Saturday, December 29, 2018

In a Tokyo neighbourhood's last sushi restaurant, a sense of loss

29 December, 2018

TOKYO — "I'll have a draft," says Mr Yasuo Fujinuma, heaving himself down at the sushi counter. He pulls a pack of cigarettes from a frayed pocket of his sweater. From the corner of the restaurant, a small TV hums the noon weather forecast. He never drinks at noon.

"I've just come from the hospital," he says, tapping the filter end of his cigarette on the bar. "My sister died."

The chef puts his knife down. Another customer peers over the top of his sports pages. After a pause, the chef returns to his cutting board.

"You took good care of her," he says, placing a sheaf of haran leaf on the chipped black counter. He lines the leaf with a dozen nigiri sushi and hands Mr Fujinuma a mug of beer.

Conversations roll on like this at the Eiraku sushi bar. They start mid-sentence with no hellos or how-are-yous and veer into private thoughts without much fanfare, punctuated by news of ordinary tragedies.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The gig worker’s lament


By Amber Petrovich

December 26, 2018

Washington Post

Amber Petrovich is a writer and editor in Los Angeles.

You’ve probably seen me around your office. Maybe we’ve even had lunch together. I’m the contract (or freelance, contingent, temp, outsourced) worker your company hired on a short-term basis to get that project done or cover the busy period. I’ll be here anywhere from two weeks to two years, depending on your state’s labor laws.

Have you noticed an increase in temp people such as me? That’s because, according to a 2016 study, “94 percent of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work.” In July, the human-capital consultants G. Palmer Associates forecast a 3.4 percent increase in demand for temporary workers for the 2018 third quarter: “The momentum in the temp help employment market continues to be positive due to GDP growth and the expected effects around lower corporate tax rates and less government regulation.”

Friday, December 21, 2018

Beat the heat: More affluent households turn on air-con, lower-income ones use water

By Wong Pei Ting

20 December, 2018

SINGAPORE — A study of water and electricity bills of more than 100,000 households here has found a marked difference in the way Singaporeans of different socio-economic statuses cope with the heat.

Higher-income households tend to use electricity — likely through the use of air-conditioning — for relief when temperatures rise, while those with lower incomes tend to rely on water — by bathing more often, and longer.

A 1°C rise in temperature can cause an average household living in a two-room apartment to increase its water use by nine litres a day, showed the research conducted by National University of Singapore (NUS) economics professor Alberto Salvo.

This translates to one additional shower daily for every 2.3 households.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The problem in France

France’s protesters are part of a global backlash against climate-change taxes

France suspends planned fuel tax to 'bring back peace and calm’

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Dec. 4 that fuel tax hikes would be suspended in response to nationwide anger that he said has “deep roots.” (Reuters)

By Steven Mufson and
James McAuley

December 4, 2018

The single most effective weapon in the fight against climate change is the tax code — imposing costs on those who emit greenhouse gases, economists say. But as French President Emmanuel Macron learned over the past three weeks, implementing such taxes can be politically explosive.

On Tuesday, France delayed for six months a plan to raise already steep taxes on diesel fuel by 24 cents a gallon and gasoline by about 12 cents a gallon. Macron argued that the taxes were needed to curb climate change by weaning motorists off petroleum products, but violent demonstrationsin the streets of Paris and other French cities forced him to backtrack — at least for now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Singapore-Malaysia relations - Transportation


Southern Johor airspace arrangements 'have worked well', changes will affect many: MOT
04 Dec 2018

SINGAPORE: The current airspace arrangements over southern Johor have benefitted both Singapore and Malaysia, and any changes will impact many stakeholders, Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 4).

The statement was made in response to remarks by Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who said in parliament on Tuesday that Malaysia wants to reclaim its "delegated airspace" in southern Johor.

In its statement, MOT pointed out that under current airspace arrangements, the provision of air traffic services in the airspace over southern Johor was delegated to Singapore, and that airspace in this region was one of the "most complex in the world".

"Air traffic growth is one of the fastest in the world. The benefits to both our economies and our people have been tremendous," said MOT. "The current airspace arrangements have been working well and have facilitated this growth.

"Hence, any proposed changes will impact many stakeholders. Consultations will therefore be required to minimise the impact on airlines and passengers."

Monday, December 3, 2018

Behind a tall order: Goh Chok Tong reflects on succession and politics past and present

By Jaime Ho

Chief Editor, Digital News


02 Dec 2018

SINGAPORE: My interview with Emeritus Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong following the publication of his authorised biography, Tall Order,happens at a fortuitous time.

We speak three days after the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) announcement on Nov 23 that Mr Heng Swee Keat had been chosenas the party’s presumptive next-generation leader.

Political succession within the PAP today and Mr Goh’s story of his own ascension within the party as told in the book are natural parallels. We therefore start by discussing Mr Heng’s appointment.

The former prime minister gives a solid endorsement– not only of the finance minister’s capabilities and experience – but also of the team that has emerged, with Mr Heng having chosen Mr Chan Chun Sing as his deputy in eventually leading the party.

He agrees with the notion that had it not been for the stroke that Mr Heng suffered in May 2016, the fourth generation of PAP leaders might have come to the decision on their leader earlier.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Facebook admits 'serious mistake' after Edwin Tong questions failure to remove hate post in Sri Lanka

28 NOVEMBER, 2018


LONDON — A Facebook executive has admitted that the company “made a mistake” in not removing a post that incited racial hatred in Sri Lanka, an international hearing on fake news and disinformation in London heard on Tuesday (Nov 27).

Mr Richard Allan, Facebook's vice-president of policy solutions, was questioned by Singapore Member of Parliament Edwin Tong over a post, written in Sinhalese in March, which called for the killing of all Muslims. Mr Tong asked if the post breached the social media company’s terms of service.

Mr Allan agreed it did.

Was the Great Recession worse than the Great Depression?

By Robert J. Samuelson
Washington Post

November 26 2018

Here’s today’s economic quiz: Was the 2007-09 Great Recession more damaging than the Great Depression of the 1930s? Surely the answer is “no.” During the 1930s, unemployment reached 25 percent. By contrast, the recent peak in the jobless rate was 10 percent. Case closed.

Not so fast, objects economist J. Bradford DeLong of the University of California at Berkeley. “Fifty years from now, historians will . . . write that President Franklin Roosevelt, Congress and the Federal Reserve provided a collective policy response that was, if not optimal, at least respectable. . . . By contrast, they will [argue] that the responses of President Barack Obama, Congress and the Federal Reserve did not come up to the standard [set by] the mid-1930s policy-makers.”

Could DeLong be correct? The answer matters, because if he’s right, the economy — despite its present strength — faces a future of long-term sluggishness.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The dangerous naivete of Trump and Xi



22 NOVEMBER, 2018

Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are a bit alike, and that presents a danger to the global order.

The American and Chinese leaders are both impetuous, authoritarian and overconfident nationalists, and each appears to underestimate the other side’s capacity to inflict pain. This dangerous symmetry leaves the two sides hurtling toward each other.

The 10 per cent tariffs already imposed in the trade war are scheduled to rise to 25 per cent in January, but there’s also a broader confrontation emerging.

Mr Trump and Mr Xi may well be able to reach a ceasefire in their trade war when they meet for the Group of 20 end of the month. Even if a deal is reached, though, it may be only a temporary respite that doesn’t alter the dynamic of two great nations increasingly on a collision course.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

US-China clash at Apec was over more than words

20 November, 2018

BEIJING — The tensions were already high.

At a major international gathering in Papua New Guinea over the weekend, the United States wanted to end with a group statement emphasising free trade. China objected.

But instead of working out the disagreement through dialogue, Chinese officials barged uninvited into the office of the host country’s foreign minister demanding changes in the official communiqué.

China’s action marked a striking break with diplomatic decorum at a meeting that is normally used to promote cooperation among countries that ring the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Why Democrats should make Stacey Abrams speaker of the House

The Washington Post

By Meredith Meisenheimer and
Sue Altman

November 9

On Tuesday, voters demanded change.

Tired of politics as usual, they want to see Democrats address issues plaguing the country and hold President Trump accountable. That charge requires Democrats to act boldly and creatively. In this spirit, rather than simply re-elevating Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to speaker of the House, Democrats ought to select Stacey Abrams, the likely losing Democratic candidate in the Georgia gubernatorial race.

Abrams is precisely the sort of inspirational leader that the moment demands, and the move would send a clear message to voters that their concerns have been heard — and that Democrats can find innovative ways to elevate the next generation of party leaders.

A new way to fish

Can we save the prized bluefin tuna, and its habitat, by growing it in a lab?
Washington Post

By Tim Carman

Nov. 13, 2018

For several years, biotech companies have been promising “clean” meat, “cell-based” meat, “cultured” meat — whatever you want to call it — as a way to enjoy the taste of chicken, pork and beef without the brutality of animal slaughter or the environmental damage of big agriculture. But what about fish? What about something as prized as buttery bluefin tuna, a delicacy that has become the forbidden fruit of the sea because of the many threats that have landed the fish on threatened and endangered species lists?

Where are the Silicon Valley start-ups promising to free us from the guilt of gobbling down a finger of otoro sushi, the rich bluefin belly meat, without contributing to the decline of the fish or the decline of our own health via mercury that accumulates in the flesh of this apex predator?

Well, there is at least one scientific pilgrim: Brian Wyrwas is the co-founder and chief science officer for Finless Foods, a Bay Area biotech dedicated to growing bluefin tuna in a lab. He can tell you all about the difficulties of his task, starting with the bone-weary process of securing bluefin tuna samples, the pristine source material for much of the science that follows in this field known as cellular agriculture.

Friday, October 19, 2018

South-east Asia power plants seen clashing with UN climate goals

[Maybe I am over-sensitive, but does the title of this news article strikes you as being overtly racist? Subtly racist? Rationalised racism? "South-east Asia" "Clashing with" "UN" --- "Those damned slant-eyes just don't understand the sacrifices THEY need to make to keep this world comfy for ALL of us!" 

Too hostile? Too passive-aggressive? Not passive enough?]

18 OCTOBER, 2018


SINGAPORE — Almost 84 per cent of South-east Asia’s planned and existing fossil fuel power plants are incompatible with future scenarios that avoid catastrophic damage from climate change, according a new study from the University of Oxford.

The report, which comes on the heels of a major United Nations-backed study of the impacts of global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), is based on analysis of the amount of carbon expected to be emitted over the lifespan of the plants.

Singapore ranked first among places for expats to live and work in: HSBC survey

[So we are in the bottom 10 in the Commitment to Reduce Inequality (CRI) Index administered by Oxfam, but we are #1 in the World Bank's Human Capital Index, though we are #2 in the World Economic Forum's Most Competitive country (US is #1). And here we are #1 in HSBC's ranking of best places for expats to live and work.

The point, in case you are assuming the usual, is not that SG is the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. 

I mean, if that is your takeaway from all these accolades, let me ask you: what did you personally do to develop our human capital, make SG a competitive country, and make SG the best country for expats to live and work? Let me ask you, do you even LIKE expats in SG? Or are you subtly racist like most Singaporeans, and would rather NOT have expats in SG?

The point is not that we should be proud, or disgusted, or dismayed, or disheartened, or arrogant, or any other emotional reaction you can think of.

That we live in a Singapore that is #1 and #2 or #150 is what OTHER people think of us. If what they think of us makes you happy, or sad, or angry, or glad, you are not very stable, are you?

Put it another way, with the latest news (whichever news), how has your life changed for the better or for the worse?

Did your wife/girlfriend leave you to look for a new Expat boyfriend because of this report? I hope not. But if she did, do you really want such a superficial person as your life partner?]

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Investors brace for Malaysia tax on capital gains, consumers


17 October, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is keeping investors guessing as to what new taxes will be unveiled in next year’s budget. For now, the market is bracing for the worst: capital gains and consumption taxes.

Levies on returns from capital investments may worsen stock declines. The benchmark equity index hasn’t recovered from last week’s steepest plunge in four months, after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced the tax plans.

A consumption levy may further constrain economic growth that had eased to the slowest pace in more than a year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Human Capital Index - Singapore's Achievement?

[Hot on the heels of the Oxfam report that slammed SG (well, ranked SG in the bottom 10 countries for our efforts to reduce inequality), comes the World Bank Human Capital Index Report (news article follows) which ranked SG #1 in how well we develop our "human capital".

What are we to make of it?

Well, let's first see what they are reporting.]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

“We don’t mail Elvis a Social Security check, no matter how many people think he is alive.”

[A Commentary on populism, conspiracy irrationalism, and anti-intellectualism. Sure it is mostly in the US, but it is not alien elsewhere in the world.

At about 2:46 into the video: "...we aspired to intelligence, we didn't belittle it, it didn't make us feel inferior... we didn't scare so easy..."

Fear makes us stupid. Fear makes us willing to believe comfortable lies, lies that tell you it is not your fault, it is the fault of the world, and the evil in the world trying to take from you what is rightfully yours.

Our parents or grandparents did not believe that. And some of them lived through times when there was evil trying to take their lives, their families, their happiness. 

Only in the comfort of your armchair can you imagine the conspiracy arrayed against your happiness, your petty interests.]

Sunday, October 7, 2018

In familiar pattern for S.Korea's Moon, property curbs backfire

07 October, 2018


SEOUL — Ms Park Soo-jin's plan was to cut expenses to bare minimum for the six years she rented a flat in a high-rise Seoul neighbourhood, so she and her husband could buy their own property in the area once the lease ends in December. It is not going to work.

The South Korean capital has turned into one of the world's hottest property markets despite nine rounds of cooling measures taken by President Moon Jae-in's government in the past year.

Making housing affordable for newlyweds and graduates was one of Mr Moon's key promises ahead of his election in 2017, along job creation and reducing inequality.

Economists say housing measures were long overdue as South Korea needs to curb household debt, now almost equaling the size of its economy — just as it did in the United States before the 2008 crash that led to the global financial crisis.

Friday, October 5, 2018

How this Supreme Court pick could cement Trump’s real economic legacy

Wonkblog Perspective

Washington Post

By Steven Pearlstein

July 11 2018

The Democratic outrage machine has it wrong. It’s not Roe v. Wade that is most in danger of being overturned if Brett Kavanaugh makes it to the Supreme Court — I doubt either Kavanaugh or Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is of a mind to wade into that political and legal minefield. What Democrats really ought to be worried about is Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

In its 1984 Chevron decision, the Supreme Court declared that when a law passed by Congress is silent or ambiguous on an issue of how an agency should exercise its regulatory authority, the courts should defer to the reasonable judgment of the agency. In the years since, this “Chevron deference” has provided the legal basis for hundreds of regulations protecting consumers, workers and the environment promulgated under laws that, in many instances, could never have anticipated the economic, social and technological changes that would necessitate them decades later.

But to the business community and legal and ideological conservatives, Chevron has come to be seen as a giant legal loophole that has led to the creation of a vast “administrative state” that has encroached on the power of Congress to make the laws and the judiciary to interpret them. And no two judges have been more closely associated with the campaign to pare back Chevron, or overturn it completely, than President Trump’s first two Supreme Court nominees, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Friday, September 28, 2018

S'pore’s tax revenue boosted by higher stamp duty and corporate income tax collections


27 SEPTEMBER, 2018


SINGAPORE — The taxman collected S$50.2 billion in revenue for the financial year of 2017 and 2018 (FY2017/18), a 6.8 per cent increase from the previous year, said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras).

In a press statement on Wednesday (Sept 26), the authority said the increase was attributed mainly to higher stamp duty collection as more properties were being transacted, as well as growing corporate income taxes due to improved corporate earnings.

Stamp duty collection for FY 2017/18 increased by almost 50 per cent to S$4.9 billion from the previous financial year.

Meanwhile, corporate income tax collection went up from S$13.6 billion to S$15 billion in the same period.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Thailand to double airport capacity, surpassing Singapore's Changi

Airport high-speed railway could draw China-Japan investment, says minister
YUKAKO ONO, Nikkei staff writer 

September 16, 2018

BANGKOK -- Thailand is embarking on a building spree that promises to more than double the passenger capacity of airports in and around Bangkok, propelling the Thai capital past regional hub Singapore by that measure.

In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review on Sept. 13, Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the new U-Tapao airport, a former military air base southeast of Bangkok, will handle up to 60 million passengers a year once it is fully renovated into a civil airport. The entire transformation is expected to take 20 years.

Mahathir and Anwar’s battle for Umno

Malay Mail

20 September 2018

By Praba Ganesan

SEPTEMBER 20 — Hundred-twenty-four. Remember the number.

Since these are busy days.

Both the Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad camps are stuck in seemingly perpetual political negotiations to up their respective MP counts, especially to procure the unofficial tally lead within the tally — of Malay parliamentarians.

It is odd, this race for support. Especially, if one swallows whole the official version of the purported political balance in the country, where both are BFFs.

In this harmonious hugs-a-bountiful world, Anwar is in an inevitable two-year parade to the PM position, at which point, a benevolent Mahathir relegates himself to senior minister under the PKR president.

The Pakatan majority remains safe, Umno despondent without power, other Barisan Nasional (BN) parties in free fall to extinction before the next general election, and PAS sits pretty laughing at all sets of politicians who see the material world desirable, when only heaven truly matters and waits for them.

The ideal stable transfer of power from Mahathir to Anwar in 2020, 22 years late, but better late than never.

If one sucks it all in.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Singapore to replace Victory-class missile corvettes with Multi-Role Combat Vessels

Ridzwan Rahmat, 

02 July 2018

Key Points
  • Singapore has laid out plans to replace its Victory-class corvettes with a new type of multi-mission ship known as the Multi-Role Combat Vessel 
  • New ship type will further enhance the country’s ability to secure its sea lines of communication 

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will retire its class of six Victory-class corvettes, and replace these with a new type of platform known as the Multi-Role Combat Vessel (MRCV).

The matter was disclosed by Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at a media conference held in conjunction with the country’s Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) day, which falls on 1 July.

How Hawaii handles Hurricane Lane holds lessons for Singapore

By Norman Vasu

28 August, 2018


I have been fortunate as an academic studying social resilience to be in Hawaii as it escaped the devastation of a direct hit by Hurricane Lane this month. Lane at its strongest was a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds exceeding 252 kmh.

The manner in which authorities in Hawaii and its kamaʻāina (residents) prepared for Lane provides many learning points for societies such as Singapore interested in developing resilience in the face of a crisis.

Private developers may be involved in Vers scheme: Lawrence Wong

By Janice Lim

10 September, 2018


SINGAPORE – Private developers may be involved in the new Government scheme to redevelop public housing precincts that are around 70 years old, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (Sep 10) in Parliament.

There were questions aplenty from Members of Parliament (MPs) on the new Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) to redevelop public housing precincts in about 20 years’ time, but fewer answers from Mr Wong on Monday as details of the scheme have to be worked out.

Vers was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last month.

“For Vers going forward, I will not rule out the possibility of having private developers involved and we will study (Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan’s) suggestion carefully,” said Mr Wong. “But let’s be very clear. Our aim is to redevelop public housing estates, so we will ensure that any redevelopment is done in a way that preserves the character of our Housing and Development Board (HDB) towns and supports HDB’s mission to provide affordable and quality homes for Singaporeans.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

'Would rather die on the beaches than in my office': how Jack Ma sees his retirement

11 September, 2018


HONG KONG — Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has shaken the global tech industry and beyond by revealing plans to step down from his role as executive chairman at Alibaba Group Holding, the most valuable company in Asia, in one year from Monday (Sept 10).

In a letter to all staff, Mr Ma cited his reason as giving way to younger generations to take over the tech juggernaut, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

An eloquent and animated public speaker who has attracted a large following with inspirational speeches, the tech mogul has talked about his retirement plans with candour and humour at various events over the past few years.

The self-made billionaire has also spoken of his dissatisfaction with his busy life and longing to become a teacher once again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ducking a farewell speech is the worst parting shot

[How to say goodbye. Graciously.]

By Pilita Clark

10 September, 2018


Paul Dacre caused a considerable amount of outrage in the 26 years he spent editing Britain’s noisy Daily Mail newspaper.

But when he finally stepped down the other week, he did something so remarkable it is hard to think of a precedent. He left without saying goodbye.

Instead of a farewell speech to staff, he left a seven-paragraph letter pinned to the office noticeboard. In it, he pointed out he was not really leaving, as he was off to a grand-sounding job upstairs, but apologised to those who thought he should have said a few words from the floor: “Frankly, it’s not my style and in all my years as editor not something I’ve ever done.”

I am unsure what is more surprising about that sentence: the audacious nature of the brush-off or the news that Britain’s most feared editor went for nearly 30 years without ever giving a desk-side address.

Either way, ducking a farewell speech is an odd move for any office veteran, particularly a boss. I do not see it catching on, though I know people who wish it would.

Monday, September 10, 2018

What happens when a Chinese factory city seeks a makeover? The workers making iPhones are priced out.


By Amanda Erickson

September 9 at 7:46 PM

SHENZHEN, China — Down the road from one of the biggest factories operated by electronics giant Foxconn, there is a temple, a basketball court and a pool hall run by a man named Jin.

Around lunchtime one summer day, children crowded together on old leather recliners at Jin’s place, watching videos on a phone. A few people play mah-jongg. Some others huddle at a plastic table, smoking and drinking tea.

But the pool tables — once Jin’s big moneymaker — sit empty. Balls rest idle in old metal cookie tins.

“Nobody comes anymore,” Jin said, gesturing to the empty room.

That is because fewer Foxconn workers can afford to live in this part of Shenzhen. It is one of the foundational cities in China’s economic rise. Now, Shenzhen’s leaders are seeking another transformation into a high-tech hub as China’s budding version of Silicon Valley.

More people will know about Singapore through Crazy Rich Asians: STB

By Alfred Chua

30 August, 2018

SINGAPORE — The movie Crazy Rich Asians has helped to increase awareness of Singapore as a destination, although its full impact on visitor arrivals will take time to realise, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Wednesday (Aug 29).

At the launch of the second wave of its Passion Made Possible campaign, the STB would not be drawn into the controversy over Singapore-born author Kevin Kwan – whose book of the same title forms the basis of the movie – defaulting on his National Service commitments.

Speaking to TODAY at the event, STB brand director Lim Shoo Ling would only comment on how the movie, a romantic comedy that was filmed in large part here, has helped to build the country’s brand.

“I think what (the movie) is doing for us is to help people know about Singapore… and from a destination (awareness) perspective, it is very good for us,” she said.

The STB and Singapore Film Commission had supported the movie, which has been a box-office success so far. The commission provided a production assistance grant and facilitated filming at various locations here, among other things.

The STB noted that visitor arrivals from the US last year were at its highest, increasing 9 per cent from 2016. The US was Singapore’s ninth-biggest source of visitor arrivals.

Why HDB owners should forget about getting a windfall from Vers

By Christopher Gee


09 September, 2018

Singaporeans have come to associate property en bloc exercises with windfall gains, where property owners get prices higher than what they would ordinarily achieve if selling on a stand-alone basis.

Whether in the private property market or via the Housing & Development Board’s Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) for public housing flats, the redevelopment of older (and some not-so-old) properties has resulted in owners cashing out for, oftentimes, widely publicised monetary gains.

Unfortunately, expectations for such gains have also emerged in online and offline commentary on the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his recent National Day Rally speech.

Few details have been released about the scheme, but Vers will begin to be offered progressively from about 20 years’ time to the owners of HDB flats that have 30 years or less of remaining lease.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Commentary: And the winner of that KL meeting is... Dr M

By Bertha Henson

03 September, 2018

If someone invited me to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, my first instinct would be to say "yes''. It doesn't matter what hat I'm wearing (whether journalist or not), I am a curious enough human being to want to see what Dr M is like. Like him or hate him, he's a personality.

But he's no friend of Singapore, some people would say, and I would then go: So? Does being in the same room as him make me anti-Singaporean? Is this guilt by association? In fact, I would relish the opportunity to ask him some questions such as "Prime Minister Mahathir, may I ask why you seem to insist on bullying Singapore? It's so last millennium!''

HDB home prices then and now

By Fiona Ho


August 8, 2018

The Housing & Development Board (HDB) was set up on 1 February 1960 to solve Singapore’s housing crisis. Back in the day, many people were living in unhygienic slums and crowded squatter settlements. Only 9% of Singaporeans lived in government flats, while others yearned for a place to call home.
HDB sprang into action, and in less than three years, a total of 21,000 flats were built. By 1965, the HDB had built 54,000 flats.
Today, over one million HDB flats have been completed across the island, providing affordable housing options for generations of Singaporeans throughout the decades. But just how much have HDB home prices changed throughout the years?

Source: HDB,

1) 1970s
During its first decade of operation, HDB built only one- to four-room flats. To cope with a growing population, five-room flats were then introduced in the 1970s.
By the end of the decade, 36% of the total population were living in HDB flats. Average prices of HDB homes in the 1970s were:
3-room: Avg size - 646 sq ft; Avg price - $15,000 (New sale)
4-room: Avg size - 807 sq ft; Avg price - $20,000 (New sale)
5-room: Avg size - 1,022 sq ft; Avg price - $30,000 (New sale)

2) 1980s
Average floor sizes of new flats were increased from the early 1980s in response to the demand for bigger living spaces. Housing types like maisonettes were also introduced during this era.
More notably, HDB eased its eligibility conditions to allow more people a chance at homeownership in 1989, when it relaxed its citizenship criterion to allow Singapore permanent residents to own HDB flats. Average HDB flat prices in the 1980s were:
3-room: Avg size - 646 sq ft; Avg price - $50,000 (New sale)
4-room: Avg size - 807 sq ft; Avg price - $80,000 (New sale)
5-room: Avg size - 1,022 sq ft; Avg price - $110,000 (New sale)
Executive: Avg size - 1,506 sq ft; Avg price - $140,000 (New sale)

3) 1990s
The year 1991 saw one of the most significant changes in HDB’s policies for singles when it announced that single citizens aged 35 years and above could purchase HDB flats on their own. However, they were limited to only 3-room or smaller flats outside the central area.
In 1995, an intermediate category of housing to bridge the gap between HDB flats and private properties were introduced. Known as Executive Condominiums (ECs), these projects are built and sold by private developers. ECs offer the standard of private condo living but at lower prices and came with certain restrictions. Average prices of HDB flats in the 1990s fell in the following ranges:
3-room: Avg size - 753 sq ft; Avg price - $120,000 (New sale); $200,000 (Resale)
4-room: Avg size - 1,022 sq ft; Avg price - $170,000 (New sale); $270,000 (Resale)
5-room: Avg size - 1,345sq ft; Avg price - $230,000 (New sale); $350,000 (Resale)
Executive: Avg size - 1,560 sq ft; Avg price - $280,000 (New sale); $420,000 (Resale)

4) 2000s
Average floor sizes were decreased for new flats built in the 2000s. In the early part of the decade, further revisions were made to HDB’s policies for singles to allow Singaporeans to purchase flats of any type in any location.

It was also during this era that the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) was introduced to add variety to public housing types in Singapore. Under DBSS, designated sites were sold to private developers, who are then responsible for designing, building and selling the flats.
Pricing increased significantly towards the end of the decade due to rising construction costs. The average prices for HDB flats during this decade were:
3-room: Avg size - 699 sq ft; Avg price - $110,000 (New sale); $180,000 (Resale)
4-room: Avg size - 968 sq ft; Avg price - $180,000 (New sale); $255,000 (Resale)
5-room: Avg size - 1,184 sq ft; Avg price - $240,000 (New sale); $340,000 (Resale)
Executive: Avg size - 1,399 sq ft; Avg price - $300,000 (New sale); $410,000 (Resale)

5) 2010s – present
Since peaking in 2Q2013, the HDB resale price index has been on a continuous descent for five consecutive years. However, we might be at a turning point as the HDB resale index showed a 0.1% q-o-q pickup in 2Q2018.
Today, a four-room resale HDB flat in Queenstown – one of the most expensive HDB estates to live in - comes up to a median transacted price of $718,000 in 2018. In comparison, three-bedroom condo units in a similar location typically costs at least $1 million. Average prices for HDB flats in 2018 are:
3-room: Avg size - 699 sq ft; Avg price - $291,000 (New sale); $310,000 (Resale)
4-room: Avg size - 968 sq ft; Avg price - $376,300 (New sale); $435,000 (Resale)
5-room: Avg size - 1,184 sq ft; Avg price - $448,700 (New sale); $530,000 (Resale)
Executive: Avg size - 1,399 sq ft; Avg price - $535,900 (New sale); $780,000 (Resale)

Note: Information is compiled from HDB and various online sources. They serve as guides and should not be used for official purposes.

[Note: the source of this informative (if correct) article is a real estate agency. I have not discovered any discrepancy, nor checked the information/data for accuracy, so please use this information with care, and if you intend to use it "for official purposes" (as their caveat puts it), you should probably have corroborating evidence.]

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Singapore and Malaysia must follow terms of water and HSR agreements, says PM Lee


By Faris Mohktar

20 August, 2018

SINGAPORE – While Singapore appreciates the new Malaysia government's reasons to review and change various policies of the previous administration, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made it clear on Sunday (Aug 19) that both countries have to adhere to agreed terms relating to water prices and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project.

Both issues have been sticking points in recent months, with Malaysia's Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad repeatedly saying that his country is selling water to Singapore at too low a price, and most recently, suggesting that it should be raised by at least 10 times.

Shortly after winning the May 9 general election, Dr Mahathir had also said that Malaysia wants to cancel the HSR project, though Putrajaya has since shifted its position to wanting to defer the project.

Commenting on both issues for the first time at the National Day Rally, Mr Lee stressed that the 1962 Water Agreement between the two neighbours is "sacrosanct".

"We must proceed strictly in accordance with its terms," he said.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

About 6 in 10 withdraw CPF savings when they turn 55: CPF Board

By Jeremy Lee

28 August, 2018

SINGAPORE — About six in 10 members (58 per cent) aged between 55 and 70 have withdrawn cash from their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings since turning 55. The median amount withdrawn was S$9,000, and the average amount was $33,000.

Releasing an analysis of CPF withdrawal trends on Tuesday (Aug 28), the CPF Board said the information was obtained from a Retirement and Health Study involving face-to-face interviews with 7,200 members aged between 55 and 70.

The survey was conducted to find out what CPF members did with their funds, if they cashed them out. Under existing rules, when CPF members turn 55, they may withdraw part of their CPF savings in a lump sum.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Malaysia won't let foreigners buy units in Johor's Forest City: Mahathir

27 August, 2018


KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia will not allow foreigners to buy residential units in the US$100 billion (S$134 billion) Forest City project in its southern state of Johor bordering Singapore, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Aug 27).

The project has faced uncertainty since Tun Mahathir's coalition scored a shock victory at the May 9 General Election, as developer Country Garden Holdings looks to revive faltering demand for a city planned to be home to 700,000 people.

"One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners," Dr Mahathir told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

"We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here," he added. "Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats."

Sunday, August 26, 2018

NDR 2018: Refreshing key policies, with goodies aplenty


By Eugene K B Tan

20 August, 2018

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally (NDR) speech on Sunday (Aug 19) had one overarching message: That Singapore can continue to be an exceptional country, and one where the human spirit can flourish. Beyond that, with goodies aplenty, the NDR speech will fuel talk that an early surprise general election may be on the cards.

In the main, he sought to assure Singaporeans that his government is on top of bread-and-butter concerns such as costs of living, healthcare affordability, and public housing as an asset.

Furthermore, notwithstanding the looming dark clouds on the international stage, there is much to be optimistic about the future with trust and confidence between the government and Singaporeans.

Mr Lee not only made a stout defence of the government’s key policies but also demonstrated a resolve to rejuvenate them to maintain their relevance and effectiveness.

VERS announced at NDR 2018

NDR 2018: Scheme planned to redevelop more old HDB flats before leases end


What the new housing announcements mean for the HDB resale market

By Christine Li

23 August, 2018


The multi-pronged approach that the Government outlined this past week to resolve issues regarding the dwindling leases of HDB flats has by and large been well received by Singaporeans.

The new announcements by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally (NDR) could not have been more timely. Concerns over depleting leases have plagued the HDB resale market, with demand for ageing flats with leases of less than 60 years almost grounding to a halt. In some cases, home owners have had to reduce prices significantly before securing viewings.

In fact, over the last five years, the price gap between HDB resale flats and private properties has widened.

Based on the Housing Development Board (HDB) Resale Index and the Urban Redevelopment Authority Private Property Index, the gap between the two stands at 13.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2018.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Three key principles on how Singapore handles foreign policy and ties with Malaysia


By Vivian Balakrishnan

10 July, 2018

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament on Monday (July 9) that three fundamental principles underpin Singapore's foreign policy, and these are particularly pertinent in the Republic's ties with Malaysia.

The principles are: Upholding international law and respecting the sanctity of international agreements, resolving disputes in accordance with international law and maintaining Singapore's reputation as a credible and consistent nation that abides fully by her international obligations.

Below is a transcript of Dr Balakrishnan's parliamentary speech, in which he also touched on Malaysia's recent announcements that it was cancelling the high-speed rail project between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and seeking a review of the 1962 Water Agreement between both sides.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gearing up for Vers: Some flat owners want earlier rollout of new HDB scheme


By Janice Lim, Alfred Chua

21 August, 2018

SINGAPORE — A day after the new Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) was announced, some residents in public housing estates that could be among the first in line are already wishing for the scheme to be introduced earlier.

Residents of Chai Chee and Marine Parade, especially the elderly, told TODAY they may not be able to benefit if the scheme is only rolled out about 20 years later, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 19).

The minority approached in both estates — five out of 14 — felt happy to stay put as their leases ran down.

Under Vers, residents of precincts that are about 70 years into their 99-year leases will vote on whether they want the Government to buy back all flats for redevelopment. They will receive compensation and help in getting another flat to live in.

Monday, August 20, 2018

HDB owners vs tenants: unpacking the great illusion


August 17, 2018

by Rio Hoe

If you have a HDB flat on a 99-year lease, are you an owner or a tenant? The real answer: you are actually an owner of a lease. This might sound even more confusing, but bear with me.

What does ownership mean?

Ownership has no universal definition, but most would consider the ability to use and dispose of something without substantial restriction as a precondition of ownership. I say ‘without substantial restriction’ because we commonly face restrictions in relation to the use and disposal of things we incontrovertibly consider our own. For example, you cannot drive your car through a park, or exceed the speed limit, but nobody would say that because of these restrictions, you do not really own your car. On the other hand, if I told you that “this is my car, but I need to ask for my dad’s permission every time I want to use it”, you would laugh at me. Why? Because the need for permission is a significant enough restriction to my use of the car such that it is difficult to say that this is my car, even if it is registered to me.

All HDB flats to get upgrading twice during 99-year leases

By Alfred Chua

20 August, 2018


Home Improvement Programme to be rolled out to younger flats

SINGAPORE — Every Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat can expect to undergo major upgrading twice during its 99-year lease period, with the new Home Improvement Programme 2 (HIP 2) rolled out for ageing units at the 60- to 70-year mark.

At the same time, the HIP scheme — which currently covers flats built up to 1986 — will be extended to blocks constructed up to 1997.
This works out to another 230,000 benefitting from the programme, allowing estates like Pasir Ris, Yishun, Tampines and Jurong to qualify for upgrading.

New VERS scheme could bring about 'acrimony' among residents, warns Alex Yam

By Jalelah Abu Baker 
20 Aug 2018

SINGAPORE: The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development Alex Yam on Sunday (Aug 19) raised concerns about a new housing scheme which will allow more HDB households to benefit from redevelopment before the 99-year leases on their flats expire.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed plans for what is called the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) during his National Day Rally speech on Sunday.

Mr Lee said the scheme, which will kick in in about 20 years, is part of a long-term plan to allow the Government to progressively redevelop precincts.

It will take place when the flats reach about 70 years of age, he added. Flat owners can vote for the Government to buy back their homes before their leases run out.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Arabisation and the threat to Singapore culture

By Norshahril Saat

14 August, 2018

In Indonesia, there is an ongoing movement that promotes Islam Nusantara (Archipelagic Islam), a localised brand of Islam.

The country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, is championing the discourse. Recently, the West Sumatra chapter of the Ulama Council of Indonesia openly voiced its displeasure with Islam Nusantara, declaring that Islam is already perfect.

Promoters of Islam Nusantara are clear of its objective: to prevent the excessive borrowing of foreign ideas into the Indonesian Islamic discourse.

Their top concern is rising radicalism and the importation of Middle Eastern culture at the expense of local norms, a phenomenon referred to as Arabisation.

Unfortunately, the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore does not seem interested in this whole Islam Nusantara debate, even though a trend towards Arabisation is evident.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The ineffectiveness of employer wellness programs and the importance of randomised trials

New York Times

07 August, 2018

NEW YORK — The gold standard of medical research, the randomised controlled trial, has been taking a bit of a beating lately.

An entire issue of the journal Social Science and Medicine was recently devoted to it, with many articles pointing to shortcomings. Others have argued that randomised controlled trials often can't address the questions that patients and physicians most want answered. I recently wrote about the limitations of the method in studying effectiveness, which is what we care about in real-world situations.

But the randomised controlled trial remains a powerful tool. It's still, perhaps, the best method for conducting explanatory research. In past articles, I have recounted numerous times when hypotheses from observational studies, those based solely on observations of particular groups, have failed to be confirmed by a controlled trial.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the randomised controlled trial is in combating what's known as selection bias. That occurs when groups being studied (intervention and control) are already significantly different after they are "selected" to be in the intervention or not. One of the most elegant examples of why we need such trials came recently in an examination of employer-sponsored wellness programs.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Singapore offers a model for running sovereign-wealth funds well

Excerpts from The Economist's "How to reform the world’s biggest piggy-banks."

 On Singapore's approach and achievements:
Relative to the pack, Singapore is doing well. Its funds have assets of about $770bn—the exact figure is secret. They have made an annual return (in dollar terms) of about 6% over the past two decades, slightly more than an indexed portfolio with two-thirds of its assets in shares and one-third in bonds. Their income pays for a fifth of government spending. The funds are free of scandal and enjoy a solid reputation both in China and the West.
There is a clear division of labour. The central bank runs $290bn of liquid reserves. A national piggy-bank manager called GIC runs an estimated $250bn, long-term, diversified foreign portfolio. Then a holding company, Temasek, has the rest, keeping a quarter of its portfolio in stakes in Singaporean firms. It also makes punchy bets abroad.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

US-China Trade War - China's Missteps

[China response to Trump - their "misunderestimation" of Trump's... stupidity.]

China’s two big mistakes in trade war may lead the country into middle-income trap

After misjudging Donald Trump and misjudging the alliance between Washington and Brussels, Beijing needs to act fast, writes Zhang Lin

Monday, 30 July, 2018

South China Morning Post

Beijing has made two mistakes in the trade war with Washington, for which China will pay a heavy price.

The first is that the Chinese leadership misjudged US President Donald Trump. Beijing wrongly thought that Trump was just a businessman, regarding his trade war threats as bluffing ahead of the midterm elections. But in fact, Washington had already made clear in its National Defence Strategy report – released months before the dispute escalated – that the US would no longer tolerate Beijing’s trade and economic practices. The message was that Beijing could not earn money from the United States while at the same time posing a challenge to it.

Beijing’s second mistake was that it misjudged the alliance between the US and the European Union, and had hoped, unrealistically, to form a united trade front with Brussels against Washington.

Trump finally feels gravity’s unforgiving pull

By Joe Scarborough
July 26 2018

The Washington Post

Like generals preparing to fight past wars, politicians constantly construct Maginot Lines to defend frontiers against dangers that no longer exist. For these self-involved politicos and pundits, the last election always seems to be the one that signaled the end of history.

Barry Goldwater’s crushing defeat in 1964 was widely believed to be conservatism’s last stand. The New York Times’s James Restondeclared that the vanquished GOP nominee “has wrecked his party for a long time.” The New Yorker similarly proclaimed, “The election has finished the Goldwater school of political reaction.” And none other than James MacGregor Burns predicted that Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide “would surely usher in a liberal epoch.”

Republicans would win the White House in six of the next seven presidential elections. What would eventually become Ronald Reagan’s revolution was launched two years after America’s most esteemed journalists declared conservatism dead.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is falling short

By Financial Times Editors


31 July, 2018

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is commonly seen as a programme to fund and build infrastructure in some 78 countries around the globe.

It is also Beijing’s bid to reshape the world by offering an alternative developmental vision to the United States-led world order.

In the Chinese context, it is the linchpin of President Xi Jinping’s grand design to create a “community with a shared future for mankind”.

As such, the Belt and Road (BRI) is officially intended to showcase an open, inclusive form of development which benefits all countries that participate.

To criticise BRI, therefore, is to censure a rising China’s proposition to the world.

Yet there is growing evidence that the infrastructure projects are falling short of Beijing’s ideals and stirring controversy in the countries they were intended to assist.

British farmers worry: Who will pick the fruit after Brexit?

By William Booth and Karla Adam

July 29, 2018

Washington Post

HAREWOOD END, England — After a dozen futile calls to big farms, agricultural lobbyists and labor contractors, we finally found him.

The rarest of the rare, the British berry picker.

Meet Max Hughes, a 20-year-old university student and history major, who is spending his summer harvesting blackcurrants at the Snell family farm in Herefordshire. He rides in the back of a harvester all day, standing beside a Czech migrant and a couple of sun-bronzed Romanian guys, who know very little English.

“No matter, you can’t hear a thing they say over the noise,” Hughes said, gesturing toward the wheeled harvester beside him. Its vibrating metal fingers shake the currant bushes and bring the tart berries via conveyor belt to the sorting table, where Hughes and his teammates discard the leaves, twigs, slugs and occasional mouse — whatever you don’t want to see in a frozen fruit pack.

MH370 The Final Report (July 2018)

Spoiler alert: The conclusion is that there is no conclusion.

Here is the 400+ page report. On page 443, the conclusion is... they are unable to determine the cause of MH370's disappearance.

Here is a 9 minute video on the findings of the report:

DJ's Aviation does not go into any speculation, and respectfully reports the content of the report, and keeps his opinion (if any) out of his commentary, and does not cast aspersions on the Pilot's integrity or imputes any felonious intent or motivation.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

S’pore’s education system at crossroads, trade-offs necessary to prepare young for the future: Ong

By Siau Ming En


26 July, 2018

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s education system is at crossroads, and in order to prepare young people for the future, several trade-offs have to be made, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (July 25).

The choices that Singaporeans make will “set the agenda for education in the coming years”, he added.

Picking up from where he left off in a recent speech in Parliament — where he pointed out that there was no contradiction between meritocracy and fairness, nor reducing inequality and raising Singapore’s collective standards — Mr Ong also reiterated the need for Singaporeans to “have faith in meritocracy, but make sure it takes a broader form that goes beyond academics”.

[So... "Meritocracy" is a religion? So... have you accepted Meritocracy as your personal Lord and Saviour?]

But he acknowledged that it may take a whole generation for the mindset shift to take root.

Skipping plastic straws might not do much to stop marine pollution, experts say

By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

26 July 2018

An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic trash enter the ocean every year, and plastic straws make up only a very small percentage of it.


SINGAPORE: Saying no to plastic straws might feel like a conscientious effort to reduce marine litter, but this global movement does little to stem the pollution, experts said.

One industry observer told Channel NewsAsia that the real problem lies with poor waste management systems in countries that leak huge amounts of garbage into the ocean.

“The best that can be said about the collective actions to eliminate straws is that it’s good at raising awareness, but that’s not the solution,” said Mr Steven Russell, plastics division vice president at the American Chemistry Council, which represents multi-national chemical and plastic manufacturers.

Mr Russell was in Singapore earlier in July to meet with waste companies, plastic companies and consumer brands on working together to solve global waste management problems.

The anti-plastic straw movement is believed to have taken off in 2015, after a video showing a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose went viral.

[Maybe the turtle was snorting cocaine?]

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

China's Rise, Chinese influence, and diplomatic overtures

[ Bilahari Kausikan expounds on the rise of China, China's public diplomacy, and how they try to influence the nations around China.
"It is wrong to think that we side with China or America. We side only with Singapore. Our organising idea is our own national interests," he said.
"Sometimes it may lead us to tilt a bit towards China or towards America. But the guiding principle is always our own interests."
China's rise is not necessarily America's decline. The post-Cold War world is complex, not binary,

"Multipolarity and China's rise therefore implies only relative, not absolute, adjustments of global power.  It is not as if the only alternative to an ‘American world’ is a ‘Chinese world’.

There is now growing international awareness in countries as diverse as Colombia, Malaysia and Pakistan, among others, that the externalisation of China’s internal challenges is not without liabilities to recipient countries.

The ultimate objective is to get Singaporeans – and not just Chinese Singaporeans -- to pressure the government to align Singapore’s national interests with China’s core interests.

Some of our national interests will in fact be aligned with Chinese interests.

But it must always be our national interests and if there are alignments of interests, they must be determined by our choices and not because of manipulation by any foreign country. ]

Exclusive: Johor crown prince claims 'sovereignty' over water in the state, prefers ‘no federal interference’ on the issue

By Amir Yusof

19 Jul 2018


JOHOR BAHRU: The crown prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, has said that water in the state belongs to the state government, and he prefers that the federal government not interfere on the issue, as it relates to the existing agreement with Singapore.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Jul 19), he stressed that water is an issue over which the state has sovereignty, and that the Johor state government should decide on a “win-win” agreement with Singapore.

“At the end of the day, the water in Johor belongs to Johor. Water is state sovereignty. When it comes to religion, land and water, it belongs to the state. Therefore, I think it's the Johor state government (that) should decide. (I prefer) not to have federal interference when it comes to water between Johor and Singapore,” said Tunku Ismail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A world ruled by robots? This artificial intelligence expert paints a different reality

By Kevin Kwang


18 Jul 2018

"...people worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they are too stupid. And they have already taken over the world. "

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The full story of Thailand’s extraordinary cave rescue

14 July 2018


On 23 June, 12 boys went exploring in Thailand's Chiang Rai province with their football coach - and ended up trapped deep inside a cave underneath a mountain. The BBC's Helier Cheung and Tessa Wong were at the scene as a dramatic rescue bid gripped the world.

What happened over those two weeks is a remarkable story of friendship, human endurance - and the lengths some people will go to save someone else's child.

Here our reporters tell the full story of the Wild Boars.

The birthday party that went wrong

It all began with a birthday.

On Saturday 23 June, Peerapat "Night" Sompiangjai turned 17 - a milestone most young people around the world would want to celebrate in style.

His family had prepared a bright yellow SpongeBob SquarePants birthday cake and several colourfully wrapped presents at their home in a rural village in Mae Sai district. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Commentary: The Republic of Singapore Air Force's likely new fighter jet

Mike Yeo

10 July 2018


Russian and Chinese offerings would present significant inter-operability issues with the rest of the SAF’s equipment, which are almost exclusively of western origin, says one observer.

MELBOURNE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen’s revelation that Singapore will soon decide which aircraft will replace the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role jet fighter in the Republic of Singapore Air Force service has re-ignited interest in the programme among the wider defence community.

Speaking to media in the lead-up to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day, Dr Ng had said that the decision will be made in the next few months, with the new fighters needed by the 2030s when the F-16s will start facing obsolescence issues.

He added that some of the criteria that will be used to choose the new jet will be its capability to defend Singapore’s airspace; whether it can work with other SAF air, land and sea platforms; ease of maintenance; as well as the overall cost.

The extreme leadership that got the Thai soccer boys out of the cave alive

By Jena McGregor

July 10 2018

The incredible rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach, the last of whom were brought to safety Tuesday after being trapped deep inside a cave in Northern Thailand for more than two weeks, has stunned the world with extraordinary feats of rescue coordination, cave diving expertise and medical know-how. But it has also required brave, steady leadership from a cast of officials, rescue workers, Thai navy SEAL divers and the boys' own trapped coach — both outside the cave and in interactions with the boys — who have worked tirelessly to turn a dire situation into a triumph of human skill and ingenuity while the whole world looked on.

Thomas Kolditz, a retired brigadier general
who is executive director of Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders and formerly led the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy, has a name for the kind of leadership shown in Thailand. He calls it “In Extremis” leadership, the title of his book published in 2007 and the focus of his research on what leaders experienced in life-or-death situations know about keeping people calm and resolving impossible situations. The Washington Post spoke with Kolditz about the role of the boys' coach, the five themes that define “in extremis” leaders, and what people most want to see from the people in charge when their life is on the line. The conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.

When Singapore’s agencies struggle to deal with disruptors that come and go

By Alfred Siew

10 July, 2018

You can also say that the ship has sailed. Or, as a friend remarked, the chicken cannot now be uncooked.

However you say it, the Singapore competition commission’s intervention last week to call the Grab-Uber merger anti-competitive is a reactive and ultimately futile attempt to change the situation.

By threatening to unwind the merger, should its recommended actions be deemed insufficient, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) is issuing an ultimatum it cannot enforce.

How can it force Uber to reopen its offices here and launch a service to users again? How can it unravel the new Grab, now more powerful than before with only smaller newcomers to the market to challenge its position?

The American company has left, happy that it got a nice return on investment after a bruising fight with its Southeast Asian rival.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

PUB aims to double water supply by 2060 without using more energy, producing more waste

By Louisa Tang

04 July, 2018


SINGAPORE — National water agency PUB has set a target to double the amount of clean water it produces today by 2060 without using more energy.

That is one of several long-term goals that the PUB committed to on Wednesday (July 4), as it soldiers on with research and development (R&D) efforts to increase water resources for the future and improve water treatment efficiency.

Through new technologies, it aims to reduce the energy used in desalination by more than two-thirds, increase the amount of NEWater recovered from used water to 90 per cent at low energy levels, and produce as much energy as it uses in treating used water.

As trade war looms, America looks more confident than China

By Cary Huang

When the Fed moved to tighten the monetary supply with its rate hike of 25 basis points on June 14, the People’s Bank of China went in the opposite direction and loosened the taps.

03 July, 2018

It has long been said that when the Fed sneezes, emerging markets catch a cold.

And China, as the world’s largest developing economy and exporter, is no exception – its fate is closely linked to the United States market.

That is why China’s central bank usually mirrors the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, tightening when it tightens, loosening when it loosens.

For example, in March and December of 2017 and March this year, it followed rate hikes by the Fed with increases in its reverse repurchases rate – one of Beijing’s most commonly used tools to control liquidity in the financial system.

But Beijing now appears ready to defy convention.

When the Fed moved to tighten the monetary supply with its rate hike of 25 basis points on June 14, the People’s Bank of China went in the opposite direction and loosened the taps.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Older residents to pay more to join CareShield Life; Govt offers incentives to offset higher cost

By Louisa Tang


The new CareShield Life scheme, which replaces the existing ElderShield from 2020, will dole out higher monthly payouts — S$600 instead of up to S$400 — which are payable for life, up from the current cap of six years.

03 July, 2018

SINGAPORE — The majority of older residents who want to be covered under CareShield Life will have to pay a “catch-up component” for a decade, and a base premium which increases over time until they reach 67, it was announced on Tuesday (July 3).

1MDB: Malaysia's extraordinary financial scandal

3 July 2018


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's extraordinary 1MDB corruption scandal allegedly saw billions stolen from the country's sovereign wealth fund and spent on everything from Hollywood films to handbags.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested Tuesday in the 1MDB graft probe set up by his successor, which has engulfed the ex-leader and his cronies since his shock loss at elections in May.

Here is a look back at the saga:


1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a state investment fund which Najib launched in 2009 shortly after becoming prime minister.

Its portfolio has included power plants and other energy assets in Malaysia and the Middle East, and real estate in Kuala Lumpur.

The fund was closely overseen by Najib.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

'Yes, we need retirement villages'


22 Feb 2012

[Note the date.]

Few housing options for the old in S'pore, says senior-living consultant

By Radha Basu

LAST Friday's Budget [2012] bestowed a hamper full of goodies on older Singaporeans.

Families caring for the frail elderly are in for a windfall, with more state subsidies for care in community hospitals, nursing homes and even at home. For the first time, even the richest can get state subsidies for stays in community hospitals.

In this 'season of plenty', it may seem politically incorrect to talk about some seniors who feel short-changed about retirement options.

But international senior-living consultant Tan Kee Hian, 57, believes this is as good a time as any to discuss the relative shortage of living choices for Singapore's growing group of more affluent, older folk.

He says many seniors in the top fifth to 20th percentile of the income scale would gladly part with their savings to live in retirement villages (RVs) which offer professional care and support services such as an on-site round-the-clock emergency response system.

On water issue, Dr M again risks crossing a red line for Singapore


By Nicholas Fang

02 July, 2018

When Malaysia's opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan, won the May 9 general election, many in the country hoped for a government that could stem corruption and move forward with reform.

Many Malaysians admired the commitment and extraordinary energy of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and believed that no other single person did more to secure the stunning upset.

Across the Causeway, some Singaporeans expressed admiration for how Malaysia managed to peacefully transition from a coalition that had been in power for over six decades to a new government.

Others however started to brace themselves for a return to a testier relationship with their northern neighbour.

Younger Singaporeans celebrating Dr Mahathir’s electoral success may not remember this, but the last time he led Malaysia, bilateral ties were marked by what ousted prime minister Najib Razak described as “confrontational diplomacy and barbed rhetoric”.

US State Department official to promote military sales at Singapore Airshow

02 February, 2018

WASHINGTON — The United States, for the first time in years, is sending its diplomat responsible for foreign military sales to the Singapore Airshow to promote US-made weapons, a US official said on Thursday (Feb 1), as the State Department prepares for an overseas arms sales push.

The attendance of Ambassador Tina Kaidanow at the air show from Feb 6 to Feb 11, the most important in the Asia-Pacific region, is aimed at boosting sales for US arms manufacturers such as F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp and missiles manufactured by Raytheon Co.

US President Donald Trump's administration is nearing completion of a new "Buy American" initiative that calls for US military attaches and diplomats to play a much bigger role in the sale of billions of dollars more in business overseas.

Vietnam's 'knight rider' vigilantes help underfunded police bust crooks

Vietnam "street knight" Nguyen Thanh Hai (right) and his team ride as they patrol on a street in Thu Dau Mot city, Vietnam on May 24, 2018. REUTERS

01 June, 2018

HO CHI MINH CITY — Vietnam's "street knights", hurtling through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, are not your typical medieval warriors.

Their stallions are scooters. They wear rubber flip-flops, not metal boots. And their shining armour is a tracksuit jacket billowing like a cape.

SAF acquires new fighting machines to do more with less, will reveal replacement for F-16 fighter jets soon

30 June 2018


SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is overhauling its arsenal, adding new warplanes, submarines and warships as it gears up for a future with fewer soldiers.

High on the agenda is the replacement for the ageing F-16 fighter jets, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saying on Friday (Jun 29) that a decision will be made in the coming months.

“F-16s would face obsolescence beyond 2030,” Dr Ng said of the 30-year-old jets. “To plan for a replacement is not as if you are going to buy a new car, you actually need a lead time of eight to 10 years.”

For the past few years, speculation has swirled around potential replacements, with Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation F-35 fighter emerging as top contender. As early as 2013, Dr Ng had told Parliament that the F-35 was one option.

But Singapore has consistently maintained that it would not be rushed into a decision.

“You need to know first of all what platform, what your needs are, how you are going to maintain. You also need to know how you are going to train your pilots, where you are going to train pilots, especially on such a small island,” Dr Ng said.

“We thought long and hard about it, taken our time to choose a replacement, and we would be making a definitive decision likely in the next few months.”

Vitamins, Supplements and Alternative Medicine.

[Two articles on Vitamins and Supplements. The point of the first story is not new: Vitamins and supplements do not work: 
The dietary supplement industry raked in over $32 billion in 2012, most of which profited from junk science, or at best, unproven claims.
That they are ineffective has been known for sometime. But there is a creeping realisation that they can actually be harmful.
The second notes that 1/3 of children are on alternative medicine. That may not work. And may instead be harmful.
It’s bad enough if you’re just wasting money; it’s much worse if you’re putting their health in danger.
Should you be giving your child unproven and possibly dangerous supplements or alternative medicines?]

Monday, July 2, 2018

Singapore opens its third desalination plant in Tuas


28 June 2018

Lianne Chia

Vanessa Lim

SINGAPORE: Singapore on Thursday (Jun 28) opened its third desalination plant, boosting the country’s desalination capacity from 100 to 130 million gallons a day (mgd).

The Tuas Desalination Plant, which can produce 30 million gallons of drinking water a day, will help to meet up to 30 per cent of Singapore’s current water demand.

Spanning just 3.5ha - the size of three rugby fields - Tuas Desalination Plant is the country’s smallest plant to date.

Despite its size, the plant can produce the same amount of drinking water as SingSpring Desalination Plant, Singapore’s first such plant.

SingSpring occupies 6.3ha, nearly double the footprint of Tuas Desalination Plant. Advertisement

Both plants can produce up to 30mgd of drinking water, which is enough to supply to 200,000 households.

The first to be owned and operated by PUB, the Tuas plant will also be used to test new energy-saving technologies.

Singapore’s Water Cycle Wizardry

28 May 2010

IEEE Spectrum

Singapore’s toilet-to-tap technology has saved the country from shortages—and a large electricity bill

By Sandra Upson

Singapore began its journey to sovereignty with a mighty jolt. The island was still an exotic outpost of the British Empire when World War II delivered the shake-up. Japan’s army was preparing to invade from the Malay Peninsula, and the British forces beat a retreat to Singapore across the one bridge connecting it to the mainland. To thwart the Japanese troops, the Royal Engineers blew up the bridge behind them.

The blast sealed the island’s doom, for it also ruptured a critical pipeline that brought water from Johor, a Malay state. The people of Singapore discovered they had only a few days’ water stored in their meager reservoirs. The island was truly defenseless. The Japanese swiftly repaired the bridge, bicycled across the strait, and claimed victory.

Sixty-eight years later, this port city has both gained territorial independence and managed to bootstrap its way to wealth in spite of a lack of water and energy. And now, against all odds, complete water independence—from both Malaysia and even the weather—is within easy reach. Rather than flushing waste into the sea, the water utility collects the country’s wastewater, cleans it to pristine levels, and returns it to the public supply. Singapore has thus short-circuited the water cycle by reducing it to an island-ringing loop.

SAF scores an ‘A’ for securing Trump-Kim Summit against external threats: Ng Eng Hen


30 June, 2018

SINGAPORE — Sentosa was not the ideal venue for the Trump-Kim summit given its exposure to potential threats from the sea, air and mainland, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (June 29) in a wide-ranging interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day this weekend.

But for planning to the last detail, the SAF scored an “A” in securing the historic meeting earlier this month against external threats, Dr Ng said.

On June 12, United States President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went without a hitch at the Capella Singapore hotel on Sentosa.

The meeting took place after a series of diplomatic flip-flops that initially saw the summit cancelled abruptly.

When the go-ahead was given finally, the SAF had a fortnight to prepare. “From a security perspective, it wasn’t the ideal situation,” said Dr Ng.

S’pore open to joint patrols with M’sia around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks

By Kenneth Cheng

30 June, 2018


SINGAPORE — Singapore and Malaysia could explore joint patrols in the waters around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (June 29), in response to his Malaysian counterpart’s suggestion a day earlier.

In an interview on Thursday, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu spoke about strengthening security cooperation in the entry lane to the Singapore Strait — near Middle Rocks and Pedra Branca — as an area in which the two countries could join hands.

When asked about this, Dr Ng supported Mr Mohamad’s views. “It makes no sense to deploy more resources around Pedra Branca or Middle Rocks if we can decide on a common plan,” Dr Ng said in an interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day, which falls on Sunday.

Describing the newly appointed Malaysian defence minister’s views as “very enlightened”, Dr Ng added: “Even joint patrols with our agencies and their agencies, I completely agree with that.”

Pedra Branca, which belongs to Singapore, sits at the entrance to the Singapore Strait about 30km east of the country. Middle Rocks, which is under Malaysia’s control, are two clusters of rocks 1km south of Pedra Branca.

Right now, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand carry out joint patrols in the Malacca Strait for maritime security, including counter-piracy efforts.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Johor crown prince warns that state may secede if Putrajaya breaches federation's terms

Straits Times

Oct 16, 2015,

[Note the date of this news article. The Johor Sultanate has been entertaining the idea of secession from the Federation even as early as 2015. And probably before. It may not be the most feasible option, but it is clearly not unthinkable. But why am I putting this old news out now?]

KUALA LUMPUR - Johor has a right to secede from Malaysia if there is a breach of the terms agreed upon at the time of its membership to the Federation of Malaya, crown prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim has said in a new interview.

In the interview with local football portal FourthOfficial, the prince said that as future Sultan of Johor, his duties were towards the state and its people before Malaysia, reported The Malay Mail Online.

"In fact, we only joined the Federation of Malaya upon both parties agreeing to several basic terms. And if any one of those terms are breached, we have every right to secede from this country," Tunku Ismail said.

Hyflux’s Tuaspring plant: The ‘noose around the neck’ that needs to be sold, but can it be done?

The loss-making desalination and power plant has been an impediment to Hyflux’s earnings and the clock is ticking for a buyer to be found.
By Tang See Kit

27 Jun 2018


SINGAPORE: Costing more than S$1 billion to build, the Tuaspring Integrated Water and Power Plant was the landmark project that marked water treatment icon Hyflux’s foray into the energy business in 2011.

Hailed as the first water plant in Asia to be integrated with a power generator, it was expected to boost efficiency levels and reduce desalination costs among other things.

But for all the ambitions that it embodied, the Tuaspring project struggled to turn a profit and according to some market observers, eventually became the “noose” around Hyflux’s neck.

With the company under a court-supervised process to reorganise its liabilities and business, the need to divest a part or the entire stake in its single largest asset has become even more pressing.

At the court hearing on Jun 19 for its application of a six-month moratorium, Hyflux’s lawyers from WongPartnership stressed that Tuaspring still holds “significant value” and time was what the company needed to seal a deal for no less than a book value of S$1.3 billion.

How Adam Smith would fix capitalism

Often misread as a prophet of laissez-faire, the father of modern economics would have radical remedies for the 21st century

Jesse Norman 

June 22, 2018

Capitalism in flames, populism and nationalism on the march across Europe, a US president bent on demolishing free trade, a British shadow chancellor calling openly for the overthrow of capitalism itself . . . the 21st century is not going to script.

The market system from which global prosperity has emerged over two centuries is now under attack from all sides, its basic legitimacy assailed from the right by critics of unfair competition and crony capitalism, from the left by campaigners against inequality and “market fundamentalism”.

More than any other, the Scottish political economist and philosopher Adam Smith stands at the centre of this ideological battlefield, while around him clash competing views of economics, markets and societies.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Mahathir revives water dispute with Singapore, says 1962 deal 'too costly'

25 June, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is seeking to renegotiate a longstanding water supply deal with Singapore, criticising a 1962 agreement with the Republic as “too costly”.

[Right. Mahathir is a medical doctor. Finance and accounting are not his forte. Certainly not at age 92. Or even 30 years ago. Here's the math from this news two years ago:
"... it cost Singapore RM2.40 [2003] to treat 1000 gallons of water, and we sell it to Johor for 50 sen. That's a RM1.90 subsidy per 1000 gallons. Johor buys currently 16 mgd - million gallons PER DAY. That's about RM30,000 subsidy per day. 
That's money Johor doesn't have to spend to treat water for its residents. That's not the best part (for Johor).
Johor then sells the water to their residents for about RM3.95 per 1000 gallons. They make RM3.45 per 1000 gallons from the water they buy from Singapore. "

It costs SG about RM11m a year (in 2003 prices) to supply Johor with 16 mgd of treated water, and Johor earns about RM20m a year selling our subsidised treated water TO THEIR OWN PEOPLE.
So, "too costly"? Yeah. For SG.]

His remarks on the water issue, made during an interview with Bloomberg Television last Friday (June 22), came weeks after after he announced plans to cancel a multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project that would have connected Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.