Monday 31 October 2016

More break-ups among less educated; Marriage to foreigner less likely to last

Lack of resources one likely reason, say experts; they may also be less equipped to handle stress
By Theresa Tan, The Sunday Times, 30 Oct 2016

When it comes to marriage, love is not enough.

Money matters, and the lack of it can easily tear a marriage apart.

The proportion of non-university-educated men who end up divorced by their fifth wedding anniversary is two to three times that of their university-educated peers, according to government data tracking the 20,000-plus resident couples who wed each year.

The data used educational qualifications as a proxy for income, as couples do not reveal their incomes when they register their marriages.

The latest data looked at those who registered their marriages in Singapore in 2009.

Of this cohort, 9.3 per cent of the resident marriages involving grooms with secondary education had ended in a divorce or annulment before their fifth wedding anniversary in 2014. This is almost three times the 3.2 per cent of university-educated men.

Resident marriages refer to those involving at least one Singapore citizen or permanent resident.

Mr Gan had asked in Parliament for the number of divorces by income groups and how many of these break-ups involved a foreign spouse in the past three years.

While the ministry's reply did not pinpoint reasons why those who are less educated tend to see higher rates of divorces, experts say lack of resources could be one reason.

Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Mathew Mathews said the difference in percentages of divorces among the higher and less educated is significant.

He said: "It reminds us that it takes more than love to keep a marriage. You need resources."

Father and son who design Singapore stamps

Eng Tze Ngan says seeing his father design stamps while growing up got him interested in the art form
By Benson Ang, The Sunday Times, 30 Oct 2016

In 2006, graphic designer Eng Tze Ngan designed a set of stamps featuring vanishing trades in Singapore.

After making several visits to the Chinatown Heritage Centre to do research and take photos, he created 10 colourful stamps depicting old tradesmen such as a clogmaker, traditional barber and snake charmer.

This remains his favourite set of stamp designs - perhaps because it has special resonance with him.

After all, his trade - stamp design - is not vanishing, but going a little out of fashion in an increasingly paperless world.

The 38-year-old bachelor, who works freelance with SingPost on the stamps, has designed nine stamp sets, including one for last year's SG50 celebrations.

His story mimicks the traditional tradesmen in another aspect: He is following in his father's footsteps.

His father is none other than Singapore's oldest and longest-serving stamp designer Eng Siak Loy, 75, who has been designing stamps since 1969. He has produced more than 50 stamp set designs.

Exam stress among the young: When grades define worth

The obsession with grades and exams can take its toll on children. Amelia Teng speaks to experts and shines the light on the pressures children face and what parents can do to ease their burden.
By Amelia Teng, The Sunday Times, 30 Oct 2016

One counsellor recalled how a 13-year-old girl scored 83 marks in mathematics but was scolded by her mother for being careless on one of the questions.

"Her mother told her that she could have scored above 85 had she been more careful," said Ms Lena Teo, deputy director of therapy and mental wellness services at the Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association Singapore. The girl was referred to her because of anxiety, depression and self-harm.

Then, there was a mother who made her son retake the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), even though he had passed the first time. "I was shocked," said Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

"I couldn't understand why a parent would put her child through another year of primary school for better grades."

The obsession among some parents for grades and exams is putting undue stress on young children here - an issue that has come under the spotlight after a Primary 5 pupil fell to his death. According to a coroner's inquiry last week, the boy had seemed afraid of showing his mid-term exam grades, having failed Higher Chinese and mathematics, to his parents.

Parents here have described the episode as a wake-up call, with many admitting it has forced them to rethink how much pressure they put on their young children to do well academically - sometimes without even realising it.

More than As and Bs on a report card, it is the expression on their parents' faces when they read it that often matters most to children, added experts.

A parent's show of approval, disappointment or anger are signs of affirmation and acceptance, or otherwise, for young children. "Children just want to see their parents happy for who and what they are," said Dr Balhetchet.

Latest figures show that last year, there were 27 suicides among 10- to 19-year-olds - a 15-year high. This was double the 2014 figure, despite a drop in the overall number of suicides.

Young suicides have also been on the rise elsewhere - in Britain, 201 young people in the same age group of 10 to 19 had killed themselves in 2014, up from 179 in 2013.

A recent investigation by the University of Manchester of 130 teen suicides also showed that more than a quarter of them had experienced exam stress or other academic pressures.

The worry, counsellors here said, is that parents sometimes do not realise that by harping on grades, young children's sense of self-worth ends up being defined by how well they do in school. Even the "reminder" that if the child does not do well in school, he could end up with a poor job in the future can add pressure.

Sunday 30 October 2016

The $44 billion company you've never heard of

The story of how a Cambridge firm became a world leader in chip design, and was acquired for US$32b (S$44b) by Japan's Softbank, holds lessons for Singapore innovation
By Arnoud DeMeyer and Peter Williamson, Published The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2016

You may remember that at the end of July, the financial press reported on one of the biggest acquisitions of the British high-tech firm ARM by Japan's Softbank. Softbank paid US$32 billion (S$44 billion), 43 per cent above the last share price of ARM, for a firm with fewer than 4,000 employees, sales last year of about US$1.5 billion, and profits before taxes of about US$500 million.

That looked like a very high price for a relatively small company, even if its profitability is impressive.

Who is ARM and are there any lessons for Singapore-based innovators?

Both of us have been following ARM over many years and wrote case studies for our classes about it. You may or may not be familiar with ARM, but almost all of us are indirectly their customers. ARM is a pure intellectual property (IP) company. They design, but don't produce, a specific type of microprocessors which use fewer instructions and thus less energy.

The processors based on their IP are used in 95 per cent of mobile phones as well as other mobile devices and more recently in intelligent devices that can talk to each other over the Internet. This is generally called the Internet of Things. Most of your smartphones or tablets, your smartwatch that keeps track of your sleep or the number of steps you walk, or the GPS in your car may be using ARM's processors.

They are obviously active in a fast-growing market. We hear the buzz about smart cities, the Internet of Things, wearable technology, driverless cars - and all of these require processors of the type ARM helps to design. But paying US$32 billion for a company with fewer than 4,000 employees (or US$8 million per employee) and that has no manufacturing, and produces only IP, isn't that a bit over the top?

We are convinced that the price wasn't paid just for the visible assets, but also for their unique innovation system. We have described this as an ecosystem for innovation. The idea is actually not so new: ARM has developed an extensive network of partners that co-innovate and co-develop with them.

Some of these design processor chips based on ARM's IP, others have chip fabs or fabrication plants that produce the chips. Smartphone producers use the chip to program their devices.

ARM is a master at orchestrating this network, without controlling all the participants in the network, and is at the centre of know-how exchange between the many partners. Such ecosystems where peers work together to create value for the end user are perhaps not new. They existed back in mediaeval times when independent textile workers would work together, or in the management of water on rice terraces in Java.

But ARM has been very clever in using such an ecosystem to innovate in the high-tech sector. When Softbank bought ARM, it actually bought into a vast network of firms collaborating to innovate.

Are there valuable observations one can make about this case for Singapore-based innovators? We strongly believe so. Cambridge is, of course, within the United Kingdom, but there are almost no customers for ARM's IP in the UK. In that sense, it is a similar situation to that of many Singapore-based innovators with our very limited home market.

7Cs to survive an anti-jobs future

A stint at a technologies think-tank shows that children need to develop the 'soft' skills of being human, to counter the robotic revolution
By Jack Sim, Published The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2016

I was always talkative in class. This irritated my teachers who always made me stand outside the class.

Standing outside meant I didn't know what was happening inside.

I failed my O levels.

I enrolled to do my A levels at a private school, Our Lady of Lourdes, in Ophir Road. Teacher and staff turnover were high and often there were no teachers in class. (The school closed after some years.)

I failed my A levels, as did nearly all my 40 classmates.

But despite having no university education, many of these "failures" ended up doing well later on, and include a mining tycoon, a top forex dealer, a bond trader, TV broadcaster, top fashion designer, top deejay, Talentime winners (equivalent to Singapore Idol), and many businessmen - plus myself, Toilet Man (I am founder of the World Toilet Organisation).

These "misfits" are talented in ways not recognised by our education system, because we measure them by the same one-dimensional ruler.

After failing my A levels, I went to the hotel and catering school at what is now the Institute of Technical Education, where I studied accommodation operations. However, I ended up working as a building material salesman instead.

A large number of people don't follow the path of their original studies. Such people develop a resilience built on a foundation of their particular soft skills and way of thinking. We need to have more emphasis on these non-academic skills.

Despite being the top salesman in the Swiss company that I worked for, having no degree meant no chance to be promoted to manager.

So I started a business at age 24.

I created a series of 16 successful businesses in 16 years and reached financial independence. I retired at 40 to devote myself fully to social work.

Second thoughts about universal basic income

By Tyler Cowen, Published The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2016

I used to think that it might be a good idea for the federal government to guarantee everyone a universal basic income, to combat income inequality, slow wage growth, advancing automation and fragmented welfare programmes.

Now, I'm more sceptical.

"Let's send a cheque to everyone" is an appealing idea, but I've come around to the view that doing so would do more harm than good.

My first worry is that it eventually would choke off immigration to the United States. Voters don't like sending money to immigrants. A backlash could turn the net global humanitarian impact of a universal basic income plan negative. As I witness the evolution of US politics, I suspect it will prove easier to limit immigration than to limit the rights of immigrants to benefits, especially since the US offers a relatively rapid path to citizenship.

As it stands, most US welfare schemes are tied to the institution of work. That leaves gaps in the safety net, and frequently analysts decry this imperfect coverage.

I take this criticism seriously, but I see merit in tying welfare to work as a symbolic commitment to certain American ideals. It's as if we are putting up a big sign saying: "America is about coming here to work and get ahead!" Over time, that changes the mix of immigrants the US attracts and shapes the culture for the better.

I wonder whether this cultural and symbolic commitment to work might do greater humanitarian good than a transfer policy that is on the surface more generous. If you think of the US as the major source of innovation for the world, prioritising a work ethic over comprehensive welfare coverage might prove beneficial.

It is fair to ask whether a universal income guarantee would be affordable, but my doubts run deeper than that. If two able-bodied people live next door to each other, and one works and the other chooses to live off universal basic income cheques, albeit at a lower standard of living, I wonder if this disparity can last. One neighbour feels like she is paying for the other and, indeed, she is. It's different from disability payments, which enjoy public support because they require recipients to pass through a legal process certifying that they are not able to hold down a job.

Itemised bills at CHAS clinics from 1 Jan 2017

By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2016

The 1,600 clinics in the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), under which patients get subsidised treatment at private medical and dental clinics, will have to provide itemised bills from next year.

Dental claims will also be tweaked to be more specific about the work done.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said bills should list what the doctor or dentist charges, the amount of subsidy the patient gets and the amount they need to pay.

It should also list the consultation fee, cost of medicine, investigations and anything else that is charged. Dental procedures must also be itemised, such as the number of fillings carried out.

Bills will have to be issued from Jan 1 next year, even if a patient does not need to make any "out-of- pocket" payment.

It said this would "enable patients to better understand their clinic's charges and the CHAS subsidies they receive".

About 1.3 million people, including those in the pioneer generation, are eligible for CHAS subsidies. Last year, MOH paid out $167 million in subsidies for treatment given to 650,000 Singaporeans.

However, the scheme has not been without its problems. A few months ago, MOH suspended two dental clinics from the scheme. They are now the subject of a police fraud investigation.

Since then, several people have raised issues with the way some clinics manage this programme.

One writer to The Straits Times Forum page said a CHAS clinic refused to issue a bill, asking why he wanted a bill when his treatment was free as it was entirely covered by the subsidy.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Bus, train fares to be cut by up to 27 cents from 30 Dec 2016

Annual fare review: Bus, train fares to go down 4.2% as system is simplified
Fares based on shortest route; no difference between underground and above-ground lines
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2016

Public transport fares will have their deepest cut in years from Dec 30, even as the system for calculating them is radically simplified.

Fares will be levelled down so commuters pay the same amount for the same distance, regardless of whether they hop on a train line that is underground or above-ground.

They will also be charged on the basis of the shortest route between boarding point and destination. Till now, fares have been based on the fastest travel path, not the shortest.

As a result of last year's falling oil prices, and calculated through the new system, bus and train commuters will enjoy an overall fare cut of 4.2 per cent from Dec 30, the Public Transport Council (PTC) announced yesterday. It is the biggest reduction in recent years, after 2009's fare cut of 4.6 per cent.

The last major change to the fare structure was in 2010, when distance-based fares were rolled out, helping those making transfers.

For adults using travel cards, the fare adjustments will mean savings of between one and 27 cents for a journey. Senior citizens will have their fares lowered by one to seven cents, and students by one cent across the board.

Fares for fully-underground rail lines, such as the North-East Line (NEL), Circle Line and Downtown Line, will be lowered to be the same as those for above-ground lines, such as the North-South and East-West lines.

Trips on fully underground lines currently cost five to 25 cents more for adult commuters, but this differential - to reflect higher operating costs such as air-conditioned station platforms - will be removed. This higher charge started in 2003, with the opening of the NEL.

PTC chairman Richard Magnus said commuters will benefit as more new fully underground lines are opened in the coming years.

The move will better distribute commuters across the MRT network, as some take above-ground lines only for savings, the PTC said.

"Commuters will enjoy more flexibility in choosing the most convenient travel path, without worrying they have to pay more," PTC said. This will result in commuters always paying the lowest fares possible.

The PTC is guided by a fare adjustment formula in its annual fare review. While the allowable fare reduction this year is 5.7 per cent, the PTC decided to grant only a 4.2 per cent cut out of prudence.

Singaporean students receive The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2016 prizes at Buckingham Palace

Singapore teens get writing awards from Duchess of Cornwall
Duo are among top 4 who beat 13,500 others to win 1-week holiday in London
By Tan Dawn Wei, Assistant Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2016

Even though teenager Gauri Kumar had lived in London before moving to Singapore last year, she had seen Buckingham Palace only from the outside. Her view changed this week when she and fellow Singaporean Tan Wan Gee were escorted into the palace and taught how to curtsy.

It was to prepare the 14-year-olds to meet Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who handed them certificates for their writing skills on Wednesday: Gauri came in first in the junior category of The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition, while Wan Gee was runner-up. The senior category was won by Inessa Rajah, 17, from South Africa and the runner-up was Esther Mungalaba, 18, from Zambia.

They beat 13,500 others from Commonwealth countries, earning a "Winners Week" in London which includes visits to Cambridge University, the Houses of Parliament, the Evening Standard newspaper and the British Library.

Gauri, who attends Tanglin Trust School, said she was "extremely nervous" about the royal experience. "I haven't processed it yet," she said after receiving her award from the Duchess.

For her winning essay, Tales Of An Insider/Outsider, Gauri wrote about feeling disconnected from her relatives and culture because she does not speak Hindi well.

Wan Gee wrote a poem, Are We Really So Different? Dear Santa, advocating the importance of equality. Wan Gee, who is studying at Temasek Junior College, described the Duchess as "incredibly nice". She had asked the girls about the inspiration behind their winning essays, which had to reflect on the theme of the competition: An Inclusive Commonwealth.

Founded in 1883, the essay competition is the world's oldest international schools writing contest. This year drew the most number of entries. Singapore alone sent in 4,585 entries - more than any other country. The last Singaporean winner was Selina Xu from Nanyang Girls High School, who was senior runner-up in 2014.

Friday 28 October 2016

PM Lee warns of harm to US' standing if TPP isn't ratified

It will be a 'very big setback' as some countries have gone out of their way to support trade pact
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2016

The United States risks injuring its standing and credibility with countries around the world if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is rejected by its lawmakers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

It will be a "very big setback for America" as some countries, like Japan, have gone out of their way to support the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact, he added.

The pact, which the Obama administration supports, is before Congress which is in recess until after the Nov 8 presidential election.

Mr Lee, in an interview published yesterday in Time magazine, a US weekly, also said the pact needs to be ratified by January. Otherwise, it would be a "casualty" of the US presidential election because both candidates - Mrs Hillary Clinton and Mr Donald Trump - are opposed to it.

Mr Lee indicated that he was not optimistic about the pact being ratified by then.

The TPP, co-founded by Singapore, aims to create a giant free-trade zone and give the 12 countries access to 800 million consumers, representing one-third of global trade. It is a key thrust of the US' foreign policy in Asia aimed at balancing China's rising influence in the Asia-Pacific.

Mr Lee said China sees trade as an extension of its foreign policy, going around to countries "with lollipops in its pockets" like giving aid or building them key government office buildings. The US does not "do these retail items", he added.

"The one big thing which you have done is to settle the TPP, which Obama has done. It shows that you are serious, that you are prepared to deepen the relationship and that you are putting a stake here which you will have an interest in upholding," he added.

But its credibility will take a hard knock if the pact falls through.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "has made very difficult arrangements on agriculture, cars, sugar and dairy", Mr Lee noted.

"Now you say, 'I walk away, that I do not believe in this deal.' How can anybody believe in you any more?"

Thursday 27 October 2016

World's largest floating solar photovoltaic cell test-bed launched in Singapore at Tengeh Reservoir; PUB to explore using reservoirs as solar energy farms

Floating solar-cell test bed is world's largest
$11 million project at Tengeh Reservoir will study performance and cost-effectiveness of 10 different systems

By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2016

The Tengeh Reservoir, out in the western reaches of Tuas, has acquired a space-age look, with thousands of dark blue squares now covering its tranquil surface.

These make up the world's largest floating solar-cell test bed - solar on steroids, if you will - an amalgam of 10 different systems which will, in December, begin to soak up the sun.

Over six months, the $11 million project the size of about 11/2 football fields will be studied for the performance and cost-effectiveness of the various systems. The power generated will also be sent to the grid, to fuel Singapore's electricity needs.

Announcing the initiative at the Asia Clean Energy Summit yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said sustainability should not be considered as an alternative or a trade-off to economic development. "Rather, the pursuit of clean and renewable energy development is a venture into greater opportunities and growth, and also a necessary step into the green era," he said at the event in the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Each solar photovoltaic system, consisting of solar cells that can convert sunlight directly into energy, has a peak capacity of 100 kilowatts, enough to power 30 four-room HDB flats for a year. Over 150 sensors and other monitoring devices will capture the data to see which performs best. The floating system will also be compared against a rooftop system that has been laid on a building nearby.

Eventually, the two best floating systems will be chosen and placed on a larger trial of 1 megawatt peak capacity each, enough to power 300 four-room HDB flats for a year.

Three of the eight firms participating in the trial are local small and medium-sized enterprises, with the remaining five being international firms. Examples of systems being tested include one using solar cells that let in sunlight from both sides, and another that can be cooled with water pumped in from the reservoir to improve their performance.

The scientific evaluation will be conducted by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

National water agency PUB will also look at the environmental impact on the reservoir, such as the effect on evaporation, water quality and biodiversity.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) and PUB initiative was initially meant to be operational by 2013, but met a three-year delay because of technical and logistical complexities that included securing the land and ensuring the electrical substation was big enough to accept the electricity generated.

Floating solar cells are looking increasingly attractive for Singapore to harness sunlight given limitations in roof space on land, and also their higher performance. Research suggests they can be up to 20 per cent more efficient than rooftop systems in tropical countries.

A side benefit is that they act as a blanket, lowering the evaporation of precious reservoir water.

Singapore's goal is to produce 350 megawatt peak of solar energy by 2020, enough to meet 5 per cent of the country's electricity needs. Currently, 95 per cent is fuelled by natural gas.

Gig economy warrants a closer look: Tharman

Trend has led to more jobs worldwide, but these do not offer the type of benefits that traditional workers enjoy
By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Business Editor, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2016

The rise of tech firms like Uber and Deliveroo has created tens of thousands of jobs across the world, but Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is concerned that they do not provide the kind of benefits that more traditional employees enjoy.

The army of part-time workers driving cars for hire and delivering your food in the so-called gig economy tend to be independent contract workers, so they miss out on perks like healthcare that others take for granted.

Mr Tharman said this is a trend that warrants closer inspection.

"I'm not yet a fan of the gig economy," he said during a dialogue at the McKinsey Innovation Forum at the Suntec convention centre yesterday. He was speaking with McKinsey & Company global managing partner Dominic Barton.

"Some of the people in what is described as the gig economy are those who've got no choice because they can't get a full-time job, they can't get a secure job. That's something which has to be tackled everywhere," he noted.

Furthermore, hiring contract workers "serves the interest of the company because they're really pushing risk onto the contract worker and I don't think that's a great social model", he added.

"We've got to avoid a continuing drift - risk being passed from companies to workers, who actually can't take much risk - the risk of instability in wages, and the risk of not being prepared for retirement because of a lack of social security contributions."

Mr Tharman's comments reflect some of the points raised in a McKinsey report published this month that said lifetime employment at one company is largely a relic of the past. But it also added that while the rise of the gig economy could create economic gains, it also raises questions surrounding benefits, income security and worker protections.

"Any proposal will have to tackle multiple angles, starting with who would pay for such benefits and how they would be earned and tracked for workers with multiple clients and employers," the report said.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

PM Lee Hsien Loong seeks to rally youth amid slowing economy

Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) Ministerial Forum: Dialogue with SITizens 2016

Singapore is pursuing right strategies and creating opportunities for its people, says PM Lee
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2016

The world economy is struggling but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident that Singapore will do well in the long term.

He said the country has every reason to be optimistic: It is highly connected and has a reputation as an outstanding place to do business.

Also, it is creating many new jobs and continues to invest in its people through education.

"If any city in the world is in a position to do well in the new world economy, Singapore should be that place," he said yesterday.

"We are feeling the pains of restructuring, but not yet seeing the dividends of our hard work. But we are pursuing all the right strategies, and I am confident that, given time, they will work," he added.

But how well the nation does, and the society it will be in the next 30 years, depends on the next generation, Mr Lee said in a speech to 500 students and staff at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), whom he sought to assure of the country's prospects, adding that the future was theirs to shape and determine.

"As young Singaporeans, the world is your oyster. You have many opportunities, many more than your parents had," he said.

"But you have to seize them, make the most of them, and create further opportunities for yourself."

Singapore's future will also depend on whether today's young are resilient in the face of uncertainty and change, and whether their generation works together as one united people, Mr Lee added.

Section of Rail Corridor to glow in dark as part of trial next year

By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2016

A 100m stretch of the Rail Corridor, between Choa Chu Kang Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road, will soon glow in the dark in a trial to make it safer and more accessible.

The substance to be used in the section of track was one of four materials selected for a two-year trial of a 400m stretch of the Corridor, for which the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has called a tender. The other three are grass and gravel, fine gravel, and earth-coloured porous concrete.

According to tender documents, the glow will be achieved with natural non-toxic light green strontium aluminate minerals, which absorb ultraviolet light during the day to allow a soft glow to be emitted at night for a minimum of eight hours.

Such luminous pathways already exist overseas, in places such as the Netherlands and Poland.

The idea came about after the URA held five rounds of community workshops with constituencies along the Corridor in the first quarter of this year. A URA spokesman said many wanted "a more inclusive and accessible community space, while retaining its signature rustic experience".

Work on the Corridor, which is rutted and damaged as a result of wet weather and overuse, will begin by the first quarter of next year and finish by the third.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Police report to be filed over outright falsehoods on States Times Review: Law Minister K Shanmugam

Shanmugam takes aim at sociopolitical site's article
He plans to file police report over 'outright falsehoods' in article on elected presidency
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2016

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has hit out at "outright falsehoods" in an article about the elected presidency on a sociopolitical website and said he intends to make a police report.

The anonymous article posted on the States Times Review website last Friday made allegations with the "potential to create friction among the races", he said at Sri Mariamman Temple last Saturday, on the sidelines of preparations for the annual fire-walking festival.

Titled "Law Minister K Shanmugam: Eurasian Singaporeans are Indians", the article claimed that Mr Shanmugam "told a Eurasian Singaporean representative that Eurasians are considered Indian under the Presidential candidacy law".

This allegedly took place at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on the Elected Presidency last Friday.

The article claimed that Mr Shanmugam said "Indians outnumbered Eurasians 20 to 1. So it makes it difficult for (there to be) an Eurasian president".

He was said to have made the remark "when the President of the Eurasian Association of Singapore, (Mr) Benett Theseira, criticised the definition of Eurasian in the candidacy regulations".

The article, which has been viewed more than 25,000 times, appeared to have been amended when viewed yesterday. It wrote instead that "a Eurasian Singaporean representative complained that Eurasians are considered Indian under the Presidential candidacy law".

Gadgets for disabled drivers get green light

More such assistive devices - and advanced ones - will be available here by next year
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2016

Some people who have disabilities or suffered illnesses like a stroke have been able to get back behind the wheel, with the help of assistive gadgets installed in vehicles.

Gadgets such as a rotator knob attached to the steering wheel, or a hand-control gadget for the accelerator and brake pedals, have helped drivers overcome their disabilities.

The good news for these drivers is that more of these devices, advanced ones, will be available here by next year. These can be linked to the car's electronic control unit, making it easier to tap functions from acceleration to signalling.

Two devices - an over-ring accelerator and an infra-red remote control device - were approved by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in September last year, The Straits Times has learnt.

The Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), the only organisation here that trains drivers to use these assistive devices, plans to make them available next year.

Monday 24 October 2016

Living with dementia: When life depends on these notes

Making lists, sticking Post-it notes around the house and keeping things in transparent containers help a sufferer of early-stage dementia cope with daily chores
By Venessa Lee, The Sunday Times, 23 Oct 2016

Mrs Teo had felt that something was wrong with her for more than a year before she discovered the cause.

She was diagnosed as having mild dementia at the age of 66 in 2013.

She has an interest in current affairs and reads magazines such as The Economist and Forbes. But she found she could no longer follow newspaper reports - by the third paragraph, she had forgotten what the first paragraph was about.

She had always been a "scatterbrain", she confesses, the kind who persistently misplaces her spectacles. But this was more than being absent-minded.

Mrs Teo, who does not wish to use her real name, sometimes loses the thread of conversations within minutes.

Neither could she do simple mental sums. She had to add or subtract the numbers on paper "like a Primary 1 kid".

Although dementia patients are often unable or unwilling to call attention to their condition, her reaction to her diagnosis was unusual - she felt relief.

The 69-year-old housewife says: "I was relieved that at least there is a word I could connect to what I have."

Her husband of 43 years took it harder.

"I was devastated. I thought she was just forgetful. I didn't think it would be that bad," says Mr Teo, also 69. "Until now, I haven't told her what I thought about her diagnosis because I wasn't sure how she would take it herself. But she was very positive."

A gown for baby's last rites

Angel Gowns Singapore makes outfits for premature babies, stillborns or infants who have died
By Natasha Ann Zachariah, The Sunday Times, 23 Oct 2016

When Mrs Rosalind Tong's premature baby girl died in 2011, she and her husband had the heartbreaking task of finding an outfit to cremate her in.

The hospital had wrapped their daughter in a white cloth and placed her in a plain cardboard box, Mrs Tong, 41, says.

The clothes she had bought for her daughter were too large. "But something had to be done," says the housewife, who has a son in Primary 1.

She ended up buying a dress for her daughter from Mothercare at VivoCity. It was still too big, so she had to fold it around her baby.

Mrs Tong, whose 44-year-old husband is in business development, said it took two years before she could step into that store again.

A few months after the death of her child, she Googled for ways to create a keepsake of her daughter and chanced upon Angel Gowns in the United States.

The organisation provides parents with burial outfits for their premature babies, stillborns or infants who have died.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Multiculturalism and the state: Bilahari Kausikan

In dealing with multiculturalism, the state has to manage and allocate values of different communities based on a soft hierarchy of values that expands the common space in society.
By Bilahari Kausikan, Published The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2016

No country is today, however it may think of itself, homogenous. Identity politics is upon us all; a reality that cannot be wished away. Globalisation is a cultural as well as an economic phenomenon.

The inequalities and sense of cultural threat that globalisation has wrought has also caused identities of various kinds to be more insistently asserted, sometimes violently. Although globalisation's downsides as well as its benefits have now become more evident, it cannot be reversed and there is no alternative. We will just have to somehow deal with it.

My most fundamental assumption is that there is not one "Good" but many "goods", all desirable, but which are not capable of simultaneous realisation. If we accept the existence of multiple "goods" that are not reconcilable, it follows that pragmatic trade-offs are inevitable; perfect consistency is impossible and in fact undesirable.

Historically, attempts to structure political systems on the basis of perfect consistency around some conception of one "Good" or another has generally led to a great deal of trouble and not a little bloodshed.

I take it as a given - not worth arguing about - that universality is a myth and while East and West certainly hold some values in common, these similarities are at such a high level of generality that they are not useful for understanding how societies actually operate and prescribe nothing of any practical significance for how societies ought to organise themselves. I take it as axiomatic that there are differences between East and West, one of the more significant of which is the relative emphasis placed on the individual and the community.

I stress "relative emphasis" because the differences are not absolute. No human being can achieve self-actualisation in isolation. Every individual is necessarily part of a larger "community" whether defined by nation, tribe, class, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual preference or some other category. Even a hermit is a hermit precisely because he belongs to a "community" or category of hermits.

Moreover, we all have multiple identities and cannot define ourselves by any single category, although we may well delude ourselves otherwise. "East" and "West" are only one set of categories and not necessarily the most important set.

As a former civil servant and diplomat, my basic frame of reference and analysis is the state. The authority of the state is not uncontested but still fundamental. The state now shares space with other actors but this is still a state-centric world.

The very doctrine of multiculturalism holds the state responsible for protecting the rights of the individual, including the right to belong to some community and the right of any community to have a distinct identity, however defined. If those rights are threatened, it is generally to the state to which first appeal for redress is made.

The question then arises, how should the state discharge this responsibility? What concept of the state can best meet this responsibility?

Foreign entities need permits at Speakers' Corner from 1 November 2016

MHA reiterates existing rules and clearly sets out what foreign entities are; Singapore entities will not need permits
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2016

The authorities have made it clear that foreign entities will have to apply for a permit to take part in Speakers' Corner events, such as the Pink Dot rally, starting Nov 1.

And the likelihood of it being approved appears dim, if the issue is deemed controversial.

Said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam last night: "In general, if it relates to controversial social or political issues, which really are a matter for Singaporeans, then it is unlikely the foreigners will get a permit."

The Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday reiterated existing rules that require foreign companies and non-governmental organisations to get a permit to sponsor, promote or get its employees to participate in events at the Speakers' Corner.

What is new is that it has now categorically set out what constitute foreign entities. They include locally incorporated or registered arms of multinational companies (MNCs) unless they are also controlled by a majority of Singaporeans. The rule is also extended to foreign entities that want to speak via tele- conferencing or pre-recorded messages at the Speakers' Corner.

But rules for local entities have been liberalised. Singapore companies and NGOs no longer need permits to hold Speakers' Corner events, or indoor assemblies. Now, only Singaporeans have this privilege.

Said Mr Shanmugam: "Speakers' Corner is for Singaporeans to articulate views, particularly when it comes to sociopolitical issues... So we needed to make that clear."

He added: "We are neutral in terms of what people can discuss and cannot, or which side people take, or which side of the argument people are supporting or against. What we are saying and where we are drawing the line is Singaporeans versus non-Singaporeans."

China and Singapore: Looking back to understand the future

Singaporeans must understand Chinese nationals' view of what China is, just as China must understand Singapore's self-image as a multicultural nation with a global outlook.
By Wang Gungwu, Published The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2016

Recent developments in the relations between China and Singapore have raised questions about how China sees Singapore and also how Singapore should see China.

The questions stem from several issues concerning Singapore as a small new state in a region still riven by division, amid growing rivalry between China and the United States. At the base are complex layers of understanding what is China and who are Singaporeans.

Despite the fact that both of them have had different borders over time, China has been in existence for thousands of years while Singapore is only 51 years old as a sovereign state. But it is also true that people of Chinese descent in Singapore have looked with respect to China for nearly 200 years while most people of China have noticed the achievements of the Chinese in Singapore only during recent decades.


During my recent visits to China, I noticed that many people are keenly interested in the question of just what China is.

Behind this interest is the idea that China was a great country and the time has come to restore China to greatness. Given the many calls during the US presidential election campaign for America to be great again, it is perhaps not surprising that a rising China should also be thinking of being great again. Both calls seem to reflect some anxiety that other people may not recognise that greatness.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Philippines' Duterte says ‘Goodbye America, hello China'

Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte declares 'separation' from US, leans towards China
Philippine leader gets red-carpet welcome in Beijing; both countries agree to resume South China Sea dispute talks
By Chong Koh Ping, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2016

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday declared his "separation" from long-time ally the United States, leaning to China as the two countries agree to resume talks on their South China Sea dispute.

At a forum attended by some 700 Chinese and Philippine business people in the Great Hall of the People, the 71-year-old former mayor said America had "lost" after 70 years of alliance between the two countries.

In the presence of Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, he said: "I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, the Philippines and Russia. It's the only way."

He then added: "I have separated from them. So I will be dependent on you for all time. But do not worry. We will also help as you help us."

The US and the Philippines have been close allies but relations soured after Washington expressed concerns over Mr Duterte's bloody anti-crime war - criticism that Mr Duterte took offence with. Yesterday, a US official told Agence France-Presse that Manila had not made any formal requests to alter its cooperation with Washington.

The US has been looking to Manila as an important ally in Asia as China asserts itself as a dominant world power.

Beijing has rolled out the red carpet for Mr Duterte on his four-day visit with 400 business people in tow, signalling the first steps towards mending years of strained ties. Chinese President Xi Jinping extended a warm welcome to Mr Duterte yesterday, complete with full military honours in a ceremony at the Great Hall - a rarity for visiting leaders.

In their meeting, Mr Xi said people from both countries are "brothers related by blood", and they could "appropriately handle disputes".