Archive Page 2

Clean hands to eat poisonous vegetables

The toilet at this coffee shop is quite serviceable

I wonder how many people are as surprised as I was to read that a coffee shop had its licence suspended for a day over the absence of soap in its washroom. Gee, if that’s the case, I said to myself, hundreds of food establishements should be shut down. Dirty, broken and ill-provisioned toilets are everywhere in Singapore. Continue reading ‘Clean hands to eat poisonous vegetables’

Two chairs will solve the problem. Or will it?

In a commentary published in the Straits Times, 29 September 2017 (link), former Attorney-General (AG) Walter Woon argued for splitting the position of the AG into two. His reasoning was that as presently constituted, the position has two very distinct functions: that of being the government’s legal adviser and separately, the one who decides on  prosecutions. Continue reading ‘Two chairs will solve the problem. Or will it?’

Coming soon: 100,000 more people and transport madness in Jurong Lake District

“Any feedback, sir?” asked an eager young man as I was leaving the exhibition.

“Too many questions, too little time,” I said. I would be late if I didn’t hurry up the escalator to the platforms of Jurong East Station, where goodness knows what crush of humanity awaited me. It was too risky to dwell and engage with him.

The exhibition was titled “Jurong Lake District” or something like that. It had a scale carpentry model of the area, and a series of posters mounted on wallboards. Many of the posters (and glib captions) can be viewed at this website: www.jld.sg. Basically, it’s about a massive development of the area into a “second CBD” (central business district). The problem with the exhibition and website was that everything was made to look like a glossy sales brochure — you know, the kind you get when an eager young man tries to sell you a condo apartment — rather than anything detailed and informative enough for citizens to give feedback on. Continue reading ‘Coming soon: 100,000 more people and transport madness in Jurong Lake District’

From the wreckage of a presidential ‘election’, racism rises like a disturbed ghost

Now that the People’s Action Party government has installed Halimah Yacob as the so-called president of Singapore, racism has gained a legitimacy we once thought was forever barred. That said, this presidential charade was not the first time the PAP dispensed with its founding principles. Racism was introduced into our electoral system in 1988 through the ugly invention called “Group Representation Constituencies”. In 2017 as in 1988, the PAP demonstrated that principles can be disposed like tissue paper when they need to fend off limits to their power. Continue reading ‘From the wreckage of a presidential ‘election’, racism rises like a disturbed ghost’

Going cashless — what about legal tender?

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In flouncing around the latest fad-topic of “smart nation” and cashless payments, we’re losing sight of an important principle: legal tender.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “money that is legally valid for the payment of debts and that must be accepted for that purpose when offered”.

Traditionally, legal tender is seen in the form of cash. There has not been any formal redefinition of it to encompass digits stored on a bank’s computer.

As more and more sellers move to e-payments only, this needs to be addressed. Can sellers legally refuse cash?

It may seem like a small matter. The “problem” if defined in purely technical terms, can be solved with a tiny change in the law, but doing so – together with a rushed move to mandatory e-payments – actually has far wider implications. Continue reading ‘Going cashless — what about legal tender?’

Fake alarms from fake news

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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

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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”

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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

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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?

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“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?’