Tuesday 30 April 2019

PM Lee Hsien Loong interview with Channel 8 #PM Online #总理上线

Fake news must be curbed before it affects society: PM Lee
Free speech not absolute, but there is wide scope for discourse here
By Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 29 Apr 2019

There is wide scope for discourse in Singapore, but fake news is a distinct and specific problem that must be curbed before it affects society, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He made this point in an interview, when asked for his response to concerns that proposed laws to tackle fake news would curb free speech. There is no society in which free speech is absolute or uncontrolled, he said, noting that it exists within appropriate boundaries.

For example, speech that is defamatory or threatening in nature lies outside of these boundaries, said PM Lee in an interview conducted in Mandarin with variety show host Kym Ng and news presenter Evelyn Lam that was broadcast on Mediacorp's Channel 8 last night.

"We must set an appropriate boundary that would allow us to protect free speech and allow people to exchange information, thoughts and opinions in a meaningful way," he added.

Other countries, like the United States and those in Europe, are also grappling with the problem of fake news, PM Lee said, citing Germany as an example of a country that has enacted laws to tackle the issue.

In the one-hour interview, PM Lee touched on various technology-related topics, including the management of his social media account, encouraging the older generation to be tech-savvy, and the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.

The Government introduced the proposed legislation earlier this month, and it is set to be debated when the House sits next Monday.

The proposed laws may not be able to eliminate all fake news, but would be able to lessen the impact of such falsehoods, said PM Lee.

Fake news poses a real challenge to Singapore, he said, citing the 2016 US presidential election, which the US said Russia interfered in, a charge the Russians have denied.

PM Lee said it is fully possible for others to interfere and spread fake news in Singapore too.

"I don't know which other countries might want to participate in our politics, but we do know that we are a very open country," said PM Lee. "We must prepare and shore up our defences, and that's why we have introduced the (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill)."

PM Lee was also asked about a recent survey which showed that most Singaporeans are confident they can distinguish between real and fake news. Last September, an online survey by market research agency Ipsos showed that 80 per cent of survey respondents were confident they could spot fake news, even though 90 per cent of them later mistakenly identified fake headlines as real.

People believe they can identify fake news when it presents itself, but it is impossible to tell at times, said PM Lee.

It is difficult to verify the source of news on social media, which may have scant information, he said, adding that some social media accounts do not even show the account holder's real identity.

"When you don't know who it is (behind the account), how can you tell if it's real or fake news?" said PM Lee.

It is hence important to verify the source and depend on trustworthy sources for news, he added.

Noting that there are all types of falsehoods online, the Prime Minister said there was a website that used his pictures and his name to market a bitcoin investment.

"They had 'quoted me' as saying that the product is very good and that I encouraged everyone to invest. It was absurd. But when others see it, how would they know if it's real or fake?" said PM Lee.

He also said that new problems will crop up with the emergence of new technology such as artificial intelligence. "The world is constantly changing and technology will always move forward with the times, so we must adapt and think of ways to get rid of the bad."

Monday 29 April 2019

Lakeside Garden opens to public under first phase of Jurong Lake Gardens

Carnival fun at Lakeside Garden opening
1st phase of Jurong Lake Gardens, Singapore's first national heartland gardens, wows visitors
By Venessa Lee, The Sunday Times, 28 Apr 2019

Children mimicked the actions of a paradise tree snake - climbing a tree-like structure before gliding down slides - at a play area that lets them emulate the movements of different animals.

Adults wandered through a grassland area with 300,000 plants and tall grasses, which vaguely resembled something from the fictional Lord Of The Rings' Middle-earth.

These were some of the activities, including a carnival and the inaugural SGF Horticulture Show, lined up for visitors at Lakeside Garden to mark its official opening yesterday.

The garden at 104 Yuan Ching Road revolves around the themes of "nature, play and the community", the National Parks Board (NParks) said.

It added: "The garden has been developed sensitively to retain the serenity of the area whilst incorporating spaces for the community and recreational needs."

Its opening marked the completion of the first phase of Jurong Lake Gardens, Singapore's first national gardens in the heartland.

At 53ha, Lakeside Garden makes up more than half of the 90ha Jurong Lake Gardens, the third national gardens after the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay.

Lakeside Garden, the western portion of Jurong Lake Gardens, has features such as a restored freshwater swamp forest, as well as grassland and wetland trails, where visitors may spy grey herons, oriental pied hornbills and smooth-coated otters.

At the 2.3ha Forest Ramble - which NParks described as the largest nature playgarden in the heartland - children can enjoy activities at 13 adventure stations, where they emulate the movements of native squirrels, crabs and other animals.

Nature playgardens - like one that opened at HortPark last month - incorporate more natural elements, such as trees, dirt and sand, to encourage exploratory play.

Besides housing Singapore's biggest allotment garden, which has 300 plots, Lakeside Garden boasts PAssionWaVe@Jurong Lake Gardens, by the People's Association (PA). It is the first waterfront facility in western Singapore, offering kayaking and pedal-boating, among other activities.

Monica Baey and NUS case: A generational shift in values

The young are full of courage and zeal - but will older leaders in institutions include their views as Singapore changes?
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Sunday Times, 28 Apr 2019

I have been going round to schools and events, talking to young people about Singapore being a nation at the crossroads.

The talk circuit began after I published a volume of essays titled Singapore, Disrupted, last May. The book is a compilation of my writings over the years, on politics, the class divide and disruption.

My main thesis, when I give those talks, is that Singapore is not only in the throes of disruption wrought by digital and technological change, but is also in the midst of socio-political disruption.

I often end my talks by telling my young audience that the future is in their hands, and to urge them to never give up on Singapore, no matter how impatient they may be sometimes with the pace of change.

I enjoy the dynamic question and answer segment that follows my talks. I also enjoy spending time with my friends' adult children, and with newfound young Facebook friends and their friends, talking about what they want out of their lives in Singapore.

I recently spent a Saturday afternoon at Hong Lim Park having char kway teow with a bunch of young folks who were all engaged socially in some way, setting up a social enterprise to help secondary school students access internships and mentorships. The char kway teow frankly lacked wok hei, but the youngsters' zeal added sizzle to our casual chit-chat.

After a series of such engagements, I realise that I simply enjoy being around young people. I enjoy their questions, their energy, their optimism, their desire to push for change. I think I live vicariously through them; I tell some of them they are the social activists few in my generation dared to be; they take the paths less trodden; they question assumptions of past generations.

I am often in good spirits and optimistic about Singapore after spending time with them.

This is the way I felt last week, after following the news about how a young National University of Singapore (NUS) student, Ms Monica Baey, took to Instagram to share her story of how the university and police failed her after she was the victim of a young man's intrusive filming of her taking a shower in a hostel bathroom.

Ms Baey's candid sharing of her encounter, and the courageous way she spoke up for victims of sexual misconduct, is leading to substantive changes in how NUS will deal with such cases in future.

Among other things, NUS has pledged to provide more support for victims, and to review its policy towards such sex offenders, which has been widely criticised for being too lax.

Sunday 28 April 2019

Why smart leaders fail

What makes a good leader? Beyond cognitive ability, having a good sense of situational judgment is critical
By David Chan, Published The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2019

In Singapore, when leaders in the public service or government-linked organisations are found wanting, people in their private conversations sometimes go: "Those scholars..."

In Singapore, "scholars" often refer to academically excellent students who take up government-funded scholarships to study at top universities and return to high-flying careers in the public sector.

When people make remarks about "scholars", one negative connotation is that having high academic ability (indicated by top academic grades) has caused one to think and act in ways that reflect poor leadership and ineffective performance.

But does top academic ability actually imply poor leadership?

And in Singapore's context, does the current system of selecting and developing leaders rely too much on academic (and cognitive) abilities and is inadequate in capturing critical non-academic factors?

More generally, does having high academic ability help or hurt work performance, or when does it help or hurt?

Answers to these questions have implications for practical decisions, such as selecting leaders or employees, designing systems and programmes to appraise individuals and develop leaders, and when or who to give more or fewer leadership responsibilities to.


These questions on leadership and other topics were discussed at the recent Behavioural Sciences Institute Conference, attended by 300 participants from the public, private and people sectors.

Held two months ago with the theme "Much more than academic abilities", the conference proceedings have been documented in a book published by World Scientific.

A week after the conference, Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, said in Parliament on Feb 28 that educational qualifications, while useful as a "valid proxy", will not be sufficient for selecting future leaders in the Singapore public service.

He added that the Government is looking for individuals with initiative, creativity and the ability to be a team player.

And just last week, in his speech at the administrative service promotion ceremony, Minister Chan elaborated on some non-academic attributes, including integrity and accountability.

He urged the public service to review the way it selects and develops its leaders.

He also noted that the heads of the civil service and the Public Service Commission have already initiated various streams of work to do so.

We can expect more open discussions on leadership in Singapore, not just in the public service but also in other sectors. To shed more light rather than generate mere heat on the issues, we should draw on experiences in practice and evidence from scientific research.

Belt and Road Initiative can play crucial role in strengthening multilateral cooperation: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Working within such multilateral frameworks only way to solve transnational challenges, he says at the 2nd Belt and Road Forum
By Danson Cheong, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2019

As a strategy that promotes trade and connectivity, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) can play a crucial role in strengthening cooperation between countries, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

It is coming at a time when the world is seeing a pushback against globalisation, and growing distrust of governments and public institutions, making it harder for countries to work together, he said.

But working within such multilateral frameworks is the only way countries can solve the many complex transnational challenges they face, from terrorism to climate change, PM Lee said at a high-level meeting during the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

"Both countries and their problems have become so interconnected and interdependent," he added.

"All countries, big and small, rely on a stable global order on which we can cooperate productively, resolve disputes peacefully and work together on new areas."

The Prime Minister is on a five-day visit to China, where he is attending the forum for the first time.

He spoke at the meeting along with other world leaders, including Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The BRI, a plan to revive ancient overland and maritime trade routes connecting China to Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia, is the signature foreign policy and development strategy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Part of the strategy includes building a network of ports, railways and trading hubs. In doing so, the initiative addresses the need of many countries for better infrastructure and connectivity, said PM Lee.

"Better infrastructure will enhance trade and economic cooperation not just between other countries and China, but also with one another," he added.

Singapore was an early and strong supporter of the BRI, with its participation focusing on infrastructure and financial connectivity, cooperation in third countries, and providing professional and legal services.

On the last point, he said that Singapore is a neutral third-party venue with legal centres that allow BRI countries and companies to resolve commercial disputes efficiently. The country also has the shortest resolution time worldwide for standardised commercial disputes, he said.

"We hope we will be able to provide some of the soft infrastructure to help pull some of the BRI projects together," he said.

Singapore was also cooperating with China on the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative which, among other things, aims to link up the overland and maritime trunks of the BRI.

It has so far reduced by two-thirds the time required for goods from western China to reach Southeast Asia, improved flow of trade and finances, and smoothed out customs procedures.

He also said the initiative was one of the tangible outcomes from the BRI.

Now, six years after the BRI was mooted, it is timely to "review progress and to discuss perspectives on the way forward", said PM Lee.

What can the US health system learn from Singapore?

By Aaron E. Carroll, Published The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2019

Singapore's healthcare system is sometimes held up as an example of excellence and as a possible model for what could come next in the United States.

When we published the results of an Upshot tournament on which country had the world's best health system, Singapore was eliminated in the first round, largely because most of the experts had a hard time believing much of what the nation seems to achieve. It does achieve a lot.

Americans have spent the last decade arguing loudly about whether and how to provide insurance to a relatively small percentage of people who don't have it. Singapore is way past that. It's perfecting how to deliver care to people, focusing on quality, efficiency and cost.

Americans may be able to learn a thing or two from Singaporeans, as I discovered in a recent visit to study the health system, although there are also reasons that comparisons between the nations aren't apt.


Singapore is an island city-state of around 5.8 million strong. At 723 square kilometres, it's smaller than Indianapolis, the city where I live, and is without rural or remote areas. Everyone lives close to doctors and hospitals.

Another big difference between Singapore and the US lies in social determinants of health. Citizens of Singapore have much less poverty than one might see in other developed countries. The tax system is progressive. The bottom 20 per cent of Singaporeans in income pay less than 10 per cent of all taxes and receive more than a quarter of all benefits.

The richest 20 per cent pay more than half of all taxes and receive only 12 per cent of the benefits.

Everyone attends comparable school systems and the Government heavily subsidises housing. Rates of smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse are relatively low. So are rates of obesity. All of this predisposes the country to better health and accompanying lower health spending.

Achieving comparable goals in the US would probably require large investments in social programmes and there doesn't appear to be much of an appetite for that.

There's also a big caveat to Singapore's success. It has a significant and officially recognised guest worker programme of non-citizens.

About 1.4 million foreigners work in Singapore, most in low-skilled, low-paying jobs. Such jobs come with some protections and are often better than what might be available in workers' home countries, but these workers are also vulnerable to abuse. Guest workers are not eligible for the same benefits (including access to the public health system beyond emergency services) that citizens or permanent residents are, and they aren't counted in any metrics of success or health. Clearly this saves money and also clouds the ability to use data to evaluate outcomes.


The Government's healthcare philosophy is laid out clearly in five objectives. In the US, conservatives may be pleased that one objective stresses personal responsibility and cautions against reliance on either welfare or medical insurance. Another notes the importance of the private market and competition to improve services and increase efficiency.

Liberal-leaning Americans might be impressed that one objective is universal basic care and that another goal is cost containment by the Government, especially when the market fails to keep costs low enough.

Singapore appreciates the relative strengths and limits of the public and private sectors in health.

Often in the US, we think that one or the other can do it all. That's not necessarily the case.

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Heng Swee Keat will be Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister from 1 May 2019

Cabinet reshuffle April 2019: Heng Swee Keat to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister; DPMs Teo Chee Hean and Tharman to become Senior Ministers
Finance Minister's standing as Singapore's next PM cemented in Cabinet reshuffle
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be promoted to Deputy Prime Minister from May 1, in a move that cements his standing as Singapore's next prime minister.

Meanwhile, both existing Deputy Prime Ministers will relinquish their appointments, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced yesterday.

As part of the ongoing process of leadership transition, Mr Teo Chee Hean, 64, and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 62, will become Senior Ministers and remain in Cabinet.

All three will continue to carry out many of their current responsibilities. Mr Heng, 57, will stay on as Finance Minister and continue chairing the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation. He will also be appointed Acting Prime Minister in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's absence.

Mr Teo will continue to be Coordinating Minister for National Security, while Mr Tharman - who is now Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies - will be redesignated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies. He will still advise the Prime Minister on economic policies, said the PMO.

Yesterday, sovereign wealth fund GIC also announced that Mr Tharman, who is now a GIC director, will be appointed deputy chairman from next Wednesday. He will assist PM Lee, who is GIC chairman, to lead the board in overseeing GIC's long-term asset allocation and portfolio performance, it said. Mr Tharman is also chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

PM Lee, 67, said the changes are part of the ongoing process of leadership renewal.

"The next-generation leadership is taking shape, and progressively taking over from me and my older colleagues. The team is working closely together, building up public trust and confidence in their leadership," he said in a Facebook post.

"I ask all Singaporeans to support them, and work together to secure a bright future for Singapore." In a separate post, Mr Heng said that he was honoured by PM Lee's trust, and grateful for the older ministers staying on "to share their wisdom". Mr Heng was set to be appointed Deputy PM in this year's Cabinet reshuffle, after he was picked by his peers to be their leader late last year, and appointed first assistant secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party last November.

Yesterday's changes come a year after a major reshuffle last April, which saw younger ministers taking on heavier responsibilities as 10 out of 16 ministries were helmed by fourth-generation (4G) ministers.

At that time, four backbenchers became office-holders to bolster the front bench, as three veteran ministers retired from Cabinet: Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

Yesterday, Mr Teo said of the reshuffle: "This is the Singapore way of ensuring smooth leadership transition, continuity and stability. Senior leaders make way in good time for the next generation, share their experience and help the next generation of leaders to succeed."

Mr Tharman said: "Swee Keat is the best person to move up to become DPM and take over as PM during the next term of government. He has exceptional ability, mettle and the confidence of the 4G team."

Both DPMs said they hoped to continue serving their residents after the next general election.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who Mr Heng had picked last November as his deputy, said: "As one team, we will continue to work closely together to take Singapore forward and to serve all Singaporeans."

The Cabinet has traditionally had two deputy PMs since the 1980s, with the exception of a short period in the 1990s when PM Lee was the only DPM on board.

Observers said the latest move sends a clearer signal - at home and abroad - about the next PM.

"The way I read it, the focus of this reshuffle is on the DPM," said political analyst and former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin. "He will definitely be the person who's going to take over from the PM... It's very clear who the man in charge is."

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Jack Ma is wrong: 12-hour days are no 'blessing'

By Bryce Covert, Published The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2019

Mr Jack Ma, the richest man in China and founder of e-commerce company Alibaba, is a big fan of extreme overwork.

He recently praised China's "996" practice, which refers to those who put in 12-hour days - 9am to 9pm - six days a week. This is not a problem, he said in a recent blog post, but a blessing.

The response from others in China was swift.

"If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children," one person argued on the same platform. "Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, the children who need company?"

It even prompted a response from Chinese state media, which reminded everyone: "The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but is also unfair and impractical."

Managers who think like Mr Ma can be found the world over.

In the United States, Mr Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, has argued that "nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week".

Uber reportedly used the internal mantra, "Work smarter, harder and longer". (It's now just "smarter" and "harder".) It has also rebranded second jobs as clever "side hustles".

WeWork decorates its co-working spaces with phrases like "Don't stop when you're tired, stop when you are done". Other tech and business gurus try to sell us on "toil glamour".

The truth is that they're all wrong.

Workers certainly suffer when forced to put in extreme hours. But business fares just as poorly. No one benefits from people pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion.

One of the reasons Mr Ma said he supports 996 culture is that people who work longer get the "rewards of hard work".

But they are apparently not in store for monetary rewards. A group of academics just released research finding that working longer hours than someone else in the same job doesn't earn you more money; instead, it leads to a 1 per cent decrease in wages. Another analysis similarly found that after 40 hours a week, there is no clear financial return for clocking more hours.

Excessive work effort has even been linked, perversely, to worse career outcomes.

Sunday 21 April 2019

Going up in flames: Are Singapore's oldest buildings fire safe?

Authorities say all buildings have to undergo regular checks, comply with safety code
By Melody Zaccheus, Heritage and Community Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Apr 2019

The Arts House, built between 1826 and 1827 as a residence but used as a chamber and courthouse, is likely the oldest standing building in the country.

Singapore's old monoliths, many of which are national monuments, also include temples and churches where incense and tea light candles are burned almost daily.

A few buildings date back to the 1830s, including the Armenian Church, Thian Hock Keng temple and Masjid Jamae.

What measures are in place to prevent an inferno in these historic buildings in the wake of the Notre-Dame fire in Paris that destroyed the roof of the historic cathedral and caused its spire to collapse?

Just like a new building, Singapore's oldest structures have to meet the same stringent requirements issued and regulated by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the BCA said Singapore buildings are required to undergo structural inspections at regular intervals.

Building owners must appoint a professional engineer to inspect residential blocks once every 10 years, and for other types of buildings, once every five years.

The engineers are to carry out a visual inspection of the condition, loading and any addition or alteration to the structure of the building.

Said the BCA spokesman: "This is to ensure that structural defects can be detected and rectified early, so that buildings continue to be structurally sound for occupation."

Under the Fire Code, which was introduced in 1974, all new buildings and existing ones undergoing addition and alteration works must comply with SCDF requirements.

Specific requirements are imposed on owners or occupiers of buildings designated for conservation and those who wish to preserve the use of timber flooring during addition and alteration works.

For example, the SCDF requires the installation of fire-rated floor boards to prevent the spread of fire between floors, and automatic fire alarms if the building exceeds three storeys.

The SCDF has said it will amend the Fire Safety Act later this year. It will require owners of selected older buildings to carry out certain fire safety upgrades.

The SCDF said it recognises that older buildings which have not implemented newer fire safety measures may face higher safety risks.

It will prioritise high-risk industrial buildings, public buildings and hospitals, working closely with building owners.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) said there have been no fire incidents at Singapore's 72 national monuments or NHB's six-storey Heritage Conservation Centre, which houses more than 150,000 artefacts from the National Collection.

Friday 19 April 2019

Why the retirement age is irrelevant for Singapore

To retire or not to retire - employer flexibility is the answer.
By Sumit Agarwal, Published The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2019

I am turning 50 next year. This means I have only 12 more years to work, given that Singapore's minimum retirement age is 62. In my middle age, I start questioning why retirement is even necessary. I love what I do and going to work gives me a greater sense of purpose every day.

While the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers is contemplating raising the statutory retirement age, I believe the policy should be scrapped altogether because of Singapore's ageing population.


There are four main reasons why we should not have a retirement age.

Historically, a retirement age helps an economy manage and align its workforce with population growth. In a country where there are more young people than an elderly population, not having a retirement age means the young working-age population may not be able to get jobs and as a result, unemployment will rise.

Furthermore, higher unemployment can make or break an election and as a result, is a major point of contention in a democracy. Take India, for example, where 30 to 40 per cent of the population is under 25 years of age. There, a statutory retirement age would make sense. Without it, many of these young working-age adults would be unemployed. However, in ageing economies with low population growth such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, one questions how a retirement age is still relevant since older workers are not a threat to unemployment.

Second, life expectancy today is longer. Traditionally, retirement is viewed as a rite of passage where employees stop working in order to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Back then, life expectancy was shorter. However, today, the average life expectancy is relatively higher due to advancements in technology, healthcare and lifestyle.

In Singapore, for example, the health-adjusted life expectancy is projected to be 76.7 by 2030. As people live longer, their retirement savings in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) need to sustain them until death. Therefore, they need to continue working.

Research also suggests that retirees are more likely to die sooner than expected due to idleness. The research by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States found a robust 2 per cent increase in male mortality after the age of 62, which is when Americans can claim their social security payments. The increase in male mortality is related to being retired from the labour force and associated changes in lifestyle.


While Singaporeans can work beyond the retirement age of 62, some employers are using the minimum retirement age as a mechanism to push out older workers. The common perception is that older workers cost more to retain and are less productive. Many employers would rather bring in younger staff who cost less and can be trained. As a result, older workers who do find re-employment are working in sub-optimal jobs.

In the US, where there is no retirement age, the economy has very low unemployment, high wages and high productivity. It is a process of natural selection among older workers, where some choose to continue working, some opt to retire, while others are laid off because they are not as productive.

To avoid a missed opportunity, employers should develop and adopt new strategies on how to use older and more experienced staff to increase productivity, enhance organisational culture and bring additional value to the organisation at the salary paid to them.

In addition, keeping the older and more experienced workers in the workforce would also not jeopardise opportunities for younger workers, given Singapore's low population growth. Eliminating retirement age would also likely result in Singapore importing fewer foreign talent.

U.S. Engagement in Asia: A Conversation with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at The Brookings Institution on 15 April 2019

United States must continue to take lead in setting global rules, says Heng Swee Keat
By Charissa Yong, US Correspondent In Washington, The Straits Times, 17 Apr 2019

The United States should continue to take the lead in setting global rules and maintaining the rules-based multilateral international order, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in Washington on Monday.

South-east Asia also wants to see the US and China manage their relationship and not let their competition get out of hand, he said in a speech to the American foreign policy community at the Brookings Institution think-tank.

"The US-China relationship is a key determinant of global peace and prosperity, and the most important bilateral relationship in the world," said Mr Heng, who arrived in Washington last week for the International Monetary Fund and G-20 meetings of global finance chiefs which addressed the heightened trade tensions between the US and China.

Any dispute between the US and China should be resolved in accordance with international norms and through existing multilateral frameworks instead, he said.

"No country wants to choose sides," he added.

To keep their competition healthy and constructive, both sides need a better understanding of each other - no small task as they have "very different DNA" and very different, complex systems, he said later during a question-and-answer session.

Illustrating his point, he said that even Singapore spends a lot of time trying to understand the complexities of China despite the fact that many of Singapore's leaders speak the same Mandarin language as the Chinese government.

Mr Heng, a former principal private secretary of the late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, recalled how the Suzhou Industrial Park faced competition from a local rival, which Chinese local officials had promoted despite Suzhou's backing from Singapore and the Chinese central government.

The explanation Singapore's officials received was that China had many layers of government, said Mr Heng, adding: "The official term used in those days was that the mountains are high and the emperor is far away, so don't assume that edicts by the emperor will be implemented on the ground."

The US and China can also come together to resolve global problems such as climate change, which threatens them both, he said.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Smart water meters to be rolled out to 300,000 properties here to help save water

Firms, homes to get smart meters to track water usage
Users can keep tabs on how much water is being used via an app; eventual goal is to install them islandwide
By Cheryl Teh, The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2019

The water meters you see outside your home may be on their way out. Their better and brighter cousins, smart water meters, will soon be coming to town to update you on just how much water you are consuming.

For a start, 300,000 smart meters will be installed on residential and commercial premises here.

Singapore's national water agency PUB announced yesterday that the installation process will be completed by 2023, with the eventual goal of having such devices installed islandwide.

There are currently some 1.6 million water meters on premises across the island. These are read manually once every two months.

Customers are billed every month, with their water consumption estimated every alternate month.

PUB also expects that smart meters will help people and companies keep tabs on their water usage via a smartphone app.

This is because the smart water meter will allow for water consumption to be read automatically several times a day, and transmitted accurately and remotely back to PUB on a daily basis.

Through a mobile application or online portal, customers will have ready access to their daily water usage data. They will also receive high-usage notifications and leak alerts promptly.

Pilot trials in Punggol and Yuhua earlier had shown promising results. A total of 800 households reported an average of 5 per cent in water savings, said PUB.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Jewel Changi Airport: Official Opening on 18 October 2019

$1.7 billion Jewel opens doors to give Changi Airport added sparkle
Complex an investment in airport's future; 500,000 to get a preview over six days from April 11 to 16
By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Apr 2019

Jewel Changi Airport, the $1.7 billion investment to help secure Singapore's premier air-hub position, welcomed its first public visitors yesterday.

After the project was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech in 2013, it took four years to transform an open-air carpark into a 10-storey complex with shops, leisure attractions and facilities for travellers and visitors.

Over six days, from 1pm yesterday to 10pm on April 16, about 500,000 people who had signed up for free preview tickets are expected to visit.

When the 135,700 sq m Jewel, with more than 280 shops and restaurants, opens its doors to all from April 17, travellers will be able to access an early check-in lounge serving passengers of 26 airlines, including Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot. This covers 60 per cent of all departing flights.

Located next to Terminal 1, Jewel is connected to Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 via air-conditioned travelators, and there will also be facilities for all travellers to store their luggage round the clock.

Mr Shukor Yusof, aviation analyst at Endau Analytics, said: "Jewel is an extension of Changi's constant move to stay relevant and profitable. It is a new landmark for the best airport in the world."

About a third of Changi's 65.6 million passengers last year were on transit flights, and Jewel will offer them new opportunities to dine, shop and entertain themselves, apart from attracting local visitors.

With the demand for air travel in Asia expected to grow strongly in the coming decades and competition increasing among airports, Jewel is a key part of Changi's strategy to improve the airport experience and grow traffic, said Changi Airport Group's (CAG) managing director for airport operations management, Mr Jayson Goh. He told The Straits Times: "If you are flying through Asia and looking to make a stopover, you can choose from several airports. We want to make sure Changi Airport continues to provide the capacity, attractions and amenities to cater for this growth."

Hong Kong International Airport, for example, is developing a 25ha Skycity mega integrated development, set to be completed in the coming decade.

Jewel's highlights include a 40m-tall indoor waterfall and a five-storey garden with more than 2,000 trees and palms, and over 100,000 shrubs. Shops and outlets include famous New York burger chain Shake Shack and American fast-food chain A&W.

Jewel - a joint venture between CAG and CapitaLand - will also offer play attractions from June 10, including a 50m-long suspended bridge with a glass flooring that will allow visitors to look down at the greenery below, a 250m-long bouncing net, mazes and slides.

It will also host the first Pokemon Centre outside of Japan.

Those flying through Singapore will have to exit the transit area to visit Jewel and clear immigration again before their next flight.

Jewel will also house the first Yotelair in Asia, with 130 cabins that can be booked for short daytime layovers or overnight stays.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, president and group chief executive officer of CapitaLand, said: "The combined catchment of residents and Changi Airport's growing passenger traffic makes Jewel a compelling proposition to draw international brands to Singapore and empower home-grown retailers to connect with a global audience."

Jewel was designed by a consortium led by Safdie Architects, helmed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who also came up with Marina Bay Sands.