Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Restoring forests could help put a brake on global warming, study finds


13 July, 2019


ZURICH — What if we stopped cutting down forests to produce palm oil and cattle? What if we grew new forests on vacant city lots, old industrial buildings — even golf courses?

For the first time, scientists have sought to quantify this thought experiment. How many trees could be planted on every available parcel of land on Earth, where they could go, and what impact could that have on our survival?

They concluded that the planet could support nearly 2.5 billion additional acres of forest without shrinking our cities and farms, and that those additional trees, when they mature, could store a whole lot of the extra carbon — 200 gigatons of carbon, to be precise — generated by industrial activity over the last 150 years.

Time is running out. Singapore sets up Climate Science Unit. And improves drains.

[Three news articles about Climate Change and what it means for Singapore.]

‘Time is running out’: Tackling climate change a priority for Singapore, says Masagos



By Matthew Mohan

17 Jul 2019 01:00PM

SINGAPORE: Facing the “loud and unmistakable” warning of climate change, Singapore needs to act, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jul 17).

Speaking at the 2019 Partners for the Environment forum, Mr Masagos stressed that tackling climate change is a “pressing priority” and an “existential challenge” for Singapore.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Report proposes MOE and MOM be merged to tackle skills gap among Singapore's workforce

By Janice Lim

12 July, 2019

SINGAPORE — A report by a think-tank has proposed that the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Education be combined to ensure that Singaporean workers have the skills the economy needs.

This is because work and study are phases that are increasingly converging, with education no longer a linear process but a continuous cyclical process that follows industry cycles, Institute of Policy Studies' research fellow Faizal Yahya wrote in the report.

A single ministry that oversees the supply and demand for labour would mean, therefore, that there is better coordination and timely government intervention.

“The links between industry and institutes of higher learning should be strengthened further,” Dr Faizal said in the report, which aimed to examine strategies to reskill the workforce as Singapore undergoes an economic transformation.

Hikikomori in Singapore: Recluses hidden from view and at a loss

Illustration: Raymond Limantara

By Faris Mokhtar

In Singapore, private psychologists and psychiatrists say they see up to five cases a year of hikikomori, although there are no official statistics.

12 July, 2019


SINGAPORE — She was 27 and suffering from depression in 2015. Instead of seeking help, Jane (not her real name) decided to shut herself off from the outside world, spending most of her time alone at home.

For more than two years she lived like a hermit. On some days, she would listen to music, watch videos, play the guitar or read. But there were days when her mind slipped into an abyss.

“I couldn’t do anything other than compulsively overthink and self-harm,” she said, declining to elaborate.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Singapore, KL among major cities to face 'unprecedented' climate shifts by 2050

11 Jul 2019


KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are among cities that will face “unprecedented” climate shifts by 2050, researchers warned on Wednesday (Jul 10).

Such shifts could include changes in rainfall patterns, leading to more severe flooding and droughts, according to climate scientists from Crowther Lab, a research group based at ETH Zurich, a science and technology university.

[Well, we can forget about extending the water agreement then.]
The scientists had analysed 520 cities across the world, including all capitals and most urban centres with a population of more than 1 million.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

GIC, Temasek reports lower returns, cautiously optimistic

GIC’s returns hold steady at 3.4%, maintains cautious investment stance amid uncertainties

GIC says future returns could be “low and volatile”given the uncertainties in the global environment ahead.


By Tang See Kit


SINGAPORE: Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC saw steady returns for its last financial year, but reiterated a cautious stance amid an uncertain investment climate marked by challenges including a protracted trade row.

For the year that ended Mar 31 this year, GIC’s key metric of investment performance, the 20-year annualised real rate of return, came in at 3.4 per cent, according to the latest annual report released on Wednesday (Jul 3).

This was unchanged from the return rate in FY2017/18, but lower compared to the years prior. That number was 3.7 per cent for FY2016/17, 4 per cent for FY2015/16 and 4.9 per cent for FY2014/15.

When asked whether a return rate below four per cent is becoming the new normal or a drop below three per cent could happen in the years ahead, CEO Lim Chow Kiat said he “can’t really predict exactly what percentages”, but is cautious about investment prospects amid high valuations and a range of uncertainties that might “be around for quite a while”.

Another factor contributing to the decline in GIC’s benchmark return rate is the way it is calculated.

The 20-year annualised rate of return is a “rolling” return, where years are dropped and added as the computation window moves. For instance, the figure for FY2018/19 represented the average return of GIC’s portfolio between April 2000 and March 2019. Next year’s will measure the average return from 2001 to 2020.

Explaining why the return rate fell below four per cent for the last three years, GIC said that can be attributed to the “exceptionally high returns” from the tech-bubble period of the late 1990s being dropped out of the 20-year window, while the post-bubble declines remained.

This one-off effect is set to persist and weigh on the 20-year return figure over the medium term, said Mr Lim at a media briefing held a day earlier.

In US dollar nominal terms, GIC’s portfolio returns were 5.5 per cent per annum over the last 20 years, slightly above the 5.2 per cent annualised return from its reference portfolio. The latter, made up of 65 per cent global equities and 35 per cent global bonds, refers to the risk that GIC can take to generate good long-term investment returns.

As at the end of the last financial year, developed market equities accounted for 19 per cent of GIC’s portfolio, down from 23 per cent a year ago.

This corresponded with a two-percentage-point increase in the allocation to nominal bonds and cash to 39 per cent - the highest level since GIC began issuing annual reports in 2008.

It also slightly increased its allocation to emerging market equities from 17 per cent to 18 per cent, as well as private equity from 11 per cent to 12 per cent.

Inflation-linked bonds and real estate form the other asset classes in GIC’s portfolio - both of which remained unchanged in terms of their compositions.

Lowering its exposure to developed market equities and in turn increasing its hold in nominal bonds and cash, is reflective of how GIC has turned “a bit more defensive”, explained Mr Lim.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

This cautious stance comes as the investment climate ahead is likely to be one marked by challenges pointing to low and volatile returns, noted GIC which acts as the fund manager of Singapore Government assets.

Apart from high asset valuations and slowing global growth, heightened political and policy uncertainties remain amid an ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China, continuing fragmentation in Europe and the long-drawn Brexit process.

“We see a future (with) quite a number of outcomes that are skewed to the downside,” said Mr Lim. These include a disorderly unwind of high debt, “constrained” space for policymakers to counter downturns and a possible de-globalisation given the protracted trade tensions, he added.

On the lingering trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies, Mr Lim noted that there is already some impact on trade and investments given the uncertainty of a resolution.

While there is a possibility of a compromise in some areas on the back of a restart in US-China trade talks, there is also the real risk of a breakdown in trust that can result in a less-cooperative relationship and a “very long-lasting negative impact”.

“We are concerned … that if it’s a prolonged period of trade tensions, you can lose a lot of the benefits of globalisation – whether it’s supply chains or free movement of capital and investments,” said Mr Lim.

As a global investor, GIC would “still very much prefer a globalised world where we continue to benefit from productivity gains, innovation and knowledge sharing”, he added.

STILL SEEKING OPPORTUNITIES

Regardless, GIC said it continues to look out for opportunities and stands ready to take advantage of potential market dislocations.

This could include domestic measures that countries like China might implement in the medium term to counter the effects of the trade row, and how there has been a renewed push in free trade, via bilateral or regional initiatives, among some nations, said group chief investment officer Jeffrey Jaensubhakij.

The US-China trade conflict has also resulted in the “pushing and pulling of different industries”, he added.

This means that while some industries could be impacted, there are some that may grow as a result and still see long-term potential.

Mr Jaensubhakij stressed that this remains early days yet, but there are parallels in the deals announced this week.

GIC on Monday announced that it had entered into an 80:20 joint venture with data centre company Equinix to acquire and develop six hyperscale data centres in Europe for more than US$1 billion.

The proliferation of data gathering and processing of data “will not be affected” by the trade tensions, said Mr Jaensubhakij, adding that this is an area with “quite significant growth” in the next five to 10 years.

Same goes for its US$8.4 billion deal to buy US freight railroad owner Genesee & Wyoming (G&W), also announced on Monday.

G&W’s portfolio of 120 short line railroads, largely in North America, can tap the US domestic demand, which is unlikely to see large disruptions as a result of the trade war, explained Mr Jaensubhakij.

Other areas that remain on its radar include the technology sector, as well as the Asian region where it continues to take a “constructive view” in the long term on the back of high growth potential and attractive investment opportunities.
READ: ‘We have to be positioned for change’: GIC bets on deeper investments in tech

Asked if this means that GIC could invest more in the region, Mr Lim said: “If Asia continues to grow strongly as it has in the last 30 to 40 years, I think the chances of Asia taking up more of our exposure are good.”

Currently, GIC holds 12 per cent of its portfolio in Japan and 20 per cent in Asia excluding Japan. The rest of its portfolio is distributed among markets such as the United States (32 per cent), United Kingdom (6 per cent), Eurozone (12 per cent), Latin America (3 per cent), Middle East, Africa and the rest of Europe (7 per cent), as well as rest of the world (8 per cent).

Overall, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund said its diversified portfolio, disciplined investment approach and flexible capabilities will help it withstand the challenging investment environment.

It will continue to invest prudently, said Mr Lim in response to a question about the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s recent announcement of a S$45 billion transfer from the official foreign reserves (OFR) to GIC.
READ: MAS to disclose more information on monetary policy operations

“It’s more responsibility with more capital that we have to deploy for higher returns,” he told reporters.

Source: CNA


[GIC invests SG Govt's funds including the funds from Spl Singapore Govt Securities (SSGS) which is bought by CPFB. With the returns on GIC investment falling, the Govt's guarantee of 4% and 2.5% returns on the CPF/SSGS will be strained/unsustainable.

Either 

1) the CPF interests rates may have to be allowed to fall to LESS than the 4%/2.5%, or 
2) the NIRC available for the Govt's budget will be affected significantly if the govt bites the bullet, continues to provide 4%/2.5% for CPF/SSGS returns.

Moreover the 3.4% returns reported is the annualised 20 year rolling return. So the high returns of the early 2000 is buoying the rate. Which means current rates may be a lot lower.]


----------

‘Good’ chance of increased Asia investments as GIC takes constructive view on region’s long-term future

GIC says there are attractive opportunities in Asia’s consumption-based goods and services sectors, such as financial services, healthcare, education and technology.


By Tang See Kit


SINGAPORE: High economic growth potential and the availability of “attractive” investment opportunities are the reasons why GIC continues to take a constructive view on Asia in the long run.

“Asia presents attractive opportunities that can be found across consumption-based goods and services sectors, including financial services, healthcare, education and technology,” Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund said in its annual report released on Wednesday (Jul 3).

“Its global value proposition will increase further, fuelled by the continued rise of its middle class, infrastructure investments, and regional integration, backed by steady technological progress.”

While there are challenges, such as uneven structural reforms and uncertainties resulting from a protracted trade spat between the United States and China, GIC said it is “confident” that these can be addressed.

As long as Asia continues to chalk up strong growth, which translates into good investment opportunities, GIC could invest more into the region, said CEO Lim Chow Kiat.

“If Asia continues to grow strongly as it has in the last 30 to 40 years, I think the chances of Asia taking up more of our exposure are good.”

Currently, GIC holds 12 per cent of its portfolio in Japan and 20 per cent in Asia excluding Japan. The rest of its portfolio is distributed among markets such as the United States (32 per cent), United Kingdom (6 per cent), Eurozone (12 per cent), Latin America (3 per cent), Middle East, Africa and the rest of Europe (7 per cent), as well as rest of the world (8 per cent).

Mr Lim was speaking to reporters at a briefing ahead of the release of GIC’s investment report for FY2018/19. The annual report card showed GIC logging a steady return rate for the last financial year, but reiterating a cautious stance amid uncertainties including a lingering trade row.

The annual report also included a feature article on the growth drivers and challenges of Asia - a region where it said it was an “early and significant investor” since the 1980s.

“GIC has been committed to Asia’s growth story for several decades. We continue to take a constructive view on Asia’s long-term future,” it wrote.

Over the years, Asia’s share of the global economy has more than doubled over the past 40 years and its financial markets have developed significantly.

While the region is made up of economies at varying stages of development, GIC noted three growth drivers that will likely persist.

These include the region’s attitude to globalisation and openness which has allowed countries to benefit from technological catch-ups; progressive reforms in its institutions; and the adaptability of its people, improvements in educational levels and a “demographic dividend” in some Asian countries.

To be sure, challenges remain in the form of uneven structural reforms, disruption from new technologies for businesses and jobs, as well as existing labour, natural resource and environmental constraints.

The region is also vulnerable to geopolitical tensions, including North Korea and territorial challenges in the South China Sea. “These are tail-risks that could disrupt Asia’s growth story and security situation,” said GIC in its report.

One manifestation of these tensions is the growing trade and business restrictions between the US and China, it added.

While some economies may benefit from trade diversion and the reconfiguration of supply chains, such tensions are harmful to Asia overall due to its high trade dependency and regional supply chain integration.

“If the US and China impose 25 per cent tariffs on all traded goods, the peak GDP (gross domestic product) loss in the near term will be sizeable for Asia as a whole, aggravated by negative sentiments and tighter financial conditions,” it wrote.

Already, the tensions are causing a slowdown in regional trade, GIC noted.

When asked how the trade row could further impact Asian economies, particularly China, Mr Lim said China will likely still be able to grow and develop its industries and economy. However, prolonged trade tensions that could lead to a loss of globalisation’s benefits is “certainly not ideal”.

As a global investor, GIC would “still very much prefer a globalised world where we continue to benefit from productivity gains, innovation and knowledge sharing”, Mr Lim added.

Beyond trade, the country’s sovereign wealth fund is also viewing the situation in Hong Kong “with some concern”.

“Hong Kong is a very important financial and business centre so it’ll be really good if they can find a way forward. That will be good for everybody,” said the GIC chief.

However, Mr Lim added that the political uncertainties - marked by massive protests over the past few weeks against a now-suspended controversial extradition Bill – do not affect how it views the prospects of Greater China.

Source: CNA



--------

[So GIC's returns which would have an impact on CPF interest rates is already low. If Temasek returns is still high, it could make up for GIC's lower returns. And still provide Net Investment Returns Contributions to the Budget. But Temasek Holdings is also not doing as well as it used to...]


Temasek’s portfolio value at new record high, but growth rate and investment returns slow

By NG JUN SEN

09 July, 2019


SINGAPORE — Singapore investment company Temasek Holdings’ portfolio value has kept growing to a record high, though total shareholder returns have declined sharply in the last financial year, its latest annual review showed.

The Singapore Government is the sole shareholder of Temasek Holdings, and the returns constitute the largest revenue component of Singapore’s annual Budget, in a category officially known as “Net Investment Returns Contribution”.

In the annual review, which was published on Tuesday (July 9), Temasek also underscored the importance of investing sustainably — describing climate change as “the most urgent challenge confronting humanity”.

In the financial year ending on March 2019, Temasek’s net portfolio value grew for the third straight year to S$313 billion, up by about 1.6 per cent from S$308 billion in 2018. However, the pace of growth was still markedly slower than the 12 per cent increase from 2017 to 2018.

The result comes amid a gloomy economic outlook and rising global uncertainties, fuelled by trade tensions between America and China, a possible hard Brexit hurting European economies, and rising risks of a technology war that could affect Temasek’s technology investments.

In a media statement, Temasek said it had “moderated its investment pace” since July last year as it “anticipated an increasingly challenging environment”.

Total shareholder return (TSR) came in at 1.49 per cent in Singapore dollar terms over the year in review, a sharp fall from the 12.2 per cent posted in the previous year. TSR measures the performance of the fund’s holdings by adding capital gains as well as dividends.

At a question and answer session on Tuesday, Temasek executives stressed that TSR was high when viewed over the longer term. Over a decade, TSR was 9 per cent. Since the inception of Temasek Holdings 45 years ago, the firm has recorded a compounded annualised return of 15 per cent.

Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, chief executive officer of Temasek International, said that the shareholder — the Singapore Government — looks for long-term sustainable returns. This means there could be some years that overperform, and other years that underperform, he said.

Temasek International is the wholly owned management and investment arm of parent company Temasek Holdings.

Mr Sandrasegara said: “What we have been doing systematically over the last 10 years or so is to shift the portfolio in a way that resilience comes across… It is very important that we focus on that sort of strategy going forward, and that is really what our shareholder expects us to do.”

Temasek’s dividend income in the past financial year was at S$9 billion.

[Trying to reconcile $9b dividend income with $313 billion in portfolio over $308 billion, which is a $5b growth...]

As risks have increased, divestments outpaced investments in the past year as the firm is taking “a more cautious approach”, said Ms Png Chin Yee, senior managing director of portfolio strategy and risk group. In the 2019 financial year, Temasek divested itself of S$28 billion and invested S$24 billion.

[And then there is this, which is a net decrease of $4 billion in portfolio... ]
Ms Png said: “While the increasingly challenging global environment may dampen business confidence and investment, we expect policymakers to be primed for dovish policies that could cushion any substantive pressure on growth.”

If the low interest rate environment persists, this could lower expectations for returns in the longer term, she added.

Temasek International president and chief operating officer Chia Song Hwee said Temasek had deliberately tempered its investment pace over concerns of economic headwinds.

Mr Chia said: “In general, we manage our portfolio and liquidity for resilience, especially in anticipation of a more challenging outlook.”

SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENTS

Meanwhile, Temasek International will continue its journey of investing sustainably, as envisioned by former chairman Ho Ching, said Mr Sandrasegara. Ms Ho stepped down as Temasek International chairman in April. Ms Ho, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong continues as Temasek Holdings’ chief executive officer.

Temasek Holdings chairman Mr Lim Boon Heng said: “We are committed to do well, do right and do good, as an investor, institution and steward.”

He added: “Climate change is the most urgent challenge confronting humanity today. Let’s look at what’s happening around us, and think what it means for people, lives and livelihoods.”

This year's annual review featured heavily Temasek's recent investments that promote this thinking, such as Impossible Foods, a company that has developed plant-based substitutes for meat. This comes after Temasek set out its environmental, social and governance framework for the first time last month.

Among its divestments in the past year, Temasek had dropped Cargill Tropical Palm, a palm oil company, and Klabin, which is the largest paper producer, exporter and recycler in Brazil.

Mr John Vaske, Temasek head of Americas, said the framework set out how environmental, social and governance considerations weigh on Temasek’s investment decisions.

“This is very much aligned to our purpose of creating sustainable value over the long term,” he said.



Monday, July 8, 2019

10 medical myths we should stop believing. Doctors, too.


OREGON — You might assume that standard medical advice was supported by mounds of scientific research. But researchers recently discovered that nearly 400 routine practices were flatly contradicted by studies published in leading journals.

Of more than 3,000 studies published from 2003 through 2017 in JAMA and the Lancet, and from 2011 through 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 1 in 10 amounted to a “medical reversal”: a conclusion opposite of what had been conventional wisdom among doctors.

“You come away with a sense of humility,” said Dr Vinay Prasad of Oregon Health and Science University, who conceived of the study. “Very smart and well-intentioned people came to practice these things for many, many years. But they were wrong.”

Some of those ideas have been firmly dislodged, but not all. Now Dr Prasad and his colleagues are trying to learn how widespread are discredited practices and ideas.

Here are 10 findings that contradict what were once widely held theories.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Temperatures in Singapore could hit 40°C as early as 2045: Scientists

By Low Youjin

05 July, 2019

SINGAPORE — By 2045, Singaporeans could face some days of the year when temperatures soar as high as a scorching 40°C.

At best, this sweltering scenario could be delayed to as late as 2065 onwards, based on simulations conducted by a team of scientists at the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, which is part of the Meteorological Service Singapore.

Dr Muhammad Eeqmal Hassim, a senior research scientist at the centre, told TODAY on Thursday (July 4) that this is the worst case scenario if the world continues to emit greenhouse gases at a rate that is “business as usual”.

“It (days of 40°C) won’t be a one-off event. There'll be some days starting from as early as 2045. And that's what we saw in the results. Some models are later. And so that's why we tend to give a range (that is) as early as 2045, possibly, or as late as 2065 onwards,’’ he said.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Raise CPF contribution rates for older workers to be on a par with younger workers: Study

By Faris Mokhtar

26 June, 2019

SINGAPORE — Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for older workers in Singapore should be raised so that they are on a par with the rates for younger workers, a new local study published on Wednesday (June 26) has recommended.

The aim of the move — lifting both employee and employer contribution rates — would be to encourage older workers to remain employed and to lift their savings for retirement, said the study from local think-tank, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

The question of contribution rates for older workers has been in the spotlight this year, with the Manpower Ministry set to unveil details of a review of raising the retirement and re-employment ages as well as the contribution rates in September.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

China shoots itself in the foot with divide and rule tactics in Asean

Photo: Reuters

By Tang Siew Mun

Following the Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Tuesday, Malaysia issued a statement on escalating tensions in the S China Sea which was taken back hours later. 

17 June, 2016


Relations between the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) and China suffered yet another blow during the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that ended in Kunming, China, on Tuesday.

From Asean’s standpoint, the meeting was intended to help repair its fraying relationship with China due to developments in the South China Sea. In fact, the proposal for the meeting was initially met with scepticism within Asean for fear that China will use the meeting as a public relations exercise to serve Beijing’s ends. This concern turned out not to be unfounded as China attempted to have the Asean foreign ministers endorse a 10-point consensus in Kunming.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Hong Kong’s extradition bill will only drive businesses to Singapore and elsewhere

By Richard Harris

14 June, 2019

I am just coming up to 50 years in Hong Kong. I saw through 1997, and there’s a pretty good probability that I will see through 2047. That makes me a very connected observer of my city.

Last Sunday, a million people surged onto the pavements like the floods of a June rainstorm. In 1997, there was an air of hope and confidence in the special administrative region, thanks to the Basic Law.

It allowed Hong Kong to have many years of relatively independent development, interspersed with some increasingly frequent cack-handed interventions. Hong Kong’s troublesome insistence on defending its 155-year-old way of doing things has clearly irritated Beijing.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?



Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change.

09 June, 2019

NEW YORK — The glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, Miami Beach is slowly going under.

Quick, says a voice in your head, go see them before they disappear! You are evil, says another voice. For you are hastening their destruction.

To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times. Something that seemed like pure escape and adventure has become double-edged, harmful, the epitome of selfish consumption.

Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

And yet we fly more and more.

US-China trade war: here are Beijing’s options – and not one looks any good

Abacus
by Tom Holland

Hit by a hike in US tariffs China could: respond with equal tariffs (impossible); dump US Treasury bonds (ineffective and impractical); let the yuan weaken (expensive)
Or it could give in to Trump and lose face (for Xi, unthinkable)


21 May, 2019

From the volume of bellicose rhetoric in China’s state media, you might think Beijing is digging in for a bloody fight to the finish in its trade conflict with the United States.
But after the US administration this month jacked up import tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 per cent, and threatened equal tariffs on another US$340 billion, the Chinese government faces a problem.

The policy responses it is considering are all either impossible, impractical, ineffective or expensive. This leaves Beijing in an unenviable position.

The usual trade-war response to the imposition of tariffs is to impose countervailing tariffs of your own, inflicting enough pain on your antagonist to bring him back to the negotiating table.

But that’s impossible in the US-China dispute. Yes, last week the Chinese government slapped 25 per cent tariffs on US$60 billion of imports from the US. But that just highlights Beijing’s problem.

Last year, the US imported US$540 billion of stuff from China, whereas China bought just US$155 billion from the US (or maybe as much as US$180 billion, if you include all the US goods shipped to Hong Kong).

So, if the US imposes 25 per cent tariffs on everything it buys from China, and China retaliates by doing the same, its retaliation will be ineffective in comparison.

Spend money on what makes you and others truly happy


By Richard Hartung

Assistant Professor Peter Caprariello of Stony Brook University in the US found that spending money on socially shared experiences brings more happiness than spending money on experiences people do alone or on buying material possessions.


08 June, 2019

Millennials are often criticised for spending too much on frills, from fancy coffee to new mobile phones.

In reality, millennials are more careful than many people think, even though there is still a tendency for them to follow the crowd.

What’s important is spending wisely on experiences that bring long-lasting enjoyment.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Japan’s recluses already faced stigma. Then came 2 shocking acts of violence



Experts worry that a new wave of fearmongering will leave the recluses known as hikikomori even more vilified and painted falsely as prone to heinous crimes.


08 June, 2019


TOKYO — After the stabbing of 17 schoolgirls and two adultsat a bus stop near Tokyo last week, a shocked public has been grasping for answers as to what could possibly have driven someone to commit such a horrific act.

Investigators and the news media have zeroed in on the fact that the attacker, who killed himself after the assault, which left two dead, lived as an extreme recluse — or “hikikomori,” as the condition is known in Japan.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Thirsty Singapore taps into innovation to secure its water future

Singapore is the fifth most likely country in the world to face extremely high water stress by 2040, according to the US-based World Resources Institute.

07 June, 2019


SINGAPORE — Every day after his morning run, Mr Adam Reutens-Tan washes under a half-full camping shower hooked on the ceiling of his bathroom.

The modified shower, which uses just four litres of water, is one of several ways the Reutens-Tan family conserve water as part of a countrywide push to cut Singapore's daily consumption by 8 per cent by 2030.

The nation currently uses 141 litres per person each day — about enough for two typical eight-minute US showers, according to Harvard University statistics.

Singapore, a steamy, low-lying island city-state, is the fifth most likely country in the world to face extremely high water stress by 2040, according to the US-based World Resources Institute.

How to raise CPF returns

[Note date of publication]
ST ILLUSTRATION:
MANNY FRANCISCO

Jun 6, 2014

Hui Weng Tat, For The Straits Times


WHETHER or not the amount in a Singaporean's Central Provident Fund (CPF) account is adequate for retirement does not just depend on the amount saved. The rate of return on the savings is also important. At the very least, the rate of return on CPF savings must be enough to offset increases in the cost of living.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Anwar warns of new ‘racist’ narrative among Malaysians

Mr Anwar Ibrahim said the views of the minorities
on their views of Islam should not be shunned and
they should be given the space to express their opinions.
17 May, 2019

SELANGOR — Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said on Thursday (May 16) that there is a new narrative on racism that needs to be addressed before Malaysia can move forward.

He said the narrative does not only exist within the Malay community, but also in the Indian and Chinese community.

“Some have the perception that racist tool is only within the Malays but this is not true. It is also within the Indian and Chinese races.

["Racist Tool"? Such language from someone who is to be PM!}

From making waves to drowning in red ink: Hyflux, Tuaspring and how a business giant came undone

As Hyflux’s dramatic debt restructuring continues to unfold, its flagship Tuaspring desalination plant was taken over on Saturday (May 18) by PUB at no cost. CNA looks back at how the ambitious project started - and then floundered.


ByTang See Kit

18 May 2019


SINGAPORE: As they arrived, the guests would have been in no doubt they were attending a high-profile event.

Huge balloons and congratulatory flowers festooned the area. Drummers and a Chinese orchestra revved up the celebratory atmosphere. Photographers clicked away as guests streamed in and warm handshakes were exchanged.

At the centre of it all was Olivia Lum, the founder of home-grown star company Hyflux.

Dressed in a black and white pant suit, the businesswoman, whose name was synonymous with the water treatment giant she built, had a broad smile when the day’s special guest, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, arrived.

It was a happy day, as seen from the scenes captured by a video on Youtube.

The event was the opening of Tuaspring desalination plant – Singapore’s second and largest seawater treatment plant supplying 70 million gallons of treated water, or 125 Olympic-sized pools worth of water, per day for 25 years.

It was also the first water plant in Singapore and Asia to be integrated with a power generator.

Seniors each need at least S$1,379 monthly to meet basic needs: Study

Singapore

By JANICE LIM

23 MAY, 2019

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean senior citizen aged 65 and above and living alone needs about S$1,379 a month to meet basic standards of living.

The amount increases to S$1,721 for those aged between 55 and 64.

As for couples aged 65 and older, they need S$2,351 a month.

That is what a team of researchers found after conducting focus-group discussions with more than 100 people who come from various ethnic groups, housing types and educational levels. Almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) were aged 55 and above.

Led by Assistant Professor Ng Koe Hoe from the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the study seeks to find out the amount of money needed for older people to achieve a basic standard of living in Singapore today.

The heat is on: Earth is getting ‘very, very close’ to crossing tipping point, scientist warns

By Low Youjin

06 June, 2019


SINGAPORE — Just days after an Australian think tank issued a gloomy report warning that climate change will end human civilisation by 2050, another scientist has made a similarly dire forecast.

[Right. Humans are so unadaptable. We're doomed.]

Speaking at the Ecosperity conference in Singapore on Thursday (June 6), Dr Will Steffen, emeritus professor at the Australian National University, said that Earth is “getting very, very close to crossing tipping points we won't be able to get back from”.

He added: “We scientists are getting really concerned.”

[We are GOING to go past the tipping point!]

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

30 years after Tiananmen, a Chinese military insider warns: Never forget

29 May, 2019

BEIJING — For three decades, Ms Jiang Lin kept quiet about the carnage she had seen on the night when the Chinese army rolled through Beijing to crush student protests in Tiananmen Square.

But the memories tormented her — of soldiers firing into crowds in the dark, bodies slumped in pools of blood and the thud of clubs when troops bludgeoned her to the ground near the square.

Ms Jiang was a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army back then, with a firsthand view of both the massacre and a failed attempt by senior commanders to dissuade China’s leaders from using military force to crush the pro-democracy protests.

‘Wow, what is that?’ US Navy pilots report unexplained flying objects


01 June, 2019

WASHINGTON — The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East coast.

Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.

“These things would be out there all day,” said Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years and who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress. “Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”

In late 2014, a Super Hornet pilot had a near collision with one of the objects, and an official mishap report was filed. Some of the incidents were captured on video, including one taken by a plane’s camera in early 2015 that shows an object zooming over the ocean waves as pilots question what they are watching.

“Wow, what is that, man?” one exclaims. “Look at it fly!”

Coming in 2050? The end of human civilisation due to climate change, warns report

By Faris Mokhtar

04 June, 2019


SINGAPORE — A dystopian world beset by “outright chaos”, overwhelming threats to global security and political panic, could be upon mankind by 2050, a report from an Australian think-tank has warned.

Climate change, if left on its current trajectory, could by then spell the end of global civilisation as it is known, as devastating floods, lethal heat conditions “beyond the threshold of human survivability” and the collapse of ecosystems, grip the planet.

This nightmare 2050 scenario was presented in a policy paper published on May 30 by independent Australian think-tank Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. It has also been endorsed by a former Australian defence chief.

“Climate change now represents a near to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation,” said the authors of the paper, Mr David Spratt, a research director at the think-tank and Mr Ian Dunlop, a former chairman of the Australian Coal Association and a former international oil, gas and coal industry executive.

Friday, May 17, 2019

IM Pei, world-renowned architect, is dead at 102

IM Pei, the Chinese-born American architect,
was probably best known for designing the East Building
of the National Gallery of Art in Washington
and the glass pyramid that serves as an entry for the Louvre in Paris.

THE NEW YORK TIMES

17 May, 2019


NEW YORK — IM Pei, the Chinese-born American architect who began his long career working for a New York real-estate developer and ended it as one of the most revered architects in the world, has died. He was 102.

His son Chien Chung Pei said on Thursday (May 16) that his father had died overnight.

Pei was probably best known for designing the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the glass pyramid that serves as an entry for the Louvre in Paris.

Why Hong Kong cannot copy Singapore’s approach to public housing

Hong Kong’s struggles to house its population don’t just stem from its shortage of land, and looking to the Lion City as a model is unrealistic
Public housing in Singapore by its Housing and Development Board. Photo: Roy Issa

Hongkongers have long looked at Singapore as a model for how to provide good quality public housing. The latest example was laid out by University of Hong Kong adjunct professor Tony Kwok in his piece for this newspaper, “How would Lee Kuan Yew have solved Hong Kong’s housing and health care problems?” published on April 17.

He argued Singapore’s solution had simply been land reclamation, but this is an oversimplification of the city state’s approach to its acute home shortage of the 1960s. The reasons behind Singapore’s successes have little to do with reclaimed land, and the conditions in Singapore when Lee was prime minister are vastly different from those in Hong Kong today.

Reclamation was never a key feature of Singapore’s public housing policies. Most of the country’s reclaimed land has been put to non-residential uses such as the airport, industrial parks, ports, the new financial district at Marina Bay, and recreation. Only a thin sliver in the southeast has been set aside for public housing. Most future residential land parcels are also not on reclaimed land.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Looking beyond the vague terms in Singapore's fake news laws

By Benjamin Joshua Ong

Benjamin Joshua Ong is an Assistant Professor of Law at Singapore Management University.
"Often, an Act that is at first glance vague, overly broad, or open to abuse by the Government, turns out not to be when read against the backdrop of the case law."

14 May, 2019


In recent debates about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), some criticised it for being too vague. Yes, at first glance, Pofma contains words and phrases whose meaning is not explicitly clear.

But such criticisms only consider Pofma on the surface in isolation from its legal context. Much of the Act makes sense when one understands how it will operate in the light of other relevant legal principles.

First, Acts passed by Parliament (such as Pofma) are not the only source of law in Singapore. Another important source of law is case law. This is the law developed and nuanced by the courts over time.

Many areas of our law, such as the laws of contracts, defamation, and negligence, consist mainly of rules from case law. These rules are the product of decades or centuries of development, first by the English courts, and now by independent Singapore's courts.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A year on, PH government finds that change is hard to come by in Malaysia

By Adrian Tan

13 May, 2019

When Pakatan Harapan (PH) won its historic and surprising victory in the May 2018 Malaysian general election (GE14), many were quick to say that this will bring in an era of change. It has been a year since the new government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over power. Has Malaysia changed?

Has the government been able to execute its electoral manifesto, which was one of reforms? Looking at domestic developments since GE14, it has not been easy for the PH government, and many a time, this is not for want of trying.

Four key areas reveal the immense challenges facing this government.


Monday, May 13, 2019

How to prepare students for the rise of AI in the workforce


By Greg Naterer

09 May, 2019

The future impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on society and the labour force have been studied and reported extensively.

In a recent book, AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, wrote that 40 to 50 per cent of current jobs will be technically and economically viable with AI and automation over the next 15 years.

Artificial intelligence refers to computer systems that collect, interpret and learn from external data to achieve specific goals and tasks.

Unlike natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, it is an artificial form of intelligence demonstrated by machines. This has raised questions about the ethics of AI decision-making and impacts of AI in the workplace.

With computing power increasing rapidly in recent decades, the capabilities of AI have also risen dramatically. Vincent Müller, a philosopher at Eindhoven University of Technology, and Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, conducted a survey in 2016 about AI’s future potential.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Biggest threat to Johor River’s sustainability is lack of environmental protection: Vivian Balakrishnan


By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

08 May 2019

SINGAPORE: Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday (May 8) warned that the "biggest threat" to the sustainability of the Johor River was a lack of environmental protection, as he urged Malaysia to safeguard water quality for the benefit of both sides.

"The biggest threat to Johor's own water supply is actually the lack of environmental protection," Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament. "And the seven episodes since 2017 ... are a clear and present amber warning light."

MAS to disclose more information on monetary policy operations

TODAY file photo
TODAY

08 May, 2019

SINGAPORE — The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will start releasing more information on its exchange rate-based monetary policy operations this year, as it announced a transfer of S$45 billion from official foreign reserves to the Government.

In a media release on Wednesday (May 8), the central bank said it had decided to release data on its foreign exchange intervention operations on a six-month basis, beginning with data for the second half of 2019.

The data will comprise MAS’s net purchases of foreign exchange on a six-month aggregated basis, and with a six-month lag from the end of the period.

"This further disclosure initiative will provide market participants a better indication of the actions that MAS has undertaken to implement its monetary policy stance, while preserving MAS’s operational effectiveness," said MAS.

PUB's Johor River Waterworks temporarily shut down in 7 pollution incidents since 2017: Masagos

CHANNELNEWSASIA

07 May 2019 

SINGAPORE: There have been seven pollution incidentsalong the Johor River since 2017 that caused PUB's Johor River Waterworks to be temporarily shut down, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Monday (May 6).

Mr Masagos said this in a written response to parliamentary questions by Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng on the impact that prolonged stoppage of the water treatment plant's operations had on Singapore, as well as Singapore's obligations to provide treated water to Johor under such a scenario.

"PUB will shut down its Johor River Waterworks when the Johor River is affected by pollution upstream of our waterworks," said Mr Masagos.

"Johor also has water treatment plants along the Johor River, upstream of the Johor River Waterworks, and will shut down the plants when pollution occurs upstream of them."

Monday, May 6, 2019

If China thinks it’s overtaking the US any time soon, here’s a wake-up call

There’s no guarantee that China’s economy will surpass America’s – and even if there was, it wouldn’t mean much

Cary Huang

23 Apr, 2019


The warning by the former commerce minister Chen Deming that China should not assume it will overtake the United States to become the world’s top superpower should serve as a wake-up call to those harbouring illusions about China’s place in the world while ignoring the challenges ahead.

“Do not take it for granted that China is No 2, and do not make the assumption that we will be No 1 sooner or later,” Chen told a forum organised by the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing-based think tank, last Sunday.

The perception that China is the No 2 global power and on the path to become No 1 is based on two questionable assumptions – that China’s stellar growth levels, which outpace those of its main competitors, will continue on the same path, and that gross domestic product or the size of the economy equates to national power.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

How US went from telecoms leader to 5G also-ran without challenger to China’s Huawei

Verizon and Sprint chose the CDMA mobile standard, developed by US firm Qualcomm, which operated on different frequencies than GSM, adopted by Europe
After the initial boom in the mobile industry following deregulation, the US telecommunications industry began to decline from 2001

Zen Soo

3 Apr, 2019

For well over a century, the US was known for its telecommunications prowess – first for the invention of the single-wire telegraph, and then for Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the modern-day telephone in the 1800s. Bell went on to found the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (known today as AT&T), which became one of the world’s largest telecommunications firms.

But as 2020 draws near and the world is on the cusp of ultra-fast 5G networks, the US has found itself without a telecommunications hardware champion that can compete with major 5G players such as China’s Huawei Technologies, Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson.

China’s population to peak in 2023, five years earlier than official estimates, new research shows

Findings suggest Beijing waited too long to abandon the one-child policy, founder of one of the firms behind the report says
New research suggests that China’s population will hit
a high of 1.41 billion people in 2023. Photo: Xinhua
Finbarr Bermingham 

2 May, 2019


China’s population will peak in 2023, five years earlier than official forecasts, according to a new report.

Tony Nash, CEO and founder of Complete Intelligence, one of the co-authors of the report, said the findings should be a cause for concern for Beijing’s policymakers, who waited too long to lift the controversial one-child policy for its rapidly greying society.
China abandoned the policy in 2015 to allow couples to have two children. But the birth rate last year fell to its lowest since 1961, indicating that most, if not all, of those parents who wished to have a second child already had done so, the study found.

China’s ‘charming towns’ plan turns into a nightmare for investors, amid legal crackdown

Initiative was to dot the countryside with themed villages, like Crayfish Town, Poetry Town, Fairyland Town, and Happy Town
Collapse of a funding company has seen senior executives detained by police, and thousands of investors scrambling for answers



He Huifeng


2 May, 2019



An artist's impression of the Crayfish Town, created by JC Group. Photo: Handout

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Can humans help trees outrun climate change?

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.
Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current
warming trends hold, the climate this century will change
10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.
01 May, 2019


SCITUATE (Massachusetts) — Foresters began noticing the patches of dying pines and denuded oaks, and grew concerned. Warmer winters and drier summers had sent invasive insects and diseases marching northward, killing the trees.

If the dieback continued, some woodlands could become shrub land.

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.

Rhode Island is already seeing more heat and drought, shifting precipitation and the intensification of plagues such as the red pine scale, a nearly invisible insect carried by wind that can kill a tree in just a few years.

The dark synergy of extreme weather and emboldened pests could imperil vast stretches of woodland.

So foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally.

Economic injustice of climate change: Why poor countries suffer more than rich ones


Photo of Brown Bare Tree on Brown Surface during Daytime


By Nicholas Beuret

30 April, 2019


Those least responsible for global warming will suffer the most. Poorer countries — those that have contributed far less to climate change — tend to be situated in warmer regions, where additional warming causes the most devastation.

Extreme weather events such as Syria’s prolonged drought, South Asia’s catastrophic monsoon floods, and Cyclone Idai in South-East Africa, the third deadliest cyclone on record, are becoming more likely and more severe.

These events are disproportionately bringing death, displacement, and crop failure. As a result of this, projections estimate that the economies of poorer, warmer countries will be gravely harmed by climate change over coming decades, while the cooler, richer countries responsible for the vast majority of the extra CO2 in the air may even benefit in the short term.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Who controls Huawei? Chinese telecom leader’s ownership structure explained in more detail

01 May, 2019

HONG KONG — A research paper questioning the independence of Huawei Technologies put the world’s biggest telecoms network gear maker back on the offensive last week, as it held a press conference to rebut the paper’s central assertion that it may ultimately be controlled by the government.

The paper, jointly written by Dr Donald Clarke of George Washington University and Dr Christopher Balding of Fulbright University Vietnam, said that Huawei’s controlling holding company – 99 per cent of which is held by an entity called a “trade union committee” – could mean Huawei is owned and controlled by the government, if the committee functions like similar organisations in China.

Huawei dismissed this claim at a press conference in Shenzhen on Thursday (April 25), saying the trade union committee had been established to meet legal requirements and that it only had oversight of after-hours staff activities, such as badminton and hiking.

The truth behind 'healthier' food labels and terms

Take these food labels with a pinch of salt
CHIP CHEN
Apr 29, 2019 06:00 am


We are surrounded every day by so many catchphrases and misleading terms that it is hard to tell fact from fiction.

Even though they do not mean what you think they do, each of these labels is so insidious that marketers simply have to slap them somewhere on the packaging and they can start charging more.

No Added Sugar

The next time you indulge your sweet tooth, save yourself the trouble of hunting down "no added sugar" versions of your favourite desserts.

Just go with the regular ones, and make a plan to work off the extra calories if you really must.

Basically, a food labelled as such already has enough sweetness to start with (like juice), or you are simply being fed other forms of sweeteners.

And what a wonderful variety of sugar substitutes the food industry has to play with. From high-fructose corn syrup to exotic-sounding variants such as stevia and agave and the latest compounds known as sugar alcohols, each of these can be readily found in processed foods these days. Not only do some of these raise health concerns, but some manufacturers also use sugar substitutes simply to jack up prices.

Low-Fat or Fat-Free

For manufacturers, introducing low-fat or fat-free foods seems like a logical choice to give customers what they want.

The problem is, lowering fat or removing it entirely makes the resulting product unappealing, and manufacturers are forced to compensate with food additives, most commonly sugar or sugar substitutes.

This brings you back to square one if you are trying to eat healthier, as you are simply swapping fat for sugar (or worse).

Remember, fat-free doesn't mean calorie-free. In this case, sticking with the regular product may be more beneficial.

All-Natural

Choosing products labelled as such were believed to be a responsible, healthy, adult choice.

But 'all-natural' means absolutely nothing, because authorities have not come up with any concrete definitions of the term.

That does not stop manufacturers from slapping it on anything they think they can get away with, even though many foods marketed as 'all-natural' are processed products.

"All-natural" food does not contain added colour, artificial flavours or synthetic substances, but can still contain ingredients that can be harmful under specific circumstances (such as if consumed in excessive amounts).

White Tuna

Even though you may see "white tuna" listed as an ingredient in some processed foods or menus, what you might be getting may not be tuna at all.

Instead, white tuna is an industry term that stands in for any number of white fish meat.

Just pray that you do not end up with escolar, which is known for causing intestinal distress that will make you develop trust issues around fish.

Chilean Sea Bass

The fish actually looks like the pet of Xenomorph creatures and originally had a name to fit - toothfish. Like any entity with an image problem, toothfish hired a really good PR agency and underwent a branding exercise, now going by the vaguely exotic-sounding "Chilean Sea Bass".

Restaurants also (wisely) refuse to serve the fish whole.

Just know that you are paying inflated prices for a fish that nobody wanted to take home to their mothers once.

[Note that while the fish is UGLY, nothing in this section actually says that the fish is unhealthy or bad for you.]

Non-GMO

We do not really know how the panic around genetically modified organisms started, or why.

We have been cross-breeding plant species until desired traits such as sweetness became dominant - watermelon, corn and bananas are just some examples of "genetically modified" foods that we safely consume every day. Marketers seizing upon (unfounded) fears promoted non-GMO into a hero label, charging you higher prices to keep so-called "frankenfoods" out of your diet. But what we should be really worried about is the highly processed ingredients that are used in many modern foods.

Cage-free and Free-range

Happy chickens strutting about in the open, contentedly pecking in the rich earth for fat juicy earthworms, living comfortable fulfilling lives until they generously give their eggs or lives for our sustenance.

Is that not what "cage-free" and "free-range" mean? Yeah well, maybe in a cartoon.

The reality is these terms sound much nicer than they actually are. Instead of being crammed into individual wire cages in darkened barns, "cage-free" chickens (or other poultry) are kept in a massive communal pen. Their "free-range" brethren have it even better; with stipulated time spent basking in the sun.

Both these farming practices sound more humane, but the animals can still face overcrowding and fights which cause illness and injuries.
[Also, while more humane treatment of animals is better ethically, nothing in that treatment makes the food healthier. This is an ethical choice, if it works and is true. But it does not result in healthier eggs or chickens for you.]

This article was first published in Shape (www.shape.com.sg).

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

60% of Singaporean households recycle regularly, but many not doing it right: Surveys

Around 60 per cent of Singaporean households recycle regularly, but many still find it difficult to identify contaminants and non-recyclables, surveys conducted by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) have found. Gwyneth Teo reports.

29 Apr 2019


SINGAPORE: Can plastic toys, clothes and glass pots be recycled? If you say yes, you're not alone, but these items do not belong in a recycling bin, according to authorities.

Around 60 per cent of Singaporean households recycle regularly, but many still find it difficult to identify contaminants and non-recyclables, surveys conducted by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) have found.

The two surveys, which were conducted between June 2018 and February 2019, covered different aspects of household recycling, said the agencies in a joint media release on Monday (Apr 29).

Monday, April 29, 2019

Commentary: Career Mobility is the new Career Stability

Long gone is the notion that the ideal CV has a narrow, vertical progression, says Forest Wolf’s Crystal Lim-Lange.

By Crystal Lim-Lange

29 Apr 2019


SINGAPORE: You’ve probably heard the rule that one year to a human equals seven years for a dog.

These days, career coaches joke that one year in a single role for a millennial is the equivalent of seven years for a Gen X-er.

Frequent career transitions used to be a sign of failure but today, being career mobile and having a diverse array of experiences is not only common, but is rapidly becoming aspirational.

Long gone is the notion of the career ladder, where the ideal CV looks like a narrow, vertical progression. Today’s gold-standard CV looks like a career matrix, with horizontal and vertical moves signifying depth and breadth of experience, skills and exposure to different cultures.

Employers have gone from being cynical about hiring job-hoppers to becoming accustomed to seeing diverse CVs from top talent who are in frequent demand.

I recall being asked “Why didn’t you stay for longer?” in job interviews 10 years ago. Today I hear many employers asking candidates “Why did you stay in one role for so long and not stretch yourself?”. It smacks of complacency.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Economists often get their forecasts wrong. Here’s why.


By Faris Mokhtar

Image result for monetary authority of singapore
26 April, 2019

SINGAPORE — Economists are paid to predict how the economy will perform — whether it will grow or shrink, and by how much.

But these professional forecasters do not always get it right. In fact, they can miss the mark by a wide margin.

In its latest macroeconomic review, published on Friday (April 26), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) waded into the issue of the difficulties that economists face when trying to predict a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth as well as upcoming economic recessions and recoveries.

Citing studies and media reports, it pointed out that forecasters, though aware that recession years are anomalies, tend to “miss the magnitude of a recession by a wide margin until the year had drawn to a close”.

They also made the largest errors ahead of GDP contractions, according to an assessment by The Economist.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sports is not a guide to life, and this is why Tiger Woods ain't a role model

By Janan Ganesh

New York Times

The author says that sport is a meritocracy, but in real life, it is entirely possible for a person to possess talent, work hard and get nowhere.
Tiger Woods shakes hands with Patrick Reed, last year's winner, in a ceremony
after winning the Masters on April 14. 
22 April, 2019


In happy news, a world that used to regard Tiger Woods as a tragicomic case of fallen celebrity, citing his broken marriage and major-less decade, now regards him as an inspirational tale of endurance, citing his broken marriage and major-less decade.

The narrative change occurred on April 14 between 2.28pm and 2.29pm local time in Augusta, Georgia, when the golfer sank a decisive puttat the second attempt. A centimetre wide and he would have had to do without our upward revision of his moral worth.

Woods reclaimed two titles that day. One comes with a green jacket; the other promises the highest decorations of state. One comes with a cheque; the other will earn him millions of dollars in a more roundabout way.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Thai king confers awards on two Australian divers for rescue of cave boys

19 April, 2019

BANGKOK — Two Australian cave divers who were instrumental in the rescue last year of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave received on Friday a royal honour from King Maha Vajiralongkorn in a ceremony in Bangkok.

The “Wild Boars” soccer team, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

A 17-day effort to rescue them gripped the world with experts from various countries volunteering to help.

Mr Richard Harris and Mr Craig Challen were members of the main rescue team, made up of 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy divers, that brought the boys and their coach out to safety.

The Mueller report is 448 pages long. You need to know these 7 key things.

19 April, 2019

The special counsel, Mr Robert Mueller, produced a report of more than 400 pages that painted a deeply unflattering picture of US President Donald Trump but stopped short of accusing him of criminal wrongdoing. Here are seven takeaways.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Can we grow more food on less land? We’ll have to, a new study finds

08 DECEMBER, 2018

TODAY

WASHINGTON — If the world hopes to make meaningful progress on climate change, it won’t be enough for cars and factories to get cleaner. Our cows and wheat fields will have to become radically more efficient, too.

That’s the basic conclusion of a sweeping new study issued Wednesday (Dec 5) by the World Resources Institute, an environmental group.

The report warns that the world’s agricultural system will need drastic changes in the next few decades in order to feed billions more people without triggering a climate catastrophe.

The challenge is daunting: Agriculture already occupies roughly 40 per cent of the world’s vegetated land and is responsible for about a quarter of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But with the global population expected to grow from 7.2 billion people today to nearly 10 billion by 2050, and with many millions of people eating more meat as incomes rise, that environmental impact is on pace to expand dramatically.

News analysis: A ‘new Malaysia’ but same old racial, religious divide

By Faris Mokhtar in Kuala Lumpur

11 December, 2018


KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, which swept into power in May through a significant swing in the Malay vote, should be under no illusion that the Malay voters bought into its progressive ideology, analysts told TODAY.

If there were ever any doubt, the 50,000-strong turnout for last weekend's rally at the historic Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) sent a loud and clear message: Malay rights and Islam’s status as the national religion must remain enshrined in the country’s Constitution.

As it becomes increasingly clear that the groundswell of support for PH during the elections had largely stemmed from voter dissatisfaction with corruption in the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government, the opposition United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) are now ready to pounce and play the race and religion cards to win over the hearts and minds of the majority Malay population, the analysts said.

[Ok. So BN's corruption not an issue anymore?]

Tough to get ‘balance right’ when pricing HDB flats in central areas: Lawrence Wong

TODAY file photo

By JANICE LIM


It is difficult to get the “balance right” when it comes to pricing public housing flats, particularly for those located close to the city centre, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.



07 MARCH, 2019


SINGAPORE — It is difficult to get the “balance right” when it comes to pricing public housing flats, particularly for those located close to the city centre, as the Government has to weigh between pricing them to market value and keeping housing affordable, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Speaking during his ministry’s Budget debate on Thursday (March 7), Mr Wong was responding to a concern raised by Nominated Member of Parliament (MP) Walter Theseira about social stratification in housing estates.

Associate Professor Theseira, a labour economist with the Singapore University of Social Sciences, had pointed to the widening price disparities between Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats located close to the city centre and those that were not.

Acknowledging the challenges that the Ministry of National Development (MND) faces, Mr Wong said: “It’s difficult to get this balance right”

“If you price it to market, then only the very well-off can afford. If you want to make it affordable, the only way is through a big discount to the BTO (Build-to-Order) price.”

New CPF rules for purchase of older flats to kick in by May

TODAY file photo
By WONG PEI TING

TODAY


When National Development Minister Lawrence Wong first signalled in August last year that CPF rules will be tweaked for the purchase of older flats, analysts told TODAY the move could help reassure flat owners that their ageing properties still held value.


07 MARCH, 2019
[Note date]


SINGAPORE — Homebuyers looking to purchase older flats from May onwards will be able to benefit from new Central Provident Fund (CPF) rules, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Thursday (March 7).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Singapore's Food Security "30 by 30" plan

[Two articles on the state of SG's urban farming endeavours.

See also the 2015 post on this.]

Singapore’s ‘30 by 30’ food production target: Is it feasible?

By Paul Teng and Jose Montesclaros

 09 April, 2019



The recent announcements in Parliament to raise Singapore’s food self-production level from the current 10 per cent to 30 per cent of total food needs by 2030, the “30 by 30” strategy, have raised some pertinent questions on capacity, investment and exportability.

Singapore’s huge dependency — 90 per cent — on imports for its food supply puts it at the mercy of external forces in the exporting countries, most of which are beyond the Republic’s control.

So it is laudable and indeed even overdue, that the government would want to reduce the country’s vulnerability and achieve greater stability in its supply of food as part of food security.

Climate change: Yes, your individual action does make a difference

By Steve Westlake

16 April, 2019

What can we do in the face of the climate emergency? Many say we should drive less, fly less, eat less meat. But others argue that personal actions like this are a pointless drop in the ocean when set against the huge systemic changes that are required to prevent devastating global warming.

It’s a debate that has been raging for decades. Clearly, in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions, a single person’s contribution is basically irrelevant (much like a single vote in an election).

But my research, first in my masters and now as part of my PhD, has found that doing something bold like giving up flying can have a wider knock-on effect by influencing others and shifting what’s viewed as “normal”.

Friday, April 12, 2019

China’s state pension fund to run dry by 2035 due to shrinking workforce: Study


The urban worker pension fund, the backbone of the country’s state pension system,
held a reserve of 4.8 trillion yuan (US$714 billion) at the end of 2018.
It is predicted to peak at 7 trillion yuan in 2027, then drop steadily to zero by 2035.
12 April, 2019

TODAY


HONG KONG — China’s main state pension fund will run out of money by 2035 due to a decline in the available work force, according to new research.

The urban worker pension fund, the backbone of the country’s state pension system, held a reserve of 4.8 trillion yuan (S$968 billion) at the end of 2018. It is predicted to peak at 7 trillion yuan in 2027, then drop steadily to zero by 2035, a report by the World Social Security Centre at the government-supported Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has said.

And the gap between contributions and outlays could be as high as 11 trillion yuan by 2050, with each retired citizen supported by only one worker, down from the current level of two, the government think tank calculated.