22 February 2019

Cross-country 5G video calls with augmented reality shown to work

Source: Singtel. An Optus engineer at Optus’ live 5G site in Sydney, Australia uses a OPPO 5G test device during a 5G AR video call to Singtel engineers in Singapore.
Source: Singtel. An Optus engineer at Optus’ live 5G site in Sydney, Australia uses a OPPO 5G test device during a 5G AR video call to Singtel engineers in Singapore.

Singtel, Optus and Ericsson have shown the shape of things to come after completing a successful end-to-end 5G video call with augmented reality (AR) between Singapore and Australia.

Made with OPPO 5G test devices equipped with Qualcomm 5G modems on 5G networks in both countries, this call shows that AR can be successfully used on a real-time 5G video call using Ericsson’s networks. Engineers made instant on-screen annotations to exchange views on their respective live 5G sites.

 AR provides users with a more inclusive form of communication, opening up new possibilities for enterprises, ranging from mobile collaboration between experts in different locations, on-the-job training to remote assistance. Examples of consumer use cases will include immersive gaming, virtual tactile shopping and holographic calls.

Allen Lew, CEO, Optus said, “Once again Optus has proven our 5G agility, working collaboratively with our colleagues in Singapore to successfully land a ground-breaking 5G inter-country AR video call. Just last month we achieved another first, with the launch of our plans for our 5G Home Broadband product for Australian consumers and today’s announcement is another step in our commitment to lead 5G delivery in Australia.”

Mark Chong, Group CTO, Singtel, said: “This call is a significant marker in our journey to 5G as we develop a robust 5G ecosystem to ensure that our enterprise and consumer customers will enjoy an enhanced connectivity experience. 5G is a key enabler that will bring the future of AR, autonomous vehicles and smart cities closer to reality.”

Martin Wiktorin, Country Head, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, Ericsson added: "The success of this video call using 5G test devices and AR in a multiparty environment, brings us a step closer to having our mobile broadband experience transformed with a mere click. With the establishment of 5G connectivity on smartphones soon becoming a reality, consumers and enterprises will be able to unleash the full potential of 5G by integrating this new technology into their daily lives and operations.”

Peter Huang, President of OPPO APAC added: “Once again, OPPO has pushed the boundaries of what is possible in a smartphone. The call is another 5G first for OPPO, and demonstrates our commitment to become one of, if not the first manufacturer to commercialise a 5G smartphone.”

According to Ericsson’s Towards a 5G consumer future – Consumer and Industry Insight report 2018, the idea of 5G services appeals to 76% of smartphone users consulted for the survey. In fact, over one-third of users expect 5G to offer capabilities beyond speed and network coverage. This refers to improvements such as better battery life for devices, reliability, guaranteed quality of service as well as the ability to extend connectivity beyond devices to include the Internet of Things (IoT).

21 February 2019

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brings art installation celebrating 200 properties globally to Singapore

Video of Hall with the bottles shaping the number '200'.
Video of Hall with the bottles shaping the number '200'.
Luxury hotel brand InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has partnered with UK-based contemporary artist Alexander Hall, also known under the alias Haut de Gamme, to create an art installation commemorating 200 InterContinentals - 200 InterContinental hotels and resorts around the world.

The art installation is made from 200 champagne bottles handpainted by Hall in his energetic drip style. The artwork on each bottle is unique, with the design of each one inspired by one of the InterContinental brand’s 200 hotels (and counting). The finished bottles are suspended together to reveal the number ‘200’.

Hall said, “When I first started painting champagne bottles I just wanted it to make people feel something positive. Champagne for me means happiness, joy, celebration and the idea of bringing people together. That’s why I decided to paint on champagne bottles to celebrate the 200 InterContinental hotels. I wanted the bottles to reflect each InterContinental hotel’s unique personality, design and location, as well as the legacy and pioneering spirit of the founder, Juan Trippe.”

Michael Martin, Regional GM for Singapore, Malaysia and Batam, and Gat InterContinental Singapore commented: “We are very privileged to be a part of the “200 InterContinentals” landmark celebrations. With InterContinental Singapore being the flagship luxury hotel in Southeast Asia, we are delighted to see that our heritage, along with other InterContinental hotels around the world had inspired such incredible art. This will only serve as a motivation for us to continue to commandeer luxury hospitality in Singapore as we have done since 1995.”

Tania Getzova, GM at InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay also said of the achievement, “With so many notable hotels in the world, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has definitely made its mark on the world stage. We will continue to embrace authentic travel as an important and essential part of life and we look forward to the continued growth of the InterContinental brand as we forge into the future!”

Martin with one of his favourite bottles, the one for the  InterContinental Singapore.
Martin with one of his favourite
bottles, the one for the
InterContinental Singapore.
The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland is the 200th hotel for the brand worldwide and is built into the side wall of a formerly abandoned quarry in Southwestern Shanghai, China. The 18-storey architectural masterpiece has two floors above ground, and 16 below, including two floors underwater. In Asia, the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam was also launched in 2018.

The InterContinental Hotels & Resorts is today the world’s largest luxury hotel brand, nearly twice the size of its nearest competitor. In February 2019 the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced the acquisition of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, one of the world’s leading operators of luxury hotels, resorts and spas. The brand has a history of pioneering luxury travel.

Explore:

View some of the 200 bottles on Facebook

Hashtags: #InterContinentalLife, #InterContinental200

18 February 2019

Tableau now supports natural language processing

Tableau Software, the analytics platform, has leveraged the power of natural language processing to enable people to ask questions in plain language and get a visual response right in Tableau. The technology determines the intent behind the question to provide more relevant answers.

This patent pending capability makes it easier for people, regardless of skillset, to engage with data and produce analytical insights they can share with others without any setup or programming. Ask Data is available as part Tableau’s newest release, Tableau 2019.1.

Users can type a question such as, “What were my sales this month?,” and Tableau will return an interactive visualisation that they can explore. There is no need to have a deep understanding of the data structure, no setup required and no programming skills necessary.

“Data is the currency of Singapore’s new digital economy. In the upcoming Budget announcement, the government is expected to offer help for businesses to adapt to technological disruption and support tech adoption. "We believe data should be accessible to all and with Ask Data, we’re making it easier than ever for anyone, regardless of expertise to analyse data,” said Leslie Ong, Country Manager, Southeast Asia at Tableau.

“Ask Data is a new, integrated natural language capability that provides a more intuitive and natural way to interact with data, lowering the barrier to entry for analytics and allowing people to ask questions in plain language and get insights faster. First pioneered by Tableau with drag-and-drop functionality, Ask Data is the next stage in the evolution of self-service analytics.”

Ask Data uses sophisticated algorithms which help to understand a person’s question, anticipate needs, and allow for smart visualisations. For example, when someone types in “APAC furniture” for their sales data, they can narrow down entries for “Product Name” in a database to “Furniture,” and “Region” to “Asia Pacific”. Ask Data also has contextual knowledge about real-world concepts: “Furniture” is a common value for the “Product Name” field and “APAC” is an acronym of “Asia Pacific.”

Additionally, Ask Data’s parser automatically cuts through ambiguous language, making it easy for people to ask questions in a natural, colloquial way. This means, if a question could be interpreted multiple ways, Ask Data will combine knowledge about the data source with past user activity and present a number of valid options to choose from.

Tableau also announced the general availability of Prep Conductor, a new product that enables organisations to schedule and manage self-service data preparation at scale with no programming or complicated setup. Tableau Prep Conductor is part of a new subscription package called Tableau Data Management.

Prep Conductor automates flows created in Prep Builder, a renamed Tableau data prep product that is already in use by more than 11,000 customer accounts. According to Tableau, Prep Conductor will help organisations ensure that clean and analysis-ready data is always available. It also provides added visibility and detail behind cleaning history and data connections, as well as alerts when processes are not operating as scheduled.

Tableau Prep Conductor gives IT the ability to monitor and set up automatic cleaning processes (flows) for their data across the entire server. It also allows customers to build permissions specifically around data flows and data sources in order to maintain control and meet data compliance standards and policies.

Tableau will add more data management capabilities, such as data cataloguing, to the subscription package later this year. These capabilities will enhance data discoverability for end users. IT will be able to see the lineage between data and workbooks, so they can track the impact of any changes to the data.

The first release of 2019 also includes a Google Ads connector, which will help marketers analyse their website data more easily and blend it with other data sources across their organisation. This connector adds to the more than 65 native connectors available today like Google BigQuery, Salesforce, Amazon Redshift, PDFs and SAP Hana. With the new Export to PowerPoint feature that resizes visualisations and dashboards to slides, customers can present their analysis with the click of a button.

Details:

The Data Management package is available today as an add-on to Tableau Server for US$5.50 per user per month. To purchase the Tableau Data Management package, customers will need to upgrade to Tableau 2019.1 and purchase it as a licensed add-on product.

Canon adds second camera to mirrorless EOS R range, shares RF lens roadmap

Canon has launched the EOS RP, its second in the new EOS R range of full-frame interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras.

The most compact and lightest model in the EOS full-frame series, the EOS RP offers outstanding performance. It features the new RF lens mount and Canon proprietary technology, including a DIGIC 8 image processor with Dual Pixel CMOS AF that delivers unparalleled optical excellence.

Weighing 485 g and built significantly smaller than other EOS cameras, the EOS RP is easier to handle, especially for users who are new to full-frame cameras. For users who prefer more heft, an optional Extension Grip (EG-E1) can ensure firmer handling.

EOS RP’s Vari-angle touch-screen LCD screen offers users the opportunity to shoot from unusual angles and to try out unique framing. Armed with a customisable electronic viewfinder (EVF) that provides 100% coverage, EOS RP’s EVF has a 2.36 million-dot OLED display, especially useful when working under bright and glaring conditions.

"The sister to Canon's first full-frame mirrorless camera EOS R, the new camera is designed for photography enthusiasts and amateur photographers with its compact and lightweight body at an attractive price," said Edwin Teoh, Head of Marketing, Singapore Operations, Canon Singapore.

"Inspired by the French word 'populaire', which means 'popular', the EOS RP was created with the vision that it would become the everyday consumer's go-to camera for superb quality images."

Powered by Canon’s EOS R System, the EOS RP is equipped with the RF lens mount introduced in the EOS R. The RF mount sports a short-flange focal distance of 20 mm and was designed to allow more possibilities in lens design and innovation. Existing EOS users can still utilise their existing collection of EF and EF-S lenses using the optional mount adapter.

The EOS RP embodies the familiar strengths of Canon’s EOS performance and excellent ergonomics. Driven by Canon’s DIGIC 8 image processor, the EOS RP is able to deliver excellent image quality in any situation. Its Auto Lighting Optimiser feature balances the brightest and darkest points to accentuate the details of the images, delivering a well-exposed image, even in backlit conditions. The EOS RP is equipped with a 26.2-megapixel Full-Frame CMOS sensor to capture vivid images with crisp details. Its native ISO range of 100-40,000, which can be expanded to ISO range of 50-102,400, produces low-noise images with rich details, even in low-light conditions.

Corrects aberrations, diffraction and optical distortions

The Dual Sensing IS of the EOS RP detects camera shakes from its gyroscopic sensor and the CMOS sensor provides image stabilisation that allows users to capture images at shutter speed of up to five stops slower, most useful especially in low-light situations. The in-camera Digital Lens Optimiser corrects aberrations, diffraction and optical distortions as you shoot, producing excellent image quality right out of the camera.

Equipped with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF that provides smooth and lightning-fast autofocus speed of up to 0.05 seconds, users can capture fleeting moments. Users are also free to create unique compositions using the 4,779 selectable AF positions within an expanded AF area that covers approximately 100% vertically and 88% horizontally of the frame. The minimum AF luminance of EV -5 of EOS RP provides accurate focus even in poorly-lit conditions.

The Eye Detection AF, which even works in Servo AF mode, will detect and ensure that the subject’s eye is always in focus even at wide open aperture, especially useful when the subject is moving. In situations which require minimum disturbance, the camera’s Silent Mode enables users to shoot without the sound of a shutter release.

Large depth of field

For users looking to create images with a large depth of field where everything in the image is in focus, the Focus Bracketing feature of EOS RP comes in handy, especially when shooting macro. It automatically shoots a series of photos based on predetermined settings such as number of shots, focusing range and first focus point. The series of images could be stitched together to form the final image using the Digital Photo Professional software.

Finger-led transitions

Together with Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the EOS RP shoots in 4K resolution at 24p/25p video footage, allowing users to focus accurately and shoot smoothly. With Touch & Drag AF, users can create pull-focus effects and also enable focus transitions by moving their finger from one to another part of the frame on the LCD screen. Combination IS provides users with stable footage even without a tripod through the innovative and improved communication of the RF mount between the sensor and the lens.

When recording video with the RF lens, users can adjust the AV setting to make ⅛-stop aperture adjustments, allowing users more precise control over exposure to match the lighting conditions of the shoot. When shooting manually, the MF Peaking function becomes essential, ensuring accurate focusing by highlighting areas in focus.

Direct charging

Apart from charging the batteries with the included external charger, the EOS RP can be quickly charged directly using the optional USB Power Adapter PD-E1 through its Hi-Speed (USB 2.0/Type C) Interface.

Transferring images from the EOS RP to either a smart device or computer is easy via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. Users can perform network-related functions with the Canon Camera Connect mobile app. When paired, the automatic data transfer function can send photos to users’ smartphones while they are still taking photos. This helps with the management of photos, removing the hassle of having to manually transfer images after shooting.
Source: :Canon Singapore. The EOS RP with the RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens.
Source: Canon Singapore. The EOS RP with the
RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens.
ensure firmer handling.

The Canon lens strategy

Canon also shared the roadmap for six new RF lenses in 2019. The new optical designs for these lenses are made possible by the large diameter mount and short back focus of the RF mount system.

RF15-35 mm f/2.8L IS USM

The ultra-wide zoom lens features a large f/2.8 widest aperture. The RF15-35 mm f/2.8L IS USM provides the extreme wide-angle view in close, tight situations and is suitable for landscapes. The focal length of 15 mm to 35 mm is versatile for everyday captures all the way to wedding photography. Paired with the Image Stabilizer, the RF15-35 mm f/2.8L IS USM performs exceptionally well in low-light conditions.

RF24-70 mm f/2.8L IS USM

The RF24-70 mm f/2.8L IS USM is an L-series standard zoom lens compact enough to carry around while maintaining a large f/2.8 widest aperture. RF24-70 mm f/2.8L IS USM is expected to be an all-rounder with an edge during low-light conditions.

RF70-200 mm f/2.8L IS USM

The popular telephoto zoom lens now comes with a significantly smaller body. Equipped with the maximum aperture of f/2.8 and image stabilisation, RF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM provides an unprecedented shooting experience for sports, wedding, wildlife and even landscape.

RF85 mm f/1.2L USM

The RF85 mm f/1.2L USM is an L-series medium telephoto prime lens, featuring edge-to-edge resolution even at the maximum aperture of f/1.2.

RF85 mm f/1.2L USM DS

While inheriting the high overall performance and specifications of the RF85mm f/1.2L USM, the RF85 mm f/1.2L USM DS is Canon's first lens to feature the Defocus Smoothing (DS) effect. The effect is made possible by new coating technology that produces softer and smoother bokeh. This was once considered impossible with conventional optics.

RF24-240 mm f/4-6.3 IS USM

The RF24-240 mm f/4-6.3 IS USM is a compact and lightweight zoom lens with a wide 24 mm to a high 240 mm (10x zoom). This highly versatile lens value adds to the EOS R system for both stills and video shooting.

Details:

The Canon EOS RP and its accessories will be available for pre-order from authorised Canon dealers till 26 February 2019.

Model
Pre-order price
Recommended retail price
EOS RP (body only)
S$1,999
S$1,999
EOS RP Kit (EF-S24 mm f/2.8 STM)
S$2,118
S$2,218
EOS RP Kit (EF 40 mm f/2.8 STM)
S$2,198
S$2,298
EOS RP Kit (RF 24-105 mm f/4L IS USM)
S$3,498
(After cashback of S$200, given at point of purchase)
S$3,698

Pre-orders will be entitled to up to S$556 worth of free gifts which includes the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R (worth S$159), Battery LP-E17 (worth S$79), Sandisk Extreme 64 GB SDXC (worth S$41), THULE Powershuttle Plus (worth S$49), and PROLINK Smart Charger (worth S$59). Additionally, there will be a F-Stop Florentine bag (worth S$169) with purchases of the EOS RP kit with RF24-105 mm f/4L IS USM. Promotional gifts are subject to registration of the online warranty and will be redeemable at the Canon Customer Care Centre from 5 March 2019.

Pricing of the extension grip will be advised at a later time.

Product specifications for the EOS RP:

Dimensions: Approximately 132.5 x 85.3 x 70 mm

Weight: 485 g

Image sensor: 26.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor

Imaging processor: DIGIC 8

ISO speed: 100-40,000 expandable to 50-102,400

Continuous shooting speed: Max 5 fps (One Shot AF), 4 fps (Servo AF)

Maximum video quality: 4K 24p

AF: 4,779 available AF point positions; 143 AF area divisions for auto AF mode

Wi-Fi / Bluetooth: Yes

LCD: 3” (approx. 1.04 million dots) Vari-angle touch panel

Battery: LP-E17

14 February 2019

Experience Nihonbashi culture at the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo has completed a renovation of its 179 guestrooms and suites that combines Japanese craftmanship with the latest technology to ensure a thoroughly contemporary Japanese experience.

Textile designer Reiko Sudo and art director Ryu Kosaka have transformed the guestrooms and suites, and built on the existing woods and water interior design theme. To honour the hotel’s location in Nihonbashi, an area that is closely connected to the culture of the kimono, Sudo has used locally-produced fabrics in all suite and guestroom interiors.

Bespoke fabrics and furnishings representing the woodlands and the changing seasons have been incorporated throughout, with autumn leaf colours of gold, orange and purple and blooming springtime wisteria and sakura patterns embroidered onto headboards.

All accommodation has also been equipped with the latest Internet protocol television (IPTV), which allows for high-quality picture and sound from both Apple and Android devices to be experienced on 49-77" screens.

Mandarin Grand Rooms

Contemporary Japanese style and materials abound, ranging from an embroidered headboard depicting weeping cherry blossoms to a light fixture made from bamboo strings. Curvaceous lines, such as the round table and curved back for the chaise longue, create a welcoming atmosphere.

Suites

Featuring the original Flower Shower textile pattern on furnishings, such as the sofa and chairs in the living room, the hotel’s restyled suites are designed to conjure up thoughts of blissful moments with flowers. A wisteria in full bloom is embroidered onto each headboard, while each bedside chest is crafted with wood from the Paulownia tree.

A silver-leaf round table and gold-leaf embossed cabinet brighten the living room, while the carpet blends the look of Japanese ink and brush work with a motif of clouds and gentle breezes, a nod to the extensive views of Tokyo that can be enjoyed from the hotel’s suites.

Another quintessentially Japanese highlight are lampshades inspired by the andon, a traditional Japanese lamp. Made from washi paper, these have been placed in asymmetrical positions throughout each bedroom.

Source: Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo website. The Presidential Suite.

Presidential Suite

The 250 sq m Presidential Suite is the largest and most luxurious suite in the hotel. Inspired by gardens and bonsai, the suite is a beautiful reference to nature, conjuring a feeling of walking in a park, including specially-commissioned photographic wall artwork depicting inspirational treescapes from Tokyo’s parks.

Featuring an abundance of natural daylight and several distinctive seating areas, the living room is the perfect spot for enjoying drinks. There is a separate library.

The nature theme continues in the dining room, which is dressed with a photographic mural depicting sun shining through the tree branches from one of Tokyo’s parks. The dining room’s ceiling light resembles the sun and its cabinets are decorated with motifs of birds, butterflies and plants.

The bedroom ceiling is created to give the illusion of looking at the sky through trees, while its carpet design evokes the world of origami. Offering sweeping views across Tokyo, the bathroom is equipped with a bathtub that has built-in fibreoptic lighting that colours the bathwater.

When visible, Mount Fuji can be viewed from any part of the Presidential Suite.

Meetings

The ballroom is fitted with 36 projectors enabling 360-degree projection - the first of its kind in Japan. All rooms are fitted with high speed Internet connections, both wired and wireless. The hotel also offers screens in all conference and meeting rooms, an advanced lighting system, TV conferencing facilities, and LAN cabling on request. A dedicated conference manager will oversee each event, managing details such as rooms, catering and meeting facilities.

As part of an event, the hotel can devise a programme of cultural experiences for delegates including Bushido martial art lessons, traditional tea ceremonies or receiving gifts of bespoke fans created by historic local craftsmen.

There are also two private conference rooms for up to four executives.

Details:

Book Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo’s Nihonbashi Package which includes accommodation, breakfast for two and the choice of a cultural experience in the historic Nihonbashi district.

13 February 2019

Financial inclusion could accelerate economic growth in the Arab world

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called for the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and financial inclusion in the Arab world.

Christine Lagarde, MD, IMF spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai, UAE about doing more in Arab countries to increase growth and job opportunities for all. She noted that SMEs help create jobs, diversify economies, and support growth.

"In the Arab region, SMEs represent 96% of registered companies. They also employ half of the labour force. Yet their access to finance is the lowest in the world: lending to SMEs in the region is only 7% of total bank lending.

"We found that closing this financial inclusion gap – with respect to the average of emerging and developing countries – would yield multiple economic benefits:

"- It could boost annual economic growth by up to 1%o, potentially leading to about 15 million new jobs by 2025 in the Arab region.

"- It could also increase the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies, by improving domestic revenue mobilisation and monetary policy transmission.

It is clear then, that supporting and enabling SMEs is a key component of any inclusive growth agenda," she said.

IMF research has found that promoting SME financial inclusion requires a holistic approach. "To achieve meaningful, safe and sustainable SME access to finance, there is no magic bullet. And partial approaches are unlikely to suffice," she said.

Three success factors, Lagarde said, are sound economic fundamentals and financial sectors, institutional factors, and alternative channels for SME finance.

This translates into levelling the playing field for SMEs, maintaining a competitive economy and a banking sector that facilitates market entry for SMEs; good governance and financial supervisory capacity, availability of credit information, as well as strong legal frameworks; tapping capital markets and supporting the development of SME capital market segments.

"Fintech is also a potential game changer for SMEs: it can increase competition among credit providers and expand credit information," she said.

A departmental paper on how SME financial inclusion is at the core of the economic diversification, growth, and addressing job creation challenges many countries are facing was launched on February 12.

Source: IMF website. Infographic on boosting economic growth and job creation in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Source: IMF website. Infographic on boosting economic growth and job creation in the Middle East and Central Asia.

In other announcements the IMF said:

Jordan

Exports in Jordan increased in 2018, supported by the re-opening of the border with Iraq. Tourism has grown strongly, and credit to the private sector has grown at solid rates for the third consecutive year, according to an IMF team who visited Amman from January 27-February 7, to discuss the country’s recent economic developments; economic policies and reforms under Jordan’s reform programme supported by a three-year IMF extended fund facility (EFF) arrangement.

Team leader Martin Cerisola said economic growth remained at about 2% and inflation remained relatively steady, falling below 4% by year-end. "Weak growth and investment remain insufficient to generate more jobs, with unemployment at around 18%, presenting difficult conditions for the population," he said.

“The outlook for the Jordanian economy brings renewed momentum. The re-opening of the border with Iraq and associated trade and investment agreements; the extension and broadening of the trade agreement with the European Union; as well as other efforts to lower the cost of generating energy, all bode well for a steady recovery in investment, exports, competitiveness, and growth. However, challenges still remain, particularly from tighter and more volatile global financing conditions and elevated vulnerabilities."

UAE

The UAE economy is starting to recover from the 2015–16 slowdown caused by a decline in oil prices, the IMF said. Growth momentum is expected to strengthen in the next few years with increased investment and private sector credit, improved prospects in trading partners, and a boost to tourism from Expo 2020.

Non-oil growth is projected to rise to 3.9% in 2019 and 4.2% in 2020. The oil sector’s prospects have also improved with higher oil prices and output. Overall real GDP growth is projected at around 3.7% for 2019–20. Inflation is expected to remain low, notwithstanding the introduction of the value-added tax (VAT) earlier in 2018.

IMF directors agreed that creating a vibrant, diversified, and knowledge-based economy will require continued reforms to boost the role of the private sector and promote talent and inclusiveness. They welcomed recent reforms, including the liberalisation of foreign investment, and encouraged the authorities to swiftly implement them, while broadening and deepening policy initiatives to improve productivity and competitiveness.

Timor-Leste

Government spending is expected to regain momentum in 2019, with non-oil GDP growth projected at 5%. "Inflation rose in 2018 and is expected to reach around 3% by end-2019, below the government’s target of 4%," said Niklas Westelius of the IMF, who visited Timor-Leste from January 14-25 to conduct the 2019 Article IV Consultation discussions.

Westelius added, “Political uncertainty constitutes the main downside risk to the near-term outlook, with the potential to reduce public spending and slow reform efforts. Over the medium-term, insufficient progress to diversify the economy and create private-sector jobs could worsen labour market outcomes.

"Moreover, with oil revenue from active fields expected to end in 2022, continued drawdowns of the Petroleum Fund could pose risks to long-run fiscal sustainability. Beyond the medium-term, the development of the Greater Sunrise fields represents an upside risk, provided that the project is technically and economically viable and that proper safeguards are taken to minimise funding risks.'

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong SAR’s economy is expected to grow 3.5% in 2018 and 2.9% in 2019 according to IMF projections. The organisation said private consumption aided by a tight labour market and investment are expected to continue to support growth, with headwinds coming from the increased trade tensions, tighter global financial conditions, and slower growth in mainland China.

Risks to the outlook include the further escalation of global trade tensions, possible disorderly tightening of global financial conditions, slower-than-expected growth in mainland China, and a sharp housing market correction.

Explore:

Read the Financial Inclusion of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Middle East and Central Asia report

Hashtag: #finaccess