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  1. #8059
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Government proposes new haze law aimed at errant parties; public views sought

    Published on Feb 19, 2014
    5:05 PM



    A barely visible Singapore Flyer in the thick haze on June 17, 2013. The Environment and Water Resources Ministry is proposing a new law that would hold liable companies or other entities that cause transboundary haze, and is seeking public feedback. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


    By Grace Chua

    The Environment and Water Resources Ministry is proposing a new law that would hold liable companies or other entities that cause transboundary haze, and is seeking public feedback.

    Under the proposed Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill, parties whose activities outside Singapore cause unhealthy levels of haze that affect the island-state, can be fined up to $300,000. If they deliberately ignore requests to prevent or control haze, they can be fined up to $450,000.

    And under the bill, those affected by the haze can also bring civil suits against errant parties.

    Singapore suffered its worst ever bout of haze in June 2013, when the three-hour PSI, a measure of air quality, hit an all-time high of 401 at one point, way beyond the "hazardous" level of above 300.

  2. #8060
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Little India Riot COI: Wet roads and intoxication caused construction worker's fall

    Published on Feb 19, 2014
    4:33 PM


    By Walter Sim

    Accident reconstruction expert Dr Michael Tay wrapped up his evidence on Wednesday on the "combination of factors" that could have led Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu to fall into the path of the bus which ran over him.

    Among the reasons suggested by Dr Tay were wet roads from light rains that day. Mr Sakthivel was also taking large steps as he ran to chase after the bus. His high blood alcohol content of 217mg of ethanol per 100ml of blood meaning it would be "harder to maintain balance".

    His left hand was also holding an umbrella, preventing him from swinging his hand in a natural movement and thus affecting the stability. This, as his right palm was on the bus, meant that he would have to match his movement and speed equally to that of the bus". Dr Tay said: "If he was just running without physical contact with the bus, he would have been more stable. Instead, he had to follow the curved path (as the bus was "off-tracking" while it made a left turn onto Race Course Road from Tekka Lane). This complicated his movement."

    The fatal accident involving Mr Sakthivel, a 33-year-old construction worker, in Little India on Dec 8 erupted into Singapore's worst public order disturbance in over four decades, with 49 Home Team officers injured and 23 vehicles damaged.



    The wrecked private bus at the junction of Race Course Road at the aftermath of the Little India riot on Dec 9, 2013. Accident reconstruction expert Dr Michael Tay wrapped up his evidence on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014, on the "combination of factors" that could have led Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu to fall into the path of the bus which ran over him. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN


    According to video footage shown in court on Wednesday, the first day of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing into the riot, Mr Sakthivel had boarded the BT & Tan private bus bound for his dormitory in Jalan Papan when it was almost full.

    He was asked to get off, first by an unidentified foreign worker and then by bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, after he dropped his bermuda shorts on the bus.

    He consented, and alighted without being "pushed or manhandled", said Senior State Counsel David Khoo in his opening statement.

    Mr Sakthivel then walked along Tekka Lane towards Race Course Road, chasing after the bus after he saw that it departed. Near the junction, he placed his right palm on the side of the bus, only to trip and fall seconds later.

    Mr G. Pannir Selvam, a former Supreme Court judge appointed to chair the four-man COI panel, questioned why the driver, Mr Lee Kim Huat, 55, had failed to notice Mr Sakthivel, given the four cameras mounted on the bus.

    Dr Tay said, of the "cognitive workload" of the bus driver, that he would have to navigate human traffic on the congested road, with "20 to 30 pedestrians in the vicinity of the bus". There were also two stationary buses parked along Tekka Lane.

    Although there were four cameras on board the bus, Dr Tay said the images on the dashboard were small - measuring 4.3cm by 7.65cm per screen - and that Mr Lee would have to look down rather than on the roads.

    "During the critical junction turning, just before the deceased fell, he would not have been able to see the deceased," said Dr Tay, due to his smaller size and profile, and his "lower luminance" compared to the glare of the headlights of surrounding vehicles.

  3. #8061
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loh View Post
    Keppel Club looking at becoming social club, after lease expires at Telok Blangah site


    Published on Feb 16, 2014
    10:20 PM



    Tucked away in Telok Blangah, Keppel Club has a history dating back to over 100 years. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM


    By Rachel Scully

    TUCKED away in Telok Blangah, Keppel Club has a history dating back to over 100 years.

    But now, it will be the first private golf club in Singapore not to have its lease extended upon expiry in 2021 and will not be offered an alternative site.

    The 44 hectares of land it occupies, which includes its club house and an 18-hole course, is slated for housing developments, and was first announced in the 2001 Concept Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.


    Members of Keppel Club had a closed-door meeting with representatives of government agencies and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Sunday at the Suntec Singapore Convention Centre.





    Among their concerns, Keppel members wanted to know how easy or difficult it would be for it to evolve into a social club and secure a site for a new clubhouse. This means that the club would not have golfing facilities, but can still provide members with amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts.

    Mr Shanmugam told the members that the club would not have to bid to lease its new site, given that it was the first club whose lease would expire without being offered a replacement golf course and that it had a long heritage.

    Speaking to the media after the members-only meeting, Mr Shanmugam said the Government will try to help the club and see if the operators of the public golf course can work out some arrangements with Keppel's members.

    "If a new golf course is offered to them, and they would have to pay a premium for it... and the club's chairman was saying they were not sure if they can pay the premium (required) for a social club," said Mr Shanmugam.

    "It's not as if the new golf course can be alloted free of charge or at a discounted rate, it is going to cost a lot of money."

    Other members had asked at the meeting if they could get a short extension for their existing site and retain some parts of the club house in Telok Blangah.

    However, such an arrangement was not possible as the land preparatory works will be initiated quite immediately after its lease runs out in 2021
    How interesting !

    Some private members clubs in HK have been having difficulties renewing their leases as well. Very few have golf courses. There are conditions of the leases that there has to be some community benefits, like hosting open events that are open to the public or a school being able to use some facilities for extra curricular activities. Rather like Chinese Swimming Club badminton competition.

    Does that happen much in Singapore ?

    On another note, if the golf course has to go, perhaps the club can build a big 12 court badminton hall and develop it's younger members, and nearby schools. Then also host the Singapore badminton international challenge renting out the facility at a cheap rate to SBA.��

  4. #8062
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheung View Post
    How interesting !

    Some private members clubs in HK have been having difficulties renewing their leases as well. Very few have golf courses. There are conditions of the leases that there has to be some community benefits, like hosting open events that are open to the public or a school being able to use some facilities for extra curricular activities. Rather like Chinese Swimming Club badminton competition.

    Does that happen much in Singapore ?

    On another note, if the golf course has to go, perhaps the club can build a big 12 court badminton hall and develop it's younger members, and nearby schools. Then also host the Singapore badminton international challenge renting out the facility at a cheap rate to SBA.��
    I think land is scarcer in Singapore than in HK simply because of the former's smaller size and with the projected higher growth in population in years to come, land here will become more of a premium, even in the outlying suburban areas. As Singapore is decentralizing its economic, social, educational and entertainment activities, all available space in the near future will be in great demand. The distinction between urban and suburban will be blurred and thus the government has to recover especially less economically productive facilities like golf courses for more urgent needs like housing and businesses.

    Golf courses take up extensive land space and golf is still considered a "rich man's" game. While most golf clubs here do contribute to charity in organizing annual Charity Golf Tournaments, I think they do relatively little to give back to society.

    So as not to deepen the disparity between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots', I am pleased to note that a public course will be offered, hopefully in the near future, so that others can have a chance to play golf without having to pay high entrance fees and monthly subscriptions for private clubs.

    Singapore seems to have an excess of private golf clubs, a few even having more than 18-holes. As a global city, indeed we should have golf courses of international standard to entertain business clients and the expatriate community. Now that there is a serious competition for land, it is perhaps time for the government to take appropriate action.

    As regards using golf land for badminton halls, it is very unlikely.

    First, the government has already built many community halls with badminton courts all over the island where there is a high population density and new ones will be built in new housing estates to bring the community together for various activities including badminton.

    Second, now many school halls with badminton courts are available to social players, especially working adults. The Singapore Sports School hall has been used by the SBA for sometime now, but SBA will move its HQ to the Sports Hub when it becomes ready.

    Some private clubs also have specially constructed halls for badminton, like the Chinese Swimming Club that you have mentioned. Other clubs include the Singapore Swimming Club, Warren Golf Club, NUSS (National University of Singapore Society) and perhaps a few others, like Arena. They also organize inter-club competitions and friendlies.

    Third, we also have public stadiums of reasonable size to cater for competitions. At Geylang, we now have the popular private Singapore Badminton Hall available for booking and competitions.

    Fourth, the forthcoming Singapore Sports Hub will have a good sized indoor stadium among many other sports and recreation facilities. It is likely that future international challenges will be held here. This is apart from the nearby well-known Singapore Indoor Stadium (SIS) that has accommodated so many Singapore Opens in the past.
    Last edited by Loh; 02-19-2014 at 10:55 PM.

  5. #8063
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    Sounds very good planning. Especially the Singapore Hub.

    I saw from the map earlier there are many, many golf courses in Singapore. Quite a lot more than in HK. It's easy to see who will lose out to public opinion.

  6. #8064
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default A*Star scientists find faster way to tell good and bad fat apart

    Published on Feb 20, 2014
    10:22 AM

    By Amelia Teng


    Scientists from A*Star have found a faster way to differentiate between good fat and bad fat.

    This could speed up high-throughput drug screenings, which are used for discovery of potential drug targets to treat metabolic diseases caused by visceral fat.

    Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the internal organs in a body, while subcutaneous fat is found beneath the skin. The difference between both kinds of fats is that the latter is better able to store excess lipids and keep them from leaking into other organs, while the former is less efficient at doing so, resulting in excess lipids entering the blood and other organs. Too much lipids circulating in the body leads to inflammation, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary plaque formation, a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

    The researchers from Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), a member of A*Star, are able for the first time to tell apart subcutaneous from visceral fat stem cells by using specific cell markers. Fat stem cells are young cells that mature into fully functioning fat cells.

  7. #8065
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheung View Post
    Sounds very good planning. Especially the Singapore Hub.

    I saw from the map earlier there are many, many golf courses in Singapore. Quite a lot more than in HK. It's easy to see who will lose out to public opinion.

    That's why there has been relative little resistance from the golf clubs on the government's latest action.

    On the subject of badminton courts, I have forgotten to mention that some big companies and public institutions like the SIA, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), Institute of Mental Health, National Environment Agency, NUS (National University of Singapore), the Polytechnics, ST Engineering perhaps, and others, have badminton courts for their staff recreation.

    Frankly, badminton is popular with many students and working adults alike. The support is relatively great but unfortunately our young do not take it seriously enough to play full-time and turn professional.

  8. #8066
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Golf clubs: Singapore Island Country Club originally set to lose two courses

    Published on Feb 20, 2014
    3:23 PM




    Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) was originally meant to lose two of its four 18-hole courses after the leases ran out in 2021, as part of moves by the Government to take back golf course land for more essential needs. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM



    By Rachel Scully


    Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) was originally meant to lose two of its four 18-hole courses after the leases ran out in 2021, as part of moves by the Government to take back golf course land for more essential needs.

    In January 2013, the Government said that it was reviewing lease renewals for golf clubs. Details of the affected clubs were released last Sunday.

    Among them was SICC, which will lose one of its courses at the Bukit location when the lease runs out of 2021. The course will be converted into a public course and be operated by the labour movement. The other course at the club's Bukit location will have its lease extended till 2030, subject to terms and conditions.

    This eventual outcome is more favourable than what was earlier discussed, it turns out, according to club president Tay Joo Soon, who wrote to the club's members in a six-page message on Wednesday.

  9. #8067
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Singapore Army gets new chief on March 21

    Published on Feb 20, 2014
    4:40 PM



    Brigadier-General (BG) Perry Lim Cheng Yeow, currently Chief of Staff (General Staff), will take over from Major-General Ravinder Singh as Chief of Army on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: MINDEF


    By Jermyn Chow

    THE Singapore Army will get a new chief on March 21.

    Brigadier-General (BG) Perry Lim Cheng Yeow, 41, will be replacing Major-General Ravinder Singh, 49, who has been Chief of Army since 2009.


    Maj-Gen Singh will be leaving the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after he relinquishes his appointment, said the Defence Ministry in a statement on Thursday. It added that the change of command is part of the continuing process of leadership renewal in the SAF.

    BG Lim, currently the Chief of Staff (General Staff), joined the SAF in December 1990.

    He was awarded the President's and SAF Overseas scholarships a year later.

  10. #8068
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Little India Riot COI: Bus drivers decided 2 years ago not to ferry drunk workers

    Published on Feb 20, 2014
    11:21 AM


    Police officers examining the wrecked private bus at the aftermath of the Little India riot in the early hours on Dec 9, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN



    By Sujin Thomas And Francis Chan

    Timekeeper Madam Wong Geck Woon said that there have been instances in the past when Indian workers who are drunk have urinated and vomitted inside buses ferrying them back to their dormitories from Little India.

    Taking the stand for first time on Thursday since the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into last year's Little India riot began the day before, the 38-year-old told the court that as a result, bus drivers decided among themselves about two years ago not to ferry drunk workers.

    "Ultimately the bus drivers decide if they want to allow drunk workers to board," she said in Mandarin. She added that some drivers may still be kind enough to let drunk workers board their buses while others would not allow this as they worry about the their vomitting and the subsequent clean-up.

    She has also noted a rise in problems on board buses created as a result of drunk workers and has heard of some who fall asleep on a field near Race Course Road and later take taxis back to their dormitories. Madam Wong was coordinating buses along Tekka Lane on Dec 8 when she ordered 33-year-old Indian construction worker Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu to get off a bus which later ran over him. The fatal traffic accident allegedly sparked the riot.

    Madam Wong said that there were three timekeepers - including herself- as well as a supervisor under the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA), who worked on Sundays along the Tekka Lane stretch. They worked alone, looking after buses headed for different dormitories such as those in Jalan Papan, Kranji, Mandai, Woodlands and Tuas. Madam Wong, who worked part-time, said she is currently taking a "rest" and may go back to work with the SSTA in the near future.

  11. #8069
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    Default Little India Riot COI:

    Little India Riot COI: Timekeeper had other 'unpleasant encounters' with foreign workers


    Published on Feb 20, 2014
    3:06 PM



    Bus timekeeper Madam Wong Geck Woon (above) had two unpleasant encounters with foreign workers prior to the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard Thursday, Feb 20, 2014, as it convened for a second day. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW


    By Walter Sim

    Bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon had had two unpleasant encounters with foreign workers prior to the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard on Thursday as it convened for a second day.

    The first
    occurred on New Year's Day in 2012, when she was allegedly a victim in an outrage of modesty case. She wrote in her conditioned statement, which was read out in court: "I felt someone touch my backside as I was about to reach for my walkie-talkie. I grabbed his hand ... I accused him of molesting me but he denied."

    Speaking through a Mandarin interpreter, the 38-year-old said that the ensuing commotion drew a crowd over, including auxiliary police officers who escorted the foreign worker to a corner and spoke to him. They then brought her to a police station to lodge a report, but Madam Wong said that no documents were given to her, nor was there any follow-up to the matter.

    Senior State Counsel David Khoo said: "The investigation officer will look into this matter, now that we know she went to the police station."

    The second incident
    took place in November last year, when two men - a Singaporean and an Indian foreign worker - accused her of snitching on them when they were summoned by auxiliary police officers for throwing cigarette butts indiscriminately. Before they were approached by the officers, she had been talking to them.

    Madam Wong, who has been employed as a part-time timekeeper with the Singapore School Transport Association for five years, was injured when projectiles were thrown at her in the aftermath of a fatal traffic accident involving 33-year-old Indian national akthivel Kumaravelu. Two men also boarded the bus, where she was cowering under a raincoat, and rained more blows on her.

    Towards the end of her testimony, COI member and former Commissioner of Police Tee Tua Ba asked: "Are you afraid to go back to work?"

    She evaded the question, answering: "I want to rest for the time being."

  12. #8070
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    Default How Little India became a watering hole

    Two witnesses point to proliferation of shops selling liquor in recent years



    Published on Feb 21, 2014
    8:18 AM


    Foreign workers relaxing over liquor at a beer garden in Little India on Dec 22 last year. More foreign workers tanked up on alcohol have been making a nuisance of themselves by vomiting and even urinating in the private buses that take them from Little India back to their dormitories, say witnesses. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG


    By Walter Sim And Lim Yan Liang

    In recent years, more and more foreign workers tanked up on alcohol have been making a nuisance of themselves by vomiting and even urinating in the private buses that take them from Little India back to their dormitories.

    The problem worsened to such a point that two years ago, the bus drivers decided not to ferry any worker who looked intoxicated.

    Two witnesses made these statements in separate testimonies at yesterday's Committee of Inquiry hearing into last year's Little India riot, drawing from their own observations.
    Both also pointed to the same root cause - the mushrooming of shops selling alcohol in the area.

    "Nowadays, almost every shop sells liquor - even those selling vegetables and groceries," said bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, 38, who has worked part-time at her job for five years.


    She noted that in the months leading up to the riot, more workers had to be turned away for drunkenness than before.

    "Whether a drunk passenger is allowed to board the bus is ultimately up to the driver. Some may still be kind enough to let them board," she noted.

    "Others would not allow (it) as they would worry about their vomiting and the subsequent cleanup."

    Madam Wong, who was stationed at Tekka Lane to coordinate bus arrivals and direct workers to the correct queues, also observed: "Some workers would sleep at the open field in the vicinity of Tekka Lane when they were drunk. Some would take a taxi back to their dormitories."

    She said that while the workers were generally well-behaved, more of them tended to get drunk on the first weekend of each month after receiving their salaries. There were also more frequent patrols by the police on the first two weekends of each month, she said.

    Despite the agreement among the bus drivers, some intoxicated foreign workers still managed to board the buses.

    Bus driver Lee Kim Huat, 55, who has ferried workers between their dormitories and Little India for 12 years, told the court: "Occasionally, about once a month, one of these workers will vomit in the bus on the return trip.

    "For the past five years, this had been a regular occurrence. It is part of my job to clean up any mess."

    While final conclusions have not been drawn, alcohol has been considered one likely factor which led to the violence on Dec 8. As a result, the Government has put in place restrictions on the sale, supply and public consumption of alcohol in Little India.

    The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill, passed in Parliament on Tuesday, empowers the authorities to cancel or suspend a permit or licence on short notice if a licensee flouts the alcohol ban.

  13. #8071
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    Default NTU and Northwestern University to set up $70 million nanomedicine research institute

    Published on Feb 20, 2014
    6:11 PM

    By Amelia Teng


    The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is partnering the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) to set up a $70 million research institute to develop healthcare innovations in the field of nanotechnology.

    The IIN, which was established in 2000 and is part of the Northwestern University in the United States, focuses on research in the field of nanotechnology including medicine.

    The new NTU-Northwestern Institute for Nanomedicine will support scientists from around the world working on joint research projects in the areas of disease diagnostics and targeted drug delivery methods, which aim to increase the efficacy of existing drugs. Researchers will also design new methods, like gene silencing, to treat diseases.

    NTU President Bertil Andersson announced the collaboration on Monday at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting held in Chicago.

  14. #8072
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    Default Plenty to look out for in Budget

    Pioneer package expected to be major component; firms looking for help too



    Published on Feb 21, 2014
    7:01 AM



    Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam arriving at Parliament House on Feb 17, 2012. -- ST PHOTO: SAMUEL HE


    By Chia Yan Min


    Weeks of speculation over the likely content of this year's Budget will finally be put to rest today.

    Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will deliver the Budget statement in Parliament at 3.30pm.

    Both individuals and companies will have plenty to look out for this year, going by pre-Budget hints from the Government and tips from observers.

    The Pioneer Generation Package
    is expected to be a major component of this year's Budget.

    Intended to honour the pioneer generation, the package is targeted at Singapore citizens who were 16 years or older in 1965 and who received citizenship by Dec 31, 1986.

    It will include health-care subsidies, Medisave top-ups and other benefits.

    For their part, companies will be on the lookout for tweaks to existing schemes that aim to help them with their restructuring efforts.

    In Budget 2013, the Government unveiled a three-year transition support package to help firms become more efficient and move up the value chain.

    Business associations, auditors and firms have called for tweaks to the schemes in this package, to prevent abuses and help companies with long-term transitions.

    For instance, some observers expect the Productivity and Innovation Credit - which encourages businesses to invest in technology and automation to enhance their productivity - to be fine-tuned and extended beyond its 2015 expiry date.

    Small and medium-sized enterprises have also called for more aid with expanding abroad, and improving their access to finance.

    In line with efforts to cultivate a more inclusive society, analysts have suggested that higher taxes on wealth to pay for a likely increase in social spending and to reduce the income gap might be likely.

    The wheels of a more progressive system were set in motion last year, with a shift towards taxing assets rather than income.

    Higher property taxes on investment and higher-end owner-occupied homes were introduced, while the tax rate for luxury cars was also raised.

    Of course, Singaporeans hope for "goodies" every time the Budget rolls around - and sometimes, these hopes are fulfilled.

    For instance, the abolition of the radio and TV licence in Budget 2011 came as a pleasant surprise.

    In previous Budgets, the Government has handed out income tax rebates and "growth dividends", in a bid to share the fruits of economic growth with Singaporeans, and help households with costs.

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    Default The makings of a social investment state

    TODAY

    BY EUGENE KB TAN
    PUBLISHED: 22 FEBRUARY, 4:03 AM

    The Budget is not just a fiscal instrument policy. It is very much an economic, political and social instrument as well. It is a unique opportunity to define and reaffirm the society that we aspire to have.

    The Budget unveiled yesterday seeks to be a popular one. At a time when many other countries have continual difficulties finding adequate fiscal resources and balancing budgets, this Budget provides Singapore with the wherewithal to attend to our growing social needs. It sets the tone for the FY2015-16 Budget, when the nation celebrates its golden jubilee.

    The key economic themes persist: Productivity, restructuring, reducing reliance on cheap foreign manpower, infrastructure investments and long-term planning. But social themes dominate this Budget: Taken as a whole, it exudes inclusiveness, equity (not equality) through redistribution, appreciation and gratitude (the Pioneer Generation Package, or PGP), welfare (but not welfarism) and opportunity.

    LEFTWARD SHIFT CONTINUES?

    In some respects, the Budget continues the People’s Action Party Government’s apparent leftward shift. The Budget’s centrepiece is the PGP, reflecting both the nation’s ability and the political imperative to care for the pioneers who laid the foundations for Singapore’s success. This has important and salutary effects, because it provides the tentative assurance that recognition, appreciation and care must be the hallmarks of this society.

    The continuation and expansion of schemes to help lower- and, increasingly, middle-income households all indicate the abiding concern with the income gap, social mobility and cohesion. The Government is not known for its “generous” Budgets, and the larger social spending each year is bound to make those who value fiscal prudence and tight-fistedness worry.

    However, I see it more as playing catch-up to make up for past under-investments in the social sector, especially in healthcare, where the budget is increasing by almost 25 per cent.

    Lest the intent is misunderstood, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam emphasised the centrality of personal and collective responsibility as a means to ensure that the Budget’s social accent does not unintentionally enervate our work ethic or set us down the road to welfare dependence.

    BETTER-OFF MUST UPLIFT LESS WELL-OFF

    It’s a thin line between a popular and populist Budget. While it is absolutely crucial to reduce class divides, this Budget’s greater social spending is measured and seeks to avoid setting ourselves up for a class war where the societal reflex is about “tearing down the wealthy”. The poor are not poor because the rich are rich. But the Budget could do with more direct benefits to the average Singaporean; the well-off Singaporeans benefit more directly from already low personal income taxes, for instance.

    The Budget must nudge more giving by Singaporeans and corporate entities. It would be excellent if this and future Budgets could inspire Singaporeans to think about what else can be done to uplift the less well-off.

    Money is necessary — but time, expertise, commitment and effort by better-off Singaporeans would make those social dollars engender meaningful, rather than stop-gap, measures and outcomes. I welcome the Budget’s effort to develop social sector professionals.

    SEEDING SOCIAL CAPITAL

    I also welcome the 1 per cent increase of the CPF employer contribution, which will be chanelled to the Medisave account. This is timely and I hope employers see this as the right thing to do and recognise their social responsibility to contribute to the healthcare needs of their Singaporean employees.

    In short, the Budget can play a vital role in developing social capital. Strong social capital can help make our social expenditures more impactful and sustainable, while strengthening societal bonds. We will then have the benefit of a more gracious, caring, and cohesive society.

    I believe we have the makings of a social investment state — one where public expenditure is not viewed as an expense, but is used to provide stabilisation and social insurance against externally generated risks, as well as to sustain the physical, human and social capital necessary for growth.

    What’s unique about Singapore’s social investment state is that, unlike the Nordic models, high public expenditure is not accompanied by high taxes — well, not yet anyway. As needs grow and rapidly evolve, each Budget will have to provide a platform for positive change amid continuity, and new sources of income will have to be found.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Eugene K B Tan is Associate Professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law, and a Nominated Member of Parliament.

  16. #8074
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    Default Budget 2014: Pioneer Generation to benefit ‘for the rest of their lives’

    TODAY


    Yearly Medisave top-ups, subsidies for MediShield premiums among measures unveiled in Pioneer Generation Package


    BY NEO CHAI CHIN
    PUBLISHED: 21 FEBRUARY, 4:54 PMUPDATED: 21 FEBRUARY, 7:00 PM

    SINGAPORE — Feverishly discussed for months, details of the much anticipated Pioneer Generation Package were released today (Feb 21), with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announcing a range of healthcare support for Singapore’s pioneers in his Budget Speech.

    The package, catering to those born in 1949 or earlier, and who became a Citizen before 1987, will cost the Government S$9 billion.

    The Government will establish an S$8 billion Pioneer Generation Fund to meet the cost of the package over time.

    In total, about 450,000 Singaporeans will benefit, and the Government will establish a panel to assess appeals of those who marginally miss out on the precise criteria on a case-by-case basis.

    MEDISAVE, MEDISHIELD LIFE BENEFITS

    As part of the package, all pioneers will receive Medisave top-ups of S$200 to S$800 yearly for life.

    Those born between 1945 and 1949 will receive S$200 a year, while those born in 1934 and earlier will receive S$800 a year. Payouts will be made from August.

    They will also get subsidies for their MediShield premiums. The Government’s intent is to fully cover premiums for the MediShield Life insurance scheme for the group who will be aged 80 and above this year. Others will also get help with payment for premiums.

    The MediShield Life subsidies will be implemented at the end of next year when MediShield Life is rolled out.

    HELP WITH OUTPATIENT BILLS

    For outpatient care, pioneers will receive a 50 per cent discount off the net bill for subsidised services at Specialist Outpatient Clinics. This means that 75 to 85 per cent of their net bills will be covered by subsidies.

    All pioneers will be included under the a scheme that subsidises visits to participating general practitioners, known as the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).

    Pioneers with disabilities, or their caregivers, will receive cash assistance of S$1,200 a year.

    The subsidies for Specialist Outpatient Clinics and polyclinic services will be implemented in September, while the additional CHAS benefits will be implemented in January next year.

    The Pioneer Generation Fund assures pioneers that Singapore “will honour our commitment to them, regardless of future economic circumstances”, said Mr Tharman.

    CPF CONTRIBUTION RATES RAISED FOR OLDER SINGAPOREANS

    Meanwhile, for working Singaporeans above 50, Central Provident Fund contribution rates will be raised.

    Those above 50 to age 55 will see a 1.5 percentage point increase in contribution rates – 1 percentage point will come from employers and 0.5 percentage point will come from the employees.

    Those above 55 to age 65 will see a 0.5 percentage point increase in contributions from employers.

    The changes will mean that a 50-year-old worker earning a wage of S$3,000 will have S$6,500 more in his retirement savings at 65.

    This will begin from January next year.

    Other initiatives announced include the enhancement of parent relief and handicapped parent relief by up to S$3,000, with individuals who stay with their elderly dependants enjoying a higher relief quantum.
    Last edited by Loh; 02-22-2014 at 10:34 PM.

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    Default Budget 2014

    Both individuals and companies got good news in this year's Budget, with the Pioneer Generation Package taking centre stage. It includes health-care subsidies, Medisave top-ups and other benefits.


    Post Budget round-up by Maria Almenoar
    Five ways the measures announced in Budget 2014 will affect you


    Pioneer Generation

    1. To qualify for the Pioneer Generation, you must have been at least 16 years old in 1965. Anyone who qualifies will get the benefits regardless of income and will get them for the rest of their lives. In total about 450,000 Singaporeans fulfil the criteria. Those who have just missed out may appeal.


    2. The Pioneer Generation will get an additional 50 per cent off already subsidised bills at specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics. This will start in September. In addition, from January next year, they will all qualify for the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) which provides accessible and affordable medical and dental care.


    3. From August, the Pioneer Generation will get annual Medisave top-ups of $200 to $800. They will also be given more flexibility to use their Medisave for a wide range of outpatient treatments.


    4. All Pioneer Generation members will be covered under MediShield Life. Subsidies will be given according to age to ensure premiums for this scheme are affordable. At age 65, the subsidies will start at 40 per cent of the premium and will rise to 60 per cent by age 90. This will start end-2015. Those aged 80 and above in 2014 will have their premiums fully covered through premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups.


    5. Those who have moderate to severe functional disabilities will get $1,200 cash a year.
    Last edited by Loh; 02-22-2014 at 11:04 PM.

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