Fake alarms from fake news

pic_201701_15

As the contestation over the “alternate facts” so beloved by the Trump administration crescendoes — as it surely will over the coming months — the Singapore government will see more opportunities to import the same arguments into Singapore as a means of heightening censorship. The twist will be that our government will claim that their “facts” are facts, whilst their detractors’ views and statements are “fake news” or falsehoods, conveniently swapping the positions of government and opposition in the American debate. Continue reading ‘Fake alarms from fake news’

There was once a buffalo here

pic_201701_13

Making small provisions to enable people to upskill through bite-sized training courses will not be enough to cope with a world in which lifelong continuous learning and career switching has become necessary — I argued this in my previous post Spreading a bit of money to “position Singapore for the future”. But in the interest of length, I left untouched an even bigger question: What if, for all the retraining, adjustments and preparations we make, there simply isn’t enough work to be had? It’s a question that’s not only for Singapore.

Continue reading ‘There was once a buffalo here’

Spreading a bit of money to “position Singapore for the future”

pic_201701_11

Singapore was mentioned favourably in a recent Economist magazine leader.

But the biggest change is to make adult learning routinely accessible to all. One way is for citizens to receive vouchers that they can use to pay for training. Singapore has such “individual learning accounts”; it has given money to everyone over 25 to spend on courses from 500 approved providers. So far each citizen has only a few hundred dollars, but it is early days.

— The Economist, 14 Jan 2017, Learning and earning: Equipping people to stay ahead of technological change

We will probably hear more about this in the coming weeks. The Committee on the Future Economy is supposed to have completed its work by the end of 2016, and anytime now, its report should be released. This committee was tasked to “keep the Singapore economy competitive by helping to position Singapore for the future, as well as identify areas of growth with regard to regional and global developments.” Continue reading ‘Spreading a bit of money to “position Singapore for the future”’

Let’s see who’s T rex now

pic_201701_08

Are we supposed to feel all patriotic and outraged that China seized nine of our armoured troop carriers?

I don’t know anyone who feels that way. I think many in my circle are taking a ringside view with no particular investment in either side’s fight. They may not be typical, but then, the government’s Reach website, which invites comment and discussion on various topics, has only four comments on this matter after five days. None of the comments displayed strong feelings.

In most countries, the defence minister would have bowed his head in disgrace and resigned for losing military equipment through carelessness. But not here. Continue reading ‘Let’s see who’s T rex now’

Did we get more economic growth by giving up our freedoms?

pic_201701_05

“The Singapore economy outperformed expectations,” reported the Straits Times on 5 January 2017. The economy was said to have expanded by “1.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from a year earlier, putting growth for the whole of 2016 at 1.8 per cent, according to advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry…”

Without questioning how earlier forecasts were developed, the newspaper wrote, “Growth last year was well above MTI’s earlier announced forecast of 1.0 to 1.5 per cent.” I couldn’t but suspect that the ministry had long ago prepared for this day by massaging expectations downwards. I think they do that year after year; it’s getting old.  Continue reading ‘Did we get more economic growth by giving up our freedoms?’

The loneliness of loving Berg

pic_201701_01

A common experience among gay people is that of an adolescence feeling all alone. You know you have certain feelings and interests, but nobody around you displays the same. Nobody you know ever mentions these. Instead, you quite quickly realise that the gossip you overhear, the visual and cinematic representations you encounter every direction you turn, even the well-intentioned questions you get from uncles and aunts, refer to some other romantic interests that you’re supposed to have but do not.

Within a young person’s limited world of school, family and extra-curricular activities, a sense of being alone and of being marginal become central to his identity. Continue reading ‘The loneliness of loving Berg’

Auxiliary thoughts about auxiliary police

A Certis Cisco auxiliary policeman and two neighbourhood vigilantes shooing away foreign workers

A Certis Cisco auxiliary policeman and two neighbourhood vigilantes shooing away foreign workers

The news this week is that Certis Cisco — a fully-owned subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings — is hiring Taiwanese for its auxiliary police force. Here are four thoughts that I had, leading on from this key news point. They are: (1) What are the implications of hiring Taiwanese? (2) Why must they be graduates? (3) What are the powers of auxiliary police? (4) Another example of rentier economy?  Continue reading ‘Auxiliary thoughts about auxiliary police’

Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes

Pic from BoredPanda/EFE

Pic from BoredPanda/EFE

2016 will be remembered as one of those break-point years when an old order started falling apart. The worrying thing is that there is no sign that any better new order will be born.

Still, 2016 had its uses. The series of victories by what had been unlikely personalities and movements — Rodrigo Duterte winning the Filipino presidency, Brexit, and of course, the Donald Trump victory, have been cathartic. Some good commentary in various media have followed as a result, full of soul-searching and self-criticism. Continue reading ‘Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes’

Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been

pic_201608_10

‘Cover up!’ screamed the immediate reaction I noticed on social media. The Health ministry had just announced that they have found 41 cases of Zika infection, barely 24 hours after they said that there was one confirmed case (on Saturday 27 August 2016). How can the number jump so fast without them knowing about these other cases earlier — was the implication behind the shouting headlines. They must be hiding facts from the public! Continue reading ‘Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been’

The gay issue in Malaysia and Indonesia as a window into the civilisational crisis of the Islamic world

pic_201608_05

(Beware: approx 3,500 words)

LGBT Malaysians are unlikely to see a significantly better situation in their country for at least two decades, quite possibly not in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, LGBT Indonesians are facing unexpectedly chilly headwinds, and things will get worse before they get better. To understand why, it is important to see that the issue has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity. These individuals and their lives are collateral damage from a much bigger event that is going on: a long collapse in civilisational Islam. Continue reading ‘The gay issue in Malaysia and Indonesia as a window into the civilisational crisis of the Islamic world’