Friday, 20 July 2018

Johor Crown Prince talks about High-Speed Rail, Water and Wonderful Relationship with Singapore

Malaysia should not scrap High-Speed Rail project with Singapore; Johor crown prince claims 'sovereignty' over water in the state, prefers ‘no federal interference’ on the issue
By Amir Yusof, Channel NewsAsia, 19 Jul 2018

JOHOR BAHRU: Malaysia should not withdraw from the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim told Channel NewsAsia in an exclusive interview on Thursday (Jul 19).

"I think it's a very, very positive project that we should continue because it will not only help Johor but also Singapore," he said.

"It will boost the economy in Johor, maybe to have more foreign investment coming in. The HSR is a very positive project that we should proceed and continue (with), that's my personal opinion."

However, he said whether to proceed with the project was "up to the government" of Malaysia.

"There's nothing I can do because at the end of the day it's between the governments," he said.

Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad first said in media reports in May that Malaysia intends to scrap the project which was agreed upon with Singapore by the former federal government.

However, Singapore has said that it has not received any formal notice of this from its neighbour. On Wednesday, Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said he will be discussing the issue with Singapore's Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan to find the best solution in the best interest of both countries.

Dr Mahathir on Thursday took a different stance, telling reporters the country may defer the project instead of scrapping it after studying the costs and implications of cancelling the project.

Singapore ratifies TPP-11 trade deal to become 3rd nation to do so after Mexico and Japan

Singapore ratifies the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) for market of 500 million people
It is third country to approve CPTPP; deal shows Singapore's commitment to free trade: PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2018

Singapore has ratified a key regional trade deal that looked dead and buried 18 months ago after President Donald Trump said the United States would not sign on.

Regional leaders revived the wide-ranging pact, and inked a revised deal in March. Singapore's formal adoption of the deal makes it the third country to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after Mexico and Japan.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted in a Facebook post that "amid growing trade tensions and anti-globalisation sentiments, the CPTPP signals Singapore's commitment to free trade and a rules-based trading system".

He also thanked the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) team for its hard work on this project over many years.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing called the CPTPP an important agreement that will complement Singapore's existing network of bilateral trade deals. "It will strengthen trade among countries in the Asia-Pacific, resulting in a more seamless flow of goods, services and investment," he said.

The CPTPP, which is a revision of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership after the US withdrew from it in January last year, will foster trade in a combined market of 500 million people with a gross domestic product of US$10 trillion (S$13.7 trillion).

The historic pact establishes rules in new areas, such as e-commerce, and will enter into force 60 days after six of the 11 signatories ratify the agreement.

Mexico was the first to ratify the agreement in April, with Japan following suit on July 6. The other countries in the bloc are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam.

All businesses are expected to benefit. Mr Chan noted on Facebook that the pact "also promotes innovation, productivity, competitiveness and inclusive trade, bringing benefits to even small and medium-sized businesses".

Monday, 16 July 2018

Singapore takes part for first time in France's Bastille Day Parade 2018 with PM Lee Hsien Loong as guest of honour

RSAF personnel involved in flypast and Flag Party
By Yasmine Yahya, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 15 Jul 2018

PARIS • The jaunty tunes by the French military band were unmistakably European, and the crowds standing at attention were French citizens.

But two of the flags being marched down the Champs-Elysees and past the grandstand were of Asian nations - Singapore and Japan.

For the first time, Singapore took part in France's National Day Parade this year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was in attendance, invited by French President Emmanuel Macron as guest of honour - the first Singapore leader to be invited to the parade.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was also there, in place of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who cancelled his trip to deal with floods in Japan.

The National Day Parade, also known as the Bastille Day parade, marks the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution in 1789.

The parade featured about 4,000 soldiers, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 aircraft and 30 helicopters. Among these were the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) 150 Squadron based in Cazaux Air Base, in south-western France.

Of the six RSAF personnel involved, two were in the combined flypast and four took part in the parade as Singapore's Flag Party.

The flypast began with nine jets zooming across the sky, leaving behind jet trails in the French national colours of red, white and blue. Later, a combined flypast involving one RSAF M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer and five French Air Force Alpha Jets flew across the sky as well.

The officers flying the trainer were Captain Yeap Wei Jiun and Captain Jerevin Chia Min Feng.

Singapore's Flag Party, led by Contingent Commander Major Nicholas Tong Jun, carried the Singapore flag at the parade. Other officers in the party were Captain Jerome Tan Shang-Yang, Lieutenant Tan Yi and Lieutenant Jacob Lee Yong Jin.

Major Tong told The Sunday Times that he was proud to be Commander of the Flag Party, especially as it was Singapore's first appearance at the parade.

Asked about challenges RSAF officers in France face, he said: "Due to the language barrier, simple tasks like setting up Internet access for your home or getting your car insured become much more difficult."

Singapore's participation in the parade comes as the RSAF celebrates the 150 Squadron's 20th anniversary this year. More than 180 RSAF fighter air crew trainees from the squadron have undergone training at Cazaux over the past two decades.

Helicopters began circling in the sky above the Champs-Elysees and Place de la Concorde around 8am, before the parade.

The parade began at around 9.30am with an inspection of the French troops by general officers commanding the foot and motorised troop columns.

Mr Macron arrived at 10am, making his way from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysees in an armoured vehicle to the Place de la Concorde, where he inspected the troops. He then took his seat between his wife Brigitte and Mr Lee.

The French citizens watching the parade were a reserved crowd, applauding at key moments. They also clapped in encouragement when two motorcycles in the parade collided - nobody was injured - but they otherwise remained quiet and respectful.

After the flypast, special tribute troops started from the Arc de Triomphe and marched down the Champs-Elysees, ending at the Place de la Concorde.

There was then a march-past of foot soldiers, followed by a helicopter flypast, and a mobile column of armoured vehicles. There was also a display of a mounted column on horses.

The parade closed with a military choir singing traditional military songs and France's national anthem - the rousing La Marseillaise.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

South Korea, Singapore to boost economic cooperation; President Moon Jae-in State Visit, 11 to 13 July 2018

South Korea, Singapore exchange MOUs, vow to keep regional peace
Six agreements exchanged; both to review implementation of FTA, look at further liberalising tariffs
By Charissa Yong, Regional Correspondent, The Straits Times, 13 Jul 2018

Singapore and South Korea yesterday vowed to step up economic cooperation and work together for peace and stability in the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in witnessed the exchange of six agreements on trade, investment, industry, energy, environmental cooperation, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

Both countries will launch a review of the implementation of the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement within six months and look to further liberalise tariffs for certain products, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

Singapore and South Korea also reaffirmed their commitment towards the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an ASEAN-led trade pact which also involves six of the grouping's trading partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

PM Lee said at a joint press conference: "We look forward to substantially concluding the negotiations by the end of this year."

PM Lee and Mr Moon, who is on a three-day state visit, met for more than an hour and discussed specific ways that South Korea could work more closely with Singapore, which is ASEAN chairman this year, and the other ASEAN nations.

Under Mr Moon's New Southern Policy, South Korea is seeking to expand ties with South Asia and South-east Asia.

Mr Moon said he and PM Lee agreed to expand bilateral trade significantly and to finalise swiftly negotiations to amend their double tax avoidance agreement.

Trade between Singapore and South Korea was $45.4 billion last year, making South Korea Singapore's ninth largest trading partner. Singapore is South Korea's 10th largest trading partner.

PM Lee noted that Singapore companies are showing growing interest in Korean sectors such as real estate, manufacturing, electronics, precision engineering, transport, food, and information and communications technology.

The leaders also discussed strengthening air connectivity. PM Lee hoped both sides could expand their air services agreement and increase flight routes to cover other South Korean cities such as Busan.

Referring to the six agreements, PM Lee said both sides are exploring new areas of cooperation where they complement each other.

For instance, they will work together on technologies such as medical technology, artificial intelligence and the industrial Internet of Things.

PM Lee said: "The Republic of Korea is strong in technology and innovation, while Singapore is well-connected to the region."

The two countries also agreed to joint ventures in smart-city projects overseas.

Mr Moon said: "Singaporean companies are strong in smart-city development and management software, while Korean businesses excel in hardware such as information technology. "

Working together would help both take the lead in the smart-city industry in Asia and beyond, the South Korean leader added.

Another area of cooperation is in energy security and smart grids, which are electrical grids that use technology to detect energy usage remotely.

The leaders also discussed ways to grow relations between ASEAN and South Korea, such as upgrading the ASEAN-South Korea free trade area or having an ASEAN-Korea air services agreement, said PM Lee.

Mr Moon said: "I would like to see Korea-ASEAN cooperation expand in dimensions completely different from the past."

Mr Moon, whose visit ends today, also discussed regional issues with PM Lee. They agreed to work closely towards peace and stability in the region, including in cyber security and maritime security.

Mr Moon said Singapore contributed immensely towards ushering in a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula by hosting the historic summit between the United States and North Korea last month.

"On behalf of all Korean people, I would like to once again express my profound gratitude to the people of Singapore," he said.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Cost of Living in Singapore: Chan Chun Sing highlights multi-pronged strategy to help different groups of Singaporeans

Eight steps to help tackle worries over cost of living
People's aspirations and ability to fulfil them can affect perception of the issue: Chan Chun Sing
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2018

Prices of goods and services in Singapore may be rising at a slower pace, but Singaporeans still feel the squeeze, convinced that the cost of living is rising faster.

In tackling the issue yesterday, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament that cost of living is not a one-dimensional subject about price changes.

People's aspirations, and their ability to fulfil them, can also affect their perception of the issue, Mr Chan explained.

Still, he acknowledged their concerns, saying "we recognise Singaporeans' evolving aspirations for a better life for themselves and their families, and the associated stress of achieving real income growth in a volatile economic environment".

He assured Singaporeans that the Government is committed to helping mitigate the situation.

"Beyond creating opportunities for Singaporeans to enjoy real wage growth to meet their aspirations, the Government is also committed to helping Singaporeans stretch their hard-earned dollar," he said in reply to Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who had asked whether the cost of living has increased significantly.

The issue has gained traction in recent months as electricity tariffs rose and an earlier announced increase in water prices kicked in.

But looking at absolute measures, overall inflation in Singapore has, in fact, declined between 2012 and last year compared with the five-year period before it, said Mr Chan.

The Consumer Price Index - which captures price changes - for all items rose 0.6 per cent a year on average for the past five years. This was lower than the average increase of 4 per cent between 2007 and 2012. The figure is likely to remain low this year, with overall inflation expected to be between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent, said Mr Chan.

But he gave a word of caution, saying that rising global oil prices is expected to increase fuel costs and electricity prices. However, he foresees any potential consumer price rise to be moderate alongside a faster pace of wage growth and improvements in the labour market.

Yet, "no single measure will express an individual's 'cost of living' pressures fully, given the different needs and wants, the evolving aspirations and the potential gap between aspirations and anticipated means", he said.

Sidek Saniff's memoir tells of his path from protester to politician

By Melody Zaccheus, Heritage and Community Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2018

Carrying banners and placards screaming "Why the MOE is inefficient", Mr Sidek Saniff led busloads of union members to stage a demonstration outside the premises of the Education Ministry.

Singapore had yet to achieve independence and Mr Sidek, a popular and respected teacher, was a firebrand who would take on the government without hesitation.

So he never expected to find himself on the other side, which he did when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew invited him to join the People's Action Party (PAP) and contest the 1976 elections.

His journey from protester to politician is documented in his memoir, Sidek Saniff: Life Reflections At Eighty, which was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

In his speech, PM Lee said the late Mr Lee "believed that Sidek's opinions were genuine and constructive". He noted that Mr Sidek's eventual decision to join the party cost him his popularity at first, with some former colleagues accusing him of having been "bought" by the PAP.

PM Lee said Mr Sidek pressed on and, with fellow Malay PAP MPs, launched many initiatives to uplift the Malay community, among them, the formation of the self-help group, Mendaki, in 1982.

Mr Sidek, 80, retired in 2001 as Senior Minister of State for the Environment after 25 years in politics. He said he accepted the invitation to join the PAP because of the late Mr Lee's integrity and honesty. "As he (Mr Lee) put it, it is easier to make a difference within Parliament than outside Parliament," he said at the launch yesterday.

Mr Sidek was often tasked with helping to make difficult decisions and explaining them to the ground, such as one, in the 1980s, to break down the PSLE and O-level results by ethnicity. Mr Sidek declined to have the announcement made by a civil servant, and chose to do it himself, said PM Lee.

PM Lee said: "He believed it was the right thing to do, and that it would eventually improve Malay students' academic performance. At first, the Malay community felt awkward about the issue. But bringing the data out into the open enabled the community to acknowledge and tackle the problem, and helped to deliver the steady progress we have seen over the last decades."

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Parliament: Singapore responds to Mahathir's articulation on the High Speed Rail and Water Agreements

Singapore spent $250 million on HSR project, expects to spend another $40 million by December 2018, 'completely wasted expenditure' if project cancelled says Khaw Boon Wan

Singapore to seek RM743 million (and counting) compensation if HSR project cancelled

Singapore will honour 1962 Water Agreement and expects Malaysia to do the same, says Vivian Balakrishnan

Malaysia took a conscious decision not to revisit the price of raw water that it was selling to Singapore when it had the opportunity to do so in 1987, when the 1962 water agreement was up for review

Mahathir says Singapore knows what Malaysia wants to do with High-Speed Rail in latest public statement (but is refusing to confirm officially) on the termination of the project

Singapore stands by its High-Speed Rail (HSR) and water pact obligations, says Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan
Respecting sanctity of international deals a tenet basic to Republic's foreign policy
By Yasmine Yahya, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 10 July 2018

Singapore yesterday reiterated that upholding international law and respecting the sanctity of international agreements is a tenet basic to its foreign policy.

That is why, in keeping its end of the bargain, Singapore has already spent more than $250 million on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, and is likely to expend another $40 million or so by year-end, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said.

It is also why Singapore will honour the terms of its Water Agreement with Malaysia and expects its neighbour to do the same, added Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament.

Responding to a question from Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on bilateral ties with Malaysia, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore is still meeting its obligations on the HSR while waiting for Malaysia to clarify its position.

He added that the sanctity of international agreements is critical for a small state like Singapore.

If countries were to unilaterally revise or abandon terms of agreements, this would be "manifestly a recipe for disaster'', he said.

This principle lies at the crux of the HSR issue, he added.

Singapore signed the HSR Bilateral Agreement (BA) in 2016 in good faith, after both sides had negotiated and agreed to all the provisions, including those dealing with the eventuality that the HSR is terminated, Dr Balakrishnan said.

In recent weeks, he said, some Malaysian leaders have talked of terminating the project.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that Singapore had sent a third-person note to the Malaysian government seeking clarification of Malaysia's position on the HSR, but it has not replied.

Saying that the Government has a duty to safeguard public funds by recovering the costs, he added: "Should Malaysia cause the HSR project to be terminated, we will deal with the question of compensation from Malaysia for costs incurred in accordance with the BA and international law."

The same principle underlies the 1962 Water Agreement between Singapore and Malaysia, he said.

Recounting past statements made by then Foreign Ministers S. Jayakumar in 2003 and K. Shanmugam in 2014 on water, Dr Balakrishnan said: "As was stated then, the core issue is "not how much we pay, but how any price revision is decided upon".

Malaysia lost its right to review the price of water under the agreement when it did not do so in 1987, he said, adding that neither Singapore nor Malaysia can unilaterally change the terms of the deal.

Singapore will fully honour the terms of the deal and expects Malaysia to do the same, he said.

While asserting the Republic's position on these issues, Dr Balakrishnan also made it clear that Singapore is committed to working with Malaysia's new government.

"A stable and prosperous Malaysia is good for Singapore and for our region," he said. "We have generally enjoyed a positive and constructive relationship with successive Malaysian governments and leaders, and we believe there is still much for us to achieve together."

In this and other foreign policy matters, Singapore stands by its fundamental principles, he added.

Monday, 9 July 2018

What care and subsidies are available for seniors in Singapore?

By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 Jul 2018


The number of nursing home beds has gone up from 9,600 in 2011 to 14,900 last year. More are in the works and there should be 17,000 beds by 2020.

Apart from having more beds, newer nursing homes are designed to be more soothing. Ren Ci's home at Ang Mo Kio, for example, places four people to a room, with shared living and dining areas.

Some high-rise homes have mini gardens or mid-level greenery so residents do not need to leave the homes to enjoy nature.


Seniors in rental flats in 15 precincts can be cared for while continuing to live in their own homes. People from nearby Senior Activity Centres provide help for daily activities such as bathing and housekeeping, while monitoring the seniors' medical conditions.


Frail patients who have been discharged from hospital are provided with multi-disciplinary care for a short period. This includes caregiver training so family members or helpers know the best way to aid the senior.

Run by the three regional health systems under which all public hospitals are clustered, they also provide phone support as well as medicine reconciliation if the senior is being attended to by different doctors who might prescribe different, and possibly conflicting, medicines. So far, more than 14,000 patients have used this service.


This provides care for people who are dying and in pain, and is especially helpful for terminally-ill patients. The aim is to improve their quality of life.


For patients in the last stages of life, home palliative care supports them till the end of their lives in their own home, instead of in a centre, while offering medical, nursing and psychosocial care.

The number of patients who can receive such care at home has gone up from 3,800 a year in 2011 to 5,900 a year last year. Most charity organisations do not charge for this service. For providers that do charge, the fees are around $1,000 a month. Those who qualify can get subsidies of about $800 a month.


When caregivers have to work, they worry about leaving the elderly alone at home. Some may even have to give up working to care for the senior.

Day care services give them peace of mind as the senior can be cared for and given proper meals, while still living at home. The centres also give the senior a chance to socialise and engage in activities such as exercise, handicraft and karaoke.

There were 5,000 day care places last year, with at least another 1,200 to be added by 2020. The plan is for 90 per cent of seniors to have such a centre within 1km of their home.


These centres try to slow down the progression of dementia by providing cognitive stimulation. They provide activities that try to preserve physical and mental functions. Patients live at home and are taken to the centres daily.