Friday, 18 August 2017

Singapore Student Learning Space: New online platform will let students learn at own pace

Move helps level playing field as it gives all students same access to quality resources
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2017

Schools are taking e-learning to the next level with the launch of a resource-rich online platform on which students can learn at their own pace anywhere, any time.

The Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS), first announced by then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat in 2013, will be progressively rolled out to primary and secondary schools as well as junior colleges and Millennia Institute from next year.

The portal will also let teachers share best practices and work together on materials with their colleagues across schools.



Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said the "rewards for students will be tremendous", adding that the SLS "will open up many opportunities for their learning". Speaking during a visit yesterday to Admiralty Secondary, one of 62 schools piloting the platform, he described how students who want to review a lesson will be able to do it on their own time, even at home.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) stressed that the platform will help level the playing field as it gives all students, regardless of school, the same access to quality learning resources. The move builds on ongoing efforts by the ministry to leverage IT to aid learning.

"By spurring our students to take greater ownership of their learning and work collaboratively with their peers, the SLS aims to support them towards being responsible future-ready learners," MOE said.

The platform, which will feature videos, simulations, games, animations and quizzes, will reinforce learning of subjects, including English and the mother tongue languages, mathematics, history and even physical education.

Interactive timelines on World War II, for instance, can help students visualise how history unfolded through the years.

Many of the resources have been developed with industry and external partners to offer real-world context to concepts taught in class, said the ministry.

Taxi uncle turns Grab driver

While the pioneer leaders were the original architects of Singapore, everyday heroes helped build society here. This is another story about such people in the series, The Lives They Live.
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2017

When he started driving a taxi in 1981, Mr Lim Chwee Choon, then 36, often had to ask his passengers for directions and, at times, decline to take them if they were unsure of the route.

While such behaviour is unheard of today because of technologies such as Global Positioning System, Mr Lim said they had little choice back then. Vocational training was very basic and cabbies were taught only the routes to a few destinations, such as major hotels and the airport.

There were street directories but trying to page through one while driving was not a good idea, he said. Map apps did not exist then, he quipped.



Mr Lim, now 72, said it took him about three years of plying the streets and memorising routes before he could get around on his own.

"It was not easy but passengers were also more understanding," he recalled in Mandarin.

"Nowadays, if you take a route which they don't like, they will be unhappy. Passengers are always telling me, 'Uncle, my time is precious.'"

With more than three decades of driving under his belt, this "taxi uncle" has seen the changes in one of Singapore's most iconic professions, which began in the 1930s, and is facing its greatest disruption now with competition from ride-hailing apps.

Mr Lim himself has jumped "ship".

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Tanjong Pagar Terminal cleared ahead of schedule, port lease expires in 2027

PSA transfers all 500 staff to Pasir Panjang; move could impact property, shipping sectors
By Jacqueline Woo, The Straits Times, 14 Aug 2017

Singapore's great port migration - which has major implications for both the shipping and real estate sectors - has crossed a key milestone well ahead of schedule.

Port operator PSA Singapore has moved all its 500 staff from Tanjong Pagar Terminal to the newer Pasir Panjang Terminal and is dismantling the cranes, as part of plans for the even bigger move to the future mega-port at Tuas. The relocation - well ahead of the city port's lease expiry in 2027 - means PSA might be ready to hand the 80ha site back to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) far earlier than expected.

PSA did not comment on whether it is looking at doing so, but a URA spokesman told The Straits Times: "We are in discussions with PSA on this matter, and are not able to comment further at the moment."

This, in turn, has raised the possibility that plans for the Greater Southern Waterfront project - a sprawling 1,000ha development three times the size of Marina Bay - could kick off faster than expected.

The huge project is to be built on land freed up when the ports in the city, including Tanjong Pagar, and Pasir Panjang are relocated to Tuas.



The Government could set aside some land for release earlier than expected, depending on market conditions and demand, said Ms Alice Tan of property consultancy Knight Frank Singapore.

"With real estate needs changing rapidly along with consumer and business trends, it could make sense for land use planning to evolve more flexibly ahead of changing needs," said Ms Tan, the firm's director and head of consultancy and research.

Mr Desmond Sim, head of CBRE Research for Singapore and South-east Asia, on the other hand, believes it is still much too early to tell if the Greater Southern Waterfront project could start earlier.

"It is a huge project, and there is still a lot of elasticity in land supply today, especially at Marina Bay. So, there is no need to rush and trigger plans for the waterfront area."

That said, Mr Sim noted that both PSA and the state planners would stand to gain if the land is vacated before the lease runs out.

"This would give PSA more buffer time to sort out any teething problems and ensure the handover goes smoothly. For the state planners, getting control of the land earlier... allows them to have more flexibility with planning."

Monday, 14 August 2017

Should I help my patients die?

An American doctor grapples with the ethics and practicalities of being asked to help a patient die
By Jessica Nutik Zitter, Published The Sunday Times, 13 Aug 2017

I was leafing through a patient's chart last year when a colleague tapped me on the shoulder. "I have a patient who is asking about the End of Life Option Act," he said in a low voice. "Can we even do that here?"

I practise both critical and palliative care medicine at a public hospital in Oakland, California. In June last year, our state became the fourth in the nation to allow medical aid in dying for patients suffering from terminal illness. Oregon was the pioneer 20 years ago. Washington and Vermont followed suit more recently. (Colorado voters passed a similar law in November.)

Now, five months after the law took effect here in California, I was facing my first request for assistance to shorten the life of a patient.

That week, I was the attending physician on the palliative care service. Since palliative care medicine focuses on the treatment of all forms of suffering in serious illness, my colleague assumed that I would know what to do with this request. I didn't.

I could see my own discomfort mirrored in his face. "Can you help us with it?" he asked me. "Of course," I said. Then I felt my stomach lurch.

California's law permits physicians to prescribe a lethal cocktail to patients who request it and meet certain criteria: They must be adults expected to die within six months who are able to self-administer the drug and retain the mental capacity to make a decision like this.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Singapore Labour Force - Getting ahead of the curve

By Devadas Krishnadas and Elena Lopez, Published TODAY, 12 Aug 2017

The “Labour Force in Singapore 2016” report released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department reinforces the perception that the Singapore labour force is facing long-term pressure to transform its skill base.

JOB MARKET GETTING MORE CHALLENGING

The employment rate for residents has decreased amid anaemic economic growth and a modest increase in supply of foreign workforce. The nominal median monthly income (including employer contributions to the Central Provident Fund) of full-time employed residents is rising at a slower pace while the education profile of the labour force has been improving over the years.

The number of Singapore residents with a degree, diploma or other types of higher education qualification has increased to over half the resident population, higher than the average for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member states and also higher than that in South Korea (45 per cent), and the United States (44 per cent).

The occupational distribution amongst employed residents reflects the continued shift to a services concentrated economy – more than half are Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians, with most concentrated in information and communications, professional services and financial and insurance services.

At the same time, training participation rate has edged up, resuming the uptrend after a moderate drop in the previous year. This rate was higher in the services industry than the national average. The resident unemployment rate continued to rise for the fourth consecutive year, reaching 3 per cent in 2016. Unemployment was highest in the information and communications, and accommodation and food services sectors. Worryingly, job seekers are taking longer to find jobs. The proportion of unemployed residents still looking for work after six months rose to 20 per cent in 2016.

Public transport system to go fully cashless by 2020

Drive to go cashless on public transport
All bus, train fares to be paid using travel cards by 2020; no cash top-ups at stations
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2017

Singapore's public transport system is set to go fully cashless by 2020, with all bus and train rides to be paid for using only travel cards and top-ups with cash no longer available at stations.

The first cashless rail line will be the Thomson-East Coast Line, which will open from 2019.

The goal of going fully cashless, in line with the Smart Nation push, was announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and subsidiary TransitLink yesterday.

To nudge commuters on board, rail operators SMRT and SBS Transit will not offer cash top-ups at passenger service centres at 11 train stations from Sept 1. They are: Admiralty, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Buona Vista, Farrer Park, HarbourFront, Hougang, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Serangoon and Yew Tee.

Cash top-ups will cease to be available at passenger service centres of other stations sometime next year.

Currently, about 27 per cent of commuters rely on staff at the passenger service centres to help reload their cards with cash. Service agents will be deployed at the 11 stations to help these commuters switch to using the general ticketing machines, which accept cash.

These machines will not accept cash by 2020, when self-service ticketing machines at stations and bus interchanges will accept only cashless top-ups such as with Nets.



LTA's group director for technology and industry development, Mr Lam Wee Shann, said: "When we relieve PSC (passenger service centre) staff from handling cash and doing top-ups, their attention could be more focused on train station operations, which is their core job."

He added: "There are also costs that are not small in maintaining cash transactions. By going cashless, cost avoidance can be re-invested into the public transport system, to improve and maintain it."

LTA and TransitLink said they have been adding payment options at ticketing machines since January to accept credit or debit cards and mobile payment platforms such as Apple Pay and Android Pay.

They assured commuters cash top-ups will continue to be available come 2020, but in limited forms, such as at convenience stores.

While cash is currently accepted at 39 TransitLink ticket offices located at stations and bus interchanges, the agencies said they are working towards removing this, but will study this plan "very carefully".

Saturday, 12 August 2017

All new homes to have smoke alarms from June 2018

Updated Fire Code to be released mid-next year; costs likely to be borne by home buyers
By Ng Jun Sen and Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2017

All newly built homes - Housing Board flats as well as private residences - will have to be installed with smoke detectors from next June, when an updated Fire Code is released, The Straits Times understands.

Called a home smoke alarm, the device costs between $60 and $80 for a basic version. Installation could cost another $50 or so.

The costs will likely be borne by home buyers, though the authorities, led by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), are working with grassroots leaders to identify elderly and needy households that need financial help in doing so.

The battery-operated devices are designed to alert occupants when they sense smoke, and function independently. They are not connected to emergency services or a central fire alarm system.

Currently, fire alarms are mandatory for commercial, industrial or mixed-use buildings above a certain size. The interiors of homes are currently exempt from this.

ST understands that the change has been in the works for over a year and is not linked to a specific incident. But two-thirds of fires last year - or about 2,800 - took place in homes, with rubbish chute or bin fires being the most common. There were 4,114 fire calls last year, the least recorded since 1978.

When contacted, the SCDF declined comment.

Mr Benedict Koh Yong Pheng, president of the Fire Safety Managers' Association, which represents fire safety managers here, said the authorities have been encouraging the voluntary use of fire alarms and fire extinguishers in homes for several years, but the take-up rate has been low.

Making smoke detectors mandatory in new homes will help raise fire safety standards here, said Mr Koh, who is also in the technical committee for the code of practice for electrical fire alarm systems published by SPRING Singapore.

He said: "In many cases of home fires, there have been cases of injuries or death due to smoke inhalation, which could have happened while the occupants were asleep. A localised smoke alarm will alert residents so they can react to the fire at an early stage."

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Singapore celebrates 52nd National Day


National Day Parade 2017: One heart, one nation, one Singapore
Drone display dazzles crowd at Marina Bay as Singapore turns 52
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

With the Marina Bay skyline serving as a backdrop, Singaporeans celebrated the nation's 52nd birthday and cheered the return of crowd favourites such as the Red Lions skydivers.

The Marina Bay floating platform proved to be a hit for the tens of thousands of people clad in red and white, returning as a National Day Parade (NDP) venue for the first time since 2014.

Last year, the NDP was held at the new National Stadium, while the SG50 bash was held at the Padang.


Always intended to be an interim venue while the new National Stadium was being built, the floating platform has become a popular choice for NDP due to its location.


Attendees said the whole area is an embodiment of what Singapore was, is, and will be.


Teacher Kathiravan Bhupathy, 32, said: "This is the venue for NDP. At one look here, you can see how far Singapore has come."




The theme of this year's parade - #OneNationTogether - is a "call-to-action for all Singaporeans to take pride in our achievements, and to be confident in our collective future as we overcome all odds together".

There were hints of the future and the Smart Nation ambition, with Edgar the robot co-hosting, and a light show put on by 300 drones taking to the skies at the same time. Pre-programmed using sophisticated algorithms, the drones winked and danced against the Marina Bay skyline.




After a two-year hiatus - due to the weather one year and logistics the next - the nine-member Singapore Armed Forces Parachute Team, or Red Lions, returned to rapturous applause from the 25,000- strong crowd as they glided effortlessly onto the floating platform.

The audience was in awe of the dynamic defence display, showcasing Singapore's military assets on land, air and sea, back also after a two-year break.


There was also a reminder of challenges and the ability to overcome them. For the first time, yesterday's defence display included a demonstration of the Republic's capabilities in the event of a terrorist attack. Performers fired blanks while in the seating gallery to add to the realism.




The show ended revealing Singaporeans who had scaled their own peaks.

Swimmer Joseph Schooling, who clinched Singapore's first Olympic gold, and Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu stood on the summit of a replica of a mountain.


They were accompanied by others such as top female police officer Zuraidah Abdullah, 55, and skills upgrader Rama Kerisna, 70.


Yesterday's celebrations also took on a sentimental note as President Tony Tan Keng Yam witnessed his last parade as head of state.



Speaking to the media after the parade, he said: "I'm touched by the affection which was displayed to me tonight... I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve as President and also to reach out to Singaporeans. My wife and I believe Singapore will continue to progress and I think that we'll have a marvellous future together. But we have to strive to work on, there is no end to our journey."

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Our Tampines Hub: PM Lee opens Singapore's first integrated community and lifestyle hub

One-stop lifestyle centre launched in Tampines
Residents get 5,000-seat stadium, theatre, relocated library, sports facilities and more
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2017

Life just got a whole lot easier for Tampines residents with the completion and grand opening of Our Tampines Hub yesterday.

Previously, community activities were held at temporary spaces such as the plot of land next to Tampines MRT station, or the open space behind the train station.



Now, residents have a 5,000-seat stadium with a high-quality synthetic football pitch at the hub, called the Town Square.

"You can go shopping - there are all kinds of services and retail outlets. And you can just drop by Our Tampines Hub on your way home and get everything you need here," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was the guest of honour at the launch.

The hub is Singapore's first integrated lifestyle hub and was born out of the ideas of thousands of residents, noted Mr Lee.

"From the idea to the realisation, residents have been involved in the process and consulted because we wanted to build a hub by the residents for the residents," he said.

This was a case of the Government trying out new things and improving as it went along, Mr Lee said, adding: "We will continue to learn, and to improve."



The first of the integrated community hub's facilities opened last November, and more were gradually opened over the past eight months.

Halimah Yacob to run for President

Halimah Yacob steps down as Speaker of Parliament and MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, resigns from PAP to run for President
PM Lee Hsien Loong thanks her for contributions, says she will bring warmth, dignity if elected as president
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 8 Aug 2017

A day after announcing her presidential bid, Madam Halimah Yacob resigned from her political and party posts yesterday, paving the way for her nomination in next month's election.

Her resignation as MP of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and member of the People's Action Party (PAP) was accepted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said she would bring warmth and dignity to the highest office in the land if elected.

Her move also prompted by-election calls from the Singapore Democratic Party and Reform Party.

While the GRC may not get a new MP - there is no legal requirement for a by-election when an MP leaves a GRC, even a minority MP - it will get a new grassroots adviser.

PM Lee, who is PAP's chief, said he will appoint an adviser to the ward and appoint replacements soon to the posts vacated by Madam Halimah.

The 62-year-old had also stepped down as Speaker of Parliament. The Prime Minister's Office said Deputy Speaker Charles Chong will be Acting Speaker until PM Lee nominates a person for the post when Parliament next meets.



Her resignation is necessary for contesting in next month's presidential election, which is reserved for Malay candidates to ensure the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

In a letter to PM Lee, Madam Halimah said she decided to run after careful consideration, adding she was grateful for the encouragement of friends, colleagues, family members and ordinary citizens.

Having been in the labour movement for about 40 years and in politics for 16 years, she said she would miss her residents, her constituency work in Marsiling and her role as Speaker.

But, she added: "In running for the office of the elected president, my passion and desire to serve the people continues. It is a heavy responsibility, but I hope that with the support of Singaporeans, we can do more good together."

Monday, 7 August 2017

Financial planning: New graduate? Never too early to think of retirement

Experts say millennials have time on their side, and an early start in financial planning will benefit them
By Lorna Tan, Invest Editor/Senior Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 6 Aug 2017

Last month, more than 15,000 university students graduated here. Now that they are entering the workforce, these millennials should set up a financial plan, whip their money management habits into shape and adopt financial discipline.

Experts say it is never too early to start. In fact, surveys have shown that the main reason most people cannot retire comfortably is that they started saving only around their 40s.

Ms Shirley Tan, head of marketing and customer experience at Etiqa Insurance, said the big advantage millennials have is time.

"Millennials are in the best possible position to get started, with about 40 years to save for retirement, and whatever they contribute will grow and accrue interest greatly over time," she noted.

Manulife Singapore said that its latest Manulife Investor Sentiment Index - carried out in March this year - shows a gap between millennials' expectations of their retired life and the steps they are taking to achieve those financial goals. For instance, eight out of 10 millennial investors expect their lifestyles to remain the same, but only five out of 10 say they are on track to achieve that.

Retirement might seem far away, when in reality you are in the best position to plan for your future during the prime of your life, said Manulife.

Recognising that graduates should embark on their investment journey as early as possible, DBS Bank recently launched NAV Hub in Tanjong Pagar, which is targeted at young adults. They can enjoy free personalised financial planning sessions conducted independent of sales, and with no products sold.

The Sunday Times highlights what millennials should be thinking about when it comes to savings, insurance and investments.

ASEAN 50th Anniversary on 8 August 2017


ASEAN's way or the highway
The grouping's advance has been steady if not spectacular and it's not done growing.
By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor, The Sunday Times, 6 Aug 2017

Try asking college students in the ASEAN states where the Appalachian Range and the Visayas mountains are situated. Chances are that, unless you were putting the question to a Filipino, many would probably know of the Appalachians being in the United States but few would be aware of the Visayas in the Philippines. It's a great pity, but that's the reality.

Fifty years after the Association of South-east Asian Nations was founded, no school syllabus in the 10-nation grouping teaches ASEAN as a subject. The region's aviation sector is booming - Singapore, even as it opens Changi Airport's Terminal 4, is well into the planning of a giant Terminal 5 - but no South-east Asian carrier flies the ASEAN logo on its tail. The only currency notes in the region exchangeable at par are those of Brunei and Singapore. There is no ASEAN dispute settlement mechanism, much less a body to enforce the rules.

The ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta is a poorly funded body, its total budget only about as much as the combined annual earnings of the chief executive officers of Singapore's three local banks. For years, it has operated from modest, low-rise offices tucked away in the southern corner of the city.

In contrast, the headquarters of the European Union (EU), the body against which ASEAN is most compared, is a magnificent one.

Yet in April, when the Trump administration sought to reaffirm the US' strategic commitment to Asia, it sent Vice-President Mike Pence to the ASEAN Secretariat. There, he announced that President Donald Trump would attend three Asia summits in the second half of the year - the ASEAN-US summit, the East Asia summit in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam. An outside power like the US now has a full-time ambassador to ASEAN. So do Australia, South Korea and several other countries.

Who'd have thought that a body set up at the height of the Cold War to protect Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore from becoming dominoes that could be knocked down by communism, would advance in such a spectacular way? From five members at its founding in 1967 to six in 1984 when Brunei signed on, and eventually 10 as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and finally Myanmar, came on board, the group has only expanded. And it's not done growing: Timor Leste could be on board next. While once-role model the EU is straining at the seams, ASEAN's hemlines are getting broader.

HAILED OUTSIDE THE REGION

Indeed, people from outside the region sometimes tend to see its significance more clearly than those within.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Is Singapore a small country?

The answer depends on the yardstick used. In some respects, the Republic outperforms bigger countries.
By Tommy Koh, Published The Straits Times, 5 Aug 2017

As Singapore's 52nd national day draws near, my thoughts have turned increasingly towards our beloved country, Singapore. I have also been reflecting on the recent debate between two good friends, Kishore Mahbubani and Bilahari Kausikan, on the diplomacy of small states.

The question which I would like to answer in this essay is whether Singapore is a small country. The answer may seem obvious but it is not. It depends on the yardstick we use to measure Singapore's size. If we use the yardstick of size of territory or the size of population, then Singapore is certainly a small country.

Let us use a different yardstick, the gross domestic product per capita based on purchasing power parity. Qatar, Luxembourg, Macau, Singapore and Brunei are the top five, ranked in that order. The United States is ranked No. 13 and China No. 81. By this yardstick, Singapore is the fourth richest country in the world.

Many people have criticised the use of GDP per capita to assess a country's prosperity. The argument is that it is unidimensional and does not necessarily reflect the state of well-being of the people. In response to such criticisms, the United Nations has created the Human Development Index.

In last year's Human Development Index, Singapore is ranked No. 6, after Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. Singapore is the only Asian country in the top 10.

POWER OF TRADE AND MONEY

With a population of only five million, Singapore has a small domestic market. It has no choice but to be outward oriented and to uphold and practise free trade.

With such a small domestic market, we would not expect Singapore to rank very high in the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) lists of the world's leading exporters and importers. Our readers would be surprised to learn that Singapore is the world's 13th largest exporter and the world's 15th largest importer. In other words, Singapore is one of the world's largest trading entities. This gives us relevance and influence at the WTO. This factor, combined with the brilliance of our diplomats, accounts for the fact that Singapore is regularly invited by the leaders of WTO to participate in the so-called Green Room negotiations. These are meetings held in the WTO director-general's conference room.

It is a fact that in this money-loving world, money is power. Let us look at the yardstick of the size of a country's foreign exchange reserves. Singapore has the world's 11th largest foreign exchange reserves. China and Japan are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in that order.

Let us now turn to another yardstick, the size of a country's foreign direct investment. It is not surprising that the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Switzerland are the top five investors. I was not surprised that Singapore occupies the 10th position. I am not surprised because, despite our small size, Singapore is the largest foreign investor in China, India and Indonesia.

Another yardstick is the status of Singapore as a financial centre. According to the Global Financial Centres Index this year, Singapore is ranked No. 3, after London and New York and ahead of Hong Kong and Tokyo. According to the International Financial Centres Development Index, Singapore is ranked No. 4, after New York, London and Tokyo and ahead of Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

LKY School professor Huang Jing banned, has PR cancelled, for being agent of influence for foreign country

Govt says he has been working with a foreign govt to influence Republic's foreign policy
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 5 Aug 2017

• Huang Jing engaged prominent Singaporeans and gave them what he said was “privileged information” to influence their opinions in favour of that country

• He gave privileged information to LKYSPP senior member, who conveyed this to very senior public officials in position to direct Singapore’s foreign policy

A well-known academic from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) had his permanent residency cancelled yesterday and will be expelled for working with a foreign government to influence Singapore's foreign policy and public opinion.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Dr Huang Jing, 60, and his wife, Ms Shirley Yang Xiuping, will be permanently banned from Singapore, in what is the first publicly known case of its kind in nearly 20 years.

It said in a statement that Dr Huang has been identified as "an agent of influence of a foreign country" who worked with intelligence organisations and agents from that country, which it did not name.

Dr Huang was director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation and Lee Foundation Professor on US-China relations at the LKY School, and his views on China and foreign policy issues were regularly sought by organisations and the media. Besides writing for Singapore newspapers, he also contributed articles to China's Global Times, a newspaper closely linked to the country's government.

He and his wife were born in China and are now US citizens.

"Huang used his senior position in the LKY School to deliberately and covertly advance the agenda of a foreign country at Singapore's expense. He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents," said the ministry. "This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore's domestic politics. Huang's continued presence in Singapore, and that of his wife, are therefore undesirable."

The Controller of Immigration has cancelled their entry and re-entry permits, MHA said.

It noted Ms Yang was aware of her husband using his position to advance a foreign country's agenda.



Dr Huang had engaged prominent and influential Singaporeans, providing them with what he claimed was "privileged information" about the foreign country to influence their opinions in favour of that country, the ministry said.

He also recruited others to aid his operations, it added.

It also said Dr Huang gave supposedly "privileged information" to a senior member of the LKY School so that it could be passed on to the Government. "The information was duly conveyed by that senior member of the LKYSPP to very senior public officials who were in a position to direct Singapore's foreign policy.

"The clear intention was to use the information to cause the Singapore Government to change its foreign policy."

The Government, however, declined to act on the information.

When asked, the ministry declined to name the country or senior LKY School official.

Friday, 4 August 2017

E-bikes must be registered by 31 January 2018

Registration of Power-Assisted Bicycles to start on 14 August 2017
Owners of power-assisted bicycles without valid registration plate after deadline can be fined or jailed
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2017

Owners of power-assisted bicycles, or bicycles equipped with electric motors known as e-bikes, will have to ensure that their bicycles have been approved by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and get them registered by Jan 31.

After this date, owners of e-bikes without a valid registration plate may be fined, jailed or both.

Registration channels open from Aug 14, and those applying must be at least 16 years old.

E-bicycles which do not have the LTA seal must undergo an inspection before registration, and owners will need to pay a $50 registration fee plus an inspection fee.

In January this year, the Government announced that all e-bikes would need to be registered to an owner and have registration plates in an effort to clamp down on those who illegally modify their bicycles.

The move also aims to make it easier for the authorities to nab reckless riders and make pathways and roads safer for other users, in particular, pedestrians.

Accidents resulting in injuries involving e-bikes went up from 39 in 2015 to 54 last year, though the number of fatal accidents involving the two-wheelers dropped from five in 2015 to three last year.

Since 2004, there have been 30,000 electric bicycles that carry the LTA seal and are approved for use on public roads. LTA estimates that about half are still in use now.

Embrace lifelong learning and doing, Heng Swee Keat urges Singaporeans

Heng Swee Keat calls on firms, individuals to adapt fast and build up strong capabilities
By Chia Yan Min, Economics Correspondent, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2017

Learning before starting work is the norm, but Singaporeans should embrace a new approach of "learning while doing" that allows them to keep up with technology and fast-changing workplaces, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said last night.

He noted that the world is being roiled by major structural changes, but Singapore will be well placed to meet the challenges if firms and individuals can adapt quickly enough and build up strong capabilities.

Mr Heng, speaking at the Economic Society of Singapore annual dinner 2017 at Mandarin Orchard hotel, said the global economy is increasingly uncertain and the pace of technological change is picking up.

He highlighted several key trends, including the impact of technology on productivity and jobs, the rise of emerging economies and the growing importance of data.

When the Committee on the Future Economy - a panel co-chaired by Mr Heng and tasked with charting a blueprint for Singapore's future growth - considered these trends last year, "there were some who sought to bet on new growth industries, new technologies and new markets to go into. But in a fast-changing, unpredictable world, there are no shortcuts", he said.

These shifts mean companies, individuals and institutes of higher learning need to change their habits and practices significantly. For workers, this means shifting from "learning, then doing" to "lifelong learning and doing", Mr Heng said.

"Throughout our careers, we learn the skills that we need for our jobs, hone them by using them at work and then, as the economy evolves, learn a new set of skills and in turn put those to use. It is a virtuous cycle of learning and doing."

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Singapore to Johor Baru MRT service to start by end-2024

Rapid transit link will join Thomson-East Coast Line and is set to reduce congestion
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Iskandar Puteri, Johor, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2017

Passengers will be able to hop on an MRT train in Woodlands to cross the border to Johor Baru by Dec 31, 2024.

The Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link can carry up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction between Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station and the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

It is slated to improve connectivity and reduce congestion at border crossings between Singapore and Malaysia when completed.

The new starting date for the line was announced in a joint statement yesterday after the 13th meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, co-chaired by Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Transport Minister.

Also present were Johor Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and senior officials from both countries.

Officials have agreed to jointly appoint an operating company to run and maintain the RTS Link's operating systems, which include its trains, tracks and signalling system.



Singapore has invited SMRT Corp to be part of the joint venture, while Malaysia has asked Prasarana Malaysia, whose subsidiary runs an MRT line through the Klang Valley in Kuala Lumpur. Both operators are negotiating terms for the joint venture, which will have a first concession period of 30 years.

Each government will also appoint an infrastructure company to fund, build, own, maintain and upgrade the civil infrastructure and stations in their own countries.

When asked, Mr Khaw reiterated that fares will not be regulated but driven by market forces.

Similar to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail line, the RTS Link will have a joint Customs, immigration and quarantine facility at both terminus stations. This means international-bound travellers will need to clear Customs and immigration only once, when departing from the respective countries.

Contract workers get better terms under new Tripartite Standard

296 firms commit to tripartite pact covering key areas of leave, notice period and training
By Grace Leong, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2017

A new standard specifying better working conditions for term contract workers has been launched after agreement between employers, unions and the Government.

Already, 296 firms have signed on, committing to progressive employment practices that go beyond what is required under the Employment Act in key areas of leave benefits, notice period and training.

Among the early adopters are OCBC Bank, DBS Bank, Coca-Cola Singapore, Singapore Press Holdings, Resorts World Sentosa and law firm Rajah & Tann.

"These (296) employers account for about 26,000, or around 15 per cent, of all term contract employees in Singapore. This is a good start, but not good enough if we want to make an impact," Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo noted at the launch yesterday.

"Many term contract employees do not enjoy leave benefits like their colleagues in regular or permanent work. Sometimes, it is because they are ignorant about their legal entitlements and were blatantly shortchanged. In other instances, employers do not recognise their past service because of breaks in their contracts."



To address this, the standard was jointly developed by the Manpower Ministry, National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

It is the first of five tripartite standards to be rolled out. About 10 per cent of resident employees, or about 170,000 workers, are on term contract arrangements. They may have their leave entitlements reset to the statutory minimum by the employer each time their contracts are renewed.

Coca-Cola Singapore's human resources (HR) project manager Grace Lai, who is among its 150 term contract employees, said the new standard provides "greater certainty and protection for contract workers".

"Also, the standard helps contract workers... to identify good employers that will offer them such improved employment conditions."

Together with the tripartite partners, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices is working with employers to adopt the new standard. Under the standard, employers are encouraged to treat contracts of 14 days or more, and renewed within one month of the previous contract, as continuous, and grant or accrue leave benefits based on the cumulative term of the contracts.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

As NS turns 50, what is its future?

By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2017

National service has come a long way, from 1967 when Singapore's first national servicemen wore Temasek green combat uniforms, to the present when soldiers don high-tech, pixelised combat uniforms.

More than one million male Singaporeans and second-generation permanent residents have served NS since the maiden batch of 9,000 soldiers were conscripted in 1967.

It has become a rite of passage for young Singaporean men, who form the backbone of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Currently, Singapore males are conscripted into either the SAF, police or Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), with the majority of the enlistees assigned to the SAF.

Conscription has helped Singapore meet its security needs through the years, but the security landscape is changing rapidly. The Straits Times examines how NS will continue to evolve to meet new challenges.

Q HOW DID NS BEGIN?

A NS became compulsory for all 18-year-old male Singapore citizens and permanent residents on March 14, 1967, when the National Service (Amendment) Act came into effect.

At that time, 10 per cent of the 9,000 called up were selected for full-time service, while the rest served part-time in the People's Defence Force, Special Constabulary and the Vigilante Corps.

Then Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee justified the conscription on the grounds of establishing a credible defence force for the fledgling nation.

In those tumultuous early years, Singapore needed to quickly build up the capability to fend for itself before the British withdrew in 1971.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Biotech sector poised to deliver more health and wealth

Questions about whether Singapore is getting bang for its buck in biotech arise from time to time. The chairman of the agency in charge issues a report card.
By Lim Chuan Poh, Published The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2017

On May 24, a local biotechnology company successfully raised US$33 million (S$44.8 million) through an initial public offering on the Taipei Exchange (TPEx), valuing the company at US$300 million.

This went largely unnoticed by most of Singapore, but caused ripples of excitement throughout the local biotech and research circles.

The company that listed on the TPEx was none other than a Singapore drug-development biotech, Aslan Pharmaceuticals, which develops therapies for cancer tumour types prevalent in Asia.

Drug development is a high-risk endeavour. The fact that a local biotech has achieved this level of market validation is certainly something for us to be proud of.

Perhaps this is what the Nobel laureate and A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) senior fellow, Dr Sydney Brenner, envisioned when he first visited Singapore in 1983, to advise the Government on what it would take for this young country to create a biotechnology industry.

Back then, Singapore's biomedical research was practically non-existent. The late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew asked Dr Brenner why Singapore should invest in biomedical sciences (BMS) and biotechnology infrastructure, noting that Singapore was a nation of technicians. Dr Brenner replied candidly: "Prime Minister, if you don't do something like this, you will remain a nation of technicians."

Following this conversation, the Government set up the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Singapore's first biomedical research institute, in 1985.

In three decades, Singapore has progressed from a humble "nation of technicians" to a leading biomedical hub, with BMS becoming the fourth pillar of the manufacturing sector.

Today, Singapore is home to more than 50 BMS manufacturing plants employing over 19,000 people, with a value add of $15 billion, just a shade behind the top sector, electronics.

In 2015, business expenditure on research and development (Berd) in BMS-related fields had grown by a compound annual growth rate of over 10 per cent in the last decade to reach a high of nearly $1 billion, and employs more than 2,100 researchers.

Adding to this rapid growth, albeit from a low base, is a crop of local biotech companies that has sprung up in recent years.

From 2010 to last year, at least 48 local drug-development and related biotechs have been incorporated, doubling that of the preceding decade (2000-2009). Singapore's biotech ecosystem is certainly headed in the right direction and appears to have reached an inflexion point.