Friday, 4 October 2013

Watz buzzing - 4 Oct 2013

A Contrasting Personality

The recent memorable visit of the Myanmar icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may still be fresh in the people's mind. Since she is a renowned Myanmar politician of international standing, it was not surprising that PM Lee Hsien Loong pulled out all the stops to make her visit a historic event. In view of the fact that Daw Suu Kyi has captured the attention and affection of the world with her uncompromising struggle for democracy against the powerful military junta which had ruled Myanmar with an iron hand for decades, PM Lee would not want to miss the golden opportunity of showing his exquisite hospitality to the Myanmar herione during her short stay in Singapore to enhance his so-called international reputation.

So among the programme which had been meticulously arranged for Daw Suu Kyi, there appeared to be one which had perhaps flummoxed many Singaporeans, unless it was meant as a stop-gap

There were many who wondered what significance was there in the meeting between Ms Grace Fu, Minister in PMO and the Myanmar icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw Suu Kyi is a political fighter of international stature who could easily dwarfed the mediocre credentials of Ms Grace Fu, notwithstanding that she is a PAP minister. In spite of being overawed by the formidable stature of her honoured guest Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Ms Grace Fu nevertheless managed to uttered a few words of friendship between Singapore and Myanmar while Daw Suu Kyi spoke with conviction about her hopes for her country and her people.

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SPH vs Yahoo! was about content vs tech, not old media vs new

The lawsuit that Singapore Press Holdings successfully filed against Yahoo! News has been routinely described as a battle between old media and new media. The subtext: that Yahoo! had been trying to champion the future, against a tired incumbent resistant to change.

That may not be a totally inaccurate way to frame the case, but it is quite misleading. The dispute – over the barely disguised lifting of scores of SPH stories by Yahoo! staff – was really about how commercial media enterprises (new or old) should value the labour of professional journalists.

Yahoo!'s initial defence amounted to a dismissive negating of journalistic effort, as if stories are just a bunch of facts that fall into place by themselves. If the internet giant had prevailed, the losers wouldn't just have been SPH, but also Yahoo!'s own journalists, whose work could then have been ripped off with impunity as well.

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Brompton bikes, before the real story gets erased


Today newspaper’s story about the prosecution of the officer behind NParks’ Brompton folding bikes purchase merely hinted at the origins to the case. It said that there had been “questions over whether the agency got value for its purchases.” By comparison, the news story carried more words about National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan ordering an audit last year, and how the ministry “said it had uncovered some discrepancies suggesting the possibility of bias in the procurement”.

The story (dated 28 September 2013) is screen-captured at right. Reading it, I became concerned that the real history of the case was being erased in preference to a new version that gave more credit to Khaw’s alertness and intervention and to the ministry’s internal rigour, than was deserved.  

Memories can be short. Just the other day, I overheard two university students chatting. One mentioned T T Durai. The other asked, “Who’s that?” The first then said something about him being the central figure in the National Kidney Foundation corruption case. The second was still none the wiser. “What case is that?” she asked.

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Tax concessions given to foreign nationals

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance (a) how many foreign nationals or entities have been exempted from paying the 10% additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) from 8 December 2011 to 11 January 2013, the 15% ABSD since 12 January 2013 or any other stamp duties when buying residential properties in Singapore because of free trade agreements (FTAs); (b) what is the total amount of stamp duties exempted for these individuals or entities; and (c) whether any FTAs currently under negotiation, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, have similar concessions for foreign nationals or entities.

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam : Under the “national treatment” obligation of the US-Singapore FTA (USSFTA) and the Singapore-European Free Trade Association FTA (ESFTA), Singapore is obliged to accord Nationals of the United States of America, and the Nationals and Permanent Residents of Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, similar tax treatment as Singaporeans in the purchase of residential properties in Singapore 5 .
These are the only two FTAs where “national treatment” has been accorded to foreign individuals in respect of taxes, which include stamp duties. Otherwise, foreign entities do not enjoy Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) remission.

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Stop this ‘local’ nonsense!

PRs are not locals but foreigners. Locals are the citizens. This deception of calling PRs locals to conceal the employment of citizens in the job market must cease. Let’s tell the truth. Let’s face the truth. Let’s be honest and transparent. Or else don’t talk about trust.

When statistics are used, when Singaporeans want to know how many citizens are employed versus foreigners, ie, PRs and non citizens, please tell us the truth. People who have been telling everyone to be honest and transparent must be honest and transparent to be believeable.

What is the percentage of citizens being employed in the banks, both local and foreign? The people want the truth. What is the percentage of citizens, PRs and foreigners in the various banks here?

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Musings Of A Singapore Administrator

With forty years in the civil service, and a ringside seat with the likes of Goh Keng Swee and Hon Sui Sen, Ngiam Tong Dow should have more war stories to tell about Singapore's history of governance, twists and turns, success and setbacks. Unfortunately the compilation of speeches, interviews and articles delivered and written between 2004 and 2010 quickly become repetitive, and the same anecdotes are sprinkled with each retelling. 

Some are rehashed in the recent interview with Dr Toh Han Chong, published in the September issue of the Singapore Medical Association’s newsletter. Included are his pet peeves about F1 as a “frivolous” use of taxpayers’ money, what today’s younger politicians lack, and the folly of millionaire ministers. 

In the light of Mah Bow Tan's revisionist recollection of the reason for his retirement (“There have been numerous rumours about why I resigned from the Cabinet, including bearing the responsibility for high HDB prices. I disagree."), some of Ngiam's quotes should be enumerated for posterity, lest our memories be challenged by unscrupulous politicians.

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Singapore Casinos State of Affair 2013


For the past three years, only 7.7% of locals visited the IR casinos more than once.
Majority of the local population never visited any of the IR casino.

Frequency of casino visits has been dropping too, by local patrons from the height of 20,000 daily to only 17,000 as at end of 2012.

Casino entrance levy collection by the govt has dropped from s$216m in 2010 to s$174m in 2012

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Population increases - Are there enough safeguards for Singaporean workers?

The population of Singapore increased from 5.18 million in the year 2011 to 5.4 million as of June 2013 reports the National Population &Talent Division. While the citizen population grew marginally from 3.26 million in in year 2011 to 3.31 million as at June 2013, the population of foreigners increased from 1.93 million in 2011 to 2.09 million as at June 2013.

Government data also shows that while Employment Pass (EP) holders have dropped about 2% since 2011, from 175,400 EP holders as at December 2011, to 172,100 EP holders as at June 2013 and work permit holders (excluding Foreign Domestic Workers and Construction Workers) have increased by less than 2%, from 409,800 such work permit holders in December 2011 to 416,800 such work permit holders in June 2013; the number of S-Pass holders have seen a very big increase of over 35 percent since December 2011, from 113,900 S-Pass holders in December 2011 to 154,100 in June 2013.

This data may suggest that some employers because of the higher qualifying monthly salary requirement for EP applicants set at $3000 currently (to increase to $3,300 in January 2014), are bringing in foreign workers under the other work pass schemes, and that the lax Dependency Ratio Ceiling set at 60% for some sectors, is little deterrent.

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OPINION: A more heinous offence to upset the police than injuring an elderly woman?
Singapore Note, 1 Oct 2013
It was the kind of action you would expect from a Fight Club scene. Two women, ages 65 and 41, were caught slugging it out at a HDB lift lobby. The older female had her faced rearranged, the gory images captured by a CCTV camera her family had installed for personal protection since cops are not always around when you need them most.

The response from the law enforcers was swift, but instead of deadly assault or disorderly behavior, one female combatant was charged with using abusive language and voluntarily causing hurt to two female police officers who responded to the punch up. Apparently it's a more heinous offence to upset the mata-mata, than to injure a very old woman. It gets to the point where one wonders what is more laughable, the plot lines in the tv serial of the same name, or the situation in real life.   Full story
  1. British magazine editor fined for spitting at Singapore policeman - Yahoo! News Singapore
  2. CEO of DH Capital Asia fined for disorderly behaviour, assaulting policemen - Sgclub Forum

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