Saturday, 8 September 2012

Watz Online - 8 Sep 2012

ASEAN 'must not take sides in disputes'

Premier Wen Jiabao shares a toast with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should adopt a "neutral and forward-looking" position on South China Sea disputes and encourage parties involved to solve the issue through peaceful means, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday.

Lee made the remarks while addressing senior officials at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China during a six-day official visit.

Observers said the Singaporean leader's speech highlights the country balancing itself as a bridge between the East and the West.

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Singaporean Tells China U.S. Is Not in Decline

BEIJING — In an unusual public airing of strategic problems surrounding China’s rise, the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, warned China on Thursday that it should view the United States not as a declining power, but as a nation with the ability to innovate and bounce back.

Speaking at the Central Party School, the prestigious training ground for members of the Communist Party, Mr. Lee also suggested that China try to solve its maritime disputes in the South China Sea regionally, through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as Asean, rather than country by country.

Mr. Lee is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, the longtime leader of Singapore who forged strong relations with China and the United States and successfully balanced his small city-state between the two, and his views carry considerable weight among the Chinese elite. By choosing to make his pointed remarks in a prime setting like the Central Party School, the prime minister was ensuring that they carried extra heft. The president of the school is Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to be the next leader of China. 

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Singapore taxes 'need to rise'

Singapore’s allure as a low tax environment could be under pressure after its prime minister said taxes would need to rise.

Like many south-east Asian countries, Singapore is struggling with a rapidly ageing population. This is shrinking the workforce, creating a demand for expats to relocate to the city state.

But it is also creating a tax burden, with a growing need to provide health care and social housing for elderly citizens which will have to be met by the working population. 

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ingaporeans urged to be tolerant of expats

The prime minister of Singapore has urged citizens to be more tolerant of expats, voicing concern that hostility towards foreigners could damage the Asian city-state’s reputation abroad.

In an annual address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Song said that he was “worried” by the increasing anti-foreigner sentiment being expressed in Singapore.

"I think it's fair enough to express concern, or to disagree with our immigration trends, or to oppose our immigration policies," he said, reported The Wall Street Times. 

85% US Expats Keen to Extend Stay in Singapore

US expatriates in Singapore have expressed high satisfaction and optimism about life and business in the city-state, according to the recently-released ASEAN Business Outlook 2012/2013 survey.

The survey, which was conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Singapore and the US Chamber of Commerce, analyzed the responses of 356 top executives from US companies in seven ASEAN countries and found that many US expatriates have listed personal security, political stability and the Singapore tax structure as compelling reasons to continue staying in the republic. However, the rising costs of office leases, housing and workers are beginning to emerge as pain points.

In gist, 97% of respondents expressed overall employee satisfaction and 85% of senior executives articulated their wish to extend their tenure in Singapore. Echoing the 2012 “Wealth Report” published by CitiBank and Knight Frank, personal security as attested by 96% of respondents in AmCham-UCC's survey, is one of Singapore's strong suits. Singapore's infrastructure (94%), stable government and attractive tax framework (83%) also trail close behind. 

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Singapore: a supersized vision of the Asian dream 

In a shopping arcade in the Little India neighbourhood of Singapore I talked about shirts with a Tamil stallholder with hennaed hair. “This linen one I’m wearing,” I said, “I bought in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City.”

“I been there,” said the stallholder.

“You like it?”

“Not really. Too many motorbikes. People begging. Everybody want something from you. You don’t get any of that here.” 

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Hong Kong to Restrict Sales of Homes at Two Sites to Locals

Hong Kong will allow only local residents to buy apartments to be built on two sites it plans to sell, in the government’s toughest move to limit purchases by Chinese from other cities who have helped propel prices to the world’s most expensive.

Only permanent Hong Kong residents will be allowed to own the units for the first 30 years after the sites in eastern Kowloon are sold next year, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who came to power in July pledging to boost the supply of homes to keep housing affordable, said yesterday. Details of the measure come a week after it was flagged as part of a 10-point package Leung announced on Aug. 30 that also included the speeding up of the approval of permits for private project sales.

The policies are the toughest since the government in June last year increased down-payment requirements to quell concerns about a surge in non-local purchases, particularly by investors from mainland China who account for a third of new home buying in the city and helped drive prices up 85 percent since the beginning of 2009.

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Crowded Hong Kong frets over flood of Chinese visitors 

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has put off a scheme to allow millions more of its citizens to visit Hong Kong amid growing concern that the city's infrastructure is unable to cope with fresh waves of tourists, Hong Kong's leader said on Friday.

The southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen announced last week that it would allow an extra 4.1 million of its residents to obtain multiple-entry permits for Hong Kong, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. But just a day before the scheme was to take effect, Hong Kong's new leader, Leung Chun-ying, announced it would be put on hold for three weeks after concern was raised with Beijing that the influx could strain the city's clogged border checkpoints, tourism spots and teeming streets.

Last year, there were 28.1 million mainland Chinese tourists to Hong Kong, almost four times the city's population, up from 8.4 million in 2003. In the first half of this year, 15 million mainlanders arrived, a 23 percent jump over the previous year.

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Toy designer jailed 13 weeks in online vice case

Singapore toymaker Ban Yinh Jheow has been jailed 13 weeks for having paid sex with an underage girl in the online vice ring scandal.

He is the sixth man jailed in the online vice ring scandal involving 51 men.

Ban, 42, who is married, started toy brand Stikfas that has sold millions of award-winning plastic action figures, Channel NewsAsia reported. A Singapore Business Review report also mentioned that Stikfas has a licensing deal with global games company Hasbro.

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How to make more Singaporean babies

How to get Singaporeans to have more babies has become a major part of the debate about this country's future, and the government is encouraging people to speak out on the issue.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his national day speech on Aug. 26, assured this nation of four million people that the government would make "the most important long-term investments in our people" by increasing spending on pre-school and university education.

His pledge to boost public spending on education, especially at the pre-school level, is in response to concerns that Singapore's fertility rate has dropped alarmingly in the past two decades as the country has progressed economically. At 1.2 births per woman it is well below 2.1, the figure needed to keep Singapore's population from shrinking.

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S'pore to develop marine tourism in Riau Islands

The neighboring country of Singapore has expressed its interest in developing marine tourism in Natuna, Anambas and Lingga, three beautiful yet hidden regencies in Riau Islands province.

According to Riau Islands Deputy Governor Soeryo Respationo, the three areas have their own beauty but lack of adequate infrastructure to boost tourism. Singapore’s investment in the tourism sector would perfectly match with the islands’ needs, he said Thursday.

Soeryo said that Singapore Ambassador Anil Kumar Nayar visited the Riau Islands administration on Tuesday to show the country’s commitment in developing the marine tourism sector.

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Average Singaporean loses more money to cybercrime

The average citizen in the island-state is losing more money to cybercrime, compared to other countries, due to Singaporeans' affluence and higher incidents of credit card fraud and identity theft.

The two attributes led to direct monetary losses, according to Symantec's Norton Cybercrime Report 2012 released today.

The report, which studied 500 Singaporeans aged 18 to 64, found the direct cash cost--or money stolen--and cost of resolving cybercrimes increased from US$195.2 million in 2011 to whopping US$944 million this year. 

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Singapore's Drive For Water Independence

Currently there are roughly 100 water-related firms operating in Singapore that have secured over 100 international contracts worth more than $7.2 billion.They employ approximately 11,000 people. Due to scarcity of fresh water in the region, Singapore and Malaysia have had several conflicts over it in the past, but currently have a 100-year agreement between them, set to expire in 2061, to supply water to the island nation.

This contract places Singapore's basic infrastructure in the hands of Malaysia, a situation it is uncomfortable with. Singapore's target is to achieve self sufficiency in fresh water before the said date. The country's water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), believes that it is on track to accomplish this, possibly even by 2050.

Singapore and Malaysia are each other's biggest trading partners. But, while there is little danger of any form of disruption, the longer-term growth of southern mainland Malaysia will require Singapore to become more water independent, lest it become a political football in the future. Singapore's plan is good for all involved as it will need to maintain strong ties with the southern province of Johor, which has seen more than $30 billion in investment since 2006 and has increased its demand for fresh water. 

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