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  1. #5781
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    Default SAF to beef up piracy patrols in Gulf of Aden in 2nd half of 2012

    Published on Mar 6, 2012

    The potent firepower of the Singapore navy's radar-evading stealth frigates was demonstrated in their first major naval exercise, a two-day joint exercise held in the South China Sea in February 2009. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will deploy a stealth frigate with a naval helicopter task group to the Gulf of Aden to beef up piracy patrols. This will take place in the second half of 2012. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM


    By Jermyn Chow

    The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will deploy a stealth frigate with a naval helicopter task group to the Gulf of Aden to beef up piracy patrols. This will take place in the second half of 2012.

    The deployment - its fourth deployment to the area - is part of the SAF's move to expand overseas peace support operations in the piracy hotspot. The Gulf of Aden is an extension of the Indian Ocean. Located between Africa and Asia, it forms the natural separation between the countries of Somalia and Yemen.

    In 2009, Singapore sent a Landing Ship Tank and Super Puma helicopter. On Tuesday, the plan was revealed by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen during the debate on his ministry's budget. He also said the SAF is upgrading its ageing missile corvettes with new combat management systems and sensors, including an unmanned aerial vehicle. Three out of six Victory-class corvettes have been upgraded so far.

    Dr Ng assured the House that his ministry remained mindful of its responsibility to spend carefully and wisely.
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    Default Higher allowances for national servicemen from April 2012

    Published on Mar 6, 2012

    PHOTO: MINDEF

    By Jermyn Chow

    Monthly allowances for all national servicemen will go up by $60 from April 2012, with increases of up to 14 per cent for a recruit.

    Starting next month, recruits serving national service will get $480 a month, up from $420. A Lieutenant or Inspector - the highest rank one can attain during two years of NS - will pocket $1180 a month, up from $1120.

    The across-the-board hikes, the first since 2009, will benefit some 350,000 citizen soldiers. They comprise full-time national servicemen (NSF) and operationally-ready national servicemen (NSmen) in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force.

    The raise is meant to recognise the sacrifices of national servicemen and mark the 45th anniversary of National Service.
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  3. #5783
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    Default Singapore to give $50 million to Asean: Shanmugam

    Published on Mar 6, 2012


    ByTessa Wong

    Singapore will be contributing $50 million over the next four years to an Asean initiative to narrow the divide within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

    The Initiative for Asean Integration (IAI) is also to enhance Asean's competitiveness as a region.

    Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam announced the pledge in Parliament on Tuesday.

    The amount will be given from this year till 2015, and will bring Singapore's total contribution to IAI to $170 million

  4. #5784
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    Default MINDEF invites S'poreans to share NS stories

    Updated 03:32 PM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - National Service was established in Singapore 45 years ago, and to mark this anniversary, the Ministry of Defence is inviting all Singaporeans to share their memories of NS.

    The online competition, "My NS Story" will take place from now till next month on the NS45 website, and reflections will be shared during celebration events throughout the year.

    In Parliament today, Minister of State Lawrence Wong said the theme, "NS: From Fathers to Sons", highlights that NS "is truly a shared legacy across generations."

    He noted that this week, some 3,000 Singaporean men will begin their Basic Military Training, "most of them following in their fathers' footsteps into the service of our country. Just as their fathers did years ago, they will train, sweat and persevere together with other Singaporean sons, and in the process, form friendships, forge bonds and learn the soldiering skills to defend our country."

    Singapore "must continue to preserve this sense of shared commitment and responsibility towards NS," he said.

    Besides the online competition, MINDEF will be holding its annual Army Open House in May at the F1 Pit Building, to reach out to more members of the public.

    There will also be a mobile NS showcase that will tour the heartlands after the Open House. CHANNEL NEWSASIA


    TODAY File Photo

  5. #5785
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    Default

    US remains S'pore's strongest, closest defence partner


    Updated 02:41 PM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Singapore has built up an extensive network over the years with countries within and outside our region.

    Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the United States remains one of Singapore's strongest and closest defence partners.

    Singapore's bilateral relationship with China has also improved over the years.

    Ties are also continually deepened with countries like France, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brunei and Thailand.

    And Dr Ng said defence ties with neighbours, like Malaysia, are also broad-based and long-standing.

    He said: "My counterpart, Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi, and I exchanged introductory visits last year.

    "I am happy to report that since last May, both our Air Forces resumed fighter aircraft stopovers and fuelling at each other's air bases. So we started doing that.

    "We also have a close and long-standing defence relationship with Indonesia, with regular professional exchanges and bilateral exercises.

    "Last year, the SAF and TNI co-hosted the first ASEAN military exercise, a table-top exercise on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations." CHANNEL NEWSASIA


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  6. #5786
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    Default SGH to start world's first trial to find optimal time for defibrillation

    Updated 01:20 PM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Singapore General Hospital will start the world's first trial to find the optimal time to deliver electrical shocks to cardiac arrest patients.

    Doctors will determine if delivering electrical shocks at a specific time during cardiopulmonary resuscitation can improve survival.

    SGH said today that cardiac arrest patients who are brought to its Emergency Department with severely abnormal heart rhythm are eligible.

    They will be roped in for the study from next month.

    The hospital said that currently, patients who are brought to the Emergency Departments across the island are given CPR and electrical shocks immediately to normalise the heart rhythm.

    However, manual CPR has to be paused during defibrillation.

    With the advent of automated CPR machines, defibrillation can now be synchronised during CPR.

    This can potentially increase shock success, based on results of studies with animal.

    SGH said in its study, the automated CPR machine and defibrillator will be programmed to give an electrical shock to the patient's heart at a pre-determined phase of chest compression.

    Patients in one group of the study will be defibrillated during a point when pressure is taken off the chest.

    The second group will be defibrillated at the pre-compression phase, which is the current standard of care.

    Pre-compression phase is the period between each complete chest compression. CHANNEL NEWSASIA



    TODAY File Photo

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    Default Poly students invent automated toilet seat for elderly

    Posted: 06 March 2012 1428 hrs


    SINGAPORE: Three third-year students of Singapore Polytechnic (SP) have designed a portable automated toilet seat to help the elderly and mild stroke patients stand up with little effort.

    The Adjustable Toilet Seat is for those who have difficulty standing up after using the toilet.

    It has a wireless push button which raises an electrical jack to tilt the seat up to 35 degrees - enough to help the user stand up with minimal strength.

    A limit switch is activated, cutting off the electrical supply to the jack.

    A timer kicks in for 30 seconds.

    After that, the jack retracts to its collapsed position.

    The seat can support up to 200 kilograms.

    With the automated toilet seat, users won't always need a nurse or walking frames to help them up from the toilet seat.

    The students worked on the project with St Andrew's Community Hospital, as part of SP Care Projects.

    The seat is one of 14 student-developed projects that'll be donated to hospitals and homes, such as St Andrew's Community Hospital, St Luke's Hospital, All Saints Home, Bishan Home, Assisi Hospice and HCA Hospice Care.

    - CNA/ck

  8. #5788
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    Default MOH outlines Healthcare 2020 Masterplan

    Updated 09:50 PM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Public sector healthcare workers can look forward to pay increases costing some S$200 million. This will be fully funded by the government.

    Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said his ministry will continue to expand capacity in the healthcare system by adding 3,700 hospital beds and increasing the local intake of healthcare professionals - including doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists and dentists.

    Mr Gan was speaking during the Committee of Supply debates on the Health Ministry's estimates in Parliament.

    Mr Gan said: "Around the world, many governments are struggling to contain rising costs and Singapore too is not spared from the effects of the global healthcare inflation. We thus need to constantly innovate, to stay cost-effective in how we deliver care, to ensure that healthcare remains affordable for everyone."

    Mr Gan then outlined the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan as a response to these challenges.

    He said: "Healthcare 2020 will focus on three strategic objectives - enhancing accessibility, quality and affordability of healthcare for our people. This means that Singaporeans will receive healthcare when we need it; our healthcare services will be of good quality and effective and Singaporeans will be able to afford such services."

    On capacity building - some 170 acute and community hospital beds will be added as soon as next year.

    Under the masterplan, 3,700 more hospital beds will be added by 2020, comprising 1,900 acute and 1,800 community hospital beds. This is a 30 per cent increase in capacity for acute beds and a 200 per cent increase for community hospital beds.

    Specialist outpatient capacity will also be ramped up with the new NUH Medical Centre in 2013. It will house the National University Cancer Institute and increase capacity for day surgery and specialist outpatient clinics. The new National Heart Centre building at Outram is also expected to be ready by 2013, with a more than threefold increase in capacity.

    This infrastructural expansion will require about 50 per cent or about 20,000 more healthcare professionals by 2020. So to meet this demand, the Health Ministry will boost the intake of locally trained doctors. Together with the new Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine to be opened next year, the supply of locally trained doctors will be boosted from 330 to 500 across the three medical schools.

    The dentistry intake will also rise from about 48 to 80. And to train more nurses and pharmacists, the ministry intends to expand annual intakes for nursing from 1,700 to 2,700 as well as for pharmacy from 160 to 240.

    Mr Gan added that foreign-trained professionals - both Singaporeans and foreigners - are needed to supplement the workforce.

    Since 2010, 89 pre-employment grants have been given out for Singaporeans medical students studying overseas. And to attract overseas-trained Singaporeans, the pre-employment grant will be extended to Singaporean students studying dentistry overseas.

    Mr Gan also announced a more competitive pay framework for healthcare workers. On average, doctors will see an increase in their total remuneration of about 20 per cent by 2014. This will be rolled out in phases over the next two years.

    Under Phase 1, which will start from April, doctors will receive increases depending on their job level. Dentists' pay will also be similarly adjusted.

    Nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals will see a one-time increase in their base pay of about four to 17 per cent, from April 2012.

    To better supplement the public sector resources, the health ministry will explore also more ways to tap on private sector capacity. For example, it will lease beds from Parkway East Hospital for Changi General Hospital. These patients will continue to be managed by CGH's doctors and pay subsidised fees.

    The Health Ministry will also be entering into a memorandum of understanding with Raffles Hospital to have them take on some subsidised patient-load. CHANNEL NEWSASIA


    Staff Nurse Jonelyn Gallego Tanalgo attending to a patient at the National University Hospital.Photo by Syafiqah Hamid

  9. #5789
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    Default Smoking ban extended to more public areas

    By Joanne Chan | Posted: 06 March 2012 1721 hrs


    SINGAPORE: The smoking ban will soon be extended to more public areas in Singapore. These include common corridors, void decks and staircases within residential buildings, sheltered walkways and overhead bridges and outdoor hospital compounds.

    Smoking will also be prohibited within a five metre radius around bus shelters.

    Implementation details of the smoking prohibition will be refined in consultation with the community and building owners.

    Announcing this in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Grace Fu, said the long term goal is to prohibit smoking in all public places, except designated smoking areas.

    Earlier in 2005, a smoking ban at all bus stops was introduced. Dustbins were also placed at the edge of the bus shelter to encourage smokers to move away from their fellow commuters.

    Ms Fu also said that she hopes more hawker centres will make the move to make their premises smoke-free. She added that the ministry will also consider extending the smoking ban to selected parks and town areas.

    MP for Nee Soon GRC, Lee Bee Wah, had earlier called for better enforcement of the smoking ban.

    Dr Lee said: "Another thing which can sour a person's daily experience is the exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke. While there is currently a smoking prohibition for some places, public spaces such as linkways, overhead bridges and parks do not have such restrictions. Having laws is one thing, but having it enforced is (another)."

    In response, Ms Fu said: "Community engagement and individual responsibility are key to successful implementation as there is a limit to the resources we can commit to enforcing a wider smoking prohibition.

    "Going forward, with more areas gazetted as non-smoking, we will need clearer demarcation of areas where smoking is allowed, with everyone playing their part to observe the rules. Our aim, in collaboration with the Health Promotion Board, is to work towards a future where Singaporeans consider smoking not only detrimental to health, but also socially unacceptable."

    This latest extension follows a public poll conducted in 2011 through the government feedback portal, REACH, where there was broad support to extend the ban to places where non-smokers cannot reasonably avoid.

    -CNA/ac

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    Default The ST Interview: From riches to rags to riches Ms Kim Song-Joo

    Daughter of a Korean tycoon shows that life is what you make of it

    Published on Mar 7, 2012

    Ms Kim, who is on the first Forbes list of Asia's Power Business Women, started her luxury fashion business with a US$300,000 loan from her tycoon father. -- PHOTO: TERRENCE LIM FOR THE STRAITS TIMES


    By Lee Siew Hua, Senior Writer

    Women, don't fight glass ceilings, tradition or men. Create your own game instead - and win.

    This is the advice of Ms Kim Sung-Joo, who debuted last Thursday on the first Forbes list of Asia's Power Business Women. The South Korean luxury entrepreneur was in Singapore last week for a Forbes Asia forum timed with the release of the new power list, ahead of International Women's Day tomorrow.

    The youngest daughter of an energy conglomerate tycoon, Ms Kim grew up like a princess cosseted in an old presidential palace, their family abode. Ten helpers, five drivers and two janitors tended her bubble of privilege.

    Background story

    One of Forbes' power women

    LUXURY entrepreneur Kim Sung-Joo made the inaugural Forbes list of Asia's Power Business Women last Thursday. The 55-year-old is the founder and chairman of Sungjoo Group. Since 1990, she has launched and acquired franchise rights to global brands such as Gucci, Yves St Laurent, Sonia Rykiel, Marks & Spencer and MCM for the Korean market.

    German luxury brand MCM, which she acquired in 2005, now retails in 30 countries, with revenues of US$450 million (S$568 million) last year. In South Korea, it is the most popular label after Louis Vuitton.

    The youngest daughter of an energy tycoon graduated from Yonsei University with a BA in theology and sociology in 1979. After convincing her strict parents to let her study overseas, she did a degree in sociology at Amherst College in 1981. She also has a master's in international relations from the London School of Economics (1983) and a master's in theological studies in business ethics and economics from Harvard (1985).

    Her Forbes accolade is the latest in a string that includes her selection as one of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 1997. She was among the Top 50 Women to Watch chosen by The Wall Street Journal in 2004.

    Her SungJoo Foundation supports more than 70 NGOs globally, with North Korea her principal passion. The divorcee has a 22-year-old daughter, an Amherst student of Russian literature and film-making.

    Background story

    Q & A: 'We need a Lee Kuan Yew'

    How do women crack what remains of the glass ceiling?

    A: It's not the time to fight men. That old school feminism is finished.

    It's now the women's revolution era - and the men's liberation era.

    Revolution changes the game rather than fighting tradition, glass ceilings and men. I set my own game in the past, so I won. We can set new rules and systems that are better for the future. I say this ailing world needs motherly care.

    As mothers, women tend to look at society and future generations first. We stand for fair, stable societies, and transparency. Men tend to enter arms races.

    So women's rights have now moved beyond rights alone to responsibility.

    Who is the woman your 'new school luxury' empire targets?

    A: My companies do not replicate what other luxury brands do. We want to be the new school luxury.

    The old school caters to women with a rich husband, rich father, or rich lover. When women very much depend on men's income, their only job is to look very pretty and sexy, to please men's eyes.

    New school luxury is different. I portray women as really self-reliant, independent, gracious, high-powered professionals. But I don't exclude tai-tai.

    My personal motto is to live smart, travel light, look elegant.

    Even when I travel two weeks in Europe - usually hopping around six countries and 10 cities, and having a very compact, busy life from morning to night with business meetings, factory visits, negotiations and gala dinners that I host - I carry one trolley bag and carry-on.

    I often tease my male colleagues: 'Why do you carry a big trunk that's double my luggage? Do you have make-up and high heels?'

    Tell us about your plans to leave all your assets to North Korea.

    A: My late Mum was very humble although she was the wife of one of Korea's biggest tycoons. She saved most of the money Father gave her and established a beautiful foundation to help children, and rescue women from prostitution. She gave them jobs.

    My business is not money-driven. It's very mission-driven. Ten per cent of profits go to charity. Our SungJoo Foundation helps more than 70 NGOs around the world. I succeed to serve.

    One day when I retire, within 10 years hopefully, my goal is to go to North Korea as a missionary. My wealth is already pledged to God to redevelop North Korea when it opens up.

    I feel like I am aching in my heart. There are 22 million innocent victims, completely blockaded from outside information, dying without food and medicine. I am involved in medical, education and food missions there. Hopefully we will at one point have women's training.

    Any business plans for Singapore?

    A: We have an MCM store in Terminal 2 of Changi Airport. We are looking for a super-good, trustworthy local partner. Probably through this franchisee we will also cover Malaysia and Indonesia. There is great demand in South-east Asia for luxury goods. Hopefully, we start at the end of this year.

    I find Singapore fascinating - it's small but so civilised and cosmopolitan. The society is so fair to outsiders. It is more open than Korea, and more influential.

    We can learn from Singapore. I was the global adviser to several presidents and I say: 'We need a Lee Kuan Yew.'
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    Default HONG KONG - a short visit

    I was in Macau and Hong Kong from 18-22 February and would like to share with you some of the pictures I took.

    The night scene of Hong Kong's Central skyline was just beautiful, highlighted by the colourful neon lights, even against a foggy backdrop. I took many pictures from the opposite side of the river in Kowloon, along Star Ferry, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Avenue of Stars, where I was once again reminded of the names of many famous film stars and film directors, the most outstanding of whom was the kungfu king, "Star of the Century" Bruce Lee.

    It was also my first visit to the Mid-Levels Escalators which is reputed to be the world's longest and most extensive network of escalators and travelators that help to bring residents and workers most conveniently to their destinations from different levels of hilly and busy Hong Kong without having to compete with the fast vehicular traffic at street level.

    I also got a chance to see the little hill district of Lan Kwai Fong, a watering hole well known for its night life, but the place was almost deserted during daytime. This place is a great contrast to Singapore's Clarke Quay.

    The tiny Chungking Mansion budget rest house which I stayed for two nights was also quite an experience. This building boasts of many other budget 'hotels' located in a few blocks. The ground floor is occupied by many shophouses selling a great variety of goods.

    I also took the MTR to sample the 'sub-urban' life of Tuen Wan, a satellite town on the south-west end of Kowloon. It has all the facilities and amenities of a modern town.

    Not much I could do for two and a half days, walking most of the time.
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  12. #5792
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    Default Indonesia, Singapore in new school tie-up

    Muslim group will get training from Singapore madrasah

    Published on Mar 8, 2012


    (Below, from left) Dr Yaacob, Temasek Foundation's Mr Benedict Cheong, Muis' Mr Razak Mohamed Lazim, Mathla'ul Anwar's Mr Ahmad Sadeli Karim and Singapore Ambassador to Indonesia Ashok Mirpuri at the signing ceremony of the tie-up between Mathla'ul Anwar, which was first set up in 1916, and Madrasah Al-Irsyad. -- ST PHOTO: ZAKIR HUSSAIN


    By Zakir Hussain, Indonesia Correspondent

    MENES (Banten) - Ninety-six years ago, a group of religious scholars formed an association in this small town to better teach young Muslims in the province about their faith and the wider world in a modern way.

    Since then, the Mathla'ul Anwar (MA) - which in Arabic means the 'source of light' - has set up branches all over Indonesia, and now runs about 2,000 schools.

    But in recent decades, the quality of instruction has slipped, the network's head of education Jihaduddin said.

    The MA began to look around for new ideas, and two years ago, found a model they liked in Singapore's Madrasah Al-Irsyad, with its strong emphasis on English, mathematics and science, alongside traditional Islamic subjects.
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    Default Smokers split on extension of no-smoking zones

    Some understand need for extending ban; others cite even more inconvenience


    Published on Mar 8, 2012


    By Siau Ming En

    While some smokers said the extension of no-smoking zones will inconvenience them, they added that they also understand the need for such a move.

    On Tuesday, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu announced in Parliament that the places where smoking is banned will soon include common corridors, void decks and staircases of residential buildings.

    Smoking will be prohibited within a 5m radius around bus shelters. Sheltered walkways, overhead bridges and outdoor hospital compounds will also be added to the list. The new rules will kick in in the coming year.

    Background story

    Extent of ban in other countries


    •Australia

    Across the country, smoking is banned inside all airports, government offices, health clinics, workplaces, pubs and restaurants. In Tasmania, indoor smoking is banned and smoking within 3m of entrances or exits of non-domestic buildings is prohibited. Additionally, at least half the tables in outdoor dining areas must be smoke-free. In 2008, regulations were extended to make smoking in cars with passengers under 18 illegal.


    •Bhutan

    In 2005, smoking in public places like restaurants and pubs was banned. A law in 2010 banned the sale or smuggling of tobacco into Bhutan. Smoking in all public places and restricted areas - such as banks - is also illegal.


    •New Zealand

    Last year, it announced a ban on smoking throughout prisons. Bans already exist in all indoor workplaces, licensed premises (bars, restaurants, cafes, sports clubs, casinos) and on public transport.

    Outdoor smoke-free laws also cover the grounds of all schools, of some hospitals, stadiums and some university campuses.


    •Canada

    Smoking is banned in indoor public spaces and workplaces across all states. Smoking rooms are not permitted in hotels. Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Ontario have also banned smoking in vehicles with children under 14 years old.


    •Britain

    In 2007, smoking bans were imposed in nearly all enclosed public spaces, including bars, restaurants and workplaces.


    'I think the extension of the smoking ban is fair. I've been to other countries, like Japan, where I have to walk up to 200m to find an area to smoke,' said Mr Peter Lim, 34, an engineer. 'We should open our minds to what is happening around the globe,' he added.

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    Default Changi to expand T1, develop fifth terminal


    by Neo Chai Chin
    04:47 AM Mar 08, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Hot on the heels of last week's announcement that Changi Airport's Budget Terminal will make way for a bigger, better Terminal 4, the Transport Ministry yesterday unveiled plans farther off on the horizon that will see a fifth passenger terminal.

    Against the backdrop of several regional competitors gearing up to boost handling capacities, Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo stressed the need for Changi to "work hard to stay ahead". It will do so through a multi-agency committee, dubbed the Changi 2036 Steering Committee, that will provide the strategic direction for future development.

    The committee, to be chaired by Mrs Teo and comprising members from eight government agencies including the Economic Development Board, will tackle issues like the timeline and development of a new passenger terminal and the civilian use of Changi's third runway, currently used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. It will also study the phasing of the development of related infrastructure, facilities and transport links to aid growth.

    The committee will begin work next month and deliver its recommendations within a year.

    Noting that regional competitors are upping their game, Mrs Teo said Kuala Lumpur International Airport is building a large low-cost carrier facility to handle up to 45 million passengers annually, while South Korea is developing an "airport city" 10 times the size of Ang Mo Kio that will have a casino, hotels and conference facilities. Hong Kong International Airport's masterplan for 2030 involves building a third runway.

    Meanwhile, measures to keep Changi's edge in the shorter term include reducing intervals between departing aircraft within safety limits to reduce delays in airplane arrivals and departures, as well as the upcoming expansion of Terminal 1.

    The upgrading of the terminal will be completed by this year. But to cater to the changing profile of travellers - more are stopping over instead of merely using Changi for transit - the open-air car park between Terminal 1 and Changi's iconic control tower will be redeveloped into a multi-use complex.

    The complex will increase the terminal's public areas, pick-up driveways and car park spaces. It will be integrated with the existing terminal, increasing its handling capacity from 21 million to 24 million passengers a year, said Mrs Teo.

    The complex will also have dedicated facilities to support fly-cruise and fly-coach initiatives. Together with Terminal 4, Changi's capacity will be boosted by 16 per cent, to 85 million passengers a year.



    The open-air car park between Terminal 1 and Changi's iconic control tower will be redeveloped into a multi-use complex. Photo by WEE TECK HIAN

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    Default MediShield to be extended, coverage to widen

    Scheme extended to cover those up to 90, ministry looking to include congenital, neonatal conditions


    by Ng Jing Yng
    04:47 AM Mar 08, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be extending MediShield, the national health insurance scheme, to cover those up to 90 years old - up from 85 years now - and is looking to widen the coverage to include those with congenital and neonatal conditions.

    Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament yesterday that the MOH is "reviewing the scheme to help Singaporeans better protect themselves against catastrophic costs".

    As part of the review, which will include public consultation, the MOH will also consider extending coverage to include inpatient psychiatric treatment, while helping Singaporeans who exceed their policy year and lifetime claim limits.

    MediShield premiums, however, will need to be updated to keep the scheme sustainable, said Mr Gan. According to preliminary estimates, a 45-year-old may see a premium increase of S$7 per month, while someone at 75 may see an increase of S$20 per month. "The premiums need to be adequate to sustain MediShield members' claim and to fund future liabilities under the scheme," he said.

    Currently, 92 per cent of the population is covered under MediShield and Mr Gan noted that the scheme has paid out 21 per cent more in claims each year between 2008 and last year. In comparison, premiums collected grew by only 10 per cent per annum. He also pointed out that the Government's Budget this year has provided monetary assistance for Singaporeans to cope with the increase.

    Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Gerald Giam suggested using some of the MediShield reserves to offset premium increments. Responding, Mr Gan said that the reserves are needed for the long-time viability of the scheme. "Ultimately, MediShield operates on a not-for-profit basis, with premiums actuarially calculated to cover expected payouts and meet the MAS risk and reserve requirements," he added.

    Mr Gan said that the MOH has extended MediShield coverage in line with longer life expectancy, but covering those beyond 90 years old will result in expensive premiums as this group is small.

    Mr Giam also proposed getting younger working Singaporeans to help seniors pay for MediShield premiums. Mr Gan, however, cautioned in overloading the younger generation and felt such a measure may result in some dropping out of the scheme.

    The Health Minister also updated the House yesterday on various projects undertaken by the ministry. Mr Gan said the differentiation levels in subsidy levels between citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) for healthcare services will be widened, with PRs receiving a lower subsidy rate than citizens in the same income tier. More details will be available soon.

    In the primary care sector, the minister said that four family medicine clinics providing team-based care will be piloted this year. The MOH is also aiming to double the number of general practitioners (GPs) accredited by end of next year, up from the current 509.

    Singaporeans on the Community Health Assist Scheme to manage their chronic ailments with GPs have also since doubled from 38,000 two months ago to 77,000. There are now 460 GPs on the scheme and the MOH aims to reach out to 1,000, or 70 per cent of all GP clinics here.

    For the elderly, Mr Gan said that ElderShield - a government insurance scheme to help those who become severely disabled - will be reviewed next year as healthcare costs increase.

    And to keep the healthcare sector sustainable in the long run, Mr Gan said that S$20 million have been set aside for hospitals to pilot projects to improve efficiency and productivity. "As a system, we need to do our best to bend the cost curve - to reduce inefficiencies and discourage over-consumption," he added.

    According to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, the extended MediShield coverage to include those beyond 90 years old will result in expensive premiums as the group is small. TODAY FILE PHOTO

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    Default Marina Bay glows in the dark

    04:47 AM Mar 08, 2012

    From tomorrow, Marina Bay will be aglow with colour and light as more than 30 light art installations take pride of place. A host of interactive fringe events and activities, such as artist talks, night carnivals and photography workshops, will add more buzz.

    They are part of i Light Marina Bay 2012, Asia's first and only sustainable light art festival. Organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the event opens nightly between 7.30 and 11pm, until April 1.

    Visitors can explore the art installations on the Light Walk Trail, a curated route covering all 31 art installations. The public can interact with the artists at free talks on the first weekend of the festival. On weekends, student volunteers from Temasek Polytechnic will help to conduct guided tours to shed light on the creative process of the artists and their works. Each weekend, there will also be a Night Carnival with food and drinks, as well as eco-friendly merchandise.

    In line with the goal of promoting sustainability, visitors can share their innovative energy-efficient tips through the festival website and stand to win prizes.

    Photography enthusiasts who capture the enchanting nightscape of Marina Bay and the light artworks can also submit their photographs for a chance to win prizes.

    For more information, visit www.ilightmarinabay.sg. Photo by Don Wong




    Photo by DON WONG

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    Default Naked mole rats invade Singapore Zoo

    04:46 AM Mar 08, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The Singapore Zoo has rolled out a 50-sq-m exhibition of naked mole rats and a scaled-down version of their complex living environment.

    The naked mole rat, only one of two mammals known to have a social structure similar to social insects, can live over 20 years, almost eight times longer than mice.

    The exhibit mimics their system of burrows in the wild. Naked mole rats have burrow systems extending up to 4.8km long in the wild and covering an area as big as six football fields.

    Constructed with steel and concrete, the exhibit has glass-fronted panels for visitors to view the rodents at work and play.

    An interactive element was also added - a pint-sized tunnel for children to crawl through and imagine a day in the life of a naked mole rat. Periscopes and child-friendly interpretive and activity panels complete the educational component of this exhibit.

    Daily feeding sessions are held at 11.30am.

    PHOTO COURTESY WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
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