Sunday, October 17, 2021

Commentary: Japan’s baby bust should force a rethink about demanding jobs and never-ending growth

Efforts to boost Japan’s low fertility rate will not solve near term labour shortages and other pressing burdens without embracing a new mindset, says a professor.

Rapidly-greying Japan has one of the world's lowest birth rates (Photo: AFP/KAZUHIRO NOGI)

Chelsea Szendi Schieder

17 Oct 2021 

TOKYO: Japan has been declared the world’s first super-aged society and a pioneer shrinking society, rapidly inverting the demographic pyramid upon which the modern state has been built.

Since 1989, when the low fertility rate of 1.57 became a major social concern, numbers have continued to trend downward. In June 2020, the Japanese government announced the preliminary results of the 2020 census, revealing that the number of births in that year was the lowest on record.

Covid Deaths in Singapore - First Half of October

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Singapore studying how to expand wealth tax system as it relooks fiscal strategies: Lawrence Wong

Tang See Kit
15 Oct 2021 

SINGAPORE: Singapore continues to study how it can expand its wealth tax system as the country re-examines its fiscal strategies in the face of key challenges such as inequality and climate change, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (Oct 15).

Speaking at the 35th Singapore Economic Roundtable organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, Mr Wong said Singapore has succeeded so far in running a prudent and effective fiscal policy.

He said the task at hand will only become harder with three key challenges - inequality, a rapidly ageing population and climate change - that will determine the trajectory of the country’s fiscal strategies.

[This is just the start of the news article as it does not have any proposals or suggestions as to how the tax system could be revised. Merely a speech on what Singapore is looking to do.]

Fourteen US attorneys general press Facebook on vaccine disinformati

15 Oct 2021 

WASHINGTON: The attorneys general of 14 US states sent a letter to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg asking if the top disseminators of vaccine disinformation on the platform received special treatment from the company.

The line of inquiry was generated after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen used internal documents to disclose that the social media platform has built a system that exempts high-profile users from some or all of its rules.

In the letter, which was sent on Wednesday (Oct 13), the 14 Democratic attorneys general said they are "extremely concerned" with recent reports that Facebook maintained lists of members who have received special treatment, and want to know if the "Disinformation Dozen" were part of those lists.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate describes the "Disinformation Dozen" as 12 anti-vaxxers who are responsible for almost two-thirds of anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Commentary: Why is Bitcoin appealing to many despite the risks and uncertainties?

Is Bitcoin worth investing in? And will it really confer gains on people now that it’s reached new highs? MIT economist Daron Acemoglu unpacks its upsides and risks.

A sign reads, "Bitcoin accepted here", outside a store where the cryptocurrency is accepted
as a payment method in San Salvador, El Salvador on Sep 24, 2021.
(File photo: REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)

Daron Acemoglu

11 Oct 2021 

CAMBRIDGE: With the price of Bitcoin reaching new highs, and El Salvador and Cuba deciding to accept it as legal tender, cryptocurrencies are here to stay.

What implications will this have for money and politics?

Money depends on trust. It is accepted in exchange for goods and services only because people can confidently assume that others will accept it in the future.

This is as true for the US dollar as it is for gold. To argue that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are merely a confidence game – or a speculative bubble, as many economists have emphasised – is to ignore their popularity.

And yet, cryptocurrencies lack the stable institutional foundations needed to bolster the public’s trust in them. Trust thus ebbs and flows, making them fragile and volatile, as Bitcoin’s wild gyrations have amply demonstrated.

Moreover, with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that rely on “proof-of-work” mechanisms, transactions must be continuously verified and logged in a decentralised ledger (in this instance based on blockchain).

This requires millions of computers to operate continuously to update and verify transactions – work that is incentivised by the opportunity to be rewarded with newly minted Bitcoin.

The energy consumed in these “mining” operations now exceeds that of a medium-sized country like Malaysia or Sweden. Now that the world has awoken to the dangers of climate change (and to the paltriness of our response to it so far), this massive waste should make Bitcoin highly unattractive.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Separation of powers, rule of law fundamental principles but need to ‘look at what works’: Shanmugam


OCTOBER 05, 2021

  • The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act was passed into law after an almost 11-hour debate
  • The debate saw Workers’ Party MPs moot amendments to the law, including a key push for judicial review by the courts
  • Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said he agreed with the party on the principles but exceptions need to be made in some situations
  • Most of the party's proposals were rejected except for one
  • 11 parliamentarians voted against the Bill and two Nominated MPs abstained from voting

SINGAPORE — Singapore will not be where it is today if the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government did not uphold the fundamental principles of separation of powers and the rule of law, but it is necessary to “get out of this colonisation of our minds... (and) look at what works”, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

Mr Shanmugam was responding on Monday (Oct 4) to the Workers’ Party (WP) as he wrapped up a marathon debate on the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or Fica. The debate started around 12.30pm and ended almost 11 hours later.

In that time, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and several fellow WP Members of Parliament (MPs) spoke at length on the opposition party’s key proposal: For judicial oversight of the new law.

Mr Shanmugam said that the PAP Government agrees with WP on the importance of the principles but it differs on where exceptions need to be made.

Parliament repeals Sedition Act, amends Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to cover relevant aspects

Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament on Oct 5, 2021.

Cindy Co
05 Oct 2021

SINGAPORE: Parliament voted to repeal the Sedition Act on Tuesday (Oct 5), while amending the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to cover aspects of the Act that “continue to be relevant”.

The Sedition Act has been in existence since 1938, and criminalises conduct with seditious tendencies including promoting disaffection against the Government and feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes.

Some aspects of the Sedition Act are “no longer relevant and have not been relevant for a long time”, Law Minister K Shanmugam told the House on Tuesday.

“For instance, the excitement of disaffection against the Government shouldn’t be criminalised. I think if it is, a lot of people, including many in this house, would be considered criminals.

“But it hasn’t been done away with sooner, because some of the other provisions were relevant,” said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Home Affairs.