Chairman's Message

MAS Annual Report 2018/19

The Singapore economy is slowing after two years of above-trend growth. Global growth is expected to step down in 2019, and there are also significant downside risks. Uncertainties around trade and technology tensions are dampening investor confidence globally.

Meanwhile, inflation in Singapore has on the whole been subdued, with the overall consumer price index increasing by less than 1% over the first five months of 2019. Core inflation averaged 1.5%, capped by lower oil prices as well as the deregulation of the electricity distribution market. Alongside slower growth, MAS Core Inflation is expected to be lower than in 2018.

Private residential property prices and transaction activity have moderated following the property market cooling measures in July 2018. MAS and other government agencies continue to monitor the property market closely, with the aim of promoting stable and sustainable conditions.

We are making good progress in developing new sources of growth in finance and transforming skills. Employment growth was healthy last year, with a net increase of about 6,900 jobs in financial services and FinTech. The jobs and skills landscape will become more complex as we move into an increasingly digital future. MAS is working with the industry to enable Singaporeans to gear up for this new landscape.

The Variable Capital Companies Act, which will come into force in the second half of 2019, should strengthen Singapore’s proposition as an Asian hub for fund management and domiciliation. To boost enterprise financing, we have launched a new equity market grant scheme. We also introduced a private markets programme, which builds on MAS’ current external fund manager programme, to help grow the ecosystem of private equity and infrastructure funds. MAS also expanded the Green Bond Grant Scheme to include social and sustainability bonds, and will be taking further measures to develop sustainable finance.

The major pieces of infrastructure for an efficient electronic payment society are now in place. We are working with the industry to allow non-banks to access the FAST inter-bank payments network. The Payment Services Act, which establishes a new regulatory framework, will come into force next year. It will facilitate innovation and growth in payment services while providing consumer safeguards and laying down anti-money laundering and cybersecurity standards.

As more consumers transact digitally, cyber security in the financial sector will be a key and continuing concern. MAS has been working together with the industry to implement enhanced measures to strengthen cyber and operational resilience. We also introduced a Cybersecurity Capabilities Grant to help especially smaller financial institutions strengthen their cyber resiliency.

Trust and integrity underpins the development of the financial sector. MAS provided greater transparency of its enforcement actions and sent a clear signal of its resolve to take firm action against wrongdoings through its inaugural Enforcement Report in March 2019. To uphold high standards of corporate governance among listed companies and strengthen investor confidence in Singapore’s capital markets, we also established the Corporate Governance Advisory Committee.

The progress we have made over the past year has been made possible by close partnerships with our stakeholders, both within and beyond the financial industry. I would also like to thank all MAS staff for their contributions in developing Singapore into an internationally respected, resilient and dynamic financial centre.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam