Thursday, 23 October 2014

S Rajaratnam Endowment launched

$100 million endowment to honour Rajaratnam
It will seek to deepen regional ties to keep alive the beliefs of founding leader
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2014

A $100 MILLION endowment has been set up by Temasek Holdings to honour the late Mr S. Rajaratnam, a founding father of Singapore who played a pioneering role in the country's foreign policy.

In striving to keep alive his beliefs, the S Rajaratnam Endowment will seek to deepen regional ties, a crucial backdrop to achieving economic cooperation and development in the region.

Such strong links will bring peace and stability to the region, said Mr Wong Kan Seng, chairman of the endowment, at its launch yesterday.

This is especially pertinent amid "a tumultuous era in world history with profound and momentous shifts of power and ideas under way", added the former deputy prime minister.

The United States, China, Japan and India are seeking a "new equilibrium" with one another, he said, while South Korea, Australia and Russia also have interests in the region.

"The next phase of Asia's growth will see more complex and greater challenges in geopolitics, changing demographics, income disparities and the competitive use of resources.

"It is thus important for all stakeholders to reinforce the foundations for sustainable growth in the region," he told an audience that included former president S R Nathan and former senior minister S. Jayakumar.

Protests that matter

Protests are part of democratic dialogue. Protests may be legal but not legitimate. So when are disruptive protests warranted?
By Devadas Krishnadas, Published The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2014

THE continuing protests in Hong Kong have received international attention. Some commentators, both internationally and locally, have made comparisons between the protest culture in Hong Kong and in Singapore and concluded that the former reflects dynamism and vitality while the latter reflects conformity and apathy.

Such superficial extrapolations are not worthwhile. It would be more meaningful to ask when and why disruptive protests, whether on a large scale as has happened in Hong Kong or on a small scale as recently occurred at Hong Lim Park in Singapore, are warranted.

First, let us accept as a priori that protests are a channel to make views heard. In the negotiation of the national course there are several channels. Protest is just one of them.

Second, let us correct the impression that protests and Singapore are incompatible. After all, the People's Action Party Government legislated the creation of Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park as a site specifically to host free speech and then, latterly, protests. It is worth noting that legislation to this effect was first introduced in 2000, 14 years ago, and it was to allow protests in Hong Lim Park, which is not hidden away in a marginal corner of the country but located in the middle of the Central Business District.

Thus, far from wanting to marginalise or mask public speaking and protest actions, the Government acted to legitimise and facilitate protests in a specified highly visible venue - at a time when it arguably faced little domestic or international pressure to do so.

Third, that protests are legal does not mean that they are always legitimate. While protests are one of a range of accepted channels of public discourse, it should be noted that there is a hierarchy within these channels.

This hierarchy serves to ensure both efficiency and effectiveness in the discourse without undue disruption to social harmony and economic activity.

Participating in organised public consultations, attending forum engagements, submitting to letters pages, producing editorials, publishing books and giving feedback at Meet-the-People or dialogue sessions are just a sampling of the long list of available channels. To this list we can add peaceful, non-disruptive protests. If all these channels are present, then there should not be disruptive protests. In my view, disruptive protests deserve support only if three tests are met.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Can PAP stay dominant? A daunting task, says Ho Kwon Ping

'Freak election', party split, or defeat by opposition possible scenarios
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2014

SINGAPORE'S best days are still ahead of it but, in contemplating its next 50 years, a key question to ponder is whether the ruling party will stay dominant, said leading public intellectual Ho Kwon Ping yesterday.

The People's Action Party (PAP), which has been in uninterrupted power for 56 years, has accomplished two major feats where many others have failed, he said.

First, it has produced consistent economic growth with broad- based gains for its entire people, and second - even harder - it has maintained exemplary, transparent governance with an entrenched ethos of incorruptibility.

"Its third challenge is not to just remain in power, nor to maintain its one-party dominance and deny the opposition its self-described role as a 'co-driver' of the nation, but to do so in a manner which ensures that the party truly renews itself and retains its original vitality, vibrancy and vigour," said Mr Ho in the first lecture of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)-Nathan lecture series on Singapore's public policy.

But will it be able to do so, asked the businessman as he sketched out three basic possibilities.

First, an accidental or freak election that throws out the PAP. Second, a split within the PAP resulting in a loss to an opposition party which might not otherwise be stronger than a united PAP. And third, an anticipated, outright loss to an opposition party.

"I would rate the first possibility - a freak election - as having the highest chance, followed by an internal split, and the least likely is an outright, widely predicted loss," he said.

In all likelihood, it would be an interplay of these scenarios, he added.

While he did not think the PAP would lose its dominance in the next 15 years, it could happen further down the road, he said.

Jokowi invited to make pitch to firms in S'pore

Both countries work well and would like to do more together: PM Lee
By Zakir Hussain Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has invited newly inaugurated Indonesian President Joko Widodo to make a pitch to businesses in Singapore for investments in infrastructure and developing the maritime sphere when he or his ministers next visit.

Mr Lee was speaking to the Singapore media after paying a courtesy call on Mr Joko at the presidential palace yesterday afternoon. He described their first meeting as "good".

"We have many things going on - economic, trade, investments, we've got security cooperation, our armed forces work together with the TNI, and I told him that we work well and would like to do more together," Mr Lee said, referring to the Indonesian Armed Forces by its acronym.

He noted that the new President's priorities were domestic, saying he had focused on certain ideas and reforms such as over the fuel subsidy, for a start.

But Mr Joko also spoke about "reforms to the bureaucracy, getting investments in on infrastructure, getting the idea of a maritime nation going, and he believes that Singapore can help him to achieve this".

"So I said, 'Yes, certainly.' Next time he or his ministers are in Singapore, I encouraged him to meet our business people and make a pitch to them of his strategy and plans, and I'm sure they'll be very interested to hear what he has to say," Mr Lee added.

Mr Lee noted that while the two countries may occasionally face some knotty differences, on the whole, bilateral ties are very good and both sides have made much progress in the last decade.

And he hoped Mr Joko and his Cabinet would continue to cooperate with Singapore and take the relationship further.

Asked about the different styles of Mr Joko and his predecessor, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Lee said: "We are very happy to work with the elected president of Indonesia, and with president Yudhoyono we had a good 10 years.

"Our relationship developed in a very steady way and I think that this was a positive decade."

Govt to continue easing up on housing supply next year

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2014

BOTH public housing supply and land sales for private property will continue to slow next year, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

However, married couples and their parents will get more help to live close together when buying new Housing Board flats.

As for calls to re-examine property cooling measures, he reiterated that this was not the time.

Mr Khaw addressed these topics in a blog post and on Mandarin television news programme Hello Singapore last night.

There will be 25 per cent fewer Build-To-Order (BTO) flats next year. After BTO supply was ramped up between 2011 and last year, the pace slowed by 10 per cent this year to 22,400 units.

The HDB has decided to slow things down further after studying recent BTO application rates. In recent years, there have been six launches a year of an average of 4,000 units. From next year, there will be four a year, with a total of about 16,000 new units.

"This should be sufficient to meet demand, without causing a glut in the public housing market," said Mr Khaw.

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple 67th national monument in Singapore

155-year-old iconic landmark in Dhoby Ghaut is the third Hindu temple to be gazetted
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2014

A HINDU temple in the heart of Dhoby Ghaut, which was established 155 years ago, became Singapore's 67th national monument yesterday.

The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at 15 Tank Road joins 29 other religious institutions on the National Heritage Board's (NHB) list.

The centre of activity for the Republic's community of Nattukottai Chettiars, it is the third Hindu temple to be gazetted as a national monument since the scheme started in 1973. The other two are the Sri Perumal Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple.

Some 40,000 devotees throng the temple during Thaipusam every year, and every day some 200 devotees pray there.

The building is now legally protected by the Preservation of Monuments Act, which means all works on it must be approved by the NHB's Preservation of Sites and Monuments (PSM) division. It is the highest order of preservation status in Singapore.

Hawker food prices up by 10-20%: CASE poll

By Elgin Chong, TODAY, 21 Oct 2014

Hawker centre staples such as chicken rice and chicken nasi briyani are becoming less of a bargain, a survey of 503 hawker stalls by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) showed.

Mode prices — prices most commonly charged by most hawkers — have gone up by 10 to 20 per cent from 2012, said CASE, which released the survey findings yesterday. For example, the mode price of chicken nasi briyani is now S$5, up from S$4.50 in 2012; while that of chicken rice is S$3, compared with S$2.50 previously.

Hawkers whom TODAY spoke to cited the increase in rental, ingredient and wage costs as the main reasons for the price hike. More hawkers selling the five most common local dishes — chicken nasi briyani, chicken rice, fishball noodles, plain prata and mixed-vegetable rice comprising white rice, two kinds of vegetables and one type of meat — are now also charging above the mode price.

For example, the percentage of hawkers selling fishball noodles above the mode price of S$3 has risen from 8.64 per cent in 2012 to 13.14 per cent.

At the same time, fewer hawkers are selling the noodles below the mode price, from 53.96 per cent in 2012 to 34.31 per cent now.

However, CASE, noted that prices are still affordable for the average consumer, with many hawker food stalls selling below the mode price — about half the surveyed chicken-rice and mixed-vegetable-rice stalls are doing so, for example.

Poor are better off now, but can more be done?

The latest Household Expenditure Survey found that average incomes have risen, with those in the bottom fifth having the biggest gains. But just who constitute the less well off is a complex issue. Insight looks at this, and whether the Government can better target its welfare buck.
By Charissa Yong And Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2014

THE headlines last month seemed like cause for celebration.

Households in the bottom fifth have seen the fastest income growth among all groups and an improving quality of life, thanks in part to more government help.

Yet, this news, coming from the latest five-yearly Household Expenditure Survey, also raises thorny questions.

Government handouts seem to have improved lives at the bottom, but is there a danger of an over-reliance on such forms of help? And just who should we be focusing on, when we talk about helping the poor?

Critics initially sounded alarm bells over how the bottom fifth seemed to be spending much more than they were earning, but a check by Insight showed that this problem was not as bad as it seemed.

Data from retirees, who do not work, was included in the aggregated income and expenditure figures. When retiree figures were excluded, the gap between income and spending narrowed.

The data shows that the bottom fifth of households, ranked by income per household member, is a highly varied group.

Many are indeed low-income families who need more help.

But a quarter of them are retiree households, some of whom may be doing well, with large properties and ample savings to live off, even if their income is technically zero.

As the Government continues to strengthen safety nets, Insight looks at whether a finer-grained approach might better help the needy, while also ensuring more bang for the welfare buck.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Marriage prep, support programmes for Singaporeans wed to foreigners

By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Oct 2014

The Government is enhancing social support for couples here that include spouses who are foreigners, as the number of transnational marriages in Singapore increase.

Counsellors say such marriages face unique challenges. Couples could face financial problems, problems with housing, their children's education and for the foreign spouse, the added stress of adapting to a new environment. Another big issue is a mismatch in expectations.

To address such challenges upstream, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Oct 20) announced two new initiatives to help couples - marriage preparation programmes and marriage support programmes.

The ministry has identified two partners - Fei Yue Community Services and Care Corner - to offer marriage preparation programmes for couples intending to marry and marriage support programmes for those already married.

The pre-marital workshops are meant to address a couple's concerns and expectations, so both know what they are getting into before they tie the knot. The support programmes are meant to help married couples integrate into their new community.

The courses will be customised according to the background of the couple, and are targeted at all transnational couples, regardless of their socio-economic background. They will cover content such as communication, conflict resolution, understanding cultural differences and adapting to the Singapore environment.

71% of m-cycle accidents are self-inflicted: Survey

Poor judgment calls cited as top reason why riders here lose control
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2014

NEARLY three in four motorcyclists here have had an accident before, and most admit that the accidents were of their own doing.

Poor judgment calls, from tailgating to cutting off other vehicles, were the leading reason why they lost control of their motorbikes, a recent survey has found.

But in accidents involving external factors, other vehicles were blamed as the leading culprit, the findings revealed.

Many riders also say that they have experienced aggressive behaviour from other motorists.

The survey on motorcycle safety, commissioned by local automaker Alife Air Automobiles, was conducted between July and last month, and polled 472 riders through online and face-to-face interviews.

Among the respondents who said they had been in an accident before, 30 per cent cited decision-making errors as the reason, 18 per cent said it was because they violated road rules such as speeding, and another 13 per cent attributed it to fatigue.

In total, reasons related to the motorcyclist's own actions accounted for 71 per cent of accidents, the study indicated.