Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Elderly prostitutes reveal dark side of South Korea's rise

September 25, 2015

SEOUL — As about a dozen elderly men loiter in a small plaza near a cinema, mostly chatting or watching people pass by, several deeply wrinkled women stroll among them, trolling for customers willing to pay for sex in nearby motels.

"Hey, do you want to go with me? I can treat you really well," a 76-year-old woman with a limp says as a reporter approaches her on a recent sunny afternoon.


[Cuniculture: Raising Rabbits for Food]

Backyard Bunnies Are the New Urban Chickens

by Adam Starr

March 4, 2010

Why rabbit is the most sustainable meat for the city farmer. (Plus: How to cook it, and how to raise your own.)

By now we all know that eating a lot of meat-especially factory-farmed meat-isn't very good for the planet. Fortunately for meat eaters, some meats are more sustainable than others. And as it turns out, rabbit is one of the healthiest, leanest, and most environmentally friendly meats you can eat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ringgit sinks to new low of 3.12 against Singdollar; Singapore currency hits 6-year low against US$

29 Sep 2015

Ann Williams

SINGAPORE (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - The Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah slid to 17-year lows on Tuesday (Sept 29), as persistent worries about the health of the Chinese and global economies weighed on risk sentiment and dented emerging Asian currencies.

The ringgit fell for a sixth day and was down 0.9 per cent at 4.4650 a US dollar as of 10:01 am in Kuala Lumpur, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. It earlier dropped to 4.4690, the weakest level since January 1998, and has plunged almost 16 per cent since June 30.

The Indonesian rupiah slipped to 14,730 at one point, its lowest level since July 1998.

Against the Singapore dollar, the ringgit touched a new low of 3.12 at 9:47 am and was trading at 3.1196 as of 10:06 am.

The Singdollar, meanwhile, touched a six-year low of $1.4335 per US dollar at 9:21 am and was trading at 1.4323 against the greenback at 10:05 am.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why the US Budget is on the edge again

Jeremy Au Yong

SEP 25, 2015,

The United States government's Budget looks set to be blocked again for the Oct 1 new fiscal year. Why? Reason: Holding the country's Budget hostage over a side issue propels lawmakers to national attention and gains them a reputation for being tough, which appeals to conservative Republicans.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What the PAP can learn from Britain's Labour Party

Peter Mandelson

25 Sep 2015

I first had the privilege of being introduced to Singapore by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the 1990s, and have been returning here once or twice a year ever since.

One thing that has always struck me is the keen interest in what goes on in Britain, and the similarities in some respects of Singaporean and British politics.

During this last week in Singapore, my experience has been no different. Almost everyone I met was eager for me to explain what has happened in the British Labour party, and what the recent election of Mr Jeremy Corbyn as the party leader means for the direction of my country and for the party I have belonged to for over 40 years and about which I care deeply.

It occurs to me that one of the reasons for this intense interest is that Singaporeans see - quite rightly - some of their own politics reflected in those of Britain.

Singapore and small economies in a changing tide

David Skilling

Sep 26, 2015,

Small advanced economies are performing more poorly than before. Their performance portends an era of slow growth, high volatility for the global economy.

Singapore's growth rates are slowing, with a range of forecasters marking down their growth estimates. The Ministry of Trade and Industry recently narrowed its forecast 2015 growth rate to 2 to 2.5 per cent, and the Asian Development Bank forecast a growth rate for Singapore of 2.1 per cent for this year.

There is increasing talk of a technical recession - two consecutive quarters of negative growth - this year after a quarterly GDP growth reading of minus 4 per cent in the June quarter.

To understand some of the key drivers of this performance and the Singapore economic outlook, it is useful to look at the recent experience of the group of small advanced economies, which are selected advanced economies with populations of less than 10 million.

It is striking that after a sustained period of strong performances by small advanced economies relative to their larger economy peers and a generally effective small-economy response to the global financial crisis, small advanced economy growth rates over the past few years have been distinctly sluggish.

From an average growth rate of about 4 per cent in the 15 years between 1993 and 2007, growth in a 13-strong group of small advanced economies was about 2.5 per cent in the June 2015 quarter.

He borrowed $446,000 from his girlfriend while courting her

27 Sep 2015

But her faith in Jason Yeo finally pays off though it was an uphill road to success
Wong Kim Hoh Senior Writer

For the eight years that he courted Ms Lim Seou Lan until he married her in 1995, Jason Yeo was neither a doting nor indulgent boyfriend.

He was working 21 hours a day trying to keep his automation business afloat, and way too poor to afford her anything.

In fact, he often had to borrow money from the brokerage executive. By the time they tied the knot, he owed her a whopping $446,000.

"I asked her why she had no qualms lending me so much money," says Mr Yeo, 52. "She said she was investing in me."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tax revenue up 4.4% in FY2014/15, with individual income tax collected rising 16%

While GST collection and betting taxes rose 7.4% and 8.9%, respectively, stamp duty collected fell S$1.1 billion in Financial Year 2014/15 compared to the previous year, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore said. 

23 Sep 2015
SINGAPORE: A total of S$43.4 billion was collected in tax revenue in Financial Year 2014/15, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore announced, up 4.4 per cent from the collection in the previous Financial Year.

This amount represents 71.3 per cent of the Government Operating Revenue, IRAS said in a media release on Wednesday (Sep 23).

The myth of the robotic job-ocalypse

Tim Harford

21 Aug 2015

"The number of jobs lost to more efficient machines is only part of the problem... In the past, new industries hired far more people than those they put out of business. But this is not true of many of today's new industries."

This sentiment, from Time magazine, dates from the early weeks of John F. Kennedy's presidency. Yet it would slot nicely into many a contemporary political speech. Like any self-respecting remorseless killer robot from the future, our techno-anxiety just keeps coming back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator was science fiction - but so, too, is the idea that robots and software algorithms are guzzling jobs faster than they can be created. There is an astonishing mismatch between our fear of automation and the reality so far.

Kind 'uncle' on MRT train lauded for his acts

SEP 4, 2015,

S'pore Kindness Movement honours man who told foreign workers to keep their seats

Melody Zaccheus

A Singaporean "uncle" who told three foreign labourers on a train to keep their seats when they offered to give them up to local commuters was honoured by the Singapore Kindness Movement yesterday.

Mr Rimy Lau, 68, was presented with a certificate commending his gesture and a figurine of Singa the Courtesy Lion by the movement's general secretary William Wan at the organisation's Hill Street office.

The movement said Mr Lau's caring gesture "helped to make Singapore a nation of kindness and graciousness".

GE2015: What if the PAP were a person? Here's what IBM Watson has to say

SEP 6, 2015

Rebecca Pazos

Chew Hui Min

SINGAPORE - Nine political parties are out to woo voters this general election. If each were a person, what would he be like? How adventurous would he be, how assertive, sympathetic or conscientious?

The Straits Times turned to IBM Watson's Personality Insights for a tongue-in-cheek look.

The programme produces a personality analysis by examining language used. It has been employed to dissect the State of the Union address by American presidents, and can also be used to predict behaviour on social media.

It bases its assessments on personality models and text analytics methods developed by psychologists.

It groups its results into five main traits used in standard personality tests - openness, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness and emotional range. Each trait has six facets that further define an individual.

As input, The Straits Times used the text of the eight party political broadcasts in English that were aired on Sept 3.

The People's Power Party was not eligible for the broadcast as it is fielding fewer than six candidates for the Sept 11 election.

What does Watson think of the People's Action Party (PAP), Workers' Party (WP), National Solidarity Party (NSP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Reform Party (RP), Singapore People's Party (SPP), Singaporeans First (SingFirst) and Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA)?


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Liberal reflections on loss and acceptance in GE2015

Eleanor Wong

16 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party's (PAP) political narrative for Singapore has always insisted on our exceptionalism. For the longest time, I had suspected that this was just an excuse to impose an unnatural dominance on the populace. I had assumed and hoped that, given time, given information and given choice, Singapore would one day become a democratic society like any other - with more than one strong political party, all realistically vying for power, ensuring diversity and providing checks on each other.

But I'm big enough to admit when I'm wrong.

In the Sept 11, 2015 General Election, voters gave the PAP 69.9 per cent of valid votes, an increase of 9.8 percentage points from 2011. They handed 83 of 89 seats to the PAP. This wasn't just a national swing to the PAP. This wasn't just a vote in favour of the ruling party's policies over those offered by other parties. This wasn't even about picking the group at municipal level that best proves itself at the hustings or on the ground thereafter.

Such analyses try to shoehorn the facts into the framework of a typical democracy. They miss the point entirely.

This was a vote confirming the type of system that Singaporeans want to live under.

The strategic voter in the 'new normal'

Chan Heng Chee
Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore University of Technology

19 Sep 2015

In the 'new normal' of Singapore politics, expect voters to be strategic, using their vote to push for the outcome they want. Voters' support is conditional and can change from election to election

On the Monday after General Election 2015, I brought a humble pie to my office.

Like so many analysts on the elections, I did not see it coming - that the PAP would have a landslide victory winning 69.9 per cent of the votes, regaining the seat it lost in the by-election of 2013, Punggol East, and not yielding another group representation constituency (GRC).

The leading opposition party, the Workers' Party (WP), saw its share of the votes cut back from 46.6 per cent in 2011 to 39.75 per cent in 2015 and lost one seat, leaving it with six in a House of 89.

Interestingly, a cab driver who took me to my destination in Orchard Road on Cooling-off Day was nearer the mark in his prediction. He told me the PAP would get 65 per cent of the vote. He hoped there would be a few opposition members in Parliament.

The PAP's vote would improve as "they have done some things after 2011, not everything, it could be improved, but they have done things and people will give them their vote".

So in the "new normal" of Singapore politics, expect the "old normal" but with an electorate that is now more demanding, seeking participation (a voice), and more accountability than ever before.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wither the Opposition: A Sisyphean future?

September 18

The resounding People’s Action Party (PAP) landslide in the General Election (GE) — which surprised many — must have given the Opposition camp reasons to worry.

Not only was the Opposition’s combined vote share diminished by almost 10 percentage points, the main Opposition Workers’ Party (WP) lost one of its seven seats and its seemingly impregnable fortress — Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) — was won by only the slimmest of margins.

However, far from being despondent, the Opposition can still continue to be a relevant fixture in Singapore’s political landscape for some years to come. But the parties will have to reinvent and revamp to ensure their continued existence.


In GE2011, when the tide turned towards the Opposition with the WP breaking a psychological barrier by winning a GRC — once considered unthinkable — Singapore was said to have entered a “new normal”.

It was seen as the electorate having a stronger desire for political plurality, after years of living with one-party rule. This sentiment gained ground with each subsequent election — the Presidential Election, Hougang by-election and Punggol East by-election.

This could have led to a pervasive sense that while the ruling PAP has been performing well, some effective Opposition was still needed to produce even better policies and politics.

But the GE2015 results give reason for reflection: Did Singapore enter a new normal after GE2011 or was it just a blip?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

GE2015: Let your rallying cry be one of hope, not hate

Aw Cheng Wei

Sep 8, 2015,

SINGAPORE - It’s Thursday, 8.30pm, and the crowd at the Singaporeans First Party (SingFirst) rally is getting heated up.

In front of me, a party candidate stands on the stage, behind a rostrum, his fist in the air. He shouts into a mic. “Foreigners have come into our country, stolen our jobs, broken our families! They have destroyed our self-esteem!”

A wave of cheers erupted from the audience, with only a smattering of boos.

“Throw them out!” yelled a man with grey, thinning hair, his elbows propped against a yellow metal barricade.

Another man, with a gold chain around his neck and his hands cupped around his mouth, screamed, “Ask them to f*** off! They are not Singaporeans!”, as a woman, with her hair stuck to her forehead, knocked two empty plastic bottles furiously against each other, showing her support for his strong words. A folded-up pram leaned against her thin frame.

Nearby, two children stood silent, peering through the yellow bars. Their parents were nowhere to be found.

The same scene was played out at a Reform Party rally the next night and another SingFirst rally on Saturday.

Targeting foreigners is a tactic as old as politics itself.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting the facts right on Indonesia’s haze problems

Erik Meijaard

September 14

I find it remarkable that after several decades of forest and peatland fires, and associated haze problems, governmental and non-governmental organisations are still barking up the wrong tree in the fire and haze blaming game.

In a recent Jakarta Globe article, President Joko Widodo talks tough on fires and haze, blaming “disobedient plantation companies for setting the fires to clear land for planting”. Similarly, the article quotes environmental activists who point to plantation companies for being the biggest cause of fires and haze.

Dear, oh dear — does anyone ever read the studies about causes of forest fire and haze in Indonesia? Apparently not. Or maybe people do, but they prefer to ignore the facts and reiterate the more convenient fictions.

Explaining the results of GE2015

Three articles on the PAP landslide victory - what the Opposition needs to do now, their surprise, and what the PAP did right, and what it might all mean.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Picture of dejection in WP supporters' camp

12 Sep 2015

John Lui
Film Correspondent

This is where I have trouble with people who want to change the government of Singapore: They tend to be the ones who have gained the most from it.

Mr S. Ho is a semi-retired commodities trader who has sent two children to Australia to study, which is where they have chosen to settle. "They cannot stand it here. Who can?" he says. I want to say us, for one, and a few million others. But he goes on to other issues.

The dismal results for the opposition last night have the 64-year-old grandfather and two of his friends, both men who look to be in their 60s, shaking their heads and saying "jia lat", that useful Hokkien phrase that expresses that peculiar mix of regret and resignation that overcomes a person when all is lost.

GE2015: Workers' Party squeaks through in Aljunied GRC

12 Sept 2015

Narrow victory comes after a nail-biting wait - and recount requested by PAP team; chief Low Thia Khiang says party ran a good campaign
Aaron Low
Deputy News Editor

Rachel Au-Yong

Pearl Lee

SINGAPORE - What was supposed to be an easy win for the Workers' Party (WP) in Aljunied GRC in this general election turned out to be a knife-edge battle for survival.

The People's Action Party (PAP) team pushed the WP "A" team to the wire, as voters turned out in huge numbers for the ruling party all across the island.

In the end, the WP led by party chief Low Thia Khiang, 59, retained Aljunied against a tide of white, winning the GRC with a slim 50.95 per cent of votes cast, a drop of 3.77 percentage points from its winning share in 2011.

The race for Aljunied was the closest for the night and saw the PAP team asking for a recount as the difference in the margin was less than 2 percentage points.

But the WP team, also including party chairman Sylvia Lim, 50, Mr Pritam Singh, 39, Mr Chen Show Mao, 54, and Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, 40, did just enough to hold off a challenge by the men in white led by four-term MP Yeo Guat Kwang.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The best form of government is the one that works

Calvin Cheng

8 Sep 2015

The People's Action Party (PAP) has often said that it believes multi-party democracy would be bad for Singapore.

This is an untenable position.

In the past 150 years, several societies, primarily in the West, have flourished and developed under systems of multi-party democracy. To argue categorically that Singaporeans should not vote in an alternative party because it will hurt us, is an argument that would hold no water with many.

Conversely, the opposition has argued that single-party dominance would be bad for the future of Singapore, and diverse voices are needed to bring us forward. This argument, being the mirror image of the PAP's, is just as faulty. First, Singapore made the greatest leaps in development and quality of life during PAP's complete political dominance under Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Second, in the global arena, one-party China beats multi-party democracy India on most indicators of human and economic development.

The fact of the matter is that the truth lies somewhere in between. There are multi-party democracies that work, and there are those that are paralysed by competitive politics. There are single-party governments that are ridden by corruption and who cause misery to their people, and there are competent ones that are able to implement visionary long-term policies without being blocked at every juncture.

The best form of government is, at the end of the day, the one that works.

As Singaporeans go to the polls on Friday, dogma and ideology should not hinder us from making the right decision.

The overarching issue in the campaigning hitherto - which encompasses all others such as immigration, cost of living, healthcare, education and so forth - is whether the electorate should vote in more opposition into Parliament as alternative voices, and as a check on the PAP.

And, bearing in mind the preceding arguments, the answer is clear: we should do so, only if the Opposition is good. Having Opposition for the sake of opposing voices would be exactly the kind of dogma we seek to avoid.

But what, then, makes a good Opposition?


Crucial to this question is what a Member of Parliament (MP) is meant to do, another debate that has been ongoing. And again the debate has been framed in a simplistic binary fashion thus far: should MPs be town council managers or parliamentary legislators?

The answer is obviously both.

First, an MP needs to show that he has the ability and integrity to manage a town council well. A town council is set up as a microcosm of the issues that a country at large faces. At the heart of it is the allocation of financial and other resources to maintain housing estates, upgrade them, disburse grants to needier constituents and manage other day-to-day operations of the constituency.

It is boring and mundane, but absolutely vital to keep a town running. Likewise, it is also these nitty-gritties that keep a country running, not grand speeches and rhetoric.

And that is why the town council issue, as confusing and grating as it may be for laymen, is so important.

If you can't run a town, how can you run a country?


Second, as many have rightly pointed out, MPs must also perform in Parliament. However, the debate on this has also been simplistic.

Several websites have compiled lists of the number of times MPs have spoken and have asked voters to make a judgment based on that. The Workers' Party has also pointed to its parliamentary record of asking the most questions over the highest number of sittings.

This is valuing quantity over quality.

It is not the number of parliamentary questions one files but the impact one makes on the legislative agenda that counts. It is what one says that is important, not the number of times one speaks up.

A case in point is former Nominated Member of Parliament Walter Woon, who, by getting the Maintenance of Parents Act passed, arguably made even more impact in the history of Parliament than most PAP backbenchers.

If the Workers' Party retains or increases its presence in Parliament, I hope its MPs will file full motions to debate matters of national importance they have championed during campaigning, such as minimum wage and the nationalisation of public transport, instead of filing hundreds of parliamentary questions that nobody remembers. Or, worse, engaging in fiery speeches that, in the end, results only in minor policy tweaks to the ruling party's, is not only counterproductive but makes a mockery of being an Opposition MP.

This Polling Day, Singapore is at a crossroad. Many of us are not against the establishment of a good, credible Opposition that can contribute to nation-building. What we do not want is a fixation on numbers, that we have to have more Opposition MPs regardless of who they are and what they stand for. Such dogma would only be detrimental to Singapore.

The writer is a media entrepreneur and former Nominated MP.

On the ground with Singapore's Workers' Party

The Economist

Four days from the election, the opposition sounds modestly hopeful 

Sep 7th 2015

ON THE evening of September 6th, thousands of people packed a scrubby field next to a housing estate in Simei, eastern Singapore, for a rally held by the Workers' Party (WP)—the largest of the nine opposition parties standing in the country's general election on September 11th. This was just one of many rallies in a week of frenzied campaigning leading up to elections. Elsewhere such voters might chant, wave flags and flog petitions in the hope that their party will govern their country. Attendees at Sunday's WP rally—and indeed the candidates they came to cheer—expressed a far more modest hope.

For good reason: the People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled Singapore since its independence, in 1965. Discontent over immigration and worries over income inequality and the rising cost of living led PAP to suffer its worst showing ever in the last general election: still a tidy 60% of the vote. That gave the party 93% of parliamentary seats, or 81 of a total of 87; the WP won five of the remaining six. The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, which draws constituency boundaries before each election, is convened by the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, and headed by his secretary. Setting aside the PAP's strong record during their time in office, the electoral map makes it all but impossible for them to lose.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Will Fengshan take some heat off East Coast GRC?

AUG 28, 2015

Marine Parade GRC may pose a tougher fight for PAP in the east

Zakir Hussain Deputy Political Editor

Over the past two days, the People's Action Party (PAP) has named its line-ups for two GRCs it won by the closest of margins in the 2011 General Election.

With both Marine Parade GRC and East Coast GRC expecting a tight contest at the Sept 11 polls given the likely strong challenge from the Workers' Party (WP), the PAP has stuck with incumbents in both GRCs.

Two key questions on the minds of voters, pundits and yes, bookies, over the next 15 days will be: Who will win, and by how much?

The contest for both GRCs in eastern Singapore cannot be seen in isolation from equally hard fights expected in two adjacent SMCs carved out by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee: Fengshan and MacPherson.

The PAP is headed for a far tougher fight in Fengshan than in MacPherson. As a result, the party may find some of the heat cooling off from East Coast GRC, while Marine Parade GRC is headed for a fiercer contest.