Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Why it's not enough for leaders to just be clever

Being quick in thoughts and retorts can actually be a drawback. In the end, wisdom matters more.
By David Chan, Published The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2016

In the world of business and politics, adaptive leaders must not only be intelligent but also clever.

For leaders to influence others, they must first attract attention. They must also demonstrate that they are different from the rest of the peers. And clever people make salient and lasting impressions. They stand out in a group.

Being clever is much more than the ability to process new information and learn easily. When calling people clever - be it in a discussion, debate or doing a deal - we mean they are able to think on their feet, provide an answer immediately and respond to an issue quickly.

Processing information speedily, responding under time pressures and making decisions under uncertainty are typical dimensions that can be found in many structured assessments of leadership used by talent-development experts.

So, is being clever an inherent part of being a good leader? It turns out that being clever is not always positively correlated with adaptive leadership.


We describe people as clever when they can immediately identify an issue, readily react to a comment, confidently counter a criticism and skilfully surprise the opponent. Clever people impress others with their quick wit. Their unexpected response catches their opponents or critics off guard.

Clever people clearly make a high impact when interacting with others. By being fast, novel and salient, a clever response - and the clever person - garners attention.

When applied adequately, cleverness is adaptive and contributes to solutions.

But cleverness can also be negative. In fact, we sometimes describe a person as clever in a derogative sense. Such as using one's intelligence and wit deceitfully to mask the facts, manipulate the situation for self-interest or exploit others in a cunning way. Here, by clever, we really mean crafty.

But being clever can be maladaptive even when the clever person does not have any malicious intent.

For example, there is nothing malicious about the goal to prove one's ability and performance. But research has shown that when a person's goal is dominated by the need to publicly prove his ability and performance, he can be so focused in achieving the desired personal outcome that he becomes blind-sided.

When obsessed with a performance goal focus, the person is out to win a debate or argument at all costs to demonstrate his superiority. He is unlikely to care about the feelings of others. Or the adverse impact that his clever responses could have on them. This means the opponent - if not as clever - may end up feeling publicly embarrassed in the debate and reacting in emotive ways that lead to a lose-lose situation for all.

Challenge for Singapore workers to change with times

By Lee Wei Ling, Published The Sunday Times, 7 Feb 2016

Singaporeans have long learnt that no job can remain still forever, and workers have changed with the times. They will be put to the test yet again and the coming challenge will not be easy to tackle.

Labour pains, so to speak, are being felt all over the world. I saw it first-hand among migrant workers in Europe when I went on a cruise on the Rhine last December.

The menial workers on the cruise ship, which was not big, were disproportionately from Romania (mostly), Hungary (4), Serbia (1), Indonesia (2), and the Philippines (1). They were housekeepers, waiters, kitchen staff, laundry staff.

Only two workers of similar nationality held an upper-echelon job on the ship, such as tour director, cruise manager and captain. These posts were generally held by western Europeans, but the captain's deputy was a Hungarian and the cruise manager was half Croatian and half Italian. Also, being married to an Italian, she would have passed as a western European.

The housekeepers were the lower-wage workers I encountered most frequently. They start work at 7am and continue up to at least 8pm. Every time I leave my room, someone tidies it up and replaces soiled towels before I return.

One young Romanian woman, who not only does housekeeping but also doubles as a masseuse when needed, told me that her long-term plan was to enrol in a university and graduate as a qualified physiotherapist. Meanwhile, she slogs on.

An elderly Hungarian housekeeper was very blunt about why he sought work outside Hungary. He said that if he worked in his homeland, he would earn €350 (S$550) a month; on this cruise ship, he earns double that amount. Even so, the money does not get him far because prices in Hungary are not much lower than in affluent west European countries, he claimed.

They were workers who held themselves well and were reluctant to share any personal information with clients of the cruise operator. But I suppose they were intrigued enough by this little grey-haired Chinese woman who walked up and down the corridor with weights in her hands, even before they started cleaning rooms at 7am.

How wide is the income gap between the countries where these lower-wage workers come from and better-off nations in Europe? Using World Bank data, it appears that Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and France (not to mention Singapore) are doing much better than Spain and Greece, which, in turn, are doing better than Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

Over 500 rental tenants bought their first flats last year

By Janice Heng and Yeo Sam Jo, The Sunday Times, 7 Feb 2016

More than 500 public rental tenants bought their first homes last year, according to fresh figures from the Housing Board.

Although this is fewer than the 750 in 2014, the latest number does not include tenants who applied for a new flat during November's bumper launch featuring 12,411 flats, about half of last year's supply. Figures are not yet available.

Since 2011, more than 3,000 tenants have bought their first homes in Build-to-Order or Sale of Balance Flats exercises. This is up from about 2,500 a year ago. There is "a steady stream of about 600 households per year", said the HDB.

Under the public rental scheme, eligible needy families with a household income of up to $1,500 can rent flats at highly subsidised rates.

Rents start at $26 for a one-room flat and $44 for a two-room flat. Each tenancy is for two years, after which the HDB assesses renewal.

"Tenants who are financially stable will be encouraged to consider buying a flat," said the HDB.

Grants to help families buy their first flat have also risen. From the November 2015 launch onwards, eligible first-timers can get up to $80,000 in housing grants. This comprises an Additional CPF Housing Grant of up to $40,000, and the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) of up to $40,000. The maximum SHG amount was $20,000 before.

Of the tenants who have bought their first flat since 2011, 84 per cent did so with the help of either or both grants. And 12 per cent got the maximum grant amount, which was $60,000 at the time. Some tenants may not have qualified for the grants due to eligibility criteria such as needing to be employed continuously for 12 months before application.

First-timer public rental tenants also get priority to buy new flats, with 10 per cent of two-room flexi and three-room supply set aside under the Tenants' Priority Scheme.

Since 2011, about 19 per cent of tenants who bought a flat did so under this priority scheme.

Overall, 73 per cent bought a three-room or smaller flat, "with the majority buying a three-room flat", said the HDB.

But tenants who have owned a public flat before will get more help with the upcoming Fresh Start Housing Scheme, to help second-timer families with young children own a flat again. The Government is studying offering eligible families a new housing grant to buy a two-room flexi flat with a shorter lease, but with stricter resale conditions.

Shaping Singapore Chinese Culture

The Sunday Times, 7 Feb 2016

A recent exhibition showcasing the unique aspects of Chinese culture here is but one of several ongoing efforts to articulate and define Singapore Chinese culture.

While Chinese Singaporeans have embraced their roots and honed their mastery of the Chinese language, they have also developed distinct traditions and values as part of the larger fabric of a multiracial nation.

Take, for example, how Chinese New Year celebrations feature dishes unique to Singapore. Or how Chinese New Year, like other festivals, is a celebration shared with neighbours of different races.

The new Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre taking shape in Shenton Way, which organised the recent exhibition, aims to promote a Singapore Chinese culture.

What shapes this unique culture? Why is there a need to highlight it, and what lies ahead for it? Leong Weng Kam explores the issue.

Meet Mr River Hongbao

When Perng Peck Seng organised the first one 30 years ago, it was a two-day event
By Leong Weng Kam, Senior Writer, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2016

Mr Perng Peck Seng was in his early 30s, newly married and a dubbing producer with the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, when he was asked to stage the inaugural River Hongbao in 1987.

It was then only a two-day event staged on the banks of the Singapore River by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, and supported by groups such as the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) and the People's Association (PA).

Mr Perng, who was then head of SFCCA's cultural committee, was seen to be the best person for the job. He was active in the local Chinese cultural scene, having started the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan's cultural troupe.

Thirty years and more than two cycles of the Chinese zodiac later, Mr Perng has seen River Hongbao grow to an event that spans as many as 17 days.

Today, it has become Singapore's leading Chinese New Year event, attracting more than a million visitors each year with its giant character lanterns, food and entertainment. Now 64, Mr Perng is still putting the act together for this year's event, which takes place over nine days, at the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

[视频 Video] 《春到河畔 ∙ 走过30》30 Years Through River Hongbao
农历新年是天下华人共享的节日,是华人文化的重要载体。我们总是期盼这佳节的到来,与亲友团聚、吃团圆饭、穿新衣、贺新年,制造许多美好、温馨又难忘的回忆。春到河畔于1987年1月24日首次举行,一转眼已是30年光景,春到河畔依然是农历新年期间独属新加坡的靓丽风景。在春到河畔2016,让我们一起回顾春到河畔的成长路程;“穿越时空”,重温30年来春到河畔带给我们的美好记忆。请各位观赏视频!Chinese New Year has been the grandest and the most important annual event in the Chinese calendar. River Hongbao was first held on 24 January 1987. For 30 consecutive years, this iconic event remains an integral part of Singapore’s Lunar New Year celebrations.River Hongbao 2016 will provide a nostalgic trip down the memory lane for the visitors, showcasing the precious and collective memories of River Hongbao.Enjoy the video!
Posted by River Hongbao on Saturday, February 6, 2016

At Saturday evening's light-up and opening, which also marked the event's 30th year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described Mr Perng as the tui shou or "main person" behind the River Hongbao festivities. Mr Lee also presented him with a special Recognition Award for his voluntary service spanning three decades.

"I feel humbled to receive the award and it will motivate me to do even better," the man who is undoubtedly Mr River Hongbao told The Straits Times.

Mr Perng, now executive director of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Cultural Academy, said his passion for promoting Chinese culture and sense of mission in making Chinese New Year a special event here kept him going all these years.

"My real reward truly is in seeing the event grow, and crowds, both young and old, enjoying themselves at the event," said Mr Perng, who is also SFCCA treasurer and president of the Nanyang Fang Shee Association.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Happy Chinese New Year: PM Lee

PM Lee Hsien Loong on economy: Government's watching it
There are still opportunities to be seized amid uncertainties, he says
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 7 Feb 2016

The Government is watching the uncertain global economic situation closely, but does not expect a severe downturn like in the global financial crisis of 2008, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

In his traditional Chinese New Year message as Singaporeans usher in the Year of the Monkey, Mr Lee noted that the world economy is slowing, China's economy is softening, stock markets are down and business sentiment here is guarded.

Hope all of us celebrating Lunar New Year will have a happy reunion dinner with our families tonight. May you have a joyful and prosperous new year! - LHL祝大家新年快乐, 身体健康,万事如意!- 李显龙
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday, February 6, 2016

He pledged the Government's continued support for businesses and workers as they restructure and upgrade so they can prosper again "when conditions improve, as they will".

"We should take these ups and downs in our stride. We still enjoy full employment, and there are still opportunities to be seized, in Singapore and in the region," he said.

Mr Lee hoped Singaporeans would continue to take on these opportunities, and be quick-witted and dexterous, "just as the monkey leaps onto higher branches to pick peaches, and through his wit and agility takes care of himself, and stays at least one jump ahead of others".

Slowdowns in global demand and local labour supply meant local employment here grew at its slowest pace last year, a rate not seen since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

But companies reported 60,000 vacancies as of September last year, down 11 per cent from a year ago.

Mr Lee devoted a large part of his message to the significance of Chinese New Year as a time when many catch up with their extended families, and welcome new additions.

He was delighted that more Singaporeans were born last year - 33,800, the highest in 13 years. The figure surpassed the figure for 2012, the last Dragon Year which is seen as a propitious time to have children and which has seen more births.

"I hope we will have more babies in the Year of the Monkey," he said, adding that the Government will continue to support Singaporeans in the many responsibilities and joys of parenthood.

Besides babies, family is also about living a full life and sharing joys and sorrows over a lifetime with loved ones, said Mr Lee.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

SGH campus to get makeover under 20-year masterplan

Singapore General Hospital to get more space, facilities in big makeover
New campus, to be built over 20 years, will triple amount of space devoted to patient care
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2016

Some 200 years after it was born, Singapore's oldest and largest hospital is poised to become much larger and better equipped.

After the makeover, to take place over 20 years, the amount of space devoted to patient care at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus, which includes five speciality centres, will triple.

The hospital itself will shift to another site nearby at the junction of Outram Road and Eu Tong Sen Street within the larger Outram campus, according to the masterplan unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

The high-patient volume services will be just a short walk away from the Outram Park MRT station.

"We have to do a musical chairs exercise," said Mr Lee. "Keep a very busy hospital running while shifting roads and buildings around."

By the time the masterplan is completed, almost 50 years would have passed since SGH's last redevelopment in 1981, said Mr Lee.

The hospital, along with its five speciality centres and polyclinic, already cares for a third of all patients in the country.

The coming decade will see four new buildings taking shape: the 550-bed Outram Community Hospital, National Cancer Centre, an interim emergency department, and part of the new bigger SGH.

Mr Lee pointed out that the new SGH campus will target areas where most demand is expected.

Cancer is high on this list, so the tallest building on the campus will be the new 20-storey National Cancer Centre. Mr Lee said it will have a lot more space than the current centre as demand for cancer care is expected to grow, as better treatment means longer lives for patients who will need follow-up care.

One of the hospital's busiest departments, Accident and Emergency, cannot wait for the new SGH and will require a new interim building to cope with rising demand.

The department handled more than 135,000 patients last year and this number is likely to grow.

'Alarming rise' in younger dementia patients

Number diagnosed last year up 4 times from 2011, says NNI study
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2016

Four times as many younger people were diagnosed with dementia last year than in 2011, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) revealed yesterday.

It had 27 patients under 65 in 2011 and 121 last year, though the reasons for the "alarming" rise are not yet fully understood, according to Associate Professor Nagaendran Kandiah of the NNI's neurology department.

"If this trend continues, we are in big trouble because we don't have enough services for these patients at the moment," he said.

Prof Nagaendran carried out a study of 250 dementia patients - around a third of whom were under 65 - to find out the financial impact of getting dementia early.

Forthose over 65, he found, the median annual cost was around $11,400. For younger patients, it was nearly double that, at $21,400.

Around 40 per cent of the younger patients in his study reported losing their jobs due to dementia, which was a main contributor to the higher cost.

"If you have dementia when you are 75, you have already retired," Prof Nagaendran said. "But if you are 50, you are most likely still working, or even the sole breadwinner."

While dementia typically hits the over-70s, young dementia patients start showing symptoms in their 40s or 50s.

Prof Nagaendran estimates that there are 40,000 people in Singapore with dementia, 10 per cent of whom are under 65.

While dementia in older people tends to show up as forgetfulness, younger dementia patients usually have problems with language.

Their behaviour may also be radically different and could be disruptive, which contributes to their losing their jobs.

Pre-Grave Robbing: Breaking the silence on financial abuse of elders

By Theresa Tan, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2016

Two years ago, I interviewed a widow in her 80s who was cheated of her flat and later abandoned in a hospital by her son.

He promised to take care of her after he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of her four-room flat. But he disappeared after checking her into a hospital for a cataract operation.

He left her to fend for herself with just $1,000, her clothes and her identity card.

Destitute, frail and without any other kin to live with, she was sent to a shelter for the abused elderly.

What I remembered most from the interview with her was this: A part of her believes her son will come back for her one day.

The last time I checked, at the end of last month, she was still living at the shelter, still hoping that her son would show up.

Social workers say such cases, where seniors have been financially abused or exploited by their children or other loved ones, are increasingly common.

Some, like the widow, were tricked or talked into selling their flats and giving the proceeds to their children. But they were left high and dry when their children went back on promises to house and care for them.

Others asked their children to help them manage their finances, but discovered, to their horror, that their offspring had wiped out their life savings.

And some were regularly threatened, beaten or confined at home if they did not give in to their children's demands for money.

Fathers could get longer paternity leave

Dads may get more paternity leave
Second week of leave looks set to be made compulsory; leave shared by couple may go beyond current one week
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2016

Dads can look forward to getting more time to spend with their newborns, as Singapore strives to draw the stork to visit more often.

The second week of paternity leave, now voluntary for employers, looks set to be made compulsory.

The Government is also looking at letting working mothers share more of their four-month paid maternity leave with their husbands. Currently, they can share only one of the 16 weeks of their leave.

These possible changes to the law to help new fathers play a bigger role in parenting are being considered to help lift birth rates, Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees population matters, said yesterday.

CONFESSIONS OF A NEW PARENT Meeting a group of new parents at a dialogue late last year reminded me very much of my...
Posted by Josephine Teo on Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mrs Teo, who took over the population portfolio last October, raised these possibilities in a Facebook post titled "Confessions of a New Parent". It arose from a dialogue last year when she met more than 20 first-time parents.

The post follows the release of official figures earlier this week that show Singapore's Golden Jubilee year ended with at least 33,793 new babies, 600 more than in 2014. The figure is the highest in 13 years.

It also comes after enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood Package were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's National Day Rally.

The Baby Bonus cash gift was raised by $2,000, and the Medisave grant for newborns was increased by $1,000 to $4,000. These changes were backdated to take effect from Jan 1 last year.

The current extended paternity leave, which was announced at the August rally as well, was backdated to January last year.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Govt agencies testing more than 25 potential uses of drones

Master contract for drone services will make it easier for public agencies to use technology
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 5 Feb 2016

The Government is embracing drone technology in a big way this year, as the authorities roll out changes that will make it easier for government agencies to obtain drones for their operations and save on manpower.

Already, public agencies are testing more than 25 potential uses of drones, it was revealed yesterday.

These include using drones to survey hard-to-reach potential mosquito-breeding sites to fight dengue, and to carry out construction site surveys using fewer people.

Now, the Ministry of Transport (MOT), which chairs the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Committee, is set to make drone adoption even simpler for its sister government agencies.

The ministry will call for a tender at the end of this month to invite drone providers to bid for a master contract for drone services.

Successful contractors will be tasked with providing drones and technical expertise to agencies which may want to use drones for their operations, MOT said yesterday. Safety and operational standards will be spelt out in the tender.

By taking the lead on this tender, MOT cuts the red tape for other agencies that may find themselves in need of drones. These agencies can now ride on this master contract and get a drone from the vendor, within days.

Luxembourg announces space-mining ambitions

Luxembourg in quest to be space mining pioneer
It is creating legal framework for commercial exploitation of asteroids for precious metals
The Straits Times, 5 Feb 2016

LUXEMBOURG/PARIS • Luxembourg is positioning itself to pioneer the potentially lucrative business of mining asteroids in space for precious metals such as gold, platinum and tungsten.

The government announced on Wednesday steps to create a legal framework for exploiting resources beyond Earth's atmosphere, and said it welcomed private investors and other nations.

The framework is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Primarily known for its fund management and private banking industry, Luxembourg would become the first country in Europe to give legal clarity to the commercial exploitation of asteroids.

Such mining is at least a decade away, if not longer. But the duchy's move is expected to draw interest from pioneers in the field such as US operators Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.

"In the long term, space resources could lead to a thriving new economy and human expansion into the solar system," said Economy Minister Etienne Schneider.

Last November, the United States passed a similar law which cleared American companies to own what they mine from asteroids and other celestial bodies.

Extracting resources from celestial bodies is a volatile and contentious issue, with global treaties calling for exploration to be carried out for the benefit of all countries.

But advocates say mining in space would not only help to provide diminishing resources for Earth, but also aid in the exploration of distant planets.