Tag Archives: Singapore

Cin’s Newsdesk: Productivity & Bee!

A tongue-in-chic take on (Singapore) news of the day…

The government has recently released the recommendations of the Economic Strategies Committee, with a view on charting Singapore’s economic future.

To promote the initiative of  productivity growth in Singapore,  Teamy, the Productivity Bee, who had his hey-days in the 1980s has been invited out of retirement to be champion this campaign.

Teamy gushed: “Of course I am honored to be invited back after 30 years. Having me as the spokesperson also fits in well with the government’s plans to have older workers like me, to stay longer in the workforce.”

Don’t expect the bee to rest in his hive. He has plans to transform himself to connect with the workers of today. In the improved version 2.0, he will be known as “Bumble-Bee, the Transformer”.

Just as fashion recycles itself every decade or so, buzzwords (no pun intended) in governance does too!

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Something old, something new

My first week back in Singapore, I decided to check out the fashion bazzar at The Faculty – a recently developed space consisting of an performing studio and a cafe, within the extension of the Thian Hock Keng Temple (one of the biggest and oldest Hokkien temples in Singapore). I love that they had kept the intricate looking pavillions and mosaic tile floors.

I will like to find some time to visit the cafe again soon. It will be quite charming to sit in the pavillion sipping some coffee, me thinks, in the heart of a quiet Central Business Distict on a weekend. 

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Cin’s Newsdesk #7

bicycleSingapore is planning her first mass cycling event on 22 February 2009. This event is expected to attract 5000 participants, including amateur and elite cyclists. (Channel News Asia, 20 Nov 2008).

 

 

All politicians, regardless of political affiliation are encouraged NOT to participate because, as the Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs once said, You may be well-behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, and therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid.” (Straits Times, Outdoor events by political parties banned, 28 Aug 2007)

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Cin’s Newsdesk #6

marina-bayThe Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is currently seeking public feedback for 2 iconic spaces at Marina Bay. One being a landmark bridge and the other being an Art Park. Public can log on to the marina bay website to share their views or suggest names. Closing date is 14 December 2008. (Channel News Asia, 18 November 2008)

 

 

Judging by previous naming contests, where the winning name for Singapore’s Budget Terminal was “Budget Terminal” and the winning name for Marina Bay was “Marina Bay”, it is not hard to figure out the winning names of these new iconic structures, namely “The Marina Bay Bridge” and “The Marina Bay Park”. 

Cin’s Newsdesk

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Cin’s Newsdesk #4

debt-collectionFinally, a piece of good news for Singapore, one of the first few countries to slip into technical recession since the financial crisis. There are signs of a new burgeoning industry in the works, i.e. debt collection. One wonders if Singapore is fast becoming the regional hub for companies involved in such activities. According to debt-collection company, Oagents who used to only cover the Singapore and Malaysia markets, their employees are chalking up a lot more air-miles as they chase down debtors to far-flung regions such as China and the United States.

In a separate incident, the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) has announced retrenchment of an estimated 900 staff from its Singapore and HK offices. One suggests that the retrenched staff of DBS seek greener pastures in the new growth area of debt collection. There is really no difference between working in a financial institition vs. working in a debt collection agency. 

While the debt collection industry welcomes the move to expand employment, they have drawn the line at hiring workers from Singapore’s security forces, given that the security forces not been able to track down an escaped terrorist who is still lurking around in small Singapore since March 2008. 

CIN’s NEWSDESK 🙂

 

Debt collectors report surge in business (Straits Times, 13 Nov 2008)
AS THE economy slows down, one particular form of business is picking up – debt collection.Agents in the trade say business has increased by at least 20 per cent this year, with some among them even travelling overseas for the job.   

Mr Simon Lim, operations manager of Asian Debt Collection Services, said he has received an average of 18 calls a week from clients, up from the 10 calls he was getting during this time last year.

Another company, Oagents, is sending its people as far afield as China and the United States to chase down company debts that can run into the millions.

Mr Dylan Loi, one of Oagents’ directors, used to go only as far as Malaysia, but is logging a lot more air miles now.

Statistics from the Monetary Authority of Singapore show that debts have piled up. Total consumer loans stand at $112 billion as of August this year. This is up by about 12 per cent from August last year. The previous year-on-year increase was only 8 per cent.

In particular, credit card rollover balances have risen to $3.2 billion as of August, up from $2.8 billion a year ago and $2.6 billion in August 2006.

Collectors point to another trend – the dredging up of old debts from three to five years back. Said Mr Lim: ‘In good times, you can see the person every day but not chase him for money. In bad times, you will remember what he owed you from five years ago.’

With more cases, Mr Lim said his collectors have to step up their pace and visit one or two more households each week.

A 45-year-old debtor who declined to be named said he has felt the heat from debt collectors. Instead of a letter or phone call every month, the calls and SMS messages from banks came every other day. The father of two eventually turned to Credit Counselling Singapore to get his $50,000 debt restructured.

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Cin’s Newsdesk #1

nanny_diaries_posterHeadlines for today: Temasek Holdings’ investments in Australia’s child-care centres takes a hit. How unfortunate, you would think with the experience of being in a nanny-state, we would have an uncanny ability to sniff out good child-care centres to invest in. Apparently not. 😛

 

 

Aussie Families and Investors Hit by Fall of Child-Care Chain (11 Nov 2008, Straits Times)

“ABC Learning controlled 20 per cent of the country’s childcare industry with 1,075 centres employing 16,000 staff who looked after 120,000 children. It also owns centres in New Zealand.

The firm’s rapid expansion was underpinned by huge levels of debt but questionable management and higher interest rates thanks to the credit crunch took their toll and the firm went to the wall last week owing banks A$762 million (S$788 million).

Temasek will be one of the biggest casualties. It took a 12 per cent stake worth about A$400 million last year, buying in when the shares were at A$7.30 only to see the stock plummet to 54 Australian cents before they were suspended.”

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Thoughts on PM’s Comments on Race

I must admit that I was a little shocked reading PM Lee’s comments that race is still a factor that determines voters’ preferences in Singapore, and that while we may have a non-Chinese Prime Minister one day, it’s not likely to happen soon.

 


First, comparing the American system and the Singapore one is like comparing apples and oranges. They are different. America has a Presidential system where the populace cast their vote for their candidate of choice (along with the unique feature of the electorate college voting structure to ensure that the voting is not controlled in the hands of population-heavy states). 

 

 

Singapore, on the other hand, has a parliamentary system, where the electorate votes for their Members of Parliament, and where the Prime Minister is selected by the Members of Parliament as the leader of the Party, or the “First amongst Equal”.

 


Hmm, does this mean that PAP party members who select the leader of their Party have an inherent racial bias? I sure hope not, because aren’t the men and women who passed the PAP’s stringent selection criteria those of great talent and integrity? And oh, that might not also gel well with the PAP’s government push to attract more foreign talent, regardless of color. But hey, what do I know? 😛

 


PS: Of course I am not stating the other obvious difference between the America and the Singapore system, i.e. voting in America is voluntary and you can be almost guaranteed to be able to cast your vote at least once in your lifetime if you choose to. In Singapore, voting is compulsory, but how many of us have voted, really? Perhaps PM Lee may be right. The non-Chinese Prime Minister is not going to happen very soon. 🙂 


PPS (updated 10 Nov): Wasn’t Singapore’s first Chief Minister in 1955, David Marshall, a Jewish man of Iraqi descent? 

 

(Extract)Non-Chinese PM? Possible, but not soon
(Straits Times, 10 November 2008)
By Zakir Hussain
Singapore may have a non-Chinese prime minister one day but that is unlikely to happen any time soon, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, four days after Americans elected their first black president.

Mr Lee said race is still a factor that determines voters’ preferences here, although he noted that attitudes have shifted.

He was replying to a question from Association of Muslim Professionals board member Yang Razali Kassim at a dialogue with 350 Malay grassroots and community leaders at the Grassroots Club.

Mr Yang Razali asked if, in the light of Mr Barack Obama’s win, Singapore was ready for a prime minister of a minority race, and specifically from the Malay-Muslim community.

Mr Lee said in reply: ‘It’s possible. It depends on how people vote, on who has the confidence of the population.’

‘Will it happen soon? I don’t think so, because you have to win votes. And these sentiments – who votes for whom, and what makes him identify with that person – these are sentiments which will not disappear completely for a long time, even if people do not talk about it, even if people wish they did not feel it.’

However, he also acknowledged that attitudes towards race have shifted in the last two to three decades.

‘Attitudes have shifted because English provides more of a common ground, because the new generation is better educated and they can see that there are successful people of all races,’ he said.

‘But to reach a position where everybody is totally race-blind and religion-blind, I think that’s very difficult. You will not find it in any country in the world.’

 

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