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  1. #8025
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default MacDonald House bombing: The days when bombs went off in my kampung

    Published on Feb 12, 2014
    12:05 PM


    A mother and her daughter were killed and six others injured when a bomb exploded in Jalan Rebong on April 13, 1964. Three days later, another bomb went off about a kilometre away. -- ST FILE PHOTO


    By Salim Osman Senior Writer

    When a bomb went off one Sunday night in April 1964 at Jalan Rebong in Kampung Ubi, the impact was so large that I could feel it from my home in Geylang Serai a kilometre away.

    A 50-year-old Malay widow and her only child, a 19-year-old schoolgirl, who were at a neighbour's house were killed when the bomb exploded nearby.

    Three days later, another bomb went off about a kilometre away, at the junction of Jalan Betek and Jalan Timun, at a public telephone booth. Five people were injured, including a 62-year-old Chinese woman and three Malays who lived near the booth.

    As a 12-year-old boy who had just entered secondary school, I was curious as to why a bomb had gone off in my kampung area.

    I cycled to Jalan Betek, the scene of the second explosion, to see the mayhem. Only the concrete base of the phone booth was left; the booth and its roof had been blown to bits. The house next door was in shambles, its sitting room badly damaged.

    Months earlier, terrorists had planted a bomb at Katong Park in front of the Ambassador Hotel in Meyer Road. That park by the beach was a favourite picnic site for many of us who lived in Geylang Serai.

    The series of bombings in Singapore occurred at the height of Indonesia's "Konfrontasi" - "Confrontation" - against the Federation of Malaysia formed in September 1963.

    Singapore was then a part of this federation.

    We were told that it was the work of Indonesian soldiers who had infiltrated the island to launch a campaign of terror in line with its "Ganjang Malaysia" - "Crush Malaysia" - campaign against the fledgling federation.

    It was an act of military aggression without a formal declaration of war against Malaysia, which then President Sukarno considered a "British puppet".

    For the Malays in my kampung, Konfrontasi was a campaign of terror against civilians. The series of bombings against targets such as telephone booths, public parks and beaches targeted ordinary people.

    Soon, people were afraid to visit these places.

    The biggest attack was the bombing in March 1965 of MacDonald House in Orchard Road, which killed three civilians and injured 33 others.

    Indonesian marines Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said were arrested, tried and convicted of murder and hanged.

    Konfrontasi was a source of disappointment to my late father, who was Javanese, and his Javanese friends.

    They had come to see Sukarno as a leader who had united the sprawling archipelago, and were disappointed that he had launched the campaign of terror against Malaysia, a newly emerging nation in the Nusantara, the Malay world.

    Konfrontasi also became the first test of our loyalty to Singapore - and to then Malaysia of which we were a part.

    The Indonesian soldiers who infiltrated Singapore to carry out the bombings were all of Malay stock. Some could have well been relatives of Malays who had migrated to Singapore from Java before the Japanese invasion in 1942.

    I recall the swirl of talk in the kampung then: What should the Malays do if the saboteurs came to them to seek refuge? Should we provide food and shelter, or should we surrender them to the authorities?

    Those conversations inevitably ended with the same decision: To hand over any infiltrator or wandering saboteur to the authorities.

    This was no easy decision, given our kinship ties.


    My father's only sister lived with her family in Indonesia. But he lost contact with her because of Konfrontasi; they renewed contact years later, in 1971.

    All that was over four decades ago. Now, the Indonesian military plans to name a navy ship after the two marines who had bombed MacDonald House and struck terror in Singapore.

    We may not be the families of those who died or were injured in the bombing, but as Singaporeans, we feel outraged by the move to honour two terrorists by naming a vessel after them.

    According to Indonesian Armed Forces chief General Moeldoko, the decision to name the ship was made in December 2012 with no intention to stir emotions.

    But surely there are hundreds of Indonesian heroes whose names can be chosen for the vessel. Why pick the names of the two marines, when this would only open up old wounds?

    salim@sph.com.sg
    Last edited by Loh; 02-12-2014 at 02:07 AM.

  2. #8026
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Sensitivity is a two-way street

    KRI USMAN HARUN ISSUE
    Be sensitive to Singapore's feelings. This is the message from two former diplomats, responding to Indonesia's decision to name a naval vessel after the two marines who bombed MacDonald House in 1965.



    Published on Feb 13, 2014
    9:45 AM



    Security forces captured five of a group of 14 Indonesian infiltrators who landed at Ulu Sungei Belukang Kechil, near Pontian Kechil, in 1965. Indonesia waged a Konfrontasi from 1963 to 1966 against the Federation of Malaysia, which included Singapore until August 1965. -- ST FILE PHOTO



    By Bilahari Kausikan, for The Straits Times


    Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has told the Singapore media that "no ill intent was meant, no malice, no unfriendly outlook", when Indonesia named a new frigate KRI Usman Harun, after two Indonesian marines executed in 1968 for a 1965 terror attack on MacDonald House in Orchard Road that killed three and injured 33.
    Singaporeans will no doubt be happy to know this. But I am afraid that the Foreign Minister entirely missed the point.

    The issue is not Indonesia's intentions. It is something far more fundamental. Indonesians never tire of reminding Singapore that we should be "sensitive" and "neighbourly". But Indonesians do not seem to believe that they should be equally "sensitive" to their neighbours. "Sensitivity" and "neighbourliness" are to them a one-way street.

    These are the facts: Between 1963 and 1966, then Indonesian President Sukarno waged a "Konfrontasi" (confrontation) of terror attacks and military action to "Ganjang (crush) Malaysia". Singapore was part of the Federation of Malaysia formed in September 1963 until August 1965 when it became independent.


    Background story

    RECIPROCAL GRACIOUSNESS?

    I do not expect the Indonesians to change the name of the ship. But would any Indonesian leader be prepared to emulate Mr Lee Kuan Yew and place a wreath at MacDonald House?
    - Mr Bilahari Kausikan

  3. #8027
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default What naming of warship means to Singapore

    Singapore’s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam speaks to Reuters during an interview after the verdict of the coroner’s inquiry into American engineer Shane Todd’s death, at the parliament house in Singapore July 8, 2013. Todd committed suicide in Singapore last year, a coroner’s inquiry in the city-state concluded on Monday, in a verdict at odds with his family’s belief that he was murdered because of his work. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)



    Published: 13 February, 4:04 AM


    Yesterday, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam spoke to the Singapore media
    on the disagreement between the Republic and Indonesia over the latter’s decision to name a warship after two marines, who were convicted and hanged in 1968 for the MacDonald House bombing three years earlier. The attack killed three people and injured more than 30 others. This is the transcript:

    Why Singapore raised the issue in the first place

    I think, to answer that question, we have to look at what happened in 1965/68 and what it meant then, as between our two countries; and what the naming of the warship means to us now.

    It is well known. Indonesia was under President Sukarno. The Marines used civilian disguise. They planted a bomb in MacDonald House. It was targeted at civilians. Killed and injured civilians. It was part of a campaign of terror. And you know, it was totally contrary to the laws of war.

    I saw some opinions in the media: That it depends on which shade of history. Really, with respect, there is nothing subjective about Geneva Conventions. What happened was illegal under international law. Period. If it happens now, if people plant bombs to kill civilians, historians won’t be debating on how to characterise it.

    There are no shades of grey here. It was a part of a campaign of terror attacks on schools, other civilian institutions; bombs were planted across the island. These two men were tried in the Courts. They committed a serious crime. People died. One of the ladies who died had six children. All were orphaned immediately. The case went up to the Privy Council in London. They were found guilty. They were hanged in 1968.

    What the event meant at that time


    By the time the two men were tried and before they were hanged, President Sukarno had lost power. Confrontation had stopped. President Suharto was in power. We were forging a — or we were seeking to forge a — new relationship with Indonesia.

    Indonesia asked for these two men, as well as others, to be released. We released 45 — not many people appreciate, we released 45 — including two men who had actually been sentenced to death because they had a bomb, which exploded but no one died. We took into account the relationship, what we were trying to do and so we pardoned those two because no one had died in that particular explosion.


    The execution took place three years after the bombing and the killings. How could we have answered to the victims and their families and to Singaporeans if we had set these two men free? The other two who were set free had not killed anyone. And it is significant that the second incident with the other two men happened — that incident, that bombing — occurred in April 1965, barely a month after the attack on MacDonald House.

    So, there must have been a perception that the first attack was successful and therefore, you know, the second attack. And there must have been plans for more. Yet, we set them free. So we were also balanced.

    Not pardoning Usman and Harun was actually a defining moment for Singapore in terms of our foreign policy. If we had agreed to release them, then that could have set the precedent for our relationships with all bigger countries.

    And what is that precedent?
    That we will do — or we should do — what a bigger country asks us to do even when we have been grievously hurt. That would be a different concept of sovereignty. It is definitional that almost every country that deals with us would be bigger than us. So we decided that that is not good for us. The men were hanged. It was not an easy decision because the British forces were withdrawing in two years. We are talking about 1968. Almost non-existent defence capability. But Mr Lee Kuan Yew stood firm. It was our sovereign decision.

    The Indonesian public was very upset. Our Embassy in Jakarta was sacked. I’m not sure how many people know that, but it was sacked. But within a few years, there was some closure. Both countries put aside the events of Confrontation. Our relationship improved. We took active efforts — President Suharto and Mr Lee Kuan Yew — and today, if you look at the relationship it is excellent, it is mutually beneficial. We were the second-largest investor in Indonesia last year. We have regular consultations.

    In fact, last week, I was in Indonesia. We keep taking steps to strengthen our relationship — keep the momentum — because Indonesia and Singapore have to live together. Indonesia has really provided the stability that has allowed the entire region to prosper.


    What the naming of the warship after the two convicted marines means to Singapore

    It was last week that we found out that the warship was going to be named after the two marines and it was going to be called Usman Harun. It is, of course — as many people in Indonesia as well as some other commentators have pointed out — Indonesia’s sovereign right to name the warship as it chooses, after whoever it chooses. But that really is not the total answer nor is it the end of the matter. Sovereign decisions can of course have an impact on other countries. In this case, Singapore.

    Why do I say it? You know, when you name a warship like this, there is a range of interpretations possible. At the most benign, it could mean that Indonesia did not take into account our sensitivity, how Singaporeans would interpret the naming given what the marines actually did in Singapore. At the other end of the range, much less benign, is that Indonesia glorifies their actions in Singapore rather than simply treating them as heroes who carried out their orders. Right? A range of interpretations.

    This is, therefore, an area where Indonesia’s sovereign right to name a warship intersects with a part of our mutual history and the Singaporean and Indonesian mutual decision to put that history behind us.

    There has to be sensitivity on the part of both countries to make sure that it is behind us and not reopen it, that is why we asked Indonesia to reconsider the naming of the warship. It is one thing to name a building in Indonesia, or bury them in the Heroes’ cemetery.

    It is quite another to name a warship — the signal is very different because the ship sails the seven seas, carrying that message to every land that the ships goes to as it carries that nation’s flag. What is that message? So, it would have been difficult for us to proceed as business as usual, as if nothing had happened. As a result, the TNI chiefs and officers did not attend the airshow.


    What next

    We have said what we think should be done. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa made some very helpful comments on Tuesday. He has made clear that there was no ill will or malice intended. That is very constructive. We welcome his comments. In that context, it is quite important for us to know the marines are not being honoured for killing Singaporeans. It is also important that it is understood and acknowledged that the naming of the ship impacts on us and impacts on our sensitivities.
    Last edited by Loh; 02-12-2014 at 09:50 PM.

  4. #8028
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default I was shocked to hear about the naming of warship: Daughter of victim

    Mother’s death in attack left her and five siblings orphans; but she had considered the matter closed till no


    By LIN YANQIN

    Published: 08 February, 4:02 AM


    SINGAPORE — Held in remand by the police for their roles in the 1965 MacDonald House bombing, Indonesian marines Usman Hj Mohd Ali and Harun Said had asked to see Ms Janet Ng Lin Seong, whose mother Elizabeth Suzie Choo was one of three killed in the attack, making her and her five siblings orphans overnight. She refused to see them. “I didn’t want to see them because it was too painful,” said Ms Ng, who was 20 at the time of the bombing and the eldest child.

    Nevertheless, on Oct 17, 1968, when the two marines were to be hanged, she forgave them after they asked for her forgiveness. She felt they knew they had done something wrong. She even asked the police if they could be released.

    But she was reminded of the hurt earlier this week when news broke that the Indonesian government had named a warship after the two marines.

    Speaking to TODAY over the phone from Australia where she was visiting her family, Ms Ng, now 69, said she had considered the chapter closed and was shocked by the news.

    “Innocent lives were lost … six of us were made orphans overnight. We lost our mother, the only supporter of the family. It was very painful for us and it is still painful whenever we pass MacDonald House,” said Ms Ng, whose parents were separated.

    “The two men asked for forgiveness and I had given (it) before they were executed
    . It is part of history and we have learned from it. The good relationship (between Singapore and Indonesia) should be maintained. It should not be brought up to remind us again.”

    The bombing on March 10, 1965 of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building, known as MacDonald House, was the worst attack in Singapore during Konfrontasi, which took place from 1963 to 1966.

    Apart from Ms Ng’s mother, who was then 36 and working as the secretary to the bank manager, the attack killed her mother’s assistant Juliet Goh Hwee Kuang, 23, and Mohammed Yasin Kesit, 45 — and wounded more than 30 others.

    The Indonesian marines were members of the special force that infiltrated Singapore. They were later conferred the status of national heroes in Indonesia and given a ceremonial funeral.

    Indonesia’s policy of confrontation was formally abandoned in August 1966. Bilateral relations were restored in 1973 after Singapore’s then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sprinkled flowers on the graves of the two men.

  5. #8029
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default 9 in 10 working Singaporeans are happy over all - NTUC U Family poll

    Published on Feb 13, 2014
    11:30 AM


    By Carolyn Khew


    About nine in 10 working Singaporeans are happy over all, with most indicating that marriage and parenthood contribute "significantly" to one's happiness, according to a survey by the family development unit of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

    The poll, conducted online by NTUC U Family in November last year, involved 5,255 of the unit's unionised members. Most of the respondents are married, below the age of 55 and work full-time.

    Based on the survey, about nine in 10 of respondents who are married agreed that marriage contributes to their happiness. The same proportion of respondents who are parents said that having children make them happier.

    Among those who are happy in their workplace, motivated in their current jobs and said that they are likely to stay on in their jobs, cited good relationships with co-workers and supervisors as the main reasons.

  6. #8030
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Is trickle-down economics working for Singapore?

    We need to revisit the philosophy of trickle-down economics. Its influence extends beyond our tax system to inform our policy on immigration — which, in part, targets wealthy foreigners — and on urban planning — which is creating more ‘wealth zones’ such as Sentosa Cove. Photo: Bloomberg


    By Devadas Krishnadas

    Published: 13 February, 4:04 AM
    Updated: 13 February, 5:00 AM


    The annual Budget is an expression of the Government’s commitment to its policies — put simply, the Budget is when the bucks are put into the bangs.

    However, those dollars are sourced from finite revenues, whereas demands for policy attention are often infinite. Even among critical policies, there is a need to prioritise. It is thus appropriate that we ask fundamental questions about the assumptions, motives and directions of our taxation system, which makes public expenditure — and which usually occupies everyone’s attention in the Budget — possible.

    For the past 20 years, we have been shifting our tax system into one that reflects the philosophy of trickle-down economics. This reflects the belief that the wealthy create value and jobs in the economy and, thus, should be incentivised and rewarded with a low effective-tax ceiling. To be fair, the entire tax schedule has been influenced by this thinking, to the extent that all levels of income earners today pay much less income tax than ever before. Further, Singaporeans earning less than S$40,000 annually do not pay any income tax at all and are still eligible for — and by policy design, receive disproportionately more of — the share of public benefits each year through subsidies, grants and supplements.

    GST AND THE POOR

    However, everyone — whether they are income earners or not — pays indirect taxation in the form of Goods and Services Tax. GST, because it is taxed at the point of consumption, is a very efficient tax compared with direct taxation. It is also more stable as a tax flow, given that consumption must occur even during economic downturns.

    Nonetheless, GST targets consumption and because it is applied equally regardless of income level, it is highly regressive. For low-income earners, whose major expenditure is on basic goods, the tax affects them disproportionately compared with higher-income earners who have much more disposable income to expend on discretionary items.

    As GST has increased, the direct income tax has been reduced at all levels. A further move towards efficiency and a reflection of a bias towards wealth preservation has been the removal of inefficient taxes that targeted capital owners, such as the estate duty and capital gains tax.

    If we take it as a tax and benefits system, it could be argued that we have a generous tax system. However, our demands on public expenditure are set to increase over the longer term due to an ageing population, added infrastructure due to population growth and the need to renew existing infrastructure. This will create pressure to raise additional revenues. Thinking rationally, it is an obvious choice that this should be met by an increase in the most efficient tax channel, which is the GST.

    WEALTH SKEWS THE PICTURE

    The question to ask is, what — beyond the practical and vital purpose of raising revenue — is the object of taxation? I would argue that a tax system also signals social values. It is a practical, hit-in-the-pocket expression of what we believe our responsibilities as citizens are to each other and in relation to the concept of the State.

    We need to revisit the philosophy of trickle-down economics. Its influence extends beyond our tax system to inform our policy on immigration — which, in part, targets wealthy foreigners — and on urban planning — which is creating more “wealth zones” such as Sentosa Cove and Marina Bay. This is important because there are social, political and economic externalities.

    We are facing high and growing income inequality, which can prove socially divisive. Immigration policies are creating political tensions. The influx of wealthy foreigners and the ability of our own wealthy to keep more of their income create economic activity — such as high-end food and beverage outlets, which compete with other sectors for labour and land share — to suit their consumption patterns.

    It may also be promoting rent-seeking behaviour as they invest in property and other passive investments. The upward price pressure raises the general cost of housing consumption.

    Wealth also gives those with capital a chance to boost each successive generation’s starting position in life — in the process creating an “arms race’’ in everything from childcare and education to health. When this happens, it can take the principle of meritocracy to absurd levels — does one need to speak three languages, enjoy a cosmopolitan lifestyle and have a perfect International Baccalaureate score to win a scholarship or become a doctor? No, but education competition may mean that, eventually, only the few who can — through a combination of not only ability and effort but also wealth — will “win” at such races.

    Furthermore, the ability of the wealthy to pay a premium skews the market to supply them a disproportionate share of scarce services, such as in healthcare.

    EFFECTIVENESS OVER EFFICIENCY

    Where is the data that shows that trickle-down economics is working? If it is, we should be able to both prove that the wealthy are creating growth and jobs, and that our policies to promote a low-tax environment and pro-wealthy lifestyle are working in our favour.

    While we can show that the wealthy boost consumption, which is the largest economic multiplier, it is much more difficult to prove that they promote economic growth, and that such growth benefits the general population to a degree that cancels out the negative externalities. The costs of these externalities are so high that we cannot take it on faith alone.

    If we set a social-political agenda for our tax system, then we have to look beyond efficiency to its effectiveness.

    If direct taxation were higher and regressive indirect taxation were lowered, would we be worse or better off as a society? Alternatively, what if GST were rescinded and if all income earners had to pay direct tax, on a highly progressive schedule, so that everyone understood that we all have to chip in to finance our collective needs?

    Under such a model, low-income earners — who do not now pay income tax but pay the GST — would pay a low direct tax but no tax on their consumption. Would marginally higher direct taxes really make us less attractive as a destination for the talented and ambitious? Would removing policies that overwhelmingly favour the wealthy really put us into an economic tailspin?

    OPTIMISE USE OF THE RESERVES

    As can be seen from the 2013 Budget statement, yield from personal income tax is falling while that from GST is rising. Tax yield from GST is estimated to exceed that from personal income tax by S$1.75 billion, or about 23 per cent, in FY2013.
    Increases in the effective tax rates would not yield much revenue. However, they would not be insignificant either and, more importantly, they would be symbolic of a changed socio-political model of burden sharing.

    The shortfall in revenue from a reduction in GST could be made up from increasing the share of Net Investment Returns Contribution. The NIRC is the share of income (50 per cent) from the reserves which can be deployed for current expenditure. The remainder of the income (50 per cent) is returned into the reserves to continue to grow them.
    The sharing formula is governed by the Constitution and an amendment, such as that made in 2008, would have to be made to increase the share that can be deployed to current expenditure. This would not be “raiding the reserves”, as the underlying capital is untouched.

    It would, however, mean that the reserves would grow at a slower rate. But it is arguable that we should be optimising the use of the reserves for national purposes rather than focusing on their relentless expansion.

    QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

    These are important questions we should ask and seek answers to before we continue down a road that has already created considerable externalities. But in this important inquiry, the starting point matters — we must first choose whether to begin by deciding on what kind of society we want, or by deciding on what kind of economy we want. Our answers will vary significantly depending on the focal question.

    This is a process that involves all Singaporeans and should be taken up from the community level up to parliamentary politics. This commentary is not advocating which is the right choice — it is advocating that a deliberate choice be made.

    For that to happen, questions should be asked and answers need to be sought on not only how we raise revenue, but also why we raise revenue, as well as about the assumptions and economic beliefs underpinning our fiscal system.



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Devadas Krishnadas is Managing Director of Future-Moves, a strategic risk consultancy. His new book Sensing Singapore: Reflections in a Time of Change was released last month.

    *In Part II tomorrow of a Budget 2014 curtain-raiser: Restructuring and its demons.

  7. #8031
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Pioneer package — why the basics matter

    An increasing number of pioneers will be elderly women, who do not have the earning and saving capacities of their younger and more educated cohorts. TODAY FILE PHOTO

    By Phua Kai Hong

    Published: 12 February, 4:03 AM


    A historical milestone was reached when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined the Pioneer Generation Package last weekend. This is most significant, coming at the start of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore.

    It is well-received on both socio-cultural and economic grounds —expressing filial piety and respectful care for our elders, and enabling them to reap their well-deserved returns from earlier sacrifices and investments for our young nation.

    A major part of the package is necessary to support the introduction of the new MediShield Life scheme in 2015. As this will be a compulsory and universal social insurance plan to cover catastrophic or high-cost illnesses for the entire population from birth to death, including those with pre-existing diseases, the total costs will be borne by everyone, but the premiums will have to be affordable to the elderly and the low-income.

    Thus, the Pioneer Generation Package aims to enable older citizens aged 65 years and above to receive healthcare benefits and protection through the 3M healthcare financing system (Medisave, MediShield and Medifund) — including the new MediShield Life, subsidised government health services and the Community Health Assist Scheme for the low-income.

    SAVINGS NOT ENOUGH

    Prior to the implementation of compulsory savings through the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and introduction of Medisave in 1984, the generations who were born before 1950 and who had started working before the founding of Singapore in 1965 would not have built up enough savings.

    These pioneers would not have enough in their CPF or Medisave accounts to pay for the rising costs of medical care that future generations with higher savings are able to bear, without depending on family support and greater transfers of government monies or public assistance.

    An increasing number will be elderly women, who are widowed or single, who do not have the earning and saving capacities of their younger and more educated cohorts.

    Surveys and feedback have pinpointed the key issues of our ageing population concerning income security and health problems. The elderly are worried about healthcare affordability and they desire greater social assurance for peace of mind.

    However, this is often misunderstood as calling for increased welfare handouts and healthcare spending that may be unsustainable. Government policies in the past have been more cautious and less generous in providing social services and public assistance.

    Nonetheless, the growing numbers of seniors are now exerting greater pressures on public health services and public finances. The elderly are demanding more and higher-quality public services, including healthcare for chronic disease conditions that come with the ageing process.

    A minority will incur huge medical expenditures, which stronger risk-pooling mechanisms such as catastrophic insurance could provide better financial protection for. However, the majority would need to make regular outpatient visits to family doctors and the occasional specialist referral.

    Other than topping up Medisave balances to pay for their MediShield Life premiums, there must also be enough funds for these other recurrent healthcare expenditures such as consultations and medication, including cost-effective preventive care for selected screening and immunisations.

    THREE BASIC QUESTIONS

    In the design of universal health coverage for the population, at least three basic questions will have to be addressed: Who are covered, what to cover and how much will be covered in the plan?

    The answer to the first question is all Singaporeans; but those who qualify as the pioneer generation will get more support.

    The second question will continue to be asked as greater demands are made to extend the scope to cover more conditions and provide other forms of healthcare, such as social and long-term care. However, such extras must be based on evidence of cost-effectiveness when offered as more appropriate alternatives.

    The third question is probably the most difficult to address as it is loaded with uncertainty and risks, including longer-term financial implications for sustainability and cost-sharing between stakeholders.

    How much will be subsidised or charged and what is the balance of the healthcare costs to be shared?

    Already, different groups, including the People’s Action Party Seniors Group and the Women’s Wing, have come up with more recommendations for extended benefits and coverage.

    In the days ahead, there will be many more suggestions and lobbies when details are provided during the Budget debates. How much to give will depend not only on the merits of the justification and economic basis such as affordability. Setting any precedent for our pioneer generation will also set the stage for future generations to come. It is critical that we get it right from the start.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Dr Phua Kai Hong teaches health and social policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He has consulted in health economics and financing to many governments and international agencies, including the World Bank and WHO.

  8. #8032
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Changing CPF rates over the years

    Published on Feb 12, 2014
    9:59 PM




    Click on the picture to see our interactive graph of CPF rates of the past three decades. Best viewed on Chrome, Firefox or Safari.


    By Alvin Foo, Economics Correspondent & Lin Zhaowei


    The labour movement on Monday called on the Government to raise the CPF rates of those aged above 50 to 55 so that they are on a par with younger workers.

    Currently, the CPF total contribution rate of these older workers is 32.5 per cent compared to 36 per cent for younger workers.

    Contribution rates for all age groups were the same from 1955 - the year the savings scheme was started - until 1988.

    Here are some of the key changes over the years:


    -- ST GRAPHIC: LIN ZHAOWEI



    1986: Employers’ contribution rate was cut by 15 percentage points following 1985 recession.

    1988: Lower rates for workers aged above 55 were introduced to encourage their employment.

    1999: To regain Singapore's cost competitiveness and preserve jobs after a year of recession, employers’ contribution rates were cut by 10 percentage points for workers aged 55 years and below.

    2000: Rates were restored progressively as economy recovered.

    2003: Cut in employers’ contributions due to economic restructuring.

    2005: Contributions for employees aged above 50 to 55 years cut to increase their employability.

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    Default Three-year study to look into immune system decline in ageing process

    Published on Feb 13, 2014
    2:07 PM

    By Grace Chua


    Why are elderly people more susceptible to infections like the flu? As people age, the cells that make up their immune systems also begin to decline and cease to repair themselves. For this same reason, older folks don't respond as well to vaccines.

    Vaccines work by inducing a small immune reaction so that the body 'remembers' and responds to attacking pathogens. In a new study launched on Thursday, a team of researchers here aims to work out the mechanisms by which this decline, called immunosenescence, occurs, and how to stem it.

    The team is led by Dr Anis Larbi of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), with Associate Professor Ng Tze Pin of the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, and will use a vaccine by drug firm Sanofi Pasteur.

    The three-year study will examine some 240 people, including both healthy and frail elderly aged 65 to 90, and younger people as control subjects. It will look for biomarkers, or clues, in the blood that predict healthy ageing or something going wrong with the immune system, and devise a simple test for doctors to use routinely, said Dr Larbi.

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    Default Heavier jail term for Ionescu

    Silva Ionescu. Photo: Reuters


    Former Romanian diplomat has sentence doubled for deadly hit-and-run accident in Singapore



    Published: 14 February, 8:41 AM
    Updated: 14 February, 8:45 AM

    BUCHAREST — The former Romanian diplomat convicted for a deadly hit-and-run accident in Singapore has had his sentence doubled to six years by an appeals court in Bucharest yesterday (Feb 13).

    Silviu Ionescu was originally sentenced to three years in prison in March last year, more than three years after the incidents on Dec 15, 2009 where he allegedly drove a black Audi from his embassy and ran over and killed one man, and then knocked into two others while fleeing.

    Ionescu was Romania’s charge d’affaires in Singapore at the time, and he fled Singapore soon after the accident.

    Ionescu was found guilty of manslaughter, and according to the ruling yesterday, the appeals court also found him guilty of inflicting injuries and fleeing from the location of the crash. AGENCIES

  11. #8035
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    Default National Stadium to miss April opening

    Completion of the Sports Hub’s National Stadium (pictured) is set to be delayed as engineers have been working to ensure that the complex functioning of the stadium’s retractable dome roof will be glitch-free. Photo: Wee Teck Hian


    Work on 90% of Sports Hub completed; three other facilities to open as planned



    By IAN DE COTTA

    Published: 14 February, 4:03 AM


    SINGAPORE — The Singapore Sports Hub will not be fully ready by April as scheduled, with the completion of the National Stadium expected two months later.

    As engineers have been working to ensure that the complex functioning of the stadium’s retractable dome roof will be glitch-free, the higher-than-average rainfall in December also slowed progress of the work.

    The 55,000-seater National Stadium will be the crown jewel of the S$1.33 billion Sports Hub in Kallang.

    TODAY understands that apart from the stadium, about 90 per cent of the work on the Sports Hub has been completed.

    Venues that will be ready by April are the 12,000-capacity Indoor Stadium, the 3,000-seat OCBC Arena, and the 6,000-seat OCBC Aquatic Centre.

    Responding to TODAY’s queries, SportsHub CEO Philippe Collin Delavaud said the facilities will be progressively rolled out from April. “This is to enable us to test the systems thoroughly and ramp up operations at a controlled pace, given the scale and the complexity of the project. The safety and quality of experience at the Sports Hub are paramount and we want to ensure that these are not compromised,” he said.

    Singapore Sports Council (SSC) Assistant Director for Corporate Communications and Relations S Parameswaran said the council had been informed by SportsHub of the latest timeline.

    Mr Parameswaran said: “They intend to ramp up operations and progressively phase in the new facilities. Such a phased opening is reasonable, given the scale of the project, and our expectations that the project be completed safely, and a quality product delivered.”

    He added that the SSC has been closely monitoring the progress of the construction and preparations for the opening. “The project is in the critical phase of testing of the structures and operations,” he said.

    “If you walk or drive past, you will see that the main structures are up. Each major component has to be certified to work smoothly and safely. Based on the status reports we have received so far, more time may be required to complete the testing and preparation of some components, but this should not delay the opening of the Sports Hub.”

    When completed, the National Stadium will have the world’s largest free-spanning dome roof at 310m wide — eclipsing the Dallas Cowboys Stadium’s (275m) in the United States. In June last year, during the installation of the stadium’s highest truss, which measures about 77.5m above pitch level, the authorities expressed confidence that the Sports Hub would be fully built by April.

    Mr Delavaud said the hub will announce its opening schedule and calendar of events on Feb 27. As of now, the earliest event to be held at the Sports Hub will be the 2nd Southeast Asian Swimming Championships at the Aquatic Centre from June 14 to 26.

    The schedule for the relocation of the headquarters of some National Sports Associations (NSAs) has also been adjusted.

    The Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), for one, has had its move rescheduled from June to October. SBA Chief Executive Officer Ronnie Lim said: “For such a big project like the hub, slight delays can be expected.”

    He added: “We were told about a month ago about the change in timing, but the Singapore Sports Council has been very helpful. It has not affected our operations and the SBA are working closely with the SSC to make sure our move goes smoothly when everything is properly in place.”

    The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) will be the first NSA to call the hub home. It is still on track to move from its current base at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex before the end of May, in time to host the 2nd Southeast Asian Swimming Championships. Said SSA Executive Director Edwin Ker: “Everything is set to go and we will be based at the Aquatic Centre. We are looking forward to the move and hosting the event because the facility is top notch.”


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    Default Joy for S’pore as bowler bags two golds at Asian Schools C’ships

    Singapore’s Joy Yap (left) and Kristin Quah (right) with their gold and...
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    Joy recorded 1,446 pinfalls from five games to pip her nearest rival to...
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    By Adelene Wong

    Published: 14 February, 4:03 AM


    SINGAPORE — They won seven golds, three silvers and two bronzes to emerge the top nation at the last Asian Schools Tenpin Bowling Championships which was held in 2012 at the Jaya Ancol Bowling Centre in Jakarta.

    And the Singapore Schools team took a step towards emulating that feat yesterday when they won two golds and two bronzes yesterday.

    Joy Yap was the big winner with two golds. The 18-year-old Republic Polytechnic student won the girls’ singles title, and then teamed up with Amanda Lee to capture the doubles title. In the singles, Joy recorded 1,446 pinfalls from five games to pip nearest rival Imai Futaba of Japan to the title by just one pinfall. That is not all — she also scored a perfect game of 300 pinfalls in the process.

    Joy, who won bronze in the girls’ doubles in 2012, told TODAY that her 300 — which took place in the fourth game — went a long way in helping her to win the title.

    She said: “I didn’t really have a good start but after I settled down, I managed to roll a big game to stay in touch. The 300 really boosted my confidence and steadied my early nerves and I was able to fire another big game in the fifth which edged me closer to Imai, who was leading. The last few frames were tense but I managed to pull through, thanks to the encouragement from my coaches.”

    Apart from Joy, another Singaporean made the podium in the girls’ singles yesterday. Kristen Quah took third spot with her score of 1,395 pinfalls. In the girls’ doubles, Charmaine Chang and Iliya Syamim of Singapore took bronze.

    Singapore’s 16-strong contingent had been training for the championships for the past month at the Singapore Sports School bowling centre where the lanes have been oiled to simulate the conditions at the Indonesia tournament.

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    Default Singapore to test 'space plane'

    Locally made prototype to get its first test flights in May



    Published on Feb 14, 2014
    8:39 AM


    Hope Technik's Peter Ho (fifth from left), Airbus’ Christophe Chavagnac (fourth from left) and some of Hope’s engineers with a model of the plane the two companies are working on. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN


    By Jermyn Chow Defence Correspondent


    A made-in-Singapore prototype of a space plane, which can take travellers to the edge of space 100km above earth, will take off for its maiden test flights in May.

    The tests will mark a milestone for home-grown defence contractor Hope Technik, which signed a deal with French aerospace giant Airbus Defence and Space at the previous Singapore Airshow two years ago.

    Hope, which beat bigger local rivals to land the multimillion-dollar deal, is supposed to design, build and launch a space plane prototype, as well as run it through tests.

    The May flights are part of a series of tests to assess the model plane's aviation electronics, aerodynamics and glide capability.

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    Default Double happiness for 245 couples today

    Published on Feb 14, 2014
    7:15 AM



    -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN


    By Janice Tai


    There are 245 couples booked to get married at the Registry of Marriages today, many more than the usual 35 to 50 couples who choose weekday ceremonies.

    For many, today holds a promise of "double happiness" because Valentine's Day coincides with the 15th day of the Chinese New Year - chap goh meh - which is regarded as the Chinese Valentine's Day.

    But for the mostly Chinese couples seeking an extra-special wedding date, March 1 is far more popular this year - there will be 455 marriages solemnised on that Saturday.

    The reason is that 1-3-14 in Mandarin sounds like yi sheng yi shi, which means "a lifetime of love". And this auspicious- sounding date comes round only once a century.

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    Default S’pore Airshow 2014 brings in S$40.5b worth of deals




    Amount surpasses 2012 total of S$39.2b, 72% of companies reaffirm plans to exhibit at 2016 sho


    By Woo Sian Boon

    Published: 14 February, 1:38 PM


    SINGAPORE — The Singapore Airshow 2014 has garnered US$32 billion (S$40.5 billion) worth of deals at the end of its trade segment, surpassing the US$31 billion that the previous edition brought in.

    Major deals include contracts for Airbus, Embraer, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

    Over 1,000 companies from 47 countries participated in this year’s edition of the show, of which 72 per cent have already reaffirmed their plans to exhibit at the next show in 2016, said Managing Director of Experia Events Jimmy Lau.

    This reinforces the Singapore Airshow’s as one of the most important aerospace and defence exhibitions in the world, added Mr Lau.

    “We are delighted that the US$32 billion of deals at Singapore Airshow 2014 represents an increase in the value of deals from 2012. We have also recorded strong visitors figures from even larger number of countries, under scoring Singapore Airshow’s standing as the preferred platform for high level government delegations and industry leaders to come together, network, address challenges facing the aerospace industry and do business, all in one convenient location,” he said.

  16. #8040
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    Default Countdown to 2015 SEA Games begins with unveiling of logo, theme and mascot




    May Chen
    The Straits Times
    Saturday, Feb 15, 2014

    SINGAPORE - The countdown to the 2015 Singapore SEA Games started on Saturday evening, at a launch party held at Gardens by the Bay.

    Here is the press release from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC):

    Team Singapore athletes, dignitaries from the SEA Games Federation & ASEAN Para Sports Federation, sport volunteers, and members of the public were treated to an evening of sports and musical extravaganza to mark the beginning of the 28th SEA Games and 8th ASEAN Para Games journey.

    President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Chairman of the Singapore Southeast Asian Games (SINGSOC) Steering Committee, Mr Lawrence Wong, unveiled the official logos for both Games through a special launch mechanism by Team Singapore athletes at 8:15pm, or 2015 hrs.

    The Games tagline "Celebrate the Extraordinary" was also introduced. It encapsulates the celebration of the human spirit and the call for everyone to share their own experience in overcoming challenges. The event which took place at Gardens by the Bay, The Meadow, from 5:30pm till 11pm, involved Team Singapore athletes and their supporters who came together to be part of the celebrations in a welcome-back party from the 1st Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games in Australia, 27th SEA Games and 7th ASEAN Para Games in Myanmar.

    Spectators also tried their hand at various fringe activities such as ultimate frisbee, futsal and basketball games to name a few.

    With an estimated 15,000 volunteers required for the 28th SEA Games, a recruitment event was also held at the venue. The evening's event saw some 700 of people pen down their names to be a volunteer for the 28th SEA Games and 8th ASEAN Para Games. Nila, a familiar face to the Singapore sporting scene was also introduced as the mascot for the 28th SEA Games & 8th ASEAN Para Games. Nila was first introduced as the Singapore National Games mascot in 2012, and subsequently expanded his role into the mascot for Sporting Singapore. Nila is back, trimmer and fitter, and equipped with a brand new wardrobe. He is all set to ignite the passion of fans at the Games!

    Original compositions from local artistes under the guidance of Music Director, Dr Sydney Tan to the theme of the Games, were also performed at the event:

    • You're Almost There - written by Joel Tan (Gentle Bones) and Ruth Ling, performed by Joel Tan;
    • Greatest - written and performed by Daphne Khoo
    • Forever - written by Joshua Wan and performed by The Steve McQueens
    • Still - written and performed by Charlie Lim
    • Colours - written and performed by Jean Tan
    • Ordinary - written by Amir Masoh and performed by John Molina
    • Unbreakable - written by Amir Masoh, performed by Tabitha Nauser



    • PhotoGallery:
      SEA Games Singapore 2015 Launch Party

      Click on thumbnail to view photos. Source:
      Singapore Sports Council




















    Other acts included Kelvin Tan, also known as Chen Wei Lian who performed "Treasure Every Moment", a song composed by Dick Lee. The adrenaline-pumping night continued with a party to the tunes spun by DJ Aldrin - one of Singapore's most renowned disc jockeys.

    Over the next few months, more songs with accompanying music videos will be introduced in the lead-up to 2015.

    Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture
    , Community and Youth, who also chairs the Singapore Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (SINGSOC) Steering Committee, said:

    "Today, we celebrate Team Singapore's achievements and also launch our campaign to 2015, which is also the year of our Golden Jubilee. Next year, we will see the return of the SEA Games and the debut of the ASEAN Para Games in Singapore - both held in our brand new National Stadium and Sports Hub. Our athletes will compete with the best in the region, and will strive to improve on their performances in Myanmar. Many have told me that they are making a special effort for the Games, because they are competing here at home, in front of our home crowd.

    "More than just about sporting events, the Games are also about the hopes and dreams of individuals and communities. They are about the human spirit and our shared aspirations. The Games will bring together ordinary people with extraordinary dreams.

    So the theme we have chosen for the Games is to 'Celebrate the Extraordinary'. Join us a participant, volunteer or spectator, and be part of this historic event. Remember, together we are stronger. Together, let us together celebrate the extraordinary, let's show our Singapore spirit, and let's make 2015 a truly extraordinary year for Singapore."

    The 28th SEA Games will be held from 5-16 June 2015, and the 8th ASEAN Para Games are to be held in December in the same year
    Last edited by Loh; 02-16-2014 at 08:25 PM.

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    Default Guided walks raise profile of nature reserves ahead of MRT construction

    Published on Feb 17, 2014
    8:05 AM



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...S_4034251e.jpg
    Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai with participants on a walk at MacRitchie Nature Trail last Saturday. These walks aim to raise awareness on the effects of building the Cross Island MRT Line through the reserve. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...7_4034240e.jpg
    Some of the animals seen on the guided walk include (above) the long-tail macaque and common sun skink. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...C_4034248e.jpg
    Some of the animals seen on the guided walk include the long-tail macaque and common sun skink (above). -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG



    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/st...U_4034241e.jpg
    A tarantula hole in one of the trees on the MacRitchie Nature Trail. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG


    By Audrey Tan

    A five-banded gliding lizard and a slender squirrel are animals you would not be able to find in Singapore's local parks.

    But if you are lucky, you may chance upon the flying lizard or see the slender squirrel in the nature reserves - the only places in Singapore where these animals can be found.

    Last Saturday, some 20 people on a nature walk caught their first glimpses of these animals at the MacRitchie Nature Trail, a gateway to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

    It was one of a series of walks started by different individuals who have come together to cultivate an appreciation for the reserve, which could be affected by the building of the new Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) that will connect Changi to Jurong.

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