Wednesday 15 April 2015

Parliament Highlights - 13 Apr 2015

No drug-free assurance, so music event had to be axed
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

DANCE music event Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) had to be cancelled because organisers could not assure the authorities that they would implement measures to prevent drug-related activities, Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament.

He said the police and Central Narcotics Bureau had engaged organisers on several occasions to assess their security plan.

“Imagine if this incident had taken place and on the last day like in Malaysia, death had occurred and we had to cancel the incident, what would our explanation be in Parliament today?": Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zukifli on why Future Music Festival Asia was not allowed in Singapore.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, April 13, 2015

The drug-related activities associated with past FMFA events also gave the police serious concerns about potential drug abuse at the concert, which was to have been held at the Changi Exhibition Centre on March 13 and 14.

Its organisers announced the cancellation days before the event, on March 8.

Replying to a question from Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) on FMFA's cancellation, Mr Masagos said: "It would have been irresponsible to allow it to be held in Singapore without adequate safeguards and assurances.

"The event would also not have been consistent with our zero-tolerance stance towards drugs."

These considerations led to the police's decision to reject the application for the FMFA to be held here.

The FMFA, launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 and staged there in 2013 and last year, is a spin-off from the Future Music Festival (FMF) that was established in Australia in 2006.

Last year, the FMFA held in Kuala Lumpur was cancelled on the last day after six people died and 14 were hospitalised because of drug abuse at the event. Two of those hospitalised were Singaporeans.

The FMF in Sydney this year saw 177 concertgoers facing charges of possessing or supplying drugs at the event.

The event's track record was therefore very clear, Mr Masagos said, and it would be remiss of the authorities to ignore it altogether. "Imagine if this incident had taken place and, on the last day like in Malaysia, deaths occurred and we had to cancel it," he said. "What would our explanation be in Parliament today?"

Singapore has managed to keep drug abuse under control precisely because of its firm stance against drugs, he said.

"This approach should extend to any event that is to be held in Singapore... We want a reputation for Singapore to be a place with music festivals where people can enjoy themselves in a safe and trouble-free manner."

HDB gets powers to enter flats for checks
But laws will be used only as last resort: Desmond Lee
By Rachel Au-yong And Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

NEW laws that give Housing Board officers the power to enter HDB flats to check on flaws like ceiling leaks or do repairs were passed in Parliament yesterday, but they would be used only as a last resort, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee assured MPs.

Officers can force their way in without a court warrant "if, and only if, there is imminent danger to public safety or health, and time is of the essence, and HDB has no other means of entry to the flat", he said.

Mr Lee stressed this point when rounding up the debate on amendments to the Housing and Development Act.

The changes were in three broad areas: powers for its officers to enter a flat without a court warrant when its owners or tenants make unauthorised structural changes; get a warrant to enter a flat whose residents persistently refuse to cooperate in fixing urgent problems; and enter a flat with a warrant to investigate whether the owners breached their lease agreement with the HDB.

While MPs support the changes, they worry about possible abuse of the new powers.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam asked when the HDB could enter a flat without a warrant.

Mr Lee said the most likely situation would be when walls and columns critical to a building's structural integrity are demolished.

Such cases are rare. In the last three years, there was an average of five cases of unauthorised demolition of structural walls and columns each year.

One man, who could have endangered his entire HDB block by removing a structural column during renovation work, let HDB officers in to conduct urgent repairs. But what happens when HDB does not get permission from the flat owner? That's what a new Bill seeks to address, says Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, April 13, 2015

But each was a cause for concern, he stressed. Citing a Bishan home owner who removed part of a structural column without a permit, Mr Lee said the HDB must be able to intervene quickly in situations where there are severe risks to life and property.

The "last resort" approach also applies to less urgent cases like ceiling leaks. Officers will get a court warrant as a last resort "when the upper-floor neighbour is clearly unreasonable", he said.

Indeed, if neighbours are considerate, the HDB would not need to invoke these powers, he added.

But the powers could significantly reduce the time taken to resolve a small number of protracted ceiling leak cases. There were about 30 serious cases last year, in which upper-floor neighbours refused to cooperate despite repeated appeals, Mr Lee said.

Before getting a warrant, the HDB would give the owners or occupiers at least 24 hours' notice. Three MPs, including Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), asked for a longer notice period.

Mr Lee said no, adding that 24 hours is enough as these cases would have gone on for a while.

Mr Gan and Nominated MP Mohd Ismail Hussein warned of possible impersonation of officers. Mr Lee said residents can call HDB hotlines to verify an officer's identity, while the HDB will work with the police and grassroots organisations to educate residents on ways to guard against imposters.

Similarly, officers armed with court warrants can enter flats to check whether the owners have breached the lease by, say, illegally subletting their flats or turning them into gambling dens. Previously, they could not enter as long as the owners refused them entry.

In summing up, Mr Lee said: "It's important the HDB be given appropriate powers to... ensure a safer and more pleasant living environment for all."

MPs offer suggestions, express concerns
By Yeo Sam Jo and Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

LAWMAKERS gave several suggestions as well as expressed their concerns yesterday during the debate on the Housing and Development (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill, passed by Parliament later, seeks to bolster the HDB's powers in dealing with urgent repairs and illegal activities.

Some major points made by MPs include:


Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol) asked if HDB helps flat owners who cannot afford to repair ceiling leaks.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee assured the House that the HDB will continue to subsidise half of the repair cost under its Goodwill Repair Assistance scheme. The flat owners can also choose to pay in instalments.

Mr Lee also said HDB will carry out further investigations and do remedial works should the repairs be ineffective because of poor workmanship. These will be done free.


Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon) and Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam asked if HDB's authority to enter flats can apply to cases of hoarding.

No, said Mr Lee.

He said HDB is separately stepping up efforts to better deal with such cases. It is roping in social workers, grassroots leaders and enforcement agencies, when necessary, to clear the clutter.


Mrs Chiam proposed that HDB officers be required to wear a recording device before entering a flat, "much like police officers who wear it nowadays for the prevention of disputes".

Mr Lee said HDB will look into her suggestion.


To deal with recalcitrant home owners, Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong) suggested having a demerit point system, not unlike Singapore's traffic offence demerit system and Hong Kong Housing Authority's Marking Scheme for estate management in public housing estates.

"(It) could be a preferred softer approach... before applying the harsher law of forced entry and financial penalty," he said.

Mr Lee, noting that Hong Kong's system applies to public housing tenants, said: "This system may not be immediately applicable to Singapore as the vast majority of our flats are sold to the owners. And our key objective is to facilitate entry into the flat to carry out investigation and undertake necessary repairs."

CPF withdrawal rules for older cohorts already more generous: Tan Chuan-Jin
Channel NewsAsia, 14 Apr 2015

New guidelines allowing Central Provident Fund (CPF) account holders to withdraw 20 per cent of their retirement savings after their 65th birthday do not apply to members who turned 55 before the year 2013. This is because the withdrawal rules for these older cohorts were already more generous, said Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin in Parliament on Monday (Apr 13).

“It would be excessive to now allow these cohorts to withdraw an additional 20 per cent of their retirement savings in a lump sum at 65,” he said. “Doing so would mean there would be too little left behind in the Retirement Accounts to provide a meaningful payout in retirement.”

He explained some changes the CPF guidelines have gone through over the years: “We tightened the withdrawal rules from 2009 to 2013 to ensure members had sufficient savings set aside for retirement. The withdrawable amount was gradually reduced such that from 2013, CPF members who turned 55 with less than the Minimum Sum and did not have property to pledge, could only withdraw the first S$5,000 in their CPF accounts. “

Mr Tan added: “Most of the CPF changes announced at the Budget/Committee of Supply (COS) this year will apply to new cohorts turning 55 from 2016. In the case of the withdrawal rules, we have allowed cohorts who turned 55 from 2013 to benefit because these cohorts were affected by the tightening of the withdrawal rules.

"For the cohort who turned 55 in 2012 or, in other words, those aged 58 this year, we will allow a withdrawal of 10 per cent of their Retirement Account savings at 65, since they were only allowed to withdraw 10 per cent of their savings from 55. All older members aged 59 and older would already have been allowed to withdraw 20 per cent or more of their CPF savings in a lump sum from the age of 55.”

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin also revealed in Parliament how many CPF members have successfully applied for withdrawals under the Medical Grounds Scheme since 2007, in response to a request by NCMP Gerald Giam.

The scheme - first introduced in July 2006 - is based on four grounds of qualification. First, members who wish to apply have to have their medical conditions certified by a public institution or the CPF Board’s own panel, he said.

Members who are terminally will be able to withdraw their retirement savings in full, while members who are permanently incapacitated from ever resuming employment, suffer from an unsound mind or have a severely reduced lifespan, will be able to withdraw their retirement savings after setting aside a reduced Retirement Sum at the point the application is granted.

According to the minister, about two-thirds of applications received between 2007 and 2014 for the Medical Grounds Scheme were successful – the remaining were rejected because they were unable to provide the required certification from approved doctors.

Fewer unsuccessful applications for flats under Married Child Priority Scheme: MND
The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2015

There have been fewer unsuccessful applicants under the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) over the last few years, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament on Monday.

Responding to Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC), he said the average number of unsuccessful applicants under this scheme for Build to Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) was 578 in 2014, down from 724 in 2011.

The average number of unsuccessful MCPS applications under the BTO exercises has been halved from 511 applications in 2011 to 241 last year.

The success rates have averaged 59 per cent, said Mr Khaw. The number of successful applications was 7,500 in 2011, 11,000 in 2012 and 9,600 in 2013

The number of BTO and SBF applications under this scheme was 15,700 in 2013, down from 18,100 in 2012.

There were 8,400 such applications between January and September last year, and selection exercises after September are still in progress.

More than 100,000 new BTO flats have been offered between 2011 and 2014, clearing the backlog of demand from first-timers.

"Today, almost all young couples, including those who apply under the MCPS, are successful in their first application for a BTO flat in the non-mature estates," he said.

Last November, the MCPS was also converted to a quota-based priority scheme, to give greater assurance to families who wish to stay near or together. Besides this scheme, the higher-tier CPF housing grant for resale flats will help couples who wish to stay near or with their parents.

Two-person cockpit rule followed by local airlines
By Karamjit Kaur Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE Airlines and all other local carriers have taken steps to ensure there are at least two persons in the cockpit at all times, a requirement prompted by the allegedly deliberate crash last month of a German carrier by its co-pilot left alone in the cockpit.

Also, their crew have all along been required to undergo medical assessment, which includes an evaluation of the pilot's mental health, Senior Minister of State (Transport) Josephine Teo said in Parliament yesterday.

For those aged 60 and older, the examination is done every six months, she added.

The other local airlines governed by the new requirement are SilkAir, SIA Cargo, Scoot, Tigerair and Jetstar Asia.

Mrs Teo was replying to Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who had asked if Singapore had a two-person cockpit rule and if pilots had to take regular psychological tests.

A growing number of civil aviation regulators and airlines are reviewing their cockpit and other procedures in the wake of the March 24 crash of the Germanwings plane in the French Alps.

Its co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27, is believed to have locked his captain out and deliberately crashed the Airbus 320 with 150 people on board. It was found he told his flight instructors in 2009 he suffered from "severe depression".

Following the crash, Australia, Germany and Canada are among the countries that introduced the two-person cockpit rule. The US had been doing this even before that incident, Mrs Teo said, adding: "In our case, to the best of our knowledge, the airlines introduced it quite recently."

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore also requires pilots to declare any ill health at any time.

All local carriers must have procedures for a pilot to report on another who, in his opinion, is not fit to fly. Pilots may submit confidential reports to the authorities or throughin-house systems.

Transport delays: Redress 'not straightforward'
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

WHEN a train breaks down, affected commuters are given a fare refund, while free bus services are also activated, Minister of Transport Lui Tuck Yew told Parliament yesterday.

On top of a fare refund, a complimentary bus ticket for a future ride is also provided in the event of a bus disruption, he added.

Replying to a question from Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), Mr Lui said a comprehensive regime to compensate commuters affected by transport disruptions is "not a straightforward exercise".

"There are those in a very, very severe disruption who may have to de-train, get down to the track and walk to the station. There are those who are stuck on affected trains.

"There are those who... can drop off at an interchange station and find a way around," he said.

Mr Lui said that current arrangements are "appropriate", and that fines collected from operators because of disruptions go to the Public Transport Fund.

He added that $7.5 million has been tapped from the fund during each of the last two fare hikes to provide lower-income households with transport vouchers to help defray their transport costs.

Mr Lim said that fines collected do not directly compensate the affected commuters, and suggested that an operator give every commuter in a train station during a breakdown a credit of a few dollars to appease them.

But Mr Lui replied that commuters may not accept a blanket compensation: "The difficulty is whether commuters who are inconvenienced to different degrees would accept that an equal compensation applies to all of them, regardless of the extent to which they have been inconvenienced."

The Land Transport Authority will also step up audits of SMRT's rail maintenance resources and processes, while supporting the train operator with engineering expertise, Mr Lui said in a separate written response to Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC)

Singapore's current train delay rate is better than New York City's but worse than Hong Kong's, he added, with the number of delays lasting more than five minutes on the North-South and East-West lines having improved by over 25 per cent in the last three years.

No lapse in screening of envoy with gold bars
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

THERE were no lapses in security checks in the case of a foreign diplomat who carried about 27kg of gold bars in his luggage on a flight out of Changi Airport last month, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran told Parliament yesterday.

He was replying to a question from Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam on the incident.

Mr Iswaran said police were aware of media reports on the case, and their records indicated that the diplomat - who was not based here - departed on a flight from Changi, where he was screened before boarding. No security threat items were found on him.

Media reports identified him as Mr Son Young Nam, the first secretary of North Korea's Embassy in Bangladesh. He was stopped when he arrived in Dhaka via Singapore.

Bangladesh Customs officials called it a "clear case of smuggling", and he was later ordered to be expelled from the country.

All diplomats are screened for security reasons before they are allowed on board an aircraft, just as other travellers are, said Mr Iswaran. This involves the use of metal detectors for checks on persons and X-ray screening for their belongings.

He also explained that if there is suspicion of a security threat, then the authorities are not constrained from making the appropriate checks on the items a diplomat carries.

There is also no weight limit on the amount of gold and other precious metals that can be transported in and out of Singapore by travellers, Mr Iswaran added.

"The member should also be aware that it is not uncommon, especially for travellers to certain parts of the world, to carry what you and I might consider not insignificant amounts of gold on their person or in their personal baggage," he said.

"If they are able to give a clear explanation that these are their personal effects or for personal consumption purposes, generally they would be allowed to carry on with their travel with those items."

New Bill clears the air for drone enthusiasts
Law, likely to take effect in June, spells out when permits are needed
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

DRONE enthusiasts now have a better picture of whether they need a permit to fly their devices and where they can do so.

The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill, which Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew introduced in Parliament yesterday, aims to provide clear guidelines for the safe use of unmanned aircraft here.

For example, operators must get a permit to fly a drone that weighs more than 7kg.

Even if their drones weigh less than 7kg, they must still get a permit if they want to fly it within 5km of an aerodrome, or at altitudes above 200ft (61m) above mean sea level when they are 5km or more outside of an aerodrome.

Thinking of getting a drone? Here’s what it means for you if you plan to use it outdoors:
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, April 13, 2015

A permit is required for drones used for commercial purposes. This includes hiring a drone operator to take pictures of an outdoor wedding or shoot a music video.

Permits are also required for specialised services, such as surveying, aerial advertising or flying display performances or if the operator plans to discharge any substance - liquid, gas or solid - from the drone.

Users of these drones will also have to apply for a permit to fly over or near certain security-sensitive areas, and to take photographs in them. Similar regulations will apply for "special event areas", or venues designated for major events, such as some areas of the upcoming SEA Games.

What will be a complete no-no is the carrying of dangerous materials, such as weapons, or bio-chemical or radioactive material by drones. Offenders can be fined up to $100,000, jailed for up to five years, or both.

Those who breach the other regulations could be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both, when the new law takes effect, likely to be on June 1. The new regulations will mean hobbyists who use drones for recreational and private purposes can do so without a permit.

Even so, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in a statement yesterday encouraged such users to do so safely. Among the tips: fly in good visibility and weather conditions, and keep the drone within sight at all times.

Applying for a permit can be quite tedious, said drone operator Rude Lee, 33, from aerial photography company Skyshot. He cited how applications to CAAS could get bounced to different agencies, including the Home Affairs Ministry and air force. "If the new system can lead to a shorter approval time (from the current wait of two weeks), that will be good for drone companies too," he said.

CAAS yesterday said it will serve as the one-stop centre for all permit applications from June.

Bill tabled to regulate taxi booking apps
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

THIRD-PARTY cab booking apps may soon have to follow a set of standards - the first to be put forward in a largely-unregulated landscape - or risk shutting down in Singapore.

The Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Bill 2015, which was introduced yesterday, would allow the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to manage this booming industry, which has at least five players here, including GrabTaxi, Hailo and Uber.

Firms behind these apps will have to apply to LTA for a licence to operate here. There could be different classes of registration, depending on the number of taxis which use the app, and the type of booking service being provided. They will likely have to use only licensed taxis and cabbies, and provide information on fares and surcharges up front to commuters.

These measures were brought up by LTA in November last year. They also include providing basic customer support services, such as a lost-and-found service and avenues for complaints. Other rules include banning bidding and pre-trip tipping for taxi services.

The introduction of the Bill in Parliament by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew marks the first step in setting up the regulatory framework to govern these apps. This would offer a broad oversight compared to other cities, some of which have banned the apps outright or allow their use only during off-peak hours.

Based on the proposed law, app companies will be given three months to apply for a licence.

Those which flout the rules face penalties ranging from fines of up to $100,000 per case, to suspensions of up to three months. In severe cases, their licences could be revoked. LTA may also intervene if the app is found to be operating in a manner which may adversely affect the availability of taxi services that can be hailed on the road.

Companies contacted said they are prepared for the new law.

Easy Taxi Asia's regional managing director Li Jianggan said it has invested in a new call centre and customer relationship management system.

Uber Singapore general manager Yaniv Goder said its app already has "a fare estimate function... (which) helps safeguard riders' interest".

Bid to boost MAS powers to curb money laundering
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

PROPOSED changes to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Act will beef up defences here against money laundering and terrorism financing.

If approved by Parliament, these will give the banking regulator the authority to inspect a wider range of financial institutions for money laundering and terrorism financing breaches - including non-bank credit card and charge card issuers.

The move comes as money laundering cases involving the abuse of such cards are emerging internationally, and non-bank issuers are hence seen as warranting closer scrutiny.

The proposed changes, introduced in Parliament yesterday, will allow MAS to share information related to the policing of money laundering and terrorism financing with foreign supervisory bodies.

It also sets out requirements for financial institutions to conduct customer due diligence and retain these records.

These enhancements will align Singapore's regime with international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force, the global standard-setter for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.

Another Bill introduced yesterday will cater to the introduction of a new type of government bond called Singapore Savings Bonds. The bonds, which will be issued monthly likely starting in the second half of the year, aim to provide a long-term, low-cost savings option offering safe returns.

The Government Securities (Amendment) Bill proposes an amendment to impose restrictions on transfers and pledges of future new government securities issues. This is because Singapore Savings Bonds cannot be traded on the open market.

Conventional Singapore Government Securities, meanwhile, will continue to be tradable.

Pre-abortion counselling for all
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

PRE-ABORTION counselling will from Friday be extended to all pregnant women seeking to end their pregnancies in Singapore, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said. It is currently not compulsory for women who have not passed the Primary School Leaving Examination, have three or more children, or are foreigners.

Existing and former abortion counsellors will also now be required to attend a refresher course once every two years to update their counselling skills, he said in a written reply to a question from Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC).

The move follows a public consultation exercise last November, in which the Government sought feedback from healthcare professionals, non-governmental organisations and social workers, among others. The proposal was first made in February last year by the Ministry of Health.

800 firms aided by productivity centres
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

THE three productivity centres serving the construction, retail and food services, and manufacturing industries have helped about 800 companies so far, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said yesterday.

The centres will expand their pool of productivity consultants, including those with specific industry expertise, such as in retail or food services, he added.

They are also conducting research and benchmarking studies, to better address the specific productivity issues in each sector.

He also said the Government will continue to monitor industry demand and scale up productivity centres to cover new sectors where required.

Mr Teo's remarks were in response to a question from Nominated MP Thomas Chua, who asked how the three productivity centres have performed in view of the 0.8 per cent decline in labour productivity last year.

Slowdown in doctors leaving public sector
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

DOCTORS are leaving the public sector at a slower rate, following moves to boost their pay and improve career opportunities, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said yesterday.

In 2011, 6.5 per cent of doctors left the public sector, compared to 5.8 per cent in 2014. At the same time, the number of doctors working in public healthcare clusters has grown by 34 per cent, to about 6,500.

The slowdown comes amid recent moves to retain good doctors in the public healthcare sector, Dr Lam said in his reply to Nominated MP and sports physician Benedict Tan.

A new pay framework was implemented in two phases in 2012 and 2014, to pay public sector doctors more competitively.

"Following the review, our public healthcare institutions are now more aligned in terms of principles and structures of doctors' remuneration, while retaining some flexibility to manage individual packages for talent retention purposes," said Dr Lam.

The public healthcare sector also supports their professional and personal growth, by giving them opportunities for continuing training and development, he added.

To improve the work environment for doctors, the sector has also taken steps to shorten rotating shifts, set aside time for structured learning, and adopt IT to streamline and minimise administrative workloads.

Edusave Awards for MOE students only
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

EDUSAVE Awards administered by the Ministry of Education (MOE) will not be extended to students in private schools. This includes those studying in the six full-time madrasahs whose curriculum offers both religious and secular subjects.

Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah explained that the awards "recognise secular academic and non-academic achievements in the context of MOE-funded schools". As such, it would be inappropriate to extend them to private schools.

From last year, however, Edusave contributions were extended to all Singaporeans aged seven to 16 - including those outside MOE-funded schools - to support secular enrichment activities, she said.

Madrasah students also receive support from other sources. The Islamic Religious Council provides assistance to those from low-income families, she said. Those who do well can also receive Muis' Progress Fund Madrasah Assistance Scheme Performance Award.

Merits of making students PRs
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 14 Apr 2015

ABOUT 7,000 foreign students at the secondary and junior college levels became permanent residents between 2001 and last year on their own merits, Second Home Affairs Minister S. Iswaran said.

And about 840 of them - or 12 per cent - subsequently took up citizenship. Also, just 1 per cent of those granted permanent residence renounced their PR status, while none have renounced their citizenship.

Workers' Party MP Png Eng Huat (Hougang) also asked about the granting of PR status to young foreigners "with no roots in Singapore".

Said Mr Iswaran: "The member suggested this is a group that is too young to be considered. There is in fact an equally persuasive alternative view because these young people, by virtue of being embedded in our education system for a significant period of time, living and studying cheek by jowl with Singaporean students, are better integrated and therefore better able to immerse themselves in our environment."

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