Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Lithuania has lessons for Singapore: Ng Eng Hen

By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2015

SINGAPORE can learn "many lessons" from Lithuania and must maintain its strong defence capabilities, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday in a Facebook post.

Dr Ng was referring to how the Baltic country's Defence Ministry distributed a 98-page manual recently to help its three million citizens prepare for the possibility of invasion, occupation and armed conflict amid the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

He said: "There are many lessons that Singaporeans can draw from Lithuania. We must keep up our strong defence if we are to avoid being in their precarious and hapless situation."

Lithuania's manual, titled "Things to know about readiness for emergency situations and warfare", gives advice on things such as setting up basement shelters and handling hostage dramas.

It also includes instructions on how to respond in a "hybrid war" situation, which Dr Ng said is an obvious reference to alleged Russian insurgents assisting rebels in Ukraine.

Helping patients get on with life after stroke

They learn about conditions, give peer support at regular meetings
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2015

AFTER two strokes paralysed the right side of his body and affected his speech, retired accountant Wong Siew Cheong grew despondent and did not go for therapy for three years.

But things improved last year after the 73-year-old joined a pilot project called Life (Learn, Interact, Flourish, Engage) After Stroke.

Eighteen stroke survivors gathered for weekly meetings at a senior care centre in Serangoon to learn about their conditions, provide peer support and take part in social activities such as cooking, art and music therapy.

Mr Wong's son, music producer Wong Ping Loong, who is in his 30s, said interacting with other stroke survivors in the three-hour sessions motivated his father to go back to physiotherapy, as well as speech and other treatments.

The elder Mr Wong has also improved his diet, cutting back on chocolates and sweet food.

"After an art therapy session, he started drawing and expressed his feelings through pictures - something we hadn't seen from him before," the younger Mr Wong told The Straits Times. "(The session) also allowed my mother to connect with other caregivers."

Life After Stroke was started by the Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) together with National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Health last October to support and empower stroke survivors in the community.

The 12-week pilot was deemed successful by SNSA and NTUC Health as well as participants.

Life After Stroke will thus become a permanent feature at NTUC Health's Silver Circle Senior Care Centre in Serangoon Central from this Saturday.

Why no Pioneer Generation benefits at A&E

MR DANAM Raphael asked if the Pioneer Generation card could be used at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments at public hospitals ("Pioneer Generation card not accepted"; Feb 14).

The Pioneer Generation Package provides health-care benefits for all pioneers, for life.

Pioneers who require non-emergency treatment can enjoy special subsidies at Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) clinics, and an additional 50 per cent off the bill for subsidised services and medications at public hospital specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics.

Pioneers will also receive yearly Medisave top-ups and special MediShield Life premium subsidies at the end of this year to help offset medical costs.

The Pioneer Generation benefits do not apply to A&E departments at the public hospitals, which serve patients with critical, life-threatening medical conditions or have suffered accidents which require emergency attention.

The charging practices at the A&E are kept simple, as the focus is to ensure that patients receive vital emergency treatment that they require. Patients who need to be admitted for further medical treatment or investigation are able to pay the A&E fee as part of their inpatient bill with Medisave and/or MediShield coverage.

Pioneers may also use their yearly Medisave top-ups to further offset the remaining bill.

Patients who face difficulties in paying for their A&E and inpatient fees can approach the medical social workers in the public hospitals for assistance.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 2 Mar 2015

Singapore is 'not delaying progress on Rapid Transit System link with Malaysia'

Rail link: S'pore refutes KL reports
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2015

THE Ministry of Transport has refuted Malaysian news reports claiming that Singapore is delaying progress on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) link between the two countries.

It added: "Singapore informed Malaysia in June 2011 that the RTS terminus in Singapore would be located at Woodlands North near Republic Polytechnic.

"However, to date, Singapore has not received official confirmation of the location of Malaysia's RTS terminus in Johor Baru.

"Only upon confirmation... can both countries proceed to finalise the alignment of the crossing between Johor Baru and Singapore."

Malaysian reports had quoted Datuk Hasni Mohammad, Johor state executive committee member for public works, rural and regional development, as saying that Singapore is holding back on deciding the alignment for the RTS link.

But the transport ministry's spokesman said that at a meeting last month, Singapore and Malaysia agreed the second phase of the joint engineering study on the link would begin after the terminus location in Johor Baru has been confirmed by Malaysia.

"We look forward to official confirmation from the Malaysian government on the location of the RTS terminus in Johor Baru," the statement added.

"Singapore remains committed to working closely with Malaysia on the RTS link, which will provide a boost to cross- border connectivity."

The RTS, which will connect Johor Baru to the upcoming Thomson-East Coast MRT line, is targeted to be completed by 2018 and operational by 2019.

E-learning portal launched to guide investors on unlisted Specific Investment Products

Channel NewsAsia, 2 Mar 2015

An online e-learning portal on unlisted Specific Investment Products (SIPs) has been launched by the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) and Securities Association of Singapore (SAS).

SIPs are investment products which contain derivatives or have features and risks that are relatively more complex, said the joint media release on Monday (Mar 2).

An industry initiative, the e-learning portal - http://sips.abs.org.sg/ - can be accessed for free by investors for them to better understand the features and risks of the unlisted SIPs. The two associations said that the portal complements the existing e-learning module developed by the Singapore Exchange for listed SIPs.

The portal offers five modules and advises investors on product suitability before they make an investment decision. There will be an assessment at the end of each module. However, investors will still be able to invest in unlisted SIPs with suitable advice without undergoing this assessment, said the joint release.

The five modules consist of:
- Foreign Exchange Margin Trading
- Contracts for Difference
- Structured Deposits and Dual Currency Investments
- Unit Trusts and Investment-linked Insurance Policies
- Structured Products

Monday, 2 March 2015

Succession planning 'part of Govt's DNA'

Next team that will lead Singapore taking shape, says ESM Goh
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2015

Succession planning has long been a part of the Government's DNA, and the next team of leaders who will helm the country is taking shape, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday.

A key tenet of governance here has always been to ensure that good people will be in charge, he said after attending a Chinese New Year lunch with grassroots leaders from Geylang Serai constituency.

"Mr Lee Kuan Yew has always emphasised political succession, and when I took over, likewise, I planned for succession," he said. "Prime Minister Lee is also working very hard to plan for succession."

His comments to reporters came as the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) said in its risk rating update last Thursday that health issues affecting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew have put political succession in the spotlight.

Mr Goh, who succeeded Mr Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister in 1990 and handed over to Mr Lee Hsien Loong in 2004, said the People's Action Party and the Government "always worked on the assumption that you must have people ready to take over".

"In financial institution terms, we call it 'key-man risk'. In other words, if you are running a bank, there can be many risks... One of the important risks will be the key-man risk: Something happens to the key man, what will happen to the company, to the bank? The way we run the Government, we are very conscious that life is fragile. Anything can happen...

"And when that happens, does the country carry on, with good people in charge?"

Succession planning ensures that "when health intervenes, the people who are there, well, they can take over. And then, maybe after one, two years they will find their own feet, and the whole place will still be governed well. So that's a key tenet of the governance that we have in Singapore, taking into account the health".

PM Lee's announcement before Chinese New Year that he needed surgery for prostate cancer was an illustration of life's uncertainties, said Mr Goh, who had surgery for the same illness last November.

Then, less than a week later, came news that the elder Mr Lee, 91, had been warded since Feb 5 for severe pneumonia.

PERC said both cases were a "vivid reminder that Singapore's leadership will also have to undergo important changes".

"It is hard for many Singaporeans even to imagine an island without a member of the Lee family at either the helm or being groomed for it, but that is another reality Singapore will have to face," it added.

"In our risk model, we have not changed any of the grades due to questions surrounding the role of the Lee family in Singapore politics. Our own view is that Singapore already has the systems and institutions in place to deal with this change without much difficulty. It will not fundamentally change risks."

But PERC raised the weightage for systemic risk "since many people, especially Singaporeans, will still be worrying more about what the future holds... for the Republic without the Lees integrally involved in the running of the country".

"There is a difference between worrying about something and its actual impact, but the 'worrying' on its own will hang like a shadow over Singapore at least until the next elections are held."

What's needed for home care to work

As the country gears itself up to care for more people in the comfort of their own homes, Janice Tai and Priscilla Goy take stock of home-care efforts and look at whether they can be ramped up successfully
The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2015

Jenny (not her real name) was months old when her father walked out on the family. Her mother, who was in and out of prison for drug offences, was mostly absent too.

She had her first taste of family life only when a foster family took her in. She was cared for by three such families in her first nine years. Otherwise, she would have been placed in a children's home.

Jenny, now 19, said: "You get to realise the joy of being loved by a family. Though it felt strange at first, it felt right to call them 'mum' and 'dad' as we became closer."

Receiving care at home is more beneficial than being in institutions because people feel more comfortable in a familiar setting.

Home care also frees resources in institutions for people in greater need - Singapore's limited land and burgeoning population mean that it cannot keep building new ones.

So it is following a global trend in shifting the care of more vulnerable people - abused or abandoned children, the frail elderly or the disabled - from institutions to homes.

Two-thirds of these children grow up in children's homes and a third live with foster families - a ratio the Ministry of Social and Family Development hopes to reverse in the next five years. To do so, it wants to double the number of foster parents to 500 and will start an $8 million, three-year pilot to set up agencies that better support them.

It also started a pilot initiative last year to provide the disabled with services such as therapy and personal hygiene in their homes.

While baby steps are being taken towards home care for children and the disabled, significant strides are being made in this area for seniors.

From the early 2000s, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been investing heavily in expanding home-care services by public hospitals and voluntary groups.

Since then, all public hospitals have started home-care programmes for some of their patients.

In five years' time, MOH expects home-care providers, mostly voluntary groups and private players, to be able to serve some 10,000 seniors with home-based health-care and 7,500 of them with home-based personal care each year, up from 6,500 and 1,250 now, respectively.

Help for special needs kids in mainstream schools

Trained educators provide support for children with special needs in mainstream schools
By Lea Wee, The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2015

When Montfort Secondary School normal academic student Eidren Loy emerged second in the school's academic ranking last year, he did not show any feeling.

But his allied educator June Yeo was "very proud of him".

Madam Yeo, 52, who provides learning and behavioural support to children with special needs at Montfort Secondary, says: "It's hard enough for a child with autism to cope in a mainstream school, but to be able to do better than so many of his peers academically, that's something worth celebrating."

Eidren, now 15, is one of 13,000 students with mild special educational needs in mainstream schools, or about 2.7 per cent of the total student population. Those with more moderate and severe symptoms are supported by special education schools.

In mainstream schools, students with dyslexia form the largest group of students with mild special educational needs. As they have a very good chance of overcoming their literacy difficulties with early intervention, the ministry, in 2012, piloted the School-based Dyslexia Remediation programme for Primary 3 and 4 pupils in 20 primary schools.

Under the programme, now expanded to 42 more primary schools with more in the pipeline, students attend a 45-minute literacy session four days a week after school. They are taught by allied educators specialising in learning and behavioural support.

There are about 400 allied educators across primary and secondary schools since they were introduced under the system 10 years ago.

Armed with a diploma in special education from the National Institute of Education, they are trained to provide learning and behavioural support to students with special educational needs, such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. They also teach these students social and behavioural skills and, when necessary, counsel them on emotional issues.

Madam Yeo, who works closely with 20 such students under her charge, says: "It's tiring because the job scope is wide. Besides dealing with the special needs student, you need to liaise with his teachers, parents and external parties such as psychologists to ensure that he has holistic care."

Part of her job requires her to ensure the student has a smooth transition from primary to secondary school and from secondary school to higher education.

Social workers sound alert on young drinkers

Kids are starting to drink alcohol earlier than before and it's worrying, experts say
By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2015

Ben had his first drink of whiskey and cola when he was 13 and in Secondary One. It was with a group of friends, after school at a staircase near his Redhill home.

It was not a big deal, insists Ben (not his real name), now 18. "My older brother was already drinking and my father drank at home all the time," he said.

He is part of a new generation of teenagers who are beginning to drink younger, say social workers concerned about a trend they started noticing about four years ago.

"In the past, most teenagers would start drinking at 15 or 16, but now we are seeing 12- or 13-year-olds," said Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

One of the main reasons is a growing tolerance for social drinking. "Nowadays, it's not uncommon for adults to drink socially in front of children," said Dr Balhetchet.

That was how a seven-year-old girl had her first drink.

"The mother was drinking wine and left it unfinished on the table, the girl just went up and took a sip," she said.

Figures for alcohol abuse among youth are mostly anecdotal, with VWOs saying they deal with between five and 10 cases each year.

The National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) deals with 10 to 15 cases of problem drinking among youth aged 19 or below each year.

Dr Gomathinayagam Kandasami, a NAMS consultant and head of addiction medicine at the Institute of Mental Health, said that while some teenagers might miss classes because of a drinking binge or argue with their parents, they are unlikely to experience the serious loss in functioning long-time alcoholics grapple with.

"Younger people may not experience the full range of alcohol-related problems," he said.

Many of them only get help for their drinking habits when the law catches up to them for other offences.

More mirrors for buses and heavy vehicles

LTA to enforce use of blind-spot mirrors meant to give drivers a better view
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2015

Buses and heavy goods vehicles will have to be retrofitted with additional blind spot mirrors to give their drivers a better view of pedestrians and cyclists on the road.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will enforce the change through regular inspections from Oct 1.

Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Health Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said at a community event yesterday that the changes came after the Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety Committee studied safety standards in other countries, including Japan.

"Having additional mirrors in larger vehicles can expand the drivers' field of vision and reduce their blind spots," he said.

The number of fatal accidents involving heavy vehicles increased by one to 44 from 2013 to last year, according to Traffic Police data.

Biggest Chingay parade for jubilee year

Chingay for all amid sea of lights and colours

By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2015

Nine hundred dancers showed off skirts made of plastic "We Love SG" flowers at the opening of this year's Chingay on Friday night, transforming Marina Bay into a sea of lights and colours.

The 800,000 flowers were made by 500,000 residents and households using recycled plastic bags, an effort started nearly a year ago by Chingay's main organiser, the People's Association.

Dating back to 1973, the year's street parade featured participants from various ethnic backgrounds and went from the F1 pit building to the Singapore Flyer.

Spectators were wowed by the performances of some 11,000 people, the largest contingent yet.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

More take trains, buses as car numbers dwindle

Record 6.65m trips a day amid drive to get more to use public transport
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

PUBLIC transport ridership grew last year by 4.6 per cent to hit a record 6.65 million trips per day as the population grew and the number of cars shrank.

It also came amid efforts by the Government to steer people towards buses and trains.

The Land Transport Authority, in response to press queries, said MRT patronage grew the most, with average daily ridership rising by 5.3 per cent to 2.76 million.

Bus ridership followed with a 4.2 per cent growth to 3.75 million. LRT numbers climbed by 3.8 per cent to 137,000.

Meanwhile, taxi ridership also hit a record of 1.02 million last year, up 5.5 per cent from 2013.

Earlier this week, The Straits Times reported that Singapore's car population had shrunk to a four-year low.

Responding to the twin developments, Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Cedric Foo said: "This is good news. We are headed in the right direction.

"Higher public transport ridership and lower number of cars both augur well for a sustainable transport profile in our small city-state.

"We must remain focused to improve commuter experience on public transport and to keep fares affordable."

Others wondered if the trend is the result of "push" or "pull" factors.

Bar set higher for aspiring poly students

All five polys see jump in number of courses with lower cut-off points
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

THE calibre of students entering polytechnics this year after completing the O levels has improved, reflecting the better performance of the cohort last year and the rising popularity of polytechnics.

All five polytechnics - Singapore, Temasek, Nanyang, Republic and Ngee Ann - saw a jump this year in the number of courses with lower cut-off points, also referred to as last aggregate scores, indicating better results.

To enter a polytechnic, a student needs a total score - based on the O-level results for English and four other subjects - that does not exceed 26 points.

But if more high-performing students apply for a certain course, with a certain planned intake, the cut-off point is likely to be lower.

About 50 to 70 per cent of courses in the polytechnics had lower cut-off points this year, up from about 5 per cent to 15 per cent in the previous year.

The cut-off levels fell by between one and four points. These courses are in areas such as cybersecurity, hospitality, biomedical science and engineering.

The better overall performance of last year's O-level cohort is a possible reason for the improvement across the polytechnics, their officials said.

The batch did the best in at least two decades - 83.3 per cent scored five passes or more, up from the 82.7 per cent mark set by the 2013 and 2004 cohorts.

This would have made entry into courses more competitive, as more applicants with lower scores push down the cut-off points.

The latest development comes as an increasing number of school-leavers with lower scores, who qualify for junior colleges, join polytechnics instead in recent years, attracted by their range of courses and the practical, hands-on approach.

Higher salaries for graduates from Class of 2014: Survey

The median gross salaries for graduates from three of Singapore's autonomous universities was 4.91 per cent higher last year, compared to 2014.
Channel NewsAsia, 27 Feb 2015

Those who graduated from Singapore’s big three autonomous universities last year were paid more than their counterparts who completed their studies in 2013, according to the results of the Joint Graduate Employment Survey.

The survey was conducted by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU). Out of a total of 13,656 full-time, fresh graduates, 10,126 took part in the survey, the universities said in a joint news release on Friday (Feb 27).

The mean gross salaries of fresh graduates increased 3.22 per cent on-year to S$3,333 in 2014, the universities said. The median gross salaries saw a 4.91 per cent increase to S$3,200 last year, from the year before, they added.


The survey also revealed that those from the law and medicine faculties remain the highest-paid fresh graduates when they enter the workforce.

The survey showed that as of Nov 1, 2014, the overall employment rate was 89.1 per cent, and about four in five of these graduates were employed in full-time permanent jobs within six months of completing their final examinations. This is similar to the employment rates achieved in 2013.

CASE starts accreditation scheme for gold jewellers

Buy gold jewellery backed by gold standard
Strict rules for stores accredited under new scheme
By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

BUYERS of gold jewellery will soon be able to shop at accredited businesses and be sure they are getting what they pay for.

A new accreditation scheme developed by the Singapore Jewellers Association (SJA) and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) requires members to abide by stringent rules.

These include having clear refund policies and defined dispute-handling procedures in place.

Gold items marked with a 916 and 999 fineness - which should contain at least 91.6 and 99.9 per cent of gold in the main body of the jewellery - must be certified by a recognised assayer.

Accredited jewellers must also weigh such items upon a customer's request and give a breakdown of the price of gold or workmanship, among other things.

This CaseTrust-SJA Accreditation scheme, which has to be renewed every four years, will cost each retailer about $7,000.

But the cost has not deterred 28 business owners, who have already signed up to have their 149 stores accredited.

These players, all SJA members, make up about a fifth of the market. There are about 700 jewellery stores selling gold in Singapore.

The long-term aim, said SJA president Ho Nai Chuen yesterday, is to help members grab more of a billion-dollar global market.

According to figures from the World Gold Council, demand for gold jewellery added US$70 billion (S$95 billion) to the global economy in 2012, and makes up nearly half of global demand for gold. Gold is popular with many buyers because it is known as a "safe-haven" metal for its ability to retain or appreciate in value over time.

"Ultimately, we hope the scheme will help to raise the standard of the jewellery industry here. Consumers will feel more assured that they are getting what they paid for," Mr Ho said.

Timely for S'pore to look into 'Internet neutrality' rules

By Irene Tham, Technology Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

ON THURSDAY, the five-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States voted in favour of the toughest rules yet to protect a "neutral Internet", potentially setting the stage for further global reforms.

The new safeguards are meant to ensure that every content provider on the Web is treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs).

For instance, ISPs that carry and deliver online content to end-users cannot create "fast lanes" for content providers that pay extra for prioritisation. Also prohibited are the blocking and "throttling", or slowing down, of lawful content and services.

The rules will apply to mobile-phone Web access as well.

The groundbreaking decision has put the US ahead of many nations in ensuring that the Internet will remain open to innovation, by not discriminating against poor start-ups.

So far, only Brazil, Chile and the Netherlands have introduced similar "Net neutrality" legislation. Specifically, these laws protect consumers from having to pay varying fees to ISPs and mobile operators for accessing services online.

They help preserve the original intent behind the public Internet, created in the mid-1990s.

National service for women: Time to change mindset

The writer suggests starting with short stints of a few months for all women to learn the skills needed by a rapidly ageing society
By Ho Kwon Ping, Published The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

IN A recent dialogue session, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen was asked about female conscription, and he answered that it should not be for reasons of equity. In other words, it should be only for demographic reasons - if there are not enough young men to defend the country. To start young women thinking about this possibility, a volunteer corps has been started.

I wholly agree that female conscription should not be undertaken simply for equity reasons. It has been argued that the moral equivalence of national service for women is bearing children, and while this is not directly comparable - not all women bear children, and some bear more than one, for example - the debate quickly degenerates into a male-female divide with emotionally competitive overtones.

The reasons for female conscription must instead be underpinned by national need. However, as I argued in my recent Third S R Nathan Lecture at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on the topic of Security and Sustainability, national need can be more broadly defined than as simply military defence.

In the Singapore 50 years from today, there will possibly be a defence need - but most certainly a social need - for all our young women to be trained in the skills needed by a rapidly ageing society. Therefore, we should start to prepare for this eventuality.

The whole notion of Total Defence, which Singapore subscribes to, is that for a small city-state, military defence is only one part of a more complex equation.

Whatever is critical, not only to the sovereignty of Singapore but also its economic, social and political sustainability, is a strategic imperative which requires full support from its citizenry. In this context, female conscription for military defence should be considered only as a final resort should male conscripts be unable to fulfil military needs.

But conscription may still be warranted, to serve the equally important social and community needs of an ageing population whose well-being is a strategic necessity. That would still fall within the ambit of Total Defence.

But let us deal with purely the defence need first.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

IPPT Gold, silver standards revised after trial

By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

AFTER a three-month trial, the Singapore Armed Forces has finalised the military's new fitness test that will be rolled out on April 1.

The revised Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), which will be made up of sit-ups, push-ups and a 2.4km run, is expected to enable more servicemen to pass or do well enough to collect the monetary incentives.

The three-station IPPT, which was unveiled in July last year, will no longer have the shuttle run, standing broad jump and chin-up stations as part of its test.

It is part of moves to make the IPPT less of a chore for NSmen, many of whom used to fail it and had to be sent for remedial training.

After trials involving some 5,000 servicemen late last year, the SAF revised upwards the minimum standards they have to meet to attain the silver or gold award.

This requires servicemen to run faster and collect more points in order to get the awards and qualify for cash incentives of up to $500.

This is because trial results showed that more than a quarter of participants, most of whom had bagged gold and silver awards, clocked slower times for their 2.4km runs than in the current test.

The Singapore army's assistant chief of general staff (training), Colonel Ng Ying Thong, said the latest tweaks will "further stretch and challenge" the fitter group of servicemen to do better, yet not demotivate the majority to train and pass the IPPT.

Overall, most of the participants in the trial bettered their previous performances in the current test.

For instance, 88 per cent of the trial participants did more, if not as many, sit-ups, while 73 per cent of them ran faster or maintained their timings during the 2.4km runs.

Pre-enlistees who want to be exempted from extra weeks of physical fitness training before Basic Military Training (BMT) can start taking the new three-station test from next week.

Youth 'cannot afford to take S'pore's success for granted'

Two veteran diplomats also pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contributions
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Washington, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2015

TWO Singaporean envoys paid tribute to the contributions of Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at a US think-tank on Wednesday, while stressing that the country's success cannot be taken for granted by its young.

Speaking at an event at the Brookings Institution, former Singapore ambassador to the United States Chan Heng Chee and former Ministry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Bilahari Kausikan told a US audience about Mr Lee's approach to governance and foreign policy, but made clear that the matter of whether the country can stay on track was very much an open question.

Asked about anxieties he had over the changes in South-east Asia in the 50 years since Singapore became independent, Mr Kausikan replied: "My main concerns are actually internal.

"I think Singapore can cope. We certainly have much more capability to cope, to adapt in the economic field, the foreign policy field and the defence field. But whether or not the different generation has the will and the nous to do these adaptations is another matter."

He said he worried about whether or not young Singaporeans would assume that Singapore was no longer vulnerable.

"In order to create relevance, in order to constantly adapt, you need to have a very clinical, indeed cold-blooded ability to assess your own situation," he said.

Professor Chan voiced similar concerns in her address to the crowd.

After laying out some of Mr Lee's principles on governance, she concluded by saying: "Though Mr Lee's ideas last, I would say millennials in Singapore have different ideas but I do hope they have enough sense to understand what works for Singapore, preserve what works and adjust some of the ideas to the present time."

In the short term, she said, the legacy of Mr Lee's ideas would carry on because they have been institutionalised, but the future is far from certain.

"Mr Lee, in the last few years, has said what happens in Singapore in the future really depends on the young leaders and the next generation of leaders. He leaves it up to them," she said.

Tale of two cities holds lessons for Singapore

Boston, a former port turned IT hub, shows the importance of economic complexity. Detroit, dependent on the car industry, is the flip side.
By Peter Ho, Published The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2015

CITIES, like all human systems, are enormously complex.

But it was not always so. Until about 12,000 years ago, people lived in small nomadic groups as hunter- gatherers.

Then, during the Neolithic Revolution, agriculture emerged and people began to produce food, instead of just hunting for it. The nomadic life of the hunter-gatherers began to be replaced by more sedentary societies based in human settlements like villages and towns. Villages and towns grew into cities over time.

The urban milieu became the catalyst for the development of a multitude of new human capabilities. Over time, people were no longer just hunters or farmers. They became builders, craftsmen, businessmen, entertainers, teachers, scholars, and so on.

As inhabitants of towns and cities took on increasingly specialised roles, and as cities grew, social and economic complexity increased.

But the human impulse is to reduce complexity. The complexity that began to emerge in towns and cities created an imperative for a new form of organisation - government - to manage it. An early, rudimentary form of government was the council of elders, which governed through consensus rather than imposed rules.

But cities evolved, they grew larger and more complex. Furthermore, ambitious rulers began conquering other cities and extending their reach of power. The challenges of controlling geographically diverse and complex cities demanded a more sophisticated form of urban governance than just the council of elders.