Mothership.sg’s 17 predictions: Singapore and the World in 2017

Don't read us if we manage to get it all wrong.

Gazing into the crystal ball has become a treacherous affair.

No analyst at the start of 2016 predicted the grim outlook of a 2017 world of US President Donald J Trump , Brexit, and the deaths of so many personalities (George Michael, David Bowie).

Naturally, Mothership didn’t get any of the above right — in fact, one editor had to treat the team to lunch after confidently betting on Hillary Clinton. Step aside New York Times and Washington Post, it’s happened — fake news Facebook pages and websites were more accurate in predicting the next US President.

Anyway, we went for the low-hanging fruits and got a few things right — there was no Presidential Election this year; there was also a mini cabinet reshuffle. There were more massive train disruptions and no (big) protests at Hong Lim Park.

Our proudest prediction? We predicted (as far back as in 2014, in fact) that Joseph Schooling would win an Olympic medal.

And he rewarded us for our faith in him with an exclusive interview and a crazy photo shoot.


We admit that we got several easy predictions wrong. Who would have thought that we would be spared from the haze this year? (well thank you, Indonesia!) Or that Arsenal will do “the Arsenal” and let Leicester City win their first ever League Championship?

So here we are, tempting fate again with our third round of annual predictions on things that will dictate headlines and invoke the viral gods in 2017.

POLITICS

1. Will we get to vote this year?

The next Singaporean presidential election is due on August 2017, so let’s go to the voting booth!

Hold on a minute. In our history of Presidential Elections, there were two walkovers and two contests. So the possibility of Singaporeans getting to vote is 50-50, touch and go actually.

General Elections are exciting. Presidential Elections, apart from our 2011 outlier, are not.

The Commission’s White Paper recommendations, with their various changes, have sucked much of the populism from the air that we enjoyed five years ago. And no Chinese or Indians need apply (at least for the coming first “hiatus triggered” round).

In other words, a citizen population of 3.4 million Singaporeans will have to hope and wish that at least one of these seven potential candidates (including Speaker Halimah Yacob and Ministers Yaacob Ibrahim and Masagos Zulkifli) — according to Channel NewsAsia — is willing to put Singapore first for six years. – Martino Tan

2. Will we see a successor in waiting to Chinese President Xi Jinping?

Source: Lee Hsien Loong Facebook
Source: Lee Hsien Loong Facebook

Probably not.

All eyes will be on Chinese President Xi Jinping as the Communist Party of China (CPC) stages its 19th Party Congress in autumn 2017. They will be looking out for signs of a shake-up among the top leadership as Xi enters his second term in office.

In a one-party state where there is no institutional mechanism for succession, Xi’s adherence to precedents established in the past, or the lack of it, will send critical signals to China watchers about elite cohesion, the party’s internal stability and potential policy directions.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Xi, who is also the party and military commander-in-chief, is trying to block the promotion of a potential successor, suggesting that he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022, when he would be 69 years old.

The report also quoted party insiders saying that he wants his anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan to keep his seat despite already being 68, and possibly taking over as premier.

If true, this would mean a break from the precedent established in 2002 that requires leaders over age 67 to step down. Under the precedent, only Xi and Premier Li Keqiang would remain as leaders in the Party’s top leadership body — The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

Historically, the PSC composed of five to nine members. New members of the PSC are usually chosen by current and retired PSC members. The eventual size and composition of the PSC will reflect a negotiated outcome based on a range of factors which include age, seniority, family connections, faction membership and loyalty to powerful patrons.

Given China’s importance as an emergent world power with growing influence in the region we live, its leadership changes in 2017 will most certainly be widely discussed. Some knowledge might just help you join a conversation at a cocktail or a dinner party. – Chan Cheow Pong

CURRENT AFFAIRS

3. Will more famous people die?

Photo by Twitter user @christhebarker
Photo by Twitter user @christhebarker

2016 has gone by, and seems to have claimed the lives of a few too many celebrities and big names from all over the world —

Freshest on our minds is legendary multi-talent Debbie Reynolds, who passed away a day after her daughter Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher.

Just a few days prior: George Michael.

Earlier this year: David Bowie. Alan Rickman (Snape). René Angélil (Celine Dion’s husband). Glenn Frey (from the Eagles). Joe Alaskey (the voice of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and other beloved Looney Tunes characters). Maurice White (from Earth, Wind and Fire). Harper Lee (author of “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Kenny Baker (R2D2). Erik Bauersfeld (the voice of Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!”). Chyna. Prince. Muhammad Ali. Christina Grimmie. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. Fidel Castro.

In short, yes. But to give you a bit more than the obvious, the truth is the numbers of famous folk joining the ranks of wherever you believe people go after their lives end are just going to rise as the years go on. This GQ article explains pretty well the sad fact that many famous folk are getting on in age, and their time has come — summarised here:

“We are getting older. The people who shaped our cultural landscape (most of whom were older than us to begin with) are getting older. As we get older, we become interested in a wider number of people (all of whom are getting older). And we live in an age of hyper-connectivity that makes us more aware of more people and instantly aware of every single celebrity death in a way that would not have been possible even a decade ago.”

Guess it should be a good thing that, well, it isn’t just 2016. So give this year a break, k. – Jeanette Tan

4. Will we see a major cabinet reshuffle and the retirement of political office-holders?

Singapore_Cabinet

Yes and yes.

In his first major Cabinet reshuffle after the 2015 General Election, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he “will do a mid-term review” of his cabinet “and make further changes”.

2017 is roughly the middle of PM Lee’s 2015-2021 term — 2021 is not really counted as the next GE has to be held before Jan 15 2021.

PM Lee would want his fourth-generation leaders to handle a range of portfolios, which means a major reshuffle is likely.

This is the range of political leadership experience the fourth generation currently has:

Heng Swee KeatFinance (Minister: Oct 2015 – Current); Education (Minister: May 2011 – Sep 2015)

Chan Chun SingLabour (Minister: Apr 2015 – Current); Social Issues (Minister: Sep 2013 – April 2015); Defence (2nd Minister, SMS: Aug 2012 – Apr 2015); Youth and Sports (Acting Minister: May 2011 – Aug 2013); Communications and the Arts (MOS: May 2011 – Jul 2012)

Tan Chuan-Jin
Social Issues (Minister: Apr 2015 – Current); Manpower (Minister: Acting Minister for Manpower, Aug 2012 – May 2015); National Development (SMS, MOS: June 2011 – Sep 2013)

Lawrence WongFinance (2nd Minister: Aug 2016 – Current); National Development (Minister: Oct 2015 – Current); Culture and Youth (Minister, Acting Minister: Nov 2012 – Sep 2015); Communications and the Arts (2nd Minister, SMS: Aug 2012 -Sep 2015); Education (SMS, MOS: May 2011 – Oct 2012)

Ong Ye KungEducation (Minister, Ag Minister: Oct 2015 – Current); Defence (2nd Minister, SMS: Oct 2015 – Current)

Ng Chee MengEducation (Minister, Ag Minister: Oct 2015 – Current); Transport (2nd Minister, SMS: Oct 2015 – Current)

*Ag Minister – Acting Minister; SMS – Senior Minister of State; MOS – Minister of State

At the 2015 cabinet reshuffle, PM Lee also noted that the government now has “37 office holders, up from 33“, adding that the cabinet “is a transition team, so it is bigger than usual”.

Come Jan 2017, there will be 5 Ministers who have spent more than two decades in politics — (Lim Hng Kiang [25 years]; Teo Chee Hean [24 years]; Lim Swee Say [20 years]; Yaacob Ibrahim [20 years]; PM Lee [32 years])

As the late American General Douglas MacArthur once said, old soldiers politicians never die; they just fade away.

Retired? Not so for experienced Ministers.

PM Lee is likely to tap on their accumulated experience and appoint arrow at least one to be the Senior Minister, just like what he did with former DPM S Jayakumar. – Martino Tan

5. Are tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) poised to escalate in 2017?

Claims over the South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Photo from Wikipedia.
Claims over the South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Photo from Wikipedia.

No, even given China’s growing militarisation of the area and the emergence of seemingly hawkish and unpredictable leaders such as Rodrigo Duterte and Trump.

2017 will see Chinese activity in the SCS becoming markedly risk-averse, and refocused internally ahead of the 19th National Congress of the CPC. In recent months, China has already set a reconciliatory tone for dialogue and consultation with major claimants Vietnam and the Philippines, with Xi urging them to “actively mull maritime cooperation and promote positive interaction on the sea” and seek pathways towards “engaging in joint development”. Duterte’s reciprocation in the form of reopening bilateral talks with China is therefore helpful for sustaining this momentum.

While Duterte has developed a reputation for being inconsistent in his public remarks on the SCS issue, he will be under greater pressure to be more careful when the Philippines assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN.

ASEAN’s political and economic importance to its members (including the Philippines) has over time proven critical. Hence, it would be unwise for Duterte while under the spotlight of this leadership role to undermine the slow yet significant confidence-building efforts already underway between ASEAN and China, such as the development of a draft framework for a code of conduct by mid-2017.

Trump’s policy towards the SCS has neither been formally nor comprehensively articulated, save a couple of off-the-cuff comments and random tweets. To begin with, the U.S. is not itself a claimant state.

If there is anything at all to go by, Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO and Trump’s appointee for Secretary of State is not a newcomer to SCS issues and should be well aware of the sensitivities involved, having regularly flown to Beijing to meet with with top oil company executives especially when his company’s exploration venture with Vietnam drew ire from Beijing. While Tillerson’s personal views on the SCS are undocumented, observers in China note that he is pragmatic, decisive, and has a good reputation in the Chinese oil industry. One can thus expect U.S.-China relations on the matter to be governed primarily by core business interests, rather than driven by nationalistic ambitions. – Daniel Ho

6. Will we see more shake-ups in the taxi and private-hire car industry?

Photos from Uber and Grab's Facebook page
Photos from Uber and Grab’s Facebook page

We’re pretty sure this is a yes. Private-hire cars have in the course of 2016 become a staple of our transport ecosystem. Gone are the days where we found ourselves stranded in heavy rain — in the comfort of shelter, we open our phones, tap a couple of buttons and a car shows up to get us exactly where we want it. In a matter of minutes, most of the time.

Of course, there have been hiccups, problems, accidents, nightmarish passengers and drivers. As with every new thing, there will inevitably be teething problems.

But Uber and Grab have entrenched themselves in our landscape and will only grow — the taxi companies do know this, and are realising they can’t force their drivers to stomach ridiculous rentals, or refuse to develop their tech to stay competitive.

Apart from them, though, there are also new players like SWAT, an on-demand peak hour bus service that started initial trials with users around the third quarter of 2016. Who knows what other innovations 2017 will bring? We’re excited. – Jeanette Tan

LIFESTYLE

7. Will Amazon in Singapore make it?

amazon-singapore

Like all big brands that make a landing on this small island, the initial fanfare will be great until the news hits — prices for goods are worse than those you find overseas even with an unfavourable exchange rate.

This is not the first time we’re gonna see this happen, look at how Newegg worked out. You’re still better off getting PC parts from Sim Lim.

We all might hope and pray that things might be different this time around but seeing as to how Amazon Europe and Amazon Japan operate, it’s gonna be same old same old just with another e-commerce player in the field.

We hope to be wrong by the time this article rolls out again next year. – Gerald Chan

8. Will another local establishment make a major social media faux pas ( à la Western Co.)?
western-co-featured

Yes.

You would have thought that a service-dependent business should know better than to dismiss service recovery or even lambast a customer on social media platforms.

At the rate of these repeated sagas and rapid turnover of hipster cafes, we’re not sure if they are ever going to learn anything from it.

Besides, the “any publicity is good publicity” adage seems to be holding true so far, judging by the unrelenting queue even after the whole Western Co. debacle. – Mandy How

9. Which band is likely to be affected by Sports Hub’s “acoustics”?

Photo via
Photo via

There is possibility that Coldplay, easily one of the most anticipated acts for 2017, might be the most affected.

This is because of the sheer number of people coming for the concerts on Mar. 31 and Apr.1, both which have been fully sold out.

In other words, you’re going to have a lot of people who might find themselves squeezed in areas of the stadium with acoustics they may not necessarily be happy with, à la Jay Chou’s Sept 3 concert.

Image via
Image via

Complaints mainly addressed audiences being only able to hear muffled sounds and over-powered bass, if they were not seated in line with the speakers – which were not placed around the stadium as promised.

It remains to be seen whether this issue will be finally addressed – acoustics, they will try to fix you. – Guan Zhen Tan

10. Will Rui En change her ride?

I’m not sure about you but I don’t see that many matte black BMWs on the road.

After an accident earlier last year where her Batmobile Ruimobile BMW knocked down a stationary motorcycle in a carpark and uttered arguably the quote of 2016 (“Do you know who I am?”) to owner of said bike, the 35-year-old again tested the resolve of traffic police by going straight on a right-turn only lane on Dec 23 last year.

So will Rui En change her ride? Yes. At least change the paint job lah. – Xing Qi

11. Will Car-Free Sundays be driven to its own grave?

If there was a buzzword for 2016, it would probably be ‘car-lite’. From the bohemian haven that is Bussorah Street to the cultured boulevards of the Civic District, it seems Singaporeans can’t wait to ditch their cars in favour of their own two legs.

And it looks like Singapore isn’t putting the brakes on this ‘car-lite’ vision anytime soon. By the first quarter of 2017, a new and improved Bencoolen Street would open to the public, featuring bicycle parking spaces, cycling paths, sheltered walkways, and everything else in an urban planner’s wet dream. More importantly, the number of car lanes on Bencoolen Street would be reduced from four to two. If you listen carefully, you can hear the cries of drivers everywhere.

Artist impression of Bencoolen Street.

Car-Free Sundays, which started as a trial in February 2016, saw roads in the Civic District closed every last Sunday of the month to encourage less driving. In place of cars, the roads saw participants take part in mass aerobics, walking trails, and leisurely picnic sessions for those who aren’t used to any form of physical exertion before noon. As of October 2016, the event has returned and grown to cover more roads and include a wide selection of community-led activities. 

So are we going to see less of Car-Free Sundays in 2017? We’re not betting on it. The more salient question to ask is – is your life going to be ‘car-lite’ in 2017? – Joshua Lee

SPORTS

12. What sponsorship deal will Joseph Schooling score?

Illustration by Goh Wei Choon
Illustration by Goh Wei Choon

A swimming prodigy who trumped his idol at the Olympics (not unlike this Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods ad). Good pan-Asian looks that’ll fit right into Asia’s advertisements. A clean, spotless public image. Its only matter of time before brands come flocking to Schooling.

Here’s to hoping Schooling doesn’t become the poster boy for another ‘essence of chicken’ product. Or a probiotics drink. There were rumours floating around claiming that Nike signed a deal for $30 million a year, but that’s as real as the Bukit Timah Monkey Man.

The 21-year-old champ has been seen wearing various brands like TYR and Mizuno, but it will be particularly poetic if he signed on with Under Armour. After all, Phelps is one of the sports apparel company’s greatest ambassadors. With the American heading for retirement, it seems only natural for the next generation of talent to step up.

And who else better than Singapore’s own Joseph Schooling? – He Ruiming

13. Will Liverpool finally win the EPL?

Source: Liverpool Facebook.
Source: Liverpool Facebook.

Short answer: Nope.

Okay I’m a United fan, so it’s pretty tough for me to be objective for this one. So let’s bring out some things that Rafa Benitez would refer to as “facts”:

Fact 1: Chelsea is looking like the real deal

Chelsea are 6 points clear at the summit. That’s not the only scary thing: They are equally impressive at both ends of the pitch, scoring 42 goals and letting in only 13 (league’s best). While Liverpool have a free-scoring frontline but a leaky backline, conceding 21 goals, highest among the top 4 teams.

Fact 2: No Mane, no honey

Sure, one man doesn’t make a team but Mane is vital to Liverpool’s title hopes. In 17 league games, the former Southampton man is the team’s top scorer, having scored eight, assisted four times and attempted 40 shots. In January, he will depart to represent Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations and will miss at least three EPL matches, including one against Manchester United.

Fact 3: X’mas Stats

Seven teams that topped the league at Christmas from the previous 10 seasons went on to win the league. Coincidentally, Liverpool were numero uno during 08/09 and 13/14 seasons but collapsed at the end.

Or maybe they are just not used to the view from the top. – Xing Qi

14. Will Chinese Football Clubs Break the World Transfer Record?

Tevez will join team in Okinawa for pre-season training in Jan. The first match will be ACL qualification match on Feb 8.

A photo posted by Shanghai Shenhua (@shanghaishenhua) on

No. But it’s probably a matter of time.

Chinese Super League (CSL) club Shanghai SIPG’s recent signing of Chelsea’s Brazilian international midfielder Oscar for a £52 million fee is the latest sign of Chinese clubs splashing the cash as they transform into a major force in world football finance.

The transfer makes Oscar the seventh most expensive player in football history.

And £52 million fee is not far away from the current world record, which is the transfer of French footballer Paul Pogba from Juventus to Man United for a fee of £89 – £93 million in August 2016.

The influx of foreign talent into China, especially within the last year or two, has captured the attention of global football. The inflationary impact of CSL clubs’ growing financial clout on the football transfer market is obvious.

For some football observers, CSL is a corrupt league that is all money and no credibility where clubs compete to snap up waning stars lusting for a last pay cheque from glamour European leagues. Backed by super wealthy owners, these clubs have now switched their sights to target the most high-profile players in their prime.

Six of the 14 best-paid footballers in the world are now playing in the CSL. Prominent footballers such as Hulk (Brazil), Graziano Pelle (Italy), Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina) and Jackson Martinez (Colombia) now ply their trade in the league.

Behind the drive to attain football excellence is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dream for football glory. While he was still vice-president in 2011, he expressed three wishes for China’s soccer future – for the country to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup. Since he became president in 2012, Chinese businessmen have rushed to back his vision, and buying up top players is just one aspect of the political investments they are making on this front.

China’s national team is in disarray — it is ranked 82nd in the world, just a place ahead of the Faroe Islands. In Oct 2016, the Chinese Football Association unveiled former Italy manager Marcello Lippi as coach, on a contract reportedly worth €20 million a year until 2019.

Football great leap forward or not, it is likely that we will not be watching live telecasts of CSL matches or hearing any awkward Chinese pronunciation of foreign footballers’ names any time soon, but it is clear that Chinese money as a footballing force is here to stay. – Chan Cheow Pong

OTHERS

15. Will Ichiran Ramen FINALLY come to Singapore?

Yes. We’re betting big money on this.

Why? Judging by the number of Japanese F&B names that arrived on our shores in 2016, and the way Singaporeans go absolutely insane over them, this wave of J-Food (erm, not an actual term) is only going to grow larger.

And make us queue longer. Not that Singaporeans are complaining though.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the Japanese F&B brands that conquered our tastebuds the past year: Tsuta Ramen (still got queue), BAKE cheese tart (still got queue), LeTAO cheesecake, Imakatsu Tonkatsu and Sandaime Bunji Beef Bowl.

Mmmmm.

Also, if it’s any indication, we found evidence that corroborates our prediction:

Screenshot via Instagram
Screenshot via Instagram

So what if it’s a private account instead of a public one. So what if the ichiran.sg webpage never ever seems to load. So what if we haven’t heard a peep of news about it yet when it’s already days past 01/01/17.

Ichiran will be here. You’ll see. – Tsiuwen Yeo

16: Will dance festivals like ZoukOut and Ultra Singapore die out? 

Not likely.

While it is astoundingly expensive to attend these festivals, such rituals are extremely necessary for the Millennial species to live on.

Because these festivals serve the important function of validating the Millennial’s hipster existence and self-esteem.

Photo via
Photo via

Who needs a round trip air ticket to Thailand when you can get a two-day pass AND an Instagram post to show off for the same price?

God forbid if the Millennial faces an existential crisis. There’s enough shit in this world to deal with. The prescription? More Nike shoes, Kylie Lipkits, Hardwell and dance festivals like ZoukOut.

So no, don’t expect to see these festivals disappear anytime soon. That’s like cutting off the Milliennial’s lifeline. How could you. You cruel being. – Tsiuwen Yeo

17. Will more buildings be conserved to preserve our heritage?

No.

2016 ended with Rochor Centre already slated for demolition by the end of December. However, it is likely that this deadline would be extended. This means that Rochor Centre is likely to be 2017’s first casualty of demolition in the name of progress and development.

Rochor Centre. Source
Rochor Centre. Source

Also teetering on the brink of demolition for the same reason in 2017 are Dakota Crescent, four low-rise HDB blocks in Siglap, and possibly part of the Ellison Building.

Low-rise HDB block in Siglap. Source
Low-rise HDB block in Siglap. Source

In October 2016, Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan called for Dakota Crescent to be conserved for the estate’s architectural, historical and social significance.

Dakota Crescent. Source
Dakota Crescent. Source

Meanwhile, the fate of the Ellison Building remains uncertain, as plans for its partial demolition have been halted, pending the recommendations of a conservation specialist.

Ellison Building. Source
Ellison Building. Source

On the flipside, the Urban Redevelopment Authority has said that the former National Aerated Water Company building might be conserved.

Former National Aerated Water Company building. Source
Former National Aerated Water Company building. Source

By the looks of it, 2017 is likely to see the further loss of our heritage through the demolition of buildings that have endeared themselves to many Singaporeans. While we recognise the need for progress and development, we can’t blame Singaporeans (especially the young) for lacking a sense of place or a curiosity on our history, when the places that they grew up with are knocked down. – Henedick Chng

Bonus prediction: Fake news will thrive like never before.

This is because there is no cure for stupidity. The fake news contagion cannot spread unless it has a host.

And the sad fact is that there are plenty of hosts around the world.

A matter of simple fact-checking can be lost on the masses, if you take a look at this simple meme that should have been debunked with a two-second glance at the calendar:

Instead thousands of people liked and shared it as if it were gospel truth.

Relying on technology or an algorithm to eradicate a propensity at credulity is meaningless. – Belmont Lay

 

Top photo from Roslan Rahman (AFP/ Getty Images).

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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & D. Bonhoeffer, the words of G.Orwell & T.Sorensen, & the music of the Beatles.

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