Sunday, 21 January 2018

How to fund spending on elderly - higher taxes or tap national reserves? Singaporeans divided

Divided over intergenerational support
IPS study shows differing attitudes of respondents towards funding social spending
By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Business Editor, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2018

Are you willing to pay more taxes to fund higher social spending for the elderly? Or should the national reserves be tapped instead?

If that seems a difficult conundrum to you, you are not alone - a new survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has found that Singaporeans are divided on the issue.

Two in five respondents - or about 40 per cent - said they were not comfortable with higher taxes and would rather tap reserves. A slightly lower proportion - about 34 per cent - indicated the opposite. The remainder were neutral.

In particular, those aged 45 to 64 - sometimes called the "sandwiched generation" as they have to support both young and old - were most likely to frown on higher taxes.

The survey also found that 41 per cent believed each generation should take care of itself, without needing to be supported by other generations.

An almost equal proportion - about 38 per cent - disagreed.

This issue of "intergenerational solidarity" - which the survey delves into - is particularly important today as Singapore grapples with how to fund social spending for an ageing population, said IPS in its report.

"There is a tension between self-reliance and a sense of community. The results actually show that we can't decide whether we should take care of ourselves or if we should care for other generations," said IPS senior research fellow Christopher Gee - one of the study's authors - at a briefing yesterday.

That tension is reflected in responses to other survey questions.

Friday, 19 January 2018

RSAF50: Aerial displays, heartland exhibitions to mark the Republic of Singapore Air Forces' 50th birthday

Aerial flypast to take place on National Day weekend; celebrations in heartland include static aircraft displays
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2018

An aerial flypast of more than 20 aircraft over the Marina Bay area during the National Day weekend will be one of the key events for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.

Other events include another aerial display featuring one F-15SG and two F-16C fighter jets at the Singapore Airshow next month, heartland exhibitions across the island between March and May, and a commemorative parade with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the guest of honour on Sept 1.

The RSAF50@Marina Barrage event will take place during the Aug 11 to 12 National Day Parade weekend, and the flypast will include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the first time. All types of flying assets - fighters, helicopters, UAVs and transport aircraft - will be represented.

There will also be an aerial display performance by a formation of two AH-64D attack helicopters, and F-15SG and F-16 fighter aircraft.

The air force will also be taking the celebrations to three new heartland locations this year - Bedok, Sembawang and Punggol. This is in addition to two locations - Toa Payoh and Jurong East - where the RSAF also had heartland activities to mark its 45th anniversary. The heartland exhibitions this year will each last for two days over a weekend.

Other than exhibition panels and static aircraft displays, another first will be live demonstrations at each event, such as a display of helicopter operations at the Sembawang event from March 31 to April 1.

The events were announced by Brigadier-General Kelvin Khong, who chairs the RSAF50 steering committee, during a media briefing at the Air Force Museum in Paya Lebar yesterday.

Explaining the theme of the celebration, BG Khong, 41, who is also the Chief-of-Staff (Air Staff), said: "The air force is here defending Singapore, but more than that, we are here for Singaporeans. That is why we have designed our themes to be 'Our Home, Above All'."

Animal rights activists need to be more circumspect

I agree with Mr Ong Junkai on the need to moderate the mindsets of radical animal rights activists (Curb radical animal rights activists; Jan 16).

In this light, I would like to highlight the recent stir from an Instagram post by MP Baey Yam Keng, who warned residents about stray dogs in Tampines.

It was an innocuous post for residents to be on the lookout, for their own safety.

However, because of concerns that the authorities would take note of the stray dogs and put them to sleep, there was a backlash by animal lovers and activists, who criticised Mr Baey and called him names online.

They also insulted netizens who approved of Mr Baey's post.

It is ironic that these activists respect animals but do not accord decency to fellow human beings.

These activists adopted an extreme stance towards animal welfare, and did not consider co-existence - striking a balance between their fervour for animals and the safety of people.

It was right of Mr Baey to warn residents about the stray dogs. After all, he has a responsibility as an MP to ensure the residents' safety.

Unless these activists agree to moderate their discourse and settle issues amicably, they ought to be curbed by the authorities before they pose a threat to society's harmony.

Sean Lim
ST Forum, 18 Jan 2018

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link to open by 2024

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian PM Najib Razak at the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat on 16 January 2018

Singapore, Malaysia ink bilateral agreement to build rapid transit link
This and other bilateral projects on the cards underscore excellent ties, say PM Lee, Najib
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2018

Seven years from now, Singaporeans and Malaysians will be able to hop on an MRT train every eight minutes to get across the border.

The completion of this Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, following the signing of a legally binding agreement yesterday, is expected to ease the daily congestion at the Causeway.

Other bilateral projects on the cards include schemes to raise the water levels in Johor's Linggiu Reservoir to meet the needs of both countries. And one possibility is a joint hydrometric modelling study of the Johor River.

These projects underscore the excellent relations between their countries, prime ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak said, adding that ties will not be affected by domestic developments on either side, including an imminent general election in Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Najib, when asked for his outlook on bilateral ties this year, said: "I don't expect elections to change the nature of relations between our two countries."

Mr Lee said Singapore and Malaysia are constantly looking for new areas of cooperation. "It is a sign of our confidence in each other's future, and commitment to good relations with one another."

The two leaders discussed various issues, including water supply, during their eighth Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat at the Istana yesterday.

They noted that demand for water from Linggui Reservoir will rise as more developments come up in Iskandar, Johor, and Singapore.

Although the reservoir has filled up in the past year, it is unclear when the next prolonged dry spell will hit, Mr Lee noted.

Mr Najib said a detailed hydrometric study will be commissioned to produce technical proposals "to increase the water supply for both Singapore and Johor".

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of the RTS Link agreement by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Transport Minister, and Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan. This is the second agreement in two years, following the 2016 pact to build a high-speed rail line between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Construction of the 4km link is expected to begin next year.

Mr Lee said the cross-border service will benefit thousands of daily commuters. "It will provide a convenient means for Johoreans to come to Singapore to work or to play, and Singaporeans to go to Johor to study, to work, to shop," he added.

Mr Najib said the link will provide "seamless connectivity" and the required capacity.

Up to 10,000 passengers an hour can travel in each direction between Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station and the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

When the RTS Link begins service, commuters can hop on a train every eight minutes on average.

Trains will eventually arrive every four minutes on average during peak periods. The line will start with five trains, and gradually have a total fleet of seven trains.

Commuters can transfer to the TEL concourse via an underground link, without having to exit the RTS station.

On how both sides will ensure the RTS Link and high-speed rail line will not be affected by political and other changes, Mr Lee said the long-term commitment has been formalised in the binding agreement signed yesterday.

"Whoever is the government on either side, this is an agreement which they inherit... If a subsequent government has other ideas, well, that will have to be dealt with and the agreement will deal with these contingencies," he added.

Commuters like Ms Chen Zihui who travel regularly to Johor Baru look forward to the RTS.

The 26-year-old bank associate visits her family in Johor Baru every weekend. "Sometimes, I get caught in the jam at the Causeway," she said of the two-hour commute by bus or taxi. "I hope the RTS will reduce my travel time to Johor Baru."

Monday, 15 January 2018

SG Cares app to matchmake do-gooders and causes; PM Lee calls on Singaporeans to step forward

New SG Cares app to make volunteering easier
It matchmakes those keen with social causes; PM Lee calls on Singaporeans to step forward
By Ng Jun Sen, The Sunday Times, 14 Jan 2018

It will soon be easier for Singaporeans to volunteer or donate, with the launch of an app to matchmake aspiring do-gooders and social causes.

Developed by SG Cares, the national movement to promote volunteerism, the app was announced yesterday by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who called on Singaporeans keen to contribute to step forward.

"Doing good for others, caring for the vulnerable and needy in our midst, deepening our sense of responsibility for each other - these will help us build a better home, where every member of the Singapore community contributes to a caring society and in turn enjoys strong social support," he said at a SG Cares carnival at Our Tampines Hub.

While volunteerism is on the rise here, some patchy spots remain: For instance, those between the ages of 25 and 34 tend to volunteer less.

Only 29 per cent of respondents in that age group volunteered for a social cause in 2016, a biennial survey by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) found. In contrast, those aged between 35 and 44 were the most enthusiastic, with 48 per cent stepping forward.

Overall, 35 per cent of all respondents volunteered - up from 15 per cent in 2014.

In 2016, SG Cares was kick-started as a national initiative to support volunteerism. For instance, it helps to coordinate efforts - such as those between social service organisations, companies and public agencies. It is managed by NVPC and the National Council of Social Service.

Beyond getting Singaporeans to help the needy, SG Cares is also among the programmes cited by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to promote mixing across different social classes.

This comes after a survey published last month which found that the sharpest social divisions in Singapore may now be based on class, instead of race or religion.

Yesterday, PM Lee recounted how Singapore's forefathers - both the successful and the less well-off - had looked out for one another. Those who could, built schools, hospitals and places of worships. Others helped immigrants who arrived after them.

"Everyone understood that they were stronger together, than standing alone," he said. "It is this spirit that we hope SG Cares can help to engender; a caring society where no Singaporean is left behind."

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sea Transport and Aerospace Industry Transformation Maps launched; ITMs not static but adaptable, says Iswaran

Road map to boost Singapore's edge in maritime industry
Over 5,000 good jobs to be created by 2025, with sector's value-add expanded by $4.5 billion
By Jacqueline Woo, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2018

Maintaining Singapore's thriving maritime industry as a world leader is the central theme of an ambitious new blueprint for the sector unveiled yesterday.

It underlined just how vital the industry is for the economy while also laying out the challenges it faces to maintain and strengthen its position amid fierce global competition.

The Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), as the strategy is called, noted that Singapore starts from a position of strength.

Container throughput rose 8.9 per cent to 33.7 million containers last year, while the maritime industry as a whole employed more than 170,000 people and contributed 7 per cent to the economy.

"While 2017 was a better year than the last, we watch with cautious optimism, as the road ahead remains challenging. Indeed, we have to continue to paddle hard to stay ahead," said Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and for Health.

He made it clear that major changes lie ahead, from port workers upgrading skills to management grappling with radical new technology. The sector is in for "real and deep transformation over the next few years", he noted.

"We must fundamentally relook the way we operate... as well as the kind of capabilities our maritime workforce needs," he said.

The ITM has an overarching vision: to make Singapore a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent. That, in turn, means expanding the sector's value-add by $4.5 billion and creating over 5,000 good jobs by 2025.

Dr Lam said at the ITM launch ceremony at PSA Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3: "We not only have to continue to deliver world-class port services, we must also capture new growth opportunities."

One key strategy is to build up a well-connected international maritime centre cluster. That will involve the Government continuing to boost the port's physical connectivity by anchoring and attracting shipping lines here.

More initiatives, such as the inaugural Maritime Capital Forum last year, will also be rolled out to develop the maritime financing landscape here.

Another key thrust is to drive growth through better productivity and innovation, particularly by using automation and digitalisation.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is developing technology platforms to facilitate the sharing of vessel and cargo-related information with the wider trading community.

It is also looking at digitalising trade and maritime documentation, like using electronic bills of lading.

The Singapore Maritime Institute will invest $12 million to set up the Centre of Excellence in Modelling and Simulation for Next Generation Ports that will enhance the Singapore port's ability to handle increasingly complex operations.

The Government will do more to bring well-trained personnel into the industry, said Dr Lam, adding that most of the 5,000 new jobs to be created will be professional, manager, executive and technician roles.

Those in more traditional jobs will undergo skills upgrading as jobs evolve with increasing automation and digitalisation.

This year, two maritime SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programmes launched earlier in 2016 will be open to more graduates, enabling junior seafarers to deepen their skills to take on higher-level jobs.

The ITM is the first of eight road maps to be launched this year. A total of 15 ITMs have already been set in motion as part of a $4.5 billion industry transformation package announced in Budget 2016.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Each generation of leaders must earn trust, says Chan Chun Sing

He lists three things leaders need to do: Be upfront, stay accountable and find new ways to communicate
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2018

To earn the trust of the people, each generation of Singapore's leaders needs to be upfront and accountable, as well as find new ways to communicate, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

Only then can leadership teams make difficult but necessary decisions, while still keeping faith with the people, he added.

Mr Chan, tipped as one of the three front-runners to be Singapore's fourth prime minister, laid out his vision of how each generation of leaders should carry out their duties. He was speaking at the inaugural S R Nathan Hard Seats Lecture, inspired by Mr Nathan's remark that Singapore was built "because his generation did not believe in sitting on cushy seats, but on hard seats".

In a wide-ranging speech, the minister, an economics graduate of Cambridge University, described leadership as one of the things that Singapore needs to get right to continue to thrive. The others were geopolitics, economic survival and forging a sense of nationhood.

"Ultimately, people and government must work together to keep Singapore successful," he told the 90 people at the event organised by the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Singapore.

Mr Chan noted that "trust" was described by late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as his team's "greatest asset". It allowed the pioneer generation of leaders to be effective and not shy away from making difficult but necessary decisions, such as introducing mandatory national service when the country needed to build a defence force.

Mr Chan listed three things that leaders must do to build trust with their people.

First, they need to be upfront and help people understand the issues at stake and the trade-offs involved in policy considerations.

Second, they must keep finding new ways to communicate with people, especially in an age when "inaccurate or misleading information can 'go viral', possibly clouding a person's view on an issue".

Third, they must be accountable and responsible, he said, adding: "That means making good on our promises. And when there are problems, we work hard to put things right immediately."

It also entails being nimble and consultative in meeting people's needs, while making sure that finite resources are used wisely, he said.

"These are important so that we do not face a trust deficit and run the risk of citizens disconnecting with or being disenfranchised by the Government. We have seen this happen in other countries, and we can't take for granted that it won't happen in Singapore," he added.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Parliament Sessions Should be Screened Live

Improve accountability by telecasting Parliament sessions live

I applaud Mr Leon Perera for his apology in Parliament, but actions should be taken to prevent similar incidences (Parliament: WP's Leon Perera apologises, withdraws statements on Mediacorp's editing of parliamentary footage; ST Online, Jan 8).

With the resurgence of fake news, there is a possibility of Parliament being manipulated by outside forces or parliamentarians using unreliable information.

Parliament has utmost authority in Singapore and any manipulation could be harmful for the country.

Steps need to be taken to prevent Parliament from being misled. This could involve increasing the accountability of parliamentarians, which can be done through live telecasting of parliamentary proceedings.

A trial of this should be done.

Live telecasts would allow Singaporeans access to Parliament, hence putting public pressure on parliamentarians to be accountable, for instance, sticking to statements made by them in and out of Parliament, or being cognisant of the details of any cases they bring up.

Live telecasts would also prevent any further questions on the neutrality of parliamentary reports.

As Singapore's democracy evolves, new measures must be taken to deter those who wish to manipulate Parliament.

Parliament must evolve as well, or face further problems in the future.

Christopher Burchell-Davies
ST Forum, 9 Jan 2018