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SINGAPORE — About six in 10 members (58 per cent) aged between 55 and 70 have withdrawn cash from their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings since turning 55. The median amount withdrawn was S$9,000, and the average amount was $33,000.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