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Thread: Singapore Also Can
09-25-2013, 09:42 PM #7481
A life without wheels
More Singaporean families can have a high quality family life and a stronger balance sheet without owning a car. TODAY file photo
Do you really need a car? Probably not, says this father of two.
By James Chia
4 hours 25 min ago
The Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system has generated much discussion. Different parties have contributed proposals on how to tweak (or overhaul) it.
Taking a narrow perspective, the issue seems to be all about how to make the COE system “fairer” and how to curb the inexorable rise of COE prices, which have bounced back from the knee-jerk fall after the Monetary Authority of Singapore (rightly) instituted car-loan tightening measures early this year.
There will be no single COE system that pleases everyone. Vested interests abound; automobile distributors, used-car sellers, public transport companies, small and medium-sized enterprises and households all have their own perspectives. The Government is also a key stakeholder, being the provider of public transport infrastructure and (hopefully) roads with free-flowing traffic that bring tangible economic benefit to all.
The debate has centred only on the supply side of the equation. This is not enough. There is a bigger issue in play.
IS A CAR A NEED?
The COE system functions using a price mechanism where demand equilibrates with supply at a market clearing price. The supply of COEs (read: cars) is limited, but demand has risen over the years and so COE prices have skyrocketed.
Yet, as long as there is no bias in ownership rules (such as only people living in private estates being allowed to buy cars or bid for COEs), then the system is not inherently unfair.
Singaporeans, however, keep complaining that it is. Our country’s affluence, fuelled by an insidious (Asian) desire to “look good” and to have “made it”, is seen to necessitate ownership of a car (preferably a European continental model). Some even take it to be the right of every Singaporean household, regardless of whether one can afford it or whether one needs it.
I am not trivialising the genuine transportation needs of families with aged parents or ill members who must be ferried to doctors’ appointments. Indeed, for such families, it is imperative that we keep the cost of car ownership affordable. But for the rest of us, is a car really something we cannot do without?
PARENTS WITHOUT WHEELS
Let us take the parents of young children. Many in this demographic operate on the basis that without a car, life is impossible. As a parent of two children (aged two and four) myself, I do not think that a car is a prerequisite to having a family, nor is it critical to a full family life.
My wife and I lived in London from 2007 to 2010 where, despite the lower cost of car ownership, people generally commute to work (this is true of other major cities such as New York, Hong Kong and Taipei as well).
We did not own a car, travelling instead by bus and Tube even after the birth of our daughter, gaining an intimate knowledge of the city in the process.
When we moved home to Singapore, we decided we would not buy a car, since I could commute to work by bus and public transport sufficed for the family at weekends. We made some lifestyle decisions.
One: We enrolled our four-year-old in a kindergarten across the road. This eliminated the need for a car to ferry her to and from school. We let our children play in our housing estate’s playgrounds with their neighbours and we bring them to the parks and other open spaces within the vicinity of our home for the family to enjoy the outdoors.
Two: We plan our weekend outings around locations that are easily accessible by bus and operated with a durable yet space-saving baby stroller to wheel our younger daughter around (and the older one when she was younger).
Travel takes slightly longer on public transportation, so we make sure to plan ahead and budget enough time (we are seldom late for appointments). We are living proof that a couple with two young kids in tow can travel easily on Singapore public transportation — outside weekday peak hours of course.
HIGHER QUALITY LIFE, AT LOWER COST
Three, for outings that are more out-of-the-way, or if we need to reach multiple destinations in a day, we used an excellent car-sharing scheme called KahShare, operated by Honda (sadly, now defunct, though there are other operators who also offer car-sharing services).
In the absence of more widespread car-sharing schemes, the cost of an occasional taxi ride is acceptable to us. To be honest, it is also a more pleasant experience to be driven than to drive — no need to deal with parking stresses, for example.
Four, we have fun with the children at home, as well as on the bus journey. Many of my fondest memories with my daughters are the one-to-two-hour rides where we look at the scenes outside, play “I spy” and chat. Quality father-daughter interaction and bonding, no smartphones allowed.
Having not owned a car for the past six years, our family life is of a very high quality. And I believe that more Singaporean families can have the same, without the need to own a car. The family balance sheet is also stronger, as one is less financially obligated, cars being expensive to own and upkeep.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT A WORK IN PROGRESS
Granted, this lifestyle is only possible with a well-functioning public transportation system.
Our system is not perfect. Indeed, the recent increased spate of MRT breakdowns has given stern warning to the public transport operators and the Government that our system has not kept pace with population growth and is operating beyond capacity. The rail network is being expanded, with the Land Transport Authority’s vision being to have eight in 10 households living with 10 minutes of an MRT station.
Public transport operators also need to refocus their strategies and capital back towards their core responsibilities of public transport provision. Singapore’s expenditure on rail maintenance lags behind Hong Kong and Tokyo, and must be stepped up.
I take heart at the additional investment now being made in our public transport system and this should bear fruit in the next few years.
As for the excellent car-sharing schemes I touched on earlier, the Government should consider how it can incentivise greater provision of such schemes. Car sharing is a good middle ground that suits a large segment of Singapore society who do not need cars for the work-week but would appreciate one for the weekend outing. Such schemes also relieve road congestion and lower our country’s carbon footprint.
A FINANCIAL LITERACY PERSPECTIVE
It goes against economics/finance theory to take out a loan to finance an asset that does not generate a positive rate of return.
Cars in Singapore tend not to be appreciating “assets”. Corporate parlance would term cars as an expense item. Yet many people take out (large) loans to buy cars. This is poor personal financial management. Hence I fully support the MAS’ recently instituted car-loan curbs.
Too many of us over-extend ourselves, buying houses and cars funded by huge amounts of debt. Many Singaporeans’ jobs (and salaries) are required just to meet large monthly debt repayments. Many cannot go without their salaries for even a short period.
One corollary is that entrepreneurship is hampered — not many Singaporeans can bear the initial low (or no) income phase of a start-up’s journey because their personal “running costs” are too high.
At our learning centre, we run workshops for secondary school and junior college students, where we share principles of sound personal finance management. At the heart of our lessons is the importance of differentiating between needs and wants.
We show them one particular clip from the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a scene where Shia LaBeouf’s character asks Josh Brolin’s character: “What is this exact number (of dollars) you need to retire?” Brolin’s cold reply is: “More”.
This is a tragic path of modern materialism that Singapore and Singaporeans should not go down. And we can start by choosing not to view car ownership as an “aspiration” or “birthright”, but as it really is for most of us — merely one option among a range of transportation modes.
If one can afford to buy and maintain a car, go ahead. But there is no good reason, and in fact it is downright dangerous, to over-leverage oneself simply to “look good”. Despite what the naysayers claim, I can attest that life without a car is very possible in Singapore, with a bit of sacrifice in convenience and comfort.
The question is: Are we prepared to make this mindset and lifestyle change? If yes, demand for cars will naturally fall. The COE debate will then be moot.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
James Chia is a co-founder of Innervative Learning. A father of two, he worked for close to a decade with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Cornell University.
09-26-2013, 03:15 AM #7482
$100m skin research centre to open in Singapore
Published on Sep 26, 2013
A patient's hands with eczema. Singapore announced a new $100 million skin research centre on Thursday. It will be dedicated to research into areas such as skin ageing and diseases like eczema and pigmentation disorders. -- FILE PHOTO: NATIONAL SKIN CENTRE
By Feng Zengkun
Singapore announced a new $100 million skin research centre on Thursday. It will be dedicated to research into areas such as skin ageing and diseases like eczema and pigmentation disorders.
Called the Skin Research Institute of Singapore, it is founded by three partners: the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, the National Skin Centre and Nanyang Technological University. It will eventually be housed in Novena.
One in three people worldwide suffers from a skin disorder, and the diseases also affect Asian and Caucasian people differently. Singapore is an ideal place to investigate the diseases partly because of its multi-ethnic population, the institutes said.
Aside from conducting research, the skin research centre will also give out research grants, introduce PhD programmes in skin biology and build a database of Asian skin samples which can be used for scientific studies and consumer product testing.
09-26-2013, 03:20 AM #7483
Professor Tommy Koh awarded Great Negotiator Award
Published on Sep 26, 2013
Singapore's ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh has been awarded the 2014 Great Negotiator Award. -- FILE PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
By Feng Zengkun
Singapore's ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh has been awarded the 2014 Great Negotiator Award.
The award is given out by the Program on Negotiation, an inter-university collaboration between Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Kennedy School.
Prof Koh was honoured for his contributions in negotiation and dispute resolution, including his roles in the Law of the Sea, the "Rio" Earth Summit, the Asean Charter and the Singapore-United States Free Trade Agreement.
Past recipients of the award include former US Secretary of State James Baker; Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Finland president Martti Ahtisaari; and former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata.
09-29-2013, 09:28 PM #7484
Dick Lee wins Compass prize for Home - 15 years after it was written
Published on Sep 30, 2013
By Deepika Shetty
Home, already a favourite National Day song of many Singaporeans, is in the limelight again.
Fifteen years after it was written in 1998, it finally won its composer Dick Lee this year's top local English pop song award at the 18th annual Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) Awards ceremony last night.
It was the highest royalty- earning local English composition in the pop music genre for last year.
In his short acceptance speech - the shortest of the evening - Lee said he was "surprised" to get an award for a 15-year-old song. He said he hoped the award would inspire young composers to keep writing "because you can still win an award 15 years on".
Composer Dick Lee (right) receiving the award for top local English pop song from Compass director Liang Wern Fook last night. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
09-29-2013, 09:54 PM #7485
Singapore re-elected into governing body of UN aviation arm
Published on Sep 29, 2013
By Karamjit Kaur
Singapore has been re-elected, for another three years, into the governing body of the United Nations arm that oversees global civil aviation.
The policy-making council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao), which Singapore was admitted to in 2003, comprises 36 member countries.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who is leading a Singapore delegation at Icao's 38th assembly in Montreal, Canada, said: "We will continue to contribute actively to the advancement of the Icao's objectives of promoting safety, security, efficiency and environmental protection in civil aviation."
Apart from its seat in the council, Singapore also holds leadership positions in 16 of Icao's expert bodies and working groups, contributing in many areas such as air law and aviation medicine.
10-01-2013, 09:00 PM #7486
Singapore ranked world No.3 for making most of workers
WEF index sees it follow Switzerland and Finland in making most of workers
Published on Oct 02, 2013
Office workers walking in Tanjong Pagar. A new index that measures a country's ability to make the most of its workers has ranked Singapore as the third most successful in the world and the best in Asia. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TED CHEN
By Fiona Chan Senior Economics Correspondent
A new index that measures a country's ability to make the most of its workers has ranked Singapore as the third most successful in the world and the best in Asia.
The Human Capital Index, developed by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF), put Singapore just behind Switzerland and Finland in maximising the long-term potential of its labour force.
Of the 122 countries assessed, Japan was the only other Asian country to make it to the top 20 - in 15th place. The United States was one spot behind.
Not far below were Malaysia and South Korea, in 22nd and 23rd places respectively, while China - the top-ranking BRIC nation - came in at 43rd.
Human Capital Index rankings
4. The Netherlands
8. United Kingdom
16. United States
10-01-2013, 09:09 PM #7487
Dead polar bear Sheba lives on in Singapore Zoo as body preserved as exhibit
Published on Oct 02, 2013
-- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
In death, as in life, Singapore Zoo's beloved polar bear Sheba will continue to enchant thousands of children each year.
The bear made its first appearance at the zoo yesterday, since its body was preserved by a taxidermist after it died of old age last November.
This Friday and Saturday, visitors can get up close to it as part of the zoo's Children's Day activities. Show-and-tell sessions will be held thrice each day. They are free to the public with admission to the zoo.
10-01-2013, 09:50 PM #7488
Live in the future, not in the present
When Valerio Nannini came here as Managing Director of Nestle Singapore three years ago, it was to drive innovation in a small country while ensuring the company’s products could compete in markets like China and India. Photo: Bloomberg
Employees in a Google office. The company’s innovation doctrine is people-centric, and it has created physical spaces and channels for conversation and ideas. Photo: Bloomberg
By Valerio Nannini
4 hours 21 min ago
Singapore ranked second in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report this year, its outstanding rating across markers like education, financial market development, infrastructure and labour market efficiency placing it just below Switzerland. The island-state, however, suffered a slight bump in one area described by observers as its “Achilles heel” — innovation.
As a company man who has spent more than 25 years in Nestle, research, development and innovation are my passion. Three years ago, I came to Singapore with exactly that agenda: To drive innovation in a small country and yet, ensure that my company’s products can compete in challenging big markets like China and India.
Through my interaction with public and private institutions here, I am pleasantly surprised that Singaporeans, by and large, are obsessed with innovation and recognise that it is important for securing the future.
With businesses worldwide experiencing lower labour productivity, innovation is a trendy keyword that companies can embrace to thrive and lead in a competitive marketplace.
And this might be just as well, for the notion of productivity has gone a bit too far in the minds of people.
Many think productivity is the cure for everything. But while productivity — together with a friendly and conducive eco-system with good support from key stakeholders such as government and private enterprises — has brought Singapore to where it is today, where Singapore wants to be tomorrow must be reached through innovation.
SMES AND THE RAPIDLY CHANGING GAME
The game for businesses is changing rapidly every day. It varies by industry and product category, and the speed of life-cycle of products could — in the past — be six to seven years. Now, in some categories, it is down to three years.
In even more highly competitive quarters, like the smartphone segment, products have a lifespan of less than a year. Just look at how often mobile phone companies like Samsung, Apple and HTC come up with newer designs or upgraded versions of handsets.
This intense competition leaves many breathless, and no one feels the impact more than small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
A characteristic of some SMEs is that they are quite dependent on another business — usually a bigger one — for survival. They don’t think they are in a position to be of influence and their mindset is “if I make this component for you today, I will make it for you forever”.
But if their patron is unable to innovate and finds itself in trouble, the SME will also be hit.
Generally, there are four broad strategies to better innovative business thinking: Leading through objectives and goals, championing continuous improvement, building business partnerships and facilitating learning.
FUZZY ROAD MAPS CAN BE FATAL
Perhaps the most crucial is the first strategy, but it is also one that many SMEs are not doing enough of.
Leading through objectives and goals means having a very clear view of your company’s identity and where it wants to be in the future, be it five or 10 years, or even more. If this road map is outlined, the journey can be tracked and performance can be measured over each milestone.
Some great firms have been brought down by fuzzy road maps.
When Eastman Kodak, a 125-year-old photography film pioneer, went bankrupt last year, many blamed the company for not adapting to the digital photography transformation quick enough. But contrary to what some thought, Kodak did innovate.
In 1975, it developed the world’s first digital camera, but the plan to develop it further was scrapped because the company was afraid that it might affect its flagship photography film business.
At the time of its bankruptcy, it had more than 1,000 patents in digital imaging under its belt. (Some were sold to an Apple-led consortium for more than US$500 million, or S$626 million, as part of bankruptcy proceedings.)
In the years before its demise, more competitors moved into digital photography; so did Kodak. But it also couldn’t get print photography out of its mind. It was unable to look ahead to how business would be like in 10 years and beyond.
Thus, perhaps one of its mistakes was to hold on too dearly to its old business of film, while not doing enough in the digital segment, which was the key to the future of photography.
This is why it is important for businesses that are keen to innovate, or for those who have some form of research and development ambition, to not live in the present — they have to live in the future.
DISRUPTION IS A GOOD THING
Some common characteristics for innovation is to either fulfil a need in the market or to satisfy an area of concern. But role models for innovation are able to do something else: They disrupt the market with new products that force people to notice them.
Apple, Facebook and Samsung are all examples of companies that can shake a market with innovative products or business models, and they do it very frequently.
Nestle joined that list when we launched our Nespresso products. The idea to let coffee lovers brew a cup of espresso in their homes using a capsule went against the practice that you need a third-party or a retailer to sell the product.
This model was “disruptive innovation” for two reasons. First, we are the market leader in terms of instant coffee, so basically we were cutting lines on ourselves and cannibalising our earlier products. Second, roasted ground coffee was not our forte. By introducing a totally new business model based on high-end luxury goods and making coffee an experience, we jolted the market and put coffee on the same level as perfume or a Louis Vuitton bag.
INNOVATION = LEADERSHIP + PEOPLE + CULTURE
Innovating for the future will also involve not just an “elite” group of researchers or staff who are given the mandate to innovate. Innovation has actually become more collaborative and should be open to all employees.
If you look at all the companies which are very well-known for being innovative, the common element among them is a strong culture of innovation and getting everyone involved in the process.
Google is one company that has learnt to do this well. Its innovation doctrine is extremely people-centric, and it has created physical spaces and channels for conversation and ideas between staff and management to flow.
This kind of openness and constant dialogue is easy to replicate, but managers here have to ask themselves if they can stomach it — especially when there are key performance indicators to meet and the yield of such programmes is unknown.
Culture plays a very important role in the future of innovation but it really requires strong leadership and strong buy-in from the people and, like with every change process, you need to keep on with the process because it never ends.
Just remember what the great innovation and management guru Peter Drucker once said: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Valerio Nannini is the Managing Director of Nestle Singapore. A Singapore permanent resident, he is also a board member at the National Research Foundation and the Chairman of the board of advisers at the SMF Singapore Innovation and Productivity Institute and a board member at the Health Promotion Board.
10-02-2013, 08:45 PM #7489
NUS and NTU move up in world rankings
NUS now 26th, NTU is 76th and top for industry income and innovation
Published on Oct 03, 2013
MBA graduates from NUS posing for pictures at their commencement ceremony. NUS rose three spots to 26th this year and held on to its second position in Asia, after Tokyo University. -- ST FILE PHOTO
The Straits Times
By Sandra Davie Senior Education Correspondent
Singapore's two oldest universities are getting better with age as they continue their march up the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) edged up another three spots to 26th this year, after going from 40th to 29th in 2012. It also held on to its position as the second-best in Asia, after Tokyo University.
The Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which dramatically leaped 83 places the year before, moved another 10 rungs to 76th.
It is also ranked joint No. 1 in the world for industry income and innovation, sharing the accolade with 10 other universities, such as Johns Hopkins and Duke University, after coming in 15th last year.
STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Singapore continues to go from strength to strength.
- Mr Phil Baty, editor of THE World University Rankings, produced by Britain's leading publication in higher education
WORLD'S TOP UNIVERSITIES
1. California Institute of Technology
2. Harvard University
2. University of Oxford
4. Stanford University
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6. Princeton University
7. University of Cambridge
8. University of California, Berkeley
9. University of Chicago
10. Imperial College London
26. National University of Singapore
76. Nanyang Technological University
Source: Times Higher Education magazine
Last edited by Loh; 10-02-2013 at 08:52 PM.
10-02-2013, 08:48 PM #7490
NTU, NUS move up in world university rankings
NTU students with their new mascot, Lyon the lion. Photo: NTU
2 hours 48 min ago
SINGAPORE — Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has improved its ranking — moving up 10 places to 76th worldwide in the latest 2013-2014 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.
This is NTU’s third straight year of progressing up the rankings. Since 2010, NTU has moved up 98 positions.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) has also improved its ranking — from 29th last year to 26th this year.
Times Higher Education World University Rankings uses 13 separate performance indicators to reflect a university’s strengths in five areas — Teaching, Research, Citation, Industry Income and International Outlook.
And for the first time, NTU is ranked first in the world under the Industry Income indicator. Last year, NTU was ranked 15th for this performance indicator.
This indicator measures a university’s knowledge-transfer activity based on the research income it attracts from industry, scaled against the number of academic staff.
10-02-2013, 08:57 PM #7491
GIC invests S$170 million in Brazilian water treatment firm
5 hours 50 min ago
SINGAPORE — Sovereign wealth fund GIC has invested 300 million real (S$170 million) in a Brazilian water and sewage treatment company as it expands its presence in Latin America’s biggest economy.
Aegea Saneamento e Participacoes, an arm of conglomerate Grupo Equipav, said on Tuesday that the investment will be used to help fund its growth plans. It holds about 15 per cent of the private water and sewage treatment market in Brazil.
“Aegea manages an attractive portfolio of water and sewage concessions in Brazil,” said Mr Tay Lim Hock, President of GIC Special Investments.
GIC’s investment in Aegea comes as the Latin American country is boosting infrastructure investments. The national cities council in June approved a 508.5 billion real sanitation plan to provide clean water supplies to all urban areas over the next 10 years.
The announcement follows previous reports in June that GIC is planning to open a Sao Paulo office next year. Last November, it jointly invested US$1.4 billion (S$1.75 billion) with Global Logistic Properties and two other state funds to buy assets in Brazil. Agencies
10-02-2013, 09:01 PM #7492
Australia’s Linc Energy plans Singapore listing
5 hours 52 min ago
SYDNEY — Brisbane-based Linc Energy said yesterday it is planning to switch share market listings to Singapore from Australia by December in order to tap growing Asian demand for oil and gas resources.
Linc has struggled to commercialise its technologies for producing synthetic gas from coal and producing diesel and jet fuel from that gas. It also produces oil in the United States and is looking to exploit shale resources in Australia. The company will seek shareholder approval next month to drop its listing in Sydney and request regulatory permission to trade in Singapore, in a bid to attract investors and boost its value. It will keep its headquarters in Australia.
Listing on the Singapore Exchange “will help unlock the value” of the company’s oil, gas and coal assets, it said.
The company, which is in talks with two or three potential cornerstone investors as part of the proposed listing, wants to tap rising demand for energy shares, Chief Executive Officer Peter Bond said separately yesterday.
“Singapore is becoming an energy hub of Asia,” he said. “(It is) starved of energy-company opportunity.”
Mr Bond added that Linc has not decided how much money it intends to raise in a share sale. Agencies
10-02-2013, 09:07 PM #7493
S’pore to see more oil traffic as global demand shifts
5 hours 50 min ago
SINGAPORE — Already one of the most important transit points in the global energy trade, Singapore will see an even higher percentage of the world’s crude oil pass through it over the next couple of decades as the centre of global energy demand shifts towards Asia from the United States.
The narrow sea lane that runs through the straits of Malacca and Singapore is expected to carry as much as 45 per cent of global crude trade by 2035, said the International Energy Agency (IEA).
That amounts to 16.5 million barrels a day, up from 12 million barrels a day last year, when a little over a third of globally traded crude was routed past Singapore, the Paris-based organisation said in a Southeast Asia Energy Outlook report released yesterday.
Part of oil’s pivot to Asia is the result of a reduced reliance on imports in the US, the world’s largest oil consumer, as a result of a boom in oil and gas production over the past few years due to the use of hydraulic fracturing.
This means more supplies are being diverted to Asian markets, including China, the world’s largest energy consumer and the No 2 oil consumer.
That puts Singapore in the sweet spot of this trade flow.
“The Malacca and Singapore straits constitute one of the most important waterways in the world”, with more than 60,000 vessels a year sailing the 800km stretch along the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, the IEA said.
The sea lane, only 3km across at its narrowest, carries 25 to 40 per cent of everything traded globally.
It connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean and is the “shortest sea route between major oil and gas producers in the Persian Gulf and the fast-growing Asia-Pacific market”, said the agency, which represents 28 developed, energy-consuming member countries.
Alternatives to this critical “choke point”, such as pipelines and new shipping routes, have made little progress so far, it said.
10-02-2013, 09:28 PM #7494
Pulau Ubin's past 'worth preserving for future'
Heritage Board launches virtual tour, plans online video of boatmen
Published on Oct 03, 2013
Long-time Ubin boat operators (above, from left) Mr Fang Ya Ba and Kit Kau Chye aboard a boat at the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photographers taking snapshots of the island's Pekan Quarry. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
A scarecrow seen among a patch of lemon grass (cymbopogon citratus) grown in the vegetables, herbs and spices garden in Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A media photographer shoots Kampong Durian/Kampong Melayu resident Madam Hajah Maimunah Bte Abdullah (right), 87, in the kitchen area which they use to conduct cooking classes, on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Mr Fang Ya Ba, 66, has been a boat operator for almost 45 years. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Tourists seen at a bicycle rental shop located at the village centre, described by a resident as the Orchard Road of Pulau Ubin. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public with their offerings seen at the Tua Pek Kong Main Temple, the oldest temple on Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
A warning sign situated at the Pekan Quarry, also known as the Ho Man Choo Quarry in Pulau Ubin on Oct 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The oldest son of the village head Mr Lin Chu Zi (left), 82, and his wife Madam Chen Siew Zhen (right), 75, at 427 Pulau Ubin, still reside in his father's residence with their son. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Long-time Ubin boat operators Mr Fang Ya Ba and Kit Kau Chye aboard a boat at the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photographers (above) taking snapshots of the island's Pekan Quarry. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
By Melody Zaccheus
Sleepy Pulau Ubin was once a hotbed of rowdy gang activity in pre-war Singapore.
Initiation ceremonies by secret societies such as Sin Ghee Hin would take place on its shores.
This is one of several little-known facts uncovered by the National Heritage Board as part of its efforts to document the history of the 10.2 sq km, boomerang-shaped island in the northeastern corner of Singapore.
A team from the board, headed by group director of policy Alvin Tan, spent the last five months scouring academic texts, newspaper articles and conducting interviews with some of the island's 38 remaining residents to add to existing literature.
A PLACE WORTH SAVING
Through these materials, I hope Singaporeans and other visitors will get to learn more about the island's rich history and make a visit here.
- Mr Kit Kau Chye, boat operator and chairman of the Changi Point Ferry Association, on the efforts to conserve and document the island
10-02-2013, 11:13 PM #7495
BCA wins international award for its green building movement
Published on Oct 03, 2013
By Janice Tai
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore has received an international award for its achievements and commitment to push for most buildings in Singapore to be environmentally-friendly.
It is the first government agency outside of America and Europe to be honoured with International Star (I-Star) for Energy Efficiency award given out by a non-profit US-based energy efficiency coalition, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE).
One of the seven awards conferred by the ASE, the I-Star Award recognises outstanding contributions to energy efficiency achieved through special projects or activities overseas.
The agency received the award on Thursday morning from US Senator Mark Warner at an award ceremony dinner held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington.
10-02-2013, 11:39 PM #7496
Teachers in Singapore more respected than in Finland, UK, US: Study
36 min 42 sec ago
SINGAPORE — Teachers in Singapore were ranked seventh out of 21 countries in an index on the status of the profession, ahead of Finland, Britain and the United States.
According to the Varkey GEMS Foundation 2013 Global Teacher Status Index, the Republic ranks third in the aspect of respondents here having confidence in the national education system, assigning it an average score of 6.7 on a scale of 10, only behind Turkey and China.
In most countries, the perception of what teachers earn accords with reality. However, in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Israel and the US teachers earn more than people think they do.
Four in five respondents here — the fifth-highest proportion among the 21 nations surveyed — said they would encourage their children to pursue a career in teaching, according to the study findings released today (Oct 3).
However, while Singaporeans thought highly of teachers in most regards, respondents believed that the fair wage for a teacher should be 14 per cent less than the average actual wage of US$37,144 (S$46,400), which was the highest among the nations in the study. In contrast, 95 per cent of the countries believed teachers’ pay should be more than the actual wage received.
The Varkey GEMS Foundation 2013 Global Teacher Status Index, which surveys 1,000 respondents in each country, aims to measure key indicators of the status of teachers in their country, including the public perception of the profession and salaries.
The index, drawn up by Professor Peter Dolton, Professor of Economics at Sussex University and Dr Oscar Marcenaro-Gutierrez, Associate Professor at the Department of Statistics and Econometrics at the University of Malaga, is based on in-depth opinion polling conducted by British market research firm Populus.
Said Prof Dolton: “An evaluation of teacher status can provide valuable insight for both educationalists and governments to improve educational outcomes. Furthermore, a global comparison may highlight trends and similarities across countries that can be evaluated to aid educational reforms.”
The results show major differences across countries in the way teachers are perceived by the public, for example teachers in China enjoy a high perceived status and teachers in Israel at the other end experiencing the lowest status, Prof Dolton said.
“This informs who decides to become a teacher in each country, how they are respected and how they are financially rewarded. Ultimately, this affects the kind of job they do in teaching our children,” he added.
10-03-2013, 12:13 AM #7497
Singapore's science scene is solid, but where's the creativity?: Novel Laureate
The President of the UK Royal Society says that discovering human biology is like exploring the unknown, and that’s why it can’t be regulated too tightly.
By June Yang -
1 hour 27 min ago
SINGAPORE — “I’m a bit of an anarchist,” said Sir Paul Nurse, chuckling from across the table, a twinkle in his eye.
The Nobel Laureate and President of the UK’s Royal Society is in Singapore to receive the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, held on Wednesday night (Oct 2) in Nanyang Technological University this year, and he’s taken some time out in his busy schedule to discuss the business of directing biomedical research. “I’m a great believer in the freedom of individuals,” he said.
The statement seems slightly ironic coming from a scientist whose 2001 Nobel Prize in Medicine was for work that shed light on how the cell cycle is controlled and regulated.
But he knows what he’s talking about. His career spans a wide number of distinguished positions, from Professor of Microbiology at the University of Oxford, Chief Executive Officer of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK to the President of Rockefeller University in New York.
Currently, he is Director and Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute, a new multidisciplinary research institute in London that is slated to launch in 2015.
Our problem with approaches to research, he said, is trying a one-size fits all solution.
There is a wide range of research in biomedicine: Some of it is application-driven, trying to solve very specific problems. But a lot of it is not.
“Activities that are very close to application can be controlled in a very top-down way. It’s very obvious what the problem is, it’s very obvious what you’re trying to solve, and the basic knowledge that’s needed is very clear. In that area it’s rather important that there is direction, there is investment in particular directions, and it can be top down control.”
But that only works if you know what you are doing, and there’s still a lot humankind doesn’t about our own biology, he said. Work to discover the unknown needs a freer hand. “Work at the other end, which is discovering new knowledge, should not be controlled in this top-down way, because it stifles the creativity and you tend not to know what you’re trying to find out. If you try to control it too much you won’t get anything very useful and you’ll waste money.”
For Singapore in particular, our small size presents additional challenges.
“I work and live in a biggish country, or a medium-sized country, and over time we’ll cover a lot of area. Singapore, population 5 million, cannot easily cover everything. So when I say give freedom in discovery and research, I can do that in the UK, but in Singapore, it does have to be a bit more directed,” he said.
So what can we do? Sir Paul taps into history, into an age where what we knew about the world was perhaps as little as what we know about our own bodies today.
“I use a metaphor,” he said, “a metaphor of a European explorer in the 19th century. A geographical society in a European country might decide it wants to sponsor an expedition fund, they might want to go to Antarctica. What the explorer society would do is to find the best explorer, equip them as best as they can, and then let them get on with it in Antarctica. They should not direct what they do in Antarctica. They don’t say, go up this valley, or go down that glacier.”
"That is the kind of balance between control and freedom that Singapore needs — identifying general areas of interest, then letting researchers find their own way through it."
This is also the principle he’s gunning for with the Francis Crick Institute (named after one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA). The institute will have about 1,500 scientists in 120 research groups, but no departments, and people are encouraged to form their own bottom-up interest groups to trade ideas.
“Rather than trying to get some senior committee of people like me deciding 'this is what we should do', which is the problem you’d be having if it’s too top-down, what I’m saying is let’s give freedom to the individual to work as if it’s discovery research, but provide a multidisciplinary environment, and capture things very effectively when they pop up.
“So you need more leadership, but not leadership in directing top-down what should be done. Leadership in identifying excellent people, really excellent people, who will perform, and provide a mechanism to capture it when it happens.”
BUILD UP SINGAPORE
Earlier this week TODAY ran a piece with a wide-ranging commentary from Mr Ngiam Tong Dow where, among other things, the former top civil servant lamented that Singapore’s biomedical research scene relied too much on trophy scientists as a key strategy. Sir Paul agreed: “Too often, trophy scientists who are well known in say, the US or Europe, will be offered a position and they will be coming here for a short period of time each year. And they will never settle. I do know examples of that in Singapore, and they are a waste of time.”
Getting talented scientists who are committed to Singapore to move here is excellent, he said, but “if they’re coming here and working here two weeks a year, or a month a year, and just getting money, usually it doesn’t work,” he said candidly. “There is a role for that sort of mature scientist but they have to move here.”
He also agreed with Mr Ngiam’s assessment that what Singapore need is to grow local talent. Singapore’s small size and relative isolation, he says, means that having home-grown talent is crucial. “It’s done extraordinarily well under the circumstances. But 5 million is half the size of London. And London, where I work now, is surrounded by another 50 million population in the UK, and another 300 million in Europe. We’re in a much better position to pool on other things.”
Singapore already has a good head start with a solid educational system, he said, but it seems to have a struggle with creativity, even in research.
“I think that in growing homegrown talent, you have to find the balance between the rigour of high-quality education that maybe is just a bit too much emphasis on learning, facts, and being able to deliver them, versus the creative side.
“There needs to be a balance in doing that, to build on the fantastic education system that delivers, to try to introduce ways to encourage creativity from the beginning, and also in research.”
He recounted his years running the Rockefeller University in New York. “Some years ago they had a scheme from Singapore where you went to the US, you worked there two, three years, then you had to come back and spend two, three years in Singapore. Now that didn’t work so brilliantly. People resented having to come back, you know, they didn’t like being controlled,” he said.
“I felt like that was a bit of a pity that it didn’t work — I had a lot of sympathy for the Singapore Government, what it was trying to do.” But the problem, he said, was that the scientists didn’t have a reason to come back, other than they were mandated.
His solution to that problem was to have joint programmes. “So the actual position is joint between a laboratory in Singapore and a laboratory in Rockefeller, or whoever’s running it. So that the person is actually in both places. And they work for one year in one place and one year in the next. So they have a natural magnet for Singapore, rather than you send them off without that tie to Singapore.”
But the most important thing, he said, is dialogue between the authorities and the scientists. “I think I would talk to (graduate students and post-doctoral researchers) and find out what is important to them. Because you want to build up Singapore.”
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