Singapore 2016 -2020

Written by  //  May 28, 2020  //  Asia  //  No comments

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In otter-loving Singapore, growing calls for crackdown after animals raid spa during coronavirus circuit breaker
Calls to cull the animals have gained momentum after seven otters ate expensive fish from a private pond owned by a former actress
Otter watchers say the outrage was amplified by the desire to complain about anything other than the coronavirus
(SCMP) The fact the otters are even found here, in one of the densest cities in the world, provokes astonishment. Most species of the semi-aquatic animal live solitary lives.
But Singapore’s prevalent otter, the smooth-coated variety, is unusually social. They swim by row boats, roll in the grass next to tourists and take dips in reservoirs, whose banks double as jogging paths.

24 May
Peter G. de Krassel: Even with protests, recession and coronavirus, Hong Kong is a better bet than Singapore
The singular advantage Singapore has over Hong Kong is affordable public housing. On all other fronts, Singapore is no better than Hong Kong. Even in the fight against Covid-19, Singapore is far behind Hong Kong
(SCMP) Singapore was held up as the gold standard for virus containment, but that has proved to be hollow. The pandemic has exposed the cramped and dirty dormitories provided to migrant workers in Singapore, which enabled Covid-19 to breed and spread rapidly.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Singapore has more than 29,000 coronavirus cases, the greatest number in Southeast Asia. In comparison, Hong Kong has around 1,060 cases. As for deaths, Singapore has recorded 23 and Hong Kong, four.
Laying aside Covid-19, let’s take a closer look at the political and economic fronts. Of course, Singapore is an independent country, which Hong Kong is not. But Singapore, like China, is effectively a one-party state.In Singapore, an opaque political system allows the People’s Action Party (PAP), in power since independence in 1965, to call a snap election
at will sometime before April 2021, and probably at a time when the party is certain of overwhelming re-election.
On the economic front, Singapore and Hong Kong, both regional trade and finance hubs, have been hammered by the United States’ trade war with China – Singapore more so than Hong Kong, because of its over-reliance on global trade and its port facilities, which are a major bridge between Asia and the West.
Hongkongers fight to preserve their civic rights, something Singaporeans have never done. Hongkongers demand democratic accountability: a government elected by the people that is responsive and accountable.
Hong Kong’s youth are understandably less content than their peers in Singapore because they are unable to afford comfortable dwellings. Singapore, on the other hand, builds family-friendly flats that can be bought through a housing scheme.

13 May
While Singapore touts its COVID-19 success, migrant workers face the greatest risk
Terence McKenna
(CBC) Singapore has had an enviable record in handling the coronavirus outbreak. Based on the latest figures, the country has had only 21 deaths, or four per million of population, compared to 137 per million in Canada, 251 in the U.S., 482 in the U.K. and 511 in Italy.
But the COVID-19 wave has a way of exposing a society’s faults. In China, it’s an authoritarian government that covered up the severity of the outbreak. In Canada, it’s a long-neglected long-term care system.
In Singapore, the fault-line has been its guest-worker system.
Most work almost as indentured labourers to pay off the debt they incurred to come to Singapore, and are reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize their stay.
Singapore’s good record on COVID-19 became tarnished when the novel coronavirus entered the migrant-worker population and spread. In early April, the government forced all of the company dormitories to be locked down and the economy ground to a halt. … According to the ministry of health, on May 6, infections in dormitories made up 88 per cent of the cases nationwide.
Political scientist Ja Ian Chong at the National University of Singapore said racism has been a contributing factor.
“The infection in migrant worker dorms, I think, is uncovering a lot of the nastiness and, frankly … racism that have been latent in Singapore society for a long time,” Chong said.
“People [are] saying, ‘Well, these migrant workers, they’re dirty by culture … and, you know, they have it good here in Singapore, why are they demanding more? They deserve their lot.'”
20-22 April
How Singapore went from being applauded for its coronavirus response to facing an alarming second wave with thousands of new cases
(Business Insider) Singapore’s quick and efficient response was widely hailed as a success story in the early stages of the world’s coronavirus outbreak.
While other countries were imposing strict lockdowns, the city-state implemented a partial lockdown.
But in the last few weeks, it has witnessed the second wave in new coronavirus cases, reportedly coming from clusters found in cramped migrant dormitories.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers, who live in cramped dorm rooms, have been asked to quarantine in reportedly unhygienic conditions.
The rise in new infections has led the government to clamp down on people’s movement even further, announcing this week that stricter measures would be put in place until at least June 1
Singapore Seemed to Have Coronavirus Under Control, Until Cases Doubled
The spread suggests that it is unrealistic for the United States, Europe and the rest of the world to return to the way they were anytime soon, even if viral curves appear to flatten.
(NYT) After recording its first coronavirus case on Jan. 23, the prosperous city-state meticulously traced the close contacts of every infected patient, while keeping a sense of normalcy on its streets. Borders were shut to populations likely to carry the contagion, although businesses stayed open. Ample testing and treatment were free for residents.
But over the past few days, Singapore’s coronavirus caseload has more than doubled, with more than 8,000 cases confirmed as of Monday, the highest in Southeast Asia. Most of the new infections are within crowded dormitories where migrant laborers live, unnoticed by many of the country’s richer residents and, it turns out, the government itself.

17 April
What we can learn from the “second wave” of coronavirus cases in Asia
Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan show the challenges of fighting this pandemic.
(Vox) Singapore also dealt with a wave of imported cases. Now, though, the city-state’s latest rise is cases is being attributed to migrant workers, who are often crowded together in dormitories. Singapore has taken strict measures to sequester these workers, including by putting four facilities, containing some 50,000 people, under quarantine. The government is also housing healthy workers who work in essential services in separate facilities, so they can continue to work.
Singapore also instituted in early April what it called a “circuit breaker” — basically a partial lockdown by a much nicer name. Singapore hadn’t needed to do that before, but as it saw it cases surge past 1,000, it embraced more stringent measures. Now, people can only go outside for essential services or to visit the doctor or do solo exercise, though people are required to keep their distance. Restaurants are allowed to stay open for takeout or delivery only. Schools are closed. These measures will be in place until May 4.
Singapore has over 5,000 total confirmed cases as of April 17; infections jumped more than 1,000 in just three days this week, a sign that the country does not yet have infections under control again. As some critics have pointed out, Singapore’s treatment of migrants, and reluctance to let them put real roots down there, likely helped create this crisis that threatens the rest of the city-state, too.

11 April
Not even Singapore has been able to avoid a lockdown
The efficient city-state’s contact-tracing has not stopped the virus
(The Economist) For most Singaporeans, the new regime, instituted on April 7th, will not be quite as strict [as that applied to migrant workers, confined to barracks]. They will be allowed out of their homes to buy food and medicine and to exercise. This “circuit-breaker”, as the government calls it, will remain in place for at least a month. Previously, shops and restaurants had remained open, although patrons were supposed to remain a metre apart and no more than ten people were supposed to gather in one place. Even bars had been able to keep going, as long as they served food. Schools, too, had continued to operate. All will now be closed. Anyone meeting people with whom they do not live risks six months in prison, a fine of S$10,000 ($7,000) or both. Singapore, which had won praise from the World Health Organisation (WHO), among others, for its measured but effective approach to the coronavirus, is no longer able to preserve a semblance of normality.
… Singapore has a relatively vulnerable population by the standards of the region, since the virus poses a greater risk to elderly people and some 10% of residents are over 65. The migrant workers quarantined in crowded dormitories are another group to watch. And as the number of cases rises it becomes harder to trace the contacts of the sick, hampering one of the most effective elements of Singapore’s response.
Planning is under way for a long campaign against covid-19. Officials intend to turn parts of Singapore Expo, a convention centre with some 100,000 square metres of floor space, into a quarantine facility for recovering patients. One of Changi airport’s four terminals will suspend operations for 18 months to save running costs, suggesting that the government does not expect air travel to recover fully for a long time.

10 April
Singapore stops teacher Zoom use after ‘very serious incidents’
Singapore has suspended the use of video-conferencing tool Zoom by teachers after “very serious incidents” in the first week of a coronavirus lockdown that has seen schools move to home-based learning.
One incident involved obscene images appearing on screens and strange men making lewd comments during the streaming of a geography lesson with teenage girls, media said.

6 April
Covid forces Singapore to confront conditions for its migrant workers
Infections have seen several crowded dormitories locked down and put a spotlight on the treatment of city’s builders.
(The Interpreter) Long before the first coronavirus cluster emerged in a dormitory, migrant rights groups in Singapore like Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) were already highlighting issues with overcrowded, unsanitary, and otherwise substandard living conditions. As HOME’s operations manager Luke Tan told me: “In terms of social humanitarian reasons, we already mentioned something like this [a virus outbreak] is like a disaster waiting to happen.”
The disaster is now here. On 5 April, the Singapore government announced that it had that it had gazetted two dormitories as “isolation areas” after large clusters had been identified. A third dormitory nearby with 18 cases has since also been gazetted as an isolation area. What this means is that at least 20,000 or so men…are now confined to their rooms for 14 days. The figures appear staggering.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force dealing with the virus outbreak, has also said that all migrant workers will have to remain within their dormitories as Singapore begins its “circuit breaker” measures – a semi-lockdown period during which all schools and non-essential workplaces will be closed until early May. All in all, about 200,000 migrant men, spread across 43 dormitories, will be affected by these restrictions.
Singapore: Over 20,000 migrant workers in quarantine must be protected from mass infection
(Amnesty International) “The rapid spread of COVID-19 among migrant workers in Singapore was already alarming. The fact that thousands are now under quarantine in extremely close proximity could be a recipe for disaster, unless their basic rights are respected.

4 April
Singapore’s coronavirus response, marked by digital surveillance and quarantines in hospitals, has been a success. But it’s reaching a tipping point.
Singapore applied the lessons it learned from the 2003 SARS outbreak to its coronavirus response.
The country built isolation hospitals, developed a clear communication strategy, and used digital surveillance.
Singapore has seen just over 1,100 cases and five deaths, leading it to be hailed as a success story and a model for how to effectively confront the coronavirus.
But the country is facing a new wave of domestic transmission from presymptomatic carriers — showing how difficult it is to contain the coronavirus once the number of patients hits a critical mass.
Public life — schools, work, shopping — continued as usual while many other countries instituted lockdowns.
But Singapore’s domestic cases have doubled in the past week, showing how hard it is to contain the spread of the virus even with these measures in place. On Friday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the country will shutter non-essential businesses this Tuesday and schools on Wednesday.

1 April
Al Jazeera reports that Singapore reported 74 new coronavirus cases in its biggest intraday jump, bringing the total tally to 1,000. Twenty of the new cases were imported while 54 were locally transmitted, the health ministry said in a statement. Ten of the locally transmitted cases are linked to a previous case in an old people’s home.
Five more cases were discharged on Wednesday, bringing the total number of recoveries in the city-state to 245, the health ministry said.

29 March
What the U.S. can learn from Singapore on Covid
Fareed Zakaria, GPS
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tells Fareed how the city-state managed to flatten the curve amid the coronavirus pandemic.

20 March
Singapore shows how to limit coronavirus without resorting to draconian measures
(Daily Mail) We all would like to find a good way to get through this coronavirus crisis. We dearly want to squash the exponential rise in infections, but we don’t want to copy Wuhan in having a complete lockdown. We want to keep the economy going and not be confined to our homes. Is this possible?
The experience of Singapore and some other East Asia countries suggests that it could be. They were among the first to get infections from Wuhan because they have much more interaction with China than we do. Yet now, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong all have far fewer infections than the UK (see the world map below). What might we learn from their examples?
Most of the things they have done, we are doing, too. The main difference is that they have done them more actively and aggressively from the start (paywall)

19 March
Coronavirus: The detectives racing to contain the virus in Singapore
In Singapore, one of the first places hit by coronavirus, detectives are tracking down potential positive cases to try to stay one step ahead of the virus. How did they do this and is it too late for the rest of the world?
(BBC) …on 4 February, Singapore’s government reported that the virus had spread into the local community – and the Yong Thai Hang Chinese medicine shop was its first cluster, with a local tour guide and that enthusiastic saleswoman falling ill.
From that one shopping trip, nine people became infected, including the saleswoman’s husband, her six-month-old baby and their Indonesian domestic helper. Two other staff members also caught it.
They have now recovered, but it could have been much worse if Singapore didn’t have a sophisticated and extensive contact tracing programme, which follows the chain of the virus from one person to the next, identifying and isolating those people – and all their close contacts – before they can spread the virus further.
As of 16 March, Singapore had confirmed 243 cases and no deaths. For about 40% of those people, the first indication they had was the health ministry telling them they needed to be tested and isolated.
In total, 6,000 people have been contact traced to date, using a combination of CCTV footage, police investigation and old fashioned, labour-intensive detective work – which often starts with a simple telephone call.

12 March
Singapore Wins Praise For Its COVID-19 Strategy. The U.S. Does Not
(NPR) Both [Hong Kong and Singapore] quickly set up systems to try to identify and treat every case in their territory. Hong Kong developed diagnostic tests and rapidly deployed them to labs at every major hospital in the city. At one point in February, Hong Kong had 12,000 people in quarantine. Singapore’s prime minister called for calm and assured residents that all health care related to the disease would be free. Both … continue to find a few new cases each week, but they’ve avoided the explosive outbreaks that have occurred elsewhere.

20 February
Why Singapore’s admired virus playbook can’t be replicated
(Reuters) …the fastidious approach taken to combat the outbreak in the city-state – which has included using police investigators and security cameras to help track and quarantine more than 2,500 people, and won international praise.
“Singapore is leaving no stone unturned,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week.
But experts say Singapore’s virus-fighting playbook cannot be easily copied in other countries that lack its geographic attributes, financial clout and wide-ranging state controls.

8 February
Coronavirus: How contact tracers track down the people at risk of infection
(Straits Times) There are seven teams comprising 10 people here, working in two shifts from 8.30am till 10pm, seven days a week. Their job – calling people to check if they are “close contacts” of coronavirus patients.
Close contacts are people who have had prolonged physical contact with or stayed in the same place as the patient.
It could include, for instance, someone driving the patient from the airport to a hotel, at a time when the person does not yet seem sick.
Any close contact must be quarantined for 14 days from their last contact with the patient. …
Dr Olivia Oh, assistant director in the Communicable Diseases Division of the Ministry of Health (MOH), said the hospital where the patient is warded would do an activity map – this refers to everything the patient has done and the people he has been with over the previous two weeks.
Her colleague, Mr Pream Raj, also an assistant director in the division, added: “The mapping is detailed, 24 hours, minute by minute, with no gaps.”
If they had meals with people, and because of Chinese New Year many did, they need to remember who was there. If it was at a restaurant, they need to recall if any of the serving staff spent much time with them, or if the contact was casual.
MOH steps up coronavirus response to code orange after 3 new cases with no known source
Singapore moved its disease outbreak response up one level to “orange” yesterday as the coronavirus spread further in the country. …To date, four people here have been infected with the virus who have no known links to previous cases or any travel history to China.
Coronavirus: Gas analysis conference at Grand Hyatt Singapore linked to infections
The business event at the Grand Hyatt Singapore that has been linked to at least five coronavirus cases in three countries was hosted by a global gas analysis company with offices in Europe and Asia.The conference, held over three days from Jan 20, was organised by British firm Servomex, Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported.

Is Singapore’s ‘perfect’ economy coming apart?
(Nikkei cover story) “It’s like working in the Philippines and retiring in London.” – Once hailed as a model of progress, poverty and nativist resentment are on the rise.

31 January
Singapore closes borders to all foreign travellers from China to stem spread of coronavirus
The island nation is the first Southeast Asian country to bar entry to all new visitors arriving from mainland China, except Singaporeans and permanent residents
It has also reported three new cases of the virus, bringing its total to 16, including the first Singaporean to be infected

(SCMP) The visa suspension will come into effect immediately so travellers can be informed in advance, while the travel restriction will start at 11.59pm on Saturday. The government did not say when these restrictions would be lifted.
Residents and citizens of Singapore who have been to China will be able to come into the city state, but will be subject to a 14-day leave of absence during which they are encouraged to stay at home.
The move to close its borders to visitors from China comes on the back of local authorities’ assessment that more people in other parts of China are and will be affected by the virus.

2019>/h3>
24 September
Singapore’s home sales soar in one of the world’s hottest real estate markets, driven by demand by Hong Kong, China investors
(SCMP) Up to 140 super luxury homes, those priced at more than S$8 million were sold to foreigners in the second quarter
Foreigners are subject to a 20 per cent buyer’s stamp duty
Singapore sold more luxury homes to foreigners in three months ended June than any other quarter during the past 12 years, as Chinese and Hong Kong investors sought a safe haven to park their money amid the escalating US-China trade war and deteriorating public order in Hong Kong.

27 August
Hong Kong Investors Shun Singapore for Homes in Malaysia, Taiwan
By Yongchang Chin and Shawna Kwan
(Bloomberg) Singapore’s housing market isn’t turning out to be the beneficiary many may have thought from Hong Kong’s increasingly fraught protests. Instead, investors are looking to cheaper property markets like Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.
“People here tend to think there are only two cities in the world — Hong Kong and Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, a Singapore-based executive director of research and consultancy at Savills Plc. “They think if people flee Hong Kong, they’ll all automatically come to Singapore.”
Singapore is particularly expensive when extra costs, like additional buyer’s stamp duty, are factored in. Foreigners buying residential property in the city-state since July 2018 pay additional stamp duty of 20%, up from 15% before the government cooling measures were introduced.
Hong Kong citizens purchased just 12 apartments in Singapore in the first half of 2019, down from 32 in the first six months of 2018. From July through mid-August, when street protests turned violent, there were four sales, data from ERA Research & Consultancy show.

18 July
Trade war casualties
By Simon Baptist
Global Chief Economist and Managing Director, Asia
(The Economist Intelligence Unit) Singapore’s economy grew by just 0.1% in the second quarter of 2019, representing the slowest rate of growth since the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The preliminary estimates do not separate out the extent to which trade disruption affected this. However, with Singapore’s exports being worth over 170% of GDP, some disruption seems likely in the context of the US-China trade war. The cyclical downturn in the electronics sector is also at play. So, will Singapore end up in recession this year? It is possible, but in my view, it will probably avoid that.
Despite the reputation as a highly free-market economy, Singapore’s government has an outsized influence on the economy. While sectors such as banking and construction are not government-controlled and are run for profit, cross-shareholdings, investments from local sovereign wealth funds and the importance of good relations with the government mean that it is easier for the latter to influence private sector activity than in most similarly developed economies. Large reserves mean that there is ample fiscal space. Increasing migration is another policy option—albeit one with political sensitivities, particularly ahead of an election that we expect to be called later this year. Singapore is generally an easy place for international firms to do business. However, they do complain about the increasing difficulty of getting work permits and would undoubtedly bring in more workers if they were able. Monetary policy could also be relaxed, through allowing a depreciation of the currency—so far throughout 2019, the Singapore dollar has held its strength against the US dollar more so than regional peers, thereby giving room for movement.
In the longer term, Singapore is, sensibly, putting its bets on automation—and the subsequent reduction in importance of wage costs—to drive a manufacturing renaissance. There is also strong policy support for growth in the services sector, such as fintech, although international tech talent bristles against the city state’s approach to issues such as refugees, LGBT rights and freedom of expression. Uncertainty over the future business environment in Hong Kong will also enhance Singapore’s role as an Asia headquarters for multinationals, as will its position as the leading business hub in south-east Asia, which is now one of the world’s fastest-growing regions.

5 July
Singapore needs sand, but its neighbors refuse to sell
(Quartz) As a tiny island-nation acutely aware of its small size, it has long reclaimed land from the sea to expand its geographic area. Since it became an independent nation 54 years ago, its physical size has grown by almost a quarter, from 224 square miles (580 square kilometers) to just under 280 square miles last year, and it plans to grow further still to nearly 300 square miles by 2030.
All that land reclamation requires large amounts of sand, which Singapore has traditionally imported from her neighbors.
Around the world, sand extraction is outstripping the rates at which it can be replenished, according to a UN report published in May, damaging sensitive ecosystems, accelerating erosion, and exacerbating the frequency and severity of both floods and droughts.

4 July
Christine Lagarde’s IMF departure stirs speculation, Singapore’s Tharman among those talked about as successor
(Straits Times) With Ms Christine Lagarde, the current leader of the International Monetary Fund, poised to become the next president of the European Central Bank, the big questions are who would succeed her and whether the United States would break with tradition and try to install an American in the post.
The top job at the IMF has traditionally gone to a European but there have been some suggestions that the practice be changed to reflect Asia’s growing influence in the global economy. Among the names that have emerged on early shortlists are Singapore’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was the chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee; Mr Agustin Carstens, a former deputy managing director of the monetary fund; and Mr Mohamed El-Erian, the former chief executive of Pimco.

28 May
Singapore Dethrones U.S. as World’s Most Competitive Economy
(Bloomberg) The city state’s advanced technological infrastructure, availability of skilled workers, favorable immigration laws, and efficiency for starting businesses supported its rise to the No. 1 spot, the Switzerland-based IMD Business School said in its annual rankings.
The U.S. fell two spots as the confidence boost from tax cuts faded and high-technology exports weakened.

19 March
Hyflux rescue at risk as Singapore threatens to seize water plant
Indonesian savior hints it may cut $380m lifeline if city-state seizes facility
The Indonesian conglomerate set to bail out Singaporean water treatment company Hyflux has hinted it may withdraw its support after Singapore’s government threatened to take control of a key desalination facility.
At issue is Hyflux’s flagship desalination plant, called Tuaspring, from which the government of the resource-poor city-state purchases water. Earlier this month, the Public Utilities Board, or PUB, said it would exercise its right to terminate the purchases and take over the plant if the company could not meet contractual obligations.
The government sees the plant as vital for water security. But the bailout consortium, led by Indonesia’s Salim Group, views Tuaspring as a key asset.
On Monday, Hyflux said it had been put on notice by the consortium, which has offered a $380 million rescue package in exchange for a 60% stake in what was once a rising star on Singapore’s business scene.
The bailout deal gives the consortium the right to call off the plan in the event of a “prescribed occurrence,” allowing a two-week window of time to resolve the matter. Hyflux said that “on the basis that a prescribed occurrence has arisen, and is not remedied by the end of the two-week period (April 1), [the consortium] may assert a right to terminate the restructuring agreement.”

22 January
Singapore braces for tougher times as China slows down and the trade war heats up
Singapore’s export-driven economy would likely be hurt by the tariff fight between the U.S. and China, the city-state’s central bank warned in October.
Taimur Baig, chief economist of Singapore lender DBS, said that Singapore has some “shock absorbers” that help shield the country from global turbulence.
(CNBC) Singapore, a country with a population of just about 5.6 million, is one of Asia’ top financial centers and a global trading hub.
It has for decades been one of the world’s most impressive growth stories. The Southeast Asian nation is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest GDP per capita, according to World Bank statistics.
However, the country’s central bank warned late last year that its export-driven economy would likely be hurt in the coming months by the ongoing U.S.-China tariff fight.
Singapore is currently the biggest foreign investor in China. Asia’s largest economy, meanwhile, is also Singapore’s biggest export market. But, as Beijing braces for a continuation of its current slowdown, the Southeast Asian city-state may have to prepare for more challenges.
In January, Singapore reported that its economy grew 3.3 percent in 2018 — slower than the 3.6 percent recorded the year before. It also emerged last week that the country’s exports fell by 8.5 percent from last year, making it the worst decline in more than two years.

2018

12 December
Randy Boswell: Trudeau’s tale of his family link in Singapore shouldn’t have skirted the slavery bit
The past is often both poignant and painful. And that’s how such history is best conveyed. The prime minister missed a chance to tell this story properly.
(Ottawa Citizen) Last month, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took some time during an official visit to Asia to explore a surprising Singaporean link to his family’s history, there was no discussion of his distant ancestor’s role in permitting slave trading in the new British colony — and igniting the fury of his abolitionist boss.
Trudeau’s obviously not to blame for the actions of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, the early-19th-century colonial administrator Maj.-Gen. William Farquhar.
But as the prime minister’s genealogical sojourn edged from the purely personal into the realm of public history — with messaging about the merits of multiculturalism, and a selective presentation of facts about his forefather’s popularity and tolerance for local “cultures and traditions” — this story from the past needed more balance.
Farquhar, the first official “Commandant” of Singapore, shares credit for the 1819 founding of the colony with his immediate superior, Sir Stamford Raffles, lieutenant-governor of the region.
But in 1823, Farquhar was fired over a dispute with Raffles about certain activities — including the slave trade, gambling and the operation of opium dens — that Farquhar had allowed to flourish under permissive policies he believed necessary for the fledgling colony’s survival in the face of competition from the Dutch overseas empire.
In a Nov. 15 highlight of his trip to Asia, Trudeau visited Fort Canning Park in central Singapore. There he paid homage to Sarah Bernard — Farquhar and Clement’s eldest daughter, and Trudeau’s great-great-great-great grandmother — whose grave marker is preserved in a stone wall commemorating the park’s former burial ground.
Trudeau’s comments about his ancestral ties to Singapore were duly reported by Canadian news media. But the slavery issue didn’t surface in stories about what Trudeau somewhat jokingly referred to as his “Singaporean blood.”

Marc Nicholson reacts:
The general perception is that Singapore would never be Singapore had Raffles not returned and fired Farquhar. However, the counter view is Raffles was inept. Check this review out, with the forward by Tommy Koh, no less. William Farquhar, not Raffles, is true founder of S’pore: UK magazine book review In his foreword to Wright’s book, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh said that while he does not want to “criticise Raffles”, he noted that “it was Farquhar who did all the heavy lifting in Singapore”. He added that “if Raffles was the visionary, Farquhar was the pragmatist and man of action”.
Marc adds: My view is that Singapore owes its success to three people: Sir Stamford Raffles, Mad Ridley and Lee Kuan Yew, and adds a link to Gambling farms in the 19th century

31 August
(The Economist): “Crazy Rich Asians”, a film about Singaporeans who are indeed very wealthy, is being hailed as a breakthrough in America for its all-Asian cast and huge commercial success. Yet the film ignores all Asians other than the Chinese kind. One-quarter of Singapore’s population is not ethnic-Chinese. When they feature, it is as parking attendants, masseuses or guards. What passes as a victory in Hollywood can look like a glaring failure in Singapore

5 June
Trump-Kim summit to be held at Sentosa’s Capella Hotel: White House

4 June
With khukris and assault rifles, Singapore’s Gurkhas to guard Trump-Kim summit
(Reuters) – When U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet for their historic summit in Singapore later this month, they will be protected by men from one of the fiercest warrior tribes in the world – the Gurkhas of Nepal.

12 May
Donald Trump to meet Kim Jong Un in Singapore: What you need to know about the historic summit
(Straits Times) Experts said “neutrality” was the keyword behind the venue choice, as it could offer a comfortable environment for the summit without both leaders stepping on each other’s “home turf”.

2 April
How a House Provoked a Feud in Singapore’s Lee Family
(Bloomberg) Singapore’s reputation for order and control took a beating last year when its most famous family became embroiled in a very public feud — on Facebook. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong fell out with his two younger siblings over the fate of the house that belonged to their late father, the country’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew. The dispute marked a rare public display of acrimony from a family that’s been at the forefront of Singapore’s establishment since its independence in 1965 — and that largely kept private any discord before the elder Lee’s death in 2015. Nine months after the spat erupted, a ministerial committee has produced a report on options for the future of the house. However, it has left any decision to a later government, meaning the feud may have longer to run yet.

The house at 38 Oxley Road, the residence of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Photographer: Wallace Woon/EPA

18 January
Singapore’s government hired Instagram influencers to promote its budget
(Quartz) Some governments may be alarmed about the political influence of social media, but Singapore is embracing it to reach its younger constituents.
According to Singapore’s Straits Times, the country’s ministry of finance paid more than 50 social media influencers to promote an initiative that educates citizens about the country’s 2018 budget and asks them for feedback.
The result? Brightly lit photos of young, beautiful people with captions about “inflationary pressure.”

2017

26 December
Is Singapore’s healthcare system the right one for America? The free market system in the Asian city-state has been called the “marvel of the wealthy world.” As the US grapples with its care problem, it might benefit from looking to Singapore’s fusion of liberal and conservative ideas.

10 December
1880 (Singapore)
“It’s said you can’t choose your family. We say you can.”
(Questa mia Milano) 1880 is an all-in members club in Singapore conceived by Marc Nicholson, who grew up in a family where strong opinions were encouraged. 1880 goes against the grain of a traditional members club, encouraging diversity. The goal of 1880 is to stimulate new conversations that have a positive impact on the world. You can read more about Marc’s inspirations for building 1880 in this article he penned.
1880 features a co-working space, spa, yoga studio, cinema, restaurant and cocktail bar. It even features grooming facilities – perfect for the vagabond in me who often forgets to trim his hair and beard. The club is located within a 22,000 square foot space on the third floor of city’s latest development project, Quayside at Robertson Quay, next to the Singapore River.
On December 2, I flew in from Vancouver to attend the founding members’ gala at 1880. Despite the 40 hours back and forth trip across the Pacific, it was well worth my time to attend one of the best parties ever.

13 September

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

 

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.

Conversation with Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix.
(Wired) I wanted to visit the future, so I went to Singapore. That’s the third densest country on the planet. We’re already at the halfway point of more people living in cities than not living in them. Two billion more people will live in cities by 2030. And when you get to Singapore, it’s high rise upon high rise upon high rise. Yet, in the last 15 years, the green cover in Singapore has increased from 35 percent to 50 percent, despite two million more residents, because they have really prioritized integrating nature into the urban fabric. The buildings there—and this is where you really need good planners and good architects—incorporate vertical gardens into residential towers, offices. I think our institutions need to take this on, especially schools.
You Spend 5 Percent of Your Day Outside. Try Making It More (March 2017)

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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