Monday, September 30, 2013

Singapore re-elected into governing body of UN aviation arm

Sep 29, 2013

By Karamjit Kaur

Singapore has been re-elected, for another three years, into the governing body of the United Nations arm that oversees global civil aviation.

The policy-making council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao), which Singapore was admitted to in 2003, comprises 36 member countries.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who is leading a Singapore delegation at Icao's 38th assembly in Montreal, Canada, said: "We will continue to contribute actively to the advancement of the Icao's objectives of promoting safety, security, efficiency and environmental protection in civil aviation."

Apart from its seat in the council, Singapore also holds leadership positions in 16 of Icao's expert bodies and working groups, contributing in many areas such as air law and aviation medicine.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, through its training arm, Singapore Aviation Academy, also provides a wide range of training programmes for civil aviation professionals worldwide.

Not sure what the figures mean. Singapore got 163 votes. Total votes cast was 172. Did Singapore get 163 out of 172 votes? That is 9 countries/members objected to Singapore’s election?

Other countries had 137 votes (Argentina), 143 votes (Mexico), 145 votes (Spain), etc. Singapore actually had the highest number of votes, if I’m interpreting the numbers correctly.

And there was a first part of the ballot:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

More poor people in S'pore than figures show

Sep 25, 2013

'Working poor' among those highlighted by panel at NUS forum

By Andrea Ong

THERE are more poor people in Singapore than the numbers seen in official figures, said speakers at a National University of Singapore forum yesterday.

To get to grips with the issue, more needs to be done to understand poverty here and tailor measures to the circumstances people face in their daily lives, they said at the forum on building an inclusive society.

To highlight the urgency of addressing the poverty issue, Nominated MP Laurence Lien and labour economist Hui Weng Tat cited sobering figures that show rising income inequality and stagnating wages of the bottom 20 per cent in the past decade.

One problem, said Mr Lien, who heads the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, is the absence of an official definition of the poverty line in Singapore.

Look Back: Death penalty change not based on winning votes: Shanmugam

From a news report a year ago.

Aug 04, 2012

THE recent government decision to lift the Mandatory Death Penalty for certain crimes was no populist move.

There is no current widespread support for campaigns against capital punishment, Law Minister K. Shanmugam pointed out.

As such, there is no political mileage to be gained from changing the death penalty law.

"If we went on popular sentiment, our internal surveys show that 70 per cent of Singaporeans favour the death penalty. If it was politics, the death penalty is one area we don't need to touch," he told Insight in an interview on Tuesday.

The PAP stands to win no votes from the change, he added, whether from those for or against the death penalty.

"They are not going to vote for us because we change this. The people who oppose the Government, oppose it for a variety of reasons. How many votes are there on the death penalty issue?

"Any sensible assessment will tell you that it is sheer nonsense to think that this is going to be a move that you have to do because of pressure or that you are going to get a lot of votes because you move. There are no votes in this either way.

"But governance cannot and should not be based only on such political calculations. You need to do what you think is right and we thought it is the right thing to do at this stage."

The proposed changes, announced last month in Parliament, give judges discretion in certain instances of drug trafficking and murder. Some activist groups have hailed it as a victory and attribute the result to their efforts.

Mr Shanmugam disagreed that public pressure had anything to do with it. He said the Government periodically reviews its death penalty laws, such as in 2006, 2009 and again in 2011.

That said, Mr Shanmugam explained that the Government will engage stakeholders before changing the law: "We consulted very widely with academics, with criminal law practitioners and now we intend - before the legislation has been put in place - to consult very widely."


[One year on, 2 convicts may be given a reprieve from the death penalty.]

Once China catches up - what then?

Sep 27, 2013

By Lee Kuan Yew

BARRING any major disruption, the speed at which China is growing in terms of total gross domestic product will enable it to catch up with the US by 2020. China will then go on to surpass America.

During the 1978-2011 period, China's high average rate of growth - about 10 per cent annually - was the result of Deng Xiaoping's 1978 trip to Singapore and his subsequent decision to implement economic reforms and open the economy to international investment. During that period, the US economy's annual growth rate was 2 per cent to 3 per cent.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Being poor changes your thinking about everything

By Harold Pollack,
September 13, 2013

Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir are two leading figures in the hot (if occasionally oversold) field of behavioral economics. Mullainathan teaches economics at Harvard and is a MacArthur Fellow. Shafir teaches psychology and public policy at Princeton. This week, they released an accessible short book titled "Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much," which summarizes some of the best behavioral economics work.
I caught up with Mullainathan this week. An edited transcript follows.

For COEs, best indicator of value is value itself, not proxies

From Tan Si An -

20 September

I refer to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) letter “Engine capacity and power better proxy” (Sept 17).

The LTA stated that the combination of engine capacity and power would be a better proxy for open market value (OMV) than engine capacity alone.

This is puzzling. How can a proxy for OMV be more correct than the actual OMV itself?

The LTA stated that using OMV directly is problematic because of fluctuations, and that even averaging (the value) would not solve this problem.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Leader who struck a chord with China

Sep 18, 2013

Lee Kuan Yew could get China's attention, but it will be tough for tiny Singapore to find comparable successors to fill his big shoes

By John Wong, For The Straits Times

CHINA has published many books about former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. One written by Chang Zheng in 1996 bears this interesting title, Lee Kuan Yew: A Great Man In A Small Country (Xiao Guo Wei Ren). In politics and international power relations, does "size" matter at all?

Deng Xiaoping, a "five- footer", had struck Mr Lee as "a giant among men" when they first met in 1978. Mr Lee has since openly stated that Deng was the most impressive leader he had ever met.

Viewed from a different angle, Singapore is a tiny city-state while China is a huge continental- sized country. The two also have inherent political, economic and social differences. Yet, they have developed strong bilateral relations, thanks to the efforts of both Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Deng.

Singapore must have also struck Deng as the most impressive country he had ever visited. He passed through Singapore in the 1920s on his way to France, when Singapore was then only a small trading port. Before his official visit to Singapore in November 1978, Deng had not been to any developed society other than the United States and Japan. He must have marvelled at how the Singapore leadership had managed to overcome the constraint of size and successfully transform this small island into a throbbing industrial state. This is something China had failed miserably to do under Mao Zedong.

Thus, Deng, in his famous Nanxun (tour of South China) speech in 1992, specifically singled out Singapore as a good model of economic and social development for China. This set off instant "Singapore fever" in China that has lasted to this day. Deng's endorsement of the "Singapore model" laid down a strong institutional base for a robust Singapore-China relationship ever since.

As for Mr Lee, he quickly changed his original Cold War perception of China. He was once attacked by Radio Beijing as the "running dog" of Western imperialism. As Deng started his pragmatic policy of economic reform and opening up, Mr Lee was quick to see rising economic opportunity for Singapore, particularly after Deng's Nanxun speech. True enough, Nanxun sparked off China's dynamic double-digit rates of economic growth for more than two decades.

Specifically, Mr Lee was instrumental in setting up the Singapore-Suzhou Industrial Park. After overcoming initial start-up problems, this park has developed to become a symbol of successful Singapore-China cooperation based on mutual benefits. Success in Suzhou led to another government-to-government flagship project, the Tianjin Eco-City, and then many others in different forms.

Under the auspices of these two great leaders, Singapore and China saw their economic ties grow by leaps and bounds, with two-way trade reaching US$64 billion (S$81 billion) in 2011. Bilateral cooperation has also broadened beyond trade and investment into political, social, cultural, education, and even security areas.

As Harvard University's China expert Ezra Vogel has pointed out in his recent book on Deng, Singapore and China would not have cemented their relationship in such a unique way had Mr Lee and Deng not been able to establish close rapport and a kind of "special bond" with each other from the start.

Lee Kuan Yew to the Chinese

IN CHINA, Mr Lee is probably the best-known foreign political figure, partly because he has been in public office for more than 50 years. More importantly, ordinary Chinese see him primarily as a prominent Chinese (not foreign) leader who has brought development to a foreign country called Singapore. To some, Singapore is still a very Chinese city-state.

[And this is part of the problem of Chinese immigrants in Singapore - their perspective of Singapore, their view of Singapore as Not-Quite-Foreign. It makes Singapore an attractive destination for work and eventual emigration, but it also means that the Chinese come here with preconceived notions and a perception that this is just like home. Landing here, and seeing the predominantly (ethnic) Chinese population, they assume that language and culture should be the same and familiar. So they may not feel the need to assimilate as much.]

This ethnocentric approach is very much in evidence in virtually all popular writings and books about Mr Lee. Invariably, they all start by tracing his ancestral origins (ji guan), for example, as an ethnic ke jia, and Guangdong's Dapu as his ancestral home. To many Chinese, Mr Lee is an overseas Chinese, and he will remain an overseas Chinese. Actually, because of this, his success outside China is all the more remarkable to the Chinese people.

Views on Mr Lee from the scholarly community are understandably more sophisticated. Thanks to Deng's promotion of the "Singapore model" and the many thousands of Chinese officials who have subsequently been sent to take training courses at Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore, Singapore studies as an academic subject is becoming popular in many universities in China, with the number of "Singapore watchers" growing rapidly.

Domestic Chinese scholars studying Singapore tend to interpret Mr Lee's role in Singapore's development through Chinese cultural lenses. Singapore's promotion of Confucian values in schools and the Speak Mandarin Campaign, in particular, have made a deep impression on China's scholars with an interest in Singapore. To them, Confucian values such as emphasis on education, frugality and hard work, must have contributed to Singapore's successful economic and social development. So Mr Lee is broadly viewed as a kind of Confucian ruler.

Since Mr Lee is a lawyer and Singapore is well known for upholding the rule of law, so Mr Lee should also belong to the Legal School (fa jia). Indeed most successful Chinese rulers and mandarins in the past were both Confucianist and Legalist. They governed China with an optimal mix of de (virtue) and fa (law). One scholar even labelled Mr Lee as a Legalist in substance but a Confucianist in spirit.

However, to the numerous young netizens and bloggers - there are 700 million Internet users in China today - Mr Lee presents a different image, often superficial and inconsistent.

In November 2009, Mr Lee called on the US to continue its presence in the region to balance a rising China. That remark immediately touched off a big hue and cry in China's cyber world.

Many Chinese, including those well disposed towards Singapore, were upset. This was not about Chinese nationalism. To them, it was just inconceivable that Mr Lee, as a Chinese who had said many good words about China, should turn around to ask the Americans to prevent China from developing into a strong and prosperous country!

After Lee, then who and what?

A LEADER from a small country needs to constantly shout in order to get attention. When Mr Lee speaks, Western leaders listen. In particular, they want his views on China. Mr Lee also commands an attentive audience in China. In Beijing, Chinese leaders are similarly very eager to seek wise counsel from him, especially his views about the US and the outside world. Mr Lee's official title of "Senior Minister", zi zheng (policy adviser) in Chinese, is particularly appropriate for his role in China.

After Mr Lee, it will be difficult to find comparable successors to fill his big shoes. That is rather unfortunate for Singapore when it comes to dealing with China's rise in future. In 1990 when Singapore normalised relations with China, China's gross domestic product (GDP) was only 10 times larger than Singapore's. Today, it is 30 times. Mr Lee can be frank and blunt in his views, but Chinese leaders still respect him as their senior.

After Mr Lee, Singapore's political discourse with China will have to take a different form. Without his astute guiding hand and stature, can Singapore continue to manoeuvre effectively in the dynamic power relationship of the US and China without running the risk of displeasing one or the other? This is a big question yet to be answered.

The writer is a professorial fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

I have a dream for Singapore

Sep 14, 2013

Fewer cars, fewer roads

By Kishore Mahbubani, For The Straits Times BY INVITATION

A FEW weeks ago, on Aug 28, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the famous speech given by Martin Luther King Jr entitled "I have a dream". He said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

The goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement for his fellow black citizens. I too have a dream for my fellow Singaporeans. However, while the goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement, my goal is to close the roads to advancement for my fellow citizens. The only difference between him and me is that while he was speaking metaphorically, I am speaking literally. We do not need many more physical roads or much more physical road space in Singapore.

One undeniable hard truth of Singapore is that we live in one of the smallest countries in the world. This is also why we have one of the most expensive land costs in the entire world. Apart from Monaco, no other United Nations member state has land as expensive as Singapore has per square foot. Hence, we should value every square foot. Every square foot we give up to road space is a square foot taken away from other valuable uses: pedestrian walkways, bike paths, green parks and so on.