Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Salt: Too little is worse than too much

Sep 01, 2014

By Andy Ho Senior Writer

LIFE'S so unfair. Seems like anything that's tasty is unhealthy. For example, we like salt but we must have much less of it to prevent hypertension and/or heart disease. Or so the experts say.

But reducing salt intake for any extended period is very hard work for most of us. The reason is that "salt improves the sensory properties of virtually every food that humans consume", according to Sodium Intake in the United States. This was a 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine, a non-profit organisation that provides the United States government with independent advice on health issues.

The report explained that salt can enhance flavours in ways such that even unpalatable food tastes better. The experience of taste is made up of five primary qualities - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury, the last being that which monosodium glutamate (MSG) imparts.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Put your savings to work - start investing

Aug 31, 2014

Doing nothing could mean losing more than you think you've saved

By Cheryl Ong

At the first Young and Savvy seminar on investing and personal finance matters on Aug 22, a student bravely stood up to ask a panel of speakers: Is it not a "waste of yourself" to be caught up with the idea of investing, just because everyone else seems to say it is important?

The sociology student admitted he was "not as interested in financial literacy" as he was in the performing arts, adding that the speakers had also pointed out the pitfalls of greed and "chasing the idea of money" during their presentations.

I suppose the young man's question really was: Why should he invest if he has no inclination for it?

HK Political Crisis

Sep 01, 2014

Hong Kong faces political unrest as China sets strict election rules

By Li Xueying In Hong Kong

HONG KONG is in for a protracted period of political disquiet, with Beijing having set stringent rules on constitutional reform that will make it all but impossible for a pro-democracy candidate to run for Chief Executive.

Democracy activists called yesterday the "darkest day in the history of Hong Kong's democratic development", and vowed to step up their fight for what they termed genuine democracy.

The time for dialogue has passed, said the Occupy Central movement, adding that a sit-in to paralyse the financial district "will definitely happen".

An emotional rally it organised last night at the government headquarters in Admiralty saw 5,000 supporters turn out amid police presence. There, student activist group Scholarism said it would immediately prepare to kick-start a class boycott.

At least 23 of 27 pan-democrat lawmakers said they would veto any reform Bill formulated along the lines set out by Beijing. This means such a Bill is unlikely to be passed by the city's 70-member legislature as a two-thirds majority is needed.

China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress' Standing Committee (NPCSC), in Beijing unanimously passed a resolution outlining long-promised universal suffrage for Hong Kong by 2017.

As expected, it confirmed that in accordance with the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, there must be a "broadly representative" nominating committee to vet contenders. But some moderates had hoped for leeway to discuss other areas.

To their dismay, NPCSC said the panel's composition and size must match those of the 1,200-strong election committee that now picks the Chief Executive. It is stacked with Beijing loyalists and industry interests.

This closes the door on any talks to enlarge the panel to make it more representative.

Furthermore, successful candidates must get the votes of at least half the panel - higher than the current one-eighth thres-hold, which allowed pan-democrat candidates to go through.

The number of candidates will be capped at two or three.

Meanwhile, NPCSC deputy secretary-general Li Fei made it clear that failure to achieve universal suffrage by 2017 would see Hong Kong retaining its current selection system.

"If it misses this opportunity, future chances will take a longer time to come," he said. "I hope Hong Kong society will rationally discuss the way forward based on NPCSC's decision."

Hong Kong's political unrest: 7 things about the situation

By Choo Li Meng
Hong Kong has been plunged into one of the worst political crises since its handover to Chinese rule, as pro-democracy activists vow to take over the streets of the financial district following Beijing's refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage. Here's what you should know about the situation:

1. What is Hong Kong's relationship with China?

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China on July 1, 1997. China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of "one country, two systems", where the city would enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs, for 50 years. As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected. Its leader, the chief executive, is elected by a 1,200-member election committee. A majority of the representatives are viewed as pro-Beijing. Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, states that the ultimate aim is to elect the chief executive "by universal suffrage". China has promised direct elections for the next chief executive in 2017

2. What are the changes?

On Aug 31, 2014, China's top legislative body - the National People's Congress' Standing Committee (NPCSC) - unanimously passed a resolution stating that there must be a "broadly representative" nominating committee to vet contenders for the election in 2017. It said the panel's composition and size must match those of the 1,200-strong election committee that now picks the Chief Executive. That committee is filled with Beijing loyalists and industry interests. In addition, candidates must get the votes of at least half the panel before they can run in the election - higher than the current one-eighth threshold, which allowed pan-democrat candidates to go through. The number of candidates will be capped at two or three.

3. What do democracy activists say?

Democracy activists believe China will use the nominating committee to screen out candidates it disapproves of. They also say the strict election rules close the door on any talks to enlarge the panel to make it more representative.

A so-called Occupy Central movement has threatened to blockade Hong Kong's central business district if Beijing does not allow open nominations. Led by academic Benny Tai, the Occupy Central movement had organised an unofficial referendum on political reform that was held from June 20 to 29, 2014. Voters were asked to choose from three proposals for the 2017 election, all of which involved allowing citizens to choose who to nominate as a candidate for the top job. A total of 792,808 voters cast ballots. The movement claimed the high turnout - about one in five registered voters - showed it had strong backing from the public.

Shortly after the unofficial vote, tens of thousands of protesters took part in a rally on July 1, which observers said was Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy rally in a decade. Those pressing for greater suffrage are a mixture of lawmakers, academics, students and ordinary citizens. Younger generations are generally more active in pro-democracy circles than their parents.

4. What does China say?

China has defended its ruling on election candidacy for Hong Kong. Mr Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the NPCSC, said the nominating guidelines would "protect the broad stability of Hong Kong now and in the future". Beijing had earlier condemned the pro-democracy protests and called the unofficial referendum by the Occupy Central Movement a "farce". In a White Paper in June 2014 outlining China's authority over Hong Kong, Beijing said some had a "confused and lopsided" understanding of the "one country, two systems" model. It stressed that while Hong Kong has a "high degree of autonomy", it is "not full autonomy" and the mainland still has "comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong.

5. What does the Hong Kong government say?

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying said Beijing's decision represented a major step forward in Hong Kong's development. "Universal suffrage for the (chief executive) election through 'one person, one vote' by Hong Kong people is not only a big step forward for Hong Kong, but also a historic milestone for our country," Mr Leung said, adding that people should express their opinion through peaceful and legal methods.

In a report submitted to Beijing in July, Mr Leung said that mainstream Hong Kong society agreed with Beijing on how electoral reform should proceed. The report was based on public consultation with the Hong Kong public but it drew fire from pro-democracy activists, who said Mr Leung had misrepresented public opinion.

The Hong Kong government had also said the unofficial referendum had no legal standing and it welcomed the Chinese government's White Paper, saying that Hong Kong had benefited from the "one country, two systems" model.

6. What do pro-China groups say?

Pro-Beijing groups, such as Silent Majority for Hong Kong and Caring Hong Kong Power, have criticised the pro-democracy activists for "endangering" the city. They argue that continued civil disobedience and opposition to Beijing would only damage the city's reputation and economy, as well as its relationship with China. These groups have organised several protests against the pro-democracy movement and its biggest event, held on Aug 17, was attended by thousands. The rally was unusual as large-scale pro-government protests are rare in Hong Kong. But some have questioned the legitimacy of the rally, as there were reports that some protesters were paid to participate in the rally.

Business leaders, who favour stability in Hong Kong, have also opposed pro-democracy protests. A number of businesses have taken out advertisements in the local media, saying the city's status as an international trading hub is at risk should the Occupy Central Movement go ahead with its takeover.

7. What's next?

Occupy Central has said the time for dialogue is over and has pledged a series of actions culminating in a mass sit-in of at least 10,000 people in the financial district in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Federation of Students would begin boycotting classes in mid-September and it said students at 11 schools had confirmed their participation.

Opposition lawmakers have also vowed to block the passage of the electoral Bill. To become law, the Bill will require two-thirds of the 70-member legislature to support it, meaning the legislation could be halted by the 27 opposition members. If the proposal is rejected, Hong Kong will continue to have its leader picked by a 1,200-member election committee.


Will Nato rise to new Russian challenge?

Annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula testing alliance but also giving it fresh impetus

SEP 1, 2014


MILITARY alliances are similar to prenuptial agreements: countries join military pacts with enthusiasm or lust but not necessarily love, don't expect these arrangements to last a lifetime, and are careful to keep count not only of the benefits, but also of the liabilities.

Not so with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), the United States-led military alliance in Europe which was established soon after the end of World War II for the sole purpose of defending Europe from the Soviet Union. That opponent no longer exists, the world has changed beyond recognition yet Nato, edging towards celebrating its 70th birthday, is still going strong.

So, when Nato heads of states and governments gather later this week in Britain for their summit, their main subject of discussion will not be how to extricate themselves from their old marriage vows, but precisely the opposite: how to inject greater vigour into their partnership.

China's Fifth-Generation Fighter Could Be A Game Changer In An Increasingly Tense East Asia

China is in the process of developing its own native fifth-generation fighter to compete with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Russia's T-50.

Although China has been secretive about the exact specifications of the aircraft, experts are warning that the plane could be a game-changer in East Asia's potentially fragile security environment.

China's Chengdu J-20 is currently in its fourth round of prototypes. On July 26, the most recent version of the fighter flew for two hours before successfully landing.

Information about the J-20 is limited, but an unnamed Asian government source told IHS Jane's that upwards of 20 J-20s could be deployed by within the decade.

The J-20 has evolved rapidly from its first documented prototype in 2011. Each successive prototype has shown a number of design advancements that help the plane evade enemy radar detection. These changes include modifying the plane's wing size and adjusting the air intakes to maximize stealth.

It's likely that China is also outfitting the J-20 with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar in the plane's nose.

AESAs are incredibly powerful radar systems broadcast at a range of frequencies, allowing a plane to remain stealthy in the process. And the use of the AESA in the J-20's nose marks a striking similarity to the design of the U.S.'s F-35 fifth-generation fighter.

The similarities between the F-35, the F-22, and the J-20 are likely not a coincidence.

Aviation expert Carlo Kopp notes that China imitates the basic shapes and skeletal designs of existing aircraft to speed development while minimizing the risk of a costly and embarrassing engineering failure later on.

"By cleverly exploiting contemporary United States-developed stealth fighter shaping design rules," Kopp writes for the independent Australian think tank Air Power Australia, "Chengdu engineers were able to rapidly get an excellent basic shaping design with a minimum of risk and cost, and significant long-term stealth performance growth potential."

This potential, if China capitalizes on it, could allow the J-20 to achieve levels of stealth on par with, or even exceeding, the F-35.

This stealth capability could put all of East Asia at risk — the integrated air defense systems in the region rely primarily on types of radar that would be incapable of adequately detecting the J-20.

China would have undisputed first-strike superiority throughout a region where tensions are on the rise. Exact details of the aircraft's fuel capacity and range are unknown, but estimates give the J-20 a striking range of 1,000 nautical miles, which would place Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Philippines airfields within reach of China.

And China has simmering economic and territorial disputes with each of these countries.

China's J-20 has likely also benefited from Chinese espionage.

A Chinese entrepreneur was arrested in July after stealing gigabytes of data related to the F-35 and the F-22, along with other U.S. military aviation projects. Previous extensive theft of F-35 data is believed to be the driver of a number of redesigns to the J-20 and the cause of the aircraft's improvements within each prototype stage.

However, China is still believed to be a long way from developing a native engine system for the plane.

Engines are "the long pole in the tent," Reuben F. Johnson, a Russian and Chinese military aerospace analysts who writes for Jane's, told The Diplomat. Until China develops its own engines, it is limited to using Russian imports.

Ultimately, the overall quality of a plane is just one factor in the aircraft's effectiveness, David Cenciotti, a military aviation expert and founder of The Aviationist, told Business Insider via email.

"We don't know much about the [J-20], but it is safe to say it's not always a matter of technology, armament or on-board equipment," Cenciotti wrote. "Theoretically, the J-20 will be able to match Western fifth-gen fighters in a one vs one confrontation, but a realistic engagement with airborne early warning and emissions control procedures would be something much different[.]"

And, as Cenciotti warns, training and logistics may be the most important factor. And if China can get that right, they'll have a fighter plane that can overcome their rivals' existing air defenses, and even match the over trillion-dollar F-35.

Superman, Yoda, change crusader - Lim Siong Guan

Aug 31, 2014

Founder of Honour (Singapore) takes the MRT to his GIC office and does not get his secretary to run personal errands for him

By Susan Long Senior Writer

He may be the group president of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, but Mr Lim Siong Guan rides the MRT to work. He alights at Raffles Place, then walks about 20 minutes to GIC's office in Robinson Road for the exercise.

If he needs a postage stamp or has any errand of a personal nature, he queues for it himself instead of bothering his secretary.

His yearly tour of GIC overseas offices since 2007 - four days around the world: Singapore, San Francisco, New York, London, Singapore; and another four days around Asia: Singapore, Mumbai, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore - is the stuff of corporate legend.

He does not book a single hotel room, sleeps on the plane, refuses a corporate limousine and insists on public transport. He lives out of a small carry-on bag and showers in GIC office gyms. The London office keeps a spare towel for him.

It is a practice the former chairman of the Economic Development Board says he picked up from his EDB days of city-hopping as "check-in luggage increases very significantly the chances of missing connecting flights".

By all accounts, Mr Lim is an iconoclast. The former head of the Singapore civil service, who served as permanent secretary in the ministries of Defence, Education and Finance, and in the Prime Minister's Office, is also a hard act to follow.

He sticks out in the financial sector because of his ascetic values, thrift and humility. He owns a Volvo S60, easily the smallest car among his colleagues.

While he won't spend on hotel rooms, he's prepared to spend a lot to effect organisational change. Everywhere he goes, he ignites a mini revolution, cutting red tape, operating close to the boundaries and bucking conventions.

Dr Teh Kok Peng, chairman of business space solutions provider Ascendas and formerly president of GIC Special Investments, says: "In the office, some call him 'Superman' for his drive, energy and nobility of intention. He demands a lot of himself so he's in a position to demand a lot from others too."

His pet phrase is: "Are we ready for the future?" His pet name is Yoda, for his wisdom, long-range thinking and fearlessness in challenging his staff to think, even ahead of their ministers.

He is also known as one of the toughest - because of his formidable intellect and unbending principle - yet nicest bosses to work for in the civil service. His top question to staff is always: "How can I help you do your job better?"

Stories abound of the small and big ways in which he intervened to help others. None of this, of course, will ever be disclosed by the wiry, reticent 67-year-old.

He minimises it all, ascribing it to his yearning for "simplicity" and to "experience what ordinary people have to experience".

Next stop: Honour

Mr Lim might be onto his biggest change platform yet - trying to engineer social and behavioural change in Singapore by promoting a culture of honour. And the futurist has his work cut out for him.

Earlier this month, he founded and launched non-profit organisation Honour (Singapore), which was attacked online for its vagueness and suspected Christian agenda.

It's easy to to see why as his diffidence makes him a tough interviewee.

He will not lament the deficiency of honour today, beyond saying it is latent in everyone, just not brought to the level of consciousness yet.

He is modest to a fault, not given to laying out bold plans or mission statements. He refuses, too, to make a big deal of honour - imbuing it with an everyday ubiquitous quality. He insists it's not abstract but part of ordinary living here, such as people offering their seat on the MRT or a taxi driver arriving on time, as promised.

The only thing he is categorical about is that Honour (Singapore) has no right-wing Christian agenda. It has been taken to task online for not declaring that all five members of its board are part of Full Gospel Business (FGB) Singapore, an inter-denominational group of Christian professionals. Additionally, Honour (Singapore)'s executive director and board member Jason Wong is also chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore, a pro-family Christian charity.

For the record, Mr Lim states that Honour has no view on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues. Neither is it an advocacy group for government policy, which it will not comment on.

After 37 years in the civil service, he says he understands the "extreme sensitivity" of race and religion. "Our intentions are very narrowly promoting a culture of honour and honouring. Clearly, Honour is not a Christian organisation. It can't be if you're trying to do something which has national value," he says.

He adds that it would be impossible to advocate Christian work when it has a panel of 10 community advisers of differing religions, including Muslims and Buddhists, such as Haji Mohammad Alami Musa, president of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore or Muis; Mr Chua Thian Poh, chairman of Ho Bee Land; and Ms Claire Chiang, senior vice-president of Banyan Tree Holdings.

But what about the worry expressed by netizens that his board's overwhelming religious affiliation will lead to the imposition of Christian values of honour?

He says teachings like doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, honouring your parents and loving your neighbours are common to many religions. He cites humanitarian organisations started as an expression of faith such as Mercy Relief, started by Muslim group Perdaus in 2001, and St Andrew's Mission Hospital, set up by the Anglican Church in 1913, which are now multiracial, multi-religious and secular in nature.

What about talk that Honour was set up at the behest of the Prime Minister to be a counter to the liberal tide out there and exemplify a more respectful response to the shrill voices out there?

Mr Lim seems affronted at this suggestion and says: "Absolutely not, he never spoke to me about it."

As for the seeming haste to set up Honour, which led to it being registered under the same address as FGB, as well as to save costs, he says it is because the 50th year of Singapore's Independence started on the 10th of August this year. "We thought that we ought to try to make it before the start of the 50th year," he says, with his characteristic sense of urgency.

Use it or lose it

Honour (Singapore) is his practical-minded reaction to the treacly nostalgia of the SG50 celebrations, to mark Singapore's 50th year of Independence next year.

Reading about the publicity on SG50, he felt it was overwhelmingly about celebration, honouring the pioneer generation and the past, which was good.

But he says: "The value of the past is to extract that which is critical that has brought us success, and to make sure that we don't lose it as we think about the future.

"Every time people visit Singapore, we show them our Housing Board flats, CPF, education system, we talk about our strong leadership and political will - all of which are important. But if I were to ask myself, so what is the brand image of Singapore? What made us succeed? What is the defining characteristic of Singapore?

"It is trustworthiness. That's why corporations plonk billions here and are prepared to wait 10 or 20 years to recover their investments. That's why so many Singaporeans work in China as financial controllers and accountants, jobs which require total integrity and honesty."

At the same time, he saw the fractious way public debates were being conducted here. So about four months ago, he rounded up a few friends to set up Honour (Singapore) to focus on the practice of honour - honouring our word and each other.

He believes this will help Singapore continue to succeed and stand out among nations. "Otherwise countries, like organisations, after a period of success, may end up with generations who are not aware or conscious about what has brought about that success," he warns, adding that none of those invited to sit on his board or panel refused.

"If you look at the atlas of the world, Singapore fits within the letter 'O' of the name of the country. The reality is no one owes us a living. You matter if you succeed, you don't matter if you fail."

The closest thing he's done to promote honour is introducing the concept of Total Defence in 1984, during his stint as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence.

That exercise was about getting people to think of defence beyond the hardware of military, civil and economic defence, to the softer factors of social defence and psychological defence, which "is about how people relate to each other and how people think about their home".

"It's very difficult to do something to bring about a new conviction in people. What you're trying to do is take something already there and make it a conscious part of you," he describes.

The difference today, he concedes, is that in his previous change-making roles, he was just doing his job. This is the first one he has given himself.

"Maybe it's a reflection of my old age, a desire to do something while I can, before I fade from the scene," lets on the author of the recent bestseller, The Leader, The Teacher & You. "I've got grandchildren, so I'm thinking about what kind of future I am leaving for them."

He is also up against the fact that no such value-based organisation like Honour exists in the world as yet, hence all the speculations.

But he bids you judge it by what Honour (Singapore) will do. Right now, it runs a website with a weekly blog to inspire honouring behaviour. Soon, it will do talks on "leading, learning, loving and living with honour" and take part in conferences - by invitation only - in schools, businesses and community groups.

Mr Lim, who says he is on a year-to-year renewable contract with GIC and intends to stay only as long as he is "useful", will kick off these talks himself. He will take leave from GIC to do so, just as he has conscientiously taken leave to do this three-hour interview with The Sunday Times.

Achieving transcendence

He was the eldest son of a taxi driver and teacher who got only two new sets of clothes a year - during Chinese New Year and at Christmas. Home was a rent-controlled compound house in Upper Serangoon shared with 20 other relatives.

His biggest thrill was when his father swung by in his taxi to pick him up from Paya Lebar Methodist Afternoon School. The bright boy, who transferred to Anglo-Chinese School at Primary 5, worked hard to attain the highest rank of Colour Sergeant with the Boys' Brigade, struggling only with Chinese.

Whenever he or his three younger siblings failed in any endeavour, after putting in their best effort, his parents would take them out for a picnic. The value he caught was that: "The team that loses is the one that needs to be taken to McDonald's, not the winners. They need to be encouraged to go down to the football pitch next week to fight again."

He also learnt to treat everyone - regardless of station - with kindness. His mother had such a rapport with their Malay washerwoman, who lived in a nearby Malay kampung, that when the racial tensions broke out in the 1960s, she became their "guardian".

A university education was beyond his family's means. But he won the President's Scholarship to study at the University of Adelaide and graduated with first class honours in mechanical engineering in 1969, which gave him his clear-eyed, problem-solving approach to life.

He started work here as a mechanical engineer at sewage treatment plants where he got his hands dirty. From 1978 to 1981, he was the first principal private secretary to then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who, along with the late former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee, he considers his "master teachers".

He then became permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence from 1981 to 1994, where he raised the morale of the Singapore Armed Forces with a public campaign that positioned soldiers as defenders of the nation. From 1994 to 1998, as permanent secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, then head of the civil service from 1999 to 2005, he championed the PS21 reformation, leading the public service to become more performance-driven, customer-focused, responsive to change and among the most admired in the world.

At the Ministry of Education (1997 to 1999), he was the architect of the "Thinking schools, learning nation" initiative. He introduced national education in schools and the President's Award for Teachers to restore the honour traditionally accorded to them.

At the Ministry of Finance (1999 to 2006), he is credited for transforming the Government's financial management system, promoting e-government and leading the ministry to reduce income tax rates and enhance Singapore's tax competitiveness. He even introduced an award, called the ERRward, to recognise failure, a reflection of his belief that innovation involves experimentation and failures.

Upon his retirement in 2006, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to his "unbroken record of understanding Singapore's challenges and developing a vision of how the public service should respond to these challenges".

From 2006 to 2009, he went on to chair the EDB, then preside over GIC from 2007, where he continued his bruising momentum of change and organisational overhaul to help them meet the future. Dr Beh Swan Gin, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Law, remembers: "When he first came to EDB, officers asked him about his vision for EDB, and his reply was that he had no vision aside from making possible the collective vision of EDB officers. That answer was very empowering."

Most of all, his staff - past and present - remember how he treats people, how he bothers to reply and thank by name the clerks who send out mass e-mail reports to the whole organisation.

They also hail him as an unstinting mentor with an openness of spirit to engage anyone - no matter how junior - and a consummate teacher whose homilies are peppered with children's stories, song lyrics and poems.

Indeed, the change that Mr Lim is proudest of is what he has wrought in other peoples' lives. The otherwise unforthcoming father of three grown children - a paediatric anaesthetist, civil servant and branding consultant - and grandfather of five pipes up: "I know what makes me feel happy - when people tell me that I helped them realise their potential in some way. To me, leadership is about transcendence, it is about what do you do for other people."

This could be why his past and present staff remain fiercely loyal.

Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, managing director of EDB, counts him as one of the "most selfless" leaders he has ever known. "He is always willing to give up his personal time to help others even though I know he would dearly like to spend more time with his grandchildren."

Accountant-General Chua Geok Wah, who witnessed the transformation of the civil service under Mr Lim, sums up her tribute to him by quoting ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, 'we did it ourselves'."

Why getting a cheaper home will help grow CPF nest egg

 31 Aug 2014

From PropertyGuru on Yahoo News

Thanks to housing curbs introduced by the government to prevent the housing market from overheating, property prices in Singapore are on a decline. With proper planning, it might just be the right time to get that dream home and still have enough for your CPF retirement nest egg.

We all know that having enough for retirement is a hot button topic these days, what with the increase in the CPF minimum sum and online chatter about how some are disgruntled about the change. But lets face it, everyone wants to retire comfortably. Without adequate funds in ones retirement account, it would be very difficult to achieve that. And because our CPF funds can be used for many other purposes like housing and children's educational needs, it is essential that one plans the use of the funds to accommodate all these.

A great piece of advice for this came from Labour Chief Lim Swee Say, who said that the best way for Singaporeans to prepare for retirement is to use less of the CPF monies prior to retirement. To further elaborate on that point, he said in June this year: So, for every dollar, if you can defer the use of the dollar, it is better to defer the use of the dollar when you are still young. For example, instead of thinking of whether you can spend your CPF savings at the age of 55, I think we should think about how we should help our Singaporeans remain employed, to continue to earn a good living, a good job and at the same time, to continue to contribute to the CPF. So one way to boost the CPF savings is to get a flat on the cheap, leaving more for retirement.

Location is key 

Flats near an MRT station are usually in high demand and they usually come with a higher price tag but there are ways to get the less pricey options and still be accessible to a train station.

Explore the neighbourhood that you want to live in. Check out if the location of the flat that you have in mind is accessible to the station via feeder bus or if there are buses that link that part of the estate to the rest of Singapore. Discover how far it is on foot to the station and if it is an option to incorporate a walk to the station before the commute to work. It is a small way to include some exercise into your daily routine. Sometimes, living too close the MRT station might not be all that advantageous, even if it is more expensive. Residents living too close to MRT viaducts experience train noise from the comings and goings of trains, so as a potential home buyer, you have to consider if that is something you can live with.

Get a smaller flat Most of us grew up in older flats that are generally more spacious, so there might be expectations that we need to have flats that are equivalent or bigger to the ones we have lived in. But with the size of newer flats shrinking, getting a smaller flat might feel like a downgrade, especially for young home buyers. But look at it this way. A smaller flat is always cheaper. Getting a smaller flat, even if home buyers can afford a bigger one in the same area, will ensure a larger retirement fund in the future.

Apply a shorter CPF loan period Take a 25-year loan rather than a 30-year loan on your CPF and make sure you pay it off during the stated loan period. The remaining years that home buyers do not have to service their housing loan, can then be used to build up retirement savings instead.

The writer A. Tan is interested in property as shes currently looking to purchase her first HDB flat.