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  1. #5815
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    Default Hotel rooms in S'pore the most expensive in Asia

    by Amanda Lee
    04:45 AM Mar 14, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Even as prices for hotel rooms fell across the Asia-Pacific, the strong Singapore dollar is keeping the Republic at the top of the list as the most expensive Asian country for hotel rooms.

    Last year, the average room rate in Singapore was S$239, ahead of countries such as the Netherlands (S$238), the United Arab Emirates (S$234), Australia (S$218) and Canada (S$213), according to the latest Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI). Overall, Singapore ranked sixth worldwide among expensive countries like Switzerland, Italy and France.

    Now in its eighth year, Hotels.com's HPI is a regular survey of hotel prices worldwide based on bookings made on the site, and prices shown are what customers paid per room night.

    The report showed that Japan saw a 7-per-cent reduction in hotel room rates after the earthquake and tsunami last March, while Thailand's numbers dipped due to the floods.

    There were also reductions for room prices in Shenzhen and Shanghai due to greater competition from new developments and ongoing currency fluctuations.

    In the five-star hotel category, Singapore ranked as the second most expensive city for these rooms at S$494, after London (S$537).

    Commenting on Singapore hotels, Mr Johan Svanstrom, Asia-Pacific managing director for Hotels.com, said: "On top of being a business hub and a stopover for long-haul travellers, the country has also invested in upscale attractions such as the integrated resorts that have proved to be a great hit with tourists."

    Despite the high hotel rates for five star hotels in Singapore, travel agencies Today spoke to felt this would not put off prospective travellers to Singapore.

    Statistics from the Singapore Tourism Board show that there were about 13.17 million international visitors to Singapore last year.

    "There are a variety of hotels that cater to different market segments," said Ms Alicia Seah, senior vice-president of marketing and public relations of CTC Travel. She added that the top 20 per cent of travellers are willing to pay the price of a five-star hotel for its quality and service level.


    Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive officer of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) said there is clearly ample demand for five-star hotels, as hoteliers are maintaining their prices.

    Chan Brothers Travel marketing manager Michelle Yin noted that travellers who opt for five-star hotels are generally less price-sensitive, and it is unlikely that the high prices will have much impact.

  2. #5816
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    Default S'pore role model for sustainable development: Clark

    TODAY

    by Amir Hussain
    04:46 AM Mar 14, 2012

    SINGAPORE - To ensure development is both equitable and sustainable, countries need to have "new models of development" which should include "active, effective, honest and fair, governance", said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark at the 32nd Singapore Lecture yesterday.

    The former New Zealand Prime Minister said: "Economic and human development progress cannot be sustained if the ecosystems on which they depend are irreparably damaged and if gross inequity leaves our societies unstable and lacking cohesion."

    She noted that "persisting inequities are no more politically sustainable than the devastation of our ecosystems is environmentally sustainable".

    The Singapore experience highlights the need for "active, effective, honest, and fair governance", noted Ms Clark.

    Last year, the UNDP and Singapore jointly published a book entitled Virtuous Cycles: The Singapore Public Service and National Development.

    Ms Clark also noted the Government's "Sustainable Development Blueprint", which takes a "whole of government" approach and brings together relevant ministries to analyse and tackle challen-ges.

    On the regional front, Ms Clark cited the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Co-operation 2010-2015 as "an example of how a regional framework can lead the way (towards sustainable development), by providing targets for energy security and sustainability, and promoting shared responsibility for the region's development".

    Yesterday's lecture, entitled "The Importance of Governance for Sustainable Development", was organised by the Institute of South-east Asian Studies.

    The 32nd Singapore Lecture was held at Raffles City Convention Centre and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.


    Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand. BLOOMBERG

  3. #5817
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    Default More bicycle racks to be installed at MRT stations

    Updated 08:29 PM Mar 13, 2012

    SINGAPORE - More bicycle racks will be installed in 20 MRT stations in the next two years.

    The Land Transport Authority said some 2,500 bicycle racks will be installed.

    Lakeside MRT station is one of the 20 stations to enjoy the convenience of the new bicycle racks.

    Although some cyclists still choose to park at undesignated areas, many said the bicycle parking situation has improved.

    The new racks that have been installed come with two tiers.

    "This parking lot is very comfortable and when I lock it, it's very safe," said one cyclist.

    Another cyclist said: "People used to park all over the place but now it's much neater and safer since there's a lock."

    And while most have welcomed more parking spaces, concerns have also been raised about whether older cyclists can manage.

    "I can't push my bicycle up. How can we older people manage that?" said a concerned cyclist. CHANNEL NEWSASIA



    TODAY File Photo

  4. #5818
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    Default Government rebuts letter by Reform Party chief

    Posted: 14 March 2012 0644 hrs


    SINGAPORE: The Government has written to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to rebut a letter from Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam that misrepresented "basic facts".

    The WSJ had published a letter last Wednesday from Mr Jeyaretnam which claimed, among other things, that defamation lawsuits - over an August 1995 article in the Workers' Party publication - against his father, the late Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, caused him to lose his seat in Parliament and "not being able to stand again (in an election) before he died".

    In a letter to the WSJ, which was published on Monday, Mr Peer M. Akbur, press secretary to Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim, wrote: "The author of the article, the editor of The Hammer and the Executive Council of the Workers' Party (of which J B Jeyaretnam was a member) acknowledged that the article was 'completely false and baseless' and accepted responsibility for it. They published an unqualified apology in The Straits Times on Nov 23, 1995 and agreed to pay costs and damages."

    He added: "Contrary to Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam's claim, this episode did not cause J.B. Jeyaretnam to lose his seat in Parliament - he was not even a Member of Parliament at that time. Nor did it prevent (him) from contesting the subsequent General Election in 1997, and being selected as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament."

    Mr Peer reiterated in his letter that Singapore "holds its public officials to the highest standards of probity and integrity" and that "the right of individuals to protect their reputation is as important as free speech".

    The press secretary added: "In a healthy democracy, vigorous political debate does not involve defamatory attacks. In Singapore's 2011 General Election, the same Workers' Party that J.B. Jeyaretnam once led achieved its best performance since independence, with several MPs elected into Parliament. It faced no lawsuits. Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam and his party also contested the General Election, albeit less successfully." - TODAY

  5. #5819
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    Default Singapore says world can learn from its water policies

    By Channel NewsAsia's Olly Barratt
    Posted: 13 March 2012 1916 hrs


    Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, at the World Water Forum in Marseille.


    Marseille, France: Government policymakers, non-governmental organisations and campaign groups have gathered in Marseille for the 6th World Water Forum.

    The event has seen the United Nations issue a warning that strains on the world's water supply are increasing and that a radical rethink of water policy is needed.

    Singapore is engaged in the debate and it says the world can learn much from its water policies.

    As many as 20,000 participants from 140 countries are expected for the six-day event, including scores of ministers for the environment and water.

    They will discuss the problems the world faces in securing its water supply in the face of exploding populations and climate change.

    The UN says climate change will drastically affect food production - particularly in South Asia - between now and 2030, with Asia being home to 60 per cent of the world's population but only around a third of water resources.

    So the continent is well represented in Marseille - with Singapore keen to take part in an increasingly pressing debate.

    Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said: "The sense that I get from this event so far is that there's a greater sense of urgency that the problems are looming and are going to become more acute in the future."

    The forum is not just about explaining the difficulties the world faces with water - it's also about showing off some possible solutions.

    And Singapore - as a city state - feels it has valuable experiences to share.

    Dr Balakrishnan said: "Because more than 50 per cent of humanity now lives in cities, urban solutions for water - meaning how do you keep it clean, how do you make sure that every drop of rain that falls into a drain ultimately ends in a reservoir and then ends up in a pipe in your kitchen, in your bedroom - have become a significant issue for many parts of the world.

    "So the way we do it in Singapore - the rules, the regulations, the pricing - the whole politics of water is relevant to the rest of the world."

    The solutions to these problems will have to be global, but Singapore hopes to prove at the forum that it can make a valuable contribution.

    - CNA/ir
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  6. #5820
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    Default Singaporean breaks 15-year-old race walk record

    Posted: 12 March 2012 2146 hrs


    SINGAPORE: Singapore's Edmund Sim has broken a long-standing national record in the men's 20-kilometre race walk.

    He clocked one hour, 36 minutes and one second at the 2012 Asian 20km Race Walking Championships in Ishikawa, Japan on Sunday
    .

    He bettered compatriot Jairaj Kumar Jeyabal's 15-year-old record of one hour 36 minutes and 21 seconds.

    The 29-year-old Singaporean had a personal best of one hour 54 minutes and 23 seconds prior to the race.

    He finished in ninth place at the Asian 20km Race Walking Championships.

    Sim said: "I'm very happy as I did not expect to break this national record at all. I was also recovering from a knee injury that I sustained last year after a 15km race walking competition in Malacca. I only started training intensively after Chinese New Year, training up to seven times a week for the past month."

    - CNA/ck

  7. #5821
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    Default Breakthrough in Chikungunya research by A*Star team

    Published on Mar 14, 2012


    A*Star scientists at the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) have made great strides in the battle against the infectious mosquito-borne disease, Chikungunya fever. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


    Scientists at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) have made great strides in the battle against the infectious disease, Chikungunya fever.

    Working with Singapore clinician-scientists and international researchers, Dr Lisa Ng, Principal Investigator of the Chikungunya research group at SIgN, led the team to discover a direct biomarker which serves as an early and accurate prognosis of patients who have a higher risk of the more severe form of Chikungunya fever, said A*Star in a statement on Wednesday.

    As such, doctors can now quickly and accurately identify patients at risk, facilitating a more targeted treatment and care at the onset of the disease
    .

    Chikungunya fever, caused by the Chikungunya virus 2, is a mosquito-borne, infectious disease endemic to South-east Asia and Africa. The infection is characterised by an abrupt onset of fever, frequently accompanied by severe muscle and joint pains.
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  8. #5822
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    Default NUS and NTU move up in global university ranking

    by Tan Weizhen
    Updated 08:05 AM Mar 15, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have moved up in an annual ranking of universities' reputations published by London-based publication Times Higher Education.

    The weekly publication, which provides information to leading business intelligence firm Thomson Reuters for its own university rankings, ranked NUS at 23rd place, from 27th last year.

    NTU was placed in the 81th to 90th range - beyond the 50th position, universities are ranked in groups of ten. Last year, it was ranked in the 91st to 100th range.

    Responding to the rise in rankings, NTU president Bertil Andersson said: "We have managed to attract top international faculty and to get noticed for our research in top publications. These are commendable achievements for a young university and one which started pushing research in a big way only in the last few years."

    However he noted that such world rankings are just one indicator when picking a university, and said other factors such as environment and mentorship should be considered.

    Professor Andersson added that for a small country, having two universities in the global top 100 is laudable.

    NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said that the ranking is a strong endorsement of NUS' continued efforts in educational innovation.

    The ranking has 100 places, and is based on international academic opinion, drawn from a global opinion poll from senior academics. The poll this year drew 17,554 responses.

    While American universities continue to dominate the top 100 - with 44 institutions in the list - Asian universities are beginning to creep up the list, especially the Chinese, according to Times Higher Education.

    Universities from China have moved up the rankings, with Tsinghua University moving up from 35th to 30th, and Peking University up from 43rd to 38th.

    Pointing out the growing prestige of such universities, editor Phil Baty said: "There is also a very exciting group of East Asian countries or regions enjoying significant increases in the prestige of their universities - with China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore all seeing their top universities rising up the reputation table."

    "This is against some notable drops for some big-name institutions in the US and UK. There are clear signs of the start of a power shift from West to East."

    In Asia, Japan's universities performed the best, with five institutions in the list.

    American universities Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United Kingdom's Cambridge University continued their reign at the top, claiming the first, second and third spot respectively
    .

    But many universities in the States also fell in this year's reputation rankings, which Times Higher Education attributed to their widely publicised public funding cuts. For instance, University of California San Diego and UC Davis fell six places each to 36th and 44th place respectively.

    Finland, reputed for its higher education, dropped out of the list this year.



  9. #5823
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    Default S$113 million in pledges for Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism

    04:45 AM Mar 15, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism has swelled to S$113 million in pledges, as the Government yesterday appointed a 16-member board, chaired by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, to administer it.

    The board will spearhead initiatives to support the teaching and learning of English and Mother Tongue languages, especially at the pre-school level.

    It comprises community representatives, academics, experienced practitioners, media representatives and public service officers - including Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Education) Sim Ann, who heads the Government's bicultural taskforce, Director-General of Education Ho Peng, Nanyang Technological University Emeritus Professor Eddie Kuo and MediaCorp CEO Shaun Seow.

    To date, the fund has received S$113 million in pledges - including S$50 million from the Government's matching grant -since its announcement in November last year at the launch of Mr Lee's book, My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore's Bilingual Journey.

    Among the individual donors are Mr Lee (S$12 million), businessmen Mr Robert Ng and Mr Li Ka Shing (S$5 million each), as well as Mr Robert Kuok ($3 million) and Mr Ong Beng Seng (S$2 million). Some of the corporations that have donated to the fund include DBS Bank and Singapore Airlines (S$500,000 each), as well as SingTel (S$250,000).

    In a Ministry of Education press release, Mr Heng noted that language "is nurtured through day-to-day communication with parents at home, and exposure to educational media programmes". He added: "We will thus leverage on the various programmes and initiatives currently organised by the various mother tongue language promotion committees and multiply the impact of these existing efforts."

    To support the work of the fund, there will be four sub-committees to oversee the areas of research, evaluation of proposals, investment of funds, and publicity and outreach.

    Ms Sim said that the bicultural taskforce, which aims to engage the Chinese community in nurturing the next generation of bicultural talent and community leaders, plans to submit suggestions gathered from its outreach activities, particularly those related to bilingual learning among preschoolers, to the fund for evaluation and financial support.


  10. #5824
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    Default An app for zoo visitors, thanks to students

    Published on Mar 15, 2012

    Students have come up with a free mobile application for iPhones and iPads to help visitors get the most out of the Singapore Zoo.

    It features information and videos on more than 80 animals, plus an interactive map linked to a satellite navigation system. Those who want to learn more can take a quiz or access an e-newsletter.

    Teenagers from Fajar Secondary School put in months of research to produce content about the animals, while the programming was carried out by information technology students from Nanyang Polytechnic.

    Education@Zoo, available since March 7, has been downloaded more than 6,000 times and is this month's No. 1 new featured education app in the Singapore iTunes store.




    Zoo facts go mobile

    04:45 AM Mar 15, 2012

    Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), together with Fajar Secondary School and Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Information Technology, yesterday launched the Education@Zoo iPhone application, a handy education guide that complements a visit to the zoo with multimedia content and interesting facts of animals. For instance, an Augmented Reality function shows users the direction and distance to attractions and amenities, while another function allow users to test their knowledge of animal facts. Photo by Wee Teck Hian



    Students from Fajar Secondary School and Macpherson Primary School using the Education@zoo iPhone application at Singapore zoo. Photo by WEE TECK HIAN

  11. #5825
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    Default Sax and the heartlands

    People's Association aims to make arts and culture for everyone, everywhere, every day


    by Neo Chai Chin
    04:45 AM Mar 16, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Musicians performing at coffee shops, artworks hanging at overhead bridges and HDB void decks - these could be an increasingly common sight from Sunday, as part of the latest push by the People's Association (PA) to make the arts take root and flower in public housing estates.

    The statutory board has taken up some recommendations made in the Arts and Culture Strategic Review's report last month - including the establishment of a community arts and culture club in every constituency, the setting up of community galleries and the deployment of engagement officers in community clubs.

    Since the beginning of this year, 52 community arts and culture clubs have been set up. By the end of the year, each of the 87 constituency divisions here will have such a club to nurture the talent of residents and support their arts exploits, said Mr Nah Juay Hng, PA group director of the arts and culture engagement cluster.

    With funding from the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, each club will also be supported by an arts and culture manager, he said.

    Starting this Sunday, the PA will also be piloting two projects for six months - one will see resident musicians performing at coffee shops, hawker centres, parks and MRT stations on the last Sunday of each month; the other will feature art pieces by residents exhibited at void decks and other community spaces, including an overhead bridge along Ang Mo Kio Ave 1.

    Saxophonist Allan Wong will be one of the musicians who will fan out to coffee shops and malls in Jalan Besar to play to the public. Said Mr Wong, 35, who works as a senior butler at the wealth banking arm of a local bank: "Music is life for me and I love meeting people."

    Singaporeans Today spoke to were receptive of the prospect of more heartland performances. "If you come, I'll watch. Performances will make the area more vibrant," said Jalan Besar resident Lim Lai Seng, 70, who added that he cannot venture far to catch performances due to his weak legs.

    Simei resident Susan Goh, 50, is keen on traditional dance: "I'll find neighbours or friends to go watch them with."

    Asked how performances and artworks would be selected for public consumption, Mr Nah said the instructors and artists with the community arts and culture clubs would probably assess the works.

    A website could be set up for keen residents to register, and Mr Nah said they would "probably have to agree on some basic ground rules, like not to sing religious songs or make a speech thereafter".

    Those exhibiting paintings or drawings in public spaces may also have to agree to accept the consequences should their works be vandalised or stolen.

    "Other than that, we welcome everybody," said Mr Nah.

    To usher in the movement to bring arts and culture closer to the heartlands, the PassionArts Month will be launched on Sunday at Bishan Park and Teck Ghee Vista.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be the guest of honour at the launch, which will also feature four sculptures made up of household items jointly created by visual artists and residents of Central Singapore district.

    Between Sunday and April 8, 3,500 performers will be involved in 200 performances or exhibitions at 70 locations island-wide.


    People's Association chief executive director Yam Ah Mee (fifth from left) with grassroots performers at the PAssionArts press conference. Photo by NEO CHAI CHIN

  12. #5826
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    Default Most prefer current homes for retirement

    by Amir Hussain
    04:45 AM Mar 16, 2012

    SINGAPORE - About 70 per cent of Singaporeans aged 40 and above prefer to maintain their current homes after retirement, while 52 per cent will not consider living in a retirement village.

    This was according to a study by Ngee Ann Polytechnic students released yesterday.

    Of those who took part in the study, 14 per cent said they would like to downsize to a smaller flat post-retirement, while only 9 per cent would like to move to a condominium or landed property.

    "Given the ageing population, we were keen to see how responsive the senior citizens are to the concept of a retirement village", said Ms Ng Lay Har, director of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Building and Environment Division.

    The Government has been looking at how to help seniors age in place as Singapore's population ages. By 2030, 20 per cent of the population will be 65 and above.

    Retirement villages are commonly found in developed countries and are usually equipped with shared facilities like activity rooms and services such as housekeeping. There is currently a pilot seniors group home in Macpherson.

    The study found that retirement villages are more attractive to singles and those without children.

    Location-wise, over 80 per cent of respondents would like the retirement village to be in their current residential area.

    Among the top considerations of the respondents were accessibility to family and friends and amenities such as food outlets, supermarkets and retail shops.

    They also want services such as housekeeping, laundry and in-house nursing.

    And between renting and purchasing a retirement village home, 55 per cent would prefer to rent one.

    The study on retirement housing involved 1,000 people aged 40 and above

    Of the respondents, 93 per cent were Singaporeans, 68 per cent earn less than S$4,000 a month and 83 per cent live in HDB flats.

  13. #5827
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    Default Jurong Lake District one of IBM's 'smarter' cities

    04:45 AM Mar 16, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The Jurong Lake District has been selected as one of 33 "smarter" cities to receive grants from IBM this year.

    Yesterday, IBM announced the list of cities selected under its Smarter Cities Challenge.

    The Jurong Lake District is one of eight Asian cities chosen. The others include Da Nang in Vietnam, Ahmedabad in India, New Taipei City in Taiwan and Nanjing in China.

    The three-year, US$50 million (S$63.3 million) programme - which is IBM's single-largest philanthropic initiative - was launched last year.

    Under the programme, 100 municipalities will receive expert advice from IBM consultants addressing locally important urban issues.


    According to IBM, the selected cities "proposed intriguing projects and areas of focus for IBM experts".

    An artist's impression of the Jurong Lake District. TODAY FILE PHOTO

  14. #5828
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    Default Singapore unemployment rate falls to 14-year low


    by Esther Ng
    04:46 AM Mar 16, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The unemployment rate last year dropped to 2 per cent for the first time in 14 years, but labour productivity growth, after rising sharply to 11 per cent in 2010, slid to 1 per cent.

    The moderation was due to slower gross domestic product growth amid strong job creation, the Ministry of Manpower said yesterday in its labour market report.

    Productivity has been of great concern to the Government, which outlined several enhancements to schemes that support productivity improvement in the Budget this year.

    Economists Today spoke to were not perturbed by the slide, as the drop in productivity corresponds to a drop in real output growth - the economy grew 14.7 per cent in 2010 but 4.9 per cent last year.

    Moreover, labour is only one factor of productivity and labour productivity figures fluctuate a lot because Singapore's growth is driven by manpower growth, SIM University School of Business Associate Professor Randolph Tan pointed out.

    What was interesting, he said, was that Singapore's relative unit labour cost (RULC) for manufacturing - a measure of its competitiveness against 16 economies such as Hong Kong and Taiwan - has been "trending downwards", suggesting the manufacturing sector is "regaining its competitiveness".

    "Unit per labour cost comprises wage changes and productivity improvement. This suggests that productivity (in manufacturing) has been strong enough to offset increase in wages," said Assoc Prof Tan.

    However, Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng disagreed that productivity improvements had made the Singapore manufacturing sector competitive and put it down to "an expansion" in the biomedical sector in the third to fourth quarter.

    Meanwhile, hiring sentiment was looking up, with 37,600 jobs added in the last quarter, 5,700 more than in the previous quarter. For the whole year, total employment increased by 122,600 (3.9 per cent), slightly higher than the gain of 115,900 (3.9 per cent) in 2010.

    The large majority of employment gains came from services (96,100) last year, though this was lower than in 2010 (112,600). Boosted by public projects, construction jobs rose by 22,000 compared to 3,400 in 2010. Manufacturing jobs, however, grew by only 3,400.

    Said Adecco South East Asia's regional director, Ms Lynne Ng: "We have seen a slight increase in demand from our clients in the construction and manufacturing sectors that is being driven, in part, by the increasing number of organisations that are building new manufacturing and construction facilities."

    As for redundancies, close to six in 10 (57 per cent) residents who were made redundant were previously holding professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) jobs.

    Production and related workers were more vulnerable to redundancy, forming 29 per cent of the residents laid off while they accounted for 21 per cent of the workforce.

    Nearly two in three workers made redundant last year were mature residents aged 40 and over, higher than their 54-per-cent representation in the workforce.

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    Default SIM to double its campus size by 2014

    Published on Mar 16, 2012


    The six-storey annex building adjacent to the existing building was officially opened by President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Friday.

    The launch was witnessed by Mr Gerard Ee, Chairman of SIM Governing Council; Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chancellor and Chairman of SIM University; and Mr Richard Eu, Chairman of Singapore Institute of Management Pte Ltd Board of Directors.

    Phase two of the expansion plans, which is expected to be completed by 2014, will see the construction of three buildings. Facilities include a performing arts theatre, a sports hall, rooftop tennis courts, seminar rooms and laboratories.

  16. #5830
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    Default Sports school goes from strength-to-strength

    Set for its 10th Open House, the campus at Woodlands is well-established as home to youngsters who can fulfil their academic and sporting dreams


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    04:45 AM Mar 17, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Student-athletes like Amanda Lim are already stars. She is a seven-gold medallist over two Southeast Asian Games who has made waves in the pool. Bowler Christopher Hwang and younger sister Elizabeth (netball) excel both on and off the field.

    Then you have the likes of 12-year-old fencer Ryan Ong, who is just finding his feet, making new friends while learning how to balance studies and sport.

    All of them share a bond - they are fiercely proud of the Singapore Sports School.

    The school opened its doors on January 5, 2004, and after nine years, it is now firmly established as the best pipeline to the national teams for many sports.

    For the 10th time, the Sports School will hold an Open House at its Woodlands campus on March 31, when youngsters, along with mum and dad, can get a peek into what the school has to offer.


    WHAT'S UP DOC!

    Her bags may not be packed yet, but there was no mistaking the excitement in swimmer Amanda Lim's voice as she talked about moving to the United States to enrol in a pre-medicine course at the University of Florida.

    It is the first step towards fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor. Amanda, 19, earned a scholarship from the university and will begin her studies in September.

    Speaking to Today before she embarked on her current week-long training camp at England's Surrey Sports Park, Amanda said: "The University of Florida is one of the best colleges and offers the best athlete services in the country. They also have one of the best swim teams in the US and Ryan Lochte's coach, Gregg Troy, is there.

    "I can't wait to get there. Both the university and Sports School are very alike - in terms of the boarding school, training, curriculum, and travelling for competitions."

    Amanda's interest in medicine sparked off when she began studying in the Sports School.

    "I've always been very interested in science, especially biology. The way the teachers teach the subject at the Sports School is very unique and interesting," she said.

    "My teachers were great and taught with passion and dedication during formal and make-up sessions when I missed classes due to overseas competitions."

    Juggling school work and her athletic pursuit came easy for the young swimmer, who basked in glory at the SEA Games in Indonesia last November when she won four gold medals (100m freestyle, women's 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle, 4x100m medley), one silver and a bronze.

    The "student-athlete centric" philosophy at the Sports School has worked wonders.

    Said Lawrence Lau, Head of Department (Science): "The student-athletes have consistently delivered results that are better than expected."

    Lau, who has chalked up an 18-year long career in teaching at schools such as Anglican High School and Raffles Institution, strives to catch the interest of students by tweaking his style.

    He said: "The key is to deliver a science education and build a love for science. You can grill students until they are good but they will hate it and that's not the way to do it.

    "Amanda's love of science is definitely testament to our programme's success."


    LOVING THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED

    Eight years ago, Dr Winston Hwang was "living the (parenting) norm" until his eldest son, Christopher, told him he wanted to join the Sports School after finishing at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Primary.

    An old boy of ACS, Dr Hwang, a father of three, expected Christopher to continue studying within the ACS Family, but the young bowler had other plans.

    The 49-year-old medical doctor said: "At a Primary 6 bowling tournament, he went up to the Sports School's director of sports and bowling general manager and had conversations with them. He was looking for his own alternatives and he sold it to us.

    "It took us a while to appreciate it, but we gave him an opportunity and went to the Open House to see what the school had to offer. Everybody was very surprised because Christopher's mum and I are both doctors and a normal pathway would have been the obvious thing to do. We turned a few heads there."

    Christopher joined Raffles Institution after completing his O levels and the 20-year-old National Serviceman notched five As and one B when the GCE A level results were announced earlier this month.

    He intends to pursue a double degree in business and law.

    Dr Hwang's youngest daughter Elizabeth, 16, has followed in her brother's footsteps and she was the top student in her sports school cohort this year after earning nine distinctions in the O level examinations.

    She is currently studying at Raffles Institution.

    Christopher, an Asian Youth Games double medallist (silver, bronze) has fond memories of his secondary school days.

    "I loved the idea of independence and growing up in a boarding school. I also had a lot of passion for bowling and wanted to see how far I could take it," he said.

    He did so well in both studies and sport that Elizabeth decided to join the Sports School too although she was selected for Methodist Girls' School's gifted education programme in 2007.

    The netballer, who was part of the national 17 & Under team, said: "I wanted to try something new and the Sports School offered what most other schools didn't have like boarding and a dedicated training time."

    With both children notching achievements on and off the sporting field, the Hwangs have become a model family for the Sports School.

    Said Dr Hwang, a parent representative on the school management committee who won the Friend of MCYS (Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports) award last year: "The Sports School's student-athletes can swim with the best academically - it isn't all about sports with no or little regard for the grey matter. We have walked the path and showed that's not the case."


    HE'S GOT HIS EYE ON THE FUTURE

    Standing 1.49m tall and tipping the scales at 38kg, foil fencer Ryan Ong may not be the most intimidating of opponents on the piste, but the soft-spoken 12-year-old knows exactly what he wants.

    He has set his sights on representing Singapore at the Olympic Games.

    He picked up the sport when he was seven and decided last year that the Sports School is the right place to help him achieve his ambitious goal.

    Said the youngster, who studied at St Joseph's Institution Junior last year: "Training is tougher but I enjoy being here and training with a world-class coach like Ralf Bissdorf."

    The Secondary 1 student-athlete who is bound for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, is part of the school's 13-strong cohort of nine boys and four girls in the fencing academy.

    Fencing became the 10th academy in the school this year, joining badminton, bowling, football, golf, netball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and table tennis.

    First up for the 2012 season for Ryan - who won a silver (boys' Under 12) at the National Minime Fencing Championships in 2010 - is the International Children's Fencing Tournament Challenge Wratislavia, which will be hosted in Poland from March 22 to 26.

    Dad Roy Ong admitted the decision to enrol him in the Sports School was a "gradual process".

    The 47-year-old airline pilot has no regret.

    "The more we found out about the Sports School, the more we realised it an opportunity that we couldn't miss," he said.

    "Not only does he get a chance to train under a world-class coach, he also gets to train in top-notch facilities. I am glad to see that the academic programme in Sports School is rigorous. Ryan has just completed his first two modules. His results show that he is motivated to excel academically."

    So happy is Ong with the Sports School that he is considering enrolling his nine-year-old daughter, Rachel, when the time comes for her to choose a secondary school.

    Golf is her game, but of course, it will be up to her.?"I'm very happy with what has transpired so far. For us, sports is something very important for development ... Winning is not everything and sports teaches so much."

    Lawrence Lau, Singapore Sports School Head of Department in Science. Photo by DON WONG

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    Default Community arts festival kicks off at Bishan Park

    by Tan Weizhen
    04:45 AM Mar 19, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The heavy downpour at the start of the first community arts festival at Bishan Park yesterday afternoon made performer Li Yuzhen anxious.

    Nonetheless, the dancer, whose team had been invited to perform for the heartland crowd, was keen to start their performance, which included teaching the audience some simple dance moves.

    Said the 21-year-old undergraduate: "I think dance should be accessible to everyone. This is the first time I'm seeing such a mass audience participate in the arts and I hope they learn something from it."

    Yesterday marked the start of PAssionArts Month, part of the national drive to bring arts into the community.

    It aims to reach 50,000 residents through a month of arts activities at locations such as at void decks, rooftop gardens and parks, with 70 shows, exhibitions and talent showcases.

    The event, which was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, saw a wide variety of activities spread across Bishan Park and the nearby Housing and Development Board flats at Teck Ghee Vista.

    At the park, a drum showcase, sculptures, storytelling sessions and K-pop dance performances were held, while over at Teck Ghee - an upgraded estate with large spaces, arcing bridges and winding footpaths - an orchestra was set up at one spot, a choir at another and even an opera showcase.

    There was a community arts gallery and a mini photo exhibition along the overhead bridge linking the park and the estate.

    Residents were mingling at the various corners, while Mr Lee, the guest of honour, spent some two hours touring the exhibits and watching the performances.

    Full-time sculptor Terence Lin, 29, whose works were displayed at the festival, said bringing arts into the community was a "win-win situation".

    "The residents get to know how artists work and respect art, while the artists will get to know more of each constituency (that he or she performs in).

    "Art is not exclusive to the museum setting," he said.

    But reactions among the residents were mixed.

    Secretary Shirley Koh, 43, who brought her two sons to the event, said: "Both the young people and the senior citizens have a chance to watch performances, which they might not do regularly, if at all."

    But retiree Chan Kok Leong, 67, said that the choice of shows could be better - he did not enjoy the hip-hop and K-pop dance segments.

    Over at the HDB estate, residents said such activities, while interesting, should not be organised too frequently.

    One 41-year-old resident staying at Block 310, who would only be known as Mr Ng, said: "The noise from the orchestra and the crowds was a bit too loud, especially as I'm staying on the lower floor."


    A community sculpture called Over the Household Rainbow, 2012 on display at Bishan Park. Photo by OOI BOON KEONG

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