(Our crystal balls, that is.)
“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me … “
– William Shakespeare (MacBeth)
Happy New Year!
2016 was nothing if not earth-shaking in terms of unexpected developments. The – once unthinkable – departure of Britain from the European Union, was voted in by a legislature feeling increasingly un-homed in its own country. Then November rolled around and the US, too, voted to upend the status quo, by endorsing reality TV star and political newbie, Donald Trump. This was the subject of our tongue-in-cheek piece in February 2016. The unexpected result, which experts thought would cause a financial crash, has in fact buoyed the US market.
Back home, Singapore’s stock market suffered its own series of exits, with many high profile companies being de-listed in 2016. Forefront: By TSMP correctly anticipated in April last year that SMRT would be privatised, a transaction that was only announced in July.
Given how unpredictable the world has become, we thought we’d ask our partners for their take on what might happen in 2017. In this, we have failed to heed the advice of Churchill:
“I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”
PREDICTIONS FOR 2017
Thio Shen Yi, SC (Dispute Resolution) –
“There will be a small invasion of a Baltic State. Trump will impose tariffs on certain Chinese good and start a skirmish but not a full blown trade war. The U.K. Supreme Court will rule in favour of Parliamentary sovereignty, delaying Brexit. Halimah Yacob will be our next President.”
Stefanie Yuen Thio (M&A and Corporate) –
“Angela Merkel will lose decisively in the German elections, as the wave of nationalistic protectionism continues to sweep Europe. The Brexit process goes nowhere, while politics in the US continue as usual, punctuated with Trumpian threats in tweets.
On the home front, Singapore goes into technical recession, but the government announces significant financial assistance for the development of technology and fintech productivity, which helps to transform the economy. The SGX prepares for its first large tech listing as dual class shares are green-lit. We spot, and foil, our first major terrorist attempt.”
Derek Loh (Construction) –
“There will be a mini Asian Financial Crisis as the US dollar strengthens. As inflation takes hold, higher interest rates will cause property prices to fall in most major cities. Marine Le Pen will become President of France, but Brexit will remain in limbo.”
Chua Choon King (Ship Financing) –
“Oil hits the US$70 mark in Q2, but it isn’t enough for some – before end-April, the dominoes continue to fall with another major insolvency amongst the Singapore/Malaysian players in the oil & gas sector. Right-wing parties win the German and French elections to put further nails in the EU coffin. Liverpool FC wins the English Premier League and Leicester City gets relegated.”
Melvin Chan (Dispute Resolution) –
“In the wake of the upheavals and disruptions to the established order that was 2016, 2017 will hopefully return the world to a degree of more comforting normalcy – a reality-TV host / billionaire with a dodgy hairstyle will not be elected President (at least not in Singapore), property prices will meander along in its gentle descent, infrastructure will continue to drive the construction industry, another big name will make the insolvency headlines, and most importantly Arsenal will choke in the run-in, Leicester City will not win the English Premier League, and neither will Liverpool,”
Jennifer Chia (Banking and Corporate Real Estate) –
“Singapore’s property market will be meeting stronger headwinds in 2017. The interplay of rising interest rates, a weakening Singapore economy and a falling SingDollar, will impact both foreign and local property investors. The MAS will not lift or even reduce the Total Debt Service Ratio (TDSR) and the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), as these cooling measures are in line with competing jurisdictions like Hong Kong, Sydney and Vancouver.”
Ian Lim (Dispute Resolution, Employment) –
“2017 will see the gig economy accelerate in Singapore. Economic necessity, coupled with the desire for flexibility and acceptance of new norms, will see freelancer numbers here begin to approach those in the US and EU-15, where independent workers comprise close to a third of the labour force. Separately, the Court of Appeal will finally get the opportunity on appeal to refine and clarify the laws on non-competition and restrictive covenants, changing the employment landscape.”
Jonathan Oon (Ship Financing)-
“Oil prices stabilise. Saudi Arabia will work hard to ensure that the production cuts agreed by Opec and non-Opec countries are adhered to, to prevent oil prices from collapsing and affecting the valuation and IPO of Saudi Aramco in 2018.”
Wun Wen-na (Corporate) –
“In a challenging environment, our SMEs will band together to prepare for growth in the medium term. They will lean on external assistance like government grants under the Industry Transformation Programme to innovate, scale up and internationalise, the SME Mezzanine Growth Fund for financing and National Robotics Programme for development of artificial intelligence within their industries. This will better prepare them for 2018.”
It takes a courageous man to predict the future. But even if proven wrong, we are in good company. Wasn’t it Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM, who in 1943 said that “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”? And in 1962, a leading music label rejected a four man band with these words “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” They were, of course, talking about the Beatles.
 “Coming Up, Trumps”, 29 February 2016, http://www.tsmplaw.com/forefront/community/235-coming-up-trumps-2.html?highlight=WyJkb25hbGQiLCJ0cnVtcCIsImRvbmFsZCB0cnVtcCJd “2016 – Fair Winds or Foul?”, 4 April 2016, http://www.tsmplaw.com/forefront/business/250-2016-fair-winds-or-foul.html?highlight=WyJ3aW5kcyIsImZvdWwiLCJmYWlyIl0=