Thursday, April 30, 2015

Japan should be worried

April 24, 2015

Here's what China may be up to in the South China Sea

TETSURO KOSAKA, Nikkei senior staff writer

TOKYO -- China is pushing ahead with its artificial island building in the South China Sea, where it plans airstrips and other facilities.

     Reports in Japan say the U.S. military is feeling a growing sense of urgency over China's aggresive island-making projects. But Japan should be feeling even more anxiety.

     Many analysts say China is moving to secure seabed resources from around its artificial islets. But it could easily go further and even one day drive a military wedge between Japan and the U.S.

     Lying at the very heart of the issue is the balance of nuclear power between the U.S. and China.

Monday, April 27, 2015

China Seeks Great Power Status After Sea Retreat

by David Tweed

July 3, 2014

July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Admiral Zheng He is everywhere in China these days, even though he died almost 600 years ago. The government is promoting him to remind its people -- and Asia -- that China’s destiny is to be a great naval power.

Almost a century before Christopher Columbus discovered America, Zheng in 1405 embarked on a series of voyages with ships of unrivaled size and technical prowess, reaching as far as India and Africa.

The expeditions are in the spotlight in official comments and state media as China lays claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea and President Xi Jinping seeks to revive China’s maritime pride. In doing so he risks setting up confrontations with Southeast Asian neighbors and the U.S., whose navy has patrolled the region since World War II. Geopolitical dominance of the South China Sea would give China control of one of the world’s most economically and politically strategic areas.

“The Chinese believe they have the right to be a great power,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “What we are seeing is a hardening of China’s stance about its place in the world.”

Philippines calls on ASEAN to urge China to halt land reclamation

April 26

KUALA LUMPUR - The Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbors to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the South China Sea, but the call failed to raise widespread support ahead of a regional summit.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.

In a speech to foreign ministers ahead of the official opening of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario did not name China directly but said its "northern neighbor" was quickly advancing with land reclamation.

"Is it not time for ASEAN to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?" Rosario asked.

S'pore and KL at odds over Malay rights

Apr 26, 2015

This week in 1965 | A look back at the events that shaped Singapore 50 years ago
By Ho Ai Li


Singapore and Kuala Lumpur sharpened their differences over the issue of Malay rights, as news about an impending move to set up an opposition alliance ruffled the feathers of central government leaders.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Home prices and inequality: Singapore versus other 'global superstar cities'

[The hypothesis here is that SG is closest to Thomas Piketty's Ideal.]

Apr 03, 2015
Phang Sock Yong

The bottom half here own a quarter of gross housing wealth, a more equal distribution than in other cities with higher-than-average house price growth

Republic's housing kept affordable

The topics "superstar cities", "inequality" and "housing policy" are often discussed separately.

I will focus on the area where they overlap - in particular, how housing policy has been used to mitigate inequality in the context of Singapore, a global superstar city.

The Global City concept originates from the work of sociologist Saskia Sassen, which dates back to the 1980s. In an age of globalisation, division of labour is international in scope and production activities are distributed across the world. A global city is a significant point where the internationally oriented financial and producer services that make the global economy run choose to agglomerate.

In the Economist Intelligence Unit's Global City Competitiveness Index, Singapore is ranked third in global competitiveness after New York and London, and the most globally competitive in Asia. The fourth position is shared by Paris and Hong Kong, and Tokyo is ranked sixth.

Superstar cities

The term "superstar cities" is a more recent concept and is the title of a study of United States cities by urban economists Joseph Gyourko, Christopher Mayer and Todd Sinai. Their paper notes the considerable differences in long- run house price appreciation rates across US metropolitan areas and towns after World War II.

These differences led to an ever-widening gap in housing prices between the most expensive metropolitan areas and the average ones. They define locations that experience persistently higher-than-average house price growth as "superstar cities".

From the housing price appreciation perspective, Tokyo is a global city but is not a superstar city.

Chart 1 shows the housing price trends in the top five global cities, namely, New York, London, Singapore, Paris and Hong Kong. The superstar prize goes to Paris, and Singapore comes in last among the top five global cities.

Besides having higher than average house price growth, global superstar cities also have higher levels of economic inequality. Income inequality has been increasing in most of the developed countries in the past few decades.

Singapore's Gini coefficient for resident households last year after taxes and transfers was 0.412, which is higher that most of the high-income OECD countries. But comparing Singapore's Gini coefficient with country-level Gini coefficients may not be entirely appropriate.

National inequality measures mask considerable variations across cities within the same country. Studies have shown that within the same country, income inequality can be expected to increase with the size of the city.

A larger city size increases productivity as more skilled people are attracted to the location, and higher urban productivity further incentivises migration from rural areas, smaller cities and across borders. The global superstar cities New York and London have income Gini coefficients (after taxes and transfers) in the 0.4 to 0.5 range. Singapore's Gini coefficient is comparable to other cities of similar size and lower than the Gini coefficients of New York, London and Hong Kong (see Chart 2).

Thomas Piketty

Post-2014, it is impossible to discuss economic inequality without referring to Thomas Piketty's book, Capital In The Twenty- First Century, which won numerous awards last year. Piketty highlights rising income inequality as a major problem, focusing on the increasing share enjoyed by the top 1 per cent and top 10 per cent.

My estimates for income shares for the top five global cities show Singapore's income distribution to be less equal than Paris', but more equal than those of London, Hong Kong and New York City (see Chart 3).

Piketty's greater concern, however, is with the distribution of wealth - that capital or wealth ownership is much more concentrated than the distribution of income from work. His data for the US indicates that the top decile own 72 per cent of America's wealth, while the bottom half's claim is just 2 per cent.

In most European countries, the richest 10 per cent own around 60 per cent of national wealth, the poorest 50 per cent invariably own less than 5 per cent. In his view, it is this unequal ownership of capital that is a prime driver of income disparities.

Piketty also includes in his book his view of capital ownership distribution in an "ideal society". To quote Piketty: "To my knowledge, no society has ever existed in which ownership of capital can reasonably be described as 'mildly' inegalitarian, by which I mean a distribution in which the poorest half of society would own a significant share (say one-fifth to one-quarter) of total wealth… Of course, how one might go about establishing such an 'ideal society' - assuming that such low inequality of wealth is indeed a desirable goal - remains to be seen."

Not only is present capital ownership very unequal, but Piketty also expects the inequality to increase over time as the rate of return on capital - generally 4 to 5 per cent - has throughout history been greater than the global growth rate, except during the second half of the 20th century.

This inequality results in redistribution of income towards holders of capital and increasing inequality of wealth. Adding to this force for divergence is the rise of super-salaries of corporate chief executive officers, which, according to Piketty, is determined more by social and political norms rather than economic forces.

To regain control of capitalism without giving up its benefits, he advocates more progressive income taxes with the top marginal tax rate of 80 per cent for incomes above US$500,000 (S$682,000) to US$1 million, and a utopian idea - a global capital tax ranging from 0.1 per cent to 10 per cent on the total wealth to restrain the growing power of inherited wealth.

From Piketty to George

Piketty adopts a very broad definition of capital and does not treat land or real estate assets differently from other forms of capital. As Singaporeans know only too well, land does deserve special treatment, and should be treated as distinct from globally mobile capital for policy purposes - especially in a land-constrained global superstar city.

The ideas of another economist, Henry George, who proposed a quite different utopian idea over a century ago, are more relevant in the context of superstar cities. George's 1879 book, Progress And Poverty, was a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1890s. In his time, the rapid development of cities in 19th-century America caused substantial increases in land prices. This had large wealth and income redistribution effects as landowners and land speculators enjoyed huge windfalls. These windfalls, in turn, fuelled expectations for future price increases, resulting in speculative bubbles.

The crash that inevitably followed would wipe out vast amounts of asset values - creating another set of winners and losers which may not necessarily match the first set of winners and losers. Unlike Marx, George held nothing against the capitalists. Instead, his remedy was that any increase in land rents should be shared by society rather than fall into private hands. ("We must make land common property"). To effect this, he advocated a 100 per cent land value tax on the annual value of unimproved land held as private property.

What this meant was that buildings and other improvements (the product of the efforts of capital and labour) would not be included in the tax base. The proposed tax was called the single tax as, in his view, it would be sufficient to support all levels of government, thus permitting all other taxes on labour, capital and production to be abolished.

Prominent fans of George have included personalities as diverse as Leo Tolstoy, Winston Churchill, Sun Yat Sen, Milton Friedman, and Joseph E. Stiglitz. Modern-day Georgists advocate partial land value capture taxes as a less extreme form of George's land tax.

The few jurisdictions that have implemented site value taxation separate the property tax base into an unimproved land value component and improvements, and tax property owners at a higher rate on the unimproved land value. In the urban transport sector, land value capture through a betterment tax is often proposed as a means of funding the cost of expensive transport infrastructure such as urban rail transit.

Singapore's housing wealth redistribution framework can be interpreted as containing elements of George's land value capture tax and Piketty's progressive wealth tax, in addition to other significant and innovative institutions and policies.

1960s: Framework for housing provision

Soon after independence, the Land Acquisition Act was passed in 1966, which gave the state broad powers to acquire land. In 1973, the concept of a statutory date was introduced, which fixed compensation values for land acquired at the statutory date, Nov 30, 1973. State land as a proportion of total land grew from 44 per cent to 76 per cent by 1985 and is currently around 90 per cent. A significant portion of the increase is from land reclamation as about 20 per cent of Singa- pore's land is reclaimed land.

Subsequent amendments to the Act changed the statutory date for purposes of valuation for compensation. In 2007, the use of historical statutory date was removed by Parliament, and compensation has since been pegged to full market value.

The Land Acquisition Act was one of three important pieces of legislation passed in the 1960s when the foundations of Singapore's policies for urban transformation were being laid.

The other two important components of these foundations (created by the respective legislation) were the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in 1960, and the expansion of the role of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) to include housing finance in 1968.

Through a carefully structured housing system which was established by 1968, land resources and domestic savings were channelled into the HDB home ownership sector. The HDB played an important role in resettlement, land use planning as well as the development of new towns with comprehensive public amenities.

As the economy grew, its primary role in the construction of high-rise HDB housing and making home ownership affordable helped to ensure that the benefits of economic growth were widely distributed and shared. By 1990, 87 per cent of the resident population were already housed by the HDB, and the home ownership rate had increased to 88 per cent. The property-owning democracy was not a mere utopian ideal but had, instead, become a reality.

1990s: Growth in value of HDB housing assets

In the 1990s, the focus took on a qualitative shift instead; in particular, it shifted to enabling upgrading to larger and better-quality flats, the deregulation of the HDB resale market, including opening the market to permanent residents, increased housing loans for HDB resale flats, physical upgrading of HDB flats and neighbourhoods, as well as the introduction of CPF housing grants.

These policies contributed, in part, to the rapid increase of HDB flat values in the early half of the 1990s. HDB resale price increases were higher than private housing price increases in the 1990s.

The wealth-share effects of these differential price movements show up clearly in the household sector balance sheets. From zero share of housing wealth in 1965, HDB households' share of gross housing wealth exceeded 50 per cent at the peak of the housing boom, and increased further to 60 per cent during the Asian financial crisis. In the past decade, the share has been about 50-50. Despite the volatility of asset prices and values, by 2005, 85 per cent of the resident population (HDB households) enjoyed a share of about 50 per cent of the gross housing wealth.

From 2005: Housing wealth redistribution

Since 2009, under the Lease Buyback Scheme, elderly home owners residing in three-room (or smaller) HDB flats have been able to monetise their HDB assets for the purpose of retirement financing. Last August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expanded the scheme to include HDB four-room flats.

Using the same illustration, an HDB four-room flat, bought for about $24,200 in 1980, lived in for 34 years, is now worth $450,000. It can be retained for the next 30 years, and the HDB this year buys back the 35 years of the end lease for $190,000 to help the elderly household finance retirement. This is the provision of a retirement safety net for elderly households based on their ownership of a four-room or smaller flat - at significant interest rate risk and house price depreciation risk for up to 30 years for the HDB.

Why, then, is there the need to "cool" the housing market in recent years? There are at least four reasons.
  • First, I use the George Effect to refer to the "unearned increments" that accrue to property owners and those who were "lucky" based on when they entered and exited the market, as well as to speculators and investors who contribute to market exuberance and bubbles.
  • Second, the persistence of house price appreciation that exceeds wage growth in the longer term could also lead to the entrenchment of what I call the Piketty effect - growing inequalities in incomes and wealth from inheritance flows and a growing rentier class.
  • Third, the house price level is a key economic variable that affects the lives, happiness and wealth of Singapore households. It should not become a variable that is determined by the actions of foreign speculators, global liquidity and the agendas and monetary policies of foreign governments.
  • Fourth, it is now widely accepted that housing bubbles can pose a threat to financial and macroeconomic stability. The numerous housing market cooling measures that have been introduced after the global financial crisis in Singapore as well as in numerous other countries are also known as prudential regulations.

Micro-prudential supervision aims to ensure the resilience of individual financial institutions to shocks and include regulatory standards on bank capital adequacy, leverage ratios and liquidity.

Macro-prudential regulations of the housing sector aim at increasing the resilience of the financial system as a whole and include caps on loan-to-value ratios, total debt service to income ratios, as well as stamp duties to curb speculation by the cash rich.

I would like to include another category of prudential regulation - social-prudential regulations which ensure the resilience of society and the country as a whole. This category of housing regulations includes affordable home ownership policies, as well as the integration of various income groups and races in the same housing estates.

The housing tax regime has been made more progressive, with higher transaction taxes for foreigners and investors, and owners of higher value properties paying higher property tax rates. (Stamp duties, however, can reduce transaction volumes and lead to potential sellers withholding supply. At the appropriate time, it would be good to gradually reduce these and replace them with property tax increases which should aim to have a similar effect on house price appreciation.)

In what can be described as a retreat from the market, new HDB flats are now offered at affordable prices that are "delinked" from market prices. Taxing wealthy property owners and investors at a higher rate and simultaneously subsiding entry into home ownership for lower-income households have created a housing tax and subsidy code that is highly progressive and more complex than the income tax code. At the point of purchase, the range is from 15 per cent additional buyer's stamp duty for foreigners, to price subsidies for HDB two-room flats that can be as high as 50 per cent (based on the difference between resale and new flat prices).

In addition to the price discount for each household purchasing an HDB flat, the effective housing subsidy is further carefully calibrated through a system of differential housing grants (from $0 to $80,000) based on a host of criteria. Housing wealth redistribution has become much more targeted, nuanced and fairer in approach.

Comparison across cities

As a global superstar city as well as a nation state, Singapore has harnessed the entire spectrum of land and housing policies to keep housing prices affordable. Singapore's house price to income ratio of five is the lowest among the global superstar cities, with Hong Kong's ratio at 17 (see Charts 4 and 5).

Singapore's resident home ownership rate of 91 per cent is also an outlier, with Hong Kong, Paris and London relying on social rental housing to meet the housing needs of lower-income households. New York City has a small public-housing sector but relies on rent vouchers as well as rent control regulation of nearly half of its private rental housing stock.

Based on my estimates, the low inequality that has been achieved in the distribution of Singapore's gross housing asset comes close to capital distribution in Piketty's "ideal society". The bottom 50 per cent owns one quarter of the gross housing wealth (see Chart 6).

If the data for overall household wealth distribution were available, the overall wealth distribution would probably approximate the Scandinavian wealth distribution in the 1970s and 1980s.

This aspect of housing achievement has been arrived at through astute political decisions, an effective and non-corrupt government, and the hard work of government agencies such as the HDB and Urban Redevelopment Authority.

In particular, I would like to conclude with a personal tribute to our founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, for his visionary leadership of Singapore during its first critical decades. We are all deeply saddened by his passing. 

The writer is Celia Moh Professor and Professor of Economics, Singapore Management University. This article is a summary of a lecture delivered on March 23 at SMU.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Getting out of a hole, after Lee Kuan Yew

Apr 25, 2015


Singapore's leaders after Lee Kuan Yew have navigated several crises well, but have to govern in a more complex environment driven by geopolitical change and rapid technological advances.
By Chan Heng Chee, For The Straits Times

SINGAPORE just crossed a watershed with the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Some Western journalists and not a few Singaporeans have asked: "How will Singapore do after Lee Kuan Yew?"

My answer has been quite consistent. We have as strong a chance as any country, after the departure of a giant from the political scene, of continuing well into the future, and we are better placed than most.

Why do I say that?

Friday, April 24, 2015

What happens when China becomes No. 1?

Apr 24, 2015


The answer may well depend on how America acts now, when it is still the world's sole superpower.

Let me begin with three incontrovertible facts. First, China will become the No. 1 economic power in the world.

Second, most Americans, like most Westerners, view China's rise with great foreboding.

Third, the role that China will play as the No. 1 economic power has not been cast in stone.

How the world, especially America, reacts to China's rise will help to influence China's behaviour in the future.

If we make the right decisions now, China could well emerge as a benign great power (even though most Americans find this virtually inconceivable).

At the same time, many Americans are not aware that some recent American actions have set bad precedents for China to follow when it becomes No. 1.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Building a culture of collective responsibility


APRIL 23, 2015

As Singapore goes about what some have called a shift to the left, with greater social spending in the 2015 Budget, there has been debate both inside and outside of Parliament on the wider implications of such a change. Among the questions are whether the shift will lead to Singaporeans developing a “crutch mentality” that was eschewed in the past, where the line between individual responsibility and collective responsibility ends, and whether the new policies can address the nagging problem of inequality.

A recent report by the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, which was co-chaired by renowned American economist Lawrence Summers and the United Kingdom Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls, may be helpful in considering these vital issues.

The commission, which examined reforms the US and UK need to undertake to generate more high-wage jobs for the future, espouses the principle of putting people first and recommends new policies for today’s globalised and highly competitive economic environment to reduce the negative impact of inequality.

Several new initiatives in the 2015 Budget are in line with the commission’s recommendations, including the focus on early childhood education, improving the quality of schools, eliminating financial barriers to higher education and providing support for apprenticeship programmes.

Big data could power on-demand public transport



SINGAPORE — The authorities are looking at piloting a public transportation service, which can be activated at the drop of a hat for deployment at places where demand for both taxis and buses heats up, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has revealed.

It is envisioning 20-seater mini-buses for this on-demand express shuttle service, which can run ad-hoc routes with limited stops and levies fares that fall between what commuters pay for taxis and buses — somewhere between S$5 and S$10. Pre-booking should also be an option.

The IDA’s deputy director of Government Analytics Liu Feng Yuan floated the idea at the Smart Nation Innovations Forum yesterday, saying his agency is looking at engaging user groups to start a pilot. With big data, routes where express services such as this could be popular can be spotted, he added, noting that Finland already has something similar.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bulletproof Coffee

Buttered coffee could make you invincible. And this man very rich

Honeymoon over for Indonesian leader as U-turns erode authority


DENPASAR, Indonesia - When Indonesian President Joko Widodo wanted to push this year's budget through the opposition-dominated parliament, he left it to his advisers to hash out a deal with lawmakers.

Among the sweeteners his aides offered parliament members was to roughly double their allowance for down payments on new cars to $15,000.

The plan backfired.

Amid public fury over the concession in a country where graft is pervasive, the aides scrambled to reverse it, one of several policy flip-flops that have eroded support for Widodo since he took office six months ago.

His meteoric rise from furniture businessman to president of the world's third-largest democracy, and the first to come from outside the political or military establishment, was widely seen as a watershed moment for Indonesia.

Here was a leader, his supporters said, who would root out corruption, promote people based on merit rather than connections and create an environment where the stalling economy could reignite and investment flourish.

But in interviews with Reuters, government officials and palace insiders portrayed the president as sometimes out of his depth and struggling to get around entrenched vested interests.

Think positive. Turns out, it actually works

APR 22, 2015


I WROTE last week about Wesley So's loss by forfeit in round nine of the US chess championship in St Louis. It's only fair, then, to note that the 21-year-old So, one of the top 10 players in the world, has been on a tear ever since.

He won his final two games in St Louis, and now three of his first four at the Gashimov Memorial in Azerbaijan, one of the strongest tournaments of the year.

His current score of 3.5 puts him in first place, ahead of the world champion. In other words, he's been playing great.

What accounts for his ability to put the controversy behind him?

Meet the lifesaving giant HeroRats



I am walking through a minefield here in rural Angola, tailing a monster rat. This is a Gambian pouched rat, a breed almost 1m from nose to tail, the kind of rat that gives cats nightmares. However, this rat is a genius as well as a giant, for it has learnt how to detect landmines by scent — and it is doing its best to save humans such as me from being blown up.

These rodent mine detectors have been dubbed HeroRats, and when you are in a minefield with one that seems about right. You are very respectful and you only hope this HeroRat does not have a stuffed nose.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A guard, A girl, A guide dog - Cassandra & Esme At Zara

RSH Limited apologises to guide dog owner Cassandra Chiu for commotion at Zara

APR 13, 2015


SINGAPORE - RSH Limited, Singapore's distribution and retail arm for clothing and accessories chain Zara, has apologised to a blind woman who was turned away by a security guard at the Zara store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Friday.

Counsellor Cassandra Chiu had tried to enter with her guide dog Esme, but claims that the security guard at the shop stopped her and verbally abused her. The security guard, contracted through a third party security firm, has been removed from his position at the store, RSH said.

"We sincerely apologise for the unpleasantness, disappointment and anger caused to Ms Cassandra Chiu, as well as members of the public," RSH said in a statement on Monday.

It also confirmed that the store welcomes guide dogs and their owners. The incident was caused by an "unintentional misunderstanding regarding courtesy rules at our stores", RSH said.

The company was responding to queries from The Straits Times on Ms Chiu's post about the incident at Takashimaya Shopping Centre.

It has received more than 1,500 likes since it was posted on Saturday.

Writing as her guide dog Esme on Facebook, Ms Chiu, 36, said she was extremely upset about the guard's behaviour.

"He refused any explanations and insisted 'no animals'," Ms Chiu wrote in her post.

A woman claiming to be the store manager eventually confirmed that guide dogs were not allowed and called the police, she said.

Takashimaya Shopping Centre's security management were also called in to resolve the matter.

Ms Chiu said that she was more upset about the security guard's rudeness, not so much about being turned away.

"It was not a low volume. I asked him to lower his volume and think about it," she said.

"I said his behaviour is no different from an animal."

People who wrote online saying they had seen what happened, however, had pointed out that a man who was with Ms Chiu had also talked to the security guard in an "aggressive, threatening manner".

Administrator Carol Tan, 32, was among the many who weighed in.

"It is up to both parties to maintain mutual courtesy," she said.

"But retail stores must also ensure their staff are up to speed with their guide dog policy."

RSH said that its human resources team had already informed Zara staff members about its guide dog policy. Efforts to educate staff on conflict management will be stepped up.

Takashimaya Shopping Centre also confirmed that it was a guide-dog friendly mall, which means guide dogs can be in shared mall spaces. But it is up to individual tenants to apply the policy as they see fit, the mall added.

Singapore's transport and food place hygiene legislations have been changed across the years to accommodate guide dogs, as they play an important role in guiding the blind.

Ms Chiu has often been vocal about being rejected at local establishments because her guide dog was not allowed in.

Last November, Ms Chiu and Esme were also not allowed to board a taxi. The driver had allegedly driven off when she was standing near the vehicle, and she fell and hurt her knee.

Additional reporting by Linette Lai

Cassandra Chiu resigns from Guide Dogs Association of the Blind

By Xabryna Kek

18 Apr 2015

Ms Chiu, who was a part-time client services manager with the association, has resigned just days after an incident at Zara on Apr 10.

SINGAPORE: Ms Cassandra Chiu, known for being one of the first guide dog owners in Singapore, has resigned from the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB), the association confirmed on Saturday (Apr 18).

This comes after reports of an incident at a Zara store at Ngee Ann City on Apr 10. In a Facebook post as Esme, her guide dog, Ms Chiu alleged that the store's security guard verbally abused her after she had tried to enter the store with Esme.

Ms Chiu, who joined GDAB as a part-time client services manager in October 2013, resigned on Apr 14, 2015, said GDAB general manager Vanessa Loh in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia. In the role, Ms Chiu acted as an ambassador for the association.

Calling her departure "unexpected", Ms Loh said GDAB respects Ms Chiu's decision, and that they expect an even greater acceptance of guide dogs following this episode.

"Cassandra resigned because she felt it was time to move on," said Ms Loh. "GDAB appreciates her dedication all these years. As an employee and our first guide dog user, she has done a lot for the cause and we wish her all the best."

"She is still our guide dog user and we will continue to support her as an organisation would to a beneficiary," Ms Loh added.


In response to the incident at Zara, Ms Loh said that the association "fully advocates a wider acceptance of guide dogs among businesses and public places in accordance with the legislature in Singapore", but that this acceptance will take time.

"We are also mindful that acceptance requires time and that there needs to be mutual trust, consent and understanding," said Ms Loh. "GDAB recognises that the use of guide dogs is in its infancy stage in Singapore now, it is also for this reason we launched a guide dog friendly nation campaign in January this year. We hope with continuous effort in awareness and education, Singapore will be an inclusive society for the blind and vision impaired who use guide dogs."

While Ms Chiu has left as an ambassador, Ms Loh said the GDAB sees all its guide dog teams as ambassadors: "Guide dogs bring our clients more mobility, safety and independence. They are active, they work and go about social outings like you and I. With the use of guide dogs being a relatively new concept here, they are our ambassadors who promote awareness just by being out there."

The GDAB currently has three guide dog teams, and one more will be formed soon. Ms Loh said they are currently in the process of gathering other guide dog teams who had been independent of GDAB to get together with them to promote a better understanding of all guide dogs in Singapore. They have also invited Mr Amos Miller, the former Chairman of Guide Dogs UK, to join the board of GDAB.

Ms Loh said the association was heartened by how their past efforts have already resulted in a wider acceptance of guide dogs, and added that moving forward, it will continue to "encourage shops, malls and restaurants that welcome vision-impaired and blind with guide dogs to display guide dog friendly decals prominently at their premises" to reduce misunderstandings with ground staff.

GDAB will hold its first International Guide Dogs Day event on Apr 25 at Bishan Park to pay tribute to guide dogs and the many people involved in training them.

"Guide dogs are extraordinary animals that devote their lives and bring solace to humans who have vision loss," said Ms Loh. "We hope that through the event, more people will come to appreciate the important role they play in our society."

When contacted, Ms Chiu refused to comment on her resignation.


Guard in guide dog row was following orders

APR 20, 2015

I REFER to the article "RSH Limited apologises to guide dog owner Cassandra Chiu for commotion at Zara" (ST Online, last Monday).

The Union of Security Employees is disappointed that the security officer has been placed as the party to be blamed in this incident and that his agency has been requested to remove him from his deployment site at the Ngee Ann City outlet.

From the checks we made, we believe that the officer involved was following the instructions of the retail outlet, and the article seems to corroborate this by quoting Ms Cassandra Chiu as saying a "woman claiming to be the store manager eventually confirmed that guide dogs were not allowed and called the police".

While we are fully compassionate about the duress Ms Chiu faced, we take umbrage at the fact that the officer, while doing his job, was unnecessarily provoked into a reaction.

While we acknowledge that security officers should remain calm and composed when carrying out their duties, mutual respect from all parties is also important to create a safe and pleasant environment for both our security officers and members of the public.

That this incident led to the officer suffering a dent in his career is disheartening as the officer was simply doing his job and can now possibly face issues with his livelihood.

We urge members of the public to respect our security officers, who are often deployed at the front lines and, at times, are subjected to abuse. Our officers perform an important job, and the union will stand by them if they are unfairly treated.

Hareenderpal Singh

Monday, April 20, 2015

Banking on infrastructure of the future


APR 20, 2015

THAT 57 countries will be founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank shows how decisively the global financial map is being redrawn by the economic rise of China, which leads the banking initiative. Indeed, 20 of those members are from outside the region, a statistic held up by Beijing that attests to the stake which countries far and near have in the success of this new, and possibly historic, international venture.

The AIIB's ambit covers nations that are diverse both geographically and economically. Its footprint ranges from Asia and Australasia to West Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America. From Australia to Austria, from Brunei to Brazil, from India to Iran, and from Singapore to Saudi Arabia, countries have signed up for the founder-members' privilege of setting the bank's rules. This status comes at the price of initially paying up to a fifth of its US$50 billion (S$67.3 billion) authorised capital, which will be raised eventually to US$100 billion. The advantage is to be a part of an enterprise that would benefit from the returns of helping to finance Asia's gigantic infrastructure needs.

In a fit of pique, unfortunately, the United States has distanced itself from the Chinese initiative.

American critics of the AIIB worry about the absence in it of transparent governance standards, and environmental and social safeguards. However, American objections stem also from the new bank's potential to rival the established lenders, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are dominated by the US and Japan.

MAS ‘will stick to twice-yearly S$ review’

 Apr 19, 2015

Tharman dismisses talk of govt changing how it manages economy

By Jeremy Au Yong In Washington

WASHINGTON - Singapore is sticking to the twice-yearly review of its foreign exchange policy, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said, dismissing suggestions that the unexpected shift by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in January marked a more fundamental change in how the Government manages the economy.

Investors and economists have been caught off-guard twice this year by the MAS, which adjusted the foreign exchange band in January, when no one expected it to, and then maintained the status quo last week, when many anticipated another change.

Some analysts even suggested the Government would increase the frequency of its monetary policy statements - made every April and October - due to a more uncertain macroeconomic outlook.

Speaking on the issue for the first time since the announcements, DPM Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, said it did not make sense for the foreign exchange policy to be changed too often.

“We’re already providing for fluctuations within the band, and to change the band often would be most unwise. It’ll lead to too much uncertainty, too much front-running each time people anticipate a change, and the uncertainty isn’t going to help the markets or the economy,” he said, noting that having an exchange rate band requires less frequent tweaks than trying to maintain an interest rate.

Cameras on cops: Good idea, and yet...

Apr 18, 2015

By David Brooks

LIKE a lot of people, I've come to believe that it would be a good idea to put body-mounted cameras on police officers. I now believe this for several reasons.

First, there have been too many cases in which police officers have abused their authority and then covered it up. Second, it seems probable that cops would be less likely to abuse their authority if they were being tracked. Third, human memory is an unreliable faculty. We might be able to reduce the number of wrongful convictions and acquittals if we have cameras recording more events.

I've come to this conclusion, but I haven't come to it happily. And, as the debate over cop-cams unfolded, I've been surprised by how many people don't see the downside to this policy. Most people don't even seem to recognise the damage these cameras will do both to police-civilian relations and to privacy. As the debate unfolded, it's become clear that more and more people have lost even the language of privacy and an understanding of why privacy is important.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Physicians want Dr Oz gone from Columbia medical faculty & Freedom of Expression

APRIL 17, 2015

NEW YORK — Columbia University has not removed TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz from his faculty position as a group of top doctors has demanded, citing his “egregious lack of integrity” for promoting what they call “quack treatments”.

“Dr Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” said a letter the 10 physicians sent to a Columbia dean earlier this week. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.

The New York Ivy League school responded yesterday (April 16), issuing a statement to The Associated Press (AP) saying only that the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion”.

Friday, April 17, 2015

SMA chief: Docs need protection against excessive patient claims

APR 16, 2015


SINGAPORE Medical Association (SMA) president Chin Jing Jih has called for changes in the law on medical liability to protect doctors against excessive patient claims and to prevent defensive healthcare practices that are not good for patients.

His article in the March SMA News comes in the wake of changes this month to the way obstetricians are protected by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), which covers about 10,000 doctors here.

While other doctors are protected for incidents that happened while they were members of the MPS, obstetricians are now covered only for incidents reported while they were members.

This means that if a patient reports an incident years after it happened, an obstetrician would not be covered unless he or she is still an MPS member.

Calvin & Hobbes - When the world was black and white

One of my favourite Calvin & Hobbes strip.

The father (and so by extension, Bill Watterson) is a lying genius! Try to debunk his theory of the Black and White World.

Also, in case you didn't know, the Earth is Flat. They have evidence.

Middle-aged men get scant respect

[Feeling my age, and wanting people to know it. A page from the past.]

From SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2012

Oct 28, 2012

To society at large, to be middle-aged is to be pot-bellied, insecure and creepy

By John Lui

One day, I woke up and found myself a middle- aged man. I did not plan to be middle-aged; I did not take classes for it, nor did I have to buy special clothes for the occasion.

It just happened.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More proof that the richer you are, the healthier you'll be


NEW YORK — No matter how much you earn, people who earn more than you are likelier to be healthier and live longer. That's the takeaway from a new report by researchers at the Urban Institute and Virginia Commonwealth University examining the complex links between health, wealth, and income.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that poverty is often associated with poor health. Less obvious: Health and income improve together all the way up the economic pyramid. The wealthiest have fewer illnesses than the upper-middle class, who are in better shape than the lower-middle class, and so on.

The Urban report analysed a dozen health problems for which the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has recorded prevalence by family income. In every case, the rich are better off. With just a few exceptions, there's a steady improvement in health as you climb the income scale.

Life expectancy and self-reported overall health also decline with income. And while minorities in the US have poorer health, much of the difference is accounted for by disparities in income among racial and ethnic groups.

Here's another way to think about it: 6.4 million people in the US have suffered strokes, a prevalence rate of 2.7 per cent of non-institutionalised adults. Among those who earn six figures, the rate is 1.6 per cent. If everyone had strokes at the same rate that the richest Americans do, we'd have 2.6 million fewer stroke patients in the country. Multiply such differences across a range of health conditions — diabetes, heart disease, lung disease — and the magnitude of health disparities becomes clear.

How health and money are related is complex. For both rich and poor, the two attributes likely reinforce one another. “Health and income affect each other in both directions: not only does higher income facilitate better health, but poor health and disabilities can make it harder for someone to succeed in school or to secure and retain a high-paying job,” the Urban authors write.

Living in poverty often means less access to nutritious food or neighbourhoods safe for outdoor exercise. Low-income people are more likely to smoke or be obese. White-collar jobs are less physically demanding, and people who have them can afford to take a day off for a doctors' visit or to get a gym membership. They're also probably not working the night shift, which is linked to cancer and other health problems.

The entanglement between health and income means that stagnant real wages and increasing inequality affect the country's physical and mental health as well. From the Urban report: “It is important to remember that economic and social policies are health policies in that they affect life expectancy, disease rates, and health care costs for all Americans.”


US and China: Two systems increasingly baffled by the other



While Iran relations are taking up all the oxygen in the room these days — and they are vitally important for the future of the Middle East — United States-China relations are vitally important for the world — and there’s more going on there than meets the eye. The concept of “one country, two systems” was invented to describe the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China. But here’s the truth: The economies and futures of America and China are today totally intertwined, so much so that they are the real “one country, two systems” to watch. And after recently being in China to attend the Bo'ao Forum in Hainan and hearing President Xi Jinping speak, what is striking is how much each side in this relationship seems to be asking the other: “What’s up with you?”

Both countries almost take for granted the ties that bind them today: The US$600 billion (S$816 billion) in annual bilateral trade; the 275,000 Chinese studying in America and the 25,000 Americans studying in China; the fact that China is America’s largest agricultural market and the largest foreign holder of US debt; and the fact that, last year, Chinese investment in the US for the first time exceeded American investment in China.

Indonesia's dilemma over foreign domestic workers


APR 16, 2015


DURING a recent visit to Malaysia, Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed shame when discussing the issue of Indonesian women working overseas as foreign domestic workers (FDWs).

In an effort to preserve the dignity of the nation, the President announced plans to stop sending women to work as domestic helpers overseas. In doing so, he failed to realise the greater consequences of legitimate employment opportunities for women being cut.

The growing gender challenges of development and economic growth aside, women also face numerous cultural hurdles in establishing economic security.

There is a need for more income-generating opportunities to be provided for women in order for them to live stable, secure and, indeed, dignified lives.

Instead of "band-aid" solutions, policies should be aimed at greater regulation and protection of FDWs. It is, in fact, by empowering its women that Indonesia will find greater dignity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Singapore could get hotter, wetter from 2070: Climate change study


APRIL 15, 2015

SINGAPORE — The unusually warm temperatures which Singapore encounters occasionally could become the norm from 2070, and the country can also expect more intense and frequent heavy rainfall by then.

These were findings from Phase 1 of the Second National Climate Change Study, which was commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the United Kingdom’s Met Office Hadley Centre.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New bank will not enhance China’s global power at America’s expense

Ho-fung Hung

April 13, 2015

Beijing’s plans for a new multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have put Washington on edge. More than 40 countries, including major United States allies in Europe, have signed up to join it, despite the Obama administration’s objections and warnings.

However, the US government has nothing to fear from the AIIB; its opposition is misguided. The bank’s creation will not enhance China’s global power at the expense of the US. If anything, Beijing’s attempt to go multilateral is a step backwards: It is a concession that China’s established practice of promoting bilateral initiatives in the developing world has backfired.

Once more, anxiety about China supplanting the US as the world’s leading power is undermining cool-headed analysis. When China set up its sovereign-wealth fund in 2007, many feared that it would take control of strategic resources, acquire sensitive technology and disrupt global financial markets. But the China Investment Corporation, which controlled US$575 billion (S$787 billion) last year, has been struggling with losses, partly because of mismanagement, according to China’s National Audit Office.

In 2008, as the US financial system was crashing, China surpassed Japan as the biggest holder of US Treasury securities, setting off predictions that Beijing might one day dump them to force the US into economic and political submission. Instead, China’s holdings of US Treasuries have more than doubled, from about US$493 billion in early 2008 to more than US$1.2 trillion at the beginning of this year.


Again and again, the alarmists have been disproved. One reason is that they have often overlooked the real impetus for China’s outward investment. Beijing set up a sovereign-wealth fund and bought US Treasuries because it needed to find a safe and profitable way to invest its vast foreign-exchange reserve, which kept expanding thanks to the country’s growing exports. China’s move today to set up the AIIB is yet another rational response to the economic challenges it faces at the moment.

For more than a decade, Beijing used part of its massive reserves to support the activities of Chinese companies — mostly state-owned enterprises — around the world, in infrastructure development, mining and other industries. To facilitate that, it pledged to give out enormous amounts of bilateral loans and grants to developing countries — a total of US$671 billion in 2001 to 2011, according to a 2013 RAND Corporation report.

The Chinese government awarded much of this financial assistance with little interest in influencing local politics, but often on the condition that the projects it backed use Chinese contractors and Chinese-made products. Such terms were designed to serve the interests of Chinese companies. And they did, perhaps only too well.

For example, though China’s assistance to Africa brought new economic opportunities to the continent, it also created inequalities and, in turn, a political backlash. During the 2011 election in Zambia, where China invests heavily in copper mines, voters elected the candidate who ran on an anti-China platform. In 2013, Mr Lamido Sanusi, then the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, warned that China’s approach to Africa was a new form of imperialism.

This wariness exists in Asia too, including among Beijing’s long-time allies, such as Myanmar. Over the past few years, the Myanmar government has moved closer towards Washington, partly to overcome its dependence on Chinese assistance. It has also suspended a massive Chinese dam project that had sparked local unrest. Such pushback against China’s bilateral initiatives is the reason that Beijing now wants to create multilateral vehicles for its investments.

The AIIB’s capitalisation may reach US$100 billion, with China providing up to US$50 billion. Last year, Beijing also pledged US$40 billion to a new Shanghai-based BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bank. That, too, was seen as a challenge to America’s leadership in international financial institutions. But such concerns overstate just how much power any given government can reap from dominating a multilateral organisation.

The US became the 20th century’s superpower thanks to its bilateral economic assistance, rather than its clout in multilateral bodies. The World Bank was created in 1944, but was soon overshadowed and sidelined by the Marshall Plan and other US bilateral assistance programmes. It was revitalised only in the 1970s, when America’s global power had weakened.

Multilateral institutions are inherently restricting. When a country lends on its own, it has total control over the terms of the arrangement. Lending via the AIIB or the BRICS bank will mean being constrained by other stakeholders. And this is precisely Beijing’s point. As Mr Shi Yaobin, a Chinese Deputy Finance Minister, said recently: “Every member’s share (of decision-making power in the AIIB) will decline commensurately with the gradual increase in the number of the member countries.”

In other words, China is deliberately forgoing some of its leverage, including in the very organisation it is setting up. And it is doing so because it wants the cover and legitimacy that will come from the participation of other countries.

Creating the AIIB is not Beijing’s attempt at world domination; it is a self-imposed constraint and a retreat from more than a decade of aggressive bilateral initiatives. And the more China channels its international investments through multilateral institutions — even ones of its own making — the lesser the risk that it will become all-dominant.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ho-fung Hung is associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University and the author of the coming book, The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World.

What are vaccines saving us from, exactly?

April 10, 2015

Dear Cecil:

Can you do the teeming millions a favor? The Jenny McCarthy contingent is going on about the risks of vaccinations, but absent from this discussion is any consideration of the risk of the diseases.

— Mark J. Costello

Dear Cecil:

This recent measles outbreak got me wondering about the cost. I read an article saying the Centers for Disease Control report that "every dollar spent on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine saves the U.S. $23.30 in medical costs.” It also said that Arizona spent $800,000 to contain an outbreak. I understand the necessity for vaccinations, but what costs are they talking about?

— Bob from Lansing

Cecil replies:

You’re asking whether vaccination is worth it. There could be stupider questions — just wait till some C-grade celebrity leads the charge against indoor plumbing and electric lights. However, for now those questioning the value of vaccination pretty much have the market cornered on idiotic. By any measure childhood immunization has been one of humanity’s great achievements, substantially eradicating diseases that in centuries past depopulated continents and in the memory of persons still alive killed or crippled thousands every year. But today few have any clue, leading some to ask why we still need to poke babies with needles and all that jazz.

Revisiting Operation Coldstore

In recent months, several historians and former detainees have questioned the legitimacy of a major government crackdown on communists and leftists in 1963, saying Operation Coldstore was politically motivated. Officials and several academics have responded to these claims, saying the communists posed a real security threat, while some say more evidence ought to be made available. Lim Yan Liang reports.

APR 13, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

S'pore after LKY? That question's 25 years late

Many of his Big Ideas have been taken apart, and put together in totally new ways
Apr 12, 2015

Sunday With Chua Mui Hoong, 
Opinion Editor

Whither Singapore, post-Lee Kuan Yew?

Many commentators here and abroad have pondered this after Mr Lee died on March 23 at the age of 91, leaving three children and seven grandchildren, and the thriving, successful city-state of Singapore as his physical, tangible legacy.

Will Singapore's success survive Mr Lee? Will the so-called Singapore Model of soft authoritarianism built on a bedrock of respect for the law, a clean and efficient public administration, and a social habit of putting the community above individual interests, be able to withstand the test of time?

Mr Lee himself, it should be noted, always said Singapore was too small and unique to be a model for any other society.

I must confess to some impatience reading such musings on whether Singapore will survive Mr Lee.

The evidence is all around us today. To me, the question is a quarter of a century late.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Five Straits Times stories that got Singapore talking (2014)

Apr 09, 2015

LAST year, just as it has done so for decades, The Straits Times told the story of Singapore and the issues that got it talking. These ranged from an attempt to wrest a rich widow's wealth and the shortage of C class beds in public hospitals to the controversy over what books should be allowed on the shelves of public libraries. Reporters who uncovered these stories were among the winners at the English, Malay and Tamil Media annual awards yesterday, with ST sweeping 11 of 19 prizes.

What China’s rise means for South-east Asia and overseas Chinese

To be a true superpower like the United States, countries need to be both continental and maritime powers, and this is what China is trying to do now, said prominent historian Wang Gungwu in a new book launched on Monday. Speaking as guest of honour at the book launch, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bilahari Kausikan said Professor Wang’s distinction between a maritime power and a continental power was “extremely suggestive and powerful”. Mr Kausikan also spoke about the implications of China’s rise for countries with Chinese populations and how Beijing finds it difficult to accept Singapore as a multiracial meritocracy. Below is an excerpt of Mr Kausikan’s speech, which he gave in his personal capacity:



Lee Kuan Yew and Suharto: Friends till the end

From honouring the loan of rice, to the Riau development project, mutual trust between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Suharto fostered Indonesia-Singapore ties

APR 8, 2015


OVER a period of almost 30 years from the 1970s, an excellent relationship existed between Indonesia and Singapore.

While it is unfashionable among historians to credit "great men" for the outcome of events and to look instead into factors underpinning broad historical trends, the smooth bilateral relationship owed much to the mutual confidence which developed between President Suharto of Indonesia and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Lee's first exposure to Indonesia occurred in August 1960 when he made an official visit to Indonesia and was a guest of President Sukarno. It was a disappointing exchange as Sukarno did most of the talking and there was little substantive discussion, with Sukarno expounding his concept of "guided democracy", repeating points he had made in many public speeches.

The visit highlighted the decline in the Indonesian economy following the expulsion of the Dutch community in 1957, the nationalisation of foreign enterprises and the proclamation of a policy of economic nationalism.

Indonesia's policy of Confrontation after the formation of Malaysia in 1963 resulted in a sharp decline in Singapore-Indonesia trade, arising from Indonesia's ban on trade with Malaysia.

Singapore's dependence on its entrepot role resulted in a sharp economic downturn, even though the impact was limited by continuing barter trade with the Riau islands. There were also more than 50 bomb attacks in Singapore by Indonesian infiltrators.

Ageing populations may curb advanced economies' growth

Apr 09, 2015

IMF warns that they face lower living standards if they don't boost productivity

 WASHINGTON - Advanced economies face limits on future growth due to the drag from ageing populations, unless they can boost productivity through technology and infrastructure investment, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

A higher proportion of aged citizens means a smaller workforce and lower potential output, which in turn could spell lower living standards in the future, the IMF said on Tuesday, citing a new study.

The phenomenon of lower potential growth is increasingly evident in some advanced economies, and it is looming over emerging markets like China, where the average age of the population is rising.

The study, part of the IMF's semi-an-nual World Economic Outlook, seeks in part to explain why advanced economies have remained so turgid in the wake of the financial crisis which began in 2008.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew’s Enduring Legacy

To understand and emulate Singapore’s success, other countries must try to understand the mind of its visionary leader.

By Manish Gyawali

April 02, 2015

In Nepal, prime ministers often do not rule for long, and their reign is often chaotic, and in the end, inconsequential. But they often begin with grand proclamations. In particular, many have begun their terms with a promise to turn their country into the “next” Singapore. And Nepal is not alone. Throughout Asia, Singapore’s success has long fascinated and inspired leaders and visionaries. And one man embodies that success – Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Indeed, few Asian leaders are as revered as Lee. Witness the outpouring of praise for him upon his death. Fewer still have made such an impact on Asia’s rulers by ruling over a tiny city-state. Because of Lee, Singapore has, like America, like Japan, transcended boundaries to become an idea that stands for something unique and powerful – an oasis of peace, stability and prosperity in a neighborhood that is often racked by turmoil. Lacking any significant natural resource, Singapore instead turned towards educating its population and cleverly exploiting its unique geostrategic location. Lee was a visionary, but he was also a pragmatist. He understood the limitations of his tiny country just as well as he understood its potential for greatness. He saw clearly the trend towards globalization, and how his country was uniquely situated to take advantage of it. All it needed was the right infrastructure – and he helped to develop it. He opened the economy and made Singapore a notable financial center. He developed its port – until recently the busiest in the world. He built an international airport that has long been considered the world’s most efficient and hassle free.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ripples and Reflections - April 7

[Ripples and Reflections on Lee Kuan Yew - April 7]

Negotiating traffic in Vietnam holds lessons for govts



In Vietnam, where I recently spent a week, streets are a sea of scooters and small motorcycles. Ho Chi Minh City buzzes to the eddying of this two-wheeled tide. Entire families perch themselves on bikes, often with a small child up front who gets the best view, the hot breeze in her face and, of course, the least chance of emerging unscathed from a collision. Adults wear helmets; children and animals do not.

Along with the living — a chicken or piglet perhaps — various things may be wedged at angles, including small refrigerators, potted plants, metal frames and bunches of bananas. Bikes, the cars of the newly affluent, and pedestrians weave around one another in a seamless pattern fashioned not by any rule or organising principle but by individual awareness.

Major intersections, unburdened by anything as cumbersome or inflexible as traffic lights, function as massive group exercises in tentative advance, the principle being to coax others to the prudence of the brake by nosing ahead with just the right dose of insistence. Lo, the sea divides. A path opens. There is no logic at work, but there is a great deal of humanity.

Madness might be a verdict on all this, but then, to the average Vietnamese biker, there might be equal madness to Western culture, hemmed in by all the controls that a combination of fear and technology produce.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

What Papa's death taught us about ourselves

Apr 05, 2015

S'poreans have respect and empathy for one another and should retain such behaviour
By Lee Wei Ling

I am Lee Kuan Yew's daughter. I was brought up in a rather undemonstrative family. Papa's death was indeed a painful event for me, but I will not show my pain to the world. So I was amazed at the outpouring of emotion that usually phlegmatic Singaporeans displayed on my father's passing.

My father never sought popularity. Whilst not arrogant, he was openly dismissive of rogues, charlatans and crooks. And though he had a great rapport with regular people - he began his political career representing postal workers and his base was always the unions - he never suffered fools gladly, especially if they were pretentious and high-ranking. As everyone knows, he was not cuddly.

And yet when he died, Singaporeans cried as they would for a loved one. Never demonstrative himself, he elicited demonstrative crowds in the hundreds of thousands who thronged Parliament House and the 18 tribute sites the People's Association organised.

On the last day of the lying in state, I received a phone call from an old classmate who told me his wife was crying because she was unable to pay her respects in time. I could not help, for how could I justify helping a friend's wife jump the queue?

Rush to join China-led bank stuns even Beijing

April 4, 2015

BEIJING — The sudden rush to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by this week’s deadline, including last-minute applications by countries hardly considered Beijing’s best friends, astonished even the Chinese.

Few in Beijing had believed Taiwan would want in. Same for Norway, whose relations with the Chinese have been chilly since its decision five years ago to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a dissident Chinese writer.

But after the deadline, China, which expected to be joined mainly by its neighbours, announced that it had attracted 46 founding members for its new bank. Among the surprises, the final tally of countries clamouring to participate included 14 advanced economies of the Group of Twenty, many of them — such as Brazil, France, Germany and Russia — from outside Asia.

“Such wide and warm support was unexpected,” said Professor Jin Canrong, who specialises in international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Mourning After

[News and commentary on Lee Kuan Yew from the Straits Times April 4, 2015.]

Apr 04, 2015

One queue, 82 hours, almost half a million undaunted mourners  

IT WAS a queue never seen before in Singapore and likely never to be seen again.

Starting on the morning of March 25, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s casket was moved from the Istana to Parliament House, Singaporeans lined up to pay their last respects to the nation’s founding prime minister.

Being told that the wait would stretch up to 10 or 11 hours did nothing to deter the masses. Instead, it seemed only to increase their determination to file past Mr Lee’s casket in a final farewell.

Visiting hours were extended twice – first to midnight and then round the clock. Priority queues for the elderly, the infirm and young children were created.

Organisers worked without sleep to set up barricades and tents to marshal the mammoth crowd. Volunteers – from corporations that donated thousands of umbrellas and restaurants that handed out snacks, to individuals who picked up trash – helped make the wait more pleasant.

Despite a suspension of the line last Friday night as the number of people at the Padang exceeded safety limits, Singaporeans continued to join the line until 8pm on Saturday.

In 82 hours, over four days, 454,687 people flowed through the queue to pay their last respects to Mr Lee.


Grief, gratitude and how a nation grew closer together
The outpouring of grief and depth of emotion shown by Singaporeans following the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the early hours of March 23 was unprecedented. Insight looks back on the week in which Singaporeans mourned their founding prime minister. 


IT WAS a scene replicated across many parts of Singapore the morning after news broke that the country's first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had died at 3.18am on Monday, March 23, at the age of 91.

In homes, offices, MRT platforms and bus terminals - almost any place where a television set, radio, smartphone or computer terminal was turned on to a news channel or website - people were gripped by what they heard.

Some bowed their heads in sorrow. Others buried their face in their hands in anguish or disbelief, or offered a silent prayer.

Yet others sat still for several moments, stunned, making sense of the moment they knew was inevitable, yet somehow hoped would not happen.

Concern over Mr Lee's health had become a major talking point in recent months. He had not been seen at a public event since the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the People's Action Party in November.

Confirmation of his condition came only in late February, just after Chinese New Year: He had been warded in the intensive care unit of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) with severe pneumonia since Feb 5.

Regular updates on his condition from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) gave rise to hope, worry, then dread.

On March 17, the PMO said Mr Lee's condition had worsened due to an infection, 40 days after he was admitted to the hospital. Brief daily statements followed for the next five days, each time saying he had weakened further.

Singaporeans from across the island began turning up at SGH to offer prayers and good wishes, to stand vigil, to will him on.

The hospital eventually designated a special area for them. So large were the number of people, get-well cards and flowers for the man that few knew in person, but who all said had made a significant difference to their lives - from the homes and opportunities they had, to the stability, economic security and brighter future their children now have.

A tent was eventually put up outside to shelter the gifts, cards and flowers, and the area it covered was expanded a day later.

In their messages of support, well-wishers shared a common sentiment: gratitude, whether for help given personally or in shaping the country they live in.

Mr Patrick Ang, 41, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorised wheelchair, and sells Singapore Sweep tickets, left a card.

He wrote to Mr Lee for help after he was robbed in his Bukit Merah rental flat three years ago. Mr Lee helped him move to a new rental flat in Clementi.

Deliveryman Zuraimi Abdul Karim, 55, dropped by with his sister to offer a silent prayer: "A whole generation knows the hardship he faced building Singapore. He's a great man to us."

Tanjong Pagar Community Club, at the heart of the constituency that Mr Lee represented for almost 60 years since he was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955, also set aside space for cards and flowers.

Even though Mr Lee stepped down as prime minister in 1990, he was still an influential member of Cabinet as senior minister, and then as minister mentor, until 2011. After that he remained an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

The crowds at SGH and Tanjong Pagar grew over the weekend of March 21 and 22, when hundreds flocked to the community club, many unable to hold back tears.

They remembered growing up when the area was filthy and dilapidated, and recalled how Mr Lee had more than delivered on his promises to improve their conditions.

Then came the dreaded news in the small hours of the morning of March 23. As the nation awoke to find that Mr Lee had died, many tuned in to television and radio broadcasts and live streaming online as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, visibly tired, told them: "The first of our founding fathers is no more."

Flags would be at half-mast, there would be a seven-day mourning period, a state funeral service. The details came thick and fast, planned with an efficiency that Mr Lee had made into a Singapore hallmark.

By the time Mr Lee's body returned to the Istana grounds shortly after noon on Monday, hundreds had gathered outside its main gates to bid farewell.

The casket was laid to rest in Sri Temasek, the official residence of the prime minister, for a private wake for family members and close friends.

Six, then 10 community tribute centres were opened across the island for the public to pen messages and pay their respects, and 18 in all were open a day later.

Over the week that followed, some 1.2 million visited these centres to leave notes of thanks in Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English. They brought artwork and craftwork, soft toys, pictures.

Some highlighted their gratitude for the policies that brought the country from Third to First World status; improved their housing; provided education and jobs. Minorities especially singled out Mr Lee's commitment to multiracialism and meritocracy. Many others said Mr Lee and the progress he brought to the country made them proud to be Singaporean.

"It is a bond that goes beyond policies," Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah said in Tanjong Pagar of the affection for Mr Lee.

"He gave this nation pride."

Lining up in the sun
THE strength of that bond was evident in the crowds that lined the streets to see Mr Lee's casket make its way on March 25 from the Istana to Parliament House, where he would lie in state.

The route was packed, some having arrived at sunrise that day. Amid the throng, a man held a plastic miniature Singapore flag aloft, and that, too, was at half-mast.

Inside Sri Temasek, officers draped the State flag over the casket, the crescent and stars lying over the head and close to the heart of Mr Lee, before carrying and laying it on a gun carriage.

As the procession made the 2km journey along Orchard Road, Bras Basah and North Bridge Road, queues were quiet, respectful. And as it reached Parliament House, there were some who cheered, applauded, and called out: "Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!"

By noon on Wednesday, the line of people converging at Parliament's gates had grown impossibly long: stretching along the banks of the Singapore River that he vowed to - and did - clean up, and the queues snaked to Hong Lim Green, Battery Road and Coleman Street.

Thousands braved the sweltering heat, waiting patiently in line for over eight hours to file past Mr Lee's casket, even if it was just for a few seconds.

Among them was housewife Jenn Lee, 54, who grew up in Tanjong Pagar and remembers Mr Lee as her MP: "He transformed this from a shipping port into a big city, and I wanted to show my gratitude and express how blessed we are to have had him lead us."

The queues were a scene never before seen in Singapore. So overwhelming was the public's response that the State Funeral Organising Committee chose to extend visiting hours not once, but twice - from the originally scheduled 10am to 8pm, first to midnight, and then round the clock until Saturday evening.

"When we planned this one week of national mourning, we of course expected a tremendous outpouring of emotions," National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on March 26.

"But the reality exceeded our expectations."

Organisers had, by then, implemented a more organised queue system, with the Padang as the starting point - including a separate line for those who were older or had special needs. Like many public-spirited businesses and individuals had done previously, bottles of water and umbrellas were made available to those in line.

Inside Parliament House, ushers encouraged visitors to move along quickly - though individuals still made the effort to bow; some knelt, waved, saluted.

And many wept.

Try as the organisers did to discourage the public from joining the queues when waiting times were at their longest - eight, nine, 10 hours - and to head for community tribute centres instead, the crowds kept on coming.

Transport officials chipped in, working with SMRT and SBS Transit to extend train and feeder bus services past normal hours to operate round the clock.

PM Lee and several ministers visited those waiting in line to thank them for coming and for being patient. Those waiting, in turn, urged them, PM Lee in particular, to take care of themselves.

"Singaporeans aren't given to outward displays of emotion. We have a reputation for being diligent, task-oriented and focused on our work," Mr Walter Lim, who runs marketing agency Cooler Insights, wrote.

But, somehow, this reserve crumbled over the week, he added of the overwhelming outpouring of sentiment.

The queues grew longer on Thursday, when a special session of Parliament was held. There were few dry eyes in the Chamber. The most poignant reminder of Mr Lee's absence was a spray of white flowers placed on his empty seat in the House.

Outside Parliament, tributes came from community and religious groups, which held memorials and special services to honour Mr Lee and his contributions.

Political scientist Bilveer Singh of the National University of Singapore, who joined the queue at the Padang on Thursday night with his wife and waited seven hours, tells Insight: "You felt there was a nation out there."

Recalling how volunteers handed out apples and drinks, and strangers shared snacks and stories, he added: "We were all united. And we were all crying, we were in tears, especially when we saw the hearse."

Even the military guards who stood ramrod straight as they kept vigil by the casket struggled to fight back tears, which others dabbed away for them.

By Friday, the volume of people swelled even further. With the work-week behind them and a weekend ahead, many felt it would be all right to tough it out. Besides, with the cut-off for the queue scheduled for Saturday night, many took the plunge to stand in line.

But with an eye on the increasing numbers, and safety, organisers closed entry to the queue late on Friday night till the congestion cleared. The lines reopened early on Saturday morning. Yet when the 8pm queue cut-off time came around on Saturday, many were left disappointed.

By the time the last visitor left Parliament House at around midnight, some 455,000 people had paid their last respects in person.

Whichever way you look at it, the numbers are astonishing, said political scientist Lam Peng Er of the East Asian Institute.

The figure of 1.7 million visitors who were at the lying in state and community tribute sites translates into one in two Singaporeans turning up to pay their respects.

Dr Lam's explanation for the turnout: "For most Singaporeans, their lives were intertwined with his." Many, in person or through their parents, knew what life was like when Mr Lee took office in 1959 and the tremendous change Singapore has since witnessed.

Standing in the rain 

AND Singaporeans were prepared to do it all again on Sunday - in driving rain as the skies opened up as Mr Lee's casket left Parliament House shortly after noon for the procession to the funeral service at the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge.

For a handful of those waiting for the funeral procession outside City Hall and across the Padang, the torrential rain brought back memories of the 1968 National Day Parade, also at the Padang, when a downpour drenched all those who were taking part.

But the parade carried on, and as Mr Lee said at a National Day dinner at the Tanjong Pagar community centre a few days after that parade: "All those who watched Friday's Parade could take heart from the display of discipline and determination in the face of heavy rain and high winds."

He added: "This is what makes Singapore take shape: the growing confidence of the younger generation that has got the gumption, the guts and the gusto to carve a future for themselves in Southeast Asia."

Waiting to wave Mr Lee off at Queensway on Sunday was Ms Wan Fatt Ngai, 64, who was a student cadet at the Padang in 1968.

"We were all wet, rooted to the ground, but nobody moved. It was so cold," she recalled, adding that she remembered Mr Lee being fiery and inspiring.

"It didn't mean anything to me then. It was only later as I looked around at the changes to the country - the houses, the clean river - that I realised the impact this man had on our country.

"It seems fitting that we are sending him off in the rain," she added.

Many who braved the downpour on Sunday, 47 years on, were students just like Ms Wan was. Others also lined the streets along virtually every stretch of the 15.4km-long route to Kent Ridge.

In all, an estimated 100,000 lined the streets. Many gathered from early morning, and others joined in from nearby churches, mosques and temples, or their homes along the route.

Wherever they stood in line, many said they were grateful for the opportunities that Mr Lee and his team opened up for them and their children. And so they designed placards, gave out flowers and cheered his name as the cortege made its way down rain-slicked roads.

After the procession passed, many headed home or to community and tribute centres to watch the funeral service. The 10 eulogies celebrated Mr Lee's dedication to his family and work, his devotion to the country, and his determination to make life better for his fellow Singaporeans.

And when the civil defence sirens sounded at around 4.30pm, many nationwide rose to join in a minute of silence, a final honour for Mr Lee.

Trains stopped at stations with their doors open, as did buses, and staff and passengers at Changi Airport.

The moment of silence over, in unison Singaporeans recited the pledge and sang the National Anthem - with sadness, but also with a realisation that it was now up to them all to take the nation that Mr Lee bequeathed to them higher, further along. 

A new Singapore spirit?
THE sense of loss and grief over the week-long period of national mourning reignited what many Singaporeans feel they have lost in recent years: a sense of national cohesion and what held them together as one people.

And on this one occasion, political and ideological differences were set aside. Those who were previously content to sit back and allow critics and angry voices to dominate social media and the online space, came out to express their views.

As Mr Walter Lim noted, whether people loved or loathed Mr Lee, his death appears to have sparked something.

"For the first time in like, forever, the silent majority have made their feelings felt everywhere - online and off-line. We are not emotionless and passionless. We care and we show it when the occasion calls for it," he wrote.

"This peaceful revolt is exhibited in how many new voices have emerged. For the longest time, Singapore's online community was known to be anti-government, antagonistic and attention-seeking. With the passing of Mr Lee, a new movement amongst the moderates has emerged."

But Mr Lim feels Mr Lee's death also reunified Singaporeans, who might ordinarily be preoccupied with other concerns.

Singapore High Commissioner to Australia Burhan Gafoor said at a memorial to Mr Lee in Perth on April 1: "What began as a week of national mourning became a week of national bonding. On the streets of Singapore, there was a palpable sense of unity, a sense of community and a distinct feeling of pride in being Singaporean."

And as Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted in a Facebook post, Mr Lee's death had "galvanised Singaporeans here and all over into a stronger nation ... So many world leaders I met after the funeral service said that Mr Lee's passing was sorrowful; the way Singaporeans behaved in mourning him was admirable; and that Mr Lee would be proud of this."

Dr Lam tells Insight that the events of the past week spoke much to citizens and to outsiders about the resilience of Singaporeans as a people.

"They showed that ordinary people could stand in line when they are motivated and driven by conviction. If you are an investor, you might think you've picked the right place, where people may grumble, but when it comes to the crunch, they can rough it out," he said.

"It also sent a signal to our neighbours and friends: our country is small but it is special. It is more than just high-rise buildings or a financial centre. People are quite tough and can pull together. In a way, it was a cathartic coming of age - you could say it was Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last great service to the country."

When Singapore marks its 50th anniversary of independence in August, there will be more than a tinge of sadness that Mr Lee is not there to celebrate with the nation.

But if the scenes from the seven days from March 23 to 29 are anything to go by, then there is hope for a real and renewed commitment to cherish that sense of togetherness and to collectively keep it going into the future.

It is the least that the people and the country can do to repay and honour the man who gave his all to rally and hold Singaporeans together in the first place.


The emotional commitment that Mr Lee inspired
The unprecedented display of emotion after Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death was because people respected Mr Lee as a man of principle, whose leadership made their lives better, even if they disagreed with some of his policies.

THE period of national mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew will remain vivid in the memory of Singaporeans for many years to come.

For seven days, Singaporeans experienced what I called "nationally shared emotions".

It was a collective grief, accompanied by a deep sense of gratitude to a great man who devoted his adult life to building a city-state that Singaporeans can be proud to call home.

As a behavioural scientist, I was constantly asked over the last two weeks to explain the psychology underlying Singaporeans' public display of emotions.

Singaporeans are now returning to the normalcy of their daily lives. It is time to take stock of Singaporeans' recent collective experiences. And it would be irresponsible to not address the question of a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore.

Personal experiences, shared beliefs
MANY Singaporeans grew up with Mr Lee as their iconic leader.

They heard his hard-hitting speeches and experienced his commanding presence even if it was only through watching the television. They have shared beliefs that he was the primary person responsible for transforming Singapore.

But why are younger people - who have not known Mr Lee as their prime minister - also intensively moved?

It is true that they learnt in school that he is the founding father of modern Singapore. But they have also heard about the real experiences of older people or others who know about Mr Lee. And they grew up listening to stories about the rare combination of leadership abilities and values embodied in the man.

In other words, Mr Lee has been Singapore's national leader, who has been revered or talked about among Singaporeans for over 50 years. His influence and impact on Singapore and the lives of Singaporeans has been long and lasting.

And when Singaporeans look at their country, many are likely to agree that, overall, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Psychology of public reactions

DID Singaporeans simply feel obliged to acknowledge that Mr Lee was primarily responsible for the country's improved material conditions? Research on psychological commitment has shown that people can be motivated to do something when there is a sense of obligation.

By itself, commitment based on obligation - as in feeling duty-bound to do something - can explain behaviours reflecting determination and perseverance, such as queueing for many hours to pay last respects to Mr Lee. But it cannot explain the visible grief and public display of emotions.

Complaints of inconvenience, which should occur to some degree if people feel that they have to, even when they do not want to, were conspicuously absent.

Moreover, volunteering and looking out for each other were in abundance. To understand public reactions, we need to go beyond commitment based on obligation to include commitment based on emotion. Emotional commitment is about motivation based on "want to".

When people are emotionally committed, they experience a strong feeling of attachment and sense of belonging. They feel like "part of the family". Studies have shown that emotional commitment is often accompanied by a display of emotions. It also leads to "citizenship" behaviours, such as putting up with inconveniences, pro-social behaviours, taking initiatives to improve a situation, and volunteering.

But given Mr Lee's strict enforcement of obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, or an authoritarian approach, can we still say that people are rooted to him through emotional commitment?

In fact, there is no inconsistency. It turns out that emotional commitment can be developed over time through positive personal experiences and beliefs based on perceptions of principled treatment.

First, Singaporeans have personally enjoyed many positives in their life experiences that are attributable to Mr Lee's efforts and decisions. For example, in addition to living in a vibrant metropolis, Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure country and a harmonious society that emphasises multiracialism.

Despite the usual complaints of stress and strain, Singaporeans have personally experienced a place that is highly liveable, for themselves and their family.

Second, in addition to being a pragmatic leader, Mr Lee has been widely perceived as a man of principle.

While there may not be a consensus on the desirability of all his principles, many that he zealously safeguard have benefited Singaporeans though the building of a fair and just society.

Singaporeans from all social backgrounds have been able to excel and be rewarded under a meritocratic system based on performance rather than one's connections.

People have also experienced fairness and justice from a government with zero tolerance for corruption. And many would describe Singapore as a land of opportunity, where self-reliance can lead to achievements of goals.

Mr Lee is seen as a man who practised what he preached, said what he meant, and meant what he said.

So, beyond his intellect, there was a deep respect and trust for Mr Lee's character. Note that this is not about his personality or rationale for specific policies. Singaporeans may disagree strongly with some policies advocated by Mr Lee or dislike some of his personality traits. But they appreciate the values that he painstakingly cultivated, and the principles that he unwaveringly upheld for Singapore.

Singaporeans' shared values include integrity, fairness and social harmony, and guiding principles such as the rule of law, accountability and people-centricity. For over 50 years, Mr Lee translated these values and principles into Singapore's collective narratives and convictions. And so, today, Singaporeans hold strongly to their beliefs in meritocracy, multiracialism, incorruptibility and self-reliance.

For Singaporeans, Mr Lee's death activated the realisation that the generally good life that they and their children have been enjoying did not come easily. Neither did it come automatically. It came about because of Mr Lee and the team of pioneers he led.

The recounting of past events and Mr Lee's past speeches in the media played a role in this mental activation.

But it was not the primary reason for the public's reactions. People could have responded the way they did only if they have existing strong beliefs, trust and respect for Mr Lee.

And real experiences of positive well-being living in Singapore. These beliefs and experiences have, over time, developed into a commitment that is based on both obligation and emotion.

It is noteworthy, though, that none of the above tells us anything directly about whether Singaporeans are happy or unhappy with the government of the day or prevailing policies.

What's next?
THE national mourning has also turned out to be a period of reflection. It is likely that Mr Lee will remain an inspiration for many Singaporeans moving forward.

But how do we imagine a Singapore without Mr Lee Kuan Yew?

There are good reasons to be confident that a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore will continue to thrive. Precisely because of what Mr Lee has done in building up Singapore and putting it on the map, the world now knows of the Singapore brand - Singapore is a choice place to invest in and partner with.

And this is more than just its strategic location, excellent infrastructure and global connectivity. Backed by its solid record - including the past two decades when Mr Lee was no longer in charge - it is a nation of trustworthy people who can and will deliver what is promised.

In my view, this is Mr Lee's greatest legacy. He has put in place institutions and values that ensure Singapore will continue to survive without depending on any one individual. Singaporeans can be optimistic about the future of Singapore without Mr Lee.

But Singapore's continued success is not a given or guaranteed. The country needs capable and trustworthy leaders who are citizen-centric with a global outlook. Leaders who ensure that the fundamentals of economics and foreign relations are well taken care of.

The country also needs communities who will speak up and step up to address those issues that the Government cannot tackle alone, or those that are better resolved without government intervention. This builds social capital.

And the country needs individual citizens who would uphold shared values and guiding principles.

This should translate into how people think, feel and act. But it also includes the conscious efforts to transmit values and principles to the next generation.

Singapore has the foundations for us to be confident that we can make things happen. As individuals, there is hope to achieve our goals and aspirations. Singaporeans can be optimistic about the progress and future of our society.

And when we recover from adversity and adapt to changes, we become more resilient, individually and nationally.

This psychological capital, together with economic and social capital, will see us through.

The writer is director of the Behavioural Sciences Institute, Lee Kuan Yew Fellow and Professor of Psychology at the Singapore Management University.


Thousands queue to see Lee Kuan Yew exhibition


LONG queues formed unexpectedly at the National Museum of Singapore yesterday, as thousands waited for more than three hours on average to catch a glimpse of artefacts from the life of the nation’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

A week ago, over a million people queued for up to half a day to pay homage to Mr Lee, who died on March 23, aged 91. On Good Friday, many stood patiently in line once more, to see the memorial exhibition on his life and work.

Museum staff had to close the queue at 4pm as there was still a four-hour wait and the museum would shut at 8pm. They sent out a tweet at 5pm to announce that admission to the exhibition had closed for the day. An estimated 5,500 people passed through the museum's doors yesterday.

Two days earlier, Mr Lee's famous red box - where he kept his working documents - was added to the display.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong visited the museum at around 5.30pm to thank those queueing.

He said the red box, in particular, had captured the imagination of Singaporeans. "It's more than just what Mr Lee used for his work every day. It stood for his values, it stood for his dedication, for Singapore. It has meaning beyond just the box itself."

He added: "It's quite unexpected in a sense, as this is not new - it's been around for a week, and we didn't see crowds like that last week. Perhaps it's a combination of factors - we now have the red box, and the exhibition has had some publicity, and also it's a public holiday."

In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew will run daily from 10am to 8pm until April 26. Over 22,800 people have visited the exhibition so far.

Crowds 'like never before' for local history exhibition
Many came to see Mr Lee's red box, which was added on Thursday

HE HAD waited in line for almost five hours to pay his respects to Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The strain from a recent appendix operation, however, forced Mr Jaiyaseelan to drop out of the queue before he got to Parliament House.

Yesterday, the software engineer in his 30s jumped at the chance to queue again in tribute to Mr Lee, this time for a memorial exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.

Mr Jaiyaseelan, who goes by only one name, said: "This is my last chance to see a part of him."

Long lines formed at the museum for the exhibition on Mr Lee's life and work, snaking out of the building and onto the driveway outside. The waiting time became so long - up to four hours - that admission to the exhibition had to be closed four hours early, at 4pm.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the crowd was like nothing he had ever seen before for a local history exhibition at the museum. "We have seen big crowds for blockbuster exhibitions, like something from Musee d'Orsay, but for history exhibitions, typically we have not had such big crowds.

"It is very good to see such renewed interest in our founding fathers, Mr Lee in particular. This is something we hope to build on when we revamp our permanent galleries, which will be happening later in September."

Although the exhibition has been open since March 25, many visitors said they came in particular to see a red box that Mr Lee used to keep his working documents. It joined the exhibition on Thursday. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat wrote about the box in a widely shared Facebook post on March 24, detailing how it had been a key feature of Mr Lee's life.

Secretary Sharon Khng, 43, said: "The box shows how serious he was about his work. The day before he was hospitalised, he was still working, the box was still with him."

The box is displayed together with other personal items used by Mr Lee, including the barrister wig he wore for admission to the Bar, and a Rolex watch presented to him by the Singapore Union of Postal and Telecommunications Workers.

Cleaner Mary Wey, 68, had already queued three times to see Mr Lee lying in state, but said she did not mind waiting for more than two hours to look at the artefacts. She recalled meeting Mr Lee when she was seven and he stopped at her mother's laundry shop on a walkabout. "He said she was doing a good job. I had never seen my mother so excited before, she lit firecrackers. I remember he was very, very kind."

Seeing the exhibition left security officer Jesse Kris Rajoo, 60, in tears. She said: "For the past week, I could not sleep or work. He touched everybody's heart, and when I see all these, I can feel he is still with us."
Additional reporting by Chew Hui Min