Sunday, December 30, 2012

The dirty truth about Singapore


She has to juggle this labour

From May you be the mother of a hundred sons: A journey among the women of India by Elizabeth Bumiller.

The "typical" Indian woman

From May you be the mother of a hundred sons: A journey among the women of India by Elizabeth Bumiller.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Wasted Life


IN life, perhaps, the Indian woman gang-raped so brutally in New Delhi, may have one day travelled to Singapore on the credentials she was gathering - a diploma in physiotherapy.

Women's tales from brutal Delhi


Another day, another rape, another round of outrage. Yet, more than 630 rapes later this year so far, nothing much will really change.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Future of learning in the new age

THE CJ Koh Professorial Lecture was recently delivered at the National Institute of Education by the University of Southern California's Dr John Seely Brown.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to cool the HDB resale market


Friday, November 16, 2012

US town duped by sad tale of cancer boy


GYPSUM (Colorado) - For a brief, poignant stretch of autumn, people in this mountain town found inspiration in a dying boy named Alex Jordan.

UN stung by failure to protect Sri Lanka war victims


UNITED NATIONS - A United Nations (UN) report just released said inadequate efforts by the world body to protect civilians during the bloody final months of Sri Lanka's civil war marked a "grave failure" that led to suffering for hundreds of thousands of people.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Japan's nationalist turn


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Avoid feast and famine in housing


The other Raffles

It is not uncommon to hear Indonesians say that their country would likely have been far better off today had it been colonised by the British rather than the Dutch, but few are aware that, for five years in the early 1800s, the British were in charge of Java and left a legacy that continues to rankle.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sunset in the land of the rising sun?


JESPER Koll, an economist who has lived in Japan for 26 years, says it is not easy for him to keep faith in a country that is shrinking, ageing, stuck in protracted economic gloom and losing fast ground to China as the region's dominant power.

It's nice, says George Yeo of his new job

HONG KONG - As Singapore's foreign minister, Mr George Yeo was a tireless advocate of engagement with a recalcitrant Myanmar junta within the Asean fold, chivvying it along the path of reform.

Monday, October 29, 2012

4.5% of population addicted to smoking

A NATIONWIDE $6.9 million study has, for the first time, pinned down the facts on Singapore's hardcore smokers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Isles dispute rooted in US policy


The rise of the small states?

On Oct 1, a loose grouping of smaller members of the United Nations (UN) called the Forum of Small States (FOSS) celebrated its 20th anniversary. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told the forum: "Being small does not mean an absence of big ideas." 

Monday, October 22, 2012

World's oldest survivor of Auschwitz dies at 108


WARSAW (AP) - The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp - a teacher who gave lessons in defiance of his native Poland's Nazi occupiers - has died at the age of 108, an official said on Monday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Genocide trial: Karadzic says he's a mild man


THE HAGUE - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic cast himself as a "mild man, a tolerant man" who tried to prevent war and then worked to reduce casualties on all sides in the bloody Bosnian conflict, as he opened his defence in his genocide trial.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

China's 'leftover' women

Monday, October 15, 2012

When medical evidence goes awry


The Cuban missile crisis, 50 years on


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Govt's tourist perks backfire


Monday, October 01, 2012

Please shed more light, MTI

I applaud the effort made by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in publishing the Occasional Paper on population and the economy. 

How seamless is IP learning?


SINGAPORE - Some students found that "many of the things" the six-year Integrated Programme (IP) strove for during their first four years of studies were eventually not assessed at the GCE A-level examinations. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Studying humanities will make the world a better place


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Graft+ gifts = Gridlock


S'pore GP: Full disclosure, please


I AM dismayed that Singapore has committed itself to a further five years of Formula One ("Five more years for S'pore race", Sunday; and "F1 'to bring bigger benefits' in next lap", Tuesday).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Every school's a good school? Show, don't tell


Saturday, August 18, 2012

How should the Government handle rumours?

In the lead-up to the country's birthday this month, the talk of the town - and even across the Causeway - was about the "news" that wasn't. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

S'pore richest in the world? Not quite


Monday, August 13, 2012

Memory project draws 300,000 submissions



Sunday, August 12, 2012

The lure of the audacious lie

Goodbye, Corina the great survivor



Corina suffered from Werdnig Hoffman, which made her limbs deformed and lifeless. Her mother, Madam She Hieng Kim, selflessly and lovingly tended to Corina's every need. -- ST FILE PHOTO
I had just reached Hong Kong after a 15-hour flight from New York when I received an SMS telling me Corina Zheng had died that Friday afternoon.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Address root cause to fix COE woes


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Debate rages over fate of Lenin's body


A catchphrase of the 20th century - Lenin lives forever - may not survive post-communist Russia's search for self-identity. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

No fair play in fair pay

Monday, July 16, 2012

The capital curse of Nanjing

FOR a city named 'southern capital', Nanjing has had wretched luck as the political seat of China.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

'Severe dent on ASEAN's credibility'

PHNOM PENH - The Association of South-east Asian Nations' (ASEAN) failure to reach consensus and issue a joint communique at the end of its meetings in Cambodia this week - a first in the bloc's 45-year history - has put "a severe dent" on its credibility, said Singapore's Foreign Minister K Shanmugam.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Where were the MPs at Monday's sitting?

From Chong Foo Sin
It was reported in "LTA's role under scrutiny" (July 10) that the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (Amendment) Bill was not passed when the debate ended, as fewer than a quarter of members were present in Parliament.

I understand that many of our Members of Parliament have full-time jobs or that our Ministers may need to attend to important commitments. However, something is wrong when fewer than a quarter were present at the end of the debate.

Are our MPs showing respect to Parliament, their fellow MPs and their supporters?

Myanmar losing colonial heritage

Yangon - From a teak clubhouse where British officers once sipped gin to an old English department store dubbed Harrods Of The East, the race is on to save Myanmar's colonial buildings from the wrecking ball.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

LTA's role under scrutiny

The Land Transport Authority of Singapore (Amendment) Bill was not passed yesterday as fewer than a quarter of members were present in the House at the end of the debate. Mr Lui is expected to address the LTA's role in last December's train disruptions in Parliament today.

Mladic trial: Witness recalls pre-war harmony

THE HAGUE - Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic's genocide and war crimes trial resumed yesterday with the first prosecution witness describing how Bosnia's ethnic groups lived in peace before its brutal war erupted.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Shake-up needed in top executive pay?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

'Rising rich' under-insured

They earn more than the average Singaporean and, in fact, have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest, yet most of them are under-insured.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Inequality: It's not just about money


LAST Saturday's articles ('The Nordic give & take' and 'When money gets in the way') explored the rich-poor divide in Singapore and the social model of the Scandinavian countries.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The rise of popularism

Placing false hope in economists

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Should the rich pay higher fines?

The Nordic give & take

MR HENRIK Ziegler left Denmark for Singapore with a dream. He wanted to build his own business.
He founded Dantech Food Systems, a maker of advanced freezers for the food industry, in 1997.
In 2005, the firm had expanded to become a market leader in the region, and it was bought by a larger Danish firm for a hefty sum.

When money gets in the way


IT IS perhaps a sign of the times that a government minister has to address the traffic offence of a single individual.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why parents chase gifted scheme

Why parents chase gifted scheme
THE editorial ('Giving children the best gift'; last Thursday) missed a few reasons parents want their children enrolled in the Gifted Education Programme.

Monday, June 18, 2012

'Vampires' add bite to Bulgarian lore

SOFIA - The ancient skeleton of a man, pinned down in his grave to stop him turning into a vampire, was put on show last week in Bulgaria, where vampire tales have kept their bite to this day.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Last Emperor's Last Palace

The leftist hole in history books

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Berlin ignoring history's lessons

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Raise social expenditures in a targeted way


Viewing social expenditures as an investment rather than only as a cost is critical if we are to break out of the trap of low productivity and rising inequality.

Nordic model holds lessons for S'pore

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has given us a timely reminder that Singapore should pursue a strategy of growth ('PM: Nordic model won't work for growth in S'pore'; last Saturday). We should learn from the Nordic countries, but selectively.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The perils of heavy multitasking

MANY young people have music playing in their earbuds even as they surf the Internet, update Facebook and Twitter, fire off an SMS, and keep an eye on the television - all the while doing some real work.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

4 myths about national health insurance

NATIONAL health insurance (NHI) has been in the media limelight, with no less than Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh calling for reform, saying health insurance was one area Singapore 'didn't get it right'.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Looming weight on young shoulders

Friday, May 25, 2012

Empty, not forgotten

FOR nearly 80 years, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station echoed with the piercing sounds of trains pulling into the station or leaving for Malaysia.

NZ cracks down on smoking with 40% tax increase

WELLINGTON - There are smoke-free bars, smoke-free parks, even smoke-free college campuses. But a smoke-free country?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Saving old Yangon

BANGKOK - Mr Thant Myint U's mother would take breakfast to his grandfather in the big red brick building where he used to work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tough 'social choices' ahead

Disclaimer: My posting this article does not mean I agree with its content
IF IT wants to solve problems such as a low fertility rate and low wages, Singapore will have to make some difficult 'social choices', said Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing.

What makes someone S'porean?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Singapore can learn from Europe

IT IS a sad reflection on human nature that when a region is faced with a crisis, it is often treated with disdain instead of sympathy. I recall that during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, some of our European and American friends were extremely unkind and predicted that Asia would suffer a lost decade.

iPad v a lump of clay

WASHINGTON - The sixth-graders are lighting up the room with their MacBook Airs, flipped open to Google, Wikipedia and YouTube, for a physics assignment. Their classroom is decked out with touch-screen whiteboards, tablets and powerful Wi-Fi connections able to handle a school full of children online at once.

The myth of Chinese meritocracy

POLITICAL scandals sometimes perform a valuable function in cleansing governments. They destroy the political careers of individuals of dubious character. More importantly, they can debunk political myths central to the legitimacy of some regimes.

Bhutan counting the cost of wealth

THIMPHU - They say you cannot buy happiness - and Bhutan is finding that out, the hard way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

COE system is broken, has no place in S'pore

After two decades, the Certificate of Entitlement system has proven to be a blunt tool that is nowhere near the ideal of economic distribution of limited resources. Neither has it discouraged vehicle population growth.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Genocide accused defiant as trial opens

THE HAGUE: Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic taunted Srebrenica survivors at the start of his trial for genocide yesterday, running his hand across his throat in a gesture of defiance to relatives of victims of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Remembering May 13


Remembering May 13: Breaking his silence on a day of tumult

Students marching in the streets in May 1955, with a banner reading 'Victory Parade' in Chinese. They had camped out for a week at Chung Cheng High School and The Chinese High School - both of which had been temporarily closed since May 13 that year - in defiance of the colonial government. -- PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIM CHIN JOO, SEAH KWANG PENG

Mr Lim Chin Joo (seated at table, third from left) as a student leader meeting then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock (with pipe in hand) over the students' camp-in in 1956. -- PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIM CHIN JOO, SEAH KWANG PENG


For years, retired lawyer Lim Chin Joo has been reluctant to go public on an important phase of his life - the time in the 1950s when he was involved in the Chinese middle school students' movement and was arrested for alleged pro-communist activities.

Some IP students taking O levels as private candidates

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Locations, not foreign policies, saved Venice and harmed Genoa

FORMER foreign minister George Yeo compared the histories of Venice and Genoa, and attributed the latter's earlier loss of independence to an unwise foreign policy of being involved in wars that were not motivated by economic advantage, unlike a cannier Venice ('Venice and Singapore: A study in parallels'; Wednesday).

Medicine is not an exact science

AS A doctor working in primary health care, I sympathise with employers who worry that allowing an honour system of sick leave would result in a runaway rate of absenteeism ('Honour system won't work, say bosses and HR experts'; May 1).

Baffled by award for teacher who went on trip while wife was dying

WEDNESDAY'S report ('Caring teachers win awards') about a teacher who received the Caring Teacher Award because he accompanied students to a competition abroad, even as his wife was dying of cancer, has left me baffled.

The heart of the immigration debate

THE population debate, like much public discussion on sensitive issues, risks being polarised into false dichotomies.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The heart of the immigration debate

THE population debate, like much public discussion on sensitive issues, risks being polarised into false dichotomies.

Crooked roads offer no clear endings

IN THE spring of 1997 in a small hotel in a small town in the middle of Sichuan province, I met Mr Zhao. He had a battered suitcase, tattered clothes and a desperate expression. Early on in our conversation, he asked me if I knew any officials who could help him land some road-building contracts.

No need for MC? No need to fear

ONE fear has dominated the ongoing debate on whether workers should be able to take sick leave without a medical certificate (MC): If taking sick leave becomes easier, more people will do it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Caring teachers win awards

WHEN Northland Secondary School teacher Allan Yeong was told that his cancer-stricken wife was dying, it was days before he was to accompany the school's Boys' Brigade pipe band to Jakarta for a regional competition.

Venice and Singapore: A study in parallels

SINGAPORE is geographically very small. The Swiss think they are small, but those who come to Singapore realise how big Switzerland really is by comparison. We have very little land, we do not have much air space, and even the seas are claimed by others. We are forced to plan and organise very carefully.

Bridge the foreign-local gap with NS

Monday, May 07, 2012

New artefacts for revamped Malay Heritage Centre

A traditional copper oven, a brass tray, and two medallions belonging to the late Yusof Ishak, the first president of Singapore, are among some of the new artefacts that will be on display, when the revamped Malay Heritage Centre (MHC) opens in September.

To leave China or not?

BEIJING: Most dissidents in China have to face a simple but potentially life-changing question at some point in their lives: Should I stay or should I go?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Replica rage in China

Monday, April 30, 2012

Time to rethink COE system?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Merdeka Square closed ahead of protest

The authorities are making clear their intention to keep all and sundry off the field where the Malaysian flag was first hoisted on Independence Day in August 1957.

Lessons on smoking from the nanny state

IT IS mandatory for all cigarettes sold here to have grisly warning images as well as textual health warnings on the box.
In place since July 2004, the current policy requires health warnings to cover 50 per cent of the front and 50 per cent of the back of all boxes.
As many points of sale display whole cartons as well, from next March these health warnings will have to appear on carton packaging as well.
Such a regulatory approach to correcting risky lifestyles may have been criticised by the liberal West as nannying. But it is now being adopted widely in many Western democracies, dressed up in new clothes called 'nudging' instead.
The term comes from the 2008 bestseller Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, a popular book by University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein.
The authors recount what cognitive neuroscience, social psychology and behavioural economics can teach regulators in trying to get people to behave better. The approach, typified by tobacco control policies, is 'permit but discourage'.
Though targeted at lay people, the book's agenda was huge - to move liberal democracies down the paternalistic path. The authors call theirs a 'libertarian paternalism' - libertarian in that people remain free to do what they like, but paternalistic in trying 'to influence people's behaviour... to make their lives longer, healthier and better'.
The idea is to structure the environment in such a way that people are subtly influenced or 'nudged' towards making certain decisions that policymakers have decided are 'better' for them and for society. This may be done by making the preferred choice cognitively easier to perceive. All this can be achieved without imposing a particular outcome on anyone, so nobody's individual liberty is infringed upon.
With the election of President Barack Obama, 'nudging' moved from book page to policy dossier. In January 2009, President Obama appointed Professor Sunstein as the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The Office of Management and Budget was then ordered to 'clarify the role of the behavioural sciences in formulating regulatory policy'.
The US will now adopt warning images on cigarette packaging from this September. These are much tamer than those seen here, but are in stark contrast to the current US practice of including only bland textual health warnings on the box.
In May 2010, when Britain's Conservative-led coalition government walked into 10 Downing Street, it consulted with Professor Thaler, after which a seven-person 'Behavioural Insight Team' was put together in the Prime Minister's Cabinet Office to look at behavioural research and help to craft policies that nudge individuals into making better lifestyle choices.
Britain has had text-only warnings on 30 per cent of the front and 40 per cent of the back of cigarette packs since 2002. Last week, it began consultation over plain unbranded packaging for cigarettes, with just a health warning on them.
Also last week, a global test case began in Australia's highest court, where the world's Big Four tobacco firms went to block a new law as unconstitutional.
From December, that law requires all cigarette packs to come in olive green only, with stark photos and text health warnings. No brand logos are allowed. Only company names in a small, standardised font will be permitted. A decision before December is likely.
Last week, New Zealand announced that it was also introducing similar unbranded cigarette packaging, modelled on the Australian statute.
In the old days, the discipline of regulation assumed that people were rational, so policies were designed around the idea that people would rationally avoid risky behaviour that came with punishment, such as more expensive smokes.
In this 'New Governance' - new for the West but really old hat in pragmatic Singapore - people are not assumed to behave rationally. Instead, they are thought to be conditioned by cues in their environment, especially when their self-autonomy is impaired by addictive substances.
Those addicted to tobacco or heroin, say, are neither fully lacking in autonomy nor completely unimpaired in their autonomy. Instead, their autonomy is impaired without being completely nullified.
By engaging their emotions, using gruesome cues to dramatise risk, for instance, such autonomy-impaired individuals can be nudged into seeing more clearly whether continuing to smoke is worthwhile.
The aim is not to make smokers weigh their options rationally. Thus, the idea is not to dissuade certain behaviours using media campaigns to disseminate information - 'Smoking Kills', for instance.
Instead, the context in which all smoking choices are made is altered with gory imagery of its harrowing consequences.
This paternalism clearly manipulates the emotions, even if it were deployed in the public's long-term interests. Yet, it seems increasingly accepted in Western democracies, at least for lifestyle risks, especially with an autonomy-impairing product like tobacco.
The nanny state might be tempted to say 'I told you so', but could more charitably just note that the Emperor has borrowed clothes, which do seem to fit.

Affiliations matter more than achievement

IF YOU asked me about my working life, I would tell you that I've worked at the Financial Times for a quarter of a century. If pressed further, I might reveal (depending on who was asking) that long ago I worked briefly for JPMorgan. I might also add that I went to Oxford university.

Do we need that plastic bag?

A FEW days ago, I found myself in the curious position of having no plastic bags left in the house, and needing to take out the trash.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bernanke and Krugman in war of words

WASHINGTON: Forget US monetary policy. For the blogosphere, the most entertaining part of the Federal Reserve's meeting this week was the clash between its chairman Ben Bernanke and Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

'Made in Singapore' inflation

THE inflation monster can be a tough one to slay. Fortunately for Singapore, government policies have worked to contain cost increases for much of the city state's history.

Hot debate over apps for toddlers

PARIS: Twenty-two-month-old George sits on a tiny blue chair, at a baby-sized desk, playing with an adult's iPad - and that's enough to set alarm bells ringing among child development experts.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nobody can tell you the fair value of Sky Habitat

THE strong buyer demand this month for Sky Habitat, Singapore's most expensive suburban condominium, has created a flutter in the blogosphere. A three-bedroom, 99-year leasehold condo in Bishan for $2 million? Isn't that over the top, even if it claims an 'iconic' design?

The moral case for health insurance for all

The Echo of Chernobyl

26 April is a very sad day in Belarusian history. On 26 April 1986 a disastrous accident took place at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, just across the border in Ukraine. It became one of the most horrible man-made disasters ever. Belarus suffered from the radioactive fallout more than any other country.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The secret of focus amid distractions

RECENTLY my research team observed nearly 300 middle school, high school and university students studying something important for a mere 15 minutes in their natural environments. We were interested in whether they could maintain focus and, if not, what might be distracting them. Every minute we noted exactly what they were doing, whether they were studying, if they were texting or listening to music or watching television in the background, and if they had a computer screen in front of them and what websites were being visited.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don't go chasing stock tips

One other important trait they possessed was the ability not to miss the wood for the trees. Good investors go about life with their eyes open.
While others were chasing the latest hot stock tip tossed out by their brokers and analysts, they would be observing consumer habits and making careful notes of any trend that might be evolving.
And rather than taking analyst reports at face value, they would test the assumptions made in the reports with their first-hand experience.
There is another thing that I have noticed about good investors: Most of them do not invest in stocks or financial instruments about which they do not possess a good understanding.

The Corner Store

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Buffett-linked fund presses Goldman to oust director

NEW YORK: In the latest rebuke of eye-popping pay packages on Wall Street, a major institutional investor is taking the rare step of opposing the re-election of a Goldman Sachs board member who approves compensation for many of the bank's top executives.

Many prefer brokers to online trading: Study

ONLINE share trading may be gaining in popularity here but many retail investors still prefer to trade via their brokers despite the higher commissions they have to pay.
That is a key finding from new research showing that about 310,000 investors here traded shares through a remisier last year - about 10 per cent more than the 280,000 who traded online.
The research was done by Australia- based research house Investment Trends.
'While some remisier clients are migrating towards trading online, the size of the remisier market is still larger than the online broking market in Singapore,' the firm said in a statement yesterday.
By Jonathan Kwok

Luxury cars nudging cheaper cars off road

'People should stop buying cars now, then COEs will start to fall,' said the boss of a continental dealership who did not want to be named. 'I sell cars for a living. I should not be saying this, but please, advise people to hold back.'

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not enough sleep?

IT'S after 10pm on a weekday, but the playgrounds can still be packed with young children at play.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

IMF: World sitting on ageing 'time bomb'

FIRST, the good news: We will live longer than we expect. The bad news: We won't be able to afford it.

Shareholders revolt over Citi CEO's pay

NEW YORK: In a stinging rebuke, Citigroup shareholders rebuffed the bank's US$15 million (S$19 million) pay package for its chief executive, Mr Vikram Pandit, marking the first time that big stock owners have united in opposition to outsized compensation on Wall Street.

Framework of research skewed to nurture untruths

Monday, April 16, 2012

COE prices up because economy is doing well, says Lui


COE prices are soaring because the economy is doing well and not because the Government is further slowing the growth in the vehicle population to 0.5 per cent, as that kicks in only in August, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said on Sunday.