Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Address wider questions raised over CFE report

Han Fook Kwang
Editor At Large

FEB 19, 2017

The questions came thick and fast as soon as the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) released its report on Feb 9. It's a good sign - better than if there had been indifference and silence.

So, here are the top three questions culled from what has been reported in both the mainstream media and online.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Future economy needs future-ready social safety net

Chua Mui Hoong
Opinion Editor

FEB 26, 2017

As job insecurity looms in a world of churn, we need to attend to the well-being of citizens too
As a consumer, I love start-ups. Airbnb, Uber and car-sharing apps transformed my vacation experiences, opening up cheaper - and more interesting - accommodation and transport options. You can live in someone's lovely house, get to know them and their family, drive a neighbour's car, order food in when you feel like it, and even make new friends instantly via social meet-ups.

In Singapore, I use Uber, Grab and food-delivery platforms. I order food in restaurants from iPads. (Smartphone QR code ordering should be next.) I console myself that when my job is taken over by a robot one day, I can make extra income from renting out my car and extra room in my apartment.

[For people in her generation, who were able to secure a home and a car under the old economy, she can now leverage on these "assets" to generate income. What about the generation in the new economy who has not been able to afford their home and car? The "new economy" isn't new. It does not create any new value. It does not create wealth. It merely monetises the extraneous assets of the old economy.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Singapore Budget 2017: 7 things about water price changes

 Water tariffs will be going up for the first time since 2000, but HDB households will be getting help to offset the increases.

FEB 20, 2017

Chew Hui Min

SINGAPORE - Water tariffs will be going up for the first time since 2000.

But Housing & Development Board (HDB) households will be getting help to offset the increases.

Here's what you need to know:

Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nations

22 Feb 2017


PARIS: By 2030 life expectancy for South Korean women could top nine decades, an average lifespan long thought to be out of reach, researchers said Wednesday (Feb 22).

South Korea is not only the first country in the world where women may live past 90 on average, it is also the one on track to log the biggest jump in longevity, they reported in The Lancet medical journal.

Other developed countries are not far behind: the longevity of French and Japanese women are more likely than not to stretch past 88 years.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Taxing e-commerce players such as Amazon one way to raise Govt revenue: Experts


FEBRUARY 22, 2017

SINGAPORE — With the Government needing to impose new taxes or raise existing ones to fund growing healthcare and infrastructure expenditure, tax experts have suggested several ways for the country to boost its coffers: Taxing e-commerce operators such as Amazon and Taobao as well as those providing business-to-business (B2B) services, creating a new tax bracket for the ultra-rich, and increasing the goods and services tax (GST) rate.

While Singapore has one of the lowest corporate tax rates globally, the experts noted that raising these rates was not a viable option if the Republic wants to maintain a competitive tax regime at a time when countries around the world are seeking to reduce corporate taxes. Nevertheless, they singled out the burgeoning digital economy as one potential revenue source.

The rise of e-commerce has resulted in a loss of tax revenue, as overseas online retailers are generally not taxed in Singapore on their income generated from consumers here.

China finishing South China Sea buildings that could house missiles: US

22 Feb 2017 09:02


WASHINGTON: China, in an early test of U.S. President Donald Trump, is nearly finished building almost two dozen structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that appear designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

The development is likely to raise questions about whether and how the United States will respond, given its vows to take a tough line on China in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, which carries a third of the world's maritime traffic. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. Trump's administration has called China's island building in the South China Sea illegal.

Building the concrete structures with retractable roofs on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs, part of the Spratly Islands chain where China already has built military-length airstrips, could be considered a military escalation, the U.S. officials said in recent days, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Budget 2017: The main points

Some articles on the Budget.

The first one is a broad overview. It is so broad that it even commented that Minster of Finance is back.

The second article goes into the essential details - water rates to go up, a carbon tax (in two years), differentiated tax for heavy motorcycles, measures for young couples buying their first flat, and help for businesses, and employees/job-seekers.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is WWIII imminent? Speculations.

China. South China Sea. An unhinged Trump, thin-skinned and impulsive. Recipe for another World War?

The first article with a short clip suggests that there are similarities. Whether those similarities are superficial or essential, remains to be seen. The hope seems to be that while the problems and the situations are the same, how the world now answers the questions posed by those problems are intended to avoid war.

But then again, there is Trump, who seems eager to prove that he does not follow (or know) the rules.

So are we heading for an inevitable World War III?

Debating the real cost of drinking water


FEBRUARY 20, 2017

Singapore’s decision to raise water prices after 17 years is to be applauded. Studies show that pricing can affect behaviour, and there is strong evidence to suggest that under-priced or free water leads to very inefficient uses of water, including increased wastage.

Take the case of Doha, the capital of Qatar, where water is free. The average daily water consumption of residents is 1,200 litres.

In Singapore, domestic water consumption per capita is 151 litres, which is still relatively on the high side. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, humans need a minimum of two litres of drinking water per day to survive.

Water should be priced accordingly to provide a sustainable financial model for the proper operation, maintenance, updating and construction of new facilities for water and wastewater treatment systems.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three shifts in education beliefs to become the future economy

Devadas Krishnadas

For The Straits Times

15 Feb 2017

We need to shift from a belief system that a few bright people, identified early and groomed, will lead us to a sunlit future to one where the leaders of tomorrow can emerge at any age and from any path

The economy of the past was organised upon an emphasis on travelling up a predictable ladder of development. To assist the economy to make transitions, the government very ably focused on ensuring the infrastructure and the workforce were well in place to anticipate demands.

Those convenient times are well past. The economy of the future will not be predictable and will also be less predicated on heavy investments in infrastructure.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The daring night raid that vindicated Japanese Americans

FEB 12, 2017

In the wake of Pearl Harbour, a secret intelligence report could have stopped the mass internment

Andrea Pitzer

In spring 1941, months before the bombing of Pearl Harbour, a team led by US naval intelligence officer Kenneth Ringle broke into the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles.

One man stayed downstairs to guard the elevator while the rest snuck upstairs using skeleton keys to make their way to the back rooms. They brought along a safecracker - a convicted felon sprung for one night to help them - as well as local policemen and FBI agents, who set up patrols outside during the operation. Once the safe was open, Ringle's crew photographed its contents item by item, putting everything back in place before leaving the building.

Though the United States had not yet entered the war, it had launched espionage efforts with an eye towards the possibility. The Navy had chosen Ringle to assess the Japanese threat in 1940 because he had previously lived and worked in Tokyo and was one of only a handful of US sailors who could speak Japanese. He had gone on to build a network of contacts on the West Coast, determining which cultural organisations were harmless and which might be dangerous.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Explaining the CFE (or making excuses?)

The Report of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) was ruthlessly critiqued for being "more of the same", not bold enough, lacking in originality, and uninspiring. As a strategy or road map, it leaves the reader wondering, so what should I do?

Well, you can't have a 109-page report with the contribution of over 1200 people after a year of consultation be seen as directionless.

So the government assembled some experts to explain to you why this report is good!

Can Singapore companies be globally competitive?


Larry Sim
See Wei Hwa

February 9, 2017

The United States has Apple. China has Alibaba. Japan has Toyota. Korea has Samsung.

Why doesn’t Singapore have a company or brand that is equally recognisable, globally?

The current tax regime encourages our business culture to lean towards the acquisition or sale of successful brands, rather than development.

A company that acquires a brand qualifies for tax amortisation, but a company which has developed its own brand does not.

This culture is evident in the list of strong, homegrown brands that are no longer owned by Singapore companies, such as Tiger Beer and Raffles Hotel.

Over the years, Singapore has extended financial benefits, such as tax concessions to attract foreign multinational corporations (MNCs), while the MNCs have brought in fixed capital investments and jobs. There is, however, a limit to the incentives that can be dangled in front of foreign MNCs, which are always on the lookout for lower operating costs in competing economies like China, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. It is in Singapore’s interest to have a strong core of homegrown companies headquartered here. 

[Say I don't disagree from a personal perspective. But why? Would homegrown companies headquartered here resist moving their operations to countries with cheaper operating costs because of "loyalty" to Singapore? And in doing so, would they become less competitive and eventually die? So this "Singapore interest" is to kill off local brands?

Here's another question: Does it matter if you are employed by Tiger Beer (if still owned by Singaporeans) or Heineken (owned by foreigners)?

And another question: Is it better for Tiger beer to continue as a brand, but owned by a foreign company, or better for Tiger to just die then be a brand owned by a foreigner?]

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sino-American War - not wanted.

China doesn't want a war.

That is obvious.

China's rise is economic, and that requires peace. War will derail their growth trajectory. And yet, pride demands that they demonstrate their rising influence.

One should always stand on one's own two feet. But in doing so, there is no need to step on others' toes. China seems bent on stomping on others' toes as they rise.

They are either stupid, or conflicted.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Opposition parties criticise Future Economy report


Siau Ming En
February 11, 2017

SINGAPORE — The report put out by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) on Thursday (Feb 9) has been criticised by members of the Opposition, who called it lacking in bold and aggressive measures to address the problems Singapore faces.

In a media release, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said the CFE report was “long on rhetoric but woefully lacking in bold and aggressive measures to tackle the serious problems that confront Singapore”. It is “rehash of ideas and strategies” that have been tried but failed by predecessors such as the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) report in 2010 and the Economic Review Committee (ERC) report in 2003, he added.

The report, released after a year of work by the committee, highlighted seven key strategies for the Government, Singaporeans and firms to pursue to keep the country plugged into the world, and build the capabilities of its people and organisations.

They are: The need to deepen and diversify international connections; acquire and utilise deep skills; strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up; build strong digital capabilities; develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity; develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps; and partner each other to enable growth and innovation.

[I agree with Chee that the report is "long on rhetoric". And that is the extent I agree with him. He mentions the serious problems that confront SG, but does not explain what he is referring to. I suspect he does not know what are the serious problems facing Singapore. Other than that SDP, and specifically Chee himself, cannot win an election.]

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Regulations in place to ramp up driverless vehicle trials in Singapore

08 Feb 2017


The Land Transport Authority has been given more flexibility with rules and regulations in a bid to keep pace with the rise of autonomous vehicle technology. 

China’s forex reserves fall below S$4.3 trillion, prompts yuan devaluation fears

FEBRUARY 7, 2017

BEIJING — China’s foreign exchange reserves have unexpectedly fallen below US$3 trillion (S$4.3 trillion), the first time they have dipped below the closely watched level in nearly six years, even while authorities tried to curb outflows by tightening capital controls.

Reserves fell by US$12.3 billion last month to US$2.998 trillion, compared with a drop of US$41 billion in December, official data showed on Tuesday (Feb 7). While the US$3 trillion mark is not seen as a firm “line in the sand” for Beijing, concerns are swirling in global financial markets over the speed at which the country is depleting its ammunition to defend the yuan and staunch capital outflows.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Don't play, play - Singlish is studied around the globe

FEB 5, 2017

From Italy to Japan, at least seven universities have conducted classes on it over past decade

Yuen Sin

Blogger Wendy Cheng's Web video series Xiaxue's Guide To Life and Jack Neo's Ah Boys To Men film franchise are well-known shows among Singaporeans. For one thing, they are filled with colloquial terms, local references and copious doses of Singlish terms such as "lah" and "lor".

But they are not merely for entertainment. In recent years, such shows have found a place in universities around the world, where linguists draw on dialogues used in these local productions to introduce to undergraduates and postgraduate students how Singlish has become a unique variety of the English language.

This comes even as concerns have been raised over how Singlish could impede the use of standard English here.

From Italy and Germany to Japan, at least seven universities around the world have used Singlish as a case study in linguistics courses over the past decade. This is on top of more than 40 academics outside of Singapore - some of whom were previously based here - who have written books or papers on Singlish as part of their research.

PM Lee sends condolences to PAP founding member Fong Swee Suan's wife

FEBRUARY 6, 2017

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written to Mdm Chen Poh Cheng, the wife of People's Action Party (PAP) founding member Fong Swee Suan, to express his condolences on Mr Fong's death on Sunday (Feb 5).

Mr Fong died on Saturday aged 85. The former Barisan Sosialis leader and leftist trade unionist left the PAP in 1961 owing to differences in opinion about Singapore's merger with Malaysia.

Mr Lee's letter is reproduced in full below:

Friday, February 3, 2017

A mysterious disappearance leaves HK’s credibility in tatters


FEBRUARY 3, 2017

It reads like the plot of a bad thriller — a Chinese billionaire sits with his entourage of female bodyguards in his apartment in the Hong Kong Four Seasons in the early hours of Chinese New Year’s Eve. The women are employed not only to protect him but also to wipe the sweat from his brow and back.

Suddenly, half-a-dozen public security agents from mainland China burst in, overpower the bodyguards, bundle the billionaire out of the hotel and take him across the border to face the wrath of the Communist party.

But this is not the script for a kung fu potboiler. The billionaire is Mr Xiao Jianhua, one of China’s most politically connected and wealthy men, and his abduction from the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district last Friday has shaken the city to its core.