Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Terror's evolving threat to Singapore

By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2015

A FEW weeks after the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States, two Al-Qaeda operatives arrived separately in Singapore to start scouting for targets.

A plan was formed to detonate six truck bombs across the island.

The men, codenamed Mike and Sammy, met members of a clandestine radical network, surveilled targets and made plans to buy ammonium nitrate for the bombs.

Targets included embassies, an MRT station, water pipelines and the defence and education ministries.

Fortunately, the Government was tipped off and, by December, the first group of 13 Jemaah Islamiah (JI) members had been arrested, which averted a terror attack and its painful consequences.

By then, Mike and Sammy had left the country. Mike was actually Indonesian bomb-maker Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, who was killed in a shootout in the Philippines in 2003. Sammy is a Canadian called Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who is now serving a life sentence in the US.

Since the 2001 arrests, 66 individuals have been detained here under the Internal Security Act for terror-related activities.

This wave of global terrorism has posed the most significant threat to Singapore in recent decades. The threat has grown, and is unlikely to go away anytime soon in this globalised world.

Nepal Earthquake: Singapore sends supplies, personnel

By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE has sent two planes carrying supplies and personnel to aid earthquake-stricken Nepal.

Last night, two C-130 aircraft, carrying contingents from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), set off for the Himalayan state.

<<Relief Efforts begin for Nepalese Earthquake>> Tonight, two C-130s took off to help in the Nepal Earthquake rescue...
Posted by Ng Eng Hen - Defence Minister on Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nepal is struggling in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck on Saturday, leaving thousands dead.

Among the men and women who set off for Nepal was a team of six from the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre. They will help the Nepalese authorities coordinate relief efforts.

Also on board the aircraft was an SCDF search and rescue team.

Another aircraft, with a contingent from the police, including members of its Gurkha unit, and a second batch of SCDF officers, is scheduled to leave this morning.

Gurkhas are trained Nepalese who serve in foreign militaries; Singapore's Gurkha contingent has been active since 1949.

As Singapore's leaders authorised this wave of assistance for Nepal, they took to social media to express their condolences to the Nepalese nation and made special mention of Singapore's Gurkhas.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday that the Gurkhas in Singapore must be worried about their families and friends back home. "Our thoughts are with them," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean visited the Gurkhas here yesterday morning.

Jane’s Walk: Take a walk where you live

Six hundred people will go on 21 walking tours around Singapore this weekend as part of the global Jane’s Walk movement
By Gurveen Kaur, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2015

Singapore’s scorching heat has not put off a growing number of residents who are signing up to pound the pavements and explore the city on foot.

Global movement Jane’s Walk returns from Friday to Sunday for its third annual edition of free volunteer-led walking tours. More than half of the 21 tours here have been fully booked since registration opened on April 7, while the eight remaining tours are filling up quickly.

The tours have close to doubled from 11 last year. Four tours were conducted in 2013.

Among the tours still available are a walk along the Green Corridor – the nature-filled former KTM railway land – and another to learn about the changing urban landscape of Singapore’s first satellite public housing estate, Queenstown.

Other new tours offered this year are a leisurely dog walk in the Tanglin Road and Dempsey Hill area and, for those who are up for a challenge, a jog through the city’s park connectors from Geylang to Gardens by the Bay. Avid cyclists are welcome to ride along. For history buffs, there are tours of neighbourhoods such as Bishan and Clemenceau Avenue.

Ms Mai Tatoy, 45, organiser of Jane’s Walk in Singapore, says the walks have been gaining popularity. “Even before I attempted to reach out to media outlets to promote the event, some tours were already fully booked,” she says.

Jane’s Walk, which takes place this weekend in more than 130 cities worldwide, began in Toronto in 2007 to honour Jane Jacobs, a CanadianAmerican urban design activist who died in 2006, aged 89. Jacobs had advocated walking as a way to get to know a city. Every May on the weekend closest to May 4 – Jacobs’ birthday – volunteers in different cities introduce participants to the myriad facets of the city’s neighbourhoods.

Ms Tatoy says: “The walks are a way for city dwellers to be a tourist in their own city and learn the history and stories behind an urban space.”

Monday, 27 April 2015

Time capsule marking farewell to Lee Kuan Yew to be buried in Tanjong Pagar and opened in 2065

'A united, successful nation in 2065'
That is PM Lee's hope for Singapore when time capsule is unearthed in SG100
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 26 Apr 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will not be around when the time capsule he prepared for burying yesterday is unearthed 50 years from now.

But he hoped that the Singapore it will see the light in is one that has gone from success to success, nurtured and built by a united people.

In a speech that was included in the time capsule, PM Lee also expressed the wish that a tembusu tree he planted yesterday, in honour of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, will be standing "big and strong" when that day in 2065 comes.

The time capsule, which contains items capturing the outpouring of emotions from Singaporeans at Mr Lee's death, will be buried in Tanjong Pagar, where Mr Lee was MP for 60 years.

Mr Lee died on March 23 at age 91.

The tembusu, a sturdy and evergreen hardwood, was a favourite of Mr Lee's, said PM Lee in Tanjong Pagar yesterday.

Addressing 300 grassroots volunteers, he said: "The tembusu tree will be here if you nurture it, protect it, make it grow big and strong, and have it still blossoming and providing shade for you and your grandchildren's grandchildren when you celebrate SG100.

"It is the same for Singapore. If we build our nation, over the next 50 years, as one united people, then Singapore will go from success to success."

In his long political career, Mr Lee never missed his yearly tree-planting date with his Tanjong Pagar ward, noted PM Lee.

"This effort symbolised his vision of a Clean and Green Singapore, and his conviction that it is our duty to plant trees to lay the foundations for the next generation," said PM Lee.

The 30kg stainless steel time capsule, meanwhile, is "an effort to help the next generation understand what the late Mr Lee meant to this generation", said Tanjong Pagar MP Indranee Rajah, who is also Senior Minister of State for Law and Education.

It includes tribute notes, newspaper reports, a copy of Mr Lee's book Hard Truths, and a Group Representation Constituency newsletter with a report of his final community appearance - a tree-planting event at Bukit Merah View in November last year.

Getting out of a hole, after Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore's leaders after Lee Kuan Yew have navigated several crises well, but have to govern in a more complex environment driven by geopolitical change and rapid technological advances.
By Chan Heng Chee, Published The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE just crossed a watershed with the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Some Western journalists and not a few Singaporeans have asked: "How will Singapore do after Lee Kuan Yew?"

My answer has been quite consistent. We have as strong a chance as any country, after the departure of a giant from the political scene, of continuing well into the future, and we are better placed than most.

Why do I say that?

Mr Lee always emphasised building institutions and finding the right people to run them. He shaped the civil service, demanding nothing less than excellence. He emphasised the importance of finding good men and women for politics and the civil service. It was not just paper qualifications he was after. He wanted people with ability, integrity and that special quality of keeping cool under severe stress.

Mr Lee was fascinated by the Apollo 13 astronauts who in 1970 were in trouble out in space. They had to get themselves out of the jam. One false move and they would be orbiting in outer space, never to return to earth. We know what happened. The three astronauts came back. Mr Lee was very interested to know how NASA selected the men.

In the first three decades, our civil service came under his direct tutelage. Even when he was no longer prime minister from November 1990, Mr Lee was in the background symbolising the high standards of public service that civil servants are urged to reach for.

Getting out of a hole in a crisis

THE successor generation of leaders who took over from 1990 have been in place for 25 years. They have produced policy initiatives and handled crisis after crisis, changing the direction of the economy in tandem with global trends.

Time to listen to the voice of small countries

By David Skilling And Mike O'sullivan, Published The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

IT HAS been a challenging, turbulent start to the year for many small countries around the world. As just a few examples, consider the shock decision by the Swiss National Bank to remove the peg of the Swiss franc against the euro in January, Denmark's repeated moves to drop interest rates into negative territory, and Sweden's fight against deflation. In Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore made a surprise announcement in January to weaken the Singapore dollar. And sluggish global growth was cited in the Budget in March as one reason for lower growth in Singapore.

These are not unrelated events. Across the world, small advanced economies are in the vanguard of dealing with the latest macroeconomic challenge of falling inflation and the spillover effects from the actions of the major central banks. More pointedly, they confirm the sense that small open economies are the canaries in the coal mine of the world economy. In this respect, their experiences and reactions have much to offer big countries like the US and China, as well as institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and G-20 in terms of lead indicators and policy approaches.

With the world economy still in uncharted territory - globalisation giving way to multipolarity, unprecedented monetary policy and uncertain growth prospects, and geopolitics exerting a greater influence over economics - there are at least three ways in which small countries offer a valuable perspective on what is to come.

First, a more managed globalisation. Increasingly, successful, small open economies - from Singapore to Hong Kong and New Zealand - are being more deliberate about the way in which they engage with global flows. We observe restrictions on migration, capital controls/exchange rate management, and innovation with macro-prudential policy, as a response to challenges from volatile global capital flows, a low interest rate environment and exchange rate pressures. This emerging small-country experience is an indication of how other countries will begin to act. This is not a return to protectionism, but it will be qualitatively different from the past two decades.

The head transplant: Stranger than fiction

By Andy Ho, Senior Writer, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

DR SERGIO Canavero, a controversial surgeon in Italy, wants to attempt a head transplant by attaching the head of one person onto another person's body.

He announced recently that he has a volunteer - Mr Valery Spiridonov, 30, a Russian computer scientist who is afflicted with Werdnig-Hoffman disease and confined to a wheelchair.

This disease is an inherited condition with no cure and inevitably fatal. The patient suffers progressive muscle wasting and weakness in the arms and legs. The limbs and trunk become feeble and floppy while breathing, swallowing and feeding may be difficult. The body fails progressively even as the mind stays crystal clear.

But for the breakthrough surgery to happen, Mr Spiridonov needs someone to donate a whole body.

The ideal donor would be a man who is brain-dead and closely matched for age, size and blood group. Transplanting Mr Spiridonov's head onto the donor's body would make him the recipient of the donor's body.

This seems a macabre twist to organ transplantation as we know it, but can it be done? And if the procedure is actually feasible, would the post-transplant individual who survives be Mr Spiridonov?

Freeze body for future? Many scientists sceptical

But cryonics drawing those who prefer to take chance on future science than be buried for good
By Melissa Sim, U.S. Correspondent In Washington, The Sunday Times, 26 Apr 2015

Members of cryonics organisation Alcor Life Extension Foundation wear a metal bracelet or necklace wherever they go. On it are the words "no embalming" and "no autopsy", indicating to medical professionals that there are other plans for their bodies after death.

The plan involves cryonics - a low- temperature preservation of humans after death in the hope of reviving them in the future.

The process was in the news lately, after Matheryn Noavaratpong, a two-year-old from Thailand who died of brain cancer, became the youngest person to be cryonically preserved and stored by United States non-profit organisation Alcor.

Such facilities - two in the US and one in Russia - seem to be gaining a small following of members from across the globe. Some prominent names such as talk show host Larry King and TV personality Simon Cowell have said they intend to freeze themselves after death.

But many scientists have all but called cryonics a hoax, laying out the scientific limitations and labelling it a pseudo-science at best.

In the US, the cost of whole-body cryopreservation starts at around US$60,000 (S$80,000).

Part of the money is put into a trust or investments, and the earnings are used for ongoing care and the cost of future revival.

New fleet of specially retrofitted vehicles for the disabled goes on the road

Special vans for kerb-to-kerb transport
By Priscilla Goy, The Sunday Times, 26 Apr 2015

More people with disabilities can benefit from kerb-to-kerb transport from their homes to their workplaces or special education schools.

A new fleet of 11 specially retrofitted vans was launched by the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA) yesterday.

The vans have hydraulic lifts, which can raise wheelchair users aboard them, and systems that put a brake on wheelchairs when the vehicles are on the move. They also have high roofs to fit wheelchairs with high backs.

The 10 Toyota Hiace models and one Toyota Coaster add to HWA's current fleet of 23 vehicles, expanding its special needs transport service, which started in 1980.

The purchase and retrofitting of the new vehicles was funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Care and Share Movement, led by Community Chest, in which eligible donations are matched dollar for dollar by the Government.

About $140 million of government grants for some 180 welfare organisations have been approved. Of this, about $1 million was used to defray the costs of the new fleet.

It costs about $140,000 to buy and retrofit each vehicle.

HWA president Edmund Wan said: "The donation of these specially adapted vehicles is very timely to meet the increasing needs of people with disabilities... as public transport is not equipped to support their needs."

HWA executive director Subrata Banerjee said that the current fleet is used mainly to take elderly people to hospital and rehabilitation visits, while the new one allows HWA to help more young people go to work or school.

Many poor Malays 'do not seek social aid'

Study reveals lack of awareness of available help schemes and a fear of being stigmatised
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 26 Apr 2015

About two-thirds of low-income Malay/Muslim households do not seek help from social services despite hopes that their children can escape the poverty trap, according to a new study commissioned by community self-help group Mendaki.

This is not due to an ability to cope on their own, said researcher Caroline Brassard of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday.

Rather, the 18-month study of 25 households revealed a lack of awareness of available schemes and, more worryingly, she said, an undercurrent of fear at stigmatisation.

To those who argue that this reluctance to tap social assistance is a positive sign of resilience, Dr Brassard told an audience of a hundred yesterday at a Mendaki seminar that "tolerance of a situation should not be confused with resilience".

Social assistance could be the difference between escaping a poverty trap and staying in it, she noted.

But members of the low-income families she studied were held back by a sense of shame. One participant compared asking for money to being "beggars knocking on people's doors in the middle of the night", while another lamented that "I can't always be asking for support from others, right?"

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim told reporters that the findings reinforced the need to adopt a "last mile approach" by going door to door to speak to low-income families and urge them to tap resources that can help them achieve their aspirations.

Progressive Wage Model for landscape industry launched

Seeds of higher wages sown for landscape sector
New wage structure, linking pay to skills, will kick in from next year
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

SOME 3,000 local landscape workers will get a pay bump next year when it becomes compulsory for registered landscaping companies to implement a new wage structure.

The model, which links pay hikes to skills advancement, recommends a starting pay of at least $1,300 for full-time resident landscape maintenance workers, up from the current median basic wage of around $1,000 since 2009.

The new system was laid out by the Tripartite Cluster for the Landscape Industry (TCL) after a year of deliberation, and announced by the labour movement yesterday.

The National Parks Board will make adopting the new wage structure a requirement for firms applying for and renewing a listing on the Landscape Company Register from June next year.

Around 300 companies, or 90 per cent of the industry, are currently on the register.

From next June, they will need to be registered if they want to bid for government contracts.

"We hope that with this recommendation, we will be able to motivate workers and ensure that what we pay them is commensurate with their skills and productivity level," said TCL chairman Zainal Sapari at the launch at Gardens by the Bay.

Despite its key role in Singapore's garden city image, wages in the landscape industry are depressed as companies bid for contracts based on the lowest price, said Mr Zainal, who is assistant secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress.

Under the wage ladder, there are four stages of progression from landscape worker to landscape supervisor. Each stage is tied to a set of skills and workers have to be trained under programmes such as the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification.

Foreign worker's heroic act saves toddler stuck between railings of HDB block

Rescuers' only thought was to save toddler
The two workers receive Public Spiritedness Award for selfless deed
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

WHEN construction workers Subramanian Shanmuganathan and Ponnan Muthukumar saw a toddler dangling out of a second- floor flat on Thursday, their first thought was to save her.

The two-year-old girl was hanging outside the ledge of her flat's service yard, with her head stuck between a laundry pole and the ledge.

The workers climbed up. Mr Shanmuganathan, 35, stood on the parapet and held onto the girl's body, while Mr Muthukumar, 24, who was in the area next to the service yard, held her head.

They eventually freed two- year-old Naurah Fitria Auni, who had been left alone in the three-room flat in Jurong East Street 32 for about 20 minutes.

The rescue was captured on video by private tutor David Cheo, 36. The video was uploaded on popular blog Alvinology.com and was viewed more than 500,000 times as of last night.

Yesterday, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) presented the duo from Tamil Nadu with the Public Spiritedness Award at the SCDF headquarters in Bukit Batok. Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for Jurong GRC, also presented each of them with $100 worth of supermarket vouchers.

You must have already seen the video of that heroic man climbing up to the second floor of an HBD block to rescue a baby...
Posted by Singapore Civil Defence Force on Friday, April 24, 2015

Mr Muthukumar said in Tamil: "I didn't think of my own safety. I just wanted to save the baby. I could tell she was in pain."

Mr Shanmuganathan added: "We didn't expect to receive an award. We really appreciate it."

Sunday, 26 April 2015

New police gadgets, uniform unveiled

Police force aiming to improve in three areas
Initiatives cover partnerships, use of technology, tapping officers' potential
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

POLICE troopers will soon get something that is orange and black, leaves a mark and makes people shed tears.

Called the P4.1, it resembles a rifle and fires projectiles filled with an irritant similar to tear gas. It also has paint to mark rioters.

Effective but not lethal, it allows troopers to tackle violent public disorders without compromising public safety or causing unnecessary injuries.

The P4.1 was one of the gadgets and innovations unveiled at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition at the Home Team Academy yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was the guest of honour at the event, said the police had done well last year and that he was glad they were looking to improve in three areas.

These were "making strong partnerships and taking community partnerships to the next level, making the best use of the potential of our officers, and making good use of technology".

Assistant Commissioner of Police Teo Chun Ching, director of planning and organisation, said these initiatives will allow the police to remain relevant in their fight against crime.

Under one initiative, front-line police officers at Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Centre will try a new load-bearing vest from June. Officers can carry standard patrol equipment such as a taser and communication set on the 900g vest, instead of placing all on the utility belt.

This gives police officers "greater mobility" and allows them to carry more equipment during emergencies, said AC Teo.

Officers will also get to try a new uniform that allows faster evaporation of perspiration.

The trial for both the vest and the uniform will run for six weeks.

New National Gallery Singapore dazzles even with no artworks

By Deepika Shetty, Arts Correspondent, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

EXCITEMENT filled the air as the who's who of the arts community, corporate titans and policymakers arrived yesterday for a sneak peek inside the refurbished National Gallery Singapore.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong and invited guests got a look at the building before it is filled with artworks, ahead of the "Naked Museum" tours running this weekend and the next.

These tours for a few hundred members of the public are the last time that the historic Supreme Court and City Hall wings will be seen bare of artworks, before the $530 million museum housing the world's largest collection of South-east Asian art opens in October.

While the gallery has conducted media tours of the former Supreme Court, the doors to City Hall were opened for the first time last night.

Mr Wong started his 20-minute tour at City Hall and ended it at the Supreme Court Terrace, where he addressed more than 250 guests.

He called the gallery "the pride of Singapore" and pointed out that this was "even before the artworks come in".

He said: "The two buildings in the civic district have witnessed key milestones and turning points in Singapore's history. It is especially meaningful that, on our 50th birthday, these buildings play a part in preserving our memories and nurturing our appreciation of the arts."

It was in the City Hall building that Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces on Sept 12, 1945, on behalf of the Allied forces. The surrender brought the Japanese Occupation of Singapore to an end.

City Hall also housed the office of Mr Lee Kuan Yew when he became the first Prime Minister of Singapore.

Singapore ranked happiest country in Asia, so please smile

Switzerland tops the list worldwide, while Republic climbs into top 25
By Rachel Tan, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

IT IS a topic that has occasionally raised eyebrows here, but now the frowns are giving way to smiles.

Singapore has just been named one of the 25 happiest nations in the world, and the happiest in Asia, in the 2015 World Happiness Report.

This is a far cry from the glum picture painted by some past surveys. A poll conducted in 2011 by research firm Gallup showed that Singaporeans were the least likely to experience positive emotions out of people in 148 countries.

But as far as the wide-ranging study by the United Nations is concerned, Singapore has continued to become a happier place. In 2012, when the first in the series of UN surveys was released, Singapore was ranked 36th out of nearly 130 nations. In 2013, it rose to 30th place and is now No. 24 out of 158 nations.

The largest contributing factor to Singapore's high ranking in the report is its gross domestic product per capita, which was $71,318 last year.

Other indicators used to determine happiness levels are life expectancy, freedom to make choices and available social support.

Not all surveys tell the same story. In 2012, the Happy Planet Index placed Singapore 90th out of 151 countries, behind countries such as Syria and Libya.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said measuring Singapore's happiness is a subjective matter.

"If you look at the progress of the state, it has moved to a better place. We don't have turbulence like other countries, and there is strong trust in the Government."

But she said Singaporeans could be frustrated about living in a place with high population density and work stress.

"When we are crammed together in a bus, for example, it invokes a very negative reaction," she added.

Research can help Singapore meet social challenges

ESM Goh describes 'social climate change' at launch of new centre
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

IN 1947, a postwar Singapore which had yet to become independent faced the pressing challenges of overcrowding and low rates of literacy.

Since then, the country has undergone a sea change and it is now shaped by three major shifts in the areas of demography, technology and social expectations, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

The Social Service Research Centre at NUS launched yesterday will deepen our understanding of looming social issues. It...
Posted by MParader on Friday, April 24, 2015

He called the long-term transformation "social climate change" which, like its environmental cousin, "takes place imperceptibly and you see the effects only long after it has become irreversible".

Research can help Singapore anticipate and meet these challenges, Mr Goh said at the launch of a centre that specialises in social services research.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Social Service Research Centre will work with policymakers and social service agencies to pilot social programmes.

These should produce more effective services and social innovations in the community, he added.

Mr Goh identified three key drivers of social climate change.

First, Singapore has an ageing and declining population, and a big jump in cross-border marriages across cultures and socio-economic groups.

He said more older men are at his Meet-the-People sessions to ask for a long-term visit pass or permanent residency for their younger, foreign wife.

The stability of these marriages and their offspring's welfare should be tracked, he added, since anecdotal evidence shows problems loom ahead for them, their children and society.

National database planned for ICUs in public hospitals

By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE will develop a national database of public hospital intensive care units (ICUs) to better understand and manage patients who are critically ill.

Announcing this yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said it should lead to better care, improve capacity planning and optimise resources.

"Given the relatively high mortality and costs associated with intensive care, it is important to improve our understanding of the burden of critical illness," he said.

Mr Gan was speaking to intensive care specialists, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare professionals from Singapore, Australia and New Zealand at the 3rd SG-ANZICS Intensive Care Forum held at Suntec convention centre.

Singapore already has good intensive care outcomes, he said, with the survival of 66 per cent of patients with severe sepsis or blood poisoning, compared with 50 to 70 per cent in other developed countries.

Mr Gan said the newly formed national ICU registry will allow better understanding of the management and outcomes of critical illness and the factors that might influence it.

Video to get maids a day off ends up riling mums

Some upset as it seems to signal maids know the kids better than their mums
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

A SOCIAL media campaign to secure days off for maids has instead ended up irritating the mothers who employ them. Some find it needlessly negative.

That is because the video, Mums & Maids, seems to signal that maids know their employers' children better than the employers themselves. It then asks if parents should be spending more time with their children and ends by telling them to give their maids a day off.

The video, developed by marketing communications firm Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) and supported by workers' rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), asks maids and mothers a series of questions about the child of the house.

It shows the maid getting the correct answer about the child, rather than the mother. It adds that 74 per cent of the maids gave more correct answers compared to the mothers.

The YouTube video has been viewed around 89,000 times and some have disagreed with its central idea that giving maids time off work allows employers to bond with their children.

Ms Siti Zubeidah Kadir, 31, who has a three-year-old daughter, said the video misses the point that maids deserve time off work like other workers.

"Instead, the video villainises mothers. We already feel guilty for not being able to spend enough time with our children and this video makes us feel worse," said the real estate agent.

What drove man to make 80 attempts to qualify as cabby

61-year-old's grit inspires 3 readers, who offer to pay his taxi deposit
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

NEWLY qualified cabby Shi Zhaolin has revealed to The Straits Times why he was so determined to land the job - after 79 failed attempts to pass the tests.

The 61-year-old, who made headlines this week after finally qualifying for his vocational licence on his 80th try, was desperate to escape a succession of odd jobs and wanted to be able to support his family.

Three Straits Times readers have since stepped forward to offer to pay the cab deposit for the married father of two, after reading his inspiring story.

Obtaining the licence will give Mr Shi a chance to gain financial freedom. Having a vehicle will also be useful when he takes his 101-year-old mother for medical check-ups.

He said in Mandarin: "She cannot walk so we have to take taxis, and the fares come up to $20 to $30 each time.

"I can also take my daughter to the school where she teaches, so she won't have to worry about missing buses and being late."

Mr Shi's 29-year-old daughter has been the family's main breadwinner. His wife stays at home in Bukit Panjang to care for his mother.

After his air-conditioner servicing company shut down two years ago, Mr Shi was unable to find employment because of his age and did odd jobs to get by, such as fixing air-cons and unclogging drains.

He decided to take the tests to become a cabby, but his poor command of English made it hard for him to tell the multiple- choice options apart, even after doing them repeatedly.

"The questions knew me well, but I did not know them at all."

Questions ranged from whether a cabby can legally stop, wait or park on double yellow lines, to the different fines for traffic offences.

Singapore Taxi Academy data shows that eight out of 10 applicants passed at the first attempt over the last two months. Mr Shi took six months and said he spent more than $1,000.

"It has been very hard on my wife who gave me money from her savings to do this," he said. "I didn't want to disappoint my family. I have to work, I cannot keep relying on others. I hope I can inspire others to persevere."

He already seems to have done that.

Corporate trainer Jimmy Pang, 44, was one of the three readers who offered to put down the $1,000 deposit for his cab.

"I totally admire his never- give-up attitude, even at his age," said Mr Pang. "We can all learn from it."

Another, Mr William Goh, 68, empathised with Mr Shi as he had taken three attempts to pass his exams to become a property agent five years ago.

Mr Shi, who hopes to get a Comfort cab, said: "I am grateful that there are good-hearted people out there. But ultimately you must work hard and earn money, not rely on others."

Saturday, 25 April 2015

More workers laid off amid economic restructuring

Highest rate since 2009; PMETs made up 51% of 12,930 who lost jobs last year
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

THE ongoing restructuring of the economy continued to take its toll on the job market last year, displacing more workers, particularly higher-skilled ones.

A total of 12,930 people lost their jobs last year, up from 11,560 in 2013, and the highest since the recession in 2009.

Of these, professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) made up 51 per cent, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) report showed yesterday.

Older workers - in their 40s and above - made up 58 per cent of resident PMETs laid off.

Observers said measures such as the Fair Consideration Framework to reduce the reliance on foreign labour may explain in part the rise in redundancies.

Relatively speaking, more non-residents lost their jobs last year, while fewer Singapore citizens and permanent residents did, compared with 2013.

"Foreign manpower tightening in the past few years is essentially to encourage companies to cut headcount," said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

While more workers were displaced, nearly seven in 10 residents who lost their jobs in the first nine months of last year managed to find new jobs by December.

But PMETs and degree-holders lagged behind; their rates of re-entry into employment were only 63 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively.

The job re-entry rate of the degree-holders slipped from the previous year, while all other educational groups saw improvements, "reflecting the strong competition for jobs among degree-holders", said MOM.