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  1. #6886
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    Default Your views are star of this show



    On Feb 21, TODAY’s Voices section will make the bold leap to live television.




    18 February

    SINGAPORE — It began with a mission to let a diversity of voices be heard, in print.
    Come this Thursday, no longer will that just be metaphorically so.


    "The show is a key initiative in our efforts to transform TODAY into a multi-platform news brand, leveraging on the unique strengths of MediaCorp. Last month, we unveiled a total revamp of our digital editions - website, mobile and tablet - and we already have a strong and loyal following on social media. VoicesTODAY on Channel 5 will build on those pillars to extend our brand into broadcast and broaden the conversation with our audience."

    Mr Walter Fernandez
    Managing Director, MediaCorp Press, and Editor, TODAY



    TODAY’s Voices section is making the leap to live television, with a new half-hour talkshow with a difference — the views of regular Singaporeans are the star of the show.

    And just as it will aim every week to highlight the key issues that matter to people, the debut episode of VoicesTODAY will tackle the national soul-searching question of recent days: Whither the Singaporean Core?

    Produced in collaboration with Channel 5, VoicesTODAY will air at prime time at 9pm, hosted by two experienced presenters, Ms Hazlina Halim and Mr Nicholas Fang.

    There will be no studio guests — instead, viewers will hear from members of the public who are invited to join in the discussion by phone or video chat on Google Hangout.

    Views posted on TODAYOnline’s Facebook, Twitter stream and website over the week will also be flashed on screen throughout the show.

    Helping to moderate the live discussion, and to play devil’s advocate where necessary, is something Mr Fang — who himself crossed over from print to broadcast journalism years ago — is looking forward to.

    “The opportunity to co-host VoicesTODAY is very exciting, given the current climate of increasing public debate and discussion of critical issues across both traditional and new media,” said Mr Fang, 37, a former business editor at Channel NewsAsia. He currently serves as a Nominated Member of Parliament and Executive Director at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

    He hopes to take the discussions to a deeper level. “I am hoping that the callers who reach out to us will be prepared to challenge, and be challenged in their views, so that we can have an honest and in-depth discussion, and hopefully, explore issues from perspectives we might have not considered before.”

    Ms Halim, 28, who lectures in Communications & Media Management at Temasek Polytechnic, has been a presenter on TV programmes in Singapore and Australia, including the Malay news for the past eight years.

    Her message to viewers: “Voices are meant to be heard, so don’t be shy of yours — use it, own it, but always be accountable for it, and do take time to listen to the voices of others.”

    Regular letter-writer Mr Teo Kok Seah, 43, congratulated TODAY on the “bold” move to TV that would “expand its reach to a much wider audience”.

    Author Mr Prem Singh, 61, another Voices contributor, called the show a “new dimension of thought-sharing”. “Families will sit down to watch and listen, and start sharing amongst themselves as well. Those who have been passive, or disinterested, may find themselves keen to share their thoughts. This is the beauty of talk shows,” he said.

    VoicesTODAY on Channel 5

    Debut Episode

    This Thursday, 9pm, on Channel 5
    Topic: Whither The Singaporean Core?

    To give your views:

    Tweet us at @todayonline or using #VoicesTODAY
    Post at: http://www.todayonline.com/VoicesTODAY

    By phone or video chat: Email voices@mediacorp.com.sg or call 6691-1020/1, if you want to take part in the live chat.

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    Default PMs agree to high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

    Published on Feb 19, 2013
    12:50 PM




    Singapore's Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong (left) meets Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mr Najib Razak in Singapore for the Singapore-Malaysia Leader's Retreat at the Shangri-La Hotel on Feb 19, 2013. Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to build a high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, a move that will "dramatically improve" the connectivity between the two countries. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN


    By Rachel Chang

    Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to build a high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, a move that will "dramatically improve" the connectivity between the two countries.

    The rail link will "usher in a new era of strong growth, prosperity and opportunities for both countries," said a joint statement from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak today.

    "It will facilitate travel between KL and Singapore, enhance business linkages and bring the peoples of Malaysia and Singapore closer together," it said. "Ultimately, this project will give both countries greater stakes in each other's prosperity and success.

    At a joint press conference on Tuesday, both PMs described it as a "game changer".

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    Default PMs agree to high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

    Published on Feb 19, 2013
    12:50 PM





    Singapore's Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong (right), meets Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mr Najib Razak, in Singapore for the Singapore-Malaysia Leader's Retreat at the Shangri-La Hotel on Feb 19, 2013. Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to build a high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, a move that will "dramatically improve" the connectivity between the two countries. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN


    By Rachel Chang



    Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to build a high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore by 2020, in a move that both heads of government called a "game-changer".

    Announcing the breakthrough agreement at a press conference today following bilateral talks, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the rail link would create a 90 minute door to door journey for commuters, and that it will "change the way we do business, the way we look at each other and interact."

    He pointed to the Eurostar link between Paris and London, which transformed "two European cities into one virtual urban community" as a model for the KL-SG link.

    Malaysian PM Najib Razak said that the project will be a private-public one, with the link being built by private contractors with government infrastructural support. He declined to estimate how much the project will cost.

  5. #6889
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    Default Singapore, Malaysia agree to high-speed rail link between Singapore and KL



    Could we be seeing a station like this here by 2020? This image provided by the California High Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's rendering of a high-speed train station, as California mulls a high-speed rail network. PHOTO: AP


    TODAY


    1 hour 29 min ago


    SINGAPORE — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak have agreed to build a High Speed Rail Link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, according to a joint statement issued during the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat this morning.

    Mr Najib said that the deadline for the completion of the high-speed rail link is 2020, and that the projected travel time will be 90 mins.

    "It's a strategic project for the two countries, it will change the way we see each other," said Mr Lee. "I think it's going to be a game-changer. It's going to transform the way people interact, the intensity of our cooperation and the the degree to which we can inter-dependent on one another."

    The leaders have tasked the Iskandar Malaysia Joint Ministerial Committee to look into the details and modalities of the High Speed Rail Link.

    The distance between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is roughly 350km. By comparison, London and Paris are about 480km apart, and the journey between the two cities is approximately two hours and 15 minutes aboard the Eurostar high-speed train.

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    Default Marina One to be ready in 2017



    Marina One will comprise two towers of 1,042 apartments and the Marina One East and West towers of office space, as well as a retail podium.



    ByTeo Xuanwei



    6 hours 12 min ago


    SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Premier Najib Razak yesterday unveiled the design of Marina One — one of a number of joint projects borne out of the major land-swop deal the two leaders sealed in 2010.

    The mega mixed-use development, which has a development value of S$7 billion, is located behind the Marina Bay Financial Centre, and will gross approximately 3.67 million sq ft of residential, commercial and retail space in total, when completed in 2017.

    The M+S project — a 60:40 company of Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings — will have 1,042 units in two 34-storey residential towers, including one- to four-bedroom units and penthouses that will be launched in the second half of this year.

    There will also be another two 30-storey commercial towers with approximately 1.88 million sq ft net lettable area.
    Architect Christoph Ingenhoven, renowned for green and sustainable designs — such as the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California — was behind Marina One’s lushly landscaped design which includes waterfalls and rooftop gardens.

    The development will also incorporate a unique garden ecosystem by landscape architect Gustafson Porter, best known for his design of Singapore’s Bay East, Gardens by the Bay.

    Marina One will also sit above Singapore’s largest and most connected MRT interchange by 2016, M+S said.

    Speaking to reporters after the two leaders viewed a showflat of the development, Mr Lee flagged the Marina One project as a “very important (one) for both Singapore and Malaysia”.

    “I think this is a project which we’ll both be very proud of, and which will thrive and prosper and add to our city and to our friendship,” Mr Lee said.

    Agreeing, Mr Najib described the project as a “real winner”, which fulfils his expectation of a “landmark iconic building”. “What we see today is the beginning of that iconic building ... the beginning of a very exciting project,” he added.

  7. #6891
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    Default Short of space? No such thing

    Singapore




    Sky living? Art: Yen Yok



    Art: Yen Yok



    We could build over, under, outwards and offshore, say experts — the creative opportunities truly abound


    • ByNeo Chai Chin


      07 February

      If architect Tan Cheng Siong had his way, Singapore’s living areas would be multi-capable zones teeming with activity, sited next to MRT stations.

      People would work and live there. Workplaces and entertainment outlets would be sited below residential spaces, with the different functions vertically separated via a system of pedestrian, bicycling and landscaped decks.

      Buildings would have frames built to last a long time, but with flexi-changeable interiors. They would be lush with vertical greenery and allow for vertical air circulation.

      They would feature a variety of housing such as cluster homes, penthouses and apartments. They would also be equipped to collect rainwater, to produce energy via solar panels and mini-wind farms, and food via personal farm plots in multi-storey carparks.

      “Citizens want affordable housing and employment, leisure and mobility, fresh air and gardens, babies and families, communities and opportunities,” said Mr Tan, principal of Archurban Architects Planners.
      GEOGRAPHY NOT A LIMITATION

      Mr Tan, Designer of the Year at the 2012 President’s Design Award, believes innovative design, good management and architecture that incorporates what he calls the “skyland” concept is key to successfully accommodating a larger population.

      Geographical land size should not stop Singapore from multiplying its volume of space — and no, he isn’t referring to more shoebox apartments.

      “Stop them before they become head shrinkers and slums,” said Mr Tan, who has previously said land shortage is a “fallacy”.

      Singapore could house a population of 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030, according to the population White Paper published last month. The Ministry of National Development (MND) reckons that about 7 per cent more land is needed — about 766 sq km, up from 714 sq km available today — to “comfortably support” the projected population.

      Areas that could be reclaimed by 2030 include Tuas Port, Pulau Tekong and Jurong Island. Beyond 2030, areas including Simpang, Marina East, Changi East, Sungei Kadut, Pasir Ris and around the Western islands could be reclaimed if needed.

      RECLAIM OR RECYCLE

      Experts, however, note the limits to the territorial sea space available for reclamation. There is a limit to how far Singapore can reclaim if the Republic is to keep its anchorages and fairways for the maritime and shipping industry, said civil engineering professor Yong Kwet Yew of the National University of Singapore.

      He notes that shallow waters less than 20m deep have been reclaimed in the past, and current projects are in depths of between 30m and 40m. It is less economically feasible to reclaim at further depths, Prof Yong said.

      Besides reclamation, the intention is to develop existing land not in use, intensify land use and “recycle” land, an MND spokesperson said. To cater to economic and population growth, more land will be required for “critical uses” like housing, community facilities, industry and infrastructure.

      To this end, the Government plans to consolidate land-intensive activities such as military grounds and golf courses. The latter will be allowed to run out their leases before being redeveloped, the MND said. Land for old industrial estates will also be recycled.
      GOING UNDER

      Beyond these measures, exciting possibilities lie below ground and offshore. An Underground Master Plan is in the works to map out possible uses of this subterranean resource, and Prof Yong said a framework of subterranean land rights should also be created to support underground development.

      He draws a distinction between spaces created at the basement of buildings — which are a vertical extension of these structures constructed in the ground, and commonly used for car parks or shopping malls — and underground caverns, which are usually standalone spaces created in the rock.

      In general, underground space is suitable for uses that do not require a long stay by humans. “The lack of natural ventilation or sunlight may have psychological and behavioural effects on humans that we are still not fully aware of,” Prof Yong said.

      But such spaces are suitable for pollutive or noisy uses such as roads and heavy industries, as these would require less of a land buffer underground (building noise barriers above ground can be a blight on the landscape, he noted).

      Potential structures that can be housed underground include road and rail infrastructure, car parks, power stations, treatment plants, research labs, reservoirs, warehouses and even performance halls, said Prof Yong.

      SUBTERRANEAN SCIENCE CITY?

      Singapore is already exploiting some of its subterranean space.

      Networks of tunnels channel sewage to a Changi treatment plant, and distribute electrical and telecommunications cables, district cooling and water pipes in Marina Bay.

      The Defence Ministry’s Underground Ammunition Facility is built beneath a former quarry in Mandai and the Jurong Rock Caverns, an oil and petrochemical storage facility being built 130m under Jurong Island, will begin operations later this year.

      The JTC is also studying the development of an underground science city beneath Kent Ridge Park.

      A feasibility study on the ambitious project was completed last year by a Swiss-Singapore consortium, which came up with a design for 40 linked rock caverns with total rentable space of 192,000 square metres across three to four levels, it was reported. The caverns could house research laboratories for biotechnology and life sciences as well as data centres.

      The MND added it is technically feasible to build large utilities and infrastructure facilities such as data centres, incineration and water reclamation plants underground, and it is studying whether to do so in order to “free up valuable surface land for higher value uses or community uses”.

      It has also commissioned a consultancy study — to be completed by June next year — to explore innovative design and engineering solutions that could reduce the cost of large underground developments.

      OVERSEAS MODELS

      There is no shortage of examples of what has been done overseas — the Churchill Falls Power Station and RESO underground city in Canada, and the Itakeskus swimming complex in Finland are just a few, said Prof Yong.

      And in Germany, an “innovative” underground transportation pipeline is being developed for cargo, which frees up surface infrastructure and also reduces pollution and noise caused by heavy vehicles, he said.

      “When Montreal and other major cities in temperate climates develop underground cities and shopping malls, it is as much about creating space as it is about consumers’ comfort during cold winters and hot summers,” he said. “Similarly, underground shopping malls in Singapore provide comfort during hot weather and rain.”

      In planning underground development, there is a need to account for unique conditions here such as the high ground water table, high humidity and variable geological formations.

      Unlike some cities with more extensive cavern developments like Helsinki in Finland and Oslo in Norway, Singapore has a flatter terrain.

      But preliminary studies have shown that “judicious ground improvement” of soils can render it feasible for underground caverns. “From an engineering perspective, there is no limit to how much space could be potentially exploited,” said Prof Yong. “The limit often lies in economic and commercial viability of the project.”

      There is one caveat, however: Underground space, once built, is difficult to redevelop. Planning must hence be done in a sustainable manner, and spaces should be designed for permanency or with a high degree of flexibility for change in use, he said.

      ALL AT SEA


      What about floating structures off Singapore’s coast?

      They are mobile, less damaging to the marine ecosystem than land reclamation and enable unsightly utilities like incinerators and wastewater treatment plants to be located away from the population. But they also cost more to maintain than land structures, require a good foundation for station-keeping and positioning and incur stability concerns due to waves, winds and currents, said Professor Soh Chee Kiong of the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

      The Marina Bay Floating Platform here is an example of a floating structure, as is Tokyo’s Mega-Float which serves as a runway for airplane takeoffs and landing, and a floating hotel built by Singapore’s Bethlelem shipyard now being deployed in North Korea.

      Research by NUS and NTU on floating structures in the past decade have mainly targeted applications for the offshore and marine oil and gas industry — which are more challenging than, say, for floating hotels, said Prof Soh.

      The National Innovation Challenge last year on Land and Liveability could spur research to develop new ideas in floating structure technology, he said.
      Overseen by the National Research Foundation, the S$135 million set aside aims to create new space and optimise land use to support an economically vibrant, highly liveable and resilient city of the future.

      OPPORTUNITY, NOT PROBLEM


      Prof Soh reckons that, depending on how the country develops and public acceptance, Singapore’s landscape in 50 years could feature multi-purpose offshore floating structures for its airport and seaport, for solar and wind energy harvesting, for fish farming and sea sports.

      “If I were a planner, I would look at using up available existing space including surrounding islands first, then go underground and if we need to, go offshore — though technology is there, research should continue to make them more durable, cost-effective and sustainable,” he said.

      Urban and land use planning for a denser population is complex, but as Professor Heng Chye Kiang, Dean of the NUS School of Design and Environment put it: “The question is whether Singapore can still be as liveable as its population continues to grow ... the challenge can also become an opportunity to introduce new typologies of integrated development, more meaningful open and green spaces integrated with amenities, a more effective mobility system and better use of new technologies to render our city more efficient and resilient.”
      Will HDB flats of the future be taller?


      Like all other developments, HDB blocks are subject to height control based on the relevant agencies’ planning rules, flight paths and other technical requirements, said the MND.

      Standing tallest at the moment is the Pinnacle@Duxton at 50 storeys. In towns with less severe height constraints — such as Toa Payoh, Queenstown, Bukit Merah — residential developments are “in the range of 40 stories”, with a few blocks under construction exceeding that.

      HDB already builds to the maximum allowable height in new towns. But it does not do so in the Central Area where height limits are less restrictive, because very high-rise buildings will require high-speed lifts and an additional fire safety refuge floor — extras which will be “expensive to provide and maintain”, said MND.

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  9. #6892
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default No evidence that ageing societies have economic problems: Austrian demographer

    Published on Feb 19, 2013
    3:34 PM






    The image of the elderly in Singapore has to change as older generations become increasingly educated, Austrian demography expert Professor Wolfgang Lutz said on Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013, in an Institute of Policy Studies public lecture. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR




    By Janice Heng


    The image of the elderly in Singapore has to change as older generations become increasingly educated, Austrian demography expert Professor Wolfgang Lutz said on Tuesday in an Institute of Policy Studies public lecture.

    "The image of today's elderly in Singapore is strongly formed by the fact that (they) are largely uneducated," he said. But he noted that the proportion of Singaporeans with tertiary education has been rising, which will lead to the future elderly being better-educated.

    Citing statistics which show that better-educated elderly people tend to be healthier and more productive than their less-educated peers, he said the combination of these trends sheds doubt on the common expectation that ageing societies have economic problems: "I don't really see any evidence of this in any country."

    Professor Lutz is in Singapore for three weeks as a National University of Singapore Society Distinguished Professor. At a seminar last Wednesday, he said countries should not aim for a total fertility rate of 2.1, and suggested 1.7 as an optimal level of fertility for Singapore.

  10. #6893
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default PM Lee, PM Najib launch three projects in Johor

    By S Ramesh | Posted: 19 February 2013 1927 hrs



    JOHOR BAHRU: The Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia launched two wellness projects in Medini at Iskandar Malaysia and a mixed development project at Danga Bay in Johor Bahru on Tuesday.

    Fresh from the launch of joint development projects in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak travelled to neighbouring Johor Bahru where the two wellness developments were unveiled.

    Afiniti Medini, an urban wellness project, is aimed at becoming a regional destination for families, tourists and professionals. It features a wellness centre, service apartments, a corporate training centre and retail space. Afinity Medini is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

    Both leaders also launched Avira, another resort wellness project at Medini Central which will have homes, serviced apartments and commercial space. The development is expected to be completed in 2018.

    The two projects are jointly developed by Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings.


    Medini is among the five flagship zones at Iskandar Malaysia and is a 40-minute drive to the Central Business District in Singapore.

    Both projects will have a total gross development value of three billion ringgit.

    Mr Najib acknowledged that the success of the Iskandar project has exceeded the original plans and there has been a significant increase in investments from Singapore companies in Iskandar Malaysia.

    Mr Najib said: "We both agree that we should develop something which develops the true meaning of the word "iconic" and from what I can see it befits the description. This will be truly an iconic and and landmark project which will certainly bring much benefit not only to those people involved in this project and users of this projects, but also indicative of the growing stronger ties of the two countries.

    "I would say there is a significant increase of investments from Singapore. During our bilateral discussions this morning, we stressed the importance of the Industrial Working Group to meet on regular basis to encourage investors from Singapore to relocate their investments here, as well as for new investments to take place here in Iskandar."

    Mr Lee said: "This is going to be an oasis not only for people from Malaysia or Singapore, but perhaps from all over the region to come and recharge their batteries, enjoy the environment and absorb the spirit of wellness."

    He said the Malaysian government had shown commitment and drive to develop Iskandar Malaysia.

    Mr Lee said: "A lot of investments have come in from the government, a lot of investment has come in from the private sector and significant amount of that has come from Singapore.

    "I believe there is a lot of potential because from Singapore's point of view, we are developing and at the same time, there is a lot of spillover of what Singapore companies which want to expand or companies which want to come to Singapore but can't quite fit into Singapore. I think Iskandar offers a prime opportunity for them.

    "As long as the Malaysian government pursues this to develop Iskandar and to link up with Singapore, the prospects are very good and from Singapore's point of view, we are very happy it is going to succeed."


    Also launched on Tuesday is a 3.2 billion ringgit joint venture project in Danga Bay - a 20-minute drive from the Causeway.

    Mr Najib and Mr Lee witnessed the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding by CapitaLand, Iskandar Waterfront and Temasek Holdings.

    - CNA/fa/de
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  11. #6894
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Achievement for the second generation

    My "Singapore Also Can" thread is mainly about Singapore's achievements and how Singapore can become better.

    Ironically, I think it is a fantastic achievement for the PMs of both Singapore and Malaysia to have come full circle and cooperate to make both countries potentially economically, socially and politically stronger. This indeed augurs well for the future.

    The sons of previous Prime Ministers and currently PMs themselves, Najib Razak, son of the late Abdul Rasak of Malaysia and Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, have made history by bringing the two countries back together again, although not politically but economically by their recent initiatives, the most important of which is the agreement on building a high-speed train service connecting Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur with Singapore by 2020. This will bring immense benefits to both countries, still joined by social, business and family ties.

    Singapore had to fight a strong communist-led opposition to win the merger with Malaysia in 1963 but was forced to withdraw from the union in 1965 to prevent further animosities and bloodshed so prevalent in politics then. But the half-century or so of self-reliance, hard work and dynamism projected Singapore from Third World to First World status and such an achievement was much credited to Lee Kuan Yew and his old guards.

    Now the sons have taken over the helm to write a new page in the bilateral relations history between both countries, hopefully without further interference from the doomsayers. If the initiatives come to fruition in years to come, the road ahead could only be positive and should lay a stronger foundation for closer cooperation between Singapore and Malaysia.

    This would indeed be a star achievement!

    Singapore Also Can!
    Last edited by Loh; 02-20-2013 at 02:04 AM.

  12. #6895
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Singapore's separation from Malaysia #236

    It may be relevant to bring readers back to my post #236 on 8/9/2009 to get a feel of
    the emotions and events surrounding Singapore's historical separation from Malaysia.

  13. #6896
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    Default Panda Kai Kai

    During the Chinese New Year holidays, I visited our Singapore Zoo for my long awaited meeting with our famous pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia who are on a 10-year loan from Beijing.

    These two star pandas are housed in specially built aircon habitats built alongside the river. But on my visit only Kai Kai, the male panda, was on display, the shy lady Jia Jia refused to emerge from her den apparently due to the excessive noise and movement of the curious visitors. We were told to be quiet so as not to create too much disturbance and were allowed to enter in batches for about 15 minutes each time.

    Here are some pictures of Kai Kai enjoying his natural meal of bamboo leaves.
    Attached Images Attached Images                      

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    Default Our Singapore Zoo

    Having visited some of the zoos in the region, I believe our Singapore Zoo is of a good standard with its open concept that allows resonable space for the animals to move about in their enclosures. Activites such as feeding the animals, making them perform in coordinated shows, providing animal rides and allowing photography with them, add more interest and excitement for visitors. And to cap it all, we have a great variety of animals housed in conducive surroundings to greet the visitor.

    It rained almost everyday during the CNY holidays and visitors to the zoo had to carry umbrellas or queue up to purchase raincoats or waterproof ponchos of reasonable quality for $5 each. However the rain stopped in the late afternoon to allow a more congenial walk around the exhibits and enclosures.

    Some attractions were more popular than others, for example the giant pandas, the white tigers, the colonies of Hamadryas baboons in their huge enclosure with waterfalls and artificial hills and the elephant show. Of course this time around, the addition of the River Safari provided the opportunity for many to survey the adjacent waters in old-fashion river boats.

    Here are some picture to keep you company:
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Loh View Post
    During the Chinese New Year holidays, I visited our Singapore Zoo for my long awaited meeting with our famous pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia who are on a 10-year loan from Beijing.

    These two star pandas are housed in specially built aircon habitats built alongside the river. But on my visit only Kai Kai, the male panda, was on display, the shy lady Jia Jia refused to emerge from her den apparently due to the excessive noise and movement of the curious visitors. We were told to be quiet so as not to create too much disturbance and were allowed to enter in batches for about 15 minutes each time.

    Here are some pictures of Kai Kai enjoying his natural meal of bamboo leaves.
    Sorry, I don't know what happened to your Panda pics. I just clicked 'Like this post' and they disappeared.

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    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin L View Post
    Sorry, I don't know what happened to your Panda pics. I just clicked 'Like this post' and they disappeared.
    Ha ha, just like shy Jia Jia who refused to appear in public.

    Oh, things like this do happen once in a while. The internet is full of mystery!

    But I hope you'll be able to view the white Tigers which I'm going to post soon. I spent more time with them and one of them rewarded me by swimming in the moat separating us from them.

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    Default Our White Tigers

    The White Tigers are my favourite animals at our Singapore Zoo.

    They are majestic in their white and light brown coat and their inescapable black stripes that are common to all tigers.

    They are very strong and every move they make shows off their rippling muscles. Their big paws are immensely powerful too and beautiful to look at on the underside.

    But one of the tigers showed its more natural non-menacing side like that of a cat when it jumped into the moat to swim and play. Though it was still drizzling it enjoyed the cool waters and stayed in it for a relatively long time for me to capture its every move. This was a rare sight for me as I have never seen any of the tigers in the waters before.

    My patience paid off despite the rain and it made my day!
    Attached Images Attached Images                                                          

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    Default Budget 2013: Live updates

    Singapore





    DPM Tharman Shanumgaratnam


    2 hours 15 min ago

    SINGAPORE – The Republic’s Budget for the financial year starting April 1 has been tabled in Parliament today by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

    Coming in the wake of the Population White Paper, Mr Tharman’s Budget speech at 3.30pm will be closely watched to see how it addresses the issues raised by the White Paper.

    We will be posting live updates from the speech here, on Twitter and on Facebook.



    Starting his speech, Mr Tharman said the Budget for FY2012 is expected to have a surplus, exceeding what was estimated a year ago. "We had estimated an overall Budget Balance of S$1.3 billion or 0.4 per cent of GDP. We now expect a higher surplus of S$3.9b or 1.1 per cent of GDP." The additional surplus, said Mr Tharman was due entirely to higher revenues from stamp duties and vehicle-related taxes.

    Mr Tharman said the median Singaporean household saw income per member grow 14 per cent over the last five years, cumulatively. Both median and 20th percentile households also experienced growth of 19 per cent in real incomes over the last five years. "The Budget will also introduce further measures to support our workers, including those with lowest wages," said Mr Tharman.

    When it comes to creating a better Singapore with quality growth and an inclusive society, Mr Tharman addressed the immediate challenges of housing and transport.

    The DPM said the Government wants to reduce the cost of housing, relative to the income of young Singaporeans. "Prices in the HDB resale market and private market have risen too rapidly in the cycle that began as we recovered from the 2009 economic crisis," he said, adding that the Government has taken major steps to cool the housing market and ramp up supply of HDB flats.

    In the area of transport, Mr Tharman said: "We have to make many improvements in public transport. Congestion and waiting times are a daily problem for Singaporeans." He noted that Government is ramping up bus capacity and accelerating the roll out of 800 more buses. The rail network will also expand by more than 50 per cent by 2021.

    But while the Government fixes the immediate problems, it also has to press on with priorities to help Singaporeans have a better quality of life over the medium to long term, noted Mr Tharman. "We are no longer a developing economy, but we have not achieved the level of productivity and income of an advanced economy."

    "We must make every effort to achieve quality growth," said Mr Thaman, citing growth that is achieved mainly through innovation and higher productivity, and which will benefit all Singaporeans. He noted that the strategies for achieving quality growth and an inclusive society are inextricably tied together.

    As cities globally and in Asia face the pressures of widening income disparities, Singapore must take steps to temper inequality and enable seniors to have a sense of economic security and fulfilment in their retirement years, he said.

    As such, the Government must shift its thinking to sustain social mobility and strengthen support for older Singaporeans, said Mr Tharman. Businesses have to innovate and adjust to the permanent reality of a tight labour market, while society at large must accord ordinary workers not just better pay but greater respect.

    The Government has started restructuring the economy since 2010, through measures such as tightening foreign worker inflows, supporting enterprises to upgrade and investing in workers. "We need to intensify this economic restructuring and skills upgrading so as to achieve quality growth," said Mr Tharman.

    While wages are going up, the DPM noted that productivity "has lagged". "We must help our SME sector revitalise itself," he said.

    To make this economic transition, Mr Tharman urged jobs to be designed to suit older Singaporeans and other potential employees who are unable to work regular, full time schedules. Flexible work practices must be more common, so workers have time for family and personal development, he said.

    To mitigate inequality, the Government is making the fiscal system more progressive by tilting taxes and benefits in favour of the lower- and middle-income groups, said Mr Tharman.

    The Budget includes measures to help lower- and middle-income Singaporeans more immediately, and the most significant support will go to older Singaporeans. In total, over a lifetime, a young low-income couple with two children can expect to receive more than S$600,000 in benefits in real terms.

    Mr Tharman said the Government wants to do more for older Singaporeans, who worked over the years to build a better future of their children: "We will do more for them."

    The Budget will also make significant investments to nurture sports and the arts. Over the next five years, the Government will invest 30 per cent more in sports programmes, and more than double investment to develop sports facilities.

    "In short, we are building a better Singapore: A more inclusive and caring society, with an innovative and dynamic economy, so that Singaporeans can have better opportunities and more fulfilling lives."

    Turning to the "first major thrust" of the Budget, which is to intensify efforts to achieve quality growth through productivity improvements, Mr Tharman spoke of the need to go through a new phase of transformation. This includes, catching up from a decade of slow productivity growth, and with the global leaders in each sector.

    The 2 to 3 per cent per annum target for productivity growth is "ambitious", said Mr Tharman. "But we must make every effort to achieve it."

    On foreign workforce growth, Mr Tharman said more of the increase came from two sectors: Construction and Process industries and the Services sector. Overall, the total number of employment pass holders declined last year, in part due to the tightening of the Ministry of Manpower's eligibility criteria.

    Foreign workers now comprise 33 per cent of the Republic's total workforce. "The proportion of foreign workers to the total workforce should not increase indefinitely," said Mr Tharman.

    To continue moderating the growth of the foreign workforce, the Government will make selective further Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) cuts for sectors with continued significant growth in foreign worker numbers, and where productivity levels are still well behind international productivity leaders.

    The Government will also increase levies for all sectors to ensure businesses reduce dependence on foreign manpower and improve productivity. The levy will be sharper for firms that are most dependent on foreign workers.

    Thirdly, the Government will encourage companies to pro-actively develop and reward talents and skill sof the Singaporean workforce, outlined Mr Tharman.

    "We cannot cut off the flow of foreign workers abruptly, but we have to slow its growth," he said.

    The tightening of policies is aimed at reducing reliance on manpower, not merely replacing foreigners with locals, added Mr Tharman. He noted it is the only way to significantly improve productivity and avoid an indefinite increase in the ratio of foreigners in the workforce.

    As part of the restructuring process, the structure of some industries will have to change, he said. "Consolidation is part and parcel of restructuring ... The restructuring of our economy must result eventually in a dynamic and re-energised SME scene."

    Businesses will have to respond in new ways to a tight labour market, while consumers will have to adjust, for instance, by getting used to self-serve F&B models and returning trays.

    Mr Tharman announced a new Quality Growth Programme, aimed at helping businesses to upgrade, create better jobs and raise wages. The four pillars are: tightening foreign worker policies, a 3-year Transition Support Package that includes a new Wage Credit Scheme, strengthening of productivity incentives, and developing capabilities for new growth industries.

    The Government will not be keeping the additional levies received as a result of the additional tightening, said Mr Tharman. The funds will be flowed back to firms as Productivity and Innovation Credit. This will be the approach over the next three years.

    To moderate demand for foreign workers, the Government will raise Foreign Worker Levies across the board in July 2014 and July 2015.

    Specifically in the Construction and Process sectors, the Government will mandate the use of more manpower efficient designs and technologies in building projects, through increases in the minimum Buildability scores. The Government will also increase levies for less skilled Work Permit holders by S$150 between July 2013 and July 2015. Steeper levy increases of S$300 will be imposed on workers hired outside a company's Man-Year Entitlement..

    In the services sector, the Government will reduce the DRC by 5 percentage points. The overall DRC will come down from 45 per cent to 40 per cent, and the S Pass Sub-DRC from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. Mr Tharman said the DRC reductions will particularly affect services industries such as F&B, but other sectors such as cleaning will not be significantly affected.

    The Government will also tighten qualification criteria for all S Passes. From July, the minimum S Pass qualifying monthly salary will be S$2,200, up from S$2,000. The Government will also introduce a tiered salary system based on age and qualifications, such that older and more experienced S Pass applicants will need to qualify at higher salaries. This will help level the playing field for local workers, said Mr Tharman.

    For Employment Passes (EPs
    ), the MOM will continue to tighten eligibility requirements for the EP workforce, especially for Q1 pass holders.The MOM will put in place a framework to ensure firms give fair consideration to Singaporeans in their hiring practices.

    Mr Tharman highlighted the three components to the 3-year Transition Support Package: Wage Credit Scheme (WCS), PIC bonus and CIT rebate.

    Under the WCS, the Government will co-fund 40 per cent of wage increases for Singaporean employees over the next three years. This co-funding will apply to wage increases for Singaporean employees earning up to a gross monthly wage of S$4,000. There is no need to apply for WCS, the Wage Credits will be automatically paid out to employers annually.

    The WCS will cost the Government about S$3.6 billion over three years.

    To encourage as many business to tap on the PIC, the Government will introduce a PIC Bonus. Businessse that invest a minimum of S$5,000 per year of assessment in PIC qualifying expenditure will receive dollar-for-dollar matching cash bonus, up to S$15,000 over three years of assessment.

    The PIC bonus is expected to cost S$450 million over three years.

    To help companies cope during the transition, the Government will also provide a special Corporate Income Tax rebate of 30 per cent of tax payable up to S$30,000 per year of assessment. This is expected to cost S$1.3 billion over three years.

    For owners of commercial vehicles, the Government will allow owners who choose to renew their COEs for five years to extend their COEs for another five years. There will also be a one-year 30% road tax rebate for goods vehicles, buses and taxis.

    The enhancements of productivity incentives will cost the Government S$500 million over three years.

    To support training for Singaporeans at all levels of the workforce, the Government will enhance the Workfare Training Support scheme for low-wage Singaporeans. It will also launch an SME Talent Programme. The Government will also top up the LIfelong Learning Endownment Fund by S$500 million.

    To support a Future of Manufacturing plan, the Economic Development Board will set aside S$500 million over the next five years.



    BUILDING A MORE INCLUSIVE SOCIETY

    The second thrust of the Budget is to make Singapore society even more inclusive. Mr Tharman noted two key concerns: Income inequality and the risk that it poses to social cohesion, and the need to do more for retirees.

    Mr Tharman noted that there is a disproportionate number of middle- and high-paying jobs taken up by younger Singaporeans, while older Singaporeans make up more than 40 per cent of workers in the bottom fifth of the income ladder.


    FOUR PILLARS OF GOVT'S SOCIAL STRATEGY


    One of the pillars Mr Tharman highlighted was to promote social mobility. "To make a difference in social mobility, we must start earlier in a child's life - from the pre-school level," he said.

    The second is to provide good jobs opportunities and grow incomes of all Singaporeans. "This is fundamental to achieving a stable and cohesive society," he said.

    Third, Mr Tharman cited, is the need to redistribute to benefit the lower- and middle-income groups, even as the Government ensures the economy stays competitive. He said the bulk of taxes is paid by the high-income group, and most of the benefits received by the lower-income.

    The fourth pillar is the role of the community, said Mr Tharman. The Government will provide strong support for community initiatives by partnering with community bodies and groups of citizens to improve the lives of Singaporeans, he said.


    PRE-SCHOOLS

    "In this Budget, we will take further initiatives to strengthen opportunities for low- and middle-income pupils in our education system," said Mr Tharman.

    The Government will more than double its spending on the pre-school sector over the next five years to over S$3 billion. It is expanding capacity, and to ensure quality and affordable pre-schools, the Government will bring in more operators onto the Anchor Operator scheme, with 16,000 more places by 2017.

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    Default An interactive look at how the Government intends to spend its money in 2013

    The Straits Times

    Published on Feb 25, 2013





    In keeping with the trend in recent years, the Government has continued to increase social spending in this year's Budget, raising it by almost 10 per cent from 2012. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


    By Derrick Ho And Goh Shi Ting

    In keeping with the trend in recent years, the Government has continued to increase social spending in this year's Budget, raising it by almost 10 per cent from 2012.

    Under the 2013 Budget, the government will significantly increase its spending allocation in the ministries under this sector.

    The Health Ministry
    will see a jump of 18.2 per cent, with the money going to increase the quality of healthcare services and to maintain affordability through subsidies as the population ages.

    Spending on education will increase 10.5 per cent due to the expansion of publicly-funded university places, and increase in the salaries of education officers.

    The second largest segment is in security and external relations, with spending on defence making up 23 per cent.

    Expenditure by the Ministry of Defence is expected to rise by 4.3 per cent for the purchase of military equipment, maintenance of equipment and camps, and salaries and allowances of full-time national servicemen and operationally ready national servicemen.
    Expenditure under the economic development sector will see a slight dip in overall spending.

    This is because the Ministry of Trade and Industry will see a reduction in spending due to lower amounts spent on projects such as the Jurong Rock Cavern, and a reallocation of funds from the Ministry of Communications and Information after the ministry was restructured last year.

    Transport expenditure will rise by 7.4 percent this year continuing the rail transport projects such as the Downtown Line, Tuas West Extension and Thomson Line.


    Scroll down to the charts and graphics below to explore how the government spends its dollars. Roll over the various segments of each chart for details.

    Source: Ministry of Finance

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