Written By: Chao Fangning, Nicole (20-U5), Lim Junheng, Jovan (20-O5) ,Martha Henrietta Soetedjo (20-U2), Ng Teck Zhong (20-E5), Soh Iwin (20-E5), Young Wai Ming Nicholas (20-E5)
Designed by: Leow Jia Wen, Jolene (20-E1)
Happy New Year! It’s only been a month into 2021, and several groundbreaking events have already taken place. From a new American president to an all-time low economic recession, here’s a quick rundown of this month’s current affairs!
President Biden’s Inauguration
On 20 Jan 2021, the United States (US) President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris were sworn in at the Capitol, just a few weeks after it was stormed by supporters of the former president Trump opposing the certification of the Electoral College Vote which, controversially, Biden won. The event was packed with famous celebrities such as Katy Perry and Demi Lovato, as well as the youngest poet to ever perform at a presidential inauguration, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman whose poetry stunned viewers world wide.
During his first day on the job, Biden had signed several executive orders, reversing some of the changes Trump had made during his presidency, such as the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Accord and the travel bans on numerous Muslim countries. Conversely, in the last few hours of Trump’s presidency, his administration had granted 143 people clemency, including former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who was charged with donor fraud.
Monumentally, this change of presidency comes at a time of division and anxiety for the US. With the ideological divide between the conservatives and liberals, the high death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the monumental resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality, many Americans are beginning to question if President Biden would deliver on his promises.
New COVID-19 Variants Spread Across Globe
News regarding COVID-19 have yet to cease, with worrying reports of a new UK variant. This new strain, named VUI 202012/01, originated from the UK late last year, and has since spread beyond local borders all the way to India and Singapore. It is also the most common variant found in the UK, amassing over 50 per cent of cases reported.
On 22 Jan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson further commented that not only is the virus more transmissible, but is also found to be 1.3 times more lethal than its original counterpart. Apart from current measures, the UK government has heightened its safety precautions, creating a new tier of restrictions to ensure that people stay at home to abate the spread of the virus.
Furthermore, another strain originating from South Africa has also become a cause for concern. With similar issues, such as it being far more infectious, many worry about the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 approaching. Others question the efficacy of upcoming vaccines with the rise of new variants with potential resistances. Fortunately, the existing developed vaccines have proven to hold effective against the UK variant, and is hence, less of a worry compared to the South African variant.
Global Economic Recession (Well, Except for One Country)
COVID-19 has impacted the world greatly. Aside from being a public health threat, it has managed to disrupt the world’s economy to the likes of which was not seen since the end of the Second World War. Most countries, if not all, were not spared from this recession, including Singapore and the United States. In Singapore, this is the worst recession we have ever experienced since our independence.
However, one country seems to be relatively insulated from the worldwide wave of recession – China. China is the only major economy that has successfully avoided a recession, with a 2.3 per cent increase in GDP this year. In fact, China’s economy is forecasted to grow by 8.4 per cent this year, the fastest seen in a decade.
Nonetheless, some sectors in the Chinese economy, just like others around the world, were hit much harder than other sectors, and these sectors have only just started to recover. Nonetheless, China’s overall economic growth is a testament to the fact that one can have economic growth by controlling the spread of COVID-19, and with vaccine distribution and inoculation under way in more countries than ever before, the world is one step closer to returning to the normal way of life, the way that we used to know it.
Indonesian Passenger Jet Crash
On 9 Jan, Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 had been carrying 62 people on the way to the city of Pontianak in Borneo – the only island in the world to be politically governed by three countries: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia – when it descended more than 10,000 feet in altitude in under a minute. According to reports, the plane had just taken off amidst heavy monsoon season rain. While it is still unclear what caused the incident to happen, evidence of the crash has been confirmed with the salvage of body fragments and the plane’s flight data recorder (black box).
Unfortunately, Indonesia has seen its fair share of aviation incidents, with records showing 20 similar occurrences in the past decade. Reasons for this include speculations over the due negligence of maintaining domestic aviation standards, and the complex and unique weather of the many islands of Indonesia. Another interesting fact to note is that the crashed plane was a Boeing model, and given the recent flak surrounding 3 fatal accidents the previous year, much is unknown about how this incident will challenge its large stake in the worldwide aviation industry.
Termination of High Speed Railway
Originally proposed in September 2010, the high-speed railway between Singapore and Malaysia was meant to run between Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur and Singapore’s Jurong East. This bolsters convenience, tourism and economic prosperity between the two nations. Sadly, this plan recently terminated after both nations failed to reach a consensus with regards to changes propounded by Malaysia, which arose after its economic downtown from the pandemic. As Singapore has already commenced on building the railway, she would incur hefty costs, of which Malaysia would compensate a fraction of it. While this was a major disappointment to many Singaporeans and Malaysians, this would not severely dampen the bilateral relations between the two nations, as mutual dependence between the two nations strengthened amidst the pandemic, and would likely continue.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) could be the World’s First Vaccinated International Airline
With the threat of COVID-19 still in the air, many countries have been scrambling to get their hands on the latest vaccines, in hopes of ensuring that their people are safe and protected from harm. As many would know, some names are emerging from countries boasting strength and advancement in the scientific community, like the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sinovac vaccines.
Closer to home, as Singapore has begun loosening restrictions in light of the gradual decrease in community cases, it has also started rolling out vaccines to be made available to the public. Being one of the first countries to obtain the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Singapore has also spared no effort in guaranteeing that the most vulnerable in the country gain priority in this regard. Minister Ong Ye Kung said, “SIA (Singapore Airlines) can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world – try to get that done.” This is in view of the fact that the inoculation of our aviation staff is an extremely essential gateway to the reopening of our borders and a swift return to normalcy.
Through this, we hope to show to the world our cohesiveness and unity as a nation, being a role model to those around us. Hopefully, we can all appreciate the expeditious government response to this crisis that befalls us, and the strong cooperation of the public as we get through this volatile period together.
With that, we’ve come to the end of this month’s summary! Let’s hope for a better 2021. See you next month!
References and Citations
- A timeline of UK lockdown measures since the pandemic began. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.expressandstar.com/news/uk-news/2021/01/04/a-timeline-of-uk-lockdown-measures-since-the-pandemic-began/
- Beech, H., & Suhartono, M. (2021, January 15). Indonesian Jetliner Crashes Into the Sea After Takeoff, Carrying 62. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://nyti.ms/3ntGTwY
- Biden inauguration: New president sworn in amid Trump snub. (2021, January 20). Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55736856
- Brown, M. (2020, August 10). Fact check: U.S. GDP drop in 2020’s second quarter is the worst in modern history. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/08/08/fact-check-u-s-quarterly-gdp-drop-worst-modern-history/5569089002/
- Chong, C. (2021, January 02). HSR termination a setback for economic co-operation. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/hsr-termination-a-setback-for-economic-co-operation
- Gov.sg. (2020, December 23). How Singapore is ensuring access to COVID-19 vaccines. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.gov.sg/article/how-singapore-is-ensuring-access-to-covid-19-vaccines
- Kahn, J. (2021, January 22). Highly transmissible U.K. virus strain is also 30% more lethal, Boris Johnson warns. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://fortune.com/2021/01/22/uk-virus-strain-more-lethal/
- Leatherby, L., Ray, A., Singhvi, A., Triebert, C., Watkins, D., & Willis, H. (2021, January 12). How a Presidential Rally Turned Into a Capitol Rampage. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/12/us/capitol-mob-timeline.html
- Reuters. (2021, January 18). China becomes only major economy to avoid Covid-19 recession in 2020. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/china-becomes-only-major-economy-to-avoid-recession-in-2020-growth-accelerates-in
- Reuters. (2021, January 19). SIA can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world: Ong Ye Kung. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/sia-can-be-first-vaccinated-international-airline-world-ong-ye-kung
- Rosalind Helderman, J. (2021, January 21). Trump grants clemency to 143 people in late-night pardon blast. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-pardons/2021/01/20/7653bd12-59a2-11eb-8bcf-3877871c819d_story.html
- Steinhauser, G. (2021, January 22). The New Covid-19 Strain in South Africa: What We Know. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-new-covid-19-strain-in-south-africa-what-we-know-11609971229
- Tay, P. (2021, January 19). SIA can be world’s first vaccinated international airline: Ong Ye Kung. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/transport/sia-can-be-worlds-first-vaccinated-international-airline-ong-ye-kung
- Tham, Y. (2021, January 01). KL-Singapore High Speed Rail terminated after both countries fail to reach agreement on M’sia’s proposed changes. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/politics/kl-singapore-high-speed-rail-terminated-after-singapore-and-malaysia-fail-to
- The World Bank. (2020, June 8). COVID-19 to Plunge Global Economy into Worst Recession since World War II. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/08/covid-19-to-plunge-global-economy-into-worst-recession-since-world-war-ii