Saturday, April 30, 2005

Singapore's tourist arrivals up 17 percent in March

tourism revenue was up 19 percent for the month.

surge in arrivals from Hong Kong, India and Thailand.

top five countries were Indonesia, the UK, China, Japan and Malaysia, accounting for 49 percent
[Source: Loh Kim Chin, Channel NewsAsia, 29/04/2005]

Friday, April 29, 2005

My national pride (cup) runneth over

After years of being forced to read funny deviant crap like sexylosers [NSFW] I'm pleased to note that Singapore has it's own range of comic/strip/websites/titles.

Have a look at Squarebrain, and Daniel Seng's Comic One and Comic Two.

There was also some other comic I remember reading ages ago, written by some (at that time) girl in SCGS?/RJC which specifically had a character (presumably) modelled upon one of my real-life friends.

Oh, well. Later.

Singapore picks up several Cargonews Awards

I read about this in the Straits Times, which is basically unlinkable because I will never subscribe. (and even if I do, I doubt you, the gentle reader, will have a subscription. There has been some discussion as to the effect of this, look at collision detection and Berkman fellow Ethan Zuckerman. Of course, since "blogging is serious stuff" perhaps now the Straits Times should be scared out of their money-grubbing? wits.)

In any case, the pertinent information is that Singapore has (once again) won lots of awards, this time at the The Asian Freight & Supply Chain Awards 2005. Unfortunately, The Asian Freight & Supply Chain Awards web team is rather less efficient than the awardees presumably are, and hence as I write their "winners" page remains a blank.

Here it is anyhow: http://www.cargonewsasia.com/afsca/winners.html

Oh, the pride!

"The Singapore Story"

I'm not quite sure I agree with what Mohammed Galadari has written for the Khaleej Times:
Singaporeans have economic freedom, but no political freedom. It has its own style of democracy, with the opposition remaining as name-sake, and one party calling the shots all the time. There's a ban on assembly without permission; and curbs on political speech and action. But Singaporeans are not complaining. The social spirit there is such that the people have time only to work for the country (so much so, birthrates are falling); while the country does the thinking for them; how to make them live in plenty. So far, so good. And, creditably, this is one Asian country where politicians, or top executives, haven't failed the people.
Do you? Galadari seems rather
blasé about the entire issue, which is surprising, assuming he's not Singaporean. Indeed, this reminds me of singabloodypore. I wonder how Galadari did his background work. Write to the Khaleej Times! (and please, do post what you've written in the comments ;) )

I wonder if this is cause for a defamation suit. To help you, the reader, answer this very important question, I link you to the now defunct Singapore Legal Mumbo Jumbo Demystified.

[Source:
Mohammed Galadari, Khaleej Times, 29/04/2005]

Singapore Urged to Enhance Transparency of GIC

Singapore has not acceded to the request.
International Monetary Fund acknowledged Singapore's efforts to increase transparency, but urged it to do more in an annual review of the city-state issued Thursday.

"Following Temasek's example, the staff suggested that the government could also consider publishing, without disclosing sensitive details, the aggregate assets of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, the broad elements of its portfolio and its overall returns," the IMF said in the report.

The government says there's enough internal oversight to ensure proper functioning. Singapore has a reputation for clean government.
The Government also claimed that since the GIC was free from debt, there was no need to improve investor confidence in this fashion.

[Source: Associated Press, via Forbes, 28/04/2005]

Piracy Pact Signed

Singapore, Japan, Laos and Cambodia are the first among 16 countries to sign an agreement to combat piracy in the region.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) was signed on Thursday by Acting Foreign Minister Raymond Lim and dignitaries from the other three countries....

...
A key pillar of the agreement is the Information Sharing Centre (ISC), which will be an international organisation located in Singapore.

The ISC will facilitate communication and information exhanges between the member countries.
It will also improve the quality of statistics and reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region.

[Source: Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia, 28/04/2005]

M1 snags RIM contract

This is very surprising, because for the longest time Singtel Mobile has been a Vodafone partner. (in actions, words, and deeds, if not contractually) I wonder what this augers for the future? Note that both Starhub and Singtel already sell Blackberry phones, and Singtel in particular is carrying the 7290 model named in the press release. The 7100v is also very similar to the 7100g which both Singtel and Starhub are carrying. (I -think- it's merely a cosmetic difference)
M1 and Research In Motion have introduced the "BlackBerry from Vodafone" solution for both corporate and individual customers in Singapore.

As a Partner Network of Vodafone, M1 will have the exclusive rights to sell the "BlackBerry from Vodafone" solution to corporate, small business and individual customers in Singapore. M1's offering will include the BlackBerry 7100v and BlackBerry 7290.
[Source: TMCNet, 28/04/2005]

Singapore hopes Aust will join East Asia Summit

Singapore is optimistic that Australia will be part of the East Asia Summit (EAS) when it is launched, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum meeting in Singapore, Mr Lee said Australia and also New Zealand would be able to participate in the summit once they had signed a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN, the 10-member South East Asian grouping...

... "I am therefore optimistic that both countries will be part of EAS when it is launched, and we will create a forum which will accurately reflect the emerging community of nations in Asia," Mr Lee said...

... The inaugural summit is expected to convene in Malaysia in December.

[Source: Reuters, via ABC News Online, 28/04/2005]

BusinessWeek weighs in on the Casino Decision

The benefits could be substantial. The two casino resorts -- one on reclaimed land near downtown and the second on Sentosa Island -- are together expected to cost as much as $5 billion. The casinos would add 0.5% per year to Singapore's GDP during the three-year construction phase and at least 0.4% annually once they open, Merrill estimates. By some estimates, the casinos could boost government revenues by $1 billion annually within five years.

... Time will tell whether those fears are borne out. But perhaps the level of debate is the true sign that Singapore is letting its hair down.
Interestingly, the article states the opening year as 2008 instead of 2009. The faster the better, I say, since the decision has already been made, and there is a competitive advantage to opening early. Opening now would be best. Pity about the space-time continuum.

[Source: Assif Shameen, BusinessWeek, May 2 Edition]

MM Lee Kuan Yew speaks on Corruption

This was the main thrust of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's keynote address on fighting corruption at the think-tank Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) in KL on Thursday.
Corruption sets into every society, and it has to be purged continuously and at the highest levels to keep a society clean.

Singapore has been consistently ranked as the most transparent government in Asia. However, do not believe that there is no corruption in Singapore."

the anti-corruption drive had to come right from the very top and must not become systemic.

"When the core leadership is clean, corruption can be gradually diminished. Both must be prepared to take on the highest echelons of government."
[Source: Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia, 28/04/2005]

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Kaplan's opinion of Singapore [military and political stance]

I first saw this on tomorrow.sg.
[Singapore is a] mixture of democracy and authoritarianism has made it unpopular with idealists in Washington, but as far as PACOM (United States Pacific Command) is concerned, the country is, despite its small size, one of the most popular and helpful in the Pacific. Its ethnically blind military meritocracy, its nurturing concern for the welfare of officers and enlisted men alike, and its jungle-warfare school in Brunei are second to none. With the exception of Japan, far to the north, Singapore offers the only non-American base in the Pacific where our nuclear carriers can be serviced. Its help in hunting down Islamic terrorists in the Indonesian archipelago has been equal or superior to the help offered elsewhere by our most dependable Western allies. One Washington-based military futurist told me, “The Sings, well—they’re just awesome in every way.”
[Source: Atlantic Monthly, June 2005 via Curzon, Coming Anarchy (Blog), 27/04/2005]

For a little more background information, Kaplan is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly (paid subscription req'd), and the best-selling author of nine books on international affairs. Read by Clinton and George W Bush, he has advised the current president in the White House, and served as a consultant to the U. S. Army's Special Forces Regiment, the U. S. Air Force, and the U. S. Marines.

Why Singapore is the "most globalized""

The report stated several factors which contributed strongly to the win, but it is likely that a through analysis of the source data is probably necessary. Factors which were mentioned in the report include:
Increased contribution to UN peacekeeping missions by 41%

Singaporean general commanded the peacekeeping force in East Timor for much of 2003

Signed a bilateral trade agreement with the US in May 2003

Interestingly, the report also stated that generally there is a strong positive relationship between globalization and political freedom, but noted that Singapore was an exception to this, as a home to a modern, open economy that exists alongside tight government control over the media and limited individual liberties. Singapore, however, was the prime example for the adage that highly globalized countries are often less corrupt. The graph on page 59 of the report demonstrates this rather clearly.

A quick look at the source data shows that in the categories where Singapore had ranked first: Trade/FDI/Telephone (pdf warning) it had achieved quite remarkable gains from 2002 to 2003. This was most obvious for Foreign Direct Investment (inflows) - Singapore moved from $5, 729, 900,000 to $11, 408, 900,000; almost a 100% increase.

[Source: Fifth annual A.T. Kearney/FOREIGN POLICY Globalization Index (pdf warning), 26/04/2005]

Singapore - the most global of them all

The United States broke into the top five for the first time in the annual ranking of the world's most globalized nations, rising to fourth place from its previous seventh in the 2005 A.T. Kearney/FOREIGN POLICY Magazine Globalization Index(TM). Singapore took the top spot, edging out three-time winner Ireland on the strength of its increased political engagement and foreign trade ties.
The entire report is available for download here. Exceprts from the report coming soon.

[Source: PR Newswire, 26/04/2005]

A US MNC's opinion of Singapore - most productive

Sybase says it chose Singapore because of its IT-savvy population.

Sybase's chairman and CEO, John Chen, said: "The number of hotspots you have here, the attitude of the citizens regarding the use of technology, these were all major contributors to why we are here. This is not the cheapest place to be, but it's certainly in our opinion the most productive place."
Yay for us. I'm a little confused about the "number of hotspots" thing, though. Sure, we have lots, but they are all so terribly expensive for non-business use!

[Source: Loh Kim Chin, Channel NewsAsia, 27/04/2005]

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Lee Kuan Yew: "India will shake the world"

When it comes to crafting national economic policy, few political leaders in the world have had the perspicacity of Lee Kuan Yew.

Not only did he steer Singapore from the Third World to the First in three decades, he has written and commented on the economic problems of different nations with remarkable prescience.

... earlier this month on the occasion of the founding of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, he predicted that India would be propelled into the "front ranks".

In this amazing speech, crammed with information and analysis, he argued that, over the next decades, "China and India will shake the world... In some industries, [these countries] have already leapfrogged the rest of Asia."

The question I want to investigate here is whether this optimism, which seems to be widely shared - from Martin Wolf in the Financial Times to Roger Cohen in the International Herald Tribune - is founded in facts.
Read more here.

[Source: Kaushik Basu, BBC News, 26/04/2005]

Singapore's Net Migration Rates dropping?

This post from the SG_Review yahoo group was linked in a comment made in Singapore Serf's blog.
If there is any sure indication that all is not well within a country, then it must surely be that Net Migration rates are rising. Basic rational is that fast deteriorating living conditions will prompt a mass exodus of the local populace...

... Latest numbers from GeographyIQ.com, an online world atlas packed with geographic, economic, political, historical and cultural information basically confirm what the world already knows...

1. Singapore 26.45 migrant(s)/1,000 population
2. Qatar 20.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population
3. Anguilla 17.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population
Using the same data, Singapore's net migration rates appear to have dropped, drastically. Singapore is now 5th on the list, with 11.53 migrants per thousand.

At this point I have not formed an opinion on the post cited; this is simply an update as to fact.

UNIFEM Conference in Singapore draws to a close

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has today concluded a three day conference entitled "Tackling the Demand for Child Sex Tourism & Sex Trafficking in East and Southeast Asia" in Singapore.

The press has belatedly caught wind of it, and Reuters is reporting that "Human rights activists called on Southeast Asian governments on Tuesday to crack down on sex tourism and child trafficking, saying the problem was becoming more rampant." (via Singabloodypore)

It is hoped that the conference was successful in exploring the key strategies which address the demand-side of sex trafficking and child sex tourism and offered opportunities to form and strengthen effective national and international networks.

Ms Indranee Rajah, Singapore Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar, was the Guest-of-Honour at the conference.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Singapore Shares End Higher On Positive Economic Data

Singapore shares closed higher Tuesday after latest manufacturing data showed the electronics downturn may be shorter than expected...

... The Straits Times Index added 12.25 points, or 0.6%, to 2149.64....

...Singapore's March industrial output also provided more news for investors to cheer on. Manufacturing expanded by 8.3% year-on-year in March, thanks to a sharp rebound in electronics output....
[Source: Dow Jones, 26/04/2005]

Monday, April 25, 2005

Why Pranay Gupte admires Lee Kuan Yew

Below is an email Pranay Gupte wrote in response to a message he received after the post regarding his dismissal from the Straits Times. It is quoted in full with names present and email address absent.

From: Pranay Gupte
To: Gopalan Nair

Dear Gopalan:

Thanks for your note. Let me emphasize at the outset that, as a foreign journalist, it's not my place to interfere in the conduct of domestic policy in Singapore. I am a professional observer, not a player, and it's my job to listen to all points of view and report as truthfully as I can. Whatever my private views as an Indian-born US democrat, these do not affect my journalism.

That having been said let me address your question as to why I am an admirer of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.


I've long been an admirer of Mr. Lee because of the way he set about nation-building. As I see it, three things were emphasized right from the start: the rule of law; developing strong institutions of public governance; and a corruption free society. To this was added a vital element: secularism in what is a multi-racial society.

My admiration flows from how Mr. Lee stuck to this plan despite overwhelming odds. When Singapore began its nation-building experiment nearly 40 years ago, the fashion in the former colonial territories of the world was to pursue statist socialism. I have covered virtually all of the Third World's 135 countries during my four-decades-long journalistic career, and let me tell you that socialism did not work out. Hence, the sad, sad spectacle of dozens of failed states in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Eastern Europe, of course, was sui generis, and its countries are still paying an enormous economic and social price for pursuing communism.

As I see it, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's model of economic development and nation-building has worked out. Granted, Singapore's scale is small. But demography and geography have less to do with successful nation-building than skillful leadership in the public interest. Mr. Lee and his associates demonstrated such leadership; other developing countries did not have such visionary leaders.

I have learned during my lifetime in journalism that societies and nations take time to evolve. The sort of participatory democracy that many Singaporeans yearn for will undoubtedly come. It's bound to be a healthier system because of the foundations that were laid by Mr. Lee.

Thanks again for writing to me.

With best wishes,

Sincerely,
Pranay

[Source: www.pranaygupte.com]

The Singapore Police explains how to remain safe while driving

S65B of the Road Traffic Act (CAP 276) [available at statutes.agc.gov.sg] makes it an offense for a driver of a motor vehicle on a road or in a public place to use a mobile phone while the vehicle is in motion.

The police has made available a FAQ for drivers. Unfortunately, this is less than clear. It makes it seem that "using one hand to hold on to the mobile phone and the other hand holding the steering wheel" is an integral part of the offence, and in particular it does not clarify the position regarding use the mobile phone while the car is not in motion, but only because of traffic signals.

The steps taken by the Government of Singapore to ensure a good road experience for all users are necessary, in the light of evidence that reaction times are considerably slowed while using a phone. Singasingapore advises all drivers to switch off their phones while driving.

Companies in the second round of bidding for Integrated Resorts

Updated

This list is now fully confirmed, the Singapore Tourism Board has released information about the groups which are still in the running.

Tabcorp Holdings [Australia]
PBL/Melco [Australia]
Kerzner International [Bahamas]
Genting Berhad [Malaysia]
Guocoland [Singapore]
HPL Properties/Metro Holdings [Singapore]
Peermont Global [South Africa]
Sun International [South Africa]
Argosy [US]
Eigth Wonder [US]
Harrah's Entertainment [US]
MGM Mirage [US]
Las Vegas Sands [US]
Wynn Resorts Ltd. [US]

Hong Kong: New Century Group, and Macau: Greek Mythology, were unsuccessful.

The FTA'ed World

Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking in Bandung, Indonesia, has said that a Singapore/India Closer Economic Cooperation Agreement is due to be complete within a month. [Source: Reuters, 25/04/2005]

As is obvious from the website of the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry, this is merely one of the many free trade agreements in progress; and a number have already been signed, notably with the USA, Japan, and the European Free Trade Association.

This sort of bilateral agreements have gradually become more popular, in spite of claims that they have serious negative effects on any multilateral trade agreements. (e.g. under the WTO) The fact is that they provide some immediate benefit, and those multilateral trade agreements seem unlikely to be agreed upon in any foreseeable timeframe. Any prudent country would try to gain that benefit, and Singapore's speed is commendable.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Daring to Dream

Young Singaporeans will not only play a crucial role in shaping the future of Singapore with their endeavours and accomplishments, but they will also help it to move forward as a nation.



I am confident that as long as we dare to dream, have the passion to pursue our dreams, hold fast to our beliefs and harness the heart and mind of every Singaporean, this Party, this people, this nation of ours can continue to grow and survive for another 50 years - and beyond.
Read more of this in the Petir Jan/Feb 2005 Edition.

NUS to embrace podcasting; IVLE a success

It must be admitted that the technological prowess of the NUS is impressive. Before I went up to Oxford I had the opportunity to use their IVLE; and this capability was sorely missed afterward. While punting down the river Isis during a tutorial is a delightful luxury accorded to few (I recommend this boathouse for those who plan to go punting alone), I missed the ability to instantaneously access lecture slides and handouts online. The oxonian way is to distribute handouts before lectures, and while I had no problems, being horribly hardworking, some of my colleagues were often unable to receive these handouts; either because an insufficient number had been printed or because they had drank rather too much at Park End the night before. It was only in trinity 2004 that Oxford introduced a roughly equivalent system to the IVLE of yesteryear, called weblearn.

NUS has moved on and now apparently records lectures for transmission as webcasts. My friends would have been pleased. I thank Mc Dermott for highlighting this:
The threat of the evil-doers is now being used to invade schools and remove civil liberties from Singaporeans. Cameras in lecture halls, sounds like someone is frightened of what may be said in those rooms. The threat from 'terrorism' is the fear of an idea. When will the cameras be removed? Is there a timeline for installation and 'removal'?
Do forgive his blatant bias; while it is possible that the cameras are indeed being used for recording what is said, surely if the purpose was to weed out dissidents a hidden microphone would be more apropos. A camera may conceivably be used to deter upcoming dissident lecturers, but surely the application of occam's razor demands that their primary purpose must be to record lectures for the benefit of the students.

In any case, it has been brought to my attention that the NUS now has further plans to facilitate the distribution of knowledge, this time through the use of podcasting, a phenomenon which only started in October 2004. Taking steps towards implementing technology within a year is surely a record for what is usually an ossified institution.
CIT will provide students with an auditory avenue to access their lectures. Webcast lectures will be made available as audio clips for listening on their personal portable music players. Eventually, these audio files will be available via podcasts, as this push technology for audio content is popularly known.
I also note that NUS students seem to agree with me, in a 2004 survey 98% said IVLE was necessary. Of course, if my tax dollars go towards providing those in NUS with iPods as well as discounted laptops, I might have to stop being such a happy bunny.

National survey shows Singaporeans are healthier

It appears that at least two things have improved here in the last seven years. The Singapore economy, which has rebounded strongly from the Asian Crisis of 1997, and the health of the average Singaporean. Perhaps we should pop a cork, but, of course, make sure that the vintage is red, and have only a glass a night.

Singaporeans are healthier compared to seven years ago, according to a National Health Survey, which found that fewer Singaporeans have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

More are also exercising while fewer have taken up smoking, said the survey, held last year, which involved more than 4,000 people.
[Source: Hasnita A Majid, Channel NewsAsia, 24/04/2005]

CJ Yong: Subordinate Courts a global role model

... Chief Justice Yong said, "The careful selection and training of our judicial manpower over the years have paid great dividends. In 2004, out of a total case load of 340,000 only 0.07 percent of all these cases went on appeal to the High Court. In hearing myself the magistrates criminal appeals from the Subordinate Courts, I have seen the quality of your judgements improve over the years."

Chief Justice Yong also noted that the quality of justice meted out by the Subordinate Courts and its system of administration have been held up as role models by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations office on drugs and crime ...

[Source: S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 22/04/2005]

Newsweek reports on the Casino Decision, says that others will follow

This is yet another indication that the Singapore Government made the right decision, at the right time, for the right reasons, with their hearts in the right place.

... With personal incomes soaring and budget airlines crisscrossing Asian skies for the first time, sightseers are pouring out of China and India like never before. Singapore is geographically well positioned to draw visitors from both. "Much depends on the bundle [of new attractions] offered," says Rajeev Malik, Southeast Asia economist at JPMorgan in Singapore. "But you can trust the government that whatever they do here will be grand." ...

... Little wonder Hong Kong (along with Japan and Thailand) is mulling legalized casino gambling. "I'm actually disappointed that Singapore has moved much quicker than Hong Kong in approving casinos," said Liberal Party legislator Howard Young in a radio address last week. It's a safe bet that others could soon follow.

[Source: George Wehrfritz and Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, Newsweek International, May 2 Issue]

Sevens helps Singapore shed the strict, squeaky-clean image

Further indications that Singapore is prepared to change. I quote from a report by a Malaysian newspaper:

There are clear signals that the republic does not want to make the same mistake of the 60s and 70s when it paid attention only to high-culture such as arts and neglected the revenue-pulling pop culture. ...

... Singapore is willing to play host even if it has to bend some of its strict rules.

Singapore made some leeway on its rules that disallow smoking and boozing in public places, including stadiums. IRB's stand is that “smoking and boozing” is part of enjoyment and entertainment linked to the sport.

It was this package deal that saw Singapore play host to the IRB Sevens series since 2002, except in 2003 when it was not held because of SARS.

And there was beer. Lots of it.

There was plenty of free-flowing beer at the 55ft Concourse which housed many of the invited guests from the corporate world. Beer was also sold freely at other levels.

The crowd turnout was not as big as last year but the event was still a runaway success for the city in terms of the tourist dollar. ...

... Nothing could have been a better showcase of Singapore as a very friendly place on earth. Gone was the strict, squeaky-clean image.

[Source: Rizal Abdullah, The Star Online 24/04/2005]

S'pore exports moving up quailty ladder: IMF Study

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will publish an in-depth analysis on Singapore's export performance next week. It will examine the quality upgrading of Singapore's exports to the US, compared with nine other developed and developing economies, by tracking price differences of more than 10,000 exported products. Price differentials for the same product made in different countries will be used as a proxy measure for quality.

It has been reported that the IMF has found that Singapore has been nimble in climbing the quality ladder, and that the results are an "encouraging sign for Singapore's future growth prospects."

Isn't it wonderful that we are such an economic powerhouse? Go go Lee go go!

[Source: Anna Teo, Business Times weekend 24/04/2005, p2]
I'm pretty new to this blogging, i guess it will give me space to spread happiness and joy as much as possible. This is a good thing, in order to properly "turn the other cheek", and allow the steam to evaporate, even though nothing is actually achieved... NOT in the ethereal realm of the 'net. Here I shall practice the art of propaganda; the systematic propagation of information which reflect the views and interests of the independent political entity I am proud to belong to.