Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Watz Online - 2 May 2012

Malaysia gets first minimum wage in Bersih wake

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the country's first minimum wage yesterday, moving to regain the political initiative after violence at weekend protests raised doubt about the timing of elections that had been expected by June.

Private sector workers in peninsula Malaysia will receive minimum monthly pay of RM900 (S$370) while those in the poorer east Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak will get RM800, Mr Najib said in a television address.

That compares with the RM760 per month that, according to a government survey, roughly represents the poverty income line in Malaysia and the gross pay that workers take home in the manufacturing sector.

The new wage policy, part of Malaysia's plan to achieve rich nation status by 2020, coincides with moves by China, the world's manufacturing hub, to raise minimum wages by at least 13 per cent in the five years to 2015.

The introduction of the minimum wage is a historic moment for Malaysia," Mr Najib said.

"The lowest-paid will now be guaranteed an income that lifts them out of poverty and helps ensure that they can meet the rising cost of living."

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Labour Day joy turns to anger

JAKARTA - Tens of thousands of workers across the globe turned May Day yesterday from a celebration of workers' rights into an international protest against low wages and the rising living costs.

In Asia, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and other nations with demands for wage hikes amid soaring oil prices a common theme.

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Wage shock therapy too risky, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE - The last time the Republic tried to raise wages sharply for workers, it backfired: Wages shot up, productivity did not improve and the country lost its competitiveness, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recalled yesterday.

"So in 1985, when the winds changed, when the conditions turned difficult, we plunged into a very deep recession," said Mr Lee.

Wages and CPF contributions had to be slashed in order for the economy to recover. "It was scary. The older unionists will remember - in fact we'll never forget," said Mr Lee, who was speaking at the May Day Rally.

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Singapore PM Lee warns fewer foreign workers will spark inflation, slow economic growth

SINGAPORE — Singapore faces a higher inflation rate and slower economic growth as the government allows in fewer foreign workers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned Monday.

A tight labor market has hindered the expansion plans for many companies and some businesses may leave Singapore, Lee said. Meanwhile, growing demand for workers should boost wages, which will increase business costs, undermine competitiveness and quicken inflation, Lee said.

“We are running up against land and manpower limits,” Lee said in his annual May Day message.

The government has struggled to stem the inflow of foreign workers in the last couple of years amid a voter backlash against stagnant wages, crowded transportation infrastructure and higher housing costs. After their numbers surged during the last decade, foreign workers now account for about a third of Singapore’s workforce.

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Raise wages through productivity: PM Lee

Amid calls for employers to raise wages to help lower-income workers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday warned of the potential consequences of doing this indefinitely through squeezing the supply of foreign workers.

Business costs will go up, affecting Singapore's competitiveness, and could also cause inflation, he said in his May Day Message.
It was 'dangerous', he said, to assume that tightening the supply of foreign workers alone can push wages up.

Instead, he urged workers and employers to work together to raise productivity, noting that this was a more sustainable way to raise wages as well as real living standards.

PM Lee May Day 2012 Message

'It is the only way to upgrade ourselves and our lives,' he said.

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Singapore warns higher wages will spark inflation

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned that the city-state's tight labor market will push wages higher and also spark inflation.

Lee said in his annual May Day message Monday that higher wages will boost business costs, undermine competitiveness and quicken inflation. Lee said Singaporean companies and workers must improve skills to increase productivity and help expand the economy.

Lee said recent government efforts to stem the inflow of foreign workers have hindered the expansion plans of many companies. Lee said some companies may choose to leave Singapore.

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Unemployment 'could rise with restructuring

There may be more jobs created, but at a slower pace, as Singapore presses on with its productivity drive, said Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday.

The slower growth is not necessarily bad as long as unemployment also stays low, he added, as he commented on the latest job figures out on Monday.

The Manpower Ministry's (MOM) preliminary estimates reported 27,400 new jobs created in the first quarter of this year. Of these, 19,800 jobs, or seven in 10 new positions, were from the services sector.

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New rule for Indonesian maids to curb high-rise falls

New Indonesian maids here will no longer be allowed to clean out-facing windows or hang laundry outside high-rise homes.

This rule, released by the Indonesian government on Monday to The Straits Times, is part of a contract new maids and their employers will now have to sign before the maids can work here.

It is effective from Tuesday, May 1.

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Singapore prelim Q1 jobless rate edges up to s/adj 2.1 pct

SINGAPORE, April 30 (Reuters) - Singapore's Ministry of
Manpower released preliminary unemployment data for the first
quarter of 2012 on Monday:

(percent, seasonally adjusted)
Q1/12 Q4/11 Q3/11 Q2/11 Q1/11 Q4/10 Q3/10
2.1 2.0 2.0 2.1 1.9 2.2 2.1

- The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Singapore
citizens was 3.2 percent in Q1, up from 3.0 percent in Q4.
Singaporeans and individuals with permanent residency status
make up about two-thirds of the total workforce, excluding

- Preliminary estimates showed total employment in Singapore
rose by 27,400 in January to March, below the increase of 37,600
in Q4. Employment in the manufacturing sector declined by 500 in
the first quarter.

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Letter to Singapore President Tan Keng Yam regarding Yong Vui Kong's Death Sentence

His Excellency Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam
Office of the President
of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road
Singapore 238823
Via facsimile: +65 67353135

Dear President Tan Keng Yam,

Human Rights Watch writes to urge you to use your powers as president to commute Yong Vui Kong’s death sentence. Yong, a Malaysian national, was convicted on November 14, 2008, for drug trafficking. We are concerned that if Yong’s request to you for clemency is denied, he may be executed in the near future.

While Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, Yong’s case raises additional human rights, humanitarian, and due process concerns. While not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Singapore should at the very least meet the requirements for the imposition of the death penalty set out in the ICCPR as interpreted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee

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Singapore Signals Policy Tightening Won’t Fully Offset Prices

The tightening of Singapore’s monetary policy earlier this month won’t completely counter price pressures, as efforts to reduce foreign workers in the economy push up business costs, the central bank signaled.

“While changes in the foreign worker policy are necessary to ensure a more efficient allocation of resources and a more productive workforce over the medium term, the latter will take time to come to fruition,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in its Macroeconomic Review today. The policy tightening is“intended to temper, but not fully offset, the pass-through of these supply-side cost increases,” it said.

The central bank, which uses the exchange rate to manageinflation, said April 13 it would allow faster currency appreciation as a report showed the island’s economy rebounded in the first quarter.

Price gains will probably remain elevated amid “modest” growth in the coming quarters as the tourism and financial industries counter “sluggish” trade-related businesses such as those in electronics, the MAS said in today’s report.

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DPM Tharman: Average S'porean won't feel the sharp effects of inflation

The average Singapore will not feel the effects of a sharp inflation, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said today in a speech at this year's May Day dinner.

He acknowledged that the 5.2 per cent increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for March 2012 compared to a year ago, was a "high figure".

But more than half of this inflation rate of 5.2 per cent comes from higher COE premiums on cars and the effect of higher market rents on homes, the Manpower Minister said.

So those who already own their homes and are not buying a new car will be unaffected.

In fact for most Singaporeans, inflation in actual household expenses is lower than 5 per cent.

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Economic restructuring 'may strain labour ties': DPM Tharman

As Singapore restructures its economy, businesses will fold and jobs will be lost.

This could put a strain on the special relationship between the Government, labour unions and employers, warned Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Sunday.

There is now greater expectation for the tripartite partners to speak out in public on employment matters and even be more adversarial.

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Commuters affected by yet another delay on East-West line

Rush-hour commuters again faced another of a string of disruptions and delays this morning because of a train fault on the East-West line.

The delay, of nearly half an hour, was made worse by wet weather conditions, which forced MRT trains to run at a lower speed because of slippery track conditions on elevated parts of the network.

There were no details yet on what caused the latest train fault, but the recent ones were traced to the malfunctioning pneumatic system. The system operates the train doors, brakes as well ensure the carriages are on the same level as the platform.

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Venice and Singapore: A Study in Parallels

George Yeo, until recently Singapore's foreign minister, is a man given to thinking in profound historic terms. In a recent conversation, we asked him about the relevance of Venice's maritime republic to today's Singapore. To our surprise, he pulled out a speech from 1998, when he was Director of Joint Planning and Operation for the Singapore Armed Forces, in which he addressed that very topic. What follows is a condensed version of that speech.

ingapore is geographically very small. The Swiss think they are small, but those who come to Singapore realize how big Switzerland really is by comparison. We have very little land, we don't have much air space, and even the seas are claimed by others. We are forced to plan and organize very

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