Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Parliament Highlights - 13 Jul 2015

Schools to continue outdoor learning trips at home, abroad
But school trips to Mt Kinabalu temporarily suspended as a safety precaution: Minister
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

Schools will continue to provide both local and overseas outdoor adventure learning programmes for students because they are useful and effective tools for learning, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in Parliament yesterday.

But as a safety precaution, all school trips to Mount Kinabalu will be suspended for the time being.

In a ministerial statement on the tragedy that befell Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupils and teachers when they went up Mount Kinabalu for a trip on June 5, Mr Heng said the earthquake in Sabah was an unforeseen natural disaster that could not have been prevented.

The 6.0-magnitude quake killed 10 people from Singapore, of which seven pupils and two teachers were from TKPS. An adventure camp guide from local firm Camp Challenge also died in the incident.

The school sent 29 pupils and eight teachers to Mount Kinabalu for its annual leadership camp for pupil leaders.

Said Mr Heng: "Whether a participant perished in the earthquake depended on where he or she happened to be at the time. It made no difference whether the participant was a child or adult, novice or experienced mountaineer.

"Seismologists considered the probability of such a destructive earthquake happening in the area around Mount Kinabalu to be unknown. There was no prior warning," he added.

"No matter how careful our schools may be in planning their overseas trips, events that are beyond our control and prediction may still occur, whether natural disasters or not."

Mr Heng said the Malaysian government has said it will assess and monitor seismic movements in Sabah and review its safety measures for climbers.

"Until the safety of Mount Kinabalu is ascertained by the Malaysian authorities, no schools will be allowed to take students there," he said.

But even as the Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking extra precautions with Mount Kinabalu, Mr Heng said outdoor learning journeys are "effective learning platforms" that build confidence, adaptability, and resilience.

MOE will set up an advisory panel comprising local and international experts to enhance the quality and safety of such outdoor programmes. "This panel will provide MOE with additional inputs on enhancing the quality and safety of outdoor adventure learning programmes that are conducted locally and overseas," said Mr Heng.

Details of the panel will be announced at a later date.

Mr Heng added that MOE conducts annual audits of schools' overseas programmes, where good practices are shared and areas requiring improvements are identified. This year's audit will focus on improving "contingency plans for events such as natural disasters", he said.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) had asked if MOE would consider giving special awards - even posthumously - to those who had shown bravery during the disaster.

In response, Mr Heng said: "We will honour the staff and instructors who accompanied our students to Mount Kinabalu in a manner that is befitting of their courage and sacrifices."

More details will be released at "an appropriate time", said Mr Heng. He added that MOE's foremost priority is to provide support and counselling to TKPS pupils, teachers, and the victims' families, which will go on as long as needed.

"Today, I took Parliament through the events of the day when an unpredicted earthquake in Sabah took the lives of fellow...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Monday, July 13, 2015

More powers for authorities to fight organised crime
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

A new law which gives the authorities wide-ranging powers against criminal syndicates was introduced in Parliament yesterday.

Mr S. Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs, said in Parliament that the Organised Crime Bill would help detect, investigate, prevent and disrupt organised crime activities, and deprive criminals involved in such activities of the benefits of their crimes.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday that activities of organised crime groups - which can include drug trafficking, money laundering and unlicensed moneylending - posed a serious security threat.

"These activities are often transnational in nature, with criminal groups operating across several countries and, oftentimes, with the leaders operating from outside Singapore," the ministry said.

It added that the Bill was a pre-emptive move to prevent organised crime groups from taking root in Singapore.

The Bill defines an organised crime group as three or more people involved in serious crimes for the purpose of material or financial benefit. It would give law enforcement agencies more investigative powers and beef up punishment for serious crimes, such as drug trafficking and corruption, if committed as part of an organised crime group.

The Bill also introduces a civil confiscation regime, which allows the courts to confiscate benefits from organised criminal activities without a conviction. The courts can do so if the public prosecutor can prove on a "balance of probabilities" that an individual has committed the crimes. This means that if it can be proved that the crime was probable, the courts can confiscate the benefits. Such a move requires a lower burden of proof than a criminal conviction, which requires guilt to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This confiscation regime is similar to the one already in place for serious offences such as drug trafficking and corruption.

The Bill would also give the courts powers to issue preventive orders that would place prohibitions or restrictions on the activities of individuals or organisations involved in organised crime.

In developing the Bill, the ministry said it studied the laws and practices of other jurisdictions, such as Britain, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime.

It added that consultations were also held with the judiciary and legal fraternity on its key features.

The idea for such a Bill was mooted in 2012, at the national Budget debate. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said then: "We want to send the strongest possible signal that we will not allow organised crime to take root in Singapore."

Yesterday, Mr Alvin Yeo (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, called the Bill a welcome move, and lauded the fact that it recognised the transnational nature of modern crime. "One of the most effective measures of fighting these criminal activities is the confiscation of benefits from these organisations. It will hit them where it hurts."

Shangri-La shooting: Police 'acted in line with procedure'
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

Measures taken by police when they shot at a car that crashed through security barriers near the Shangri-La Hotel in May were "precise", and their effect limited to the vehicle and persons in it, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

The incident, which occurred during the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit, left the car driver, Mohamed Taufik Zahar, 34, dead. The two passengers were arrested and drugs were found in the car.

Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) had asked about the incident, as well as security measures in place during the summit.

Mr Teo said the vehicle and persons in it were acting in a "non-compliant, aggressive and threatening manner", and the use of lethal force was provided for under the Criminal Procedure Code.

He noted that in the current security climate, such an event, attended by top defence officials from around the world, was a prime target for terrorists.

Therefore, a high security protection level was adopted for it.

Police conducted a series of road blocks and checks on persons and vehicles at and around the hotel during May 28-31, and set up six stations for checks on people and five stations to make sure vehicles were not carrying dangerous weapons or explosives.

Mr Teo noted that explosives have been the most prevalent type of weapon used in attacks, accounting for over 60 per cent of all incidents globally. Car bombs in the Middle East have resulted in heavy death tolls, while closer to home, the Jemaah Islamiah terror network planned to use truck bombs against installations here.

The 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta also involved vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, he added. "These are all sober reminders that Singapore is not immune to this threat."

Mr Teo also outlined the multi-stage approach police took to deter car bombs when warranted.

There are traffic signs near affected areas to alert motorists to road closures and checks, measures like concrete blocks to get vehicles to slow down, and a line of concrete barriers or police land rovers to impede drivers who might attempt to evade checks. Armed police officers are also deployed.

However, in a situation where a driver ignores repeated orders to stop and crashes through barriers, threatening lives, police procedure is to open fire at the driver to neutralise the threat immediately, to prevent it from causing danger to people at the event, Mr Teo said.

A coroner's inquiry into the driver's death will also be conducted in the coming months. The Home Affairs Ministry is also reviewing the incident thoroughly, to ensure police measures continue to be effective in deterring and dealing with security threats.

62 suspected MERS cases tested negative
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

A total of 62 suspected cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been investigated in Singapore this year, as of last Friday.

All tested negative for the virus, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told the House yesterday, in response to questions from Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Nominated MP Randolph Tan.

Mr Gan said an Inter-Ministerial Committee was formed late last year to "oversee whole-of-government preparedness against dangerous infectious diseases, including MERS and Ebola". He chairs the committee with Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.

In spite of the preventive measures that have been put in place, Mr Gan urged the public to remain vigilant against the threat of infectious diseases as "it is something that we need to learn to live with", with greater global connectivity.

"We're going to see that there are in fact different forms of infectious diseases that will threaten Singapore from time to time," he said. Singapore was hit by an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, and is now on guard against Mers and Ebola.

Mr Gan said the threat of bird flu is "not totally eliminated either".

MERS has killed 36 people in South Korea since an outbreak began on May 20.

Mr Gan assured members that measures have been put in place to detect imported Mers cases and contain their transmission. First line of defence measures include temperature screening at the airport, heightened awareness among healthcare workers of symptoms, and public education efforts.

"However, it is a matter of time that the contagion will reach our shores," he said, adding that government agencies have contingency response plans in place should there be an imported case.

Should there be confirmed cases, patients will be treated in "negative-pressure isolation rooms" where healthcare workers will be decked in protective gear.

An exercise was conducted at Changi Airport recently to simulate the transfer of a "suspect case of Ebola" to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in a portable medical isolation unit. The People's Association also recently launched a nationwide programme to train grassroots leaders on preventive measures to handle MERS, so that they can share the knowledge with residents.

Mr Gan urged the public to play their part by keeping up to date with the Government's advisories and exercising personal responsibility and good hygiene practices.

Labour policies ensure PMEs not short-changed
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

Singapore's labour policies will always be friendly towards employers that give Singaporeans a fair shot at jobs, even as the inflow of foreign workers is tightened.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say gave this assurance in Parliament yesterday following his ministry's announcement last week that, from Oct 1, companies must state openly the salary range of the professional, managerial and executive (PME) jobs when advertising their vacancies in the national jobs bank.

The move is to prevent Singaporeans from being short-changed, the ministry had said.

Yesterday, Mr Lim indicated the problem is not widespread.

"By and large, most employers do show enough commitment in giving Singaporean job applicants fair consideration," he said.

Only a small group will have their hiring processes scrutinised more closely by the ministry, either because they have a lower proportion of Singaporeans compared with their industry peers or are deemed by the ministry not to be fully committed to hiring Singaporeans.

Mr Lim added that his ministry is also looking at companies whose human resource (HR) director is a foreigner and which have a "high concentration" of foreign professionals from the same countries as the HR directors.

"I'm not accusing them of being biased," he said, adding that he just wanted to convince himself whether this concern of many PMEs is well-founded or unfounded.

Mr Lim, the former labour chief, also faced a barrage of questions on other labour issues, such as companies' hiring policies and employment numbers, from Members of Parliament such as Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang and labour MPs Patrick Tay and Zainal Sapari.

He said the sharp fall in employment in the first quarter of this year was partly caused by annual ups and downs in the hiring of workers. Another factor is that employment growth was much slower in manufacturing, construction and parts of the services sector, he added.

"I will not jump to any conclusion based on a one-quarter outcome," he said, adding that there were still many more jobs available in the same quarter.

Employment fell by 6,100 in the first quarter of this year, reducing the total number of workers employed to 3,617,800. The last time the economy saw such poor job market performance was in the second quarter of 2009, when employment fell by 7,700.

However, there are more than 72,000 jobs offered by 20,000 employers in the government-run national jobs bank, he said. "More than half are actually PMET jobs."

Besides matching jobs with workers, Mr Lim said the jobs bank can help show "any early signs of skills deficit", a situation where workers lack the skills for available jobs.

To develop training programmes to arm them with suitable skills and to identify future trends, Mr Lim said the Government will continue to take the small-group approach of forming tripartite committees, which has taken root in 20 industries.

Mr Lim then noted, in a barb directed at the Workers' Party, that "there was a call in this House that we should go for a complete stop in terms of the importation of work permit holders.

"I think that would be overdone," he said. During the campaigning of the 2011 General Election, the Workers' Party had criticised the Government for letting in too many foreign workers.

Yesterday, Mr Lim acknowledged that companies are feeling the squeeze from the slowdown in the inflow of foreign workers.

However, he added: "We did the right thing by not freezing suddenly the importation of work permit holders."

'No compromise' in quality of BTO flats
Desmond Lee: More BTO flats, but no big change in number of defects reported
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

The ramping up of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats' supply over the last four years has not compromised their quality, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

Responding to six MPs who raised questions about public housing defects, he also said that complaints about the premium Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) do not mean the scheme has failed.

For BTO flats sold by the Housing Board, about a third of all new residents approach the Building Services Centre for help after collecting their keys, said Mr Lee.

About three-quarters of these requests are about defects, with "the vast majority" involving surface imperfections - which do not affect the building's structural integrity.

The number of defects reported involving BTO flats has not changed significantly over the years, said Mr Lee.

And according to the Building and Construction Authority's independent assessment of building quality - known as the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) - the quality of BTO flats has actually risen from a score of 79 in 2003 to 89 last year.

" It continues to rise and is comparable to that in private developments," he said.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) noted that in Australia, payment to the main contractors is held back until defects are fixed. He asked if HDB could similarly postpone the start of payment for BTO home owners if repairs are delayed.

But Mr Lee replied that developers are already required to address defects within a month. If they do not, the buyer can give notice, get it fixed and then make a claim for reimbursement.

"So in a way we shouldn't have delays in rectification," he said.

MPs also had questions on DBSS flats , which are designed, built and sold by private developers.

Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong of the Workers' Party (WP) said the official intent of the DBSS scheme was "to meet the housing aspirations of higher income flat buyers for better design and finishes".

"So do all these complaints signify that DBSS has actually failed in the intent?" he asked.

Responding, Mr Lee said there have been 13 DBSS projects since 2005 . "Not to trivialise the defects and the concern that first-time home buyers in particular feel when they see scratches or paint marks on their units or more serious defects, but I think you shouldn't... use these current few points that have been in the public eye to condemn the entire scheme as a failure," he told Mr Yee.

Mr David Ong (Jurong GRC) and Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) asked about HDB's role in overseeing DBSS projects, while Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) asked if HDB takes responsibility to ensure DBSS defects are rectified.

Mr Lee said private developers take responsibility, as the sale and purchase agreement is between residents and the developer.

For DBSS projects, the HDB only sets buyer eligibility rules and provides broad planning parameters such as the mix of flat sizes and the range of facilities.

But that is not to say that the HDB does nothing at all, he said. With the Trivelis DBSS project in Clementi, for instance, HDB "worked behind the scenes" with the developer to seek a resolution.

Investment bodies won't be made 'to take on more risk'
Tharman: Govt to cope even if tepid global economy hits returns of Temasek, GIC, MAS
By Chia Yan Min and Wong Wei Han, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

The three Singapore investment entities will not be made to take on more risk even if their returns are dragged down by persistently slow global growth, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told Parliament yesterday.

If Temasek Holdings, GIC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) end up contributing less to the national coffers on the back of a lacklustre world economy, the Government will have to cope by either adjusting its spending or finding alternative forms of revenue, said Mr Tharman.

He was responding to queries from MPs during a debate about an amendment to the Constitution, to include Temasek in the Net Investment Returns (NIR) framework.

The framework, set up in 2009, allows the Government to spend up to half of the long-term expected investment returns on the net assets managed by MAS and GIC.

The amendment allows the Government to apply the framework to Temasek as well. The move to include Temasek in the NIR framework was first announced by Mr Tharman in February, when he set out this year's Budget.

MPs expressed concerns over the move, though the amendment passed unanimously among the 73 MPs present during voting in Parliament yesterday.

Temasek's inclusion in the framework might put pressure on the investment firm to deliver results, said Nominated MP Randolph Tan.

Temasek has "proven itself more than up to the task" in handling risks associated with fluctuating global economic conditions, but there are no guarantees this state of affairs would continue, he said.

"The question should also be asked as to whether there could come a time when the decision we make today becomes a burden on Temasek to deliver results."

Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) said his party supported the amendment but asked if the Government might face a cash shortage if Temasek's actual returns do not match its long-term expected returns. In response, Mr Tharman said strong safeguards ensure that Temasek's contributions to the Budget will remain sustainable. These include retaining at least 50 per cent of real returns in the reserves, and spending only investment returns on the Government's net assets, not total assets, to ensure that enough is available to cover debt servicing costs.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) and Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) asked if the Government could provide more details on how Temasek's long-term expected returns are calculated, given that its portfolio is relatively more volatile compared with those of GIC and MAS.

Mr Tharman said the process is reviewed annually and "shaped by a sense of realism about the risks in the investment world". It is based on views from seasoned professionals and experts, who "seek not to be swayed by short-term sentiment".

He also reiterated that Temasek's inclusion will not change its investment strategies: "The NIR framework does not set a target rate of return for the investment entities.

"They have to be faithful to their mandates, and their mandates particularly in the case of Temasek and GIC are to invest for the long term, aim to grow the value of their assets over the long term and to ride out the short-term cycles."

NIR - A quick look
By Wong Wei Han, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

Q What is the Net Investment Returns (NIR) framework?

A The NIR framework is part of the way the Government frames its financial accounts and essentially determines the maximum amount of money it can draw from its investment entities. Introduced in 2009, it allows the Government to spend up to 50 per cent of long-term expected real returns generated from assets managed by GIC, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and now, Temasek Holdings.

Q What does "long-term expected real returns" mean?

A In the context of NIR, it means a rate of return that is compounded and averaged out over 20 years. This allows the rate to smooth out the better returns in the good years and the lower returns, when the markets are bad. Also, the rate will include both realised and unrealised investment gains. GIC, MAS and Temasek will look at market conditions and adjust their long-term expected real return rates annually.

Q Why is Temasek being included in the NIR framework now?

A The inclusion of Temasek comes as the Government steps up its investment on infrastructure, human capital and healthcare.

Overall government spending is projected to reach about 19 per cent to 19.5 per cent of gross domestic product, on average, over the next five years, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said during his Budget speech earlier this year . Including Temasek's contribution will add to Singapore's fiscal resources as spending needs rise. It will push NIR contribution to Singapore's Budget from 2 per cent to about 3 per cent, on average, over the next five years.

Q What are the key concerns?

A MPs and members of the public have questioned whether the Government is pulling its last fiscal lever to fund its ever-increasing spending.

Some also wonder if Temasek is now forced to alter its investment strategies in order to sustain a certain return rate to fund government expenses. In response, Mr Tharman said there is no contribution target for GIC, MAS and Temasek, and Singapore will continue to maintain its fiscal prudence.

Mount Sinai holding site for new JC is most suitable: Heng Swee Keat
The interim campus has the right complement of facilities and students of JC age will not have difficulty accessing it, says Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Channel NewsAsia, 13 Jul 2015

The former Raffles Junior College campus at Mount Sinai is the most suitable interim site for an upcoming Junior College (JC) as it best meets the school’s needs, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Jul 13).

“It is sufficiently large and has the right complement of facilities such as lecture theatres, sporting facilities and common spaces,” said Mr Heng, in a written parliamentary reply. “This site best meets the needs of the new JC’s curriculum and programmes.”

The school’s permanent campus in Sin Ming Avenue is expected to be completed at end-2019, but it would start taking in Integrated Programme (IP) students from Catholic High School, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School in 2017.

At a dialogue session in May, some parents had expressed concern about the distance between their homes and the holding campus, and requested the Ministry of Education (MOE) reconsider the former ITE Ang Mo Kio campus as a holding site.

The Education Minister explained that the Mount Sinai site is accessible to JC-age students even if it is further from home for some of the students who are in the IP. He noted that it is served by several bus services and is within walking distance to Buona Vista MRT station.

He also pointed out that Raffles JC operated at the Mount Sinai site for 20 years and had students from all over Singapore, and Dunman High School had used it as a holding site when its Tanjong Rhu campus underwent upgrading from 2007 to 2008.

“Hence, students of JC age would not have difficulty accessing the JC, even if it was further away than what was initially planned,” said Mr Heng.

“MOE appreciates the concern of parents in the changes of plans and timing for the interim and permanent campus of the new JC,” he added. “It is not ideal, and we regret that the developments did not allow us to proceed earlier.”

The school’s permanent campus was meant to be completed by mid-2018 and the former ITE Bishan campus was chosen as a holding site. But following delays to the completion of the campus and ITE Bishan no longer being available, MOE said the Mount Sinai site was the next best alternative.

Parents of the students had suggested the former ITE Ang Mo Kio campus be used as a holding site, but MOE said it was unsuitable, citing the lack of lecture theatres and few common spaces.

Bus sector: LTA set to get more power
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) could be given more power in running the public bus industry, under proposed changes introduced in Parliament yesterday.

In addition to planning bus routes and contracting them out, which it currently does, the LTA will also be put in charge of regulating the operators of bus services, depots and interchanges.

The oversight is now handled by the Public Transport Council (PTC), which will hand that role over to the LTA, if the Bill is passed.

The Bus Services Industry Bill will support the restructuring of the public bus industry to a contracting model, in which routes are tendered out for operators to bid for and run over a specific period.

Under it, operators can be rewarded for meeting service standards or penalised if they fall short.

A Ministry of Transport spokesman said: "As LTA will henceforth be responsible for all three functions - regulator, contractor and planner of bus services - it will be able to manage bus services more holistically."

Along with the new legislation, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew also introduced the Public Transport Council (Amendment) Bill yesterday. This will allow the PTC to take on an advisory role to the Government, once it has transferred its regulatory role to the LTA.

The PTC may undertake surveys, for example, to obtain public feedback and recommend improvements to the public transport system, the proposed Bill said.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (Amendment) Bill was also introduced by Mr Lui to set up the Changi Airport Development Fund. It is expected to receive an initial injection of $3 billion and will be used for developments such as Terminal 5.

S$9.8m in CPF non-payments recovered in past 4 years: MOM
The Ministry of Manpower acted on about 3,400 cases of CPF non-payment by employers during this period, according to Minister Lim Swee Say.
Channel NewsAsia, 14 Jul 2015

About S$9.8 million in contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) was recovered between January 2011 and December 2014, said Mr Lim Swee Say in a written response to the Workers' Party's Mr Pritam Singh on Monday (Jul 13).

The amount spanned more than 5,800 employees, about a quarter of which were staff employed on a part-time, casual or temporary basis. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) acted on about 3,400 cases of CPF non-payment altogether during this period, said Mr Lim.

The Manpower Minister also addressed a question on how a 2012 initiative has improved the situation of non-payment of CPF to these employees.

As part of the WorkRight initiative, MOM and the CPF Board have conducted outreach campaigns to raise employee awareness of their rights and employer awareness of statutory obligations, stepped up onsite inspections by more than 10 times to more than 5,000 inspections annually and welcomed complaints and enquiries from employees and members of the public, he said.

WorkRight has benefitted more than 42,000 Singaporeans who now enjoy statutory entitlements such as CPF contributions, timely payment of salary, or payment of overtime allowance, added Mr Lim.

He reiterated that employers are required to make CPF contributions for all their local employees earning a monthly salary of more than S$50 including those on term contract, part-time or casual work arrangements.

“Employers found to have not complied with their CPF obligations will be required not only to make good the CPF contributions due to their employees, but also be charged a late payment interest of 1.5 per cent a month, and/or imposed with a composition fine,” he said, adding that employers convicted under the CPF Act may be fined up to S$5,000 per offence and/or jailed up to six months, while repeat offenders may be fined up to S$10,000 per offence and/or jailed up to 12 months.

New bills

Issue payslips or face fine
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

Employers who fail to issue itemised payslips to their workers will be fined under a law proposed by the Manpower Ministry.

The ministry tabled a Bill in Parliament yesterday to amend the Employment Act - Singapore's main labour law - to make it compulsory for employers to issue such payslips and spell out employment terms clearly to their workers.

Under the proposed changes, breaches will be considered "civil contraventions" and fines would be imposed, but the penalties do not carry the stigma of criminal punishments.

Employers may be fined up to $1,000 for each initial breach and up to $2,000 for subsequent breaches. Those who give incomplete or inaccurate payslips would be presumed to have failed to comply with the new law. The ministry said the move, if passed, will reduce labour disputes. It is planning to implement the changes in the first half of next year.

Paving way for Singapore to join AIIB
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

The Finance Ministry yesterday introduced the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Bill, which paves the way for Singapore to become a member of the bank.

Singapore signed the AIIB charter on June 29, and the Bill will let Singapore subscribe in the bank's starting capital. The Government has plans to contribute US$250 million (S$338 million) towards the US$100 billion capital of the AIIB. This gives Singapore 0.48 per cent of the total voting share.

The Ministry of Finance said only 20 per cent of the sum has to be paid over five years. The remaining 80 per cent will be paid only when decided by AIIB members in extraordinary circumstances.

The China-led AIIB, which will provide financial support for infrastructure development and regional connectivity in Asia, is set to begin operations next year.

Bill on Silver Support Scheme
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2015

A new Bill for the Silver Support Scheme, unveiled in this year's Budget, was introduced in Parliament yesterday.

The scheme, slated to be rolled out early next year, will give cash payouts to elderly folk who need extra help. About 150,000 elderly Singaporeans stand to receive a payout of $300 to $750 every quarter.

Under the Bill, the Central Provident Fund Board will be appointed as the administrators of the scheme and will be given the powers to conduct means-testing.

The Bill also sets out penalties for those who seek to defraud the scheme. Those who knowingly provide false information to qualify, or to get a higher payout from the scheme, will face a fine of up to $5,000, a jail term of up to one year, or both.

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