Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) appoints new Managing Director
Mr Ravi Menon was appointed Managing Director of MAS with effect from 2 April 2011. He took over from Mr Heng Swee Keat, who retired from the Administrative Service on 2 April 2011.
Mr Menon started his career in MAS in 1987 and became its Assistant Managing Director in 2002. He spent a year at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, as a member of the Secretariat to the Financial Stability Forum, which was established in 1999 by G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to promote global financial stability. Mr Menon was seconded to the Ministry of Finance in 2003 where he was appointed Deputy Secretary (Policy). He joined the Administrative Service in 2005. In 2009, Mr Menon was appointed Permanent Secretary (Trade and Industry).
Mr Heng will continue as a Director on the MAS Board. Mr Koh Yong Guan, Chairman, Central Provident Fund Board, stepped down from the Board with effect from 1 April 2011.
More information can be found at MAS’s website http://www.mas.gov.sg.
Second Reading of Deposit Insurance and Policy Owner's Protection Schemes Bill 2011 in Parliament
This Bill enhances existing protection schemes for depositors and insurance policy owners, and brings them together into a single piece of legislation. The Deposit Insurance Act which established the Deposit Insurance (“DI”) Scheme, as well as provisions under the Insurance Act relating to the Policy Owners’ Protection (“PPF”) Scheme, will be repealed as a result. The proposed enhancements in this Bill will strengthen the protection of depositors and owners of insurance policies. More information can be found at MAS’s website http://www.mas.gov.sg.
Second Reading of Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 in Parliament
The Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 will amend the Insurance Act (Cap 142) to enhance MAS’ powers in relation to the resolution of a failing insurer. This will reinforce protection to policy owners. The Bill will align the resolution powers in the Insurance Act (“IA”) with that in the Banking Act (“BA”), providing MAS with a broader range of resolution options in dealing with a failing insurer. The Bill will also strengthen MAS’ ability to make arrangements so far as reasonably practicable for securing continuity in insurance coverage when an insurer fails. More information can be found at MAS’s website http://www.mas.gov.sg.
Launch of Private Banking Code of Conduct
The Monetary Authority of Singapore welcomed the launch of a Code of Conduct for the private banking industry in Singapore (PB Code) by the Private Banking Advisory Group (PBAG) today. The PB Code is the result of an industry-led effort to enhance the competency of private banking professionals and foster high market conduct standards. It is applicable to financial institutions and their staff engaged in private banking activities in Singapore. Under the PB Code, private banking professionals are expected to pass a common competency assessment called the Client Advisor Competency Standards (CACS) before they provide any financial advice. More information can be found at MAS’s website http://www.mas.gov.sg.
Opening of Corporate Bank Account Following Successful Registration with ACRA
Since 2007, Bizfile (ACRA’s online filing and information retrieval system) has been providing one-stop business facilitation value-added services to customers at the point of registration. These services include reserving domain names with SGNIC, GST registration with IRAS, subscribing for the EnterpriseOne e-newsletter and activating a Customs Account with Singapore Customs. These services help facilitate a seamless business process for customers, saving both time and costs for starting a business in Singapore.
ACRA has recently launched a new value-added service. All business entities can now apply online for a bank account immediately after successful registration with ACRA. This is an important initiative as business entities are likely to open a corporate bank account to do business in Singapore. The pilot phase with DBS was introduced on 24 February 2011.
ACRA is providing this service free of charge. Applicants need only fill up minimal information online as most details will be auto-populated by Bizfile. The information is transmitted to the bank on a daily basis for processing. Applicants can even select their preferred bank branch as well as make an appointment to call at the bank to open the account in person.
More details can be found at ACRA’s website http://www.acra.gov.sg
Companies Act Amendments
More than 200 proposed changes to the Companies Act were submitted to the Finance Ministry by the Steering Committee that was tasked with reviewing the Companies Act. These recommendations are expected to reduce the regulatory burdens of companies and improve company management.
One recommendation is to replace the concept of an exempt private company with a new definition of a small company, which would include companies that do not have more than S$10 million in annual revenue and gross assets, as well as not having more than 50 employees. It was felt that this change will help open up audit and filing exemptions to at least six-in-10 companies in Singapore.
Another recommendation was to extend the use of statutory derivative action to listed companies. This would effectively allow shareholders to sue directors for a breach of duty - something they cannot do under the current Act.
The Committee has also recommended that banks or the custodians of shares be able to appoint more proxies at Annual General Meetings (AGMs). This would potentially allow more Central Provident Fund investors to attend AGMs.
There had been expectations that the committee would recommend a list of duties for company directors to follow. However, the Committee decided against it as it was of the view that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may not be appropriate.
The list of recommendations is subject to acceptance by the Ministry of Finance. The Committee expects the Act to ‘shape up’ over the next one to two years. The Act was last reviewed in December 1999.
Pro-Tem SAC invites tenders for development of Qualification Programme
The Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector (CDAS) had recommended the development of a globally-recognised, Singapore-branded, post-university professional accountancy qualification programme (the Programme) to train audit professionals and professional accountants. In addition, the qualification is expected to have international portability and an “Asian market value factor”.
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), on behalf of the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council (Pro-Tem SAC), are inviting tenders for the procurement of consultancy services to develop this new Singapore post-university professional accountancy programme.
The tender seeks to invite proposals from interested parties with the relevant expertise to act as a Consultant to the Pro-Tem SAC in the development of the Programme, and is open for a period of eight weeks. It closed on 1 July 2011.
More details can be found at ACRA’s website http://www.acra.gov.sg
Double Taxation Agreements
The agreement with Ireland for the avoidance of double taxation (“DTA”) has come into force. This agreement is Singapore’s 65th DTA and will encourage and facilitate cross-border trade and investment between Singapore and Ireland, by providing greater clarity on taxing rights and minimising the scope of double taxation between the two nations. Amongst other provisions, the DTA provides for tax exemption in the country of source on profits derived from the operations of ships or aircraft in international traffic and lower withholding tax rates for dividends, interest and royalties. The DTA also includes the internationally agreed Standard for the exchange of information for tax purposes upon request. The full text of the DTA is available at IRAS’s website http://www.iras.gov.sg
Singapore and Italy signed an Additional Protocol to incorporate the internationally agreed Standard for the exchange of information for tax purposes, upon request, in their standing DTA, among other provisions. The protocol will enter into force after its ratification by both countries. The full text of the protocol is available at IRAS’s website http://www.iras.gov.sg.