago. The Monetary Authority of Singapore had unexpectedly eased its exchange rate policy in late January, saying the plunge in oil prices had significantly altered Singapore's inflation outlook. - MELISSA TAN

All about the Oscars

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Every year at the Oscars, hanging over the spectacle and the suspense of the Academy Awards is another drama, one that is just as fraught with tension, if not more so. This would be the contest for the soul of the movie industry. In how movie professionals garland their peers on Monday morning Singapore time, analysts will see if the big winner is art or commerce, risk-taking or conservative.

And on the red carpet before the ceremony, there will be entertainment of a different kind.

Join film correspondent JOHN LUI and fashion reporter LESLIE KAY LIM as they blog live from 6am. ALISON DE SOUZA will be tweeting from behind the scenes in Los Angeles for The Straits Times and YIP WAI YEE will tweet all the results as they are announced.

Malaysian fugitive to hold teleconference with media

Malaysian lawyers representing former police commando Sirul Azhar Umar are currently in Australia to try to get their client released from a detention centre in Sydney. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Convicted of a high-profile 2006 murder of a Mongolian model, former Malaysian police commando Sirul Azhar Umar will hold a teleconference with Malaysian media from Australia.
The Malaysian Federal Court last month upheld Sirul's death sentence in absentia for the killing of Altantuya Shaariibuu, girlfriend of Prime Minister Najib Razak's then-confidante Abdul Razak Baginda. Sirul, who fled to Australia last year and was arrested by Interpol last month, has claimed he was under orders to kill Altantuya and blow up her body. Though the Australian Immigration Department has reportedly said interviews within detention centres were generally not allowed, Malaysia's opposition PAS said the session will take place at 11.30am. - SHANNON TEOH

New NUS-Washington University research institute to focus on health management

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Extending seniors' physical and mental health span and seeing how IT can be leveraged to enable early screening or better health management are among areas that may be studied at the new Next Age Institute, to be launched today by Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor. The research institute is a collaboration between the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis. - CALVIN YANG

Greece to submit new list of economic reforms

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The Mediterranean nation is set to submit a list of alternative fiscal reforms to convince its Euro-area creditors to grant the country a four-month extension on its debt bailout.

The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which came to power last month pledging to end unpopular austerity measures and renegotiate the country's debt, had asked for a six-month loan assistance until it can submit its four-year reform plans. Instead, it received a maximum of four months in which to reach an agreement with its eurozone partners, but no new money to tide it over in the meantime.

Verdict expected in drama students' lese majeste case

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Two Thai students, who have been accused of lese majeste for staging a play about a monarch, is expected to hear the verdict today.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Mankong, 26, staged the play The Wolf Bride at Thammasat University in October last year.

The harsh lese majeste law mandates a sentence of up to 15 years. The case is part of a wide crackdown on people deemed critical of the Thai monarchy. - NIRMAL GHOSH

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