Sunday 30 November 2014

Workers’ Party-run AHPETC found guilty of holding fair from 9 to 30 January 2014 without permit

Argument by town council’s lawyers wholly misconceived and untenable, says judge
By Amanda Lee, TODAY, 29 Nov 2014

The Workers’ Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) was yesterday found guilty of holding a Chinese New Year fair earlier this year without a permit. Sentencing was adjourned to Dec 24 and the town council could be fined up to S$1,000.

Delivering his oral judgment for almost two hours, District Judge Victor Yeo threw out what he described as “somewhat convoluted and perplexing” legal arguments by the town council’s lawyers. Ruling that the event fell under the definition of a “temporary fair” — and thus was subject to a permit under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA) — the judge said the argument by AHPETC’s lawyers that the fair should be construed as a “social and communal function” and a “mini fair” was “wholly misconceived and untenable”.

The judge also noted that at no point had AHPETC informed or sought clarification from the National Environment Agency (NEA) on whether a permit was required for its event.

“For the defence to now vigorously mount a challenge that there were no requirements for the town council to apply for a permit is simply unconvincing, to say the least, or a mere afterthought at worse,” he added.

Police launch drive to warn about scams

Aim to raise awareness, with rise in number of cyber cases
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

CASES of cyber scams are five times more common today than a year ago, and the police want people to be aware of such online traps.

An anti-scam public education campaign using a website with stories about common scams, posters at MRT stations and bus stops, and an anti-scam television commercial will be rolled out by next year.

Through these and other measures, the police and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) hope to tell people here about common scams, especially those online.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign yesterday, NCPC chairman Tan Kian Hoon noted that the number of cheating cases involving e-commerce has risen sharply. There were 504 cases of cheating involving e-commerce for the first six months of the year, up from 96 cases for the same period last year.

"Unlike other crimes where vigilant neighbours or members of the public can keep a lookout for one another, online scammers strike when victims are in the cyber world. Therefore, the most effective way to prevent such crimes is to increase awareness and remind all of the need to be vigilant in cyberspace," Mr Tan said.

The anti-scam website,, will provide information on common types of scams.

Library focused on helping workers here opens its doors

NLB-WDA effort offers vocational resources for working adults
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE'S first library dedicated to vocational learning for working adults officially opened its doors yesterday.

Called LLiBrary, it is a collaboration between the National Library Board (NLB) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

The library is located at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, which provides training and employment resources for adult workers.

WDA chief executive Ng Cher Pong said at yesterday's launch that the new library aims to help adults improve professionally.

"The promotion of lifelong learning and skills upgrading requires concerted efforts," he said. "With the LLiBrary, individuals will have an additional platform to continue to learn and deepen their knowledge and skills."

The library has 8,000 non- fiction books, 30 periodical titles and more than 200 audio-visual materials, and also offers access to NLB's electronic resources.

The collection, mostly in English, covers areas such as career advancement, vocational guidance and industry-specific topics.

Singapore's employment rate at all-time high: MOM

Wages also improved, with low-income earners now taking home 12 per cent more compared to five years ago. Residents in full-time jobs also earned more - their median monthly income grew by 0.4 per cent to S$3,770.
By Eileen Poh, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Nov 2014

A Manpower Ministry report released on Friday (Nov 28) showed Singapore's employment rate rose to an all-time high of 79.7 per cent this year - up slightly from the 79 per cent in 2013.

The labour market saw an increase in women and older workers. Employees, especially low-wage workers, also drew higher salaries. More Singaporeans aged between 25 and 64 were employed this year, according to data from a survey conducted in June.

The employment rate for women aged between 25 and 64 also hit a record, at 76 per cent - compared to 74.3 per cent in the previous year.

More older workers were also hired, increasing from 65 per cent in 2013 to 66.3 per cent this year.

Ms Ho Geok Choo, CEO of Human Capital Singapore, said: "We have more creative ways of engaging the senior workforce. For instance, while in the past we often see the elderly only ending up cleaning tables and cleaning floors, today we are seeing them switching to other service-related types of jobs."

“Increasingly, you see them at the service counters of retail outlets, or even at the food and beverage outlets, you will see many of them doing cashiering and waitering. So I think the jobs have become more meaningful as a whole,” she added.

Another way to develop gainful employment for the elderly is getting younger seniors to help their older counterparts.

London Mayor Boris Johnson hops on an MRT train to meet PM Lee

By Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

Mayor of London Boris Johnson hopped onto an MRT train to his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, during a visit to Singapore.

"Riding Singapore's gleaming tube - the MRT - this morning on the way to a meeting with the PM," he posted in Twitter, along with a photo of him sitting beside an elderly couple.

The Tube is what Londoners call their subway train system.

He also posted a photo of his meeting with PM Lee, and wrote: "Good discussion with PM Lee on trade, Europe and opportunities for growth between London and the UK & Singapore."

Mr Johnson is leading a delegation of financial technology startups on a roadshow to the region, and is in the city state from Thursday till Saturday (Nov 27 to 29).

Middle class in Singapore 'feeling more insecure'

They fear rising costs, loss of jobs amid widening income gap: Forum
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

THE sense of security typically associated with being middle-class has given way to anxiety among such Singaporeans, as technology and globalisation widen income gaps and take away jobs, academics said at a forum yesterday.

"When we think about the middle class, we think of security, comfort and social mobility. But all these are sort of in decline," said National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser at the forum, which focused on the state of Singapore's middle class.

Exacerbating the anxiety is the rise in living costs, which has led to many middle-income Singaporeans - broadly defined as the middle 60 per cent of income earners here - no longer being able to afford what they think they deserve.

While the Government has stepped up social support measures, these are mainly targeted at the lower-income groups and the middle class may feel squeezed with nowhere to turn to for help, said Dr Tan.

The problems they face could have broader implications on society's stability and structure, said Dr Lionel Wee, the vice-dean of NUS' Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

In his opening address at the forum, organised by his faculty's Social Sciences and Policy Cluster and the Institute of Policy Studies' Social Lab, Dr Wee noted that the middle class has always been seen as an aspirational category for the poorer class.

"If the middle class itself is facing threats of long-term unemployment and socio-economic insecurity, then its value as an aspirational category becomes open to question," he said.

It could lead to the lower income becoming less inclined to work hard to move up to middle-class status.

The forum, with academics, a social worker and a journalist, covered issues such as how health-care policies affect middle-income earners and their attitudes on income inequality.

Higher school fees for those entering polys, ITE next year

By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

STUDENTS entering the five polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) next year will have to pay more school fees than their seniors, with tuition fees at these places raised by 2 per cent to 5 per cent.

Locals enrolling in the five polytechnics next year will pay $2,500 in tuition fees per year, up from the current $2,400.

Fees for non-citizens have also been raised proportionately. Permanent residents will have to pay $5,000, or $200 more than the current fees, while foreigners will pay $8,350, or $350 more.

The revised fees at the polys are about 4 per cent more than what current first-year students are paying.

Over at the ITE, students entering the institution next year will have to pay about $17 and $13 more for the Nitec and Higher Nitec courses respectively.

Foreigners and permanent residents will pay between $107 and $350 more than their seniors for these two courses.

But all students hoping to enrol in the ITE's technical diploma course next year will have to pay $106 more annually.

The changes will affect only the incoming students.

Audiences behaving badly

The Esplanade says inconsiderate behaviour is on the rise among concert and theatregoers
By Lisabel Ting, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

When the lights go down in the theatre, the symphony begins. The first movement: Plasticky crinkling of a sweet wrapper, punctuated by an incessant dry cough. The not-so-melodic refrain of a child's cries fill the air, accompanied by the muffled strains of a latecomer outside the theatre arguing with an usher.

And the assault is not just aural - note the soft, white glow from cellphone screens lighting up the stalls, with the darkness of the theatre giving way to the occasional picture-taking flashbang.

No one likes a rendition of A Badly-behaved Audience, but premiere arts venue the Esplanade says that such inconsiderate behaviour has become more common in recent times. "It's been getting worse over the last 11/2 or two years," says Mr Ravi Sivalingam, head of the arts centre's hospitality and services. "Last week, during a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, a man sitting in the second row was taking pictures incessantly throughout the first half of the concert."

When the centre's staff approached him during intermission, he was unapologetic and reluctant to delete the pictures. Mr Ravi, who has been working at the Esplanade for close to a decade, says that is the typical response from most recalcitrants.

"The majority of them will try to plead ignorance; to borrow a local phrase, they will try and 'act blur'."

While unruly audiences are a perennial problem, he says that cases of bad behaviour have been getting more frequent and extreme. "We're starting to see a trend where people arrive later than they used to," he says. In accordance with Esplanade policy, latecomers are not admitted to the venue until a suitable break in the performance.

A decade ago, controversy erupted when more than 50 latecomers were denied entry to a one- night-only concert by Grammy Award- winning vocalist Bobby McFerrin for more than an hour. While some patrons argued with the ushers, the Esplanade stood firm, letting them in only 15 minutes before the intermission.

These days, though, latecomers are becoming bolder. "We've seen large male patrons use their size to intimidate and try to bully female ushers," Mr Ravi recounts. "We've had some push ushers aside and barge into the venue. We've also had patrons use abusive language and vulgarities on the staff." When such scuffles break out, security and senior staff may step in. In some instances, the patron will be denied entry to the venue until he apologises to the usher.

Mr Ravi says: "It seems that nowadays, the approach is that I'll make a fuss, I'll make threats, I'll get abusive in the hope you will let me have my way. It's a worrying trend."

Mental illness: Caregivers are forgotten collateral damage

Schizophrenia remains an enigma and the resolve of caregivers is to be admired.
By Chong Siow Ann, Published The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

WHEN Ms Danielle Lim's maternal uncle, Seng, was taken by the police to a mental hospital, he was attended to by a psychiatrist with a shaky command of Hokkien. The psychiatrist tried to convey to Ms Lim's grandmother that her son had schizophrenia. The elderly woman, who spoke only Hokkien, was baffled. "He has sch..," the psychiatrist started again before abandoning it completely.

He then went on to suggest electro-convulsive therapy, but this terrorised Seng's mother into checking him out of the hospital without any treatment. A string of spiritual healers was consulted in an increasingly desperate search for a cure, which depleted the family's savings.

Ms Lim recounted this first encounter with a psychiatrist in her book, The Sound Of Sch, published by Ethos Books, launched last month to coincide with World Mental Health Day on Oct 10.

She describes her uncle's descent into psychosis and the travails of her mother, Chu, who became the main caregiver. The unwelcome epiphany dawned on Chu "with a mighty shudder that schizophrenia, with whatever in the world it encompassed, and the world, with whatever contempt for schizophrenia it encompassed, (had) fallen on her shoulders... because if she doesn't take care of him, no one will".

The objective of commemorating World Mental Health Day - as the World Health Organisation (WHO) states on its website - is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health. This year's theme was "Living with schizophrenia".

Schizophrenia strikes one in about 100 people. WHO has estimated that 26 million people worldwide are living with schizophrenia, but the effects of the illness affect far more people - particularly the families who often have to look after them.

Procedure lets father give son new lease of life: ABO-incompatible transplant

It allows people to donate organs to those with incompatible blood groups
By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

POLYTECHNIC student Mohamed Zarif Maarof was 18 when he found out he had kidney disease. That was in 2012.

"I was shocked, I used to run and play soccer so I thought I was healthy," he said.

The teenager had to give up evening outings with friends so he could be home by 8pm for his daily dialysis sessions.

His sleep was often disrupted because he had to attach a tube to his stomach to allow for water dialysis throughout the night.

His father, Mr Mohamed Maarof Ghani, a supermarket branch manager, said: "It was no way for a teenager to live. He still has a bright future."

The 49-year-old decided to donate a kidney to Zarif but their blood groups are incompatible.

However, thanks to a procedure called an ABO-incompatible transplant, Mr Maarof was able to donate a kidney to save his son in April.

Zarif was 19 when the transplant was carried out at the National University Hospital (NUH), making him the youngest person in Singapore to have gone through this procedure. He is now 20.

Saturday 29 November 2014

The disabled can contribute to society: PM Lee

They should not be viewed as just people in need of help, he stresses
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

SINGAPOREANS who are disadvantaged and disabled should be viewed not merely as people in need of help, but as members of society who can make meaningful contributions, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

"Our society should value every person, no matter who he is, what he was born with, or without, because every person matters to us," he said at a dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of SPD, formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled.

How Singapore takes care of those with disabilities will show whether it is a "democracy of deeds or a democracy of words", he added, quoting former deputy prime minister S. Rajaratnam.

Groups like SPD play a vital role in providing social support, even as the Government steps up to do more, Mr Lee said in his speech at the Fullerton Hotel.

Such community groups mobilise passionate volunteers, raise funds from the community, tackle real problems of specific groups in need and strengthen the bonds among people.

But beyond these tangible benefits, the groups are also a reminder of what Singapore should aspire to be: a place where "every Singaporean counts" and where the disabled or less privileged inspire others "with their grit, determination and passion", he said.

Mr Lee cited examples such as 28-year-old sailor Jovin Tan, who was born with cerebral palsy and went on to win Singapore's first-ever gold medal at the ASEAN Paralympic Games last month together with teammate Yap Qian Yin.

The 200-strong SPD has done much to empower some 4,700 people with special needs and physical disabilities, Mr Lee said.

It helps them pursue their studies and passions, provides rehabilitation and day care, trains them for jobs and supports them in their employment.

On the Government's part, it has launched a series of measures to help those who are disadvantaged and disabled, he added.

More social support, economic boosts likely in Budget 2015

By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

NEXT year's Budget is likely to contain more measures to provide social support for Singaporeans and to press on with economic restructuring, said Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo yesterday.

In the first hint of what Budget 2015 might bring, Mrs Teo said Singaporeans can expect a package that builds on the Government's ongoing shifts in social and economic policy.

These include moves "that the Government has undertaken over the last few years to strengthen social support and retirement adequacy", she told reporters at a pre-Budget forum organised by the Ministry of Finance and government feedback unit REACH.

Recent Budgets have introduced initiatives to give more aid to various groups in society - including persons with disabilities, young families and the elderly - and to spur local companies to become more productive.

Support for elderly folk was a particular focus of last year's Budget, when the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package was announced.

Yesterday's forum, which marked the first pre-Budget dialogue of the year, was attended by about 80 Singaporeans, who gave their views on what they hope to see in Budget 2015.

Having enough funds for retirement surfaced as a key concern, even as the Government conducts a review of possible enhancements to the Central Provident Fund system.

But participants yesterday also discussed measures to help workers develop skills that can keep them relevant in a changing economy, and to give local businesses a leg-up in expanding into overseas markets.

Singapore ranked world's No. 2 for health-care outcomes: EIU

Health-care outcomes: S'pore ranked 2nd
EIU report on 166 states assesses value for money in health care
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2104

SINGAPORE has been ranked second out of 166 countries for health-care outcomes in an international report despite spending less than other countries near the top of the league.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report found Singapore spent US$2,538 (S$3,290) per capita on health care.

This was 46 per cent less than top-ranked Japan, which spent US$4,714 per person.

Switzerland, which came third in terms of outcome, spent a hefty US$8,928 per person.

The research arm of the Economist Group, which also publishes the business magazine of the same name, said the report "compares outcomes and spending to assess value for money in health care".

It used data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the countries' adult mortality, life expectancy at age 60, as well as its healthy and disabled years.

The purpose of the study is to add to the debate on how health- care systems should be measured, which started with the WHO's World Health Report in 2000 that ranked France top and the United States poorly.

In that report, Singapore was ranked sixth.

This time, in looking at the 166 countries, the unit said that while richer countries reported better outcomes, poorer countries got more health-care value for every dollar spent.

But the EIU added that "there are wide differences between the amounts that countries are spending on health care for similar outcomes".

This could possibly mean wastage or other factors such as diets and lifestyles that affect the quality of people's health.

While Japan has the best outcomes, Singapore and South Korea achieved similar outcomes at a lower cost, it said.

Singapore's war on infectious diseases

No room for complacency amid new challenges of climate change and fast spread of pathogens
By Laurent Renia And Lisa F.P. Ng, Published The Straits Times, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

THE world is paying close attention to Ebola - the deadly infectious disease that has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths in the West African region. Commentators say that the developing world's poorest countries will bear the brunt of such outbreaks, but more affluent nations such as Singapore should not be complacent.

Ten million of the 56 million deaths annually are caused by infectious diseases. The past three decades have been marked with a series of epidemics - malaria, dengue, SARS, influenza, MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) and, currently, Ebola. The spread of these, combined with the effects of climate change and greater human mobility across borders, indicates that the world's battle against infectious diseases is far from over.

While Singapore may be better equipped to manage such infectious diseases, factors such as climate change are throwing up tough challenges. Changes to weather and the environment are hastening the spread of infectious diseases across geographical boundaries.

Singapore's ongoing battle to contain dengue is a clear example. Global warming has greatly stimulated the breeding of mosquitoes in Singapore, increasing the rate of virus transmission in the densely populated country.

ITE training model draws overseas interest

Institute's private arm boosting its revenue from consultancy services
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

EVEN as Singapore looks at improving the prospects of its Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates, others are looking to it for help in improving vocational training, drawn by its high-quality education and facilities and its practical educational model.

ITE's wholly owned private arm, ITE Education Services (ITEES), has been boosting its revenue from consultancy, skills accreditation and training.

When ITEES started in 2003, it took in about $1 million a year.

It now earns $7 million a year and expects annual takings to reach $10 million in the next three years, its chief executive Tan Seng Hua told The Straits Times.

The 61-year-old - who took up the post in August and is also deputy chief executive of academic matters - has seen greater interest from other countries which want to share in Singapore's educational experience.

"Many countries are turning to vocational training as a solution to unemployment," he said. "In the past, officials spoke only about developing tertiary education and universities, but now they're changing their focus."

Singapore is also strengthening its vocational education system.

In September, the Government accepted recommendations by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) committee to improve the quality of education and job prospects of ITE and polytechnic students. These include enhanced internships and work-study programmes.

The completion of ITE's three mega campuses - the first of which was the $240 million ITE College East in Simei in 2005 - has also attracted interest.

Each year, ITE hosts more than 1,000 visitors from 40 countries at its campuses in Simei, Choa Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio.

China's bid for Internet influence

The country known for its great firewall champions respect for each country's sovereign control of online space.
By Rachel Chang, In Beijing, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

THE irony was lost on no one. 

China's inaugural World Internet Conference (WIC) last week in Zhejiang province had, as its slogan, "an inter-connected world shared and governed by all".

This, from a country whose landmark cyberspace achievement has been to construct the world's most elaborate and formidable firewall to block its citizens from the world.

Worse, a joint declaration, drawn up by organisers to mark the end of the two-day conference - attended by industry players from over a hundred countries - was dropped after overseas attendees revolted.

Slipped under hotel room doors at 11pm at the end of the second day, the document prominently mentioned mutual respect for each country's sovereign control and regulation of the Internet - a controversial Chinese doctrine that many see as a fig leaf for repression and censorship.

Revisions would need to be submitted by early next morning, attendees were told. Needless to say, few were willing to be bulldozed into signing the document overnight.

With this topper, Western media dubbed the conference a fiasco, even as the Chinese media called it a "watershed" event that marked a shift from a global cyberspace led by the United States.

Still, as the lodestar of a philosophy of Internet governance that is growing in worldwide influence and home to a quarter of the world's Internet users and some of cyberspace's most valuable firms, China cannot be ignored.

More importantly, the holding of the conference gave notice of a change in China's modus operandi, from one of blocking out the global Internet community to engaging with it.

Ferguson riots underline 'built-in' racism in US

Disparities between white and black communities remain entrenched
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Washington, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

AS PROTESTS in Ferguson in Missouri and many other towns across the United States ease off because of the Thanksgiving holidays, community leaders and minority rights groups are pondering the damage done - not just to shops and cars, but also to already fragile race relations.

While many are calling for changes to the justice system or for the overturning of the grand jury decision not to charge the white police officer who killed the unarmed black teen, some are also shining the spotlight on the perceived unfairness built into US society.

The Centre for Racial Justice Innovation, for instance, refers to structural racism at length in its response to the Ferguson case: "We must relentlessly focus on systemic racism, even while condemning the behaviour of individuals. We cannot ignore the rules, both written and unwritten, that reduce black existence to unfulfilled dreams."

It said: "It is structural racism that allows the vast racial disparities between the police force and the community. It is structural racism that leads to militarised policing of communities of colour."

The structural racism it describes is borne out by a multitude of shocking statistics.

According to 2011 census data, the net worth of an average black household in America is US$6,314 (around S$8,200) - more than US$100,000 short of the figure for an average white household.

Then there is the finding by the National Bureau of Economic Research that job applicants with black-sounding names needed to send out 50 per cent more resumes than those with white-sounding ones. Or the finding that although ethnic groups break traffic laws at similar rates, black drivers are far more likely to get caught.

Perhaps most telling in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson is a recent report by ProPublica. It found that a black teenager is more than 21 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white teenager is.

There are numerous examples with parallels to the Brown case.

Laws in place to protect foreign workers: MOM

WE ARE heartened by readers' concern for the welfare of the foreign workers in our midst ("Come down hard on recalcitrant employers" by Ms Dipa Swaminathan, "Uphold migrant workers' rights" by Mr Darren Chan Keng Leong, "Urgent need to improve foreign workers' living conditions" by Dr V. Subramaniam, and "Don't let bad employers tarnish S'pore's image" by Mr Francis Cheng, all published on Monday; and "Conduct more regular checks on migrant workers' living quarters" by Mr George Pasqual, yesterday).

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) takes a firm stance against employers who do not ensure their workers have acceptable accommodation, or do not pay their salaries on time.

We already provide deterrent penalties in our employment laws. Employers who fail to fulfil either of the above obligations face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 12 months' imprisonment per offence, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. These penalties were last doubled in November 2012.

Errant employers will also be barred from applying for new work passes or renewing the work passes of their existing workers.

In April, we also raised the penalty for failure to pay salaries under the Employment Act, from a maximum of $5,000, to $15,000. We have further committed to mandate itemised payslips as well as key employment terms in writing by 2016. A set of tripartite guidelines on the issuance of itemised payslips has been developed and issued.

Furthermore, we actively enforce the statutory requirements. In the first six months of this year, MOM performed more than 360 housing inspections and took enforcement action against more than 600 employers.

Last year, MOM also handled more than 3,000 salary claims involving foreign workers. This is less than 0.5 per cent of work permit holders here. Employers are, by and large, law-abiding.

In addition, we undertake efforts to educate workers on their rights and responsibilities. These include guidebooks in their native languages, safety orientation courses as well as regular newsletters and roadshows.

Newly arrived workers are informed of channels of assistance, including embassies and non-governmental organisations, as part of the work permit issuance process.

MOM encourages members of the public to report any errant employment practices to, so that we can investigate and take action.

Kevin Teoh
Divisional Director, Foreign Manpower Management Division
Ministry Of Manpower
ST Forum, 28 Nov 2014

New measures to safeguard SingPass accounts

By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

DO NOT panic if you wake up one morning to find you can no longer access your SingPass account.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) announced yesterday that it is adding new security features to protect SingPass users against potential hacks and security breaches.

SingPass accounts which have been inactive for more than three years will now have their passwords reset automatically.

The IDA said there are currently about 400,000 inactive accounts out of a total of 3.3 million SingPass accounts.

It has started sending letters to the people holding them to ask them to change their passwords. If nothing is done after 14 days, these accounts will be reset.

The regulator added that it will also reset accounts in which unusual activities are detected.

"We continue to strengthen the SingPass system to protect users and enable them to transact safely online," said Mr Chan Cheow Hoe, assistant chief executive of IDA and the government chief information officer.

Accounts that are reset can be restored by users making an online request for a new password or by visiting SingPass centres.

The issue of cyber security came under the spotlight in June when more than 1,500 SingPass accounts were reset after investigations showed they may have been accessed illegally. The new measures have been put in place as the IDA enhances its e-government services system.

Among other new features being implemented is two-factor authentication for sensitive transactions. Users will get the option of receiving one-time passwords - through SMSes or tokens - similar to practices used by banks.

Poll shows home is where the hoard is

Clutter an issue - yet people hang on to things they rarely, or never, use
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

DO YOU gripe about cramped living spaces, but still keep clothes that have not been worn in years, or school notes from decades ago?

More than half (56 per cent) of people polled in a recent survey said their homes are cramped, but four in 10 admitted to holding on to things they rarely or no longer use. Old photos, gifts, keepsake items and memorabilia were the most hoarded items, kept by 64 per cent of respondents.

Nearly half of those polled said they still keep clothes which they no longer wear, because they are out of fashion or are too small.

About four in 10 said they felt "stressed" about clutter at home.

The survey, commissioned by self-storage company Extra Space, polled 1,000 people aged between 25 and 65. They lived in different housing types ranging from one-room Housing Board flats to landed property.

Extra Space, which released the survey findings yesterday, said it wanted to understand the space constraints in a typical household.

"The accumulation of belongings for the average family comes at a higher cost than most people think," said Mr Kenneth Worsdale, chief executive of Extra Space Self Storage Asia.

"Our ambition is to encourage every family in Singapore to live in a more positive, less cluttered environment."

About two-thirds of respondents said they store items at home which they had not used for more than three years. Nearly half said they had never decluttered their homes.

A closer look at the survey findings by age and gender threw up some interesting statistics.

Most (79%) of the respondents aged 40 and above still keep their school assignments.

Friday 28 November 2014

Taxi companies to meet stricter taxi availability standards from next year

More cabs during peak hours under new rules
Taxi firms must ensure 85% of fleet meet minimum mileage on weekdays
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2014

MORE taxis will have to ply the roads during peak hours and clock at least 250km on the road every day when stricter standards kick in on Jan 1.

In a bid to make it easier for commuters to get a cab, firms will be required to have 85 per cent of their fleet on the road from 7am to 11am, and 5pm to 11pm.

Cab companies must also ensure that 85 per cent of their taxi fleet meet the minimum mileage on weekdays, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

Both standards have been steadily increased since they were put into place last year. Currently, 80 per cent of the fleet must meet the mark; last year, it was 70 per cent. In total, there are about 28,000 taxis on the road.

LTA said that while more stringent standards will be imposed on weekdays, only 75 per cent of a firm's fleet must meet the mileage standard on weekends and public holidays. This was due to lower demand, and feedback from the National Taxi Association (NTA), which said cabbies have been cruising empty on weekends.

Rookie security guard learns to be seen, not heard: Just smile, don't talk

The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

This is the first of a three-part series in which Manpower Correspondent Toh Yong Chuan steps into the shoes of workers in the labour-intensive service sector.

To prepare for his stint as a security guard, he attended a one-week course.

He also worked as a taxi driver and eldercare worker after he attended a two-week taxi driving course and volunteered at senior centres.

Except for the top bosses in the companies that employed him, none of the people he worked with knew he was a journalist.

He was paid, and he donated all his earnings to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

New guidelines show which PMEs can join unions

By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 27 Nov 2014

As the number of white-collar workers here continues to grow, the labour movement and its tripartite partners yesterday released a set of guidelines to help determine the circumstances under which professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) are eligible for union representation.

The guidelines, released by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Manpower Ministry and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), specify ways for companies and unions to decide which PMEs qualify for collective or limited representation by unions, as well as union membership and leadership.

For example, employees should not be represented by unions if they are in senior management, or fall into certain categories of executives controlling business operations or making decisions on industrial matters.

Also excluded are those with access to confidential information such as a firm’s finances, company representatives negotiating with unions, or those in roles that may give rise to a conflict of interest.

The guidelines also state that employers and unions may agree to refer to salary levels, or the proportion of executives in the organisation, to determine whether the PMEs in question can have union representation.

The guidelines come on the heels of changes to the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, announced in Parliament earlier this month, to allow rank-and-file unions to include managers and executives for collective representation.

If the Bill is passed in Parliament, the guidelines will come into effect from next April and are expected to pave the way for PMEs — who have been reluctant to join unions because of uncertainty over their representative powers beyond rank-and-file workers — to take up membership.

Yaacob Ibrahim: Striking the right balance in media regulation

Hard task as media evolves; policies must be adjusted over time: Yaacob
By Tham Yuen-C and Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2014

STRIKING the right balance in an evolving media landscape is a difficult task, and Singapore may not get it right initially, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

But it should not give up on regulation and should learn to adjust its policies over time, he added.

Singapore needs to ask itself "what is critical for us to preserve, (while keeping the) balance at the same time, when we manage the media landscape", he said.

In a lecture on media convergence at the National University of Singapore (NUS) last night, Dr Yaacob said that many countries were also grappling with the issue of content providers on the Internet delivering similar services as traditional media like television stations.

For instance, Britain is considering applying the regulatory framework for TV to some aspects of the Internet, while Malaysia is working on putting up a firewall to block content that does not adhere to its content guidelines.

Dr Yaacob said Singapore would have to find an approach that "works for Singapore and Singaporeans". To do so, its media laws and regulations - largely unchanged in the last 20 years - would have to be updated so they remain relevant, he added.

Referring to an ongoing review of the media regulatory framework, Dr Yaacob said there were a few areas of focus.

US dating coach Julien Blanc will not be allowed into Singapore: MHA

'Pick-up artist' barred from entering Singapore
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2014

SELF-PROCLAIMED "pick-up artist" Julien Blanc will not be allowed into Singapore.

The United States-based "dating coach" has come under fire around the world after material from his courses revealed that his tactics include the use of physical violence, intimidation and emotional abuse against women to persuade them to have sex.

An online petition was launched here on Nov 14 by Singaporean Charis Mah, calling for him to be banned from the country.

Britain, Brazil and Australia have already refused him entry.

Ms Mah updated the petition site yesterday, saying that the petition had been successful.

In a statement to the media, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Ministry of Social and Family Development confirmed that Mr Blanc will not be allowed into Singapore.

In an interview with American news network CNN, Mr Blanc denied teaching these methods and claimed that they were taken "out of context" and were a "horrible, horrible attempt at humour".

Ms Mah e-mailed the ministry on Nov 19 when the petition had more than 7,500 signatures.

A*Star scientist starts arts grant in protest against six-year bond

A*Star scientist took up two scholarships
She could have rejected second one if she wasn't keen on research: Agency
By Sandra Davie Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

THE scientist and dancer who is protesting against her six-year scholarship bond, because she is in a job "not aligned with her interests", received funding for two university stints - and could have turned down the second if she was not keen on research.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) has revealed that Dr Eng Kai Er spent three years studying as an undergraduate at Britain's prestigious Cambridge University before returning here to do a one-year research stint at A*Star in 2006.

At the end of that, she took up a second scholarship to study for a PhD in infection biology at Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute. She completed this at the end of 2012 and now works in an A*Star research institute studying infectious diseases.

However, last week, Dr Eng, 30, criticised the bond in a blog and set up a "No Star Arts Grant" in protest - pledging to give $1,000 a month from her salary to support arts projects for a year.

"Since she understands the pain of having a paid job that is not aligned with her interests, she wishes to change the world by having more instances of paid jobs aligned with people's interest."

It is believed she tried to transfer her bond to the National Arts Council but was unsuccessful.

A*Star told The Straits Times that its returning PhD scholars are expected to serve at least two years at one of its research institutes.

After the stint, those who do not want to remain in research are allowed into related fields such as industry development or research administration. Some also go into academia.

Dr Eng has served two years of her bond and has four more to go.