Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Watz Buzzing - 5 Sep 2012

The road to citizenship: Singapore versus Switzerland

Singapore has for decades aspired to the Swiss standard of living but the road to citizenship could not be more different for these two countries.

The Singapore government will bend over backwards to grant citizenship to ‘foreign talent’ that will bring any sniff of material benefit, such as wealth (Indian telecom magnate, B K Modi, became a Singapore citizen this year with an estimated fortune of $755 million) and a chance at sporting glory e.g. Olympic medals.

Switzerland has the strictest immigration law of any European country. Swiss law is so strict that even the grandchildren of immigrants i.e. third-generation immigrants, are not entitled to citizenship. 

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Not reported: banking jobs being relocated out of S’pore systematically

Credit Suisse is relocating dozens of back-office jobs from Singapore to India and Poland as part of efforts to cut costs, the FT reported on Monday. It also reported that Morgan Stanley last month completed shifting about 80 back-office jobs to India and Hungary, from Singapore.

And that other banks were planning to move back office jobs to “cheaper” countries.

Our constructive, nation-building media were very quick to report a survey that UK investment bankers wanted to come here, but while Today and BT (online) reported bits of above, ST never did. And BT (the paper) does not seem to have reported it. 

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The Greatest Irony: Singapore and China in the same bed!

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, what do they have in common? On the face of it, PAP is a diehard ‘anti-communist’ party and Communist China is an avowed socialist country that used to call capitalists running dogs.

Now what do we make of the proud announcement by Prime Minister Lee that he will be speaking at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School to be followed by a Q&A session where many up and coming Chinese officials attending will be be expected to have a ‘lively exchange’ (in his own words) with him.

The Central Party School is a nest of hardcore party cadres still living in the past when they believed power comes out from the barrel of a gun as articulated by Chairman Mao, the number one killer in the world with at least 70 million deaths to his name. The number two killer is Stalin with 50 million deaths to his name. Third in line is Hitler with 30 million deaths. 

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Primary Colours – Dispelling Myths About Primary Education

While the system of pre-school education featured heavily at the National Day Rally, the message which resonated most was a simple one: PM's urging that pre-school should be more about developing social skills and that kids should be allowed to enjoy their childhood. Every parent I know wants that.

But the tail that wags the dog is primary school. We regard pre-school as a preparatory step to primary school. Mandating that pre-schools focus on soft skills may make more parents turn to private centres to coach their kids on the hard skills they think are necessary for primary school. That would make the problem worse.

I think there is a more fundamental question of what we want our primary school system to be, and whether we should allow more choices in the system. Minister Heng spoke of two different parents: one did not want to his child to have homework during the holidays, while the other questioned why his child was not given any. 

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SBS and SMRT still hiring bus drivers from overseas

SBS Transit and SMRT have launched a recruitment drive to hire more bus drivers in Singapore.

Thanks to the government generous $1.1 billion cash infusion into the 2 transport companies which will help open 14 new routes and add 800 new buses on the road, it has created demands for more bus drivers.

SBS Transit and SMRT have already recruited about 600 drivers since the beginning of this year. This is already up from 430 in the same period last year. Another 360 more would be recruited by the end of this year giving a total of close to 1000 new hires for 2012. 

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Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world: SMRT Driver

Driving four to five hours at a stretch puts the driver, passengers and other road users at risk. One SMRT bus driver speaks openly about their safety standards and how they are repeatedly compromised in the name of efficiency and timeliness of bus schedules.

Joe (not his real name) complains about the days he had to skip his meals and toilet breaks so that he can meet the tight bus schedules. The entire bus trip is timed to Swiss standard of accuracy. He needs to start on time, end on time and reach each bus stop on time. He gets rebuked if he does not meet any one of these targets. Driving a public bus these days is less about driving skills or public safety; it is all about getting the job done on time, on target.

His work schedule tells a different story, however. He is only allowed eight minutes break between each ride and a main break of twenty-eight minutes each shift. But sadly, road and weather conditions do not always work in his favour, forcing Joe to cut short his rest between rides to less than two minutes and on some occasions skipping it altogether. 

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OPINION: The new Singapore narrative — Leong Chan-Hoong

The Malaysian Insider, 4 Sep 2012
The foreign-local affective divide is not new and many policies have been recalibrated in recent years to bridge the schism.

The obvious strategy involves dishing out more subsides and benefits to Singaporeans relative to foreigners; it encourages foreigners to take up citizenship while at the same time reassures Singaporeans that the policy-makers have their interests at heart.

But the problem with this old paradigm is that the more you delve into the alleged injustice, the more obsessed you get with the imbalance and, hence, the more upset you get. It is rooted in the same psychological lens as the teaser in the opening paragraph. You look for the differences, the deficits. Full story 

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The difference between SDP and PAP on Malay issues

PAP wants to isolate the Malay-Muslim community from the rest of Singapore while the SDP wants to integrate our Malay sisters and brothers into mainstream Singaporean society.

The PAP's stance is clearly demonstrated in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's remarks that the Government does not want Malays "venturing into civil society issues which are not primarily to do with the Malay-Muslim community".

He was responding to the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) desire to re-position Malay-Muslim organisations into groups that "engage a national, inter-ethnic, issue-oriented agenda". 

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In Singapore: Are Filipinos Malay?

Race…Been wondering which one to put a tick mark?

Under the ‘RACE’ field, there are only 5 items to choose: Caucasian, Chinese, Indian, Malay and Others.

And for Filipinos (true-blooded, with no significant traces of Caucasian, Chinese or other Asian or Western or even African blood in them), most of the time we will choose  ‘Malay‘ as our race.  This is what we learned at school. This is what our teachers taught us.

Yes, every Filipino is right…Malay race is the brown race. And, Filipinos belong to the brown race.

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Singapore Mega-Church Faithful Invest in Malls

BusinessWeek, 3 Sep 2012
At “Miracle-Seed Sunday” in Singapore’s New Creation Church last month, the pastor’s sermon was preceded by PowerPoint and video presentations, and donations were overseen by Deloitte & Touche LLP auditors.

Centuries after Catholics established missions in Asia, Singaporeans are flocking to a new species of churches making appeals more in common with “Material Girl” pop-singer Madonna than the Jesuits. Wearing a white leather jacket and jeans,

Senior Pastor Joseph Prince asked God to reward a crowd of about 1,200 with houses, cars, jobs, pay raises and holidays if they contributed to New Creation’s multimillion-dollar funding drive. Full story 

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No more cheap shots, Hillary! 

In his article in mypaper today, titled No China ‘cheap shots’ please, Clinton, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat is perhaps the first Asian journalist reporting from The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network, to call a spade a spade. The hypocrisy of the Americans is so thick and slimy that their hosts from Mongolia down to Southeast Asia and to the Pacific Islands were too polite to wipe it off Hillary’s face.

This farcical face of the Americans were lifted again in the front page of the ST by Zakir Hussein, another Indonesian correspondent who quoted what this woman said, ‘The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims over land features but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively together to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force.’

Now, which country has been drumming up territorial claims overtly and supporting them covertly to raise tension in Southeast Asia? Which country has been applying coercion, sanctions, intimidations and threats of war or use of force against smaller and weaker nations across the globe? This woman thinks that the Southeast Asians and the rest of the world are daft. Her arrogance to preach peace while conducting wars openly and subversively trying to start wars must be the height of vanity and stupidity. 

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US Looks to Singapore, Indonesia to Help Calm Tensions in S. China Sea

Voice of America, 3 Sep 2012
JAKARTA, Indonesia — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Asia where she is discussing efforts by U.S. allies Indonesia and Singapore to help calm tensions over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Following talks with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Secretary of State Clinton said the United States, like all countries, has a national interest in maintaining peace and stability, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea. Full story

US Looks to Singapore, Indonesia to Help Calm Tensions in S. China Sea - Global Security

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Press controls and the myth of the online bypass

When I started writing about press freedom issues more than 25 years ago, most Singaporeans seemed to believe that independent media might actually cause more harm than good in a country that was already pretty well governed. It wasn’t that they believed that their press was free. They just didn’t care that it wasn’t.

Today, most Singaporeans seem equally unconvinced that press freedom is an important issue. However, the reasons have changed. Singaporeans no longer take good governance for granted and they are much more prepared to speak up on national issues. It’s just that they don’t feel they need the press to magnify their voices.

Today’s internet-enabled citizens feel empowered to say almost anything, whenever, however and to whomever they wish. Seized by this new sense of efficacy, many critical Singaporeans feel they have outgrown the national media. They opine that if the mainstream press is government-controlled, it can go to hell (netizens not being known for polite euphemisms). 

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Stop Reading This

The last revision for the learning of Mandarin was targeted at emphasis on conversational skill, not reading, which brought howls from those fearful of diluting the mastery of the language. It looks like the teaching of English in our schools is heading that way too.

The official spiel is that the focus will be on speaking the language more confidently, never mind if they end up not being able to read the road signs. Or the letter from LTA requesting particulars of the driver of the car caught speeding. The trick is the use of visuals.

Instead of the current written instruction on a test paper to, say, pen an essay on a fixed topic, the student will be presented with three pictures as guides to compose their masterpiece. Presumably, the drawings will be detailed enough to differentiate a HDB block from a Sentosa Cove condominium, an Ikea chair from a Herman Miller, a local born and bred from a foreigner. 

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