02 May 2014

Singapore Snippets April 2014

Talking Point — Is Singapore Too Expensive For Middle Income Singaporeans, Channel News Asia 2 April 2014

In the absence of an official definition of the middle income, moderator Steven Chia started by using households falling within the 30th (or more correctly, the 31st) and 70th percentiles as a working definition.

Seemingly ignoring Mr Chia, panelist SIM University Associate Professor Randolph Tan chose to use his own definition — the three middle quintiles i.e., those falling within the 21st and 80th percentiles.

In any discussion, participants must agree on common definitions or otherwise follow the lead of the moderator.

In any case, Assoc Prof Tan's definition of middle income is too wide.

Longer Wait for Lawyers to Renew Practising Certificate under New System TODAY 7 April 2014

The Supreme Court introduced a new e-filing system this year for lawyers to renew their mandatory practising certificates. However, some lawyers had not received their practising certificates by 31 March.

When asked, the Supreme Court said that as at 2 April 2014, 83 per cent of the lawyers who had (presumably erstwhile) valid practising certificates had submitted their applications. More applications were expected in April. It expected to process all applications by end-April.

Either the Supreme Court or TODAY's reporter missed the point. The practising certificates were valid up to 31 March 2014 and a lawyer cannot practise if he does not hold a valid practising certificate. The relevant question is: what percentage of lawyers received their new practising certificates by 31 March 2014?

Since around the beginning of April, The Straits Times has followed TODAY and REACH by requiring its readers to log in with their Facebook accounts in order to post comments or indicate that they like an article or a comment.

The measure has resulted in a significant drop in comments and likes.

Channel News Asia 7 Apr 2014

During a discussion, Norani Othman, a senior counsellor with Action for AIDS remarked that HIV should no longer be considered to be a gay infection in Singapore because recent trends in HIV show that transmission among heterosexual couples was almost on par with that among homosexual couples.

Her conclusion is erroneous because the number of heterosexual couples far exceeds the number of homosexual couples and even if the number of HIV cases among the two groups is similar, the incidence of HIV among heterosexual couples is much lower than that among homosexual couples.

Lunch with the FT: Lee Hsien Loong Financial Times 11 April 2014

Gideon Rachman, FT's chief foreign affairs columnist, wrote:

"As the Singaporean prime minister settles into his seat for lunch, I am fussing with my tape machines — two of them, just in case one fails. Lee Hsien Loong smiles faintly and says: 'The NSA will give you a copy.'

It is an unexpectedly subversive remark from a man I had expected to be the epitome of earnestness. The prime minister has a reputation as a cerebral technocrat, without a frivolous bone in his body. He even looks austere – tall, slim, grey hair and dressed in a dark suit and tie. So the biggest surprise, during our lunch, is how often Lee laughs. Over the course of the next hour, a variety of grim subjects provokes an incongruous chuckle or a broad smile — the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the second world war, the west’s mishandling of the revolution in Ukraine, China's fear of separatist movements and the bankruptcy of Iceland. It is not, I conclude, that the Singaporean prime minister is a callous man. It is just that his way of taking the edge off the most difficult topics is to laugh while discussing them."

Apart from trying to take the edge off difficult topics, incongruous chuckles or smiles are typically associated with nervousness.

Let Family Members Pool Entitlements The Straits Times 15 April 2014.

In a letter to The Straits Times, Dr Yik Keng Yeong wrote:
"Anecdotally, the major problem with CHAS is that patients with three or more chronic diseases find the subsidies insufficient, these being capped at $480 each year.
It would be helpful if families could pool their CHAS entitlements, so unused benefits that healthy members are entitled to can be utilised by the sickly ones.
This is consistent with the current approach to Medisave, which allows family members to use their funds to pay for their family members' medical fees."

Dr Yik's reasoning is wrong. CHAS entitlements are benefits from the State while Medisave is our own money. Pooling benefits is an attempt to get more benefits collectively.

Indonesian Armed Forces Chief Apologises over Naming of Warship TODAY 16 Apr 2014
Singapore Welcomes Indonesia’s Apology over Naming of Warship TODAY 16 Apr 2014
No Apology for Ship Naming, says Indonesian Army Chief TODAY 17 Apr 2014

In an interview conducted in Bahasa Indonesia with Channel News Asia's Indonesian correspondent,
Indonesian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief General Moeldoko apologised for the naming of an Indonesian warship after two marines who carried out the bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965.
On learning of this, Singapore Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen rushed to say:

“I welcome General Moeldoko’s apology as a constructive gesture to improve bilateral defence ties between our two countries.

The SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) will reciprocate General Moeldoko’s positive intentions by resuming bilateral cooperation and activities with the TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) so as to strengthen the mutual understanding and friendship that has been built up over many decades."

However, on 17 April, General Moeldoko denied he had apologised to the Singapore Government for the naming of a warship after two Indonesian marines who bombed MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965. Rather, he was only expressing his regret that the naming decision was final.

Did Dr Ng change his mind after General Moeldoko changed his? Apparently not.

The Singapore Government, which represents the victims of the MacDonald House bombing, seems very eager to rebuild its relationship with Indonesia, much more so than the Indonesian government is to rebuild its relationship with Singapore.
Singapore to Beef Up Nuclear Technology Expertise Channel News Asia 23 Apr 2014

National Research Foundation CEO Low Teck Seng said:
"[Plans for Singapore to keep abreast of nuclear technology developments in the region are] important because as a nation, we need to build up capabilities in nuclear technology for many reasons. One, nuclear technology is now pervasively used in many different industries. Two, nuclear technology, nuclear energy is something that we need to be aware of.
Many of our neighbours are also looking at nuclear technology, and it is important as the Prime Minister says, for us to be aware, to be knowledgeable, and as such, be able to assess the technology and its impact on Singapore — be it in terms of potential that it has for us, in terms of the risk that we face, as well as the ability to harness its potential in every aspect."
If our neighbours use nuclear energy and we don't, many of the people on whom Singapore will spend the $63 million training budget will end up working outside Singapore.

In his May Day Message 2014, National Trades Union Congress Secretary-General Lim Swee Say said:

"The [Singapore] labour market will remain tight till 2020, and even tighter all the way to 2030."

Mr Lim's crystal ball must be very clear to allow him to forecast the economy 16 years into the future.

Good to Recognise Contributions of NSmen The Straits Times 30 Apr 2014
In a letter to The Straits Times, a reader welcomed the news that NSmen can expect more benefits in housing, health care and education. Active NSmen were mostly in their late 20s to early 40s, and had just started developing their careers and setting up their families. Some were among the sandwiched generation and had to take care of their families and parents. He suggested that the Government give them an additional chance when balloting for new HDB flats, discounts for medical fees at public health care institutions, more study grants or bursaries for diploma or degree courses. Lower- and middle-income NSmen could be given additional grants when they purchase new or resale HDB flats, as well as grocery vouchers for their families.

After suggesting such a wide range of monetary rewards, he concluded his letter by saying that what was important was not the amount of monetary rewards or benefits given, but that the Government recognised the contributions and sacrifices of NSmen.
The Government should think carefully before giving significant, long-term monetary rewards for large swathes of the population, as it likely has to raise revenue via higher GST. Also, it is politically suicidal to withdraw monetary rewards once promised.

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