Singapore News and Views

The advent of 2016 has prompted a change in the SG50 logo.

SG logo

Our 2016 Wishlist for Singapore

People-friendliness matching the pro-business climate, a trimmed-down population, meaningful insurance policies, fresh thinking and bold new ideas without staying stuck with past practices nullifying achievements – well, that may sound like a long list of wishes for Singapore that has wrapped up SG50 with the advent of 2016.

But that is still skimming the surface.

2015 Reflections

Here are some reflections on the year, 2015, that has been consigned to the annals of history.

The New Year will continue to see technology and big data drive change even as the customer will reinforce his say and sway over business.

Drones and the Smart Nation Vision

June 21, 2015

Drones are expected to play an important role in Singapore’s race towards becoming the world’s first Smart Nation. But the unmanned devices cannot be flown without permits even for fun. Innovations and inventions, after all, cannot be allowed to interfere with public safety and convenience.   No Meaningful Live Coverage of SEA Games in Singapore

June 4, 2015

SEA-Games-2015-ThumbSEA Games 2015 is being held in Singapore, still there is no meaningful live coverage of the event in the country. That shows the level of keenness of Singapore in promoting sports! After all, it is money that counts, not sports! SEA Games 5For an emerging Smart Nation celebrating SG50 this year, even the Games website looks amateurish. I am particularly appalled at the content within the site. Details at:   ICT Directions and Smart Nation Vision

June 3, 2015

Singapore’s big and bold technology plans for the world are the highlight of CommunicAsia2015, a show offering authoritative, focused insights into the strides made by Information and Communications Technologies and emerging innovations. Details at:   Kudos to Singapore Police for Quick Action

June 1, 2015

Kudos to the Singapore Police Force for acting quick and preventing the escape of three criminals in a car outside the Shangri-La Hotel, the venue of an international security conference. More at:   Singapore on ISIS Hit List

May 29, 2015

With a stable, firm Government in place, even Singapore is not safe from ISIS. Reports in the local media today suggest that the ISIS targets are no longer confined to the U.S. and Europe. Singapore and the Philippines are on their hit list as well. The reports are based on social media claims made by ISIS. Details at:   Smart Nation Drive Not Just About Singapore

May 26, 2015

Singapore’s Smart Nation vision goes beyond its shores and could help address global challenges. “We are taking the lead in solving difficult, but critical global challenges with a holistic approach,” the IDA’s Executive Deputy Chairman, Mr Steve Leonard, is quoted as saying in this Forbes-linked IDA site. The site also points out that Singapore is the world’s third-most densely populated nation with nearly 8,000 people per square kilometre. That is a bit scary, given that the U.S. has only 35 people per square kilometre and the U.K. 265 people. Further detail is available at: Singapore Encouraging a Technology Startup Ecosystem

May 25, 2015

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing full steam ahead pushing its “Make in India” vision, Singapore has embarked on a mission to cultivate a vibrant technology startup ecosystem. The difference is that Singapore already has a smart infrastructure that the government wants technology builders and entrepreneurs to leverage. In other words, Singapore wants them to use the nation as a ‘living lab’ to test new ideas and solutions with a global potential, as you will notice in this Forbes-linked IDA site. For further information on the subject, please check out   Singapore Leads Asian Charge Across Multiple Parameters From Education and Mobility to Business and Technology

May 21, 2015

Here is one more study (from JLL and The Business of Cities), this time an aggregation of 200 global indices, and Singapore comes out tops again in Asia and third worldwide – behind New York and London. My own recent experience with registering my company was evidence of how easy it is to do business in Singapore, keen as it is in promoting an entrepreneurial culture in the country. More at:     Singapore Students, Best in the World

May 14, 2015

Singapore students have brought pride to the country by emerging as the best in the world. According to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the top five places went to students from Asia – with Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam following Singapore. The U.K. was ranked 20th, while the U.S. came in 28th. Well done, Singapore! This is another milestone for Singapore, now focused on becoming the world’s first Smart Nation!

Details at:

  Refreshing Message from PM Lee on STEM Learning

May 9, 2015

STEM skills will remain crucial to Singapore’s success for the next 50 years, says PM Lee. But occasional exhortation is not enough to drive STEM acceptance. Articulating the value of STEM degrees without making learning an engaging journey is not going to help much. More at: Mock Explosions Ahead of SEA Games

May 9, 2015

As Singapore prepares to host next month’s SEA Games, security and government agencies are testing their readiness to respond to a major incident in an exercise at Singapore Sports Hub, Kallang Wave Mall and Stadium MRT Station.


Stale May Day Message from Singapore PM

May 1. 2015

It has little Current or Future Relevance The May Day messages from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appear stale even amid his pitch for a fresh approach to face the challenges ahead. Here is the crux of what Mr Lee articulated:

  1. As the labour market remains tight, wages have been rising and this is unsustainable
    • (if there is a crunch, there should be zero unemployment which is not the case. Statistical data is not gospel as I don’t believe it reflects reality on the ground.)
    • (wages stagnating or falling is not an issue, jobs are)
  2. Singaporeans will need to get used to the idea of slow growth.
    • (Singaporeans have always been willing to accept that reality, it is the government that is having issues with it as seen in panic reactions such as coming up with a population growth strategy)
  3. Make SkillsFuture a reality. The SkillsFuture Credit is targeted at individuals who are already in the workforce.
    • (I know even fresh graduates from top universities who are struggling to find a footing for more than two years, losing out to foreigners. Does the government care about them?
    • Why cannot a database of the unemployed in Singapore agency be set up where job-seekers can register? Without that, where is the government getting its data for its unemployment figures?
    • The Jobs Bank may require closer governmental follow-up and scrutiny. Also, all jobs must be listed there without any salary cap.
    • Introduction of unemployment payment / benefits for the jobless will make sure that the government goes beyond talking and initiates serious effort to tackle the issue

More of our thoughts on this at   A Tech Saturday Carnival – Fun and not much of a Futuristic Vision

April 25, 2015

With Singapore committed to making the Lion City a Smart Nation by 2025, I chose to visit the Tech Saturday Carnival today, hoping to see glimpses of anticipated technology-enabled changes in the way we live, learn, work and play. I was ready to be wowed by an exciting and mind-blowing journey into the future where:

  • smart devices will rule the market and not sit just in the pockets of the monetarily mighty
  • robots will carry out even major surgeries
  • the Smart Grid will be all pervasive
  • healthcare for the ageing, mobility and data security will present a transformational dimension
  • vehicles will truly run without fuel sounding the death knell for the already battered black gold economy
  • today’s innovations are in the mainstream with big-time monetisation
  • an entrepreneurial culture will be evident in Singapore
  • there are answers to today’s biggest problem of population density in Singapore

Premature Publicity: I was ill-prepared for the disappointment that was in store, blame it on all the premature publicity for the Smart Nation initiative. But then this was a Carnival where the focus can understandably be on fun. The result: innovations tuned for amusement with not much practicality or potential for big business. Additional reporting at Job Losses Swell, So Where is the Assumed Labour Crunch?

April 24, 2015

Singaporeans are regularly cajoled into believing that there is a serious labour crunch in the country, forcing employers and the Government to bring in people from overseas. This morning’s newspaper report that more people actually lost their jobs in 2014 (based on data until December 2014) than during the same corresponding period in 2013 appears to nail that misinformation. Further information on the MOM report is available at: Singapore Swings into Next Phase of Smart Nation Mission

April 20, 2015

As Singapore is accelerating its mission to integrate technology, networks and data seamlessly, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has invited innovators and investors to use the country as a test bed for urban solutions. The world’s first Smart Nation in the making!

April 18, 2015

Why should Singaporeans pay for the follies of a juvenile delinquent caught in a legal tangle? This chap, Amos Yee (17), ridicules Christianity, posts obscene images online, scoffs at Singapore’s founding PM Lee Kuan Yew, gets booked and has the temerity to request people to offer him funds so he can fight the case, continue spreading hate and bask in any new-found glory he anticipates. A wilful offender eyeing fame/notoriety! More of our thoughts on the issue at Passport Collection was a Breeze

April 15, 2015

Singapore’s efficiency in using technology to simplify service is legendary. That is on display at the ICA as well, a testament to how serious Singapore is with its smart nation initiatives and making public service smooth. Details at

March 29, 2015

Farewell Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew today had his farewell journey from the Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre (UCC) at the National University of Singapore and then to the Mandai Crematorium for a private cremation.

The Funeral Service was attended by several top leaders from all over the world. They include: Mr Bill Clinton, Mr Henry Kissinger, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Guen-Hye, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China Vice-President Li Yuanchao. Asia has seen no greater leader than Mr Lee. A no-nonsense, straight-talking leader who believed in the power of an open economy, he made Singapore a model for the world, particularly the Asian region. His accomplishments are not just evident through the phenomenal success story of Singapore but also through the influence he was able to exercise on countries with a much larger geographical expanse such as China, Australia, India and South Korea. Their leaders all respected and sought to implement his wise counsel. That is a great tribute to his intellect and statesmanly stature and a matter of pride for Singaporeans! Our other posts on Singapore’s founding PM

March 23, 2015

Today is a very sad day in the history of Singapore – a day the nation has lost its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. His son and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong captured it best when he said: “We will not see another Lee Kuan Yew.”

The Man Who Made Singapore an Economic Powerhouse – Smart Island mourns the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee kuan yew pictures10_0Without his stellar, visionary stewardship, this little red dot will have remained just that and not an affluent and peaceful First-World country that it is today. May his soul rest in peace!

March  19, 2015

Education to Employments – Are Singaporeans being shortchanged?

Singapore’s campaign to bring in more foreign mediocrity continues unabated with the support of its mouthpiece, The Straits Times.

Let’s admit, for the sake of an argument, there is not enough local talent to fulfil the desire of companies here to hire foreign professionals. What has the government done about it over the years other than bringing in foreign  mediocrity in the name of talent? Why are local universities filling its places with foreigners without accommodating locals in courses that are in demand to ensure that they will meet the needs of business when they graduate? For more of our thoughts on the issue, you may like to check out:

February 24, 2015

Singapore among world’s top 5 smartest cities

A Juniper study has placed Singapore among the world’s top 5 Smart Cities. Barcelona tops the list, the other cities being New York, London and Nice.

That’s not a surprise given that technology is all-pervasive here! Since it is a city-nation, it can easily realize its vision of the world’s first smart nation by 2025! The other four in Juniper’s list are cities, with Singapore being the only country among them.

February 23, 2015

#SGBudget2015 Little Evidence the Singapore Budget can Help Address Future Challenges

  • There is little evidence that Singapore’s 2015 Budget is one for SG 50!
  • SkillsFuture can hardly be a long-term vision. It is just an extension of what we already have, SDF.
  • Preparing for the future will mean giving easy access for Singaporeans to university education, STEM courses in particular.

February 23, 2015

Singapore’s B-Day Expectations

tharmanToday being Singapore’s B-Day, here are some of the key issues that we would like the Golden Jubilee Budget to address: – Education (more funding, lower fees and removal of impediments to university admissions, both UG and PG courses, for locals) – jobs (no openness to mediocrity in the name of foreign talent and no labour crunch lies when even fresh grads are going without jobs), and — lower cost of living (addressing all areas from housing to health care). Let us not forget, the Economist ranks Singapore as the world’s most expensive city. So mere populist crumbs will not cut.

February 22, 2015

Founding PM Lee Kuan Yew in ICU Our Wishes to him for Early Recovery! Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan YewFounding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is on mechanical ventilation at the Singapore General Hospital ICU, as reported in the media on Saturday night. He has been in hospital since February 5, when he was admitted with severe pneumonia. This is the first time in several years Mr Lee could not participate in the family reunion dinner during the Chinese New Year, according to his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Here’s wishing Mr Lee a speedy recovery and good health in the New Year of the Goat.

February 16

Prostate Cancer Surgery for PM Lee Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is to undergo a surgery for prostate cancer today in Singapore. Here’s wishing him the best for a speedy recovery.

February 15

SIA to cut surcharges from Feb. 26 Cheaper travel on Singapore Airlines and Silkair flights is on the cards with the announcement from the carriers that they would cut fuel surcharges from February 26. Singapore GirlThe drop, surprisingly, comes at a time when oil prices had shown signs of a rebound, rallying above $60 a barrel yesterday.

February 8, 2015

There have been some interesting reports in The Straits Times, the last few days for a change! One of them touches on the currency war and how Singapore can help prevent it from having a debilitating effect on the economy. Another report calls for Singapore to relax its immigration policies, not content with the current 60:40 ratio. Our Take Singapore has consistently played a visionary role in building the country’s economy and being quick to launch measures to keep any major crisis at bay. While Switzerland acted to strengthen its Franc, Singapore loosened its grip to stop any appreciation of the local dollar. Both are actions that suit their local dynamics. For instance, keeping the Swiss Franc pegged to the Euro could have resulted in a loss of $100 billion in January alone, as the Swiss National Bank claims. But on immigration, we feel it should be further tightened, not relaxed, as foreigners already make up almost 40% of the country’s population.

February 6, 2015

More Jobs Than Workers, says MOM! News: There are more jobs available in Singapore than there are workers, says a Ministry of Manpower report than an article in today’s edition of The Straits Times referred to. Our Take There are two things that the Government can do here:

  1. Initiate drastic measures to bring down the cost of living significantly
  2. Introduce minimum wages (instead of pointing to European countries that have minimum wages but the unemployment rate remains high – they have social security that gives them doles there

If either of the above is implemented then the vacancies may disappear fast! Detailed view at:

February 4, 2015

Earlier Mona Lisa Exhibition in Singapore – A Fascinating Experience A unique tablet-led multimedia experience awaits visitors to the Earlier Mona Lisa exhibition in Singapore. Described as the Discovery of the Century, the Earlier Mona Lisa is on public display for the first time, with Singapore getting the privilege to host the World Premiere. Early Mona Lisa I visited it this afternoon for a glimpse of the original portrait and discover the history behind it. What a fascinating experience and learning journey it turned out to be! I had seen the later version of the Mona Lisa when I visited the Louvre Museum  in July 2008. Having seen both the original masterpieces of the genius in person, I can now say the earlier version presents a younger, prettier Mona Lisa with the potential to outshine the one in Louvre.

February 2, 2015

Telcos shine in Singapore market despite Govt deciding to build its own telecom network Network is part of Country’s Smart Nation Drive All three major telcos in Singapore saw their share prices edge up in the market today despite the government’s decision to build and own a separate telecommunications network to cater to its smart nation drive. SingTel rose four cents to close at S$ 4.12 while StarHub closed at S$4.23, a five-cent jump from its price last Friday. M1 ended the day at S$3.78, up three cents. So it appears investors were not perturbed by any potential loss of future revenue after the government completes this massive project, aimed at keeping all data secure. The government has a stake in all the three telcos, directly or indirectly.

  • SingTel – Temasek Holdings’ interest is put at 52%
  • StarHub – its main shareholders are Asia Mobile Holdings Pte Ltd  and NTT Communications. Asia Mobile is a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte Ltd, which is owned by Temasek Holdings, the investing arm of the Government.
  • M1 – Keppel Telecoms Pte Ltd, SPH Multimedia Private Limited and Axiata Investments (Singapore) Limited (28.69%) now jointly own 61.48% of M1

One of the three telcos is expected to get the contract to operate the new infrastructure on behalf of the government. The three telcos may also bid for the building of the backend frameworks. So this is an opportunity for them to seize. According to reports in the media this morning, “the new infrastructure will run the equipment for linking, among other things, a network of sensors slated to be rolled out islandwide this year.” The sensors, to start with, can be in the form of computer chips or surveillance cameras. The sensors are a part of Singapore’s smart nation vision and are expected to help solve a range of problems from flooding to pollution. Here is a link that offers further insights into what a smart Singapore will entail.

January 20, 2015

More Bankruptcies Loom in Singapore

News: Saxo Singapore has asked forex traders to pay up millions of dollars in losses suffered as a result of the unpegging of the franc last week.

My Take: The incident highlights the underlying risks in forex trading. All markets are controlled by manipulators, with analysts and financial institutions often contributing to the mayhem. The forex market, involving trading activity of more than $5 trillion daily, is the most risky and is simply plain gambling despite all the technicals behind it.

More insights into it at

January 20, 2015

Singapore Housing Seriously Unaffordable: Report

News: US-based Demographia International says in its 2015 report that Singapore housing is seriously unaffordable. No tinge of surprise need be applied to this finding, those residing in the country will attest to it. But Singapore also won praise from the research group for being far more successful in controlling housing affordability than the markets that have followed the British urban containment model. It ranked better than countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Home ownership in Singapore stands at 88%, which is better than the other countries Demographia International tracked. My Take: Singapore does deserve credit for being better in managing housing than many countries that are several times larger than it. If countries that are least dense are pricier than Singapore that does point to a failure on the part of the governments there to keep housing affordable. Part of the reason could be land prices having been artificially propped up in major State capitals. Still, being seriously unaffordable is not a happy scenario for Singapore to be proud of. What made Singapore housing so pricey? Cooling measures alone cannot make housing affordable. It is a supply and demand issue in this tiny country. When there are more people here than the country should accommodate property prices will only go through the roof. The country has to accept its size limitations and plan accordingly. Bringing in foreigners at will is the key reason and that needs to be addressed first. Building more high-rise apartments throughout Singapore will only compound the problem and make the country unlivable. As the report concludes: “Urban policy should focus on the fundamentals — putting people first.” For further details, you may refer to:

January 18, 2015

Singapore Helping Build New Capital City in India

It will be 10 Times Larger Than Singapore But With a Population of only 1.25 million

But Singapore is already teeming with 5.5 million people Charminar News: Singapore is helping build a new capital city for the Indian State of Andhra. Singapore companies Jurong International and Surbana International Consultants have been chosen for the S$21.5-billion venture expected to be completed within 10 years. The new capital city is to be modelled on Singapore and cover an area of more than 7000 sq. km. That will make it 10 times larger than Singapore which has an area of 718 sq km. According to a report in The Straits Times today, the new capital of Andhra will be home to 1.25 million people with a plan to eventually raise it to 5 million people. The Guardian newspaper calls it a testament to Singapore’s pioneering approach to business. It also highlights some challenges with India known for large-scale corruption whereas Singapore is one of the world’s least corrupt countries. Our Take: It is great news that an Indian State has sought the expertise of tiny Singapore to build a capital city to be modelled along the lines of the little red dot. But the leadership there is not going overboard by hoping to cram the city with teeming millions and let the quality of life go for a toss. Living in an overcrowded city will seldom be good for the body, mind and soul. Precisely why the best cities in the West, despite the luxury of space there, are staying clear of excessive commercialisation. A less dense, modern city is ideal! In contrast, Singapore that is 10 times smaller than the new city already has 5.5 million people living there with the Government still planning to give the population a further boost. Hope Singapore will learn some lessons from the city it is creating from scratch in India.

January 17, 2015

SG50 and PM Lee’s plans for the Next 50 Years News: In an interview to The Straits Times featured in today’s edition of the newspaper, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore must hold on to its core values of meritocracy, openness and multiracialism. Our Take: These are positive thoughts. But the current situation in the country makes us think if meritocracy is for locals and mediocrity for foreigners, an outcome of Singapore’s openness towards immigration with an eye on boosting the country’s population. There is a huge shortfall in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talent in the U.S. But in Singapore non-STEM jobs are there for the asking for foreign talent to grab. Jobs in HR, marketing, PR, etc are being filled up by foreigners. These are skills that can be easily acquired. So, what is going wrong? Is the mismatch between learning and employment that prevents greater tapping of local resources the result of a failed education system in Singapore? This is one aspect that needs to be looked into. This blog offers further insights into it –

January 16, 2015

SIA to Stop Rehiring Captains After 62

News: This Yahoo report says that Singapore Airlines will cease to rehire captains after they reach the retirement age of 62. The current practice was to rehire them for a further two years. It has been forced to take this decision because it is now saddled with surplus staff, particularly that of pilots. Our Take: SIA should be allowed to take decisions that are in their interest, particularly because they are in an industry where flight safety is paramount. If it can use all cost savings to ensure safe, pleasant travels that will be welcome. In my experience, it is the world’s best airline. Lower fuel costs are already good for their bottomline. They can strive to make it even better. Moreover, those turning 62 may look forward to a life on the ground with family and friends and indulge in things they savour. This is after all a time when people in their 40s are losing their jobs with little hope of getting back to the workforce. Raising the retirement age to 67 does not make any sense at all when staff can be fired at will for greater profitability.

Singapore Dollar Edges Up

News: The forex market suffered a jolt on Thursday (Jan. 15) when Switzerland decided to abandon the Franc rate cap against the Euro. That sent the Swiss Franc soaring by as high as 30%, with most other currencies, including the Singapore dollar, registering marginal gains on Friday (Jan. 16). Our Take: Artificial measures are not sustainable and market dynamics will have to determine currency rates. The FX market is always unpredictable and greater volatility is to be expected. All regional currencies have already taken a battering as a result of the strengthening US dollar. Don’t expect the Singapore dollar to register any dramatic rise. Rising interest rates that can go even higher after the US Fed starts to push it up, slow economic growth and fund outflows are factors that could keep  the currency from climbing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.