Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Can we grow more food on less land? We’ll have to, a new study finds

08 DECEMBER, 2018

TODAY

WASHINGTON — If the world hopes to make meaningful progress on climate change, it won’t be enough for cars and factories to get cleaner. Our cows and wheat fields will have to become radically more efficient, too.

That’s the basic conclusion of a sweeping new study issued Wednesday (Dec 5) by the World Resources Institute, an environmental group.

The report warns that the world’s agricultural system will need drastic changes in the next few decades in order to feed billions more people without triggering a climate catastrophe.

The challenge is daunting: Agriculture already occupies roughly 40 per cent of the world’s vegetated land and is responsible for about a quarter of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But with the global population expected to grow from 7.2 billion people today to nearly 10 billion by 2050, and with many millions of people eating more meat as incomes rise, that environmental impact is on pace to expand dramatically.

News analysis: A ‘new Malaysia’ but same old racial, religious divide

By Faris Mokhtar in Kuala Lumpur

11 December, 2018


KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, which swept into power in May through a significant swing in the Malay vote, should be under no illusion that the Malay voters bought into its progressive ideology, analysts told TODAY.

If there were ever any doubt, the 50,000-strong turnout for last weekend's rally at the historic Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) sent a loud and clear message: Malay rights and Islam’s status as the national religion must remain enshrined in the country’s Constitution.

As it becomes increasingly clear that the groundswell of support for PH during the elections had largely stemmed from voter dissatisfaction with corruption in the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government, the opposition United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) are now ready to pounce and play the race and religion cards to win over the hearts and minds of the majority Malay population, the analysts said.

[Ok. So BN's corruption not an issue anymore?]

Tough to get ‘balance right’ when pricing HDB flats in central areas: Lawrence Wong

TODAY file photo

By JANICE LIM


It is difficult to get the “balance right” when it comes to pricing public housing flats, particularly for those located close to the city centre, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.



07 MARCH, 2019


SINGAPORE — It is difficult to get the “balance right” when it comes to pricing public housing flats, particularly for those located close to the city centre, as the Government has to weigh between pricing them to market value and keeping housing affordable, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Speaking during his ministry’s Budget debate on Thursday (March 7), Mr Wong was responding to a concern raised by Nominated Member of Parliament (MP) Walter Theseira about social stratification in housing estates.

Associate Professor Theseira, a labour economist with the Singapore University of Social Sciences, had pointed to the widening price disparities between Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats located close to the city centre and those that were not.

Acknowledging the challenges that the Ministry of National Development (MND) faces, Mr Wong said: “It’s difficult to get this balance right”

“If you price it to market, then only the very well-off can afford. If you want to make it affordable, the only way is through a big discount to the BTO (Build-to-Order) price.”

New CPF rules for purchase of older flats to kick in by May

TODAY file photo
By WONG PEI TING

TODAY


When National Development Minister Lawrence Wong first signalled in August last year that CPF rules will be tweaked for the purchase of older flats, analysts told TODAY the move could help reassure flat owners that their ageing properties still held value.


07 MARCH, 2019
[Note date]


SINGAPORE — Homebuyers looking to purchase older flats from May onwards will be able to benefit from new Central Provident Fund (CPF) rules, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Thursday (March 7).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Singapore's Food Security "30 by 30" plan

[Two articles on the state of SG's urban farming endeavours.

See also the 2015 post on this.]

Singapore’s ‘30 by 30’ food production target: Is it feasible?

By Paul Teng and Jose Montesclaros

 09 April, 2019



The recent announcements in Parliament to raise Singapore’s food self-production level from the current 10 per cent to 30 per cent of total food needs by 2030, the “30 by 30” strategy, have raised some pertinent questions on capacity, investment and exportability.

Singapore’s huge dependency — 90 per cent — on imports for its food supply puts it at the mercy of external forces in the exporting countries, most of which are beyond the Republic’s control.

So it is laudable and indeed even overdue, that the government would want to reduce the country’s vulnerability and achieve greater stability in its supply of food as part of food security.

Climate change: Yes, your individual action does make a difference

By Steve Westlake

16 April, 2019

What can we do in the face of the climate emergency? Many say we should drive less, fly less, eat less meat. But others argue that personal actions like this are a pointless drop in the ocean when set against the huge systemic changes that are required to prevent devastating global warming.

It’s a debate that has been raging for decades. Clearly, in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions, a single person’s contribution is basically irrelevant (much like a single vote in an election).

But my research, first in my masters and now as part of my PhD, has found that doing something bold like giving up flying can have a wider knock-on effect by influencing others and shifting what’s viewed as “normal”.

Friday, April 12, 2019

China’s state pension fund to run dry by 2035 due to shrinking workforce: Study


The urban worker pension fund, the backbone of the country’s state pension system,
held a reserve of 4.8 trillion yuan (US$714 billion) at the end of 2018.
It is predicted to peak at 7 trillion yuan in 2027, then drop steadily to zero by 2035.
12 April, 2019

TODAY


HONG KONG — China’s main state pension fund will run out of money by 2035 due to a decline in the available work force, according to new research.

The urban worker pension fund, the backbone of the country’s state pension system, held a reserve of 4.8 trillion yuan (S$968 billion) at the end of 2018. It is predicted to peak at 7 trillion yuan in 2027, then drop steadily to zero by 2035, a report by the World Social Security Centre at the government-supported Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has said.

And the gap between contributions and outlays could be as high as 11 trillion yuan by 2050, with each retired citizen supported by only one worker, down from the current level of two, the government think tank calculated.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Video Compilation: Nuclear Fear, Nuclear Power, and the way to save our planet, save our climate, and save our environment.

Drafted 1 April 2019 

In an earlier blogpost on Climate Change, I compiled a list of videos to support the position that Climate Change is already irreversible.

The solution for clean energy is already with us. But we have been manipulated to believe that it is dangerous and worse than the problem.

This first video is about how the fear of Nuclear power was created. It is intriguing.




Monday, April 8, 2019

With no Tan Cheng Bock-led alliance in sight, opposition parties turn to plan Bs

Tan Cheng Bock being pestered by Chee Soon Juan


By Kenneth Cheng and Wong Pei Ting

TODAY

08 April, 2019

SINGAPORE — Inspired by last year’s shock victory of the Pakatan Harapan alliance in the Malaysian General Election (GE), hopes were briefly raised among the opposition circles on this side of the Causeway that several parties could band together, led by former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock.

It was touted as a possible game-changer given the fragmented opposition landscape dotted by fewer than a handful of established parties and several fringe ones that have struggled to make any impact at recent polls.

Eight months on, however, the proposed coalition of seven opposition parties appears dead in the water, with several party leaders fast losing hope and turning to plan Bs.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

All you need to know about Singapore’s proposed fake news law

By Asyraf Kamil
iStock photo
02 April, 2019

TODAY

SINGAPORE — After two years spent studying the threat of fake news, the Republic is taking things a step further with the introduction of sweeping new laws that will, among other things, give Government ministers broad powers to quickly stop the dissemination of online falsehoods and punish those who create and spread them.

These new laws, which will come under a new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, were tabled in Parliament on Monday (April 1).

Friday, April 5, 2019

Investment talks with MBS, RWS were on Singapore’s terms due to economy’s strength: Chan Chun Sing

TODAY file photo

TODAY


By Faris Mokhtar


05 April, 2019


SINGAPORE — Negotiations with the integrated resorts to commit about S$9 billion of non-gaming investments took more than two years, but the Singapore Government was able to iron out a deal based on its own terms, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said.

Singapore has to be in a position of strength to negotiate, and ensure that the country is “never held ransom” or “overly dependent” on one particular sector, he said at a media briefing on Friday (April 5) to talk about the negotiation process.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Why an ageing China will never overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy

Business photo created by onlyyouqj
- www.freepik.com
By Yi Fuxian

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

02 April, 2019


Forecasts that China will dethrone the United States as the world’s biggest economy neglect the country’s ageing population and its drag on growth, says the author.



In 2010, China replaced Japan as the world's second-largest economy. Many economists believe it is just a matter of time before China dethrones the United States as the world’s biggest economy – some have argued that it could happen before 2030.

They have cited the history of other Asian economies as evidence to back the claim. The nominal per capita gross domestic product of China was just a sixth of America’s in 2018 – a level similar to Japan in 1960, Taiwan in 1978 and South Korea in 1986.

In the following two decades, the three Asian economies achieved annual growth rates of between 7 per cent and 8 per cent.

As such, economists including Justin Lin Yifu, the former World Bank chief economist, have argued that China would go through a similar trajectory and the nation would be able to achieve a 6 per cent annual growth rate from now until the 2030s.

Johor crown prince accuses Mahathir of lying about shipping hub project


Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, in a Facebook post, said neither he, his father Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian nor the state government was aware of the project.
Johor Southern Tigers/Facebook
Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, in a Facebook post, said neither he, his father Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian nor the state government was aware of the project.

KUALA LUMPUR — Johor’s crown prince has launched an attack on Putrajaya, denying Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that a new shipping hub project at the Johor Baru port is public knowledge.

Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, in a Facebook post, said neither he, his father Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian nor the state government was aware of the project.

“Whoever says Johor is aware is lying. Anything within three nautical miles of the shores of the state — in particular, land and water matters — is the sole prerogative of the state.

[Note the limits of Johor's jurisdiction - 3 nautical miles.]

“Is Putrajaya trying to usurp the powers of the state?”

Update on Climate Change - Video Compilation. Commentary

It may seem to you that everyday, there is news or updates or a new breathlessly reported fact about Climate Change and what you can do to stop or even reverse Climate Change.

David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth" was interviewed and asked if he intended his book to spur people to action, to slow, stop or even reverse climate change.



How Singapore’s hawker culture started



By JOHN KWOK
TODAY file photo
The Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre. On March 27, Singapore submitted a nomination for Singapore hawker culture to be inscribed on the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a year after after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the move.
03 APRIL, 2019


On March 27, Singapore submitted a nomination for Singapore hawker culture to be inscribed on the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a year after after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the move.

In the lead up to the submission of the nomination, the official government website on hawker culture in Singapore described that street hawking in Singapore can be traced back to the mid-1800s when street hawkers sold a variety of food along the streets of Singapore.

The narrative leaps forward to the time period 1968 to 1986 when the Singapore government resettled street hawkers into hawker centres and markets.

Monday, April 1, 2019

'Anti-vax' movement fuels rise in measles, vaccine-preventable diseases in South-east Asia

A girl receives anti-measles vaccination drops at a health centre in
Tondo, Manila, on Sept 3, 2014. 
REUTERS

29 March, 2019


HONG KONG — Vaccination rates for measles have dipped across South-east Asia, falling below the 95 per cent mark which experts say is needed to fully protect a community from the infectious disease.


At the same time, cases of measles have spiked in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in recent years — part of a worldwide 50 per cent increase seen last year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Freedom with ‘Fire’: Living simply, saving heavily to retire young

By Richard Hartung

30 March, 2019


Having the option of retiring in your 30s or 40s sounds really attractive for many people.

“Fire”, short for “financial independence, retire early” is a growing movement that started in the United States. Its followers tend to be millennials who choose that goal in a bid to free themselves from what they see as a prolonged and unsustainable work life that takes its toll on them.

It’s not easy, though, so it may not be as enticing as it seems.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The emerging 737 MAX scandal, explained

It’s more than bad software.


By Matthew Yglesias

VOX


Mar 29, 2019


Boeing executives are offering a simple explanation for why the company’s best-selling plane in the world, the 737 MAX 8, crashed twice in the past several months, leaving Jakarta, Indonesia, in October and then Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March. Executives claimed Wednesday, March 27, that the cause was a software problem — and that a new software upgrade fixes it.

But this open-and-shut version of events conflicts with what diligent reporters in the aviation press have uncovered in the weeks since Asia, Europe, Canada, and then the United States grounded the planes.

Warnings of a dark side to AI in health care

Photo by Unsplash
In a paper published on Thursday (Mar 21) in the journal Science, the researchers raise the prospect of “adversarial attacks” — manipulations that can change the behavior of A.I. systems using tiny pieces of digital data.

30 March, 2019


NEW YORK — Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a device that can capture an image of your retina and automatically detect signs of diabetic blindness.

This new breed of artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology is rapidly spreading across the medical field, as scientists develop systems that can identify signs of illness and disease in a wide variety of images, from X-rays of the lungs to C.A.T. scans of the brain. These systems promise to help doctors evaluate patients more efficiently, and less expensively, than in the past.

Similar forms of artificial intelligence are likely to move beyond hospitals into the computer systems used by health care regulators, billing companies and insurance providers. Just as A.I. will help doctors check your eyes, lungs and other organs, it will help insurance providers determine reimbursement payments and policy fees.

Friday, March 29, 2019

What’s life like after climate change? One city offers plenty of clues

Residents collect water from a communal tap in a settlement
outside of Cape Town.
By SIMON KUPER

29 MARCH, 2019

THE NEW YORK TIMES

In the flat where I stayed in Cape Town last month, the bathtub felt like a relic of a lost civilisation. It may never be used again. Beside it was a shower containing an egg timer. The two-minute wash has been standard here since the recent three-year drought. In the city’s public bathrooms, a dribble comes out of the tap. Posters everywhere warn against wasting water.

This is what adapting to climate change looks like. Last year, Cape Town nearly became the first big city on earth to run dry. Daily water rations dropped to 50 litres per person per day, with the spectre of 25 litres if supplies ran out on “Day Zero”.

The drought broke just in time, but the city’s planners now expect permanent water scarcity. Rationing, which initially felt like wartime austerity, has become normal.

Debt-relief can help poor make better decisions: Study

TODAY

By LOW YOUJIN

26 MARCH, 2019


SINGAPORE — A group of academics has called for a debt-relief programme to be made available to the less well-off here, after a comprehensive study showed that debt takes a huge toll on their ability to make good decisions.

Participants of a first-of-its-kind study by the Social Service Research Centre (SSR) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) viewed each debt as a separate “mental account”, according to the study released on Tuesday (March 26).

Being in the red in many debt accounts was “psychologically painful”, said the study’s authors, who are researchers from the NUS and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). Thinking about their debts also increased their anxiety and worsened cognitive performance.

“This psychological impact may prevent the poor from making the right decisions to get out of poverty, further contributing to the poverty trap,” said the study. Its findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America scientific journal.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Investor watchdog questions PUB after ‘serious concerns’ raised over takeover move for Tuaspring plant

By Kenneth Cheng

26 March, 2019


SINGAPORE — The Securities Investors Association Singapore (SIAS) has written an open letter to national water agency PUB about its move to take over Hyflux’s Tuaspringdesalination plant — if Tuaspring cannot fix its defaults by April 5 — after the firm’s investors raised “serious concerns”.

In its letter on Monday addressed to PUB chief executive officer Ng Joo Hee, SIAS president David Gerald said Hyflux’s retail investors were caught in a predicament, as the company possibly faces liquidation.

The SIAS is Singapore’s retail investor watchdog.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Singapore: Place or nation?

What makes a country a home? Is it emotional ties or purely economic self-interest?

June 19, 2006

[Note date. This is from 13 years ago. But may be pertinent in this bicentennial year. Is Singapore a nation or just a place?]

By For The Straits Times, Linda Lim

SINGAPORE'S economic development has never relied on its being a nation. First a colonial port where immigrant merchants and labour served the needs of the British empire, after independence in 1965 its economic policy still located the city-state within the regional trade and global production networks of foreign corporations.

Unlike Asia's other export-oriented 'developmental states' - Japan, South Korea and Taiwan - Singapore did not actively nurture or encourage a local capitalist class. Foreign and state enterprises were favoured, so 'national champion' outfits such as Toyota, Samsung and Acer never developed.

Instead, Singapore has always been a 'global city' - a place where parts and people are imported to produce goods and services that are exported to foreign consumers.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Can bringing young and old under one roof solve the world's housing crisis?

24 March, 2019

BRUSSELS — Home sharing initiatives that link cash-strapped young people with elderly home owners are becoming popular with governments around the world as they seek to tackle the twin crises of homelessness and loneliness, experts said on March 21.

Home sharing, which usually involves an older person offering a spare room at low cost to a young person in exchange for help and companionship, is increasingly seen as a solution to the problem of affordability faced by many countries.

Experiments in a number of countries suggest it could also alleviate loneliness among older people — a growing problem as populations age and more and more people live alone.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

When the benefits of statins outweigh the risks

By Jane E. Brody

THE NEW YORK TIMES

24 March, 2019


NEW YORK — My column last April “Pros and Cons of Statin Therapy” has elicited nearly 700 online comments, many of them from people who accused me of selling out to Big Pharma.

Yes, statins are blockbuster drugs with sales in the billions, but some people question if they’re safe and effective. In this column, I will try yet again to explain my understanding of statins and help others deal sensibly with these potentially lifesaving drugs.

I do not own stock in any drug company, and no friend or relative works for one. My personal decisions and published statements about any medication are based on a thorough analysis of the best available medical evidence. Those decisions and statements may change if and when reliable new findings warrant. This is science, after all, and science is constantly evolving.

As I mentioned in last year’s column, I had taken a monthslong hiatus after more than a decade on a statin to see if it would relieve my periodic back pain. It did not. What it did do was allow my cholesterol level to soar back to a total of 248 milligrams per decilitre of blood and an LDL (the heart-damaging lipid) level of 171, 70-plus milligrams higher than it should be.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Americans are pessimistic about what life will be like in 2050. Here’s what they fear most.

The Daily 202 - 22 Mar 2019

BY JAMES HOHMANN
with Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro


THE BIG IDEA: Americans, collectively, appear to be in a deeper funk about the future than Beto O’Rourke was after he lost his Senate race.
When adults are asked to think about what the United States will be like in 2050, they see the country declining in stature on the world stage, a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and growing political polarization. They think health care will be less affordable, public education will be lower quality and retiring will be harder.

They fear the growing national debt, the likelihood of an attack that’s as bad or worse than 9/11 and another 1970s-style energy crisis. Many people also think robots will take their jobs.

Few folks in either party believe the political class is up to the task of addressing the most pressing challenges. Part of the problem is that there is less agreement about what the biggest problems even are than there once was, let alone the best ways to tackle them.

Why we should be honest about failure

By Janan Ganesh

20 March, 2019


On a long-haul flight, Can You Ever Forgive Me? becomes the first film I have ever watched twice in immediate succession.

Released last month in Britain, it recounts the (true) story of Lee Israel, a once-admired, now-marginal writer who resorts to literary forgery to make the rent on her fetid New York hovel.

Her one friend is himself a washout who, as per the English tradition, passes off his insolvency as bohemia. Lee pleads with her agent to answer her calls and, in the rawest scene, confesses her crime with a wistful pang for the success it brought her.

There are serviceable jokes (including the profane farewell between the two friends) but the film is ultimately about failure: social, financial, romantic, professional.

Friday, March 22, 2019

From construction to cakes: What a man’s job switch tells us about how S'pore looks at skills




“Look, I spent my whole life putting cement as smoothly as possible on tiles and then lining them up straight on a wall. Or plastering the wall as smoothly as possible. Right? No different from icing a cake," said the author's friend.

By ADRIAN W J KUAH

20 MARCH, 2019


A friend of mine recently lost his job in the construction sector. He was a highly-skilled and experienced tiler and plasterer. I asked him if he was going to look for another tiling or plastering job. He said: “No lah, I'm going to help my wife in her bakery.”

Amused, I asked him: “What are you going to do in the bakery?”

He said, in all seriousness: “Icing cakes.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why my first home purchase is a HDB flat I may just outlive

By WONG PEI TING



18 MARCH, 2019


I am 29 years old, know full well that a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat will be worth nothing when its 99-year lease expires, and even explored a Big Read surrounding the lease decay issue.

Monday, March 11, 2019

S'poreans should 'brace themselves' for more issues with M'sia: Bilahari Kausikan

08 March, 2019

SINGAPORE — Air pollution, stalled rail projects and constant antagonism by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad are just some of the issues Singaporeans must continue to bear with because of the instability of Pakatan Harapan, said retired Singapore diplomat Bilahari Kausikan.

In a Facebook post on Friday (March 8), Mr Kausikan shared a TODAY report stating that the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail system connecting Singapore with Johor would be delayed as Putrajaya had failed to meet project deadlines.

“This is just another example of the consequences of a fundamentally incoherent and thus ineffective, government across the causeway,” he wrote in a caption accompanying the report.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Budget ‘hongbao’ squeezed out of Government’s coffers: Heng Swee Keat


By Janice Lim

08 March, 2019


SINGAPORE — While he is often jokingly referred to as the God of Fortune, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday (March 8) that the “hongbao” (red packets, or goodies) dished out in the Budget have to be squeezed from the Government’s coffers.

To those who have asked him why the hongbao in this year’s Budget was so small, Mr Heng has replied: “This God of Fortune is not fat. This God of Fortune is quite thin, so money no enough. Whatever ‘hongbao’ given were squeezed out.”

Features of Budget 2019 include the S$1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonusand the S$6.1 billion set aside for the Merdeka Generation Package.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Loss in Semenyih by-election ominous for PH’s rule in Malaysia

By MOHAMED NAWAB MOHAMED OSMAN

05 MARCH, 2019


The recently concluded Semenyih by-election won by the Barisan Nasional (BN) is indeed a game changer for Malaysian politics. The by-election is a confirmation that many Malay voters have abandoned ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH), a trend that was discerned in the previous Cameron Highlands elections.

The key difference between Cameron Highlands and Semenyih is the demography of the Malay voters. Prior to the election, many political pundits predicted that PH will retain Semenyih due to the high percentage of Malays from middle and upper-middle class background, a traditional vote bank for PH.

However, the results indicated otherwise, though it is perhaps premature to suggest that the by-election is a referendum for the PH government.

What a Singapore Strait traffic jam says about the world economy

06 March, 2019

HONG KONG — Flying into Singapore’s Changi Airport, visitors often remark on the hundreds of vessels, from supertankers to freighters, anchored along the coastline. Why are there so many? What are they doing there?

A decade ago, the global recession created a maritime car park of apparent ghost ships in the Singapore Strait — vessels sat idle in the world’s busiest shipping lane as companies were going bust or did not have enough business to justify their use.

Now there’s a similar stockpiling of ships in the strait, but it’s more like a traffic jam. A growing global population that is getting materially richer means a burgeoning demand for goods.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

China defends belt and road strategy against debt trap claims


Reuters file photo - A map illustrating China's "One Belt, One Road" megaproject at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong.

05 March, 2019



BEIJING — China has sought to defend its ailing “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) from mounting international criticism ahead of an important summit in April to fine-tune the multibillion-dollar infrastructure investment programme.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Explainer: What does a giant dislodged iceberg mean for us in Singapore?

By NEO RONG WEI

03 March, 2019


SINGAPORE — An iceberg roughly two-and-a-half times the size of Singapore could break away from a western Antarctic ice shelf in weeks, said the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) last month.

It is the result of a rift, known as a Halloween crack, intersecting with another fissure which was stable for the past 35 years but which recently started accelerating northwards.

The two rifts are set to meet in a few weeks, experts estimate, which will lead to the iceberg calving, or being dislodged.

There is “no one reason” that can explain the calving at Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf, said Professor Benjamin Horton of Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment.

Ice is melting everywhere, although the western Antarctic is the most sensitive and the fastest melting region, he said.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Singapore’s giant reserves: a taxing question for its next prime minister, Heng Swee Keat

It’s budget season in the Lion City, which can only mean one thing: a debate over whether more of the revenue from Singapore’s giant reserves should be used to offset taxes
The prime minister in waiting – Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat – is to unveil the budget on Monday


  • Jing Yng Ng 
  • Bhavan Jaipragas 

  • 16 Feb, 2019
‘NIRC’ – it’s a uniquely Singaporean economic abbreviation that stands for net investment returns contribution.

It’s a mouthful, but in the coming weeks the term is likely to be on the lips of many of the Lion City’s lawmakers as they debate the national budget Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will unveil on Monday. The NIRC is the amount of Singapore government revenue that comes from interest earned on its outsize reserves.

The city state has elaborate rules on how much a sitting government can rely on past reserves. Among them are requirements that the administration is not mired in net debt, and that only up to 50 per cent of long-term expected returns can be used each year.

The NIRC is computed based on long-term expected returns from net assets invested by three entities as well as investment income.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Rising costs, income uncertainty a worry for younger Singaporeans: MPs

By Faris Mokhtar

27 February, 2019


SINGAPORE — Young couples today are being “squeezed” financially as they start their own families due to rising costs and uncertainty over income, said Member of Parliament (MP) Ong Teng Koon on Wednesday (Feb 27).

He was among several MPs who raised issues that concern younger Singaporeans on the second day of the Budget debate in Parliament. Others also touched on mental health well-being and Singapore’s commitment to climate change as younger people become more environmentally-conscious.

Focusing on young couples in his speech, Mr Ong, the MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency (GRC), noted that they come under “intense financial pressure” as they have to cope with wedding expenses, purchasing their first marital home and starting a family.

[Wedding Expenses? That is entirely voluntary expense. Or rather, how much you want to splurge is entirely within your control. If you are financially squeezed, don't go for a lavish wedding. There is either NO correlation between the cost of a wedding, and the strength of the marriage. There may even be a inverse correlation.]
Pointing out that companies seem to be moving towards contract and freelance work, couples face uncertainty over income, said Mr Ong, who also noted that “retrenchment is also no longer a blue moon event”.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nine out of 10 elderly buyers of two-room flexi units opt for shorter leases

By Janice Lim

24 February, 2019


SINGAPORE — A housing scheme that allows senior citizens to buy two-room flats on shorter leases has remained popular among the elderly, with nine out of 10 taking up the option, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said on Sunday (Feb 24).

Launched in 2015, the “2-room Flexi Scheme” lets elderly buyers pick a lease length that is best suited for their needs, as opposed to the full 99-year lease.

The lease length ranged between 15 and 45 years, with minimum lease periods differentiated based on the buyer’s age.

For example, an elderly buyer aged between 55 and 59 is only allowed to buy flats that have minimally 40 years of lease left.

A buyer who is 80 years old and above can opt to purchase a unit with just 15 years of lease left.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Will the GE be held in 2019 or 2020? We look at the case for each

By Faris Mokhtar

23 February, 2019


SINGAPORE — Amid earlier speculation that snap polls could be held this year, political analysts are divided on whether this year’s Budget provided sufficient hints of an imminent General Election (GE).

Traditionally, the presence of Budget goodies has been seen by some as an indication of an impending GE, with the Government sharing its surpluses with the people before its current term is up.

While Budget 2019contained what the analysts described as “generous” measures, some of those interviewed by TODAY expect the GE to be held next year, following a string of incidents since the turn of the year which could have affected public confidence.

These included the death of actor Aloysius Pang, which was the fourth NS training fatality in 16 months, SingPost’s postal service lapses, and the leak of confidential information of 14,200 individuals diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

While the Government has acted quickly to address the lapses, the analysts noted that it would take time to restore public confidence.

Murdoch University's Associate Professor Terence Lee, who researches Singapore and Malaysia politics, said he believed the Government had initially crafted Budget 2019 with a GE in mind, but had second thoughts after the recent incidents.

Bicentennial Bonus CPF top-up a nice gesture but won’t guarantee retirement adequacy: Expert

By Alfred Chua

22 February, 2019


SINGAPORE — Among the slew of announcements in the Budget earlier this week, one thing that stood out for financial experts was this: that there are some 300,000 Singaporeans aged between 50 and 64 who have less than S$60,000 in retirement savings in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed this statistic in his Budget speech as he unveiled the Bicentennial Bonus, which among other things will provide a CPF top-up of up to S$1,000 to this group.

Based on data from the Department of Statistics, they make up a third of all Singaporeans aged 50 to 64.

Of the 300,000, 60 per cent are women, the Ministry of Finance told TODAY.

Friday, February 22, 2019

The $247 trillion global debt bomb


Columnist
July 15, 2018

The untold story of the world economy — so far at least — is the potentially explosive interaction between the spreading trade war and the overhang of global debt, estimated at a staggering $247 trillion. That’s “trillion” with a “t.” The numbers are so large as to be almost incomprehensible.


It’s China’s Huawei against the world as spying concerns mount


17 FEBRUARY, 2019

HONG KONG — Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has been under intense scrutiny around the world in recent months amid concerns its technologies and products could be used for espionage by Beijing.

In December, its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States Justice Department on charges she helped the company evade US sanctions on Iran. Although she has denied any wrongdoing, Meng is currently awaiting extradition proceedings and a hearing has been set for March 6.

Here is a round-up of what the world thinks about Huawei:
(and my interpretation)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

First new-generation neighbourhood centre opens along Punggol Waterway

By LOUISA TANG

Raj Nadarajan/TODAYOasis Terraces, HDB’s first new generation neighbourhood centre in Punggol Drive, Feb 17, 2019.

17 FEBRUARY, 2019


SINGAPORE — Cascading garden terraces overlooking the Punggol Waterway, access to a polyclinic and childcare centre, and more than 100 shops across seven storeys — these are what Punggol residents can look forward to at their new neighbourhood centre.

What you can find on the dark web besides drugs and child porn: military secrets, stolen art and more

17 FEBRUARY, 2019


HONG KONG — Although most people have no idea how to access the dark web, their exposure on this hidden, crime-ridden corner of the internet continues to grow.

Six million hacked personal accounts were added to the dark web last week, adding to the 6.5 billion personal records already available in the internet’s netherworld, stolen from websites where internet users entrust their personal information every day.

This leaked data is passed around in forums where hackers gloat about their recent cybercrimes, and scammers go shopping for identities to steal.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Why Workfare works better for Singapore than a minimum wage

By CHEW SOON BENG AND LINDA LOW

13 FEBRUARY, 2019


In recent months, there has been some discussion on whether Singapore should have a minimum wage and whether that would be better than the current Progressive Wage Model and the Workfare scheme.

Here, we will explain why Workfare is still a better scheme than a minimum wage.

As pure market forces will determine the prices of private goods and services as well as wages, government intervention in the labour market to set a minimum wage is usually deemed necessary only when there is some market failure.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

If we leave it to our kids to fix the planet, it may be too late

By Kim Stengert

06 February, 2019

The other day, sipping on my strawless kopi-o peng at Orchard Road I witnessed an army of National Environment Agency volunteers in white polo shirts walking down the street, checking for errant smokers outside of smoking areas marked by orange lines.

It is clear that when it comes to public health, the laws here are strict, and for good reason.

Globally, seven million deaths a year are linked to tobacco, and 1.6 millionto diabetes.

Now let me share another set of numbers: 6.1 million deaths are linked to air pollution and nearly 30 million people were affected by extreme weather events last year.

Environment-related threats impact us in a way that is as real and tangible as drugs and chemicals. Natural disasters like extreme weather events have escalated at an unnatural pace. New Zealand just named climate change as its “greatest security threat”.

But despite the imminent threat that environmental problems pose to humans, accountability for these problems has been murky and actions, downright passive.

China’s pigs are vanishing as consumers go the whole hog for leaner pork

Pigs are seen at a backyard farm on the outskirts of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China on September 5, 2018. Reuters file photo


06 February, 2019


HONG KONG — The Year of the Pig may be at hand, but in China the animals themselves — central to Chinese cuisine for thousands of years — are disappearing.

Across the country hog breeds are vanishing rapidly, taking with them some of China’s signature dishes and, more worryingly, exposing the remaining swine to increased risk of disease, agricultural specialists said.

As the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pork, China has been domesticating pigs for 8,000 years.

But indigenous Chinese pig species dropped from 90 per cent of the market in 1994 to less than 2 per cent in 2007, the last year the Ministry of Agriculture made such figures available to the public.

Breeds like Jinhua and Chenghua, which used to be associated with specific regional dishes, have been depleted because of changing market demands and diets that have allowed Western breeds to increasingly take over the Chinese market.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The ‘Golden Girls’ trend could be a golden opportunity for retirees facing isolation

By Adina Solomon

January 24 2018, Washington Post


Jane Callahan-Moore was living with her daughter and granddaughter in a Chicago suburb, but she felt something missing.

“While I loved being with them and seeing them every day, I found myself getting increasingly depressed because I didn’t have any contact with people my own age,” Callahan-Moore, 69, said.

So, in late 2017, she made a change. Callahan-Moore became housemates with Stefanie Clark, 75, and moved into Clark’s high-rise condo in Edgewater, a lakefront neighborhood in Chicago. Now, the pair share both space and time. They cook each other meals, go out together and provide support.

And neither owns a car. Edgewater is a walkable neighborhood with rail and bus access nearby, plus restaurants and shopping.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

What to make of Singapore’s move to buy F-35 fighter jets

TODAY

By DAVID BOEY

21 JANUARY, 2019


Singapore announced on Friday (Jan 18) that it would buy a "small number" of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for "a full evaluation of their capabilities and suitability before deciding on a full fleet".

If the sparse 127-word Ministry of Defence (Mindef) statement spread over two paragraphs left you with more questions than answers, you are in good company.

Two key questions remain.

First, is the Lockheed-Martin F-35 — the most advanced warplane that friends of the United States can buy — the chosen one that will replace Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16s?

Can these 35-ton bricks solve renewable energy’s biggest problem?

Fast Company

7 Nov 2018

BY ADELE PETERS


It’s already cheaper to build a new solar or wind farm than a coal plant. But when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, renewable electricity can still be fairly expensive to store–even though the cost of batteries is dropping. If the world shifted to 100% renewable electricity right now, we might pay more on electric bills.

A new solution that uses basic physics could cut the cost of storage in half, or by as much as 80% over the total life of the system. It makes it possible for renewable power to be cheaper than fossil fuels all day, every day of the year, everywhere. “Our solution, for the first time, will enable the world to achieve this,” says Robert Piconi, CEO and cofounder of Energy Vault, the startup that developed the new system. Tata Power, the giant Indian electric utility, will be the first customer.

[Image: courtesy Energy Vault]

Denmark's free education policy has created 'eternity students' who never graduate




From Business Insider

Chris Weller 

Nov. 12, 2017 << Note Date>> 

  • Denmark has a term for people who don't graduate in the normal five-year track: eternity students.
  • Because Danish students receive a monthly grant and pay no tuition, some feel compelled to move through their studies without thinking about the future.
  • A 2015 amendment made it easier for universities to push students through, but the trend still exists.

Monday, January 21, 2019

​Focusing on how individuals can help combat climate change may not be the best approach

By Morten Fibieger Byskov

TODAY

18 January, 2019


What can be done to limit global warming to 1.5°C? A quick internet search offers a deluge of advice on how individuals can change their behaviour.

Take public transport instead of the car or, for longer journeys, the train rather than fly. Eat less meat and more vegetables, pulses and grains, and don’t forget to turn off the light when leaving a room or the water when shampooing.

[And the case for or against vegetarianism (as a solution for climate change? Link here.]
The implication here is that the impetus for addressing climate change is on individual consumers.

But can and should it really be the responsibility of individuals to limit global warming? On the face of it, we all contribute to global warming through the cumulative impact of our actions.

Why I’m (slightly) less pessimistic about global warming

Washington Post

Opinions

By Robert J. Samuelson

January 20, 2019


On global climate change, I’ve changed my mind — just slightly.

I’ve written about this issue for more than two decades, and my theme has been monotonously consistent. As a starting point, I’ve accepted the prevailing scientific view that man-made greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.

But I’ve been routinely pessimistic and skeptical that we can do much about it. That is, we can’t easily control the forces that worsen global warming.

We have yet to discover or create some low-cost fuel that would replace fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal), which provide roughly 80 percent of the world’s energy. Most nations aren’t willing to scrap the energy status quo — the very basis of modern civilization — before having a practical substitute.

Thus, despite the enthusiasm for non-fossil fuels (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear), global greenhouse-gas emissions are higher today than, say, in 1990.

This raises the atmospheric concentration levels of those gases, which in turn trap heat above the Earth’s surface. From 1990 to 2018, the concentration level of carbon dioxide rose from 354 parts per million to 409 parts per million.

Chinese economy slows to lowest growth rate in 28 years


By Anna Fifield

January 21 at 6:13 AM

BEIJING — The Chinese economy last year grew at its slowest rate since 1990, adding to the urgency for President Xi Jinping to reach a trade deal with the United States.

Although the trade war is not the main reason for last year’s slowdown, it is not helping.

“The economy is a much bigger problem for Xi Jinping than the trade war. The last thing he wants is a bunch of angry people protesting because they’ve lost their jobs,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research, a Hong Kong-based consultancy.

“Slowing economic growth is putting pressure on him to solve as many problems as he can, and the trade war will be top of his list,” Collier said.

Growth in the world’s second largest economy decelerated from 6.8 percent in 2017 to 6.6 percent last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The slowdown is the result of cooling demand both at home and abroad.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Entombed! Thai Cave Rescue. Book by Liam Cochrane


ENTOMBED! Twelve schoolboys trapped deep inside a flooding cave in a drama that gripped the world - as relived in new book by reporter who witnessed every moment
  • The Wild Boars football team and their coach were freed from a Thai cave 
  • The Thai football club had been trapped underground for the past two weeks 
  • They were all brought out in a daring rescue mission that ended on July 10, 2018 

By LIAM COCHRANE

11 January 2019

Australian journalist LIAM COCHRANE covered last year’s dramatic cave rescue of schoolboys in Thailand. Here, he reconstructs the gripping events that had the world on the edge of its seat, praying for a miracle to save a dozen soccer-mad boys and their coach from disaster.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Workers' Party to win one-third of seats?

[This is the same speech covered by two newspapers. ]


Workers' Party should aim to win one-third of seats in Parliament: Pritam Singh

14 Jan 2019 

By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party (WP) should aim to contest and win one-third of the seats in Parliament as a "medium-term objective", its secretary-general Pritam Singh has said.

"I say one-third in the medium-term because of the past experience of the Workers’ Party in attracting suitable and qualified candidates who are willing to stand in general elections," Mr Singh said on Sunday (Jan 13), according to a copy of a speech he gave at the WP Members' Forum 2019.

"For a small party like ours, it is a high bar."

Dr Mahathir-Anwar succession plan not being handled well, forum told

15 JANUARY, 2019


KUALA LUMPUR — The leadership succession plan between Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim is not being handled well, despite repeated assurances from both leaders, said political scientist Dr Bridget Welsh.

Dr Welsh, a visiting senior fellow at the private university HELP, said it was clear there was a power struggle between supporters of both factions, as evidenced by the ongoing defections within parties of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Majority of applications for CPF funds on medical grounds successful: MOM


ByFann Sim@Fann

CNA

15 Jan 2019 


SINGAPORE: In the last three years, about 65 per cent of applications to withdraw money from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) earlier due to medical reasons have been successful said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Under the Medical Grounds Scheme, CPF members can withdraw or start their payouts before the stipulated payout age of 65.

Eligibility criteria they have to meet under the scheme include being permanently incapacitated, terminally ill, or having a severely impaired life expectancy due to illness. Such applications have to be accompanied by the relevant doctors’ certification, the minister said.

Mrs Teo was responding to Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah on the percentage of successful appeals for an earlier withdrawal of CPF payouts.

The remaining 35 per cent were not successful because applicants did not meet the eligibility conditions and were referred to help avenues for help, such as Workforce Singapore and the Social Services Office, Mrs Teo said.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The case for Vegetarianism?


Commentary: Think twice when considering banning beef

Eating meat is fast becoming as repellent as smoking to many green campaigners but reducing meat won’t make the dent in climate change we need, says Bjorn Lomborg.

ByBjorn Lomborg


30 Nov 2018


COPENHAGEN: Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations official responsible for the 2015 Paris climate agreement, has a startling vision for restaurants of the future: Anyone who wants a steak should be banished.

“How about restaurants in 10 to 15 years start treating carnivores the same way that smokers are treated?” Figueres suggested during a recent conference. “If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.”

EATING MEAT IS REPELLENT

In case you have missed this development: Eating meat is fast becoming as repellent as smoking to many green campaigners. It is behaviour to be discouraged or even banned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Politics Malaysia, Democracy Malaysia

[Two articles on Politics and Democracy in Malaysia.]

Five things to watch out for in 2019 on Malaysia’s political front

By Adrian Tan
09 January, 2019

2018 was a year of dramatic change for Malaysia. At the General Elections in May 2018 (GE14), Barisan Nasional (BN) was defeated by Pakatan Harapan (PH) after 61 years in power. Malaysia saw the return of Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister.

His one-time nemesis Anwar Ibrahim was released from prison, received a royal pardon and is now back in Parliament. Najib Razak was slapped with multiple charges linked to the 1MDB scandal while investigations into allegations against other United Malays National Organisation (Umno) leaders are ongoing.

However, as Malaysia begins 2019, it is increasingly clear that for PH, moving the country forward and keeping it together while carrying out promised reforms may be more challenging than removing BN from power. Here are five issues we should monitor in 2019.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Singapore supplies additional treated water to Malaysia at Johor's request

ChannelNewsAsia

6 Jan 2019


SINGAPORE: Singapore's water agency PUB said on Sunday (Jan 6) that it supplied additional treated water to Malaysia this week after pollution disrupted production at Johor's water plants.

"Production at Johor's water plants was disrupted recently by pollution to the river catchment. PUB's Johor River Waterworks was not affected by the incident," said PUB in a statement.

"At Johor’s request, PUB helped to tide Johor residents over the water supply disruption by turning on PUB’s Pasir Gudang offtake and supplying an additional 6 million of gallons per day (mgd) of treated water between 2 and 4 January 2019.

"This was on top of the 16 mgd that we usually supply Johor," it added.

Singapore is required to supply Johor with 5 mgd of treated water, said PUB, citing the 1962 Water Agreement.

"In practice, we have been supplying 16 mgd of treated water to Johor at their request. On top of this, between 2 and 4 January 2019, we have supplied a further 6 mgd of treated water (above the 16 mgd of treated water) to Johor when it needed more water because its water plants experienced pollution.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Over RM13b needed to reduce NRW — SPAN

[This is an old article (note the date) which I looked up for another story about Johor requesting water from SG. And how the water supply system in MY is so bad that the Non-Revenue Water (NRW) or water lost to leakage or theft, is more than 25%!]

Kamarul Anwar

The Edge Financial Daily

July 26, 2016


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily,on July 26, 2016.


CYBERJAYA: The regulator of Malaysia’s water industry estimates that more than RM13 billion worth of investment in water distribution systems is needed to achieve its non-revenue water (NRW) target of 25% by 2020.

It, however, remains to be seen when the investment can be put into place. More than 10 years after the federal government put into law that it will be the sole custodian of water assets in an effort to cool down the country’s escalating costs to supply treated water, only seven states have handed over their assets to Putrajaya.

Meth and Philosophy - A clash of values?

[So a Humanities Lecturer at Hwa Ching Institution became known as the "Meth Teacher". I don't blame him. He's 65. Still working as a lecturer. Teaching "humanities". To Hwa Chong students. In Singapore. And he's British!

It's enough to drive one to drugs. 

At 65, you would think he should be retired. 

But no. 

He has to come all this way to Singapore for his post-65 work. ]

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Ten worst climate-linked disasters of 2018 caused S$117 billion in damage

30 December, 2018

LONDON — From floods to extreme heat, 10 of the worst climate-linked disasters in 2018 caused at least US$84.8 billion (S$117 billion) worth of damage, said a study released by the charity Christian Aid on Thursday (Dec 27).

Extreme weather driven by climate change hit every populated continent this year, the British relief organisation said, warning urgent action was needed to combat global warming.

"This report shows that for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now," said Dr Kat Kramer, who heads Christian Aid's work on climate issues, in a statement.

Experts say a warming world will lead to sweltering heatwaves, more extreme rainfall, shrinking harvests and worsening water shortages, causing both monetary losses and human misery.

Almost 200 nations are aiming to limit the rise in average world temperatures under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, though some warn progress to meet targets has been slow.