Thursday, 27 December 2012

Watz Online - 27 Dec 2012

Lee Hsien Loong: India could achieve by overcoming status quo interests

Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore.

As Asean faces territorial disputes, does India have a role? - The dispute is between claimant states - China and several Asean countries. Asean has an interest because it's at our doorstep. It has an impact on freedom of navigation and regional security. India has an interest in freedom of navigation. You're much more connected to the world now, your exports are growing. Apart from the South China Sea, India has a big account in south-east Asia, there are many Indian companies there. I think it makes sense for India to be taking an interest.

How do you view the new Chinese leadership? - They're capable, sober people, not firebrands. I think they'll want peace in the region. They need to act on difficult things - corruption, economic reforms, political evolution. Externally, i think they'll see interest in a stable relationship with their neighbours - and the US. I think both they and the US will not want to collide.

When it comes to territorial disputes, they will not find it easy to let go of what they consider theirs by right. We'll have to see how that plays out with Japan and in the South China Sea. We hope there'll be restraint on all sides and we can work towards a code of conduct. It's not just about some square miles in the sea and what lies underneath - it's about what kind of country they are, whether they will abide by international laws and mutual respect - or whether it's a system of the strong calling the shots and the weak conceding.

What is your view on increasing India-Asean connectivity? - We're working at it. We're talking of connectivity in a broad sense - roads, rail, air, telecom, internet, gas and electricity grids. We hope Indian companies will take an interest in these projects. One big potential is in air services. There's no reason why you cannot open up fully. Some airlines might say, you should go more slowly, i'm watching my business - but actually, what the airlines wins or loses is very small compared to what the country gains.

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Rohingya Refugees Rejected by Singapore

A Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh near the border of Myanmar Photo by auniket Copyright@Demotix (10/15/2012)

After being adrift at sea for more than 30 hours, 40 Rohingya refugees were rescued by a Vietnamese ship, MV Nosco Victory, on December 5, 2012. A few days after, the ship reached Singapore but the government refused entry to the Rohingya survivors. Singapore netizens and human rights groups reacted strongly to the decision of authorities to send away the refugees.

Rohingya is an ethnic group which is struggling for recognition in Myanmar. But the government of Myanmar continues to refuse to grant citizenship rights to Rohingya residents. Local conflicts erupted this year involving Rakhine and Rohingya villagers in Western Myanmar. The government has denied that the Rohingyas are victims of genocide and religious persecution.

Fortunately, Malaysia agreed to give shelter to the 40 Rohingya refugees.

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Capitalism 2.0 - Coming to a Country Near You!

Chee Siok Chin in Singapore

The more important lesson to learn relates to the world's single most pessimistic country: Singapore.

Using our usual conceptions of what makes you happy, Singaporeans should be near the top of the optimist list. For example, by any measure, they are very rich, have long life expectancies, and can drink Coke and watch re-runs of Baywatch all day long. 

I submit the reason they are so miserable is that they live in the heart of the new form of authoritarian capitalism, a version 2.0 of capitalism that is divorced from democracy and proving more powerful than our old-fashioned social democratic version.

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Singapore to get tourists to spend more

Singapore’s tourism authorities will try to get tourists spend more in the city state, a local television channel reported Tuesday, citing a senior official of the government.

S Iswaran, second trade and industry minister, said that the country’s tourism strategy will not only involve attracting a larger number of visitors, but also put more emphasis on deriving higher economic yield from tourists, Channel NewsAsia reported.

This means planning for events and activities to generate extra spending from visitors, it said.

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Singapore strikes shed light on workers' woes

The workers' dormitory in the Serangoon Gardens estate is closed off from public view [Heather Tan/Al Jazeera]

After 26 years without a strike, labour unrest over low wages and appalling living conditions has roiled Singapore - drawing attention to the country's often-exploited migrant worker community.

Over the past month, several groups of Chinese migrant workers staged labour strikesprotests and sit-ins. Similarly, in February, a group of 200 Bangladeshi construction workers launched a seven-hour sit-out to protest unpaid salaries and the dismal food served by their employers. 

In response to a strike of 171 Chinese bus drivers in November, the Singaporean government deported 29 people and imposed $2,000 fines and jail terms for several others for instigating "illegal" action.

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Singapore’s Inflation Rate Eased to Two-Year Low in November

Singapore’s inflation slowed to a two-year low in November as gains in housing and transportation costs eased

The consumer price index rose 3.6 percent from a year earlier, after climbing 4 percent in October, the Department of Statistics said in a statement today. The median estimate of 15 economists in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 3.8 percent increase. The November core inflation rate was 2 percent.

The Southeast Asian nation tightened monetary policy in 2012 while neighbors from Thailand to the Philippines cut interest rates, spurring gains in the currency even as the government predicts gross domestic product will rise at the slowest pace in three years. The Monetary Authority of Singapore forecasts inflation will average more than 4.5 percent this year and will be in a 3.5 percent-to-4.5 percent range in 2013.

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Pharmaceuticals Lift S'pore November Industrial Output 

Singapore’s industrial production rose for the first time in four months in November as manufacturers produced more pharmaceuticals, countering a slump in electronics.

Manufacturing gained 3.1 percent from a year earlier after a revised 5.1 percent drop in October, the Economic Development Board said in a report today. The median of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 4.8 percent increase.

Data from the U.S. and China have shown signs of recovery in the world’s largest economies, which may boost demand for Singapore’s goods. The Southeast Asian nation this month concluded negotiations on a free-trade agreement with the European Union, deepening access to overseas markets.

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How Infamous Short-Seller Carson Block Can Take On The Singaporean Government And Win

Carson Block's newest short, Singapore-based commodity firm Olam, is near and dear to the Singaporean government's heart.

Temasek, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, just upped its stake in the company to 18% this week.

It's an indication of what the government, controlled by the unyielding Lee family, is willing to do to ensure that Block's call does not sink the company. Since Block's report, Olam announced it would offer $750 million in bonds and $500 million in warrants. Temasek could end up owning as much as 29% of the company, Bloomberg reports, if it exercises all the warrants in 2016.

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IT consultant gives up $5k job to become toilet attendant

It is relatively common to see Singaporeans going from job to job for either better prospects or a more attractive salary but 51-year-old Zhong Jing Gui has bucked that trend -- by giving up his high-paying job to become a toilet attendant.

According to a report on Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily, Mr Zhong gave up a salary as an IT consultant that was four times higher than his current pay package, of about $1,600, as the toilet attendant with Chinese restaurant Hai Di Lao after coming across their hiring advertisements.

He said, "I know that this restaurant is very big in China, and was very interested and curious, so I decided to try out for the job and challenge myself".

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