Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Commentary: Why taking a long view on Singapore’s defence spending will reap security dividends over time

Defence Minister Ng Eng Heng viewing an F35 aircraft at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona in December 2015.  
Raj Nadarajan/TODAY


February 28, 2023

Defence planning, expenditure, and acquisition are necessary tasks that require exercising “the art of the long view”, to use the term by famous futurist and scenario-planner Peter Schwartz.

This year’s debate on the Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef) budget serves to reinforce once again that our defence spending remains prudent and balanced, and is based on “the long view”, to ensure that Singaporeans can continue to enjoy adequate security from external threats, as they have in the past.

This is a dividend which, unfortunately, cannot be consistently derived in many countries, particularly those across Europe.

One need not look further than the current situation in Ukraine, which marked the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Feb 24.

Against this backdrop, it’s important that Mindef and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) remain committed to the course of transformation to stay ahead of evolving threats.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Fat, Sugar, Salt … You’ve Been Thinking About Food All Wrong

Scientists are asking tough questions about the health effects of ultra-processed diets. The answers are complicated—and surprising.

IN THE LATE 2000s, Carlos Monteiro noticed something strange about the food that Brazilian people were eating. The nutritionist had been poring over three decades’ worth of data from surveys that asked grocery shoppers to note down every item they bought. In more recent surveys, Monteiro noticed, Brazilians were buying way less oil, sugar, and salt than they had in the past. Despite this, people were piling on the pounds. Between 1975 and 2009 the proportion of Brazilian adults who were overweight or obese more than doubled.

This contradiction troubled Monteiro. If people were buying less fat and sugar, why were they getting bigger? The answer was right there in the data. Brazilians hadn’t really cut down on fat, salt, and sugar—they were just consuming these nutrients in an entirely new form. People were swapping traditional foods—rice, beans, and vegetables—for prepackaged bread, sweets, sausages, and other snacks. The share of biscuits and soft drinks in Brazilians’ shopping baskets had tripled and quintupled, respectively, since the first household survey in 1974. The change was noticeable everywhere. When Monteiro first qualified as a doctor in 1972, he’d worried that Brazilians weren’t getting enough to eat. By the late 2000s, his country was suffering with the exact opposite problem.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Thai cave rescue: Duangpetch Promthep's death shatters happiest of endings

16 Feb 2023

Thailand cave rescue

Duangpetch Promthep turned 13 when he was trapped inside the Thai cave. Reuters

By Jonathan Head
South East Asia correspondent

We still do not know what caused the sudden death of Duangpetch 'Dom' Promthep at the football academy in Britain to which he had been so proud to win a scholarship last year.

It casts, for the first time, a sad shadow over a story which until now had not lost its power to inspire, to lift the spirits.

'We are not in a comfortable place': Singapore defence minister warns of 'disastrous' consequences of war in Asia

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen speaking at the Maritime Security Roundtable during the 59th Munich Security Conference on Feb 17, 2023.

18 Feb 2023 

Singapore's defence minister on Friday (Feb 17) warned that war in Asia would be devastating not just for the continent, but for the rest of the world.

Speaking at the Maritime Security Roundtable at the 59th Munich Security Conference, Dr Ng highlighted that world powers have been increasing their military presence in Asia, concluding that "pre-positioning for deterrence is alive and well".

He cited the formations of strategic groupings like the Quad (United States, India, Australia, Japan) and AUKUS (US, Australia, United Kingdom), the US gaining more access to bases in the Philippines, as well as missile defence drills in South Korea as examples of what China would construe as "preparatory moves".

Similarly, Beijing has also increased its military presence in the region, said Dr Ng - from patrols in the disputed South China Sea to Chinese jets regularly crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

Singapore digs deep to unleash geothermal energy potential

17 Aug 2022

But the volumetric extent of hot rock where geothermal can be sourced is unknown.

First published online at Asian Power

Unlike Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan, Singapore has no known shallow heat source. That is why the country exerted more efforts to unearth its geothermal potential to diversify its energy sources. It turned out that its geothermal potential could cover a sizable portion of Singapore’s energy mix, an expert said.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) in April [2022] issued a request for information to conduct a geophysical investigation project to assess the country’s geothermal energy potential. The EMA said that progress in technologies such as the Advanced Geothermal Systems enabled the extraction of heat from hot dry rock and at greater depths, opening the potential for geothermal applications locally as the country is within a region of high subsurface heat flow.

“If found to have substantial geothermal resource potential, Singapore could consider the technology options available to deploy geothermal energy locally,” it said.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Snap Insight: Raising CPF monthly salary ceiling will reduce take-home pay for some, but there are payoffs

The increase of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) monthly salary ceiling is part of a slew of initiatives to address retirement adequacy in Singapore, says Christopher Gee of the Institute of Policy Studies.

Christopher Gee

14 Feb 2023

SINGAPORE: The announcement of a staggered increase in the Central Provident Fund (CPF) monthly salary ceiling, from S$6,000 per month now to S$8,000 by 2026, in this year’s Budget is hugely significant.

It will have major long-term effects on Singaporean workers’ retirement savings contributions and therefore accumulation. More will be able to reach their Full or Enhanced Retirement Sums by the time they retire.

The increase in salary ceiling will also mean that CPF savings will keep pace with wage inflation, so that the system continues to cater for the needs of workers up to the 80th percentile of the monthly income distribution. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

'Generosity' of VERS scheme will give flat owners remaining value of lease: Sim Ann

Chew Hui Min

07 Feb 2023 

SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament debated how expiring leases on Housing Board (HDB) flats will be dealt with on Tuesday (Feb 7), with Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann rebutting the proposals and concerns raised by opposition members in the House.

During the debate on public housing policies, Assoc Prof Jamus Lim (WP - Sengkang) asked: “But notice that once we actually reach the 60 years or so, the only way to end up extracting the value is to sell (the flat) on to someone else so that we can actually retire comfortably by extracting that value.

“Now the question is: We are selling on a rapidly depreciating asset … What is the Government’s plan, at least at the macro level, to prevent creating a generation of home purchasers who have bought at the tail end just before the music stops?”

Sun Cable Project update (Feb 2023)

In Jan 2023, Sun Cable went into voluntary Administration.

Is this the end of the project, or just a hiccup? Would someone/some other entity step in and drive this project? Is Singapore out of luck?

How "out of luck" is Singapore? Did we lose any money?

Monday, February 6, 2023

Can Malaysia’s ruling coalition work together? PM Anwar squares up to new political realities

The alliance between Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional is a tenuous one, so holding it together is a daunting task. But are there bigger challenges in store for Malaysia’s new leader? 

After being an also-ran for years, Mr Anwar Ibrahim has taken the top job in Malaysia’s government. Can he deliver?

Derrick A Paulo
Zainudin Afandi

04 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: After Malaysia’s recent general election produced a hung parliament, artist Faye Lim was thrilled when Pakatan Harapan (PH) got the chance to form the government again.

The 32-year-old was among those who opposed the internal coup in 2020 that had brought down the previous PH government.

So in December, when Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, chairman of PH, won a vote of confidence in the Malaysian parliament to emerge as the undisputed leader of the new unity government, it was what Lim wanted.

“Give people a chance to finish what they start,” she said. “If (politicians) are always going to keep repeating … ‘I’ll never work with’ (or) ‘I don’t want’, then … (they) aren’t thinking about us as a whole nation holistically.”

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Senior counsel questions handling of Keppel bribery case as other lawyers weigh in; Indranee to address matter in Parliament

A view of the Brani, Keppel and Tanjong Pagar container terminals in Singapore on Aug 19, 2022. Reuters

February 2, 2023

SINGAPORE — A senior counsel has questioned the decision by Singapore authorities not to prosecute six former senior management staff members of Keppel Offshore & Marine for a US$55 million (S$73 million) bribery case involving Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

However, other lawyers who weighed in on the subject, while acknowledging the lack of clarity and how it might appear questionable to the public, suggested that the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) might have reason not to divulge certain legally protected information.