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Issue 56, SPEX

SMU Economics Intelligence Club

SMU Political Economic Exchange


AN SMU ECONOMICS INTELLIGENCE CLUB PUBLICATION

This Issue in Brief:


Chinas Economic Deceleration
In this article, Leong Siok Ann and Tay Shu Xuan investigate the reasons which have
contributed to the recent decline in growth of Chinas overall economy following the
nations Third Plenum.

Economic Impact of Commercial Space Travel


The recent crash of Virgin Galactics SpaceShip Two has put the spotlight firmly on the
commercial space travel industry. In this article, Tay Qi Hang discusses the economic
impact and potential outlook of this growing phenomenon.

The Impossible Reunion of Ex-Soviet States


The Eurasian Economic Union was set up on 1 January 2015. What effect could this union
have on future political and economic developments in Europe? Join Valerie Hew as she
dissects this issue.
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Issue 56, SPEX

SMU Economics Intelligence Club

Chinas Economic Deceleration


By Leong Siok Ann and Tay Shu Xuan

Following last years third plenum, expectations were high that Chinas President Xi Jinping
and Premier Li Keqiang would follow through with reforms agreed during the third plenum.
Since then, however, the country has made little concrete progress towards its goals of
reforming state-owned enterprises, controlling local-government debt and strengthening
environmental protection. We investigate the reasons which have contributed to the recent
decline in growth of Chinas overall economy.

Chinas Drop in Industrial Output


China has been experiencing flagging growth recently, with consumer prices rising at its
slowest pace in 5 years in the month of September. This trend can largely be attributed to
weak commodity prices.

Figure 1: Overall Consumer Price Index, 1 year data


Source: National Bureau of Statistics China
Date accessed: 7 December 2014

Factory output declined sharply to its lowest level since the financial crisis, rising to 6.9%
last August. With its continuing sluggish economic pace, Chinas 2014 growth target of
7.5% may not be achieved. Food prices declined from 3% to 2.3% this August and
September respectively, indicating softening demand in the economy. This is also
supported in Figure 1, which indicates a sharp fall in Consumer Price Index since 2013.
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The Housing Down Spiral


The main cause of the economic slowdown can be attributed to the decline in the property
market, suppressing investment in property construction and housing purchases. The
continued decline in housing prices may hamper near term revival and lead to concerns that
the deceleration in the Chinas overall economy might be a prolonged trend.

Figure 2: Growth of FAI in China


Source: National Bureau of Statistics China
Date accessed: 7 December 2014

Chinas fixed-asset investment (FAI) is becoming highly reliant on the growth in aggregate
financing since the financial crisis. The growth of aggregate financing decelerated to 16.2%
this year, with the growth of bank loans declining to a further 13.2%, proving a drag on FAI.
Based on the data in Figure 3, investments in residential buildings recovered in 2013 after a
sharp drop in 2011 due to a property bubble which caused housing prices to drop by 20%.
However, the recovery was only 7.99%, a figure which is too minute to trigger a large boost
in Chinas overall economic condition.
Housing sales declined by 11.6% in October, an increase from the 10.3% decline in
September. The cooling property sales rippled through the economy, affecting revenues
for building materials such as copper and cement. The weak property market has also
affected rental prices. The sluggish Chinese property market is anticipated to last for at
least a year as prices fall due to weak demand.
Many developers have been unable to find enough buyers for their new-built homes, a
trend which has led to the creation of ghost cities. With the property downturn, industries
related to the property sector such as steel, glass and cement are bound with overcapacity
and are pressured to reduce production of construction materials with the dim property
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SMU Economics Intelligence Club

outlook. This downsizing of output would affect the return on investment as profits would
be marginalized due to falling prices.

Figure 3: Growth in Residential Building Investment in Real Estate Development


Source: National Bureau of Statistics China
Date accessed: 7 December 2014

Saying No to China?
With effect of the news, investors in the US withdrew $1.1bn from China-focused equity
funds, causing a huge drop in asset base to nearly $5.8bn. On the other hand, European
investors pulled $727.72m1 of investment from Chinese equity funds. This withdrawal of
investment is attributed to concerns over the countrys growth prospects, volatile stock
market and systemic risks in its financial system and property which may cause large
Chinese funds to lose prospects to overseas investors. Additionally, foreign investors,
especially in the US and Europe, are still recovering from the 2009 financial crisis. Trust is
also another problem that China is facing, with corruption scandals causing institutional
investors to lose confidence in Chinas equity. The problem was magnified with news that
more than 30 foreign companies including Microsoft and Qualcomm were eyed by Chinas
antitrust regulators 2. This aggressive measure discouraged investors and foreign
companies from conducting business activities there, further marring their confidence of
doing business in China due to inconsistencies in executing the antitrust policies.

Currency translation from Euro to USD on 28 December 2014 at Google.com

Not to confuse with moral trust. The antitrust as stated by the Chinese regulations discourage monopolizing of business activities in the industry profession
which includes overcharging of price and abuse of market position to the firms advantage. RANDEWICH, N., & MILLER, M. (2014). For Qualcomm, China
settlement may be just the beginning. Reuters. Retrieved 23 November 2014, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/29/us-china-qualcommidUSKBN0K702C20141229

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To The Rescue, But...


Amid forecasts that the economy will experience its weakest expansion since 1990, Xi
Jinping has said that China needs to adapt to a new normal in the pace of economic
growth. The Chinese government has also issued a raft of policies to deal with the growth
problems arising from the countrys economic maturation.
The government has utilised monetary and fiscal stimulus this year by offering direct loans
to large state-owned lenders and eased mortgage lending rules so that the lending activity
can be bolstered. In April 2014, the central bank pumped $81bn to financial system,
reduced the required reserve ratio for small banks as well as trimming the loan-to-deposit
ratio. The relaxation of the loan-to-deposit ratio may amplify lending but it also sparked
concerns that the countrys debt may increase substantially. Chinas current debt is of 213%
of GDP in 2013, an amount which skyrocketed from 140% in 2007. However, cash injection
to stimulate more lending activity may not work as companies in China are already debtridden and do not have extra capacity to borrow despite a drop in interest rates. Highly
indebted companies now focus on paying off their debts and thus, demand for borrowing
slows down, leading to a weak credit creation. Nevertheless, we feel that China should
avoid deploying aggressive decrement of its interest rate as it may face investment outflow
as a result of this policy.
Currently, the government is shifting from using an investment-driven growth model
towards a more consumption-oriented model to boost weak local spending. The
government has recently approved a range of infrastructure projects to boost investor
confidence and improve Chinas economic growth but these measures have done little to
regain optimism in Chinas outlook. The process of shifting to a consumption-driven model
requires effective and timely coordination of government policies which should support
economic growth. With a change in the growth model coupled with strong signals of
growth, we opine that investment activity may drag in the next few quarters.
While the Chinese Communist Party has had successes in the past changing course in times
of crisis, it will be years before the extent to which present leaders are willing to fix their
system becomes apparent and it remains to be seen if the government will be committed
to the reforms they pledged. Hence, the future still lies uncertain as the revival of Chinas
weak economic state depends on the route which the government chooses to take.

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SMU Economics Intelligence Club

Appendix
Anderlini, J. (2014). China wasted $6.8T in investment: Researchers. CNBC. Retrieved 5 December
2014, from http://www.cnbc.com/id/102222892#
Anderlini, J. (2014). China export growth hits 19-month high - FT.com. Financial Times. Retrieved 5
December 2014, from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/7b54bba0-5291-11e4-a54900144feab7de.html#axzz3GVREbAcl
Marriage, M. (2014). Investors flee China equity funds. Retrieved 5 December 2014, from
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/45d9a486-507f-11e4-9822-00144feab7de.html#axzz3GVREbAcl
Wildau, G. (2014). China consumer inflation near 5-year low - FT.com. Financial Times. Retrieved 5
December 2014, from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/bc45779c-541e-11e4-80db00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3GVREbAcl
Wildau,. (2014). China investment growth near 13-year low - FT.com. Financial Times. Retrieved 6
December 2014, from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5dd366d4-6b0b-11e4-be6800144feabdc0.html#axzz3KirWYSt3
Qi, L., Zhu, G., Magnier, M., & Burkitt, L. (2014). China Foreign Direct Investment at Four-Year Low.
WSJ. Retrieved 6 December 2014, from http://online.wsj.com/articles/china-foreign-directinvestment-at-four-year-low-1410846696
Bradsher, K. (2012). Chinese Economy Shows a Second Month of Anemic Growth. Nytimes.com.
Retrieved 6 December 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/business/global/chineseeconomy-shows-a-second-month-of-anemic-growth.html
EIU, (2014). Country Report: China, November 2014. EIU. Retrieved from
http://www.eiu.com.libproxy.smu.edu.sg/FileHandler.ashx?issue_id=672487651&mode=pdf
Wildau, G. (2014). China risks balance-sheet recession as stimulus impact wanes - FT.com.
Financial Times. Retrieved 7 December 2014, from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/14404880-3fdb11e4-a381-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3LBe5DbwY
Zhu, G., & Silk, R. (2014). China Regulator to Ease Rules on Banks' Loan-to-Deposit Ratio. WSJ.
Retrieved 7 December 2014, from http://online.wsj.com/articles/china-regulator-to-ease-rules-onbanks-loan-to-deposit-ratio-1404122218
Natarajan, S., Nicholas, K. (2014). China Bigger Than U.S. With $14 Trillion in Company Debt.
Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 December 2014, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-0616/companies-to-seek-60-trillion-in-new-debt-as-asia-s-needs-grow.html
World Bank,. (2014). China Economic Update, June 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014, from
http://wwwwds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2014/06/10/000470435_2014061
0102520/Rendered/PDF/885380WP0REPLA0e0Jun02014000PUBLIC0.pdf
Qi, L., Magnier, M., & Silk, R. (2014). China Consumer Inflation Holds Steady in October. WSJ.
Retrieved 7 December 2014, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-consumer-inflation-holdssteady-in-october-1415584321
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Wang, W. (2014). PBOC Makes Further Move to Ease Policy. WSJ. Retrieved 7 December 2014, from
http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-pboc-makes-further-monetary-policy-easing-move-by-cuttingrepo-rate-1413264434
Pi, X., & Avery, N. (2014). China Factory-Output Slump Tests Premier Lis Resolve. Bloomberg.
Retrieved 9 December 2014, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-13/china-industrialoutput-growth-decelerates.html

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SMU Economics Intelligence Club

Economic Impact of Commercial Space Travel


By Tay Qi Hang

Since the dawn of the new millennium, rapid advancements have been made in the field of
space travel. The term space travel refers to ballistic flight into or through outer space. A
space traveller is someone who tours or travels into, to, or through space or to a celestial
body. Space travel has the potential to develop into an extremely lucrative industry which
has the potential to dramatically reshape and improve many aspects of our lives in the 21st
century.
Commercial space travel is undoubtedly a burgeoning industry which has been growing
rapidly in the past decade. This is evinced by data from a study done by the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) which shows that $208.3 billion in economic activity was
generated by space travel in 2009. [1] The number of jobs in the industry also increased
exponentially from 736,130 to 1,029,440 between the years 2004 and 2009. In addition, it
brings about the multiplier effect, where initial investment in space vehicles leads to
subsequent additional spending in related industries such as satellite communications. It
also allows for technological advances as new minerals and other resources are discovered,
which will lead to advances in areas such as biotechnology. These figures demonstrate that
there is definitely a significant amount of money to be made in space travel in the years to
come.
The area of space travel which is likely to enjoy the most rapid growth in the future would
be that of suborbital tourism. Firms offering suborbital space flights would take passengers
to an altitude of 100-160 kilometres, offering them the experience of weightlessness as well
as a view of Earth from space. There is a massive amount of demand among the wealthy for
such experiences. Virgin Galactic has already managed to convince 700 wealthy individuals
to part with $250,000 each as an initial deposit for a seat on a pioneering suborbital space
flight.[2] Also, a survey (displayed below) showed that 70% of high net-worth individuals
(HNWIs) from Japan and 61% of those from the USA and Canada were willing to travel in
space.[3]

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SMU Economics Intelligence Club

The tremendous popularity of these flights can be attributed to the need for the wealthy to
stand out among their peers amidst the current trend of the democratisation of luxury.
Goods which were formerly the sole domain of the very rich are now easily available to the
upper-middle class. Private jets and yachts can now be hired or chartered for a fraction of
their cost. Furthermore, most wealthy individuals have already visited every major
noteworthy destination in the world. Conquering the final frontier of space travel would
thus be a natural next step for them.
While space travel costs are currently out of reach for most, there have been steps taken to
bring down these costs drastically. SpaceX, a spaceflight company founded by Paypal and
Tesla co-founder Elon Musk, recently unveiled its Dragon V2 spaceship which showcased
the ability to reland on its landing legs.[4] This would allow the rockets to be reused for
future missions instead of being disposed into the sea, as is the situation today. Reusable
rocket technology would revolutionise space travel and bring down the cost of flights
drastically. These lower costs would lead to an increase in demand for space travel.
A key sub-industry which has the potential to grow exponentially is that of subcontinental
international travel, where consumers will be flown from one hub to another via the space
environment.[5] This will cut down travelling time dramatically, leading to massive increases
in productivity. The increased interconnectivity will also serve to allow previously isolated
cities such as Sydney to become far more connected to the rest of the world. It would also
encourage multiple home ownership among individuals as well as greater globalisation and
interconnectivity between different regions.
However, like all other nascent technologies, space travel also has its drawbacks. It brings
about health issues, most notably of which are the risks to participants. The speed of
acceleration and deceleration can cause people to be very sick, with common problems
including motion sickness and dehydration.[6] This is further exacerbated by the lack of
medical expertise in this field. Space travel also causes major environmental issues such as
pollution as space shuttles emit large quantities of carbon dioxide and ozone-damaging
gases and lead to increased atmospheric temperatures.[7] The costs of commercial space
travel are also rather high now at $250,000 per ticket for the Virgin Galactic flight, although
firms are striving to lower these costs. Safety is also a key issue due to the inherent risk of
this transportation technology as well as the lack of adequate space tourism industrial
infrastructure currently available. Space travel is inherently an extremely dangerous
industry, with potentially catastrophic results. The unfortunate accident involving the VSS
Enterprise in October 2014 was seen as a massive setback for Virgin Galactic and the space
travel industry, and served as a sobering reminder of the amount of work which still has to
be undertaken before commercial space travel can become a truly viable alternative source
of transportation and recreation.[8]
Furthermore, the legal implications of space travel are myriad. Current regulations are not
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catered to space tourists. For example, the Liability Convention states that countries bear
international responsibility for all space objects launched in their territory. However, this
does not expressly apply to damage caused by a space object to foreign
citizens.[9]Sovereign immunity protection may also represent an obstacle to a claim for
compensation. In addition, it is highly likely that carefully crafted exclusion of liability
clauses for death and injury will be included in the space tourism services agreement. Thus,
a uniform and comprehensive regime for passenger liability arising from space travel
activities would have to be developed at the international level in order for space travel to
develop successfully.
As the space travel industry grows, travel will become better, more efficient, and more
affordable to more customers. Although there are many significant obstacles to be
overcome, it is likely that this industry will grow into a major one in the years to come once
international safety and legal regulations are put into place. Once these obstacles are
overcome, the potential gain to humanity as a whole in the 21st century would be on a truly
stratospheric level.

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Appendix
Federal Aviation Administration (September 2010) The Economic Impact of Commercial Space
Transportation on the US Economy in 2009
Retrieved from:
http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/Economic%20Impact%20Study%20September%202010_
20101026_PS.pdf
Carrington, D. (16 August 2013) What does a $250,000 ticket to space with Virgin Galactic actually
buy you?
Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/15/travel/virgin-galactic-250000-ticket-to-space
Abitzsch, S. (15 May 1996) Prospects of Space Tourism
Retrieved from: http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/prospects_of_space_tourism.shtml
Foy, H. (30 May 2014) Elon Musk plans next stage of travel with reusable rockets
Retrieved from: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/918ab6d2-e7c9-11e3-9af800144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3JzeR37Hc
Sunyer, J. (28 February 2014) The new market space: Billionaire investors look beyond Earth
Retrieved from: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/a441d9bc-9d65-11e3-a59900144feab7de.html#axzz3JzeR37Hc
Courage, K. (1 March 2014) Can Space Tourism Companies Keep Their Customers Safe and
Healthy?
Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-space-tourism-companies-keepcustomers-safe-healthy/
Krois, J. (18 November 2011) Onwards and Upwards: Space Tourisms Climate Costs and Solutions
Retrieved from: http://www.columbiaenvironmentallaw.org/articles/onwards-and-upwards-spacetourism-s-climate-costs-and-solutions
Chang, K. & Schwartz, J. (31 October 2014) Virgin Galactics SpaceShipTwo Crashes in New
Setback for Commercial Spaceflight
Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/01/science/virgin-galactics-spaceshiptwocrashes-during-test-flight.html?_r=0
Federal Aviation Administration Convention on Internation Liability for Damage Caused by Space
Objects
Retrieved from:
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/Conv_International_Liab_D
amage.pdf

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The Impossible Reunion of Ex-Soviet States


By Valerie Hew Kai Shuen

Every 24 hours marks the start of a new day, but would the next 24 years herald the revival
of the former Soviet Union? The Eurasian Economic Union (known as Eurasian Union for
short), which some view as Russias attempt to re-establish the Soviet Union, was set to
take effect on 1 January 2015. The union, which would have comprised of ex-Soviet states
Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia, is largely seen as an attempt by Russia to
reassert her influence over former Soviet states. However, it seems unlikely that Russia
would be able to reassert her influence over these ex-Soviet states in a similar manner as
before.
Prior to Armenias inclusion to the Eurasian Union, Kazakhstan and Belarus have made it
clear in their actions that this union would only encompass economic integration. Indeed,
this has been seen through Kazakhstans and Belarus lack of support for Russia during her
intervention in Ukraine. Russia had failed to convince both states to adopt protectionistic
measures against Ukrainian goods, suggesting that member states of the Russian-led
Eurasian Union would not be willing to side Russia in her intervention with foreign nations.
While some states have been arm-twisted into entering the union with Russia, Russia has
yet to gain the power to dictate how they would conduct themselves politically.
The current economic union, which does not seem to have much economic benefits to
Russia, appears to be similar to COMECON introduced during the Soviet Union era.
COMECON saw Russia continually helping member states out financially, which eventually
caused its economy to crumble. Even so, Russia is still keen on getting more of her exSoviet states on board. With 5 out of 15 ex-Soviet states set to join the Eurasian Union, it is
abundantly clear that Russia is trying to expand her sphere of influence once again.
However, it would be unfair to dismiss the Eurasian Union as a mere political agenda, as the
Union does bring about economic benefits such as greater cooperation in the fuel and
energy sector. With the union in place, the union would now be a powerhouse in the energy
and gas sector and gain greater control in this industry. However, the economic power of
the Eurasian Union is still incapable of rivalling the European Union any time in the near
future. Additionally, Ukraine, once known as the breadbasket of Europe, is the missing link
in Russias new union. Without the inclusion of Ukraine, it is unlikely that the Eurasian
Union would be able to gain any significant political or economic traction.
Yet, we cannot dismiss the threat of the Eurasian Union, and Russia in particular, as Putins
strong desire for dominance and influence is evident in every aspect. As seen in the recent
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Russian Formula One race, Putin was eager to make his presence known and ensure that
his country remains in the eye of the global media.
As Mark Twain puts it, history does not repeat itself but it rhymes. Indeed, it is unlikely that
we will see the resurrection of the Soviet Union, but the Eurasian Union surely mimics
various aspects of Soviet policies. It is evident that Russia is trying to go down the same
path she went over 20 years ago. However, the proposed Eurasian Union is unlikely to
match the influence and power of the European Union. Yet, it is still important to pay close
attention on Russia to ensure that her ambitions do not go unchecked.

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Appendix
A Split in the Eurasian Union: Belarus Refuses to Join Russia's Trade War with Ukraine.
(n.d.). Belarus Digest: News and analytics on Belarusian politics, economy, human rights and more..
Retrieved October 14, 2014, from http://belarusdigest.com/story/split-eurasian-union-belarusrefuses-join-russias-trade-war-ukraine-18462
Lewis Hamilton wins Russian GP as Putin crashes Jules Bianchi tributes. (n.d.). The Week UK.
Retrieved October 14, 2014, from http://www.theweek.co.uk/formula-1/f1-2014/60837/lewishamilton-wins-russian-gp-as-putin-crashes-jules-bianchi-tributes
Macfarquhar, N. (2014, May 29). Russia and 2 Neighbors Form Economic Union That Has a UkraineSize Hole. The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/30/world/europe/putin-signs-economic-alliance-with-presidentsof-kazakhstan-and-belarus.html?_r=0
No Ukraine: Putin's Eurasian Union Reveals Limits to Russia's Strength. (n.d.).International Business
Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from http://www.ibtimes.com/no-ukraine-putins-eurasianunion-reveals-limits-russias-strength-1592159
Putin's war in Ukraine is only exposing Russia's weakness - The Nation. (n.d.).The Nation. Retrieved
October 14, 2014, from http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Putins-war-in-Ukraine-is-onlyexposing-Russias-wea-30243673.html
Russia's Eurasian Union: Part of a Master Plan. (n.d.). The National Interest. Retrieved October 14,
2014, from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/russias-eurasian-union-part-master-plan-10619
The other EU. (2014, August 23). The Economist. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from
http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21613319-why-russia-backs-eurasian-union-other-eu
The struggle for Central Asia: Russia vs China. (n.d.). - Opinion. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/02/struggle-central-asia-russia-vs201422585652677510.html
The Washington Review of Turkish & Eurasian Affairs. (n.d.). Russia's Policy of Integration in Central
Asia. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from http://www.thewashingtonreview.org/articles/russiaspolicy-of-integration-in-central-asia.html
Vladimir Putin's Impotent Eurasian Union. (n.d.). Foreign Policy. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/

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SEIC Correspondents for Issue 56:


Tay Qi Hang (Director, SPEX)
Undergraduate
School of Economics
Singapore Management University
qihang.tay.2013@economics.smu.edu.sg

Meghana Hari Prasad Sunku (Creative


Director)
Undergraduate
School of Economics
Singapore Management University
meghanas.2012@economics.smu.edu.sg

Leong Siok Ann (Writer)

Tay Shu Xuan (Writer)

Undergraduate
School of Business
Singapore Management University
saleong.2012@business.smu.edu.sg

Undergraduate
School of Economics
Singapore Management University
shuxuan.tay.2012@economics.smu.edu.sg

Valerie Hew Kai Shuen (Writer)


Undergraduate
School of Accountancy
Singapore Management University
valerie.hew.2013@accountancy.smu.edu.sg

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