Asian Insider, Dec 4: Moon Jae-In reshuffles cabinet; Singapore awards digital full bank licences

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Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

Asian Insider Editor/Asia News Network Editor

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: Coronavirus cases cross a disturbing milestone; South Korea President Moon Jae-In reshuffles cabinet; Malaysian PM’s party deputy loses majority test; Singapore awards digital full bank licences; Bangladesh moves Rohingyas to flood-prone island; China to expand rail network by a third, and more.

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Coronavirus claims 1.5 million lives; 10,000 died every day last week

A new milestone was reached in the battle against coronavirus, with the number of deaths now exceeding 1.5 million. Half a million of these occurred in the past two months. Statistics show that nearly 10,000 people died every day this past week, because of the infection.

Globally, 65 million people have been infected, with the maximum number of cases in the United States. While countries like China and Taiwan have managed to contain the spread of the pandemic, other countries are still grappling with the spread.

Indonesia, yesterday, reported its highest daily Covid-19 surge with 8,369 cases, shattering all previous single-day records by a few thousand. India remains the world’s second-most affected with 9.5 million coronavirus cases. South Korea, meanwhile, is battling a third wave of infections.

Also read: 

India sets about increasing cold storage capabilities for Covid-19 vaccines

President Moon Jae-In reshuffles cabinet as approval rating sinks

President Moon Jae-In reshuffled his cabinet today as his approval ratings sank to a record low over increase in the number of coronavirus infections, backlash over housing policies and a corruption scandal involving the justice minister. 

New ministers for interior, health, land and housing, and gender were appointed as he sought to strengthen his administration. The President’s key goals include reforming the prosecutor’s office, and launching a new green initiative to take the country to net zero carbon by 2050.

Ahead of the reshuffle, a survey by pollster Realmeter showed Mr Moon’s approval ratings fell to 37.5 per cent, down from 43.8 per cent the previous week.

Also read: 

South Korea Moon Jae-in’s support hits record low amid prosecutor fight

‘Seoul stops at 9pm’: South Korea imposes new curbs as virus cases hit 9-month high

Malaysian PM’s party deputy voted out

In a turn of events that could have implications for stability of the Malaysian government in power, the deputy of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) lost his test of majority in the Perak state assembly. This brings to an end his two-year tenure as Perak Menteri Besar.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu garnered support of only 10 out of 59 state assemblymen during the Perak state assembly sitting on Friday (Dec 4) morning. Mr Ahmad Faizal is deputy president of Bersatu, whose president is Tan Sri Muhyiddin.

The vote also exposed the rift between Bersatu and its Perikatan Nasional (PN) ally Umno in the northern Malaysian state, writes Malaysia Correspondent Ram Anand.

Also read: 

Anwar set to continue as opposition chief despite missing deadline to topple Muhyiddin

Singapore awards digital full bank licences; Ant gets digital wholesale bank licence

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) today awarded digital full bank licences to the Grab-Singtel consortium and tech giant Sea, in a highly anticipated move that aims to liberalise the financial industry.

The new players will provide retail customers with services like opening an account, deposits, as well as debit and credit cards virtually, without the need for a physical presence.

Singapore’s central bank also issued digital wholesale bank licences to Ant Group; as well as a consortium comprising Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management. These parties can serve corporates and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Singapore joins others in a digital banking push. The list includes Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

Bangladesh transports Rohingya refugees to remote island

Bangladesh’s move to ship 1,600 Rohingya refugees from the southern port of Chittagong to the remote island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal is stoking concerns among those concerned about the plight of the refugees. The flood-prone island of Bhashan Char emerged from the sea 20 years ago and there are accusations that some have been forcibly moved.

In other news…

China’s plans for ambitious rail line: State planners in China announced today that Beijing will start construction of 10,000km of intercity and urban railway over the next five years in Yangtze River Delta, Greater Bay and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei areas. China plans to expand its railway network by one-third in the next decade and a half, reports said.

China lunar probe on way back to earth: Chinese space probe Chang’e-5 blasted off from the surface of the Moon on Thursday to return to Earth carrying the first lunar samples in four decades. Scientists hope the samples will help them learn about the Moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface.

Fake accounts behind China tweet that enraged Australia: A Chinese official’s tweet of an image of an Australian soldier that sparked a furious reaction from Canberra was amplified across social media by unusual accounts, of which half were likely fake, an Israeli cybersecurity firm Cyabra and Australian experts said. Cyabra said it found evidence of an orchestrated campaign to promote Mr Zhao’s tweet, and that 57.5 per cent of accounts that engaged with Mr Zhao’s tweet were fake. 

Indian teacher gives away half of US$1 million global prize: Indian teacher Ranjitsinh Disale was named the winner of a US$1 million award for his work in transforming the lives of young girls in a rural village. There were nearly 12,000 nominations from over 140 countries. After the announcement, Mr Disale decided to split half his winnings with his fellow finalists.

Thanks for reading The Straits Times and this newsletter. Have a good weekend and we’ll be back with you next week.    

Shefali

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