Friday, October 31, 2014

The coming of the Fish Lady

OCT 31, 2014


YOU have to love her. Sprawled out on a hotel lobby couch, sheathed in a black jumpsuit with a plunging neckline, her trademark tousled hair neatly arranged this time, Ms Susi Pudjiastuti tells me in that distinctive husky voice: "I hope Jokowi (President Joko Widodo) knows what he's doing. You know I don't work that well with other people."

Two days later, the owner of the world's largest under-35-seat airline and a friend of Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle leader Megawati Sukarnoputri was named Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister and one of the more surprising choices among the eight women in Mr Joko's 34-strong Cabinet.

Ms Susi, 49, is one of a kind, as at home jousting with fishermen on the beach near her home on Java's south coast as she is engaging in chit-chat at a Jakarta cocktail party. The elite grumble that she is a high school dropout and no doubt look with distaste at the ever-present cigarette and the tattoo that snakes its way from her right knee to her ankle.

The lady couldn't care less. She is separated from her husband, German pilot and aerospace engineer Christian von Strombeck, and calls herself "homeless". In fact, she lives in a suite in the luxury Grand Hyatt Hotel, gliding around town with two young suited aides in a large black SUV that serves as a mobile office.

Nationality not a recipe for good food

OCT 31, 2014


The recent move by Penang to ban foreign workers from cooking hawker food might have prompted cheers among people who love the Malaysian state's rich street food culture.

I have friends who go there every year to revisit favourite food stalls and restaurants, and seek out others new to them.

They might chow down on two to three versions of Penang char kway teow in a day, slurp bowls of Penang laksa from this hole-in-the-wall stall or that, and compare the standard of the handmade fishballs at their favourite kway teow soup stall with their taste memories from previous trips.

Penang's initiative to preserve its food heritage did not come about suddenly; the idea was floated in July this year. After a month-long survey, the local government found that more than 80 per cent of respondents backed the move.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spirit of unity elusive at the Vatican as Pope pushes for reform


OCTOBER 30, 2014

In front of more than 200 bishops bearing their traditional zucchettos — scarlet and amaranth skullcaps — Pope Francis is said to have delivered one of the most powerful and effective speeches of his 18-month tenure at the helm of the Vatican.

It was the closing session of this month’s gathering of top-ranking Roman Catholic clerics, called by the Argentine pontiff to re-examine the Church’s stance on a range of hot-button social issues related to the family, from marriage to divorce and homosexuality.

Pope Francis had hoped the synod would mark the beginning of a shift away from the Vatican’s rigidity on many of these matters. Some compared its potential to transform the Church with the Second Vatican Council — the 1960s gathering of Church leaders that among other things paved the way for Mass to be celebrated in vernacular instead of Latin.

Instead, the meeting turned into an epic feud between the conservative and liberal wings of the Church, ending in the equivalent of a parliamentary stalemate.

Severed cat: Don't jump to conclusions, says Cat Welfare Society CEO

By Alvin Chong

29 Oct 2014 20:41

The SPCA said the cat's death was "due to non-human factors, and instead very possibly the action of a dog, or a pack of dogs", but residents of Marine Crescent dispute this.

SINGAPORE: As debate swirls online over a statement by the Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that a severed cat found in Marine Crescent, might have been killed by dogs - the CEO of Cat Welfare Society, Ms Joanne Ng, is urging the public not to jump to conclusions. “With photos it’s hard to judge,” said Ms Ng. “Let’s respect the facts."

The cat’s body was found, seemingly cut in half on Tuesday night (Oct 28). SPCA said upon examination, it found the “cat's death to be due to non-human factors, and instead very possibly the action of a dog, or a pack of dogs”. The SPCA made the statement in a Facebook post on Wednesday, only to take it down later.

Ms Ng also called upon the authorities to speed up the autopsy process “to give the public an answer”, asking: “If this is an abuse case, shouldn’t parents be worried?”

Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness

Thursday 31 July 2014

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said “consumerism has brought us anxiety”, and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV when they sit down to eat.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we're not asking ourselves is: 'Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, 'I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,'” the Pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don't proselytise; respect others' beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: 'I am talking with you in order to persuade you,' No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising,” the Pope said.

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

Why ghost towns won’t haunt China

By Andrew Sheng and Xiao Geng -

October 29

Many observers tend to regard the rise of unoccupied modern “ghost towns”, funded through risk-laden local-government financing vehicles (LGFVs), as symptoms of China’s coming collapse. But this view underestimates the inevitability — indeed, the necessity — of such challenges on the path to development.

The Temasek story: Growing with Singapore

October 29

Temasek Holdings works for a better tomorrow as a responsible and trusted steward, said its executive director and CEO Ho Ching, who was awarded the Asian Business Award by London-based business think-tank Asia House. Below is an extract of her speech at the award ceremony dinner in London on Monday.

Singapore was already known in the second century to the Greco-Roman world as a trading post. Ptolemy named it Sabana. Third-century merchants from China called it Pu Luo Zhong — the Island at the End.

In 1819, nearly 200 years ago, Sir Stamford Raffles took over Singapore towards the tail end of the Anglo-Dutch spice trade tussle in the Far East. This little island trading post grew quickly.

Fast forward another 120 years to the end of World War II in 1945. Britain began to devolve its colonial powers through various forms of self-government around the world. The first municipal elections in Singapore were held in 1948.

Eleven years later, in 1959, Singapore was granted its first full, internal self-government. The newly-elected Singapore Government soon discovered — to its utter dismay — that it was staring at a budget deficit of about S$14 million for the year. The government kitty had also been emptied by its predecessor, to the tune of about 10 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product of a quarter billion pounds.

The newly-minted Prime Minister and his new Finance Minister went to work with a vengeance. They cut their own salaries by almost a quarter; allowances of top civil servants were also reduced. Projects were shelved. It was an all-out effort to reduce the deficit for the year.

It was not an easy time. Emotions ran high, as you can imagine, with this unprecedented salary reduction. But logic and example prevailed and the Civil Service pulled together.

By the end of the year, the Finance Minister reported a surplus of S$1 million. This surplus in the first year of self-government set the tone and timbre for fiscal prudence and budget discipline for successive governments.

Next came the 1965 crisis, or nationhood development. This time, Singapore found itself bereft of a large hinterland overnight after the short-lived merger with Malaysia. This left the tiny and newly independent nation scrambling and scrabbling for a living and for living space. Per capita income was all of S$1,600, or £184 in those days. Average life expectancy was a little over 64 years.

But troubles never come singly. In late 1967, barely two years into Singapore’s independence, Britain — facing its own financial crisis — decided to cut spending by withdrawing its military forces east of the Suez by 1971. The British forces in Singapore were not only a security umbrella for trade to flow freely through the Strait of Malacca through the east. They also accounted for about 20 per cent of Singapore’s GDP and were the largest single source of employment on the island.


A massive manpower conversion programme was started immediately to train base personnel for new jobs. Swamps were drained to build a new industrial town for factories to make up for the withdrawal of the British forces.

Young investment promotion officers were soon buttonholing dinner guests in the Philippines, the United States, Japan, Britain and Europe to invest in Singapore. The Government was prepared to provide loans or put in risk capital as a co-investor to encourage the likes of Cerebos, a chicken essence producer from the United Kingdom, to start up plants and create new jobs for its people.

British naval dockyards were converted into ship repair yards so workers could retain their jobs. Military electrical workshops were transformed into electrical services companies.

Yet, in the midst of the desperate drive to attract investments and create jobs, Singapore saw how choking pollution and tearing smog were engulfing cities in the US, Europe and Japan. So in 1970, barely five years after independence, Singapore set up the Air Pollution Unit, reporting directly to the Prime Minister. The Government was prepared to lose investments that did not comply with standards for clean air.

Our resolution was tested early. When Singapore was bidding for a petrochemical investment against strong international competition, the Government required the potential investor to install scrubbers to minimise pollution, even at the risk of losing that investment. The scrubbers were duly installed.

When 1971 arrived, the island hummed with companies, big and small. Factories, local and foreign, were busy producing for the world. There was no massive unemployment from the British pull-out.

That year also saw our first annual Tree Planting Day. It was a symbolic, but also very important, commitment to keep our environment clean and green. Industrialisation, in our minds, was to go hand in hand with green, beautiful nature for our people and children.

Nine years into independence, as Singapore emerged from a series of crises, the Government found itself as an owner of a smorgasbord of companies. Government loans for businesses had already been spun out to form the Development Bank of Singapore, which, today, is DBS, the largest bank in South-east Asia.

It was not the business of government to be looking after shares and investments in businesses and companies. These ranged from minority shares in a hotel to the wholly-owned Bird Park, from a co-investment in a commercial detergent maker to an innovative open-concept zoo as a wholly-owned public good.

Temasek was formed in 1974 to take over this mixed bag of companies and investments, from a golf shoemaker to Cerebos.


The ethos of Temasek was already shaped at birth by Singapore’s post-war history — to live within our means and be financially disciplined; to do the right things with tomorrow clearly in our minds, particularly for our future generations; to make sure our drive for survival and prosperity goes hand in hand with a respect and nurturing of a clean and green environment for our people.

From the start, the Government took a hands-off approach to Temasek. Subsidies were most definitely out of the question. Companies in our portfolio were allowed to fail, as the golf shoemaker did subsequently. Neither Temasek nor the Government would be there to bail them out. With that accountability came the responsibility to make their own decisions. The Government — and it took discipline on its part — played no part in the commercial decisions of the companies. And likewise Temasek.

Take Singapore Airlines (SIA), for instance. From day one, SIA knew it had to innovate and compete internationally or fold; after all, there was not much domestic air traffic opportunity for an island that is all of 30 miles (48km) at its widest span — only a little further than a marathon run.

SIA made its own commercial decisions. Few of its international competitors in the airline industry operate with such commercial independence away from Government subvention and influence — even today.

The greatest gift, at birth, from the Singapore Government to SIA was to help negotiate with the British government for air rights. Its second gift was to run a clean and lean government and an efficient economy that is well plugged into the global market.

SIA is but one of the many examples of our portfolio companies that have succeeded through innovation and sheer determination and not state support. Many of these companies grew with Singapore’s transformation and Temasek grew with them.


This year, Temasek is celebrating its 40th anniversary. We have tried to capture the spirit of Temasek in our Temasek Charter — as an active investor and long-term shareholder, as a forward-looking institution and above all, as a trusted steward. Meritocracy and integrity are our watchwords. We invest in businesses that operate and compete effectively for the long term and do not take short cuts at the expense of the community at large.

We puzzled as to how we can foster an owner’s mindset in Temasek. We mulled over various ideas and decided about 10 years ago to introduce deferred compensation plans, linked to risk-adjusted returns.

For our senior folks, a substantial part of our bonuses and incentives are deferred for as long as 12 years, or about two business cycles. This aims to foster a long-term ownership mindset. If the returns are not sustained, we share negative bonuses — in other words, bonus clawbacks. In doing so, we try to align interests and behaviour towards long-term ownership.

Underlying all these various systems and initiatives is the idea that we work for a better tomorrow as a responsible and trusted steward.

Thus, 10 years ago, we committed to setting aside a portion of our returns above our risk-adjusted hurdle. This was to be used to uplift the community at large, particularly in a developing Asia. To date, we have established and sponsored 16 community endowments, each with specific mandates to build people, build capabilities, build bridges between communities and rebuild lives.

From funding less glamorous research into mental health or Parkinson’s disease to developing pilot programmes to support ageing in place; from lending a helping hand to caregivers, single parents and traumatised children to (launching) programmes for disaster recovery and rebuilding lives; from bringing together youth across a diverse Asia to learn and grow together to programmes on governance and town-planning for civil servants from around Asia — these are but a small sliver of what the various endowment staff have done to touch the lives of more than 170,000 people across Asia over the past decade.

Singapore will be celebrating its 50th year of independence next year. It has been a journey that has made a difference to the lives of our people. In less than five decades, per capita GDP has grown more than 100 times in US-dollar terms. Life expectancy went from less than 65 years in 1965 to more than 82 years last year.

As you can see, we may have owed our success to Britain’s fateful decision to withdraw its forces from Singapore by 1971 — that decision forced us to innovate and industrialise at a great pace.

As we face the uncertain world of change and the exciting challenge of the digital age, I do hope that Singapore and Temasek will make a difference — to bring about a better and kinder world, a more sustainable and thoughtful world and above all, a more peaceful, compassionate and inclusive world.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Amazon 'abusing' its online dominance

Oct 21, 2014


AMAZON, the giant online retailer, has too much power and uses that power in ways that hurt America.

If you haven't been following the recent Amazon news: Back in May, a dispute between Amazon and Hachette, a major publishing house, broke out into open commercial warfare.

Amazon had been demanding a larger cut of the price of Hachette books it sells; when Hachette baulked, Amazon began disrupting the publisher's sales. Hachette books weren't banned outright from Amazon's site, but Amazon began delaying their delivery, raising their prices and/or steering customers to other publishers.

You might be tempted to say that this is just business: no different from Standard Oil, back in the days before it was broken up, refusing to ship oil via railroads that refused to grant it special discounts. But that is, of course, the point - the robber baron era ended when America, as a nation, decided that some business tactics were out of line. The question is whether we want to go back on that decision.

Does Amazon really have robber baron-type market power? When it comes to books, definitely. Amazon overwhelmingly dominates online book sales, with a market share comparable with Standard Oil's share of the refined oil market when it was broken up in 1911. Even if you look at total book sales, Amazon is, by far, the largest player.

In NYT report, dog-petting row seen shining light on Malaysia’s ‘culture wars’


Malay Mail Online


October 27, 2014 

The “I Want to Touch a Dog” event two Sundays ago is seen as the latest controversy underscoring Malaysia’s decades-old “culture wars” that have deepened fissures between the country’s Malay Muslim majority and its other racial and religious minorities, the New York Times (NYT) reported.

The report, by the NYT’s veteran Southeast Asian correspondent Thomas Fuller, noted that conservative Muslim groups here are pushing back against what they describe as “libidinous and ungodly Western influences in a country that has rapidly modernised and become more cosmopolitan”.

“The dispute over touching dogs has underlined the fault lines in what has increasingly become a country polarised between members of the Malay majority, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, and ethnic Chinese, Indians and other minorities, who are typically Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist,” Fuller said in his report published yesterday.

The report noted Syed Azmi Alhabshi inadvertently drew flak when he organised the “I Want to Touch a Dog” event in Selangor’s upper middle-class suburban neighbourhood of Bandar Utama, an event the pharmacist said was merely to offer Malay-Muslims here the opportunity to pet an animal that many in the community deem to be culturally taboo.

Striking a precious housing balance

Oct 28, 2014


FEWER applicants for new flats and five consecutive quarters of resale price falls have seen the Housing Board market going off the boil. The operative word is "going", denoting an incomplete market correction. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan's view that control measures for the sector as a whole should remain is the clearest word yet that real estate retains a capacity to cause an unwelcome wobble in the economy. Relative to the cumulative price run-up in the boom years, the considered judgment is that such cooling as has occurred has some way to go.

A planned 25 per cent reduction in the supply of build-to-order HDB flats next year, on top of a smaller trim this year, is a measured response in the sense that most people who currently need a flat have got one, although prices are only slowly coming off their peak. Young married couples and families wanting to live close together will continue to enjoy preference. This is pitching close to the golden mean.

Monday, October 27, 2014

America desperately needs leadership to escape its emotional recession

 Oct 27, 2014

By David Brooks

DURING the Cold War era, Western economies delivered broad and growing prosperity to the middle class. This nurtured a general faith in political institutions and culminated in the democratic triumphalism of the 1990s.

In a new essay called "The New Challenge to Market Democracies", Mr William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues that this era is over. In Europe, growth has stagnated and unemployment is at catastrophic levels, especially for the young. Japan is afflicted with economic stagnation and demographic decline. In the United States, the middle class is hollowing out. The median annual earnings of workers with bachelor's degrees have not increased in three decades.

A tree known by its fruit, democratic capitalism, Mr Galston observes, has not produced the expected crop. This has led to a loss of confidence in the regime. Mr Galston's essay is about how economic problems degrade the national spirit and lead to a loss of faith in the whole enterprise.

Drones posing global security issues


OCT 27, 2014


UNMANNED aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones as they are often called, have had a good press recently: from humanitarian rescues to the promotion of free trade, these remote-controlled, pilotless robots are the heroes of the moment.

Still, their biggest use continues to be for military purposes. And although the deployment of drones in military operations is nowhere near as morally objectionable as some critics allege, the inevitable proliferation of UAVs does raise some serious security questions.

The real challenge is not to prevent nations or corporations from acquiring them but, rather, to adopt international safeguards on how independent such drones are from their owners and operators. For controlling the rapidly evolving artificial intelligence of "killer drones" could well become one of the key disarmament questions of our time.

Shift from luxury to thrift a test of Beijing's mettle

OCT 27, 2014 1:13 AM


THRIFT as a virtue is embedded deep within China's culture. Ideograms for words such as "save" and "store" sparkle with the feel-good symbols for grain, fields, silk and children. In contrast, the character for debt shows a man standing - forlornly one imagines - next to a pile of cowrie shells, an ancient form of IOU. Children are taught that "diligence is a cash cow and thrift is a gold mine", while adults are warned in one somewhat humorous proverb that "going to bed early to save candles is not economical if the result is twins".

Money, or the lack of it, was also among the main reasons for the Communist Party's decision to open the economy to foreign investors more than three decades ago. So acute was the cash crunch that when Deng Xiaoping - the subsequent architect of capitalist reforms - prepared to lead a delegation to the United Nations in 1974, he found in the state coffers only the equivalent of US$38,000 in foreign currency to pay for his trip.

So why, given such potent reminders of the importance of money management, has China's government in the past five years swerved so far off the financial straight and narrow? Total debts owed by the government, companies and households have ballooned to 240 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) - virtually double the level at the time of the global financial crisis.

Why Germany banned Uber and fears Google

Oct 13, 2014

By Anna Sauerbrey

THESE days, Germany is known for being many things: a leader in clean technology, a manufacturing powerhouse, Europe's foreign policy centre. But, increasingly, it seems to have taken on yet another stereotype - as a nation of Luddites.

And truth be told, Germany is not a great place to be a big tech company these days. Mr Guenther Oettinger, a German official and the European Union's incoming commissioner for digital economy and society, has assailed Google for having too big a presence in Europe, and speaks of "cuts" in the company's market power.

In Berlin, Mr Sigmar Gabriel, the vice-chancellor and economics minister, is investigating whether Germany can classify Google as a vital part of the country's infrastructure and, thus, make it subject to heavy state regulation.

Google is often spoken of in dark terms around cafes and biergartens. People regularly call it the Octopus. Even a figure as dominant in the global economy as Mr Mathias Doepfner, chief executive of Springer, Germany's largest publishing house, said he was "afraid of Google".

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gap between ruling elite and masses is biggest political risk for the PAP

Oct 26, 2014

By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor

What might cause the People’s Action Party to lose power?

This was the subject of a lecture by Mr Ho Kwon Ping, erstwhile dissident journalist turned Establishment businessman and latterly the Institute of Policy Studies’ first S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore.

Mr Ho painted three scenarios of how the PAP might lose dominance: a freak election result; an internal party split; and a massive loss of confidence in the PAP, due perhaps to corruption. He also cited factors that would erode support for the PAP: demography, its organisational structure and the relative strength of the opposition.

His speech can be found here.

Searching for proof of the afterlife

Oct 25, 2014

By Andy Ho, Senior Writer

A LARGE study that tracked cases of cardiac arrest to look for evidence of an afterlife was recently published in a well-respected journal called Resuscitation.

It promptly led to headlines that screamed "First hint of 'life after death' in biggest ever scientific study" in The Telegraph, for example.

On closer scrutiny, however, the study is hardly conclusive for at least three reasons: it has only one "verified" case to report; this single case itself might not be all that it is cracked up to be; and this very case was verified by a lead investigator who is not a neutral researcher but a leading activist in circles promoting the idea of the near-death experience as evidence of an afterlife.

A near-death experience is one where a clinically dead patient is revived, and who tells of feeling detached from the body while dead, floating in serenity to the ceiling, then moving upwards towards a light, or a tunnel of light, all the while feeling safe and warm. They may describe in great detail events that they "perceived" while clinically dead, which are then later corroborated by third parties.

If such near-death experiences were objectively verified, there might be a prima facie case for the hereafter.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Opec now just a paper tiger

OCT 24, 2014


FORTY-ONE years ago this month, the Arab oil embargo began. The countries that were part of it belonged, of course, to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries - Opec - which had banded together 13 years earlier to strengthen their ability to negotiate with international oil companies. The embargo led to widespread shortages in the United States, higher prices at the petrol pump and long lines at petrol stations. By the time it ended, the price of oil had risen to US$12 a barrel, from US$3.

Perhaps more important than the price increases themselves was the new world order the embargo signalled. The embargo "set in motion geopolitical circumstances that eventually allowed (Opec) to wrest control over global oil production and pricing from the giant international oil companies - ushering in an era of significantly higher oil prices", as Ms Amy Myers Jaffe and Mr Ed Morse noted in an article in Foreign Policy magazine that was published last year on the 40th anniversary. Twice a year, Opec's oil ministers would meet in Vienna, where they would set oil policy - deciding to either hold back or increase oil production. There was always cheating among members, but there was usually enough discipline in the ranks to keep prices more or less where Opec wanted them.

As it happens, the title of that Foreign Policy article was The End Of Opec. Ms Jaffe and Mr Morse are both global energy experts - she is the executive director of Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Davis, and he is the global head of commodities research at Citigroup - who say that if America plays its cards right, Opec's dominance over the oil market could be over. I think that day may have already arrived.

Cycling can become a viable transport option, says Khaw




SINGAPORE — The Government wants cycling to go beyond the realm of recreation and become a “viable transport option” for short trips, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on his blog today (Oct 22).

And to make that happen, these trips — to the supermarket, coffee shop, hawker centre or the nearest MRT station — must be “safe and pleasant”, he said.

Singapore has a “wonderful” Park Connector Network that has brought greenery and recreation closer to homes, and is also quite walkable, with good pavements along most roads, pedestrian priority at traffic junctions, and sheltered walkways.

“But we are not perfect. In fact, some cities, like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have raised active mobility (cycling and walking) to a higher level. Walking and cycling as modes of transport have been honed to be the normal way of life.”

In these cities, they make up more than half of the modes of transport. “Benchmarked against them, we are way behind. Cycling merely makes up 1 to 2 per cent of our transport modes here,” said Mr Khaw.

A new book, by Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) and the United States-based Urban Land Institute (ULI), provides ideas and practical measures, he added.

What divides Hong Kong

OCT 24, 2014

Hong Kong's police officers, regarded as among the cleanest and best paid in the world, are not used to being seen as public enemies. They are supposed to be the good guys but, overnight, they have become a subject of scorn. 


IT IS not a good time to be a policeman in Hong Kong. Working a minimum 18-hour shift, they have to be physically and mentally fit to deal with protesters.

They also have to exercise incredible self-restraint to put up with the kind of indignity - and abuses - hurled at them each day.

The police in Malaysia would probably shake their heads in disbelief if they could see what their Hong Kong counterparts have had to face over the past three weeks since the protests started.

If we were to believe the reports from the Western news agencies, we would think the Hong Kong police to be a brutal lot, and the students merely a bunch of idealistic and harmless protesters seeking to make their voices heard.

But it is not as simplistic as that. The students are not simply following a blind cause. They have reasons to believe that unless their points are made known, the results that follow may create more long-term problems for their society as a whole. Their intentions are noble even if the resulting chaos may not be what they anticipate.

As the protests enter the fourth week, the tension has risen by many notches. Tempers have become shorter as the stakes have escalated. The authorities and protesters appear to be in search of a typical Chinese face-saving exit but don't quite know how to achieve it.

A clash of Chinese and American exceptionalism

OCT 24, 2014


SINGAPORE - Let us take it as a given that the post-1945 world order with the United States as dominant nation has begun to unravel, that China is rising to inherit the earth, that the unease of our times has much to do with that difficult transition, and that violent conflict is a normal accompaniment to the passing of the baton from one great power to the next. America stood tall at the end of World War II. It also stood on a vast field of corpses.

Let us further posit the farfetched hypothesis that humankind has learnt from history. It must then be determined to avoid another conflagration. Happy talk of hyper-connectivity is not enough. The dream of the victory of enlightened self-interest in the name of the collective good on a shrinking planet was an ephemeral late 20th-century illusion. What will matter, above all, is the capacity of the US and China to avoid fatal misunderstanding. In a state of mutual incomprehension, clashing interests will escalate.

The next 50 years in Singapore politics

Oct 21, 2014


Mr Ho Kwon Ping, the first Institute of Policy Studies S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, delivered his first lecture last night on The Future Of Singapore: Politics And Governance. Here is an excerpt of his speech.

In only 20 more years, the youngest minister today will be retiring and there will remain no more politicians who have any working memory of today's leaders, much less the founding generation.

In the history of young nations, this is the most precarious period of transition, when new generations who have not the slightest personal memories of or connections to the founding generation take on the mantle of leadership.

Passing on policies is easy; transferring ideals and values requires continual collective connections between generations of living, breathing people.

To achieve consistent economic growth with broad-based gains for its entire people has already been a rarely scaled hurdle. To maintain exemplary, transparent governance with an entrenched ethos of incorruptibility is even harder. The People's Action Party (PAP) has enabled Singapore to rise to the top of the list of successful newly independent states with these two accomplishments.

Its third challenge is not to just remain in power, nor to maintain its one-party dominance and deny the opposition its self-described role as a "co-driver" of the nation, but to do so in a manner which ensures that the party truly renews itself and retains its original vitality, vibrancy and vigour.

Religious Values in Public Discourse

[From 2011 around the time of the AWARE saga.]

The principle of separation of politics and religion and secularism is under attack. Not to be dramatic about it, so far (in 2011) it is some skirmishes at best. The first sortie was by NMP Thio Li-Ann in Parliament, right after the AWARE saga. Now a series of articles and letters to Today. This is the first article that launched the debate.

Room for religion in public discourse

Why, in some situations, it makes sense to let religious citizens speak up on their convictions

Apr 07, 2011

by Tan Seow Hon

At the end of a philosophy of law course that I taught, a student told me that his only regret was that "religion was kept on the sidelines". He felt it could add something to the topics discussed. But he understood that it might lead to "irresolvable differences and controversy".

The idea that religion is an ultra-sensitive topic best avoided is ingrained in the Singaporean mindset.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Protests that matter

Oct 22, 2014

Devadas Krishnadas, For The Straits Times

Protests are part of democratic dialogue. Protests may be legal but not legitimate. So when are disruptive protests warranted?

By Devadas Krishnadas
For The Straits Times

The continuing protests in Hong Kong have received international attention. Some commentators, both internationally and locally, have made comparisons between the protest culture in Hong Kong and in Singapore and concluded that the former reflects dynamism and vitality while the latter reflects conformity and apathy.

Such superficial extrapolations are not worthwhile. It would be more meaningful to ask when and why disruptive protests, whether on a large scale as has happened in Hong Kong or on a small scale as recently occurred at Hong Lim Park in Singapore, are warranted.

Graduate employment: Degrees of relevance

 Oct 23, 2014


A degree is no longer a guarantee of a good job as more graduates face underemployment, working in jobs that pay less well or require lower-level skills than their qualification prepares them for.

By Rachael Boon

A university degree used to be seen as a golden ticket to job security and career success, but some of the shine is coming off that path.

More graduates here are experiencing underemployment, which the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) defines as workers who clock at most 35 hours of work a week, even though they want and are available to work more hours.

Some 15,100 degree holders were underemployed last year, up from 13,000 in 2012.

This works out to 2.3 per cent of all employed graduates last year, inching up from 2.2 per cent the year before.

While the increase is slight, it comes amid a tight job market and falling underemployment rates for all other types of school leavers, from secondary school dropouts to diploma holders.

Some also fear underemployment figures for graduates may be understated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Singapore is ‘normalising as a democracy’: Analysts


December 24 2013

SINGAPORE — Observers said navigating Singapore’s future political landscape will be much more of a challenge as they looked back at major events which shaped the country in 2013.

As one political watcher puts it, Singapore is “normalising as a democracy”, and with it comes a new way of governance.

2013 marked the end of the year-long Our Singapore Conversation, an exercise to get Singaporeans thinking about the kind of future they want.

It set the stage for the prime minister to announce a “significant shift” in the government’s approach towards nation building during the National Day Rally.

It was described as a “new way forward”, as the country grapples with new challenges externally, and domestically.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “Singaporeans sense correctly that the country is at a turning point.”

Facts are sacred, comment is free - and fact-based comment most precious of all

Oct 19, 2014

By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor

In 1921, C.P. Snow wrote an essay on journalism for The Guardian newspaper to mark its centenary and his 50th year as editor.

In it, he coined the words that by now have become famous: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” It was a call to newspapers to remember their base: news gathering.

I got to recalling CP Snow’s dictum about comment and facts this week, as Hong Kong protests draw ever more hyperbolic commentary from the glitterati media. Many western commentaries tend to view the protests through ideological-tinted glasses as youth movements clamouring for democracy and human rights.

But in The Straits Times, we have tended to run commentaries that are less ideological in nature, from people who know Hong Kong and its Basic Law.

This week, we ran a useful piece by Lim Chin Leng, who is Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong, and a member of Hong Kong's Committee on Pacific Economic Cooperation. In this article, he reminds our readers that Hong Kong has an existing framework for constitutional debate and political reform.

Challenge for PAP to retain same dominance as in the past: Ho Kwon Ping


By Sharon See

20 Oct 2014

History has not been encouraging to founding political parties after three or four generations, pointed out the Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings in his first IPS-Nathan Lecture.

SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party will face a challenge to retain the same degree of control over Parliament as it has had in the past, said Mr Ho Kwon Ping in his first lecture as S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore.

Speaking at the University Cultural Centre, Mr Ho said history has not been encouraging to founding political parties after three or four generations. He said historical trends elsewhere point towards a possible election loss by the PAP in the second half of the next 50 years.

The most likely reason could be a freak election, followed by a split within the ruling party and a massive loss of political legitimacy, said Mr Ho.

Monday, October 20, 2014

China must be wary of capital-market liberalisation



OCTOBER 17, 2014

As China’s economy starts to slow, following decades of spectacular growth, the government will increasingly be exposed to the siren song of capital-account liberalisation. This option might initially appear attractive, particularly given the Chinese government’s desire to internationalise the renminbi. But appearances can deceive.

A new report argues that the Chinese authorities should be sceptical about capital-account liberalisation. Drawing lessons from the recent experiences of other emerging countries, the report concludes that China should adopt a carefully sequenced and cautious approach when exposing its economy to the caprices of global capital flows.

The common thread to be found in the recent history of emerging economies — beginning in Latin America and running through East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe — is that capital flows are strongly pro-cyclical, and are the biggest single cause of financial instability.

Domestic financial instability, associated with liberalisation, also has a large impact on economic performance, as does the lack of control over non-bank financial intermediaries — an issue that China is now starting to face as the shadow banking sector’s contribution to credit growth becomes more pronounced.

London's great, but have you seen Britain?


OCT 20, 2014


CONSIDER this for a contradiction. According to a recent survey, London is the world's most coveted place; the British capital's dynamism and welcoming approach to foreigners makes it the destination of choice for the largest number of people seeking a job abroad.

Yet at the same time, Britain is gripped by a powerful backlash against immigrants: if general elections took place today, up to one in five of all Britons could be voting for a party whose only political platform consists of a pledge to seal the country's borders against all incoming foreigners.

How can one explain this gap between a welcoming city and a hostile nation?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Suggestions on CPF changes raised at LKYSPP conference


By Olivia Siong

17 Oct 2014 22:36

Raising the CPF income contribution ceiling for employees and adopting social principles rather than commercial ones were some of the suggestions offered at a session on inequality and social security reforms.

SINGAPORE: Raise the CPF income contribution ceiling for employees - that was one suggestion raised by an economist at a session on inequality and social security reforms that was part of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) 10th Anniversary Conference held on Friday (Oct 17).

During the session, LKYSPP’s Associate Professor Hui Weng Tat said to help improve retirement adequacy, in particular for the middle-income group, the issue should be addressed early and when people are working.

"The amount of contribution that they are putting into CPF accounts is decreasing in real terms. That has to do with the fact that the income contribution ceiling has not kept in step with inflation. It has remained at S$5,000,” he said.

He pointed out that between the 1980s and 2011, "the real value of the income ceiling has actually been halved. As a result, our real contribution to CPF for those who had exceeded the ceiling has actually been declining over time. What is needed is an increase in the income ceiling, especially for those who are contributing on the employee side.

[Should we worry about the high-middle income (or whatever social strata those earning over $5000 are) earners? These income earners have other ways of ensuring their retirement adequacy. And no, it has not "remained" at $5000 from the 80s to 2011. It was $6000 prior to 2004, and was reduced to $4500 in 2006, before being re-adjusted to $5000 in Sep 2011. The rationale was explained here. The CPF is targeted at the 10th and 80th percentile income earners. Hence the ceiling. Why isn't this Assoc Prof who has commented on the CPF frequently, not au fait with the policies relating to the CPF? Even if he has a point, shouldn't he addressed the original intent of the policy?]
"In other words, we can raise the income ceiling for the employee contribution, not necessarily the employer contribution, so that it does not add to the employer's cost. For the employee, it is just increased savings which they can therefore use in retirement, and that will ensure an improvement in their retirement adequacy."

[Because a) CPF members already prefer not to put their money in CPF (despite the better rates), and b) Higher income earners should not have to depend solely on the CPF to meet their retirement needs, and c) there is already the SRS - not exactly the same, but it provides tax relief, and SRS savers can use the funds for investment to gain better returns perhaps than CPF.]

Another speaker, Professorial Fellow Mukul Asher, also noted that currently, schemes like CPF Life and MediShield adopt commercial principles - for example, with premiums varying by age and sex. He said this has not helped with ensuring retirement adequacy, and social principles should be adopted instead.

He noted: "Women live longer than men, so women are going to have to pay higher premiums or accept lower CPF Life amounts for a given capital sum. But women have a lower labour force participation rate than men. They also, as a group, on average, earn less than men. But they live longer, so they need more.

"So what we are doing with the commercial principles is making it very difficult for half of the population to have adequate retirement."

[Bravo! Thank you for making this point. This is very true and very correct. Social principles, and looking out for women, are two very important points.]

Barking mad over dog, never mind Ebola threat

Oct 10, 2014


ARE we all quite mad here in the developed world?

A petition to save Excalibur, the pet dog of a Spanish nursing assistant who has contracted Ebola, received more than 370,000 signatures before the animal was sedated and killed as a precautionary measure on Wednesday.

As it was taken away in a van for incineration, a crowd of activists who had clashed with police during the day were reportedly shouting: "Murderers!"

I don't remember people clashing with the police to persuade their governments to do more to help stop the spread of Ebola in Africa, where more than 3,400 human beings have died from the disease.

Indeed, an online petition to persuade the United States government to fast-track research for an Ebola drug has so far received 152,534 signatures. By that measure, we care half as much about finding a cure for Ebola as saving a dog.

Friday, October 17, 2014

To future-proof the country, build a wise citizenry

Oct 11, 2014

By invitation

Singapore has strong institutions, but needs a strong citizenry to prepare for its future. This requires a peer-to-peer engagement, not top-down management by the Government.

By Kishore Mahbubani, For The Straits Times

BIG Idea No. 9 is also a difficult one: "Future-Proof" Singapore. What does the phrase "Future-Proof" mean?

The best way to explain it is to use an analogy from the world of earthquakes. Earthquakes happen rarely. But they do happen. Hence, it is wise for a city like Tokyo, which is in an earthquake zone, to legislate that all buildings should be engineered to be earthquake-proof. They should be able to remain standing even if a major earthquake hits Tokyo. Of course, this makes the cost of buildings in Tokyo much more expensive, but it is a wise investment to make.

Discerning readers of my columns in The Straits Times where I highlight Big Ideas that would help Singapore navigate the next 50 years, would have picked up a rising concern of mine that Singapore's future will be challenging.

Indeed, even though the prospects are as remote as a major physical earthquake hitting Tokyo, we cannot rule out a major political earthquake hitting Singapore. Since we cannot rule out such a political earthquake, we should "future-proof" Singapore so that it can withstand one.

Inevitably, some of the more virulent voices in Singapore's social media will accuse me of scare-mongering. Hence, I need to explain why the statistical probability of political shocks is high. To explain this, I need to explain why Singapore's success so far has been a statistical aberration.

To put it simply, no other new nation-state has enjoyed 50 years of such peace and prosperity, as Singapore has. The first 50 years of Singapore's history after independence were therefore an "exceptional" performance. It took exceptional leadership, exceptional governance, and exceptional luck to create an "exceptional" performance.

Let me now state an obvious point: the word "exceptional" means "exceptional". It also means "not normal".

Since exceptional performances do not last forever, it will be perfectly normal for Singapore to experience the "normal" stresses and strains of other societies. And if you want to understand what "normal" means, just look at South Korea and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Since we have not experienced the "normal" instability that other societies have experienced, we may not be prepared to handle "normal" instability. The goal of this article is to suggest one major "stabiliser" we can build in Singapore to handle political shocks.

I should quickly add that we have wisely invested in a few stabilisers already.

Powerful stabilisers

OUR strong civil service and excellent judiciary, to cite two examples, are powerful stabilisers. The quality of the people who serve in these institutions is remarkable. Hence, in the event of a political crisis, they are likely to perform well. Yet, it is also true that when a "populist" government is elected, it is more than likely to behave irresponsibly and either override or weaken these institutions.

And it would be unwise to rule out the possibility of a "populist" government emerging in Singapore.

It is rational for populations to vote in a government which promises them subsidies, such as the agricultural subsidies in Thailand or the petrol subsidies in Indonesia.

It would also be unwise to assume that this happens only in developing countries. Eminent American scholars have begun to warn that American democracy is becoming dysfunctional.

[And a former US Assistant Secretary of Defence begs to differ. The US govt, he says, is designed to be incompetent.]

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Dr Francis Fukuyama, one of America's leading political scientists, has said this: "And while democratic political systems theoretically have self-correcting mechanisms that allow them to reform, they also open themselves up to decay by legitimating the activities of powerful interest groups that can block needed change. This is precisely what has been happening in the United States in recent decades, as many of its political institutions have become increasingly dysfunctional."

[Unless of course, by "dysfunctional" he means, "no longer democratic".]

If the powerful American Constitution and its system of checks and balances have failed to prevent dysfunctional governance in the US, we in Singapore should take heed and look for even stronger ways and means of preventing dysfunctional governance.

Only real safeguard

STRONG institutions can help. But as populist governments have shown the capacity to use their legislative powers to override institutional checks and balances, the only real safeguard against populist governance is to have an educated citizenry.

We have had a good recent example of how a responsible and well-educated citizenry can behave.

On May 18 this year, the Swiss population was asked to decide whether the Swiss minimum wage should become the highest in the world. I fully expected the Swiss population to vote themselves a pay raise that the government and private sector would have to pay for. Similarly, if a political party were to promise cash subsidies of $10,000 per Singaporean family (paid for by tapping into Singapore's reserves), it is equally probable that the Singapore population would support this.

Fortunately, the Swiss population showed that they were a remarkably wise people. They actually voted against giving themselves an increase in the minimum wage.

This is what we have to do in Singapore: develop an equally wise citizenry that will not fall prey to populist governance. We want a population that will vote against any populist party that promises easy subsidies.

The big question is: how do we develop such a wise citizenry?

The good news is that we are halfway there. Over the years, we have developed an education system that is the envy of other countries in the world. A good education system, by definition, delivers a well-educated population.

That is the good news. But there is also bad news.

The bad news is that a well-educated population requires a different kind of engagement.
Some of the top-down approaches that worked well in the early years of Singapore's governance will not work when dealing with a well-educated population.

Intelligent peer-to-peer engagement is what a well-educated population expects.
This is exactly how the Swiss government engages its population. It uses reason and logic to explain to the population why it should not vote itself a pay rise.

For example, Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann, the Swiss Economics Minister, said: "A minimum wage of 4,000 francs (S$5,340) could lead to job cuts and even threaten the existence of smaller companies, notably in retail, catering, agriculture and housekeeping. If jobs are being cut, the weakest suffer most."

To help a well-educated citizenry make well-informed decisions, I would like to propose that we "future-proof" Singapore by creating a treasure trove of well-researched and well-reasoned policy papers on all the major challenges that Singapore will be facing in the next 50 years.

This could be done by government agencies. And they should certainly do this.

However, research shows that the population is more likely to put greater trust in papers produced by non-governmental organisations. For example, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 76 per cent of Singaporeans trust NGOs, while 75 per cent trust the Government. Thus, evidence from both NGOs and the public sector will help to shore up this treasure trove of information.

This is one small contribution that the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy can make.

Armed with four well-established research institutes (the Asia Competitiveness Institute, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Institute of Policy Studies, and Institute of Water Policy) and a strong faculty (including both academics and practitioners), it is in a strong position to build a treasure trove of public policy papers that a well-educated citizenry can refer to any time a major public policy debate breaks out in Singapore.

The best way to disarm a seductive populist politician is to show data and arguments that will demonstrate the folly of marching down the populist path.

Obviously, the Lee Kuan Yew School cannot do the job alone. It can, at best, play a catalytic role of sparking a process of deep reflection on the future options for Singapore. The hardest point to put across to a population that has enjoyed 50 years of peace and prosperity is that this long record of peace and prosperity is not natural or normal. If it were natural or normal, more nations would have enjoyed Singapore's track record. We do need to prepare our population for "normal" times.

The business community of Singapore has benefited enormously from the 50 years of good governance that Singapore has enjoyed. The value of all their assets (including real estate and market cap values) will diminish significantly if good governance diminishes in Singapore.

Hence, one of the wisest long-term investments that the business community in Singapore can make is to support the creation of this treasure trove of policy papers to jump-start a process of deep reflection. An investment of 1 per cent of their annual profits would be a tiny cost, but it could result in massive dividends if it protects Singapore from political earthquakes.

The writer is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, and author of The Great Convergence: Asia, The West, And The Logic Of One World.

[If the point of this article is to get the business community to contribute to the creation of a "treasure trove of public policy paper", good luck.

I don't see anything wrong about it, but I'm not sure it will future-proof Singapore.

Because the fundamental issue is not simply facts and analysis. It is about values. Witness the argument over running an MRT track through a nature reserve. The facts may be bandied about, but the crux of the matter was, do you value nature more than commuting time? Depending on your values, you will fall within one side or the other of the issue. Facts merely reinforce your position, and facts supporting the other position will be discounted.

And when values are at stake, compromise is next to impossible.]

A game-changer for tick-the-box civil servants

Real life is complex and uncertain. But government decision-makers are more comfortable with structure and control. Use of military inspired, simulated "policy games" can help even deskbound bureaucrats learn to fly by the seat of their pants.

OCT 17, 2014


IN THE 2009 reboot of Star Trek, the future Captain James Kirk is a cadet in the Starfleet Academy. Spock has accused him of cheating in a simulation exercise called Kobayashi Maru. Kirk argues that the cheating is justified because the simulation has been designed to be unbeatable. Spock counters that Kirk had failed to understand that the purpose of the exercise is "to experience fear… To accept that fear and maintain command of one's self and one's crew".

Much of what we learn is knowledge that is formalised and codified. This is explicit knowledge. It is written in books. In school and at university, explicit knowledge is transmitted in the classroom through textbooks and lectures.

Then there is tacit knowledge, knowledge that is embedded in complex systems and situations, in which roles, technologies, emotions and behaviours interact in dynamic and unpredictable ways that are almost impossible to codify.

Tacit knowledge has to be acquired in other ways. Often, tacit knowledge is acquired on the job - through what some would call "learning by doing".

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Not all smiles for some retirees in Chiang Mai

Oct 12, 2014

Foreigners who do not plan ahead could end up abandoned and alone, infirm and destitute

By Nirmal Ghosh Indochina Bureau Chief In Chiang Mai

It is 2pm in Chiang Mai as Mrs Nancy Lindley wheels frail 74-year-old former stockbroker David Descault to the bank to close his accounts.

The American has lived 10 years in Chiang Mai. Thin as a rake and wheelchair-bound after a hip fracture around 19 months ago, he is due to travel home to Los Angeles, his passage funded by a loan under a United States Consulate programme.

As he collects his meagre few hundred baht, he banters with Mrs Lindley, saying with a short acerbic laugh: "I may get depressed, I may have some regrets, but I haven't lost my sense of humour."

He is an alcoholic who has no children. He was living alone in Chiang Mai and broke his hip but was "in denial and just lay in bed drinking until the neighbours became concerned and called us", said Mrs Lindley. Now, out of money and with no family left, he is going directly to a nursing home in the US. His US Government pension cheque will be redirected to the home.

With several thousand foreign retirees in Chiang Mai, Mr Descault's is not an unusual story, especially for British and American pensioners.

Mrs Lindley coordinates Lannacare Net, a voluntary network which helps retirees live "safe and healthy lives" and, especially, helps those in trouble. And there can be a lot of elderly foreigners in distress in Chiang Mai, long a retirement place for Thais especially from busy Bangkok, and lately a growing retirement destination for foreigners.

But it is also a place where those foreigners who do not plan ahead can disastrously run out of options and end up abandoned and alone, infirm and destitute, or any combination of the above, in a foreign country.

"There's never any one situation," Mrs Lindley told The Sunday Times. "The American and British cases tend to be very complex where you have issues of alcohol, orthopaedic fractures and, often, failed relationships with Thai people, financial problems, visa issues, and underlying diseases."

Lately, there is a new worry: Senior retirees in Chiang Mai unsure of their visa status under the new, tight military regime. Some have stayed beyond their visa limit and, under the tighter regulations, may not be allowed into the country again. Several are leaving now and may never return.

Those on retirement visas are safe. Thailand grants retirement visas if you are over 50 and can show that you have 800,000 baht (S$31,320) in the bank. And while the government welcomes long-staying foreigners, the retirement visa comes with one iron rule - you cannot work.

There is no shortage of people extolling Chiang Mai as a retirement haven. Live And Invest Overseas, a US-based magazine specialising in evaluating overseas destinations, this year rated Chiang Mai among its top 10 retirement cities.

With a population of around 1.5 million, Chiang Mai is about one-fifth the size of Bangkok. It has a distinct character - ancient brick fortress walls, old wooden houses, many temples, changes of season and a cold but not freezing winter, seven international schools and a vibrant cosmopolitan community.

On the downside, it is getting crowded and risks choking on its own success; traffic jams are now common and, in the winter, pollution combines with smoke from open burning across northern Thailand and Myanmar to cast a pall over the city.

But the cost of living is still about half that of Bangkok's, a third of Singapore's and a fifth of western Europe's. Good quality, 24/7 home health care costs roughly 40,000 baht [S$1600] a month - a fraction of what it is in the US or Europe.

In an experiment, Australian-born author and blogger Godfree Roberts, a Chiang Mai fan, spent two months in the city with his wife, mimicking retired life. They found that they lived comfortably on US$1,370 (S$1,744) per month, or US$685 per person. In 2012, he wrote that US$1,200 in Chiang Mai will give you a US$3,000 lifestyle.

Singaporean Jacob Loh, 64, who retired after 25 years in the advertising industry, compared the cost of living in Chiang Mai, Penang in Malaysia and other places in the region before choosing the northern Thai city.

Over coffee at a steak and ribs restaurant in the city's newest, most glitzy mall, the Promenada, he said: "Food here is about 50 per cent to 60 per cent cheaper than in Singapore."

Once married and now single with no children, he moved to Chiang Mai in 2009. "My main reason for moving to Chiang Mai is cost. And I need a roof over my head.

"In Singapore, I have one asset - the HDB flat. My CPF gives me just $400 a month. I can't survive in Singapore," he said.

In Chiang Mai, he rents a one-bedroom terrace house in a small leafy walled enclave for 8,500 baht a month. If he wanted to, he could get a two-room condo in a building with full amenities for 4 million baht, he said - half the price of a similar place in downtown Bangkok. Foreigners can buy condos, but cannot own land except through a Thai partner or company.

To support himself, Mr Loh rents out his three-room HDB flat back home for $1,600 a month.

That is what most foreigners do, said Mrs June Unland, 46, a Singaporean who lives in Chiang Mai with her husband and is active in the expat community. "You rent out your HDB flat and if you live modestly, you can live in Chiang Mai on $1,000 to $1,500 a month."

But retirees need to plan ahead, she cautioned. The message was echoed by many expatriates, young and old, and of different nationalities, who spoke to The Sunday Times.

Mrs Lindley, 64, herself a retiree, has been in Chiang Mai with her husband for six years and is also the president of the Chiang Mai Expats Club.

She has seen the enthusiastic newcomers, those who thrive and also those who crash their lives here.

She has also seen foreigners never opening a local bank account and drawing cash from their overseas account through the ATM. She has seen some forget their PIN numbers and lose their cards to the machine. She has seen people incapacitated by an accident or a stroke and forgetting passwords and PINs. Worse, she has seen people trust others with their financial details and passwords.

Financial planning and a reliable social network are critical, she stresses. "You need a trusted friend who is not just a barstool buddy," she warns.

Lannacare Net also recommends a detailed advance directive, specifying what is to be done in case of an accident or health crisis.

The demographics of the foreign retirees are slowly changing, from single men to couples. The presence of retirees has also spawned support industries, from residential developments to upscale hospitals with multi-lingual staff, said Mr Visut Buachum, Tourism Authority of Thailand regional director.

Assisted living is a new and booming industry, he noted, with at least two or three facilities coming up. Health-care professionals caution, though, that standards at these facilities may be an issue in future.

Currently, Lannacare Net's website lists just two assisted living facilities. The first to offer such services, and using an Australian model for assisted living, is Dok Kaew Gardens, which opened in 2009.

Some 10km south of Chiang Mai, in the vast compound of the 106-year-old McKean Hospital under towering rain trees, Dok Kaew offers assisted living at 32,000 to 45,000 [S$2000] baht a month, according to the level of care needed.

It has 20 residents, one of whom is Mr Burnett Roberts, 80, a former geologist from the US who planned ahead and does not intend to leave Thailand. He retired in Thailand 15 years ago and lived in Pattaya. Facing failing health, he moved to Dok Kaew just over a year ago.

He rolls around the grounds, covering around 5km every day on his electric wheelchair, and is actively engaged with the world through the Internet in his room. "I have a choice, but I would not go back to the States," he said. "I tell everyone the only way I'm leaving is through the chimney at the crematorium."

Not all retirement stories end in misery, Mrs Lindley says.

"I have seen some excellent role models here of people in their 80s who are doing very well, but they have really gone out of their way to establish relationships and keep active," she says. "Every day, there is something on the calendar, where they will be missed if they don't show up.

"You have to keep those contacts going. Some people will swear by Thai families to take care of them, and if it is the right person, it can be good, but I think you do need to keep contacts with your own nationality."

Singaporean Jacob Loh has no illusions. He has friends. He is active, playing badminton and going to the gym.

Like other Singaporeans settled here, he has one advantage over the European, American, Japanese and Australian retirees - Singapore is just three hours away on a plane.

"If you are a sociable person, you will find a lot of opportunities for social interaction here," he says. "But as a foreigner living anywhere, you have to make sure you can take care of yourself financially. You do have to fend for yourself."

America’s decline is exaggerated


The loss of confidence that Americans have expressed may be rooted in a deeper shift in people’s attitudes towards individualism, which has brought about decreased deference to authority. 


OCTOBER 16, 2014

With the approach of the United States congressional elections, questions about the health of America’s political institutions and the future of its global leadership have become rampant, with some citing partisan gridlock as evidence of America’s decline. But is the situation really that bad?

The ideological divide between America’s two main political parties has not been as large as it is now since the end of the 19th century, said political scientist Sarah Binder.

Despite the current gridlock, however, the 111th Congress managed to pass a major fiscal stimulus, health-care reform, financial regulation, an arms-control treaty, and revision of the military policy on homosexuality. Clearly, the US political system cannot be written off (especially if partisan gridlock is cyclical).

Nonetheless, today’s Congress is plagued by low legislative capacity. Though ideological consistency has more than doubled over the past two decades, from 10 per cent to 21 per cent of the public, most Americans do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views and want their representatives to meet one another halfway. Political parties, however, have become more consistently ideological since the ’70s.

This is not a new problem for the US, whose constitution is based on the 18th-century liberal view that power is best controlled by fragmentation and countervailing checks and balances, with the president and Congress forced to compete for control in areas such as foreign policy. In other words, the US government was designed to be inefficient, in order to ensure that it could not easily threaten the liberty of its citizens.

This inefficiency has probably contributed to the decline in confidence in American institutions. Today, less than one-fifth of the public trusts the federal government to do the right thing most of the time, compared with three-quarters in 1964. Of course, these figures surged occasionally during that period, such as after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but the overall decline is considerable.

The federal government is not alone. Over the past several decades, public confidence in many influential institutions has plummeted.

From 1964 to 1997, the share of Americans who trusted universities fell from 61 per cent to 30 per cent, while trust in major companies fell from 55 per cent to 21 per cent. Trust in medical institutions dropped from 73 per cent to 29 per cent, and in journalism from 29 per cent to 14 per cent.

Over the past decade, confidence in educational institutions and the military has recovered, but trust in Wall Street and large corporations has continued to fall.

But these ostensibly alarming figures can be misleading.

In fact, 82 per cent of Americans still consider the US to be the world’s best place to live and 90 per cent like their democratic system of government. Americans may not be entirely satisfied with their leaders, but the country is certainly not on the brink of an Arab Spring-style revolution.


Moreover, though party politics have become more polarised in recent decades, this follows the 1950s and early 1960s, when the escape from the Great Depression and victory in World War II fuelled unusually high confidence in US institutions.

In fact, the sharpest decline in public trust in the government occurred in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Moreover, declining trust in the government has not been accompanied by significant changes in citizens’ behaviour. For example, the Internal Revenue Service is among the government institutions that inspire the least public confidence; yet there has been no major surge in tax evasion.

In terms of controlling corruption, the US still scores in the 90th percentile. And though voting rates in presidential elections declined from 62 per cent to 50 per cent in the second half of the twentieth century, they stabilised in 2000, and rose to 58 per cent in 2012.

The loss of confidence that Americans have expressed may be rooted in a deeper shift in people’s attitudes towards individualism, which has brought about decreased deference to authority. Indeed, similar patterns are characteristic of most post-modern societies.

This social shift probably will not influence US institutions’ effectiveness as much as one might think, given America’s decentralised federal system. In fact, gridlock in the national capital is often accompanied by political cooperation and innovation at the state and municipal levels, leading citizens to view state and local governments, as well as many government agencies, much more favourably than the federal government.

This approach to governance has had a profound impact on the mentality of the American people. A 2002 study indicated that three-quarters of Americans feel connected to their communities and consider their quality of life to be excellent or good, with nearly half of adults participating in a civic group or activity.

That is good news for the US. But it does not mean that America’s leaders can continue to ignore the political system’s shortcomings, such as the gerrymandered “safe seats” in the House of Representatives and obstructive processes in the Senate.

Whether such sources of gridlock can be overcome remains to be seen. And there is legitimate reason to doubt America’s ability to maintain its “hyperpower” status, not least owing to the rise of major emerging economies.

But, as the conservative author David Frum notes, over the past two decades, the US has experienced a swift decline in crime, auto fatalities, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which cause acid rain — all while leading an Internet revolution.

Given this, dire comparisons to, say, the decline of Rome are simply unwarranted.


Joseph Nye, a former US Assistant Secretary of Defence and chairman of the US National Intelligence Council, is University Professor at Harvard University. He is the author, most recently, of Presidential Leadership And The Creation Of The American Era.

The 12-step dogma

The new science of addiction makes 12-step programmes seem like folk medicine. Is the concept of a higher power obsolete?

by Rebecca Ruiz 

Rebecca Ruiz is a features writer at Mashable who covers gender and equality issues. She has also written about the military, technology, science and mental health. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

I hear a single voice as I walk up the steps to the meeting room. It reminds the men and women gathered in a half circle that, yes, they admitted powerlessness over alcohol, and that only a power greater than themselves could restore their sanity. Drunks-R-Us is held in a sunlit room at a liberal church in Berkeley, California. Inside, there are more than 30 people, most looking like they just arrived from the farmer’s market. They confess to numerous trespasses against strangers, friends, family and themselves – betrayals wrought by a lifetime of addiction. A tanned gentleman, nearing 60 years old, dressed in a lime-green button-up shirt and khaki pants, describes four court orders for driving under the influence, time spent in San Quentin prison, owning his own business, years of sobriety lost to ‘a damn quart of vodka’. But, first, he says: ‘I ask God that his words come out of my mouth.’

Almost 2 million people in some 80 nations currently claim membership in 12-step programmes. Members belong to what’s called the fellowship, a convening of men and women trying to recover from addiction through peer support. There are no membership fees, no formal membership, no official leadership. The adherents of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) live by 12 principles first set out in 1939 in what’s known as the Big Book, a conversion story written largely by a layman, Bill Wilson, a Wall Street stockbroker from rural Vermont who wrenched himself free from the clutches of alcoholism.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why debt relief may be in everyone’s interest

OCTOBER 14, 2014

Stop me if you have heard this before: The world economy appears to be stumbling. For a while, things seemed to be looking up and there was talk about green shoots of recovery. But now growth is stalling and the spectre of deflation looms.

If this story sounds familiar, it should; it has played out repeatedly since 2008. As in previous episodes, the worst news is coming from Europe, but this time there is also a clear slowdown in emerging markets — and there are even warning signs in the United States, despite pretty good job growth at the moment.

Why does this keep happening? After all, the events that brought on the Great Recession — the housing bust, the banking crisis — took place a long time ago. Why can we not escape their legacy?

The proximate answer lies in a series of policy mistakes: Austerity when economies needed stimulus, paranoia about inflation when the real risk is deflation, and so on. But why do governments keep making these mistakes? In particular, why do they keep making the same mistakes, year after year?

The answer, I would suggest, is an excess of virtue. Righteousness is killing the world economy.

An Unconventional Billionaire Is Revolutionizing Philanthropy By Closing His Foundation

Should charity go on forever? For Chuck Feeney, the answer is an emphatic no--and fellow billionaires, from newly minted Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are learning from his example.

Some people are into extreme sports, others extreme eating. You could call self-made billionaire Chuck Feeney an extreme philanthropist.

Feeney, the 83-year-old co-founder of the pioneering retail business Duty Free Shoppers (the company that sells the tax-free alcohol and perfume in airports), is practically unknown as a public figure. Though Forbes once ranked him the 23rd-richest person alive, you wouldn’t realize it if you met him on the street: In his prime, he famously wore a $15 watch and flew economy. You certainly won’t find his name on any buildings. Yet his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, will soon become the largest ever foundation to purposefully give away all its money--seeded by almost Feeney’s entire fortune, which was worth about $4 billion when he donated it anonymously three decades ago--and then go about shutting its doors.

Big bucks philanthropy was once defined by benevolent barons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford, men who plastered their names on brick walls and established foundations with large endowments meant to carry on their legacy forever. In 1984, when Feeney gave away nearly all his wealth, he became an early, outsized example of a new breed of philanthropist, a forefather of a style of giving that is becoming more and more popular with today's rich and ultra-rich.

The current class of high-profile wealthy elite, people like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg, are giving away money earlier in their life than their predecessors. Some are setting up their donations or foundations in a way that their funds won’t last for generations. In many cases, they’re also becoming what you might call philanthropic entrepreneurs, devoting energies in their prime to directing their charities either alongside--or instead of--their businesses.

Take Dustin Moskovitz, a Facebook co-founder and current startup CEO who was once the world’s youngest billionaire. Saying that he was merely a “steward” of capital that really “belongs to the world,” he set up Good Ventures, an endeavor run by he and his wife that aims redistribute his wealth in his lifetime: “I see no strong reasons to try to set up a system that perpetually invests this capital after I die, so I'd like to be rid of it before then,” he wrote in a forum on Quora. This engaged attitude is also trickling down: Universities, ranging from Yale and Harvard to Northwestern, are offering courses that give the world’s future elite real-world practice at the surprisingly difficult work of giving away hard cash.

“We’re seeing all this new wealth, especially West Coast wealth and technology wealth, which doesn’t necessarily have a place tied to it. They just have very different sensibilities,” says Ben Hecht, CEO of Living Cities, a New York City non-profit that works directly with many of the world’s largest foundations. “Many of them don’t have any interest in building a perpetual institution. I think it’s not in their culture. They want to give it away, and they want to be active in giving it away.”

Though Feeney, who couldn’t be interviewed for this article because he was recovering from surgery, was never in tech industry or a rockstar name in business, his “giving while living” motto is an influential early example of this mindset. As his foundation winds down its work and evaluates its own impact, its story illustrates the upsides and downsides of this ethos.


Atlantic Philanthropies is what’s called a limited life foundation, which it formally became in 2002 when the board voted to spend all its money by 2020, as an extension of Feeney’s philosophy about wealth. Limited life foundations aren’t new--Julius Rosenwald, the head of Sears, Roebuck and Company set one up in 1917, for example--but the idea has become a buzzword in the philanthropy world only within the last decade. Atlantic Philanthropies will soon be the largest foundation to complete such a “sunsetting” process, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, formed in 2000, is another massive example of the model. It's spending down on a longer timeline, with the goal of giving away its now-$40 billion endowment within 20 years of the deaths of Bill and Melinda Gates. Warren Buffett also stipulated that his $31 billion donation to the foundation be spent quickly in year installments.

If the goal is to increase charitable giving, Feeney’s “giving while living” philosophy may be particularly well-suited for today’s generation of philanthropists, who live at a time when growing income inequality is a global flashpoint. “Giving while living” is a more radical version of Gates’ and Buffett’s Giving Pledge, which asks billionaires to donate at least half their wealth, but not necessarily to have it spent in their lifetimes or become deeply involved in how it’s used. (Buffett reportedly described Feeney as the “spiritual leader” of the Giving Pledge a few years ago.) It’s also a reflection of the more recent mindset of consumers who grapple with the broader social repercussions of all their spending--whether that means buying fair-trade coffee and greener energy or launching a social good venture.

“More people are giving more. I think that is heavily a function of the structure of our economy. There has been a great expansion and a great concentration of wealth,” says Jane Wales, vice president of philanthropy and society at the Aspen Institute. “Those that have benefited from that economy feel a very strong desire to ensure that the benefits are more evenly shared, and they see philanthropy as one of the ways of achieving that goal.”

Influenced by the writings of Andrew Carnegie, who believed "the man who dies wealthy, dies disgraced," Feeney’s decision to donate his wealth came from almost a selfish impulse. A classic rags-to-riches entrepreneur who grew up in a poor Irish-American family and remained deeply uncomfortable with the trappings of luxury, Feeney's transfer of the legal ownership of his business assets to a charitable cause relieved a burden. This was apparent in the way Feeney would talk about philanthropy to his wealthy peers, according to the current CEO of Atlantic Philanthropies, Chris Oeschli: “Chuck would say 'Try it, you’ll like it. You’ll get more satisfaction from that then having houses you’ll never live in, or yachts that you can’t spend your time on.'”

But the desire to die poor is where the similarities with Carnegie end. Today, a century after its founding with a $135 million endowment (equivalent to $2 billion today), Carnegie’s foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, lives on “in perpetuity,” in keeping with the steel magnate’s wishes for his wealth to “continue to benefit humanity for generations untold.” By law, nonprofit foundations must pay out at least 5% of their endowment’s value every year; the Carnegie Corporation carefully tracks its assets’ market value to meet its yearly spending target of 5.5%--the rest is reinvested back into the foundation to keep it running forever. Since 1913, the Carnegie Corporation has given away nearly $3 billion dollars (not adjusted for inflation), including about $108 million per year in the last decade. Whereas Atlantic’s work has taken place over a much shorter time frame: In 30 years, it’s made about $6.7 billion in grants, averaging about $360 million a year this past decade. It aims to allocate the remaining $1.1 billion of its endowment to grantees by 2016 and shut its doors soon after.

While stretched over forever, Carnegie’s dollar figure legacy may end up larger, there can be benefits to having a deadline. To Feeney, who believed substantial wealth can create problems for future generations, donors can do the most good addressing the urgent and large problems of their time, rather than slowly meting out the profits from invested endowments into the far-off future (or, worse, leaving extremely wealthy heirs). He felt a deadline gives the foundation’s work a sense of urgency and do-or-die startup mentality that many organizations lack. “There’s a bit more of an entrepreneurial instinct. A little more risk taking. Which can give you a great upside when you hit the mark, and a downside when you miss,” says Atlantic CEO Oeschli. “Absolutely, it does focus the mind.”


In its beginning, Atlantic Philanthropies was indeed a startup with a small staff. Like Carnegie’s foundation, its earliest funding decisions were driven partly by circumstance and partly by Feeney’s passions--say for building new scientific research institutions in Ireland (Feeney is a dual citizen), or helping his alma mater, Cornell University (He’s the school’s largest single donor to date). Over time, as Atlantic’s staff and endowment grew, it focused on leveraging its existing expertise and experience in particular countries, like building on its work on peace and reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and making donations to help solve the challenges of post-apartheid South Africa.

To Tony Proscio, associate director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University, who has been paid as a consultant to help evaluate Atlantic’s work, the foundation has been effective because it limited the scope of its work to discrete, solvable issues, rather than open-ended ones, like climate change or school reform. From its work to stop the death penalty to its human rights focus in Northern Ireland and South Africa, he says: “The theme is these are all things that could be done in a discrete period of time and where the technology, to use the term broadly ... of what needed to be done was not all that obscure.”

By contrast, limited life foundations can run into trouble when they are unfocused or fixated on questions that aren't easily solved. “The strongest argument against time limits is the ability of an institution to learn and adapt as it works on complex problems,” he says. In this, one of Carnegie Corporation’s biggest mistakes is instructive: Infamously, it funded a 1932 study on white poverty in South Africa that later became a blueprint for apartheid. But because of its perpetual model, it has been able to change with the times and learn from its errors--decades later it funded studies and court cases that sought to take down the apartheid regime.

Proponents of the limited life foundation say that one of the biggest upsides is the donor’s typically high level of involvement in giving decisions, much like a startup founder would direct the vision and strategy of his company. The idea is that people who had the talent and discipline to earn or manage lots of wealth in their careers might also be effective at using those same skills to making a difference. “Chuck has always expected a high level of discipline and evidence of results,” says Oeschli. What much of Atlantic’s work in different locales had in common was a connection to Feeney’s entrepreneurial instincts, says Oeschli--a kind of “ripeness in the people, in the economy, and in the culture--a sense there was an opportunity there to build on momentum and leverage value.”

This can be seen in Atlantic’s work to improve the community health care system in Vietnam, both by funding physical and technology infrastructure but, more importantly, by supporting organizations that educated and trained medical staff to sustain long-term gains. Le Ngoc Bao, who heads the Vietnam program of one Atlantic grantee, Pathfinder International, says Atlantic’s investments had a “critical” impact on the nation’s health care capacities just as Vietnam was transitioning from a developing to a middle income economy--in part, because Atlantic was able to forge cooperation among many different groups. “It hasn’t been a one-off intervention,” he says.

Inequality is an increasingly destabilizing force in today’s global economy, and in to answer that, today high net-worth philanthropists are giving more than ever. But it's worth questioning the system that creates billionaires, even those with the best philanthropic intentions. Wouldn’t it be better to have a society that mitigates the accumulation or inheritance of massive wealth and creates more equality through government investments and policy, rather than relying on voluntary gestures and individual whims?

Feeney’s own story is the embodiment of the tensions between the desire to give away a fortune and the necessary fact that, to do this, fortunes must first be accumulated. He hated paying taxes and, according to a 2007 biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing, he went to great lengths to avoid doing so. In one of the more extreme tax dodges in his business life, he and his co-founder transferred ownership of Duty Free Shoppers to each of their wives, who were born outside of the U.S.

Yet creating a more equal society isn’t the answer to every social problem; only large budgets and the hard work of experts is going to cure HIV, eliminate nuclear weapons, or end the death penalty.


Today, Atlantic is focused on tapering off its work with grantees, evaluating the impact of its grants and its tactics, and drawing up lessons it can leave behind for others. Though it’s operated without seeking much media attention for decades (Feeney himself went to great lengths to remain anonymous for many years, and only disclosed his donations in 1997 due to a business-related lawsuit), lately it is seeking out more attention with the idea of inspiring other philanthropists. Meanwhile, its final grants will be with an eye towards getting the biggest bang for their last few bucks while helping existing groups, like the Social Justice Initiative in South Africa, find additional funding sources to continue their work. Atlantic has already closed its offices in several countries, including Vietnam, where groups like Pathfinder now need to make strategic choices about their future in the country.

How Atlantic spends the end of its money and then shuts its doors is also instructive for what it can tell us about how The Gates Foundation will end its works after the deaths of its founders and how the giving while living philosophy affects decisions. Spending vast sums of money wisely and quickly is a challenge. The Gates Foundation, with a staff of about 1,200 people, paid out $3.6 billion in 2013 alone. This is more than the annual budget of the entire United Nations, an organization with more than a ten times larger staff size. It helps that the Gates’s have a clear vision for the goals they want to achieve in reducing global poverty and ending infectious diseases like polio, malaria, and HIV. Because they are not exactly limited as far as dollar resources go, John Hoover, senior vice president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, points out that the Gates’ Foundation wisely uses “impact” to measure the rate at which it funds projects. The opportunity to quickly reduce polio cases using known cures, for example, merits all the funds needed to do this quickly. More far fetched projects may get less money until they can prove they are close to a solution.

Perhaps the biggest operational challenge for Atlantic isn't in funding decisions, but in HR. Oechsli is often consumed with the realities of managing a shrinking organization (It peaked three years ago at about 138 full-time employees. Today, there are about 70.) Being transparent and fair, while retaining talent and encouraging ambition and creativity is a challenge. “Each person has their own vision of their professional opportunities and future as well as their desire to do as much as they can while they’re here at Atlantic. And that’s a bit of a tension,” he says. One discussion involved whether to tell staff when exactly their job will end. Atlantic opted for providing clarity and removing anxiety, creating “a roadmap plan” for the end of every staff position based on the needs of the organization. Finance, communications, evaluation employees, and “a lawyer or two,” will eventually be the last few staff that remain.

Diane Feeney, who says her father set up his five children to lead a “comfortable” life and gave them funds to set up their own, smaller charity, hopes her father will serve as a role model to the millennial generation. “I think the fact that my father spoke up very early on about giving while living will inspire people in years to come,” she says. “This is much more something that comes from entrepreneurs. They tend to be much more of risk takers, and want to spend their money in their lifetime. I think my father represents a model for many young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs.”

However, despite everyone’s desire that Feeney serve as a role model, it may turn out to be that his legacy remains extraordinary and largely unknown. Says Proscio: “I would love to think that someone like Feeney would be a widespread model of what to do with wealth. But his story is pretty remarkable. And I think it’s going to stay remarkable. Nobody sits down and in a single day gives away his life fortune. Except for Chuck Feeney.”