Saturday 31 October 2015

Circle Line will become a full circle by 2025

Three new stations to close loop for Circle Line
Rail extension will offer direct routes to city, Marina Bay area when it is completed in 2025
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

The Circle Line (CCL) will finally be true to its name in 2025, when a 4km rail stretch with three new stations - Keppel, Cantonment and Prince Edward - is completed.

This sixth stage of the CCL will link existing terminal stations HarbourFront and Marina Bay, offering commuters direct routes to the city and Marina Bay area.

For example, a trip from Telok Blangah to Marina Bay now requires two transfers - from the CCL to the North East Line, and then the North-South Line. With the completion of the extension, a commuter can reach his destination in a single train ride, cutting travelling time by a third, or about 10 minutes.

The additional stations will also expand the rail network to areas such as Prince Edward, Everton Park and the southern edge of the city.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng, who unveiled the new stations during a visit to the Tuas West Extension, said yesterday: "(The) CCL6 will support direct east-west travel, enhancing overall connectivity between areas such as Paya Lebar and Mountbatten, and areas such as Pasir Panjang, Kent Ridge and Harbour-Front."

He added that the extension will enhance the CCL's role as an orbital line allowing commuters to transfer between MRT lines without entering the city centre.

This extension will cost $3.7 billion and construction is expected to start in the middle of 2017. More than 400,000 commuters use the line daily and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) expects ridership to grow further, though it did not provide a projection.

The extension will also support future developments, such as the Greater Southern Waterfront proj-ect, a 1,000ha slice of coastal land that will be freed up by the relocation of ports from Pasir Panjang and Tanjong Pagar to Tuas by 2027.

Government should run Singapore's public transport system: Kishore Mahbubani

Privatisation of public transport may have gone too far: Mahbubani
He calls on Singapore to free itself from 'old economic ideas' and to have political courage to make policy U-turns
By Soon Weilun, The Business Times, 30 Oct 2015

PRIVATISATION of Singapore's public transport system may have gone "too far", and the government should consider running the system instead, a leading academic said on Thursday.

Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, urged Singapore to not be "a prisoner of old economic ideas" and to have the "political courage" to make policy U-turns, including on the idea of the role privatisation plays in the country's economy.

"Let us consider the possibility that we may have gone too far, and we have become a prisoner of old economic ideas. And, to suggest one concrete area where we have gone too far, is in the area of public transport."

He was speaking as a panelist at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum, an annual forum co-organised this year by the Economic Society of Singapore (ESS) and Nanyang Technological University.

In his speech to forum attendees, Prof Mahbubani listed out three challenges that Singapore might face in the future, including the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China, and the strategic importance of Asean to Singapore's survival.

It was in the context of the third challenge - that of being willing to make policy changes - that his point about Singapore's reluctance to deprivatise the public transport sector was raised.

He said public transport was a public good, but Singapore had decided that private operators were better placed to deliver such a service.

"Then we ask ourselves: Why is the MRT breaking down so often?" he mused.

His comments come in the wake of faults and breakdowns in the country's rail system in the past three days, which disrupted trunk services on operator SMRT's North-South and East-West Lines and SBS Transit's North-East Line.

Prof Mahbubani attributed the frequency of breakdowns to the operators being profit-maximising private corporations, to whom long-term maintenance works were viewed as costs.

He referred to a recent media report about Hong Kong's MTR Corporation (MTRC) spending 37 per cent of its rail revenue last year on maintenance, against SMRT's 19 per cent.

Separately, SMRT clarified on Wednesday that its rail-related maintenance costs ranged between 39 per cent and 45 per cent of rail revenue during financial year 2015.

Its revenue for 2015 was S$1,235.5 million; that for SBS Transit last year was S$951 million.

Prof Mahbubani's comments on Thursday drew a firm rebuttal from Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping in a question-and-answer session.

Mr Ho, who also spoke at the forum, said he did not support "excessive privatisation", but also believed that re-nationalising industries was not a solution. In his view, MTRC owns the real estate that sits above its stations, so it can generate revenue from that, which underwrites the non-profitable parts of public transport.

"We privatised wrongly, and Hong Kong privatised in a way that is probably more correct," he said.

China scraps one-child policy amid demographic woes

Many cheer move, but some criticise decision to set the cap at two children
By Kor Kian Beng, China Bureau Chief In Beijing, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

China has ended its decades-old one-child policy and is allowing all couples to have two children, in an effort to tackle demographic woes and boost the country's long-term economic vitality.

"The historic change was intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population," said the Xinhua state news agency yesterday at the end of a closed-door meeting of top Chinese officials.

The spiking of the controversial policy that has limited millions of Chinese couples since 1979 to having one child was one of the few tangible outcomes of the four-day plenary session of the Communist Party's Central Committee.

Nearly 400 officials, led by President Xi Jinping, also finalised the 13th Five-Year Plan - a development guideline listing government tasks and targets in the 2016 to 2020 period - and set a "medium- high" annual growth rate for the world's No. 2 economy.

Declining birth rates, a widening gender imbalance, a shrinking workforce and an ageing society - all cited as side effects of the one-child policy - are threatening to impede China's economic transformation efforts and add to the government's economic burden.

The one-child policy was introduced to boost economic growth in China's early years of reform and opening up. It reportedly led to 400 million fewer births in the country over the years.

Tharman: Singapore on track to raise productivity growth

By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

Singapore is "well on track" to lifting productivity growth, targeted at 2 to 3 per cent per annum over the decade from 2009, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday at the launch of a new cash-payment system at Cold Storage supermarket.

"If you take us for the first five years, which is 2009 to 2014, we are well on track... In fact, we are at the upper end of the 2 to 3 per cent range," he said.

Technology is a key enabler within the retail sector in coping with manpower challenges, boosting service excellence and...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Thursday, October 29, 2015

Asked if productivity targets would be revised due to poor performance, he added: "We are getting endless repetition of the fact that productivity has not worked. Actually we are very much on track."

"It would have been crazy to think that you'll get the same growth rate every year. It's not that way in any country, for any length of time. It jumps up and down and it's highly cyclical," he said. "(But) productivity today is significantly higher than when we started in 2009."

However, Mr Tharman, who is chairman of the National Productivity Council (NPC), pointed to two disappointments: that a lot of the gains were front-loaded in the first two years, with little progress since; and that while the export-oriented part of the economy has had very good productivity growth, the purely domestic sectors - like construction, retail and food services - did not fare as well.

Labour productivity, as measured by real value-added per worker, grew at a compounded annual rate of 2.5 per cent between 2009 and last year, according to figures from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Much of this can be attributed to the 11.6 per cent growth in productivity in 2010 when the economy rebounded from the global financial crisis. Between 2010 and last year, productivity growth was 0.3 per cent per annum.

Referring to Cold Storage's new cash system, as well as its other moves to lift productivity, he said: "Which is why what is happening here is so important."

Mr Tharman painted a future scenario of self-checkout and automated cash systems replicated across the retail scene, including at shopping malls. He called on shoppers here to "shift their habits" towards the self-service route.

Singapore 'must create products instead of just adding value'

It risks becoming irrelevant if it does not keep refining its competitive edge: Ho Kwon Ping
By Chia Yan Min, Economics Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

Singapore must remain globally relevant or risk becoming a second- tier city, a prominent thinker and businessman said yesterday.

Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping said the country must become a creator of new products and services instead of merely adding value.

Mr Ho told the Singapore Economic Policy Forum at the Conrad Centennial that the Republic has no "proprietary advantages", noting that its success over the past 50 years has largely depended on "relative advantages" such as a strong geographical location and lower-cost labour.

However, "these advantages do not last forever". Costs here are now on a par with or higher than costs in many developed countries, and Singapore's geographical location does not give it as much of an edge as before, given that the rest of the region is also growing fast.

"We need to have a proprietary advantage which we actually own," said Mr Ho.

The aviation and pharmaceutical industries are examples of how Singapore can go beyond locational and cost advantages to become globally competitive, and more can still be done to build up sectors such as clean technology and urban solutions, he added.

If Singapore does not constantly refine its competitive edge and remain a top-tier city, it risks "a gradual decline into inconsequentiality", he noted. "The biggest challenge to Singapore is not our non- existence, it is our descent into irrelevance."

This can happen even if Singapore remains relatively prosperous, said Mr Ho.

"The real, tangible, clear and present danger for us is not the overdramatic one of sinking into the sea, it's the possibility that we will descend to become a second-tier city."

He also outlined other key risks Singapore is facing, including flagging productivity coupled with rising business costs, and an uncompetitive domestic economy.

Earlier, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran had said Singapore must shift from simply adding value to creating value in order to unlock future economic potential.

This is especially important as domestic constraints are tightening and technological trends are poised to disrupt existing business models, the minister said at the forum, which was organised by the Economic Society of Singapore.

Singapore is also facing a more challenging environment where slower growth is likely to be the norm, he added.

Friday 30 October 2015

Five future challenges for Singapore economy

Committee will look at these areas - jobs, companies, resources, technology, markets
By Marissa Lee, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

The challenge of moving the Singapore economy up the innovation ladder, from being one that is "value-adding" to a "value-creating" one, will be a key focus of the team set up to chart the Republic's economic direction.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who will chair The Future Economy committee, framed Singapore's challenges through the lens of the "five futures" - of jobs, of companies, of resources, of technology and of markets.

I had a good dialogue with the Singapore Business Federation this week. SBF members spoke frankly with me on the...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Friday, October 30, 2015

On jobs, Mr Heng noted that "it may not be immediate but if we look at a 10-, 15-year timeframe, the nature of jobs will change".

With 3D-printing and additive manufacturing changing how factories are being configured, Mr Heng said, "how do we build skills and redesign jobs so that workers can be at their best and that talent can be maximised?"

He was speaking to reporters after a closed-door dialogue with business leaders at the Singapore Business Federation on Wednesday (Oct 28).

A second key challenge is that the "future of companies" will be marked by the rise of disruptive business models and competition from abroad. So staying competitive means exploring "cooperative platforms" for different business clusters to cooperate with one another and maximise capabilities, said Mr Heng.

Technology undeniably presents a challenge and, while Singapore has invested heavily in education, research and development, the "future of technology" hinges on how this can be translated into innovative processes, said Mr Heng.

Government Priorities Post GE2015: A look at six key areas

Challenges and changes ahead for the new Cabinet
Our correspondents highlight key areas for new Cabinet to focus on
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 25 Oct 2015

A new Cabinet is in place, and the Government will set out its priorities and policies for a new five-year term when Parliament opens in January 2016.

What might be expected, and are there some areas the various ministries should focus on?

In physical infrastructure, expect much of the work that has been planned in building new MRT lines and upgrading the rail network to continue under new Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, even as more could be done to improve public transport.

As for public housing, supply has been ramped up to meet demand under Mr Khaw's leadership at the National Development Ministry. But a new challenge looms, as public housing estates age - how will new minister Lawrence Wong help reshape the HDB heartland?

In education, both new acting ministers Ng Chee Meng, in schools, and Ong Ye Kung, in higher education and skills, will have their hands full leading the task of preparing students across all levels for a more challenging economic landscape, where learning at all ages is key.

This effort continues in manpower, where the focus remains keeping the workforce lean and productive, maintaining a strong Singaporean core, and getting workers and companies ready for the future by making sure they fully tap policies such as SkillsFuture.

Similar attention to effective delivery is expected for social policies, where spending has increased significantly to help elderly and lower-income citizens. Going forward, there appears to be room to better assist those who live alone, as well as caregivers.

The same approach could help on the healthcare front, where greater emphasis needs to be placed on care within the community, and more importantly, on preventing and managing chronic ailments so a greying population can age well.

Six Straits Times correspondents give their views on some of the major challenges, as well as changes, that can be expected in the near future.

Poland's successful losers

By Jacek Rostowski, Published The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

WARSAW • How can a government with the best economic record in Europe (indeed in the entire OECD) be humiliated at the polls by a eurosceptic, nationalistic and economically illiterate opposition - one deemed unelectable only a year ago?

That is the question many Poles, and friends of Poland, are now asking, following the defeat on Oct 25 of the Civic Platform government. If creating jobs and boosting incomes can't get you re-elected, what can?

One reason for the opposition's victory is, of course, universal: after a time, people everywhere want change, and Civic Platform had been in power since 2007. And impatience with the status quo is arguably stronger in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, where much of the social, political and economic order is yet to be generally accepted. Indeed, Civic Platform's Mr Donald Tusk was Poland's first post-communist prime minister to win successive terms.

Moreover, as parties govern longer, their strongest personalities tend to be replaced by weaker ones. Civic Platform contested this election after replacing Mr Tusk with Ms Ewa Kopacz, and has had the same problem with a number of other "substitutions".

What is specific to Poland is that the past eight years have apparently created a pronounced case of cognitive dissonance. Annual GDP growth averaged 3.2 per cent over this period; and, unlike in the rich West, both inequality and unemployment have actually fallen, with growth mainly benefiting the middle three quintiles of the income distribution. This segment of the population - usually politically crucial - enjoyed a 28 per cent rise in per capita real income from 2007 to 2014.

At one level, Poles are aware of this, with large majorities describing financial conditions in their own families, workplaces and social environments as either "good" or "very good". The dissonance is that equally large majorities also describe Poland's economic situation and the direction in which the country is moving as either "bad" or "very bad".

GE2015 campaign cost: $7.1m

PAP candidates spent $5.3m while the eight opposition parties' expenses totalled $1.8m
By Chong Zi Liang and Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

Candidates in the general election (GE) held last month spent more than $7.1 million altogether, according to expenses submitted to the Elections Department.

People's Action Party (PAP) candidates spent $5.3 million on the 89 seats the party contested, while the expenses of the eight opposition parties contesting these seats totalled $1.8 million.

The Sept 11 GE saw the ruling party challenged in all seats for the first time since Independence. It won 83 out of 89 seats and 69.9 per cent of the votes.

In all, spending in this general election was about 30 per cent more than the $5.5 million in the 2011 polls. Still, the average spending per voter was below the maximum $4 that candidates were allowed, a sum that was raised this year from $3.50 in 2011.

The PAP spent $2.16 per voter and the opposition parties, 73 cents.

Candidates are required under the law to submit their election expenses to ensure accountability and transparency in campaign finance.

The biggest spender per voter was Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Yuhua single member constituency: $2.97 on average. In all, she spent $67,114.

About two-thirds of her expenses were on "advertising and printing of promotional materials".

The expense records of the candidates show the wide variety of logistics needed to mount an electoral campaign.

These ran from the basics, such as posters, banners and stage backdrops, to high-tech equipment.

Singapore still the best place to do business

Nation ranked most business-friendly economy by World Bank for 10th year
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 215

Singapore has emerged as the most business-friendly economy in the world for the 10th year in a row.

According to a World Bank league table, Singapore's regulatory environment is highly beneficial for entrepreneurs.

The annual "Doing Business" report released yesterday measures the ease of doing business in 189 economies based on 10 areas of business regulation, including starting a firm, getting credit and electricity, and trading across borders.

By those measures, Singapore led the pack with a score of 87.34. New Zealand was close behind on 86.79.

Entrepreneurs in Singapore need an average of 2½ days to set up a company, while in Eritrea - the economy placed lowest in the rankings - investors usually need about 84 days, according to the report.

The data also showed that it is becoming easier to do business globally. In 2003, it took an average of 51 days worldwide to start a new business. This has been more than halved to 20 days.

"An economy's scores on Doing Business indicators are somewhat akin to a measure of concentrations of various proteins and minerals in the human blood," said World Bank senior vice-president and chief economist Kaushik Basu.

"They may not seem important to the lay observer, but they have huge long-run implications for an economy's health, performance and growth."

Singapore's pro wrestling shows pull in crowds

Sports entertainment pioneers see attendance rise from 60 to average of 400
By Mark Cheong, Photojournalist, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

In front of a full-house crowd, under the glare of red and blue stage lights and dressed in doctor's scrubs and a surgical mask, Dr Gore struts onto the stage and enters the ring.

After the music dies down, the first match of the night begins. Minutes later in dramatic fashion, Dr Gore parades around the ring and stands on the top rope after beating his opponent, Mister Consistency.

The menacing Dr Gore is played by Caleb Tan, a 25-year-old illustrator who has been wrestling for the past two years, and is part of Singapore Pro Wrestling (SPW), an organisation and promotional company which pioneered pro wrestling in Singapore back in 2012.

He picked up wrestling by chance, after getting invited to a training session by a former army mate. Since then, Tan has wrestled in 10 shows as the character of Dr Gore, which was given to him by wrestling coach and SPW co-founder Vadim Koryagin.

"I was initially self-conscious about my physical look and the character's outfit allowed me to cover my body," said Tan. "Since then, it has evolved into an identity that (is portrayed by) my wrestling style, which is very calculated, manipulative and over-zealous, and gives the impression that I am slowly taking my opponents apart."

Pro wrestling, which is considered sports entertainment, is a combination of physical prowess and theatrical skill.

Matches are carefully choreographed and the results are pre-determined. Each match also closely follows a storyline, often pitting the good guy against the bad. The challenge is to rile up fans and make sure they go home satisfied.

Remove 3 demerit points by attending Safe Driving Course

The Traffic Police say the course is designed to correct dangerous driving behaviour and encourage good road habits.
By Chan Luo Er, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Oct 2015

From next month, motorists who have accumulated half or more of the maximum allowable demerit points can remove three demerit points from their driving records, after attending a Safe Driving Course.

However, motorists can have the three demerit points cancelled only twice during their lifetime. The Traffic Police said the course is designed to correct dangerous driving behaviour and encourage good road habits.

Eligible motorists will receive notification letters from Nov 4. They can then register for the course at the three licensed driving schools. These are the Bukit Batok Driving Centre, ComfortDelGro Driving Centre and the Singapore Safety Driving Centre.

The course consists of a 3.5-hour theory session and a half-hour practical lesson under the supervision of a driving instructor. However, course fees vary across the different driving schools.

Those who choose not to attend the course will continue to have their demerit points on their record for the stipulated period.

Illegally-modified vehicles will be inspected more often

Crackdown on souped-up engines, exhausts
Offenders will have to send vehicles for more inspections
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

Souping up your vehicle's engine and exhaust illegally could land you in the soup.

From next month, owners caught modifying these parts more than once will have to send their vehicles for official inspections more often.

Those caught a second time will have to send their vehicles for an inspection every six months, over a period of two years, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Those caught a third or subsequent time will have to do this every three months over a two-year period.

Think again before illegally modifying your vehicle…From 1 Nov 2015, vehicle owners caught (more than once) with...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Inspections are usually required every year or two, depending on a car's age and type.

The tougher measures are in addition to existing penalties of a fine of up to $2,000 or jail of up to three months for first-time offenders.

Existing penalties also apply to other illegal modifications made, such as overly tinted windows or installing after-market high-intensity discharge lamps.

LTA said it takes a "serious view" of illegal modifications made to engines and exhaust systems because they posed a safety and environmental hazard.

"Once a vehicle's engine or exhaust system is modified without due certification and approval, the existing vehicle components may not be able to handle the increased power or speed," it said. "Such modifications may also affect the durability and reliability of a vehicle."

What consumers need to know about palm oil

People cannot make informed buying decisions unless products that contain palm oil are labelled as such
By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

Choked by the haze and as the Pollutant Standards Index climbed to as high as 300, some members of the public called for a boycott of palm oil products. Errant oil palm plantation owners set fire to adjacent forests to open up new land for cultivation.

Some also do this to clear their plantations after a crop cycle.

According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a recognised palm oil certification body, of the many fires that happened in Indonesia last month, 1,400 were within oil palm plantations.

To prod shoppers into action, global body Consumers International, a not-for-profit company based in Britain, last week called for people to stop buying items made by firms contributing to the forest fires in Indonesia.

A Straits Times street poll this month seemed to show that consumers - half of the 50 surveyed - would stop buying products from firms contributing to the haze.

But first, they need to know how.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Civil servants must be close to the ground: DPM Tharman at the Public Service Leadership Dinner, 27 October 2015

'See issues through eyes of ordinary citizens'
Tharman tells public servants to sense concerns underlying feedback, spot gaps in policy delivery

By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2015

When the Tanglin Halt estate was picked for the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) last year, Housing Board officers went from door to door with audio recordings which explained the programme in different languages and dialects, including Hokkien and Cantonese. The recordings were played to residents who were not conversant in the language of the officers.

After gathering their feedback, HDB took a new approach in the SERS project, the largest to date. For instance, it assigned each home owner a "journey manager", who is the single point of contact throughout the home owner's SERS journey.

It also offered elderly home owners concerned about their retirement savings the option of getting a replacement flat on a 30-year lease.

These measures were cited by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday to show how public servants can raise their game when they "develop the habit of looking at issues through the eyes of ordinary citizens".

Speaking at the Public Service Leadership Programme (PSLP) dinner, attended by about 600 public servants, he said: "We must be close to the ground, listening to feedback, sensing the deeper concerns that often underlie that feedback, and spotting the gaps in policy delivery that should not be there."

The PSLP was launched in 2013 to develop public officers into specialists in fields such as security and economics.

Mr Tharman also identified other ways the public service must evolve to meet the increasingly complex needs of citizens. The coordination among different government organisations "must become second nature to public servants" because the best solutions for issues faced by Singaporeans "are often those that bring agencies together and cut across policy disciplines".

A collective effort to build Singapore’s future: Head of Civil Service Peter Ong at the Public Service Leadership Dinner, 27 October 2015

By Peter Ong, Published TODAY, 29 Oct 2015

Public Service leaders need to be able to manage diversity, collaborate as a team across agencies and build for the future, says Head of Civil Service Peter Ong. Speaking at the annual Public Service Leadership dinner at the Orchard Hotel on Tuesday, Mr Ong added that tackling diversity requires a more nuanced take on policies and more time, as public officers could be required to hold competing interests and tensions at the same time, while solutions would also no longer be as clear cut as before. 

The following is an excerpt from his speech:

Today, we are at a critical time in history for the Government. This is for three reasons.

First, we celebrated SG50 this year. This gave us a chance to reflect on our history and the reasons that made Singapore strong.

It also helped us to renew our sense of mission and commitment to Singapore’s future, as one people and as one Public Service.

Second, our people have given the Government a strong mandate at the recent General Election for the next five-year term.

Third, we have a new Cabinet, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has shared four priority areas, with leadership renewal as a key objective.

What does this mean for us in the Public Service?

How can we best sustain the momentum of SG50 to work with Singaporeans in building a brighter future? Over the past few years, we have invested time and effort to explore new ways of connecting with and engaging citizens to understand their needs.

We have implemented policies in a targeted and integrated fashion, including improving service delivery.

CDCs will look out for those in need: Mayors

While councils no longer disburse financial aid, they still oversee welfare programmes
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2015

Two years ago, the five Community Development Councils (CDCs) handed their task of distributing financial aid to Social Service Offices (SSO) of the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

But the mayors in charge of the CDCs stressed yesterday that these community-building councils will continue to ensure that no resident in need of help will fall through the cracks.

In my speech at the CDCs SG50 Symposium, I urged them to see how they can coordinate and help provide government social...
Posted by MParader on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Though it is a challenge, Mayor Teo Ser Luck is confident because CDCs still oversee programmes in which volunteers go to the aid of the elderly and the needy.

CDCs also build community relations in each district, said Mr Teo, who leads the North East District and chairs the Mayors' Committee.

He was speaking to the media before a symposium on how CDCs can remain useful to residents. It was attended by more than 400 district councillors and volunteers.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who spoke at the start of the meeting, offered ideas. ESM Goh noted at least 16 groups and organisations providing social services in constituencies and to the community.

He asked: Can CDCs play a role in coordinating some of these services and ensure people's needs are more conveniently and better met?

President Tony Tan's State Visit to New Zealand, 25 to 30 October 2015

President Tan revisits role of New Zealand in WWI
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

On the first day of his state visit to New Zealand yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam took in a key part of the country's history - its role in World War I.

Shortly after arriving in the capital city of Wellington, Dr Tan visited a newly opened exhibition that depicts New Zealand's participation in the war.

His tour of The Great War Exhibition took him through the experiences of some of the 100,000 soldiers from New Zealand who fought in the war from 1914 to 1918, and the battles they fought. More than 18,000 of them died.

The exhibition is housed in the country's first national museum, the historic Dominion Museum building in downtown Wellington.

Outside, the city centre's streets were quiet as it was New Zealand's Labour Day public holiday, but inside the exhibition, visitors heard nothing but the sound of soldiers' marching songs, gunfire and planes.

Lending the exhibition a sense of realism were life-size figures of soldiers, authentic wartime weapons such as hand grenades and a tank, and cobblestoned paths and rocky terrain underfoot. It was created to commemorate the centenary of World War I by New Zealand's Sir Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord Of The Rings films.

Dr Tan also toured a companion exhibition on New Zealand's part in the invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey.

A central part of the exhibition focused on the amphibious assault a hundred years ago on April 25, 1915, when thousands of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, fighting alongside British and other allied soldiers, stormed the Gallipoli beaches under heavy fire.

The Gallipoli campaign is regarded as having stirred a sense of national identity in New Zealand.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Processed meat linked to colon cancer: 7 things to know

By Lee Min Kok, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

Processed meats such as ham, sausages and bacon have been placed alongside tobacco and alcohol as a major cancer hazard, according to findings released by an arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), citing analysis of more than 800 studies, announced on Monday (Oct 26) that it found enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens, due to it causing colon cancer.

Colon cancer - also known as colorectal or bowel cancer - affects the large intestine, which consists of the colon and rectum.

"In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance," said the IARC's Dr Kurt Straif in a statement.

What are the implications of this revelation and how does it impact Singaporeans? Here are 7 things to know.


Between 2010 and 2014, 9,324 people were diagnosed with the cancer. It was the most frequent cancer among men during the same period with 17.2 per cent of all cancers, while it was ranked second (13.3 per cent) behind breast cancer among women.

Colorectal cancer is also one of the top death-causing cancers - it ranks second (1,944 deaths from 2010-2014) behind lung cancer for men and third (1,782 deaths) behind breast and lung cancer for women.

Tripartism still the right model for Singapore: PM Lee Hsien Loong at NTUC National Delegates' Conference 2015

He urges labour movement to adapt to new economic challenges to stay relevant
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

In a time of global economic uncertainty and change, the model of the Government, employers and labour unions working together remains the right formula for Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

The model, known as tripartism, must be safeguarded with continual adaptation to new challenges, he said. "Tripartite partners must upgrade themselves and raise their game," he said. "We need to maintain and strengthen the trust we have built into the next generation of tripartite partners."

Speaking at the National Delegates Conference of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), held once every four years, PM Lee urged union leaders to update their approaches to stay relevant.

He pointed in particular to two challenges: helping older workers stay employed, and meeting the desires of young professionals.

In response to the first, PM Lee noted that NTUC has designed jobs and salary structures for older workers and persuaded the Government and employers to agree to raise the re-employment age to 67 from 2017. As for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), he noted that the group already comprises 50 per cent of the workforce and is growing. "The labour movement cannot just be for the rank-and-file non-PMETs, it has to represent the PMETs who have different needs and issues," he said.

In his keynote speech that kicked off the three-day conference in which union leaders will draw plans for the next four years and elect a central committee, PM Lee said Singapore is facing an economic slowdown with the rest of the world.

Global forces disrupting traditional jobs are also putting stress on workers, he noted. The Singapore worker meets these challenges from a position of strength, thanks to the tripartism model, he said.

Over decades of government-facilitated cooperation, employers here have "learnt to see unions as partners rather than opponents". Also, the symbiotic relationship between NTUC and the People's Action Party - the labour chief is a Cabinet minister and union leaders sit on key forums - has led to "sound national policies which promote growth and work for the workers' interests".

PM Lee contrasted the dynamism of Singapore's unions with those in Europe or the United States.

Singapore 'ensures welfare of foreign workers'

They are included in unions and laws protect basic rights; they also benefit from tripartite efforts like Migrant Workers' Centre
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

Singapore looks out for the welfare of foreigners in its midst, through laws that protect their basic rights and by including them in unions, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

For instance, the Employment Act protects basic rights for all workers, including foreign workers, said Mr Lim, at the first International Forum on Tripartism. The Employment of Foreign Manpower Act is further tailored to their specific needs.

They also benefit from tripartite efforts such as the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), a worker advocacy group, added labour chief Chan Chun Sing at the same forum. The ministers were responding to questions posed by delegates from countries that frequently send workers to Singapore.

"Our commitment of how we treat our workers, whether local or foreign, is that we will not do unto others what we do not expect others to do unto us," said Mr Chan, NTUC secretary-general and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

"We treat all our workers fairly... because if we want an enterprise to succeed, then everyone at that enterprise must behave as if they are one big family."

Over 30 countries including India, Indonesia, and the Philippines were represented at the event by government officials, union leaders and employers.

Joint training centre for police, SCDF officers opens

By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

Elite officers from the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) can soon undergo joint training to tackle complex emergencies at a new integrated training centre opened yesterday.

Called the Home Team Tactical Centre, the 29ha complex, about the size of 27 football fields, includes a drive-in shooting range, and mock-ups of a petrochemical plant and a collapsed building site.

Opening Ceremony of The Home Team Tactical Centre (HTTC)
Check out our officers in action at the Home Team Tactical Centre yesterday!
Posted by Singapore Police Force on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The centre in Mandai Quarry Road allows training to be conducted under one roof. Previously, officers from the police and SCDF were trained at various venues including the Civil Defence Academy, Mandai Training Village and Home Team Academy.

The centre is a "significant step" towards greater collaboration between the two agencies, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam at its opening ceremony.

"Over time, we will consolidate the operating and logistics bases of the (police) and SCDF specialised units," he said.

You have seen pictures of the SCDF training facilities at the Home Team Tactical Centre (HTTC), now witness it from a different perspective in this video!#ANationofLifesavers
Posted by Singapore Civil Defence Force on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The centre completed its first phase of construction in July, and officers are expected to begin training in the next two months.

By 2018, the centre will have more facilities, including a 200m firing range and a simulated village to train officers in urban operations.

Electricity market to be fully liberalised in 2018

Competition will mean more choice and likely lower prices for consumers, say experts
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

In the second half of 2018, everyone who consumes electricity in Singapore will be free to shop around for the best deals in the market.

That is because the Energy Market Authority (EMA) plans to fully open up the electricity retail market to competition, Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), said yesterday at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week.

At the opening of Singapore International Energy Week 2015 this morning, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Monday, October 26, 2015

This means consumers will have the choice to buy electricity from electricity retailers under customised price plans, similar to the way customers choose mobile-phone plans from telcos. This will allow these customers to get the best deal based on their usage patterns.

Currently, only some 33,000 commercial and industrial consumers with an average monthly electricity consumption of at least 2MWh - which amounts to a monthly electricity bill of about $450 - benefit from this flexibility. This threshold was last lowered from 4MWh to 2MWh in July. The remaining 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, are on the regulated tariff with SP Services. But that is set to change.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

MTR v MRT: Hong Kong rail's 'always improving' ethos

Looking at the big picture of what makes MTR work may offer lessons for Singapore's MRT
By Li Xueying, Hong Kong Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 25 Oct 2015

Like a panoramic painting, Hong Kong's entire mass transit railway (MTR) network is represented electronically across a sprawling wall.

Red dots move along various lines, showing where its trains are at that moment. Panels beam scenes of commuters streaming in and out at stations. A clock suddenly lights up with red digits. There is a delay on one of the tracks. The 30 or so "traffic controllers" in the room stop work on their computers and watch. It ticks off - 15, 16, 17. By the 20th second, it fades to black. The train is moving again. Everyone relaxes.

The situation last Monday afternoon sorted itself out quickly. But here at the Super Operations Control Centre (OCC), the central nervous system of the MTR network, no one takes chances.

Completed two years ago, the OCC is crucial for coordinating speedy responses when crises erupt, says Dr Jacob Kam, MTR Corporation's (MTRC) director of operations. For instance, incoming traffic from other lines will be held at bay and interchange stations alerted. If needed, coaches are activated to bus stranded commuters.

Last year was a busy one for the OCC. There were 12 "major disruptions", the highest since comparative data was collected in 2012. These are defined as delays lasting more than 30 minutes and within the control of the MTR (this excludes weather or passenger factors). Still, Hong Kong's rail system remains one of the most reliable in the world - "the best in class", as Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan put it in his blog three weeks ago when exhorting local operators to "close the gap".

Last year, the MTR experienced 273 delays of eight minutes or more, out of a total of 1.9 billion trips. It has an "on-time" rate of 99.9 per cent, which means that only in one out of 1,000 trips do passengers experience a delay of at least five minutes. This is benchmarked against a demanding schedule. Trains arrive every two minutes during peak hours, and three to six minutes at other times.

So what accounts for the purring performance of the network first built 36 years ago, ahead of Singapore's by nine years?