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  1. #3945
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Channel NewsAsia

    Budget 2011: Growth dividends for all adult S'poreans

    By Jo-ann Huang | Posted: 18 February 2011 1816 hrs
    * *
    SINGAPORE: One of the measures from this year's Budget includes payment of growth dividends.

    The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said they will give growth dividends to all adult Singaporeans.

    As in the past, the amount each Singaporean will receive will depend on his income and value of his home.

    Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said 80 per cent of Singaporeans will get S$600 to S$800 in Growth Dividends.

    "Those with low incomes and who live in a three-room or smaller HDB flat will get a growth dividend of S$800," said Mr Tharman in his Budget speech.

    Meanwhile, "those in the middle-income group and who live in HDB flats and low-value private homes will receive a growth dividend of S$600," he added.

    Mr Tharman said he will also give S$300 to those who live in expensive homes but do not have high incomes.

    National servicemen and full-time national servicemen, including those below 21 years of age, will receive an additional S$100 in growth dividends.

    MOF said the growth dividends will benefit about 2.5 million Singaporeans and will cost the government S$1.5 billion this year.

    Singaporeans will receive their growth dividends by May 1 this year.

    And to assist with rising utility costs, the government will provide an additional Utilities-Save (U-Save) and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates this year.

    This is a top up of the U-Save, S&CC and rental rebates as part of the GST Offset Package introduced in 2007.

    "One- and two-room households will get an additional S$170, giving them a total of S$360 in U-Save rebates this year," Mr Tharman said .

    "This is equivalent to about five months of their utility bills," he added.

    Those in three- and four-room flats will get S$320 and S$340, with five-room and executive flats receiving a little less.

    Singaporeans will also receive additional S&CC rebate from this year's Budget.

    One- to four-bedroom HDB households will get an extra month of rebate, said MOF.

    This translates to three months of S&CC rebates for one-to-two room households, two months for three-and-four room households, and at least one month for larger flats with five-rooms and above.

    MOF said the rebates will benefit 800,000 households and will cost the government S$200 million.

    -CNA/wk


    *
    *

  2. #3946
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default BUDGET 2011 - $10 billion to upgrade homes, rejuvenate estates

    The Straits Times

    Feb 19, 2011




    $10 BILLION will be spent by the government over 10 years to upgrade homes and rejuvenate estates, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in his Budget speech on Friday.

    Up to $55,000 per HDB flat will be invested under various programmes like lift upgrading.
    In 2011 alone, around 50,000 flats will benefit from these schemes.

    Another 300,000 flats will benefit from these upgrading programmes from 2012 to 2016.
    Up to 700,000 residents in Jurong Lake, East Coast and Hougang will also enjoy improvements under the 'Remaking our Hearland' initiative.
    Last edited by Loh; 02-19-2011 at 12:18 AM.

  3. #3947
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    Default Most Singaporeans happy with Budget 2011

    Channel NewsAsia

    By Evelyn Choo | Posted: 18 February 2011 2325 hrs



    SINGAPORE: Singaporeans have welcomed the benefits contained in this year's Budget.

    Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Friday unveiled a budget filled with handouts like Growth Dividends, income tax rebates, lower income taxes for middle-income wage earners, Special CPF Housing Grant for first-time purchase of a Build-to-Order flat as well as Medisave top-ups.

    Most Singaporeans MediaCorp spoke to responded positively to the Budget, saying they would benefit one way or another.

    But some expressed concerns over whether these goodies are enough for them to tackle the rising cost of living.

    "Things are getting more expensive. For old people like me, we don't get any increment in our salary. In fact, they (employers) are reducing our salary," said 69-year-old Mr Lim, a retiree who is working full-time on a contract basis in the commerce industry.

    Some Singaporeans said they had expected the Budget to contain goodies.

    "It doesn't really surprise me, because this year could be the election year. So it could be an election budget," said 32-year-old Crystal Chin, a member of the public.

    Another member of the public, Mr Kay P. Mock, said: "The government has a huge budget surplus, and I think it's about time that it shares some of the goodies with Singaporeans. Personally, personal income tax rebate is always good."

    Welcoming the Growth Dividends to be given out, NSman Peh Yong Sheng, 21, said: "Can spend more, contribute to the economy."

    Even the removal of the television and radio licence fees proved good news for some.

    50-year-old Ananth Sankaran said: "I think it's good for the entertainment industry. I think it's also good for (TV) viewers."

  4. #3948
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    Default Joo Chiat is Singapore's first 'Heritage Town'

    The Straits Times

    Feb 20, 2011

    .


    Joo Chiat Road. -- ST PHOTO : MARYANNE TAN


    THE National Heritage Board (NHB) has launched Singapore's first Heritage Town - Joo Chiat - as part of its 2011 outreach initiatives to spur Singaporeans to take up greater roles in heritage projects.

    The project supports constituencies in taking the lead to promote their heritage and seeks to increase heritage heartshare at the community level.

    The winning Heritage Town - Joo Chiat - distinguished itself with an outstanding submission: Its enriching programmes made it a unanimous choice by the judging panel during the selection process.

    It featured a remarkable variety of past heritage activities and proposed a range of vibrant activities for 2011, such as its thematic heritage months - which involve the participation of the community and grassroots organisations, as well as associations.

    Speaking at the Heritage Town award presentation ceremony, Guest of Honour and Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew, said: 'By engaging the population - via programming in the heartlands and partnerships to develop heritage content, among others - we strive to promote active participation and ownership of heritage.

    We hope the community can connect with one another, and be part of Singapore's heritage.'
    NHB will also work with the other towns that participated in the Heritage Town competition to co-develop heritage related projects throughout the year. See side report for NHB's Outreach Calendar of Events in 2011.

  5. #3949
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    Default Justice Training Centre set up to train lawyers in region

    Channel NewsAsia

    By Monica Kotwani | Posted: 19 February 2011 1921 hrs







    SINGAPORE: Singapore will serve as a base to train lawyers, officials and justice advocates in developing countries in the region, with the aim of equipping them with skills and the know-how to provide legal aid to their citizens.

    The Justice Training Centre in Singapore, which will conduct the training, was launched earlier this week with a 4-day training course by the International Bridges to Justice (IBJ). Over 20 participants from ASEAN countries took part.

    The non-government organisation provides training to those working in the legal and justice system where laws are not implemented due to administrative and infrastructural limitations.

    IBJ's founder, Karen Tse, said despite ASEAN countries having passed laws in the last decade, providing legal aid for its citizens remains a problem. And this is where IBJ comes in.

    "Although many people go to law school, they may not actually be in systems that have developed the active use of defence for the accused. Although the laws are actually on the books, they're only there in the principle, but not in the implementation. Many of our trainings actually are very very simple, nuts and bolts pieces," said Ms Tse.

    The Justice Training Centre at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is partly funded by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Economic Development Board.

    The Law Society also supports the programme by providing, on a pro-bono basis, practicing lawyers to train the participants.

    Wendell Wong, the Law Society's Chairman of the Criminal Practice Committee, said: "Ultimately some of the tools that we are going to share, some of our experiences have a common language. And if you're passionate about this area, and you are a keen advocate for change, regardless of the different systems that you will have in your host countries, the ability to share ideas and just to talk about what matters most, will be critical."

    Ms Tse explained why she chose to hold the course in Singapore.

    "We realised Singapore, not only because of its skills, but because of its technology, because of its advancement, but also because of the openness of the heart of the people in Singapore to support the region, was the right place for us."

    -CNA/ac

  6. #3950
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Battlefield archaeology project at Adam Park uncovers more artefacts

    Channel NewsAsia

    By Alvina Soh | Posted: 19 February 2011 2119 hrs

    Photos 1 of 1
    Some of the World War II artefacts found at Adam Park.




    SINGAPORE: Singapore's first battlefield archaeology project at Adam Park has uncovered more World War II artefacts.

    About S$128,000 has so far been pumped into the project, a collaboration between the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and the National Heritage Board (NHB).

    Bullets, buttons and belt buckles are just some of the 1,200 artefacts discovered since excavation works at Adam Park began in May last year.

    The area being excavated is the site of Singapore's last battle, and was also used as a Prisoner of War camp in 1942.

    Jonathan Cooper, a Battlefield Archaeologist with the University of Glasgow, said: "This iconic battlefield, but to also have this POW camp in the same location, in a perfectly preserved environment, no condos, no car parks, it's a fantastic area. It's just immaculately preserved, it's a treasure house, it's a time-machine."

    Through intensive methods such as metal detectors and aerial surveys, many items have been uncovered, including personal items like shaving kits and toothpaste.

    Kevin Tan, President of the Singapore Heritage Society, said: "Its little facets like these that tell you about the ordinary day of a soldier, putting a certain humanity back in these number of troops."

    The public can catch a piece of Singapore's past once these artefacts go on display around February 2012.

    Mr Tan said: "It will leave for Singaporeans the idea that, number one, history could be in their backyard, and that sometimes you just need to look beneath the surface, to find remnants of the stories of our past."

    The excavation should be completed by February 2012, in time to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.


  7. #3951
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default S'pore has made progress in promoting its heritage: Foreign Minister

    Channel NewsAsia By Alvina Soh | Posted: 19 February 2011 2002 hrs

    Photos 1 of 1
    George Yeo

    SINGAPORE: Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said Singapore has made much progress in promoting its heritage over the past 20 years.

    Mr Yeo said this at the launch of a Tang Dynasty archaeological exhibition at Marina Bay Sands.

    The exhibition is jointly organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Asian Civilisations Museum, National Heritage Board, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Smithsonian Institution.

    A gold cup, worth 10 years' pay of a low-ranking official during the Tang dynasty, was among about 60,000 artefacts on display at the exhibition - Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds.

    The exhibition is one of the most important marine archaeological finds of the late 20th century and is sitting at the premier modern-day ArtScience Museum.

    Its presence here is a testament to Singapore's appreciation of history.

    "Heritage activities in Singapore have grown a lot in the last twenty years. The intellectualism that accompanies it has also grown. There are so many experts around now in different subjects and our museums have become important museums in a global network of museums. And we are learning from one another," said Mr Yeo.

    The collection of trade goods also has special significance for Singaporeans.

    Aw Kah Peng, Chief Executive of the STB, said: "The public can expect to see an amazing show because in our view, it has never been shown before. It will help them to see a different perspective, to what trade was like at that time of the world. It is going to be a remarkable learning journey for many of us."

    The exhibition will run from February 19 to July 31.

    Singapore is the first stop of a world tour that is expected to conclude in 2015

  8. #3952
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default S'pore's elite athletes cash in

    TODAY



    Tao Li collects biggest reward for her 2010 Asian Games success




    by Low Lin Fhoong
    05:56 AM Feb 18, 2011

    SINGAPORE - She may have been somewhat unhappy (see box), but there is no doubt it has been a grand few days for swimming queen Tao Li.

    Last week, she was crowned the Today Athlete of the Year for 2010.

    And last night, the 21-year-old Auckland University of Technology pocketed the biggest amount of prize money at the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP) dinner at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, collecting a cool S$300,000 for her one gold and one silver medal won at last November's Asian Games in Guangzhou.

    Hot on her heels in the top earners' list was sharpshooter Gai Bin, who collected a total sum of S$270,000 for his three gold, two silver and two bronze-medal effort at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October. Team-mate Jasmine Ser, who clinched two gold and two silver medals in India, was in third spot with S$210,000.

    A total of S$4.22 million was handed out by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for medals won at both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

    In his speech, SNOC president Teo Chee Hean said: "As a team we could have done better, but this takes nothing away from the good performances of those who won medals, especially our gold medal winners against top class competition."

    Team Singapore returned from the Commonwealth Games with a record haul of 11 golds, 11 silvers and 9 bronzes, and S$1.88 million was disbursed for the medal winners.

    Singapore's athletes won four gold, seven silver and six bronze medals in Guangzhou, and the winners banked in a total of S$2.35 million for their efforts.

    While the New Delhi Games saw an unprecedented medal haul for Team Singapore, the Republic's 240-strong contingent at the Asian Games dropped from 12th position overall in 2006 to 16th last year.

    At the 2006 Doha Games, the medal tally was eight gold, seven silver and 12 bronze medals. The sailors could only manage two golds last year compared to five in 2006, but Singapore Sailing Federation deputy president, BG (Ret) Loh Kok Hua, said: "This time around, the opposition was strong, we had big waves, and the Thais and Chinese were also tough opponents. We are focusing now on the Olympic Games and building our pool of Olympians to campaign for 2016."

    Singapore's shooters also returned empty handed from Guangzhou after a star turn at the Commonwealth Games, and Gai Bin attributed the disappointing result to fatigue.

    Said the 42-year-old: "It was very tiring for me last year as there was very little time between the Commonwealth and Asian Games. I feel the team would have done better if both events were not so close."

    With the SEA Games in November, and the London Olympics scheduled from Jul 27 to Aug 12, 2012, Team Singapore are assured of a busy 16 months ahead. Preparations are already underway, with the men's and women's table tennis team currently competing at the UAE Open in Dubai to chalk up crucial ranking points ahead of London 2012.

    Deputy Prime Minister Teo rallied the nation to the cause last night, when he said: "Looking forward, I am certain that our athletes and every facet of support behind them - from their coaches, to their sparring partners, to their medical and support teams - are already putting together the final pieces as Singapore gears towards this year's SEA Games and London 2012. It will take a national effort - not just for the athletes, but also for every one of us, to rally together and back our athletes as they aim to do Singapore proud and put us on the podium again ... "


    Tao Li set to pocket another S$50,000

    by Low Lin Fhoong

    SINGAPORE - She may have pocketed $300,000 from the Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme last night for her exploits at the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year, but Tao Li is hoping to cash in another S$50,000 bonus.

    The 21-year-old had clocked 26.10sec in the women's 50m butterfly to win the gold ahead of China's Jiao Liuyang, breaking the Asian Games championship record at the same time.

    A cash reward of S$50,000 is given out by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Tote Board for athletes who break championship records.

    However, this was not reflected on the Asian Games official website or in the results at the time.

    Speaking to MediaCorp yesterday, SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan said: "I told Tao Li not to worry, if she has broken the record, we will get the money for her."

    According to the SNOC, the Guangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee (GAGOC) will be sending the official results in a CD or booklet, but this will likely be issued to the respective National Olympic Councils months after the event, as is common practice.

    Chan said the alternative would be for the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) to verify the record with the Asian Swimming Federation.

    Responding to MediaCorp's queries, SSA secretary-general Oon Jin Gee said: "Tao Li's performance, and whether she has broken the Games record, needs to be officially ratified by its owner, the Asian Swimming Federation. There is no evidence on GAGOC's website, so SSA is in contact with them to help expedite the process."




    Tao Li could have more reasons to smile, if her record is ratified. Photo by OOI BOON KEONG
    Last edited by Loh; 02-20-2011 at 08:04 PM.

  9. #3953
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    Default PM Lee: Not many can do Budget, S'pore style

    The Straits Times

    Feb 21, 2011

    IN THE ST NEWSPAPER TODAY
    Surpluses enable Govt to dish out goodies but economy must grow

    By Elgin Toh & Rachel Chang


    -- ST FILE PHOTO


    THE new Budget, with hongbao to help Singaporeans cope with the rising cost of living, took an approach that very few countries can, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.

    Calling it 'pro-growth' and 'prudent', he said it also reflected how the Government intended to make life better for Singaporeans.

    However, he cautioned:"We can't do this every year but we had a good year last year."

    With expected higher inflation, "it's right that we have aBudget a bit more generous than usual", he added.

    One big feature of the $6.6 billion bonanza of goodies is the cash gift for all Singaporeans but many of the other hongbao are titled more towards the elderly, the lover-income and middle-income families.

    In explaining the Budget approach, PM Lee underlined the importance of allocating "money in the right places so that we see results."

    "But the most important thing is that we work together to make the economy grow every year, so that ... as Singapore gets more prosperous, we can have better environments, better towns and, from time to time, we hope, better Budgets.

    As for the rising cost of living, he noted that it plagues many countries and cited how people in India worried about the shortage of onions - "no onions you cannot cook curry" - and the Chinese about the drought in northern China affecting wheat and food prices.

    But in Singapore, the Government is in a better position to help the people partly because of the Budget surpluses from past years, he noted. "Very few countries can do like Singapore and say, don't worry, we can help you."

    ...SM Goh, speaking at a dinner of Marine Parade merchants, said the projected 4 to 5 per cent inflation for the first six months is largely because of the rise in certificate of entitlement (COE for motor vehicles) prices and imputed rental of homes.

    But with most people owning their homes and not affected directly by COE prices unless buying a car, he said without these two, the core inflation would be lower, at 2 to 3 per cent.

    "But the more important part of this year's Budget are the measures to grow the economy, create jobs and wealth.

    "Unless the economy grows, we're not going to have surpluses to share. We have to 'grow' first, before we can 'share', not just for this Budget, but for the future," he said.
    Last edited by Loh; 02-20-2011 at 09:34 PM.

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    Default No more getting lost around school

    The Straits Times

    Feb 21, 2011

    By Leow Si Wan


    Twins Torin Nguyen (left) and Kent Nguyen with the touchscreen directory kiosk they developed for the NUS School of Computing. It provides users with a 3-D map and detailed instructions on how to get to a venue. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN


    STUDENTS of the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have little reason now to claim they are late for class because they cannot find the classroom.

    Help is now available from a touchscreen directory kiosk for the school, thanks to the work of fraternal twins Kent Nguyen and Torin Nguyen, both 25, as part of their final-year project last year.

  11. #3955
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Sold-out Hard Truths back on the shelves

    The Straits Times


    Feb 21, 2011

    By Elgin Toh


    Pleasant surprise
    'We knew it would do well - his books always do - but I think we were caught by surprise at the speed the books flew off the shelves and the level of interest among all readers, young and old.'

    MR HAN FOOK KWANG, The Straits Times editor, who led the team of seven journalists in writing the book


    Still going strong
    'From the looks of it, demand for the book will continue to remain strong.'

    MS CHUA SIHUI, manager of Page One bookstore at VivoCity. The store's first order of 'a few thousand copies' sold out within two weeks.




    More autographed copies available

    Overwhelming calls for more autographed copies of a new book on Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew have prompted its publishers to make available another batch.

    The limited hardcover edition of Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, to be signed by Mr Lee, is available for a minimum $10,000 donation to charity per copy.

    Interested donors should e-mail stfund@sph.com.sg with their names and contact numbers. They should indicate the number of copies they want to order and the amount they are pledging.

    Orders will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

    This time, 75 per cent of the proceeds will go to the Education Fund, administered by the Ministry of Education. The rest will go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund to help poor children.

    Incepted in 1970, the Education Fund receives donations from individuals and organisations for various education projects, including awards for outstanding students. Currently, donations are used to fund, among other awards, the Lee Kuan Yew Award For Outstanding Normal Course Students, the Lee Kuan Yew Award For All-Round Excellence and the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship To Encourage Upgrading.

    Said Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang: 'MM agreed readily to sign more copies. When I met him for the signing of the books last month and asked if he was willing to do another lot, he replied, 'Why not, it's for charity.''

    Last month, Mr Lee signed 60 copies of the book, raising $627,802 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. The books were snapped up within a day.

    The Straits Times said there were 60 orders on the wait list from that last round. These orders will be given priority in the upcoming release.

    At least one Singaporean who missed out on the previous batch of autographed copies was delighted by news of the second release. Said homemaker Jeog Lee, 47: 'I respect MM because he's done so much for the country. And, even now, he's still giving.'

    Elgin Toh







    PROSPECTIVE buyers of a new book on Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew have of late been confronted with 'Sold Out' signs at bookstores, as the pace of sales has exceeded all expectations.

    Not any more: 10,000 copies, hot off the press, have just been delivered to all major bookstores, in time to satisfy the weekend crowd, its publishers said.

    This is the first batch in a second print run of 40,000 copies. Another batch of 15,000 copies will be ready by the end of the month.

    After its launch on Jan 21, the book, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, topped The Sunday Times' non-fiction best-sellers list for three consecutive weeks. Its first print run of 45,000 copies sold out in less than a month.

    Said The Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang, who led the team of seven journalists in writing the book: 'We knew it would do well - his books always do - but I think we were caught by surprise at the speed the books flew off the shelves and the level of interest among all readers, young and old.'

    Bookstores like Page One at VivoCity described the interest in the book as overwhelming. Store manager Chua Sihui said her first order of 'a few thousand copies' was sold out within two weeks, and since then, she has had to take down the names of customers who wanted to make reservations.

    Her second order of 'a few hundred copies' - fewer than she asked for because the publisher wanted to spread out limited supplies - arrived this week. 'From the looks of it, demand for the book will continue to remain strong,' she added.

    Publisher Straits Times Press, a fully owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings, said it was committed to ensuring the market remained stocked.

    'We will continue to put up more copies. They will be arriving in batches,' said Ms Shirley Hew, executive director of Straits Times Press. She said she was encouraged by the positive response of Singaporeans from all backgrounds, including heartlanders and new immigrants.

    Written largely in a question-and-answer format, Hard Truths is based on 16 interviews Mr Lee gave to seven ST journalists: editor Mr Han, deputy editor Zuraidah Ibrahim, deputy review editor Chua Mui Hoong, deputy political editor Lydia Lim, news editor Ignatius Low, and reporters Rachel Lin and Robin Chan.

    In 458 pages and 11 chapters, it fleshes out Mr Lee's views on a range of subjects important to Singapore's survival.

    Mr Lee wrote in the foreword that he was concerned Singaporeans below 35 did not understand the economic and military threats - or hard truths - that Singapore faced.

    But in the 32 hours of interviews, he also touched on lighter topics, such as who his best friend was, or what he thought about young people getting tattoos.

    'Young people do silly things which they regret when they come to middle age and if my children were going to tattoo themselves, I'd say: 'Are you nuts?',' he said, laughing. ''People will mistake you for a secret society gangster.''

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    Default Wide-ranging aid for low wage earners

    The Straits Times





    Feb 21, 2011

    BUDGET 2011
    Assistance will help them now and when they retire: Swee Say

    By Jane Ng



    THE Government has taken a comprehensive approach to help low-income workers cope with the wage gap, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say.

    He added that the enhancement of the workfare income supplement (WIS) in the form of a cash payment would provide relief.

    'The cash component will take care of their needs today and they can at the same time build up their CPF (Central Provident Fund) which will help them when they retire,' he said at the sidelines of a community event at Senja-Cashew community club yesterday.

    The WIS scheme was announced in 2007 to boost the wages and CPF savings of older low-wage workers and encourage them to stay employed. The Government enhanced the workfare scheme last year and will review it again in two years.

    It is expected to cost the Government about $224 million in the 2011 financial year.

  13. #3957
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    Default Minister quizzed at residents' dialogue

    Channel NewsAsia

    By Satish Cheney | Posted: 20 February 2011 1706 hrs

    Photos 1 of 1
    Minister Lui Tuck Yew
    SINGAPORE: The issue of overcrowding and increase in new immigrants were the main issues raised at a dialogue on Sunday afternoon, attended by Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew at Tampines Primary School.

    Some residents raised issues concerning overcrowding and the rise in property prices which they said is due to new immigrants.

    The residents also asked if the government would be comfortable with new Singaporeans entering the political arena.

    In response, Mr Lui said although there should not be a difference between 'old' and 'new' Singaporeans, the government would look at how long new citizens have been in Singapore, when selecting candidates to become possible MPs.

    While there were a number of questions related to the presence of foreign workers during the one-and-a-half hour forum, another question that stood out was the rationale behind the gazetting of the website The Online Citizen.

    Mr Lui said he did not think there had been changes to the website despite the gazetting.

    He added what is more important is whether The Online Citizen is "receiving foreign funds because you don't want foreigners to be infusing their influence into local politics
    ".

    Among the various MPs and grassroots leaders at the activities on Sunday was 37-year-old Steve Tan, the executive secretary of Young NTUC.

    Mr Tan has been active in the grassroots activities in Tampines for the past one month.

    Mr Tan said he could not confirm if he is a potential candidate for the People's Action Party in the upcoming general election due by February 2012 but added it would be a privilege if he was asked to take part.

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    Default Battlestar Galactica reopens

    Channel NewsAsia
    By Imelda Saad | Posted: 21 February 2011 1516 hrs


    80kg dummies filled with water have been going on daily joy rides on the Battlestar Galactica to test out the roller coasters.


    SINGAPORE: The world's tallest duelling roller-coaster the Battlestar Galactica re-opened on Monday after eleven months of being grounded.

    The ride, which is the star attraction of Universal Studios Singapore, was forced to shut down just a week into the opening of the theme park.

    Routine tests had detected a fault in one of the seat support structure of the ride, leaving one seat detached from its frame.

    The fault was attributed to fatigue cracks detected in a welded component of the seat's support structure, the part which attaches the coaster's seat to its frame.

    All welded components for the seats have since been replaced with a new machined part.

    Universal Studios Singapore said it took nine months to fully complete testing the ride.

    This involved thousands of simulated ride cycles using water dummies and coming up with a revised engineering model using computer simulation and actual onsite conditions.

    From the model, engineers came up with a revised design for the ride which was then field tested.

    A unit was also sent to Germany and put through an accelerated simulation where engineers simulated the entire lifespan of the equipment.

    This is to ensure the revised model met the longevity requirement of the ride.

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    Default "It's A Great Great World" breaks S$2m box office mark

    Channel NewsAsia

    Posted: 21 February 2011 1717 hrs


    "It's a Great Great World" film poster.




    SINGAPORE: Local film "It's A Great Great World" has broken the S$2 million box office mark.

    According to MediaCorp Raintree Pictures, the movie is still going strong despite being in theatres for the past three weeks.

    Some 250,000 people have seen the film which opened just before the Lunar New Year on January 27.

    The local film had to compete against Hollywood blockbusters such as the Green Hornet and other Hong Kong movies during the Lunar New Year period.

    The film spans the 1940s to 1970s and centres around characters whose lives revolve around Singapore's famous old nightspot, The Great World Amusement Park.

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    Default Foreign worker levies to increase, says MOM

    Channel NewsAsia

    By Saifulbahri Ismail, S Ramesh | Posted: 21 February 2011 1654 hrs


    Manpower Ministry building




    SINGAPORE: Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is sending a strong signal to businesses to invest in productivity changes and reduce their reliance on low-skilled foreign workers.

    The ministry said changes in the foreign worker levies, which will be increased in phases from January 2012 to July 2013 at six monthly intervals, will have the greatest impact on the construction and services sectors.

    It said the impact on the manufacturing, marine and process sectors will be more moderate.

    There are nearly 1.1 million foreigners employed in Singapore as at end-2010.

    Out of the 871,000 work permit holders employed in Singapore, 248,000 are in the construction industry.

    Andrew Khng, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said: "Like it or not, the construction industry has always been the biggest consumer of foreign workers. The reason is because there aren't any local construction workers, so we have to depend on the foreign workers...

    "We try to maintain or contain the foreign workers dependence, but sometimes in a good construction growth like the last few years ... it is quite difficult not to rely on good construction workers."

    Announcing details of the changes, which were first revealed by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in his Budget Statement last Friday, MOM said employers in the construction sector would need to fork out on average S$320 more per work permit holder between now and July 2013.

    The current levy is in the region of S$160 to S$310. By July 2013, the levies for this sector will range from S$300 to S$600, depending on the number of skilled and unskilled workers.

    The next big consumer of foreign workers is the services sector. Its present levy structure of S$170 to S$450 will go up to between S$300 and S$600.

    Service sector employers can expect an average rise of S$260 per work permit holder.

    In comparison, the levy increase for the manufacturing sector will be moderate. From the current S$170 to S$450 levy, it will rise to a range of S$250 to S$550 by July 2013.

    Employers in the manufacturing sector can expect an average increase of S$130 in the levy for each work permit holder between now and July 2013.

    Employers of S Pass holders can expect an average increase of S$240 in the monthly levy between now and 2013. The current levy of between S$110 to S$150 will go up to S$300 to S$450 in two years time.

    In his budget speech in Parliament last week, Finance Minister Tharman emphasised that the increase in foreign worker levies was not merely a cyclical response to current conditions. He said it is a direction for the long term which the government is taking.

    The government also wants to provide a clear and strong incentive for businesses to improve and upgrade their operations, train their workers and also rely less on low-skilled workers.

    MOM said the changes are a strong signal to businesses to invest in productivity changes.

    However, smaller companies in the construction industry will find this a big challenge.

    Mohd Abdul Akbar, the managing director of Nan Guan Construction, said: "I think for the very small companies, the SMEs - especially the smaller ones, when you talk about productivity, it's something that's difficult to implement.

    "When you talk about manufacturing, maybe it's possible through automation, improvements in processes and things like that."

    Contractors said the impact of the levy hikes would be wide-ranging.

    Mr Andrew Khng said: "We have been absorbing some of these cost increases throughout last year - the materials price have gone upwards.

    "But this time, it is difficult even to absorb the levy increase because the levy increase is really substantial during this period. As a contractor, we are always sandwiched in between and sometimes costs need to be gradually spread through the whole value chain."

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    Default Platinum Green Mark Award for Ocean Financial Centre

    Channel NewsAsia

    By Sabrina Chua | Posted: 21 February 2011 2230 hrs




    SINGAPORE : Singapore's green drive is reaching new heights. It now boasts of having the highest solar panels in Southeast Asia at the Ocean Financial Centre.

    The 43-storey building is the first office development in Singapore to be awarded the Platinum Green Mark Award.

    Nestled in the heart of Singapore's financial district, the Ocean Financial Centre stands out with its sloping roof.

    But it is what is on its roof that is getting the green thumb of approval.

    At 245 metres above ground, the panels make up the highest solar installation in Southeast Asia.

    The height makes the generation of clean energy more effective.

    That is because there are fewer shadows that prevent power generation. And the strong winds help clean up the surface of the solar panels.

    The efficiency of the solar panels drops when the temperatures go up. But the makers of the HIT solar panels said they have found a way to make the most of Singapore's hot climate."

    Hiroyuki Kuriyama, division president for Energy Systems and Solutions Sales at SANYO Asia, said: "Sanyo's HIT technology is a unique combination of amorphous silicon type solar cell and crystalline silicon solar cell. The amorphous silicon solar cell has a less drop in high temperature, but could not get much conversion efficiency.

    "On the other hand, crystalline silicon solar cell can generate much efficiency, but there is a big drop in high temperature. So Sanyo's HIT technology (combines) both advantages of the technology. Sanyo has developed solar cells which have the world's highest convergence efficiency, which is 23 per cent in R&D levels and 21.6 per cent at mass production levels."

    The roof's unique design proved a bit of a challenge when it came to installation.

    Albert Lim, managing director of SolarGy, said: "The sloping roof profile, which is about 19 degrees, requires special installation skills and extra safety precautions. Being that steep, I think the rate that we install per day is only about 4-5 panels. Compared to a flat roof, we could have done 20-30 pieces."

    The 366 panels can generate 86 megawatt hours worth of energy in a year.

    That makes up about half a percent of the building's estimated energy usage.

    They can also reduce 45 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, saving 240 trees a year.

    The solar panel system is just one of the eco-features of the Ocean Financial Centre which will be ready in the next few months.

    It will also have an energy-efficient hybrid chilled water system and an innovative paper recycling system for all offices.

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