Singapore 2016 -2017

Written by  //  September 13, 2017  //  Asia  //  No comments

Here are 4 new private members’ clubs you’ll want to be part of
1880
Opening: Third quarter of 2017
Named after the decade in which Robertson Quay was opened, this club will occupy 22,000 square feet of the new mixed-use development [email protected] Quay. The club, according to Canada-born founder Marc Nicholson, is aimed at professionals who are “curious, (have) integrity, creativity, individuality and authenticity”, and features various facilities such as a screening room, a co-working space, a cocktail bar, a yoga and Pilates studio, a private dining room, and an outdoor terrace.
The club is backed by British furniture label Timothy Oulton, spirits distribution company Proof & Company and RB Capital, the landlord of [email protected] Quay — with renowned chef Colin Buchan helming the kitchen.
1880, 1 Nanson Road, Singapore 238909, +65 9648 1880

13 September
Only one Singaporean is fit to be president
Or so the government concludes
(The Economist) [Thursday] Halimah Yacob will be sworn in as the new president of Singapore. After the government tightened the relevant criteria, a committee determined that she was the only eligible candidate. As a result Ms Halimah was elected unopposed, even though she seemed likely to win with competition. Disqualifying her challengers robs her of the shred of legitimacy an election could have given her.
Singapore’s democracy can sometimes seem a little regimented: the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power since before independence in 1965. So when the government decided to amend the constitution in 1991 to allow direct elections for president, ostensibly to deepen popular engagement with politics, observers were suspicious—and rightly so. The criteria for eligibility were set so narrowly that only two of the subsequent five elections have involved more than one candidate. Even so, at the previous election, in 2011, the PAP’s preferred candidate came within a whisker of losing.
(Channel News Asia) People feel ‘muzzled and angry’ because they could not vote this Presidential Election: Tan Cheng Bock
11 September
(CNN) How Singapore elected a president without a voteFormer Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob has emerged victorious by default, after other presidential hopefuls fell foul of new rules. … What should be a moment of celebration — Halimah will be Singapore’s first female president — has proved contentious for several reasons and appears at odds with Singapore’s reputation as a technocratic and efficient city state. While the office of president is largely a ceremonial role in Singapore, he or she has power to veto some of the government’s decisions, for example in fiscal matters that touch on the country’s reserves, or key appointments in the public service.
In this election, for the first time, candidates to become Singapore’s president could only come from one racial group: Malays.
It’s a radical policy that would likely prove divisive elsewhere but it’s one the Southeast Asian nation said was necessary to ensure better representation among the country’s three main races: Chinese, Indian and Malay.
“It shows we don’t only talk about multi-racialism, but we talk about it in the context of meritocracy or opportunities for everyone, and we actually practice it,” Halimah told The Straits Times newspaper, before declaring her intention to contest the election.
The new rules also set stricter criteria on the background of candidates. For example, those from the private sector are required to be a chief executive of a company, with at least $370 million in shareholders’ equity.

9 September
Art v government at Singapore festival: ‘I fear once I leave, they will punish me’
Ong Keng Sen’s experience as director of the national festival has shed light on overt and covert censorship of the arts in Singapore
(The Guardian) In just 50 years since independence, Singapore has established itself as a global city-state, one of the richest places on earth and one of the most expensive to live in. It’s clean, safe, multicultural and meticulously organised: a green city with nature parks, biodomes and waterviews, with gardens falling down the sides of skyscrapers built on reclaimed land, and some of the best schools, and food, in the world.
One marker of its economic success is the thriving arts scene, up to 85% of which is funded by the government according to its data. During the week the Guardian visited, there were at least three publicly-funded arts festivals being held, and many speak of the sector’s vibrancy. Writer Ng Yi-Sheng says on the whole, Singapore has become a more culturally healthy place thanks to the government’s arts funding. “Many people have benefited, many of my friends have benefited … and having works officially valued by institutions gives the average person here more sense of wellbeing, belonging.”
But as many artists explain, that money comes with strings attached.

10 August
Thais called to support S$38.2 billion Kra Canal construction that will bypass S’pore ports
They believe it can be constructed in five years.
(Mothership.sg) The recent Aug. 7, 2017, Nikkei Asian Review report said a group of retired generals has formed an organisation called the Thai Canal Association for Study and Development.
In 2016, the group worked alongside researchers from Beijing’s Peking University and a relatively unknown Chinese company to survey the proposed route.
Their plan is to lobby the military government of the day to okay a feasibility study. The most optimistic of projections estimates that the Kra Canal can be completed and be operational in a mere five years.
The Chinese company reportedly has provided funding for the Kra Canal study, even though it is not part of China’s official Belt and Road Initiative.

4 July
Dispute Over Singapore Founder’s House Becomes a National Crisis
(NYT) a bitter and public family dispute over the fate of his modest house has shattered Singapore’s image as an orderly authoritarian ideal and hinted at deeper divisions about its political future. Two of Mr. Lee’s three children have accused their elder brother, the prime minister, of abusing his power to preserve the house against their father’s wishes. The motive, they said, is to shore up his own political legitimacy and ultimately to establish a dynasty for which he is grooming his son.
These charges have transformed what on the surface is an ugly estate battle into a national crisis that has raised questions about how this island nation is governed, the basis of the governing party’s uninterrupted 58-year rule and how the country’s leaders are chosen.

21 May
The Censors’ Disappearing Vibrator
(NYT) Gaps in story lines were facts of life in a country where authorities believed “undesirable content” could corrode conservative Asian values.

18 May
Investors took flight after Singapore Airline’s bumpy quarter. After the national carrier reported its first quarterly loss in seven years, its shares suffered their biggest one-day drop since the financial crisis (paywall). The airline blamed rising costs and a big fine for anticompetitive behavior in Europe—it was penalized for its part in a cargo price-fixing cartel that dates back to 1999.

2 March
Peugeot partnered with an autonomous-driving startup. The French carmaker will work with Boston-based nuTonomy on a project involving self-driving cars in Singapore. Last August the startup, spun out of MIT, helped Singapore become the first city in the world to offer self-driving taxis

1 March
Sponsored content, but still accurate.
(Quartz) Singapore is set to be the next global start-up capitol. Rated first in the world on the Network Readiness Index, Singapore’s large investment in digital connectivity and pro-business policies provide the perfect environment for budding entrepreneurs.
While some of Singapore’s appeal lies in its prime geographical position at the crossroads of vast Asian markets like China, Indonesia and India, it is the nation’s investment in digital connectivity that differentiates it as an ideal destination for start-ups.
The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Information Technology Report rated Singapore first in the world on its Network Readiness Index, noting that the city-state has one of the best pro-business environments in the world and a government that has established a clear digital strategy to spur innovation.
17 January
Singapore has the world’s second-most powerful passport
(Quartz) Singaporeans already have one of the best airports in the world. Now they have one of the best passports, too.
In a recent ranking of the world’s most powerful passports, Singapore placed behind only Germany, joining Sweden in a tie for second place. The city-state beat all other Asian nations, including South Korea, which it overtook this year. Last year Singapore was in fourth place, South Korea in second.
The company behind the annual rankings is Arton Capital, a financial firm that “empowers individuals and families to become global citizens,” at least in part by connecting clients to citizenship-purchasing programs. Its Passport Index factors in the number of countries passport holders can visit without a visa, and the number they can visit by attaining a visa upon arrival.
9 January
A delightful approach to diplomacy!
Give Me Back My Terrex Chia – ALVIN OON (video)
Song Diplomacy – Maybe a light-hearted song will lessen the tensions and see the return of Singapore’s 9 Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles.
Original song written, arranged and sung by Alvin Oon

2016

The real threat to S’pore – construction of Thai’s Kra Canal financed by China
China getting angry with Singapore
In the last couple of months, China is increasingly angered by PM Lee’s move to side with the US over the South China Seas issue, even though Singapore has no claims over any of the territories there.

The Kra Canal or the Thai Canal refers to a proposal for a canal to cut through the southern isthmus of Thailand, connecting the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea. It would provide an alternative to transit through the Strait of Malacca and shorten transit for shipments of oil to East Asian countries like Japan and China by 1,200 km, saving much time. China refers to it as part of its 21st century maritime Silk Road.
China is keen on the Kra Canal project partly for strategic reasons. Presently, 80% of China’s oil from the Middle East and Africa passes through the Straits of Malacca. China has long recognized that in a potential conflict with other rivals, particularly with the US, the Strait of Malacca could easily be blockaded, cutting-off its oil lifeline. Former Chinese President Hu Jintao even coined a term for this, calling it China’s “Malacca Dilemma”.
Last year, news emerged that China and Thailand have signed an MOU to advance the Kra Canal project. On 15 May 2015, the MOU was signed by the China-Thailand Kra Infrastructure Investment and Development company  and Asia Union Group in Guangzhou. According to the news reports, the Kra Canal project will take a decade to complete and incur a cost of US$28 billion.
But 4 days later on 19 May, it was reported that both Chinese and Thai governments denied there was any official agreement between the 2 governments to build the canal. …
If the Kra Canal truly becomes a reality, ships would certainly consider by-passing the Strait of Malacca and Singapore altogether, making the Singapore’s all-important geographical location redundant. We may truly become a third world country after all. (The Independent, 2 October 2016)


29 December
Lessons From Singapore On Trump’s Authoritarian America
By Kirsten Han
(The Establishment) As a journalist in Singapore, America’s skew toward authoritarianism, particularly Trump’s dismissal of and threat toward press freedom, is starting to hit close to home.
Singapore is often portrayed as a global success story. It’s known as an expat safe haven with a high GDP where the streets are safe, things are efficient, and it’s easy to do business. These outward signs of development and modernity often lead to the impression of a well-functioning, democratic state, but the reality is somewhat different: Under the impressive sheen of the city-state’s achievements, Singapore’s social and political sphere continues to be run with a patriarchal authoritarian streak under the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP)—a party that has held on to power for over five decades.
authoritarianism isn’t just about show trials or disappearing dissidents. It’s about the gradual consolidation of power through the erosion of democratic institutions and processes, the reduction of transparency, and the increase of conflicts of interest. In Singapore, a long list of offenses, including non-violent ones, are deemed “arrestable.” This means that the police can search your home and seize your property without a warrant. You are only required to have access to legal counsel within a “reasonable” time, which means that people, even 15-year-old teenagers, are questioned by the police without being able to have their lawyers with them. With a single party dominating Parliament, bills are passed at a stunning pace, leaving little opportunity and space for contestation.
As power gets more centralized and checks and balances recede, people start to feel like everything is out of their hands. …  Your country feels less and less like it belongs to you, and more like a place in which you are allowed to live only as long as you play nice and stay obedient. It’s disempowering, discouraging people from taking action and perpetuating the vicious cycle.
The loss of control creeps up on you on many fronts. One of the most profound and irreversible ways is through assaults, subtle or overt, on press freedom.
23 December
Three reasons why our 9 Terrex vehicles won’t be home for Christmas
It is almost a month since nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) were seized in Hong Kong on Nov.24, as the Singapore-bound cargo ship transited through the port.
The ICVs belong to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which contracted APL as the commercial shipping line to transport the ICVs and its associated equipment from Taiwan to Singapore. They do not contain any ammunition or sensitive equipment on board.
MINDEF has announced today that the Government has communicated its formal position to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) on the issue, adding that they “await a full resolution of this matter and return of our property by the Hong Kong SAR Government”.
Here are three reasons why the 9 Terrex vehicles won’t be home for Christmas.
1. Unlike the Chinese, the Hong Kongers are showing a lack of urgency in the issue. Or maybe it’s Christmas.
2. The drone return to US is not a like-for-like comparison with the Terrex vehicles.
3. A previous case in Hong Kong took nearly two months to be resolved

25 August
Singapore air quality worsens overnight as Indonesia fire arrests jump
(CNBC) Southeast Asia is bracing itself for its annual, uncomfortable tryst with haze as raging fires at Indonesian plantations worsen pollution in the region.On Friday, Singapore woke up to a deterioration in air quality overnight, as a thin cloak of haze hung over the city-state. The country’s environment agency said that its 3-hour Pollution Standards Index hit the unhealthy level at 10am SIN.
The latest bout of pollution comes even as Indonesia steps up efforts against the ‘slash-and-burn’ technique of cutting down vegetation on a patch of land, then burning off the undergrowth to make space for new plantations. The country has arrested 454 individuals in connection with forest fires so far this year, more than double the 196 arrests made in 2015, Reuters reported, citing police data released on Thursday.


Singapore’s obsession with control is why it’s now the first country with self-driving taxis
(Quartz) If you cherish the freedom of the open country road, Singapore is probably not for you. Apart from being tiny, the tightly controlled city-state has one of the most highly managed driving environments in the world. But if you’re in the business of self-driving taxis, it’s not a bad place to be.
On Aug. 25 nuTonomy, a startup spun out from MIT, became the first company in the world to offer rides in self-driving taxis on city streets. It even managed to beat Uber to the punch; the ride-hailing giant will offer something similar in Pittsburgh later this month.
Hail progress: Singapore launches world’s first ‘self-driving’ taxi service
(The Guardian) Trial allows selected passengers to hail a computer-controlled car on their smartphones, with a backup human driver and co-pilot riding shotgun
While multiple companies, including Google and Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, nuTonomy said it would be the first to offer rides to the public, beating Uber, which plans to offer rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, by a few weeks.
The cars – modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics – had a driver in the front prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in the back watching the car’s computers, the company said. Each was fitted with Lidar, a laser-based detection system like radar.

22 August
Singapore’s PM collapses during National Day Rally speech – video
Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong faints during televised speech
Cancer survivor fell ill two hours into the speech but returned to finish his address after medical treatment
He said he fainted during the speech, part of celebrations linked to Singapore’s 51st anniversary as a republic on August 9.

12 August
Large ivory seizures in Singapore make it a smuggling hub of ‘primary concern’
In the last three years, significant amounts of illegal ivory have been picked up in the Singapore – conservationists worry that new smuggling routes are opening up
Large-scale seizures of ivory in Singapore over the last three years make the south-east Asian city-state one of the world’s premier ivory smuggling hubs for organised crime, say conservation watchdogs.
Data from seizures, collected by the UN’s wildlife trade monitor Traffic and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and shared with the Guardian, reveals how the gangsters operate. Shipping containers carrying thousands of tusks are labelled as carrying anything from tea to waste paper or avocados. They leave Africa from a few ports well-known for high levels of corruption.
Customs officials in China and Hong Kong – where most ivory ends up – target containers which have come from those ports. In order to get around this, according to EIA director of campaigns Julian Newman and traffic wildlife trade expert Tom Milliken, ivory shipments are being dropped off in transit ports, such as Singapore or Port Klang in Malaysia, where they can sit for months before being loaded on to a new vessel with paperwork listing a new port of origin.
4 August
Michelin star for Singapore noodle stall where lunch is half the price of a Big Mac
Queues at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle are growing after award from prestigious food guide

11 April
Lee family feud: Singapore PM’s sister accuses him of ‘abusing his power’ to establish political dynasty
The rare and unexpected rift burst into the open over the anniversary of the death of their father
(South China Morning Post) Singapore on March 23 marked the first anniversary of the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s authoritarian first prime minister who ruled from 1959 to 1990.
His death at age 91 sparked a massive outpouring of grief among Singaporeans, many of whom credit the family patriarch with turning Singapore from a poor former British colony into one of the world’s wealthiest and most stable societies.
But the prime minister’s sister Lee Wei Ling, a physician who serves as senior adviser to the National Neuroscience Institute, went public on Facebook with her criticism of the commemorations – which she suggested may be part of dynasty-building – after a column she submitted to the country’s leading daily The Straits Times was rejected for publication.
5 April
The world’s first driverless taxis are launching this year in Singapore.They are based on an MIT project that built autonomous golf carts.
7 March
Tuition culture has to go, say MPs
‘Abundance mentality’ that recognises multiple pathways to success is needed,says Education Minister
In addition to removing high-stakes academic exams, Ms Phua also called for the pilot of 10-year integrated through-train schools, where students study in the same school from primary to secondary level.
Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) expressed concerns that students who are unable to cope with the stress may be exposed to problems of depression, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.
In his response to the MPs’ concerns, Mr Heng said Singapore needs to make the transformation from a “scarcity mentality” that focuses on a single pathway to success to an “abundance mentality” with multiple pathways.
“If we think there is one pathway to success, whether it’s school or at work … (we’ll) do everything we can to get on that pathway,” Mr Heng said. “For as long as there is only one path to success, the pressure will manifest itself as some point.”

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