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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

All the Times North Korea Promised to Denuclearize

WIRED JUNE 12 2018

The nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has concluded, with each securing something they value. The US will suspend the joint military exercises with South Korea that rattle the Hermit Kingdom. And North Korea has promised to denuclearize. At some point. Probably. But if the past is any sort of prologue, you shouldn't hold your breath.

On the face of it, the agreement signed by Trump and Kim seems promising. “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the statement read.

But this is not the first time North Korea has promised to abandon its nuclear efforts. (In truth, even this was simply a reaffirmation of a denuclearization pledge Kim had already made in April.) Nor is it the second time, or the third. The offer has resurfaced over the past several decades with surprising regularity. And it has never panned out so far.

“There’s definitely a pattern where the North Koreans agree to denuclearize in theory, but then there’s not really a substantive process that they agree to, to actually hammer it out,” says James McKeon, a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cheaper alternative to KL-S’pore High-Speed Rail feasible, but may be shortsighted: Experts

By Kenneth Cheng

19 June, 2018


SINGAPORE — Even if the authorities upgrade Malaysia’s Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway infrastructure as a cheaper alternative to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project, it may still take time and need substantial work, experts said.

And the move may turn out to be penny wise and pound foolish further down the road, with Singapore and Malaysia left behind while other countries pursue a regional high-speed rail network.

Their comments came after Malaysian news agency The Star reported on Monday (June 18) that the option of rejuvenating the KTM was brought to the attention of Malaysia’s Council of Eminent Persons — an advisory body recently formed by Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ripples of the Singapore Summit

And the Trump-Kim Summit will forever be known as "The Singapore Summit". 

The meeting is historic, even if the significance of the agreement forged is still pending the judgement of history.

Here are two news articles on the ripples from the Summit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trump and Kim Have Just Walked Us Back From the Brink of War


By Victor Cha

Mr. Cha is a former National Security Council director for Asia.

June 12, 2018

President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea meet for the first time on Sentosa Island, Singapore.  CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

There is a phrase in Korean: “Begun is half-done.” It means when tackling a difficult task, half of the battle is getting started.

Despite the many warts in President Trump’s unconventional diplomacy toward North Korea, we have to give him credit. Only five months ago, based on my conversations with this administration, I thought we were headed down an inexorable path toward a devastating war.

Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore


By Nicholas Kristof

New York Times
Opinion Columnist
June 12, 2018

It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore.

Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.

Within North Korea, the “very special bond” that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.

In exchange for these concessions, Trump seems to have won astonishingly little. In a joint statement, Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.

“They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim. Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Trump and Kim can learn a lot from Singapore

By Tyler Cowen

12 June, 2018


SINGAPORE — United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are spending such a short amount of time in Singapore this week. Maybe they should stick around longer to see what makes its economy tick.

Singapore is an especially wealthy nation, with a per capita income of about US$90,000 (S$120,000), well above that of the US But how is this prosperity maintained, and why has Singapore commanded so much admiration from liberals and conservatives alike?

Singapore has many features shared by other wealthy countries, such as a high capital stock, a predictable legal environment and a well-educated workforce, but what are some of the less common factors behind its success?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Before Kim meets Trump, China gets jittery about North Korea’s intentions

11 June, 2018


BEIJING — In the sudden rush of diplomacy involving North Korea, China has appeared to have the upper hand, hosting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un twice before his long-anticipated Singapore summit meeting with US President Donald Trump even begins.

Yet as Mr Kim prepares to finally meet Mr Trump in Singapore on Tuesday (June 12), some analysts say Beijing appears to be getting a sudden case of the jitters.

They say the Chinese leaders, who are unused to being on the outside looking in, are growing anxious about whether they can keep their Cold War-era ally firmly in its current orbit around China. Leaders in Beijing are worried, experts say, that Kim might try to counterbalance China's influence by embracing the United States, North Korea's longtime enemy.

Dr M still a dictator, suggests Tengku Razaleigh

The Malaysian Insight

10 June, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR - Despite becoming prime minister for the second time with a different party, Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not a changed man, said Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Hamzah.

The United Malays National Organisation's longest-serving lawmaker said Dr Mahathir is still the same man – despite what many think – who is merely wearing a different shirt now.

“He was like that 23 years ago… I think he is like that now,” said Mr Tengku Razaleigh.

“He’s no longer a dictator? Just see the line-up of the party that was born only a few years ago, but heads the government in Kedah, Perak, Johor and elsewhere, and see the number of seats they have in cabinet,” he told a press conference attended by selected media in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday (June 10).

Though Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu has only 13 parliamentary seats, party leaders hold four key cabinet positions, unlike other parties that won more seats in the May 9 polls.

Bersatu lawmakers are the chief ministers in Kedah, Perak and Johor.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Singapore relooking road rules to allow for self-driving vehicles

There are various areas being looked at such as how these autonomous vehicles should interact with other vehicles on the roads, says a Ministry of Transport official.

By Kevin Kwang

06 Jun 2018

SINGAPORE: As Singapore drives towards a future with autonomous vehicles (AVs), the Ministry of Transport is starting to look at how road rules can be extended to self-driven vehicles in the future.
Mr Chris Leck, director of the Futures Division at the ministry said on Wednesday (Jun 6) that those working on AVs are “quite aware” of the need to address issues like who has right of way during a situation between a human driver and an autonomous system.

There is a standards development team within the ministry working on such a framework currently. They are also looking at things like data management - “as AVs gather a lot of data" such as video surveillance of its environment - as well as cybersecurity, Mr Leck shared during a panel session at the ongoing Innovfest Unbound event.

They are also looking at international standards, such as those which relate to functional safety for cars, and how these can be incorporated into the framework, he told Channel NewsAsia on the sidelines of the event.

Solar Power in Singapore. Two articles from 2016 and 2018.

From floating solar farms, to HDB rooftops: Where Singapore's sun-powered future lies

Different ways of harnessing it are being explored, as the programme Powering the Future finds out. But how realistic is the goal of having solar energy meet a far larger share of electricity demand, given the constraints?

SINGAPORE: It might seem obvious that in sunny Singapore, there's an abundance of a natural resource to be tapped for our energy needs, and a more sustainable future.

So one might wonder: Why does the island currently draw only about 2 per cent of its electricity from solar energy?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

France starts work on revolutionary 'Alzheimer's village' where patients roam almost free

The "Alzheimer village" in Dax, France, is designed to give residents with Alzheimer's the best chance of living a normal social life Credit: Telegraph

Henry Samuel, Paris

4 June 2018

The Telegraph

Work has begun on France’s first "Alzheimer's village” where patients will be given free rein without medication in a purpose-built medieval-style citadel designed to increase their freedom and reduce anxiety.

Residents of the village in Dax, southwestern France, will be able to shop in a small supermarket, go to the hairdressers, local brasserie, library, gym and even a little farm.

They will live in small shared houses designed to reflect their personal tastes and in four districts reminiscent of the southwestern French region between forests and the seashore.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

News Commentary: HDB flat prices and the lease decay issue

The problem of Lease Decay was created by the government. And a lot of the problems built on initial misstep (or outright mistakes) and the magnitude of the problem escalated beyond their expectations and control.

There were three problems or three stages to this ballooning problem.

1) They should not have allowed CPF savings to be used for resale HDB flat purchases. 

Using CPF to buy flats DIRECT from HDB was safe. The prices were controlled by HDB, and HDB were not profiteering. So there is no vicious circle or spiralling costs. Allowing flats to be sold was also not an issue. It allowed for population mobility, flexibility and geographic and other adjustments. 

However, allowing CPF savings to be used to purchase resale HDB flats created a distorted market, and with it, distorted price.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The U.S. is trying to find a discreet way to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel during the summit

By John Hudson

June 3 2018

SINGAPORE — At an island resort off the coast of Singapore, U.S. event planners are working day and night with their North Korean counterparts to set up a summit designed to bring an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

But a particularly awkward logistical issue remains unresolved, according to two people familiar with the talks. Who’s going to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel stay?

The prideful but cash-poor pariah state requires that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: the Fullerton, a magnificent neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River, where just one presidential suite costs more than $6,000 per night.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

HDB flats "lease decay" issue

The Big Read: No easy answers to HDB lease decay issue, but public mindset has to change first

By Wong Pei Ting

02 June, 2018

SINGAPORE — When the lease of his three-room flat in Lorong 4 Toa Payoh runs out in 2066, first aid and swimming coach Low Mong Seng, 34, expects the Government to give him “something in compensation”.

“Either another shelter over our heads, or a lower lump sum amount (compared to the value of the property) for us to get another flat to stay in,” said Mr Low, who inherited the unit from his mother who died in 1995.

But another homeowner, who gave her name only as Ms Kwok, has a different view.

There is “a misunderstanding (among the public) of what homeownership is”, she said.

“People think ‘ownership’ means a freehold ownership but if you buy a leasehold then obviously the limited lease is reflected,” added the 30-year-old lawyer. Three years ago, she bought a three-room flat in Tiong Bahru — completed in 1973 — with her husband.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The truth about organic produce and pesticides

By Tamar Haspel

May 21, 2018

The Agriculture Department recently released the latest measurements of pesticide residues in our food, in the form of the 2016 Pesticide Data Program results, so it seems timely to talk pesticides and organics.

And bias.

I’ve been following these issues for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of evidence that organic foods have lower levels of pesticide residues than conventional foods, so I was surprised to read a two-part analysis on by Steve Savage, a conventional-side plant scientist I know and respect, showing that the number of residues, and the amount of pesticide in those residues, were virtually the same for organic and conventional foods.

What could be happening in our food supply for the difference in pesticide levels to narrow so markedly? That would make an interesting column, I thought.