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Singapore Curbs Public Gatherings, Contracts Economy

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13-14 Apr 09 | FT

Singapore passed a law yesterday on freedom of assembly it said would help prevent the disruption of international meetings that caused the cancellation of a summit in Thailand last weekend, reports Reuters.

But an opposition member of parliament said the rules would tighten restrictions on Singaporeans’ rights.

Singapore is due to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in November. “Singapore cannot afford the luxury of having this meeting disrupted,” said K. Shanmugam, law minister.

All cause-related outdoor activities will need a police permit, no matter how many people are involved, changing the law in which gatherings of five or more people require a permit.

The bill allows police to stop people from filming law enforcement if it could put officers in danger.

Legislator Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ party said the government was taking advantage of struggle in Thailand to implement “draconian laws”.

Singapore suffers record contraction

Singapore’s trade-dependent economy contracted by a record 11.5 per cent in the first three months of 2009 from a year ago as non-oil exports fell 17 per cent in March, the 11th consecutive monthly decline.

The-sharper-than-expected deterioration in the economy’s performance forced the government to cut its full-year GDP forecast from minus 6 per cent to minus 9 per cent, which would make it Singapore’s worst postwar recession and Asia’s worst economic performer this year. The economy contracted 4.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008. >>>

Singapore, one of the world’s most open economies, fittingly expects to be one of its fastest sinking. After a ghastly first quarter the government forecasts full-year shrinkage of between 6 and 9 per cent [.pdf].

What to do? By “recentring” the policy band that pegs the Singapore dollar to an (undivulged) basket of currencies, the Monetary Authority of Singapore gains a pitifully modest devaluation – estimated by analysts at about 1-2.5 per cent. MAS was careful to attach some suitably tough language, in effect putting currency traders on notice that more aggressive action will not follow. In truth, there is not much more Singapore can do. Sharper depreciation may help exporters, but any gains would be modest so long as global demand is in hibernation. Meanwhile, a weak currency would encourage capital flight, the Asian leitmotif of global risk aversion. Net capital outflows for the region as a whole were $145bn in the second half of 2008, according to the World Bank [.pdf], or more than net inflows in the whole of 2007. >>>

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Written by Editors

14 April 2009 at 11:27 pm

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