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Parliament in brief: What you need to know about online obscene media, tourism spending and household wealth

SINGAPORE — The distribution of obscene materials through the internet, trends in consumer spending here, as well as the growth of household wealth were among some of the questions raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Parliament in brief: What you need to know about online obscene media, tourism spending and household wealth
  • The following were gleaned from some written replies to parliamentary questions filed by MPs
  • For obscene media found on OnlyFans website, the Government has to look beyond banning in dealing with such content
  • Consumer spending among residents is expected to increase in 2022 with the progressive easing of Covid-19 restrictions
  • Household net wealth is estimated to have increased by 34 per cent between the fourth quarter of 2017 and third quarter of 2021 

SINGAPORE — The distribution of obscene materials through the internet, trends in consumer spending here, as well as the growth of household wealth were among some of the questions raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Here are some extracts of written answers for the questions.

1. The distribution of obscene media

Question by Dr Shahira Abdullah, Nominated MP:

  • Will the Ministry or Communications and Information consider banning the OnlyFans website, which can be used for the distribution of obscene media?

Reply by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of Communications and Information:

It will not be possible to block all objectionable or obscene content on the internet. Hence, the Government have to look beyond banning and "take a holistic approach" to deal with such content, she said.

This is even though it is illegal to transmit any obscene material by electronic means, advertise the sale of these materials, or participate in or receive profits from any business where obscene materials are transmitted electronically receive, under Singapore's penal code. 

OnlyFans is a content subscription service, which allows content creators to post content and receive payment from directly from their followers.

A 22-year-old content creator from the site, Titus Low, was arrested and charged last month for transmitting obscene materials, but not all content posted on the platform is objectionable. 

Its terms of service require users to be at least 18 years old and prohibit creators from posting egregious content such as revenge porn.

Members of the public may report suspected violations of the terms of service directly to the platform.

"We must ensure that such content creation platforms do not expose Singaporeans to the risk of exploitation and abuse, especially our youth," Mrs Teo said.

2. Consumer and tourism spending

Questions by Mr Liang Eng Hwa, MP for Bukit Panjang:

  • In the last five years, what is the annual amount of domestic consumer spending, with a breakdown by luxury and non-luxury items respectively?
  • How much of the reduction in local tourism spending in the last two years have been offset by higher domestic spending?
  • What is the expected trend in domestic consumer spending in 2022? 

Reply by Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong: 

As of Dec 1 last year, S$280 million in vouchers and additional expenditure had been spent under the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme.

In 2019, tourism receipts hit close to S$28 billion and fell to less than S$5 billion in 2020.

"We expect further declines in 2021 because of the international travel restrictions put in place by many countries," Mr Gan said. 

The domestic consumption expenditure of residents was:

  • S$134.4 billion in 2016
  • S$139.3 billion in 2017
  • S$146.3 billion in 2018
  • S$151.8 billion in 2019
  • S$147.1 billion in 2020

It is expected to increase this year with the progressive easing of Covid-19 restrictions. 

"Nonetheless, this increase is unlikely to make up for the fall in tourism receipts," Mr Gan said.

“As the recovery in visitor arrivals is expected to be slow, activity in some consumer-facing sectors, like the food-and-beverage services sector, may not return to pre-Covid levels by the end of 2022."

3. Household wealth

Questions by Mr Liang Eng Hwa, MP for Bukit Panjang:

  • In the last five years, what is the annual level of household net wealth and savings respectively?
  • What are the factors contributing to the changes?
  • What proportion of the household net wealth is held in domestic real estate?
  • Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected households’ propensity to save?

Reply by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam: 

Household net wealth is estimated to have increased by 34 per cent between the fourth quarter of 2017 and third quarter of 2021. 

The increase has been driven by both residential property assets and financial assets.

As at the third quarter of 2021, about 42 per cent of household assets are held in residential properties and the remaining 58 per cent in financial assets.

Annual personal savings increased by 58 per cent from S$67 billion in 2017 to S$106 billion in 2020.

The increase is due to wage growth and private consumption increasing at a slower pace than income growth, as a maturing population actively saves for retirement. 

The personal saving rate has gone up to 29 per cent in 2019 from 22 per cent in 2011. 

However, that picked up sharply in 2020, rising to a historic high of 41 per cent that year. 

That was because private consumption declined by 15 per cent in the midst of heightened economic uncertainty.

There were also fewer opportunities to spend due to travel and safe distancing restrictions. 

The personal saving rate has started to drop, coming down to 36 per cent by the third quarter of 2021.

"With the economic recovery underway and confidence returning, households have begun spending more. However, given lingering uncertainty associated with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it will take some time for saving rates to get back to pre-pandemic levels of below 30 per cent," Mr Tharman added. 

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Covid-19 obscene video internet consumer tourism spending savings

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