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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Singapore's leaders pledge carbon cut

The Singapore government has pledged to reduce the city-state's emissions growth by 16 per cent below business as usual levels by 2020. Speaking at the media interview on Wednesday were (left to right) National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, Senior Minister S. Jayakumar and Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim.

Singapore, December 3 - SINGAPORE’S leaders yesterday put on the table the country’s first ever target to curb greenhouse gas emissions, throwing its political weight behind the upcoming climate change meetings in Copenhagen next week.

Senior Minister S. Jayakumar said the city-state will undertake voluntary and self-funded action to reduce its emissions growth by 16 per cent below “business as usual” levels” by 2020, even though it is not obliged to take on cuts.

This level refers to how much Singapore would emit if the economy continued to grow, but nothing is done to curb emissions.

But there is a condition, however. Singapore will only commit to this if there is a legally-binding global deal that obliges all countries to cut emissions, and if other countries offer significant pledges, said Professor Jayakumar.

“Without a global agreement by all to address climate change, our efforts alone will be meaningless,” he said. As a low-lying country vulnerable to any rise in sea-levels, Singapore has an interest in acting with others to curb global warming, he added.

“While climate change is clearly a very serious problem, we cannot ignore the impact of mitigation measures on our economy.”

Prof Jayakumar echoed the view of some other leaders that Copenhagen might likely result in an agreed political framework with key elements for a legally binding deal further negotiated in 2010.

This means Singaporeans will not feel the effects of any cuts until next year or later, and this is also dependent on the outcome of the talks, he said.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, who was also at the media interview, said the Government will use a combination of regulatory and fiscal measures to achieve this targeted cut. Businesses, households and the Government will all have to play a part, he said. “It will require us to make conscious decisions, to change behaviour, to have different choices, to cut down on wastage at home and at workplace.”

One efficient way would be to use market price signals to “reflect the cost of these externalities due to the target that we have set”, said Mr Mah. But he gave the assurance that whatever the eventual measures, the Government will do what it can to buffer the impact for businesses and households.

Singapore’s move follows hotly behind recent pledges by countries such as the United States, China, Brazil and Indonesia to curb their carbon emissions in the run up to the Copenhagen negotiations.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who will be attending the upcoming conference in Copenhagen, had said recently Singapore was looking at what else it could do to curb emissions.

Given Singapore’s dense population and small size, Mr Mah stressed that 16 per cent was a “stretch target” but achievable. The target is derived from numbers in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. Launched in April, this is a national plan on how Singapore can reduce its carbon footprint. It included domestic targets such as reducing energy intensity by 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The new pledge to the global community now goes beyond these figures.

Mr Mah said Singapore had already done a lot in the past to support sustainable development. Because it was starting from a high base, additional cuts require tremendous effort, he said. Some past efforts includes increasing Singapore’s green cover, transport policies to limit vehicle growth and switching energy sources from oil to natural gas.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim also underlined Singapore’s limitations in converting to alternative forms of energy, due to its small size and geographical location. For example, Singapore’s wind speed is too low to harness wind power. While solar energy has potential, it would not be sufficient for our energy needs at the current technology levels, he said.

Singapore’s target means it will roughly cut 12 million tonnes of Co2 by 2020, said Dr Yaacob. This is based on a projection that Singapore’s emissions will reach 75 million tonnes of Co2 by 2020 if no cuts are made, calculated by taking into account several factors such as economic and population growth and rate of investments.

Industry and grassroots leaders yesterday endorsed Singapore’s latest move.

“This step is commendable, it’s time we set a target. It sends a signal that Singapore is serious about acting on climate change, rather than wait to see what everyone else does,” said Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw.

Former NMP Edwin Khew agreed, adding: “When the government makes a commitment, we know they will do it”. However, Singapore’s absolute emissions will still rise with this target, noted Mr Khew, who is also chief executive of waste recycling firm IUT Global. “Perhaps we could do better in the future.”

Other industry leaders said that Singapore’s move was something they had anticipated to happen “sooner or later” in line with international trends.

And although they are braced for the pain of making these cuts, some assistance from the Government will help in the transition to a low-carbon economy, they said.

Power generator Tuas Power chief executive Lim Kong Puay said that the firm will “embrace the drive towards energy efficiency, and look at new technologies such as use of clean coal technologies and biomass, which allows us to further reduce our emissions.”

“But it would be helpful if some form of subsidy could be given to help cushion the impact,” he said.

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chief executive Teng Theng Dar noted that certain sectors such as industrial and manufacturing will have to begin “factoring plans to limit or cut their emissions ahead of 2020”.

He pointed out that while some sectors will feel pain, other industries such as those in clean energy and energy efficiency will clearly benefit from the business opportunities that will arise. “But given that many clean technologies are still costly to implement, it will be good if there are more assistance and funding schemes to help firms adopt sustainable solutions,” he said.

The property developers, for one, are calling for more incentives.This could be on the demand side, with the Government encouraging owners of green homes and buildings with reduced property tax rates, suggested a GuocoLand spokesman. GuocoLand is a Singapore-listed property developer.

He said the developer will continue to attain Green Mark awards for their residential projects even if standards were raised. Group general manager Chia Ngiang Hong of local green developer City Developments agreed.

The existing incentives for developers to build green are “a step in the right direction to improve the standard of green buildings in Singapore”, said Mr Chia. But he hopes that if the standards are raised, the Government may consider making the measures even more attractive such as introducing new tax incentives for developers.

IUT Global’s Mr Khew added that the actual impact that industries will have to bear will only be made much clearer later. For now, companies need to begin looking for “low-hanging fruits” such as energy efficiency, which is easy to implement and effective in reducing carbon emissions.

The only obstacle is getting the financing to do so, he said. This is where local banks and the Government can step in, to share some of the risks of financing such projects, which are minimal, he added.

SBF’s Mr Teng noted that in learning to cut emissions, Singapore firms can also benefit by exporting their knowledge and sharing best practices in their green initiatives to the global economy.

But the trickiest part, could be gaining acceptance for the policies by all Singaporeans.

North East District Mayor Teo Ser Luck said the move was encouraging, but that Singaporeans would be concerned on how it would affect their daily lives.

“I think it will take a a while before everyone understands why we are acting on this important issue, that’s why continued efforts in education is key,” he said.


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Singapore Exchange's chief: Asia plays key role in leading world to recovery

SINGAPORE, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Asia has emerged from the latest global financial crisis in a much better position than its Western counterparts, and is set to play a key role in leading the world to recovery, Singapore Exchange's (SGX) chief said on Thursday.

With a growth forecast of over seven percent for developing Asia in 2010, Asia is outstripping the expected growth rates in Western economies many folds, said Magnus Bocker, Chief Executive Officer of SGX.

He said that Asia has one of the world's highest gross national savings rates (aggregate of corporations, households and government). Led by China with a savings rate of approximately 50 percent, South Korea, India and Japan each enjoy a rate of 25 to 35 percent.

This is in contrast to the United States with savings rates of only 10 percent, mainly contributed by their corporate sector.

Based on data from the International Monetary Fund, the size of combined Asian economies, measured by Gross Domestic Product, has overtaken the United States since 2008, and is projected to exceed Europe in 2011.

On the home-front, he said that there are advantages that serve as strong foundation for SGX to succeed as the Asian gateway.

One growth area will be the trading of commodity products where first quarter next year, SGX will be launching the Fuel Oil 380 CST Futures, and its subsidiary, Singapore Commodity Exchange (SICOM) will be expanding their product base to include gold, coffee and the clearing of over the counter rubber contracts.

Its partnership with Chi-X Global to set up the first exchange-backed dark pool is another step towards meeting the demands of Asian and international investors, he added


UPDATE 1-Singapore's Tiger Airways taps banks for IPO-sources

* IPO will raise several hundred million dollars - sources

* Proceeds to help finance purchase of 50 Airbus A320s

* Existing investors like SIA, Temasek 'to stay invested'

(Adds details, background)

By Kevin Lim and Harry Suhartono

SINGAPORE, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Singapore budget carrier Tiger Airways, 49 percent owned by Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI), has tapped three banks for an initial public offering expected in January, sources said on Thursday.

The IPO is earmarked to raise several hundred million dollars to help finance the purchase of 50 Airbus A320s that Tiger has ordered, two sources familiar with the deal said. The amount is, however, below the $500 million figure cited in media reports.

Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are joint book-runners and joint lead managers for the IPO, while DBS is joint lead manager.

"The existing investors will stay invested," one of the sources said. It was not immediately clear if shareholders would subscribe to the offer, however. Tiger's other owners are: Singapore state investor Temasek, which holds 11 percent stake; RyanAsia, a company controlled by the founding family of Irish airline RyanAir (RYA.I), with 16 percent; and Indigo Partners LLC, an investment firm, which owns the remaining stake.

Temasek was not immediately available for comment while SIA had previously signalled an IPO would take place.

Citigroup and DBS declined comment while Morgan Stanley was not immediately available.

The new Airbus A320s, with a list price of nearly $77 million each, will increase the size of Tiger's fleet to 72 by 2016, Tiger said on its Website.

Three of the A320s will be delivered next year, raising the size of the fleet to 20 from 17 currently, another source said.

Tiger said in response to a Reuters query that an IPO is one option its shareholders are considering. "At this time, no firm decision has been made (and) the company continues to review its various strategic options."

The airline was set up in 2004 and currently operates from three hubs in Singapore, Melbourne and Adelaide, serving 25 destinations across 9 countries


Singapore pre-positions electronics output to come

SINGAPORE, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Singapore government said on Thursday that it is pre-positioning Singapore's economy as 30 percent of Singapore's electronics output will come from green electronics, bioelectronics, plastic electronics and security by 2020.

According to local TV broadcaster Channel NewsAsia, Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) said that electronics industry has been a key pillar of Singapore's economy. But with more competition, the country has been looking at new ways to help the sector evolve and move up the value chain.

Currently, green electronics, bioelectronics, plastic electronics and security account for just 10 percent of Singapore's electronics output. But EDB expects that figure to triple to 30 percent in just a decade.

The EDB sees the electronics sector as a strategic growth enabler for other industries. It said electronics often drive demand in the logistics, chemicals and precision engineering industries. This will also enhance capabilities in other sectors such as avionics, medical technology and clean energy.


Marathon Runners Promised Singapore Cash on Time

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Elite athletes at this weekend's Singapore Marathon will not be left out of pocket or chasing appearance fees and bonus payments, the city-state's Sports Council (SSC) promised on Thursday.

A financial spat between the SCC and the Singapore Athletics Association had threatened to leave runners chasing their money for up to a week after Sunday's race -- resulting in fears some big names would pull out.

But the SCC relented late on Thursday night, telling Reuters it would in fact disburse money on the day of the race and would liaise directly with the athletes or their managers in order to do so.

"The SSC will reimburse the Singapore Athletics Association for authorised third party expenses subject to appropriate documentation," director of corporate communications Alvin Hang told Reuters.

"The money that is due to the athletes will be disbursed on the day of the race or earlier if appropriate. If necessary, SSC will liaise directly with the athletes or their agents/managers."

Earlier on Thursday the SSC said it was planning to withhold payment to the athletics body under a policy of "exercising greater financial prudence" given that the SAA is undergoing a routine financial audit.

However the SAA and athletes' representatives -- including the manager of last year's winner and 2007 world champion Luke Kibet -- warned that a failure to pay athletes immediately after the race would tarnish the event and may deplete the field.

"The punctual payment straight after the race is one of the reasons the stars come," Kibet's manager Volker Wagner told local media.

"If the money isn't paid, the runners may choose another competition in future."

Athletes would have had to wait up to a week to collect their money before the SSC made a swift u-turn late on Thursday night.

The financial spat had threatened to knock the wind out of the marathon which snakes through Singapore's hi-tech and historic architecture.

The race has grown from 6,000 runners to 50,000 in seven years.


Singapore, UK, China face Monumental Challenge

St Paul's Cathedral in London and India's Taj Mahal are among the subjects of the first high-definition documentary coproduction between Singapore, the UK and China.

Oak3 Films of Singapore, MediaLab and History Channel in the UK, plus China Intercontinental Communication Centre have teamed on Monumental Challenge, a 6x60' series looking at restoration work on six of the world's greatest monuments.

The copro will cover Shanghai's Bund, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, St Paul's and the Taj, and has been fostered with the support of Singapore's Media Development Authority.

The series is one among a number of initiatives unveiled at the Asian Television Forum, taking place in the country this week.

The MDA also announced a coproduction agreement between Singaporean media company MyChinaChannel and Shanghai Media Group's distribution arm, Wings Media, to coproduce two infotainment television series.

The first series, China Trend, will highlight modern China, its people and their lifestyle in 13 episodes. The second series, Foreigners in China, will document how foreigners living in China adjust and adapt to the local culture and environment.

MyChinaChannel has also signed a memorandum of understanding with SMG Wings Media to jointly aggregate the best Chinese drama and movies for distribution outside of China.


Singapore raises bar for foreign workers

Singapore : Singapore will make foreigners pass an English test to get a skilled worker permit next year, a move seen as addressing a poor services industry and public worries over competition for jobs ahead of possible elections.

The city state is looking to grow its labour-intensive services industry to offset dependence on manufacturing, and said earlier this year it would restrict the flow of foreign workers after the financial crisis hit growth and increased unemployment.

This first step may be a move to appease voters' concerns about jobs not only going to foreigners, but to foreigners who struggle to communicate with locals and shift the balance of population in multi-racial Singapore, analysts said.

"The government is responding to complaints from the public over the inability of many of these foreign service staff to speak in English. They can't serve ethnic Malays and Indians who may not able to speak Mandarin," said Terence Chong, researcher at Sing-apore's Institute of South East Asia Studies

"They recognise this resentment [of job competition], especially during this economic downtime and you have the elections coming up by early 2012. So there is a political need as well."

Many new immigrants are from mainland China, adding to around three-quarters of Singapore's population that is ethnic Chinese, with the rest ethnic Malay, Indian or overseas workers.

Singapore's economy has rebounded this year from its worst ever recession, but some analysts think unemployment could still rise next year.

The unemployment rate among residents rose a five-year high of 5.0 per cent in the third quarter.


Singapore’s Rich Optimistic on Property Prices, Survey Finds

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s rich are among the most optimistic of global investors on real estate, expecting the value of their property holdings to rise in the next two years, according to a survey.

Fifty-three percent of Singapore investors forecast prices to increase, more than the 49 percent of respondents globally, the survey by Barclays Wealth and the Economist Intelligence Unit found. The survey of 2,000 people with investable assets of more than $800,000) was taken in August and September.

Home prices in Singapore rose 15.8 percent in the third quarter, the first increase in more than a year, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Transactions declined since peaking in July, and private home sales slowed for a third straight month in October, the authority said.

“While it can be tempting to seek refuge in property as a safe haven, investors must be careful to avoid overexposure to an asset class that has traditionally proven to be susceptible to economic cycles,” said Didier von Daeniken, chief executive of Barclays Wealth Asia Pacific, in a statement released today with the survey.

Singapore has said it will sell more land sites and ban interest-only mortgages for uncompleted homes as part of measures to prevent excessive price swings. Last month, its central bank said it may be “necessary” to implement more measures to counter real-estate market speculation.

Singapore investors said they plan to raise their property investments from the current average of 25 percent of their portfolio, the survey stated.

Investors from India and Canada were the most optimistic, according to the survey, with 56 percent and 55 percent, respectively, expecting price increases.


Singapore's Temasek sells oil exploration unit

SINGAPORE, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Singapore state investor Temasek announced on Thursday it has sold oil exploration unit Orchard Energy to a Singapore-listed firm, less than two years after setting up the unit.

RH Petrogas (RHPG.SI) will pay S$351,000 to S$371,000 for Orchard, which holds a production-sharing contract for an area in Indonesia's South Sumatra, RH Petrogas and Temasek said.

The Singapore-listed firm will take over Orchard's commitment to provide another $5.66 million as part of the production-sharing deal.

With the exit from Orchard, which Temasek set up in April 2008 to venture directly into the region's oil and gas sector, the Singapore sovereign fund's interest in energy exploration will be through companies that it owns stakes in.

These include San Antonio International, an onshore oilfield service company in Latin America; MEG Energy, which is involved in developing Canada's oil sands; and Citic Resources, a large Chinese provider of natural resources.

(Reporting by Kevin Lim) ((; +65 6403 5663; Reuters Messaging: ((If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to


Lashings of Ghee in Singapore

At Singapore's hottest new dining spot, Krish,, American executive chef Matthew Baker's reckless decree to the kitchen is: "You can never have enough butter." A devil-may-care attitude to waistlines and heart health is probably to be expected from a French-trained chef, working in a European restaurant influenced by the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. Think lashings of ghee, and opulent, rib-sticking dishes like duck confit murtabak served with honey-thyme aioli (murtabak is Indian fried bread traditionally filled with minced meat, egg and onion), pork-belly tikka and spice-rubbed tenderloin finished in the tandoor.
(See TIME's Global Adviser for exotic, beautiful and interesting getaways.)

The dining room's talking point is an elaborate chandelier of glass bottles, but owners (and childhood friends) Artika Sulaiman and Nikhil Krishnan have also decorated the restored prewar colonial bungalow with family photos, antique typewriters and cookbooks, so the place feels more homely than palatial. Stargazers will love the terrific conservatory-like bar surrounded by a riot of foliage. Soak in the luxuriant scenery with a Polish Lemonade (Bison vodka, lemon, egg white and cinnamon) and tell yourself that while it's perfectly possible to have too much butter, you could make an exception for tonight.


Singapore: an alternative hub for PEs?

A handful of PE and venture capital funds have set up shop in Singapore and experts say this number will rise in coming years

Mumbai: Singapore is emerging as an alternative host for private equity (PE) funds investing in India, said Jai Mavani, executive director, KPMG India Pvt. Ltd, at a PE conference in Mumbai on Thursday.

A handful of PE and venture capital funds have set up shop in Singapore and experts say this number will rise in coming years. With Mauritius, until recently the preferred base for PE funds investing in India, being seen as a “softly regulated jurisdiction” and Dubai in the throes of a debt crisis, more funds will start looking at the island city, experts say.

“While in terms of regulatory requirements and protocol, there is not much difference between Mauritius and Mauritius enforcement is not stringent. So funds are looking at Singapore,” Manvani told Mint on the sidelines of the conference.

Amit Verma of DTOS Ltd, a Mauritius-based legal and allied services provider for PE funds, said some funds already have offices in Singapore in addition to their Mauritius vehicle. “While they are still investing through Mauritius, they are keeping Singapore ready as an additional option,” he said.

Currently, only Ascendas Property Pte (India) Ltd and Indivest Pte Ltd are registered as Singapore-based foreign venture capital investors on the website of markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India. There is no data on PE funds.

Vivek Kathpalia, a Singapore-based partner at Nishith Desai Associates, said on the phone that Singapore has two conditions for PE firms setting up base there. “(The) Singapore entity should be in existence for two years and that they should incur expenses of 200,000 Singapore dollars for each of that years.”

He says this mean investors with an investment horizon of under two years would still prefer Mauritius. “But funds like PE funds and foreign venture capital investors , who are sure that they will not sell in two years, are setting up SPVs (special purpose vehicles) in Singapore.”

According to him, Singapore is already a preferred route. “It is the No. 2 destination for foreign direct investment routed into India. The Singapore government is positioning itself as the eastern gateway into India. It wants Singapore to be to India what Hong Kong is to China.”


Sands plans phased opening for Singapore resort

800 to 1,000 hotel rooms seen opening late March

* Remainder of rooms to open 60 days later

By Deena Beasley

LOS ANGELES, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N) expects to open its $5.5 billon, 2,700-room Singapore casino resort in phases starting in the first quarter of next year, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

He declined to give a specific date for the opening -- which will include 800 to 1,000 hotel rooms -- but a source close to the company said it would be "toward the end of March."

The first phase of the project will also include the casino, some of the retail operations and some of the meeting and convention space, said spokesman Ron Reese.

Sands said in July that it was making every effort to open the triple-tower property, called Marina Bay Sands, by February 15, 2010.

The company is now in the process of raising segments of the resort's "sky park" -- a 1,200-foot-long (360-meter) span running across the top of the three 55-story hotel towers.

Half of the 14 segments are in place.

About 60 days after the opening of the project's first phase, Sands aims to open the remainder of the hotel rooms, additional retail space and the sky park, Reese said.

By the end of 2010, the company expects the rest of the attractions, including the theaters and museum, to open. ((Reporting by Deena Beasley,; 1-213-955-6746))


Rosmah To Jointly Officiate Asean Women Forum In Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 (Bernama) -- The Prime Minister's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua will jointly officiate the Asean Women Leaders Forum in Singapore on Dec 15.

In a statement here on Thursday, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) said the forum was the third in a series organised by ASLI and Asean Business Forum (ABF).

Among the highlights include a special luncheon forum entitled 'Women in Government' which features Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Also featured are Singapore's Minister of State, Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports Yu-Foo Yee Shoon and Governor of Cebu Province, Philippines Gwendolyn Garcia.

ASLI said the forum, organised with the support of Women's Business Connection and Hanns Seidel Foundation, will also focus on the strengthening of cooperation among women leaders, entrepreneurs and managers.

Themed 'Expanding Possibilities, Scaling New Heights", the forum will serve as an important networking platform to promote interaction among women leaders to encourage them to share and learn from initiatives, efforts and insights by women in various fields.

Singapore shares close 0.42% higher

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares closed 0.42 percent higher Thursday amid muted trading interest ahead of the year-end holidays, dealers said.

The blue-chip Straits Times Index ended 11.84 points higher at 2,808.18. Volume traded totalled 1.39 billion shares worth S$1.43 billion. There were 339 gainers, 131 losers while 780 issues were unchanged.

"The market is very quiet, the banks have been supporting the blue-chip index, but action in the second liners is subdued," said a local trader.

For the banks, DBS rose 16 cents to S$14.70, United Overseas Bank also increased by the same amount to S$19.88 while Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp added seven cents to S$8.70.

Singapore Airlines gained four cents to S$13.74 and Singapore Telecommunications was two cents higher at S$3.04.


Letting loose in Singapore

SINGAPORE — I dipped my feet into the algae-tinted water and waited for the Garra rufa to work their magic.

Within seconds, hundreds of the flesh-eating fish were clinging to every inch of my submerged skin, from the tips of my toes to the tops of my calves, giving me a sensation that was both awkward and ticklish, like I had stepped into a box filled with suction cups and feather dusters.

Five minutes and $10 later, my fish pedicure at Nibbles Fish Spa was complete. As I shoved my dripping, marginally softer feet into my shoes, the owner shot me a smile.

“Come by my other location for a full body,” he said.

Singapore was already surprising the heck out of me. Before I visited this English-speaking island nation of 5 million, I knew it for three things: a flourishing business center; pristine streets; and the 1994 caning of American Michael Fay. But in addition to its strict, scrubbed-fresh facade, Singapore has a unique blend of high-end, cultural and quirky offerings that is helping to make it a major tourist destination in southeast Asia.

Founded in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles as a British trading colony, Singapore is now one of the most developed countries in Asia, with upscale hotels, five-star shopping and world-class restaurants dotting nearly every block. As a visitor, there's no denying the cleanliness of its streets, thanks in part to hefty fines associated with littering.

Before landing at Changi Airport, I was handed a customs information pamphlet informing me that the country has a death penalty for drug traffickers and prohibits items such as firecrackers, obscene video tapes and chewing gum. The gum law is primarily targeted at people intending to sell, but I wasn't about to tempt fate for a pack of Orbit Mist.

Once I was off the plane, my initial impression was that Singapore seems to work hard to flaunt its wealth and prestige. Hotels start at $400 a night and offer fois gras in their breakfast buffets, and million-dollar yachts troll Marina Bay with no particular purpose.

Nothing highlights Singapore's attention to the good life more than shopping districts like Orchard Road, which is home to residents such as Cartier, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. There are four Louis Vuitton stores in Singapore alone, with another — a floating island store that will be part of the Marina Bay Sands entertainment and shopping complex — in the works.

I visited during the Singapore Grand Prix, a weekend's worth of events, parties, concerts (including the Black Eyed Peas and our own Beyoncé ) and themed hotel amenities such as miniature dark chocolate race cars. The night of the race, I attended a viewing party on the roof of the Fullerton Hotel where wine flowed freely, guests were dressed to kill and 6-foot-tall models were brought in just to stand around and pout.

The celebration was beautiful, but I was beginning to get the nagging feeling that Singapore as a whole was a lot like those models: Pretty on the outside but lacking any sort of depth. Then I met 14-year-old Gladys See.

Dressed in flip-flops and shorts and cheering loudly for racer Lewis Hamilton, Gladys was a breath of fresh air. During our 15-minute conversation, she gave me a rundown on where to go, what to see and why Singapore does have a bit of an inferiority complex.

“I have friends, they're from England, and they don't know what Singapore is,” she said. “We're tiny, but who cares?”

The next day I decided to take Gladys' advice to check out some of Singapore's cultural districts. Because the population of Singapore is a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian people, national holidays include Chinese New Year, Christmas, Deepavali (a Hindu holiday) and Hari Raya Puasa (a Muslim holiday).

As I walked through various neighborhoods, I could see how Singapore's mix of cultures makes it shine. In Little India, the streets were packed with people flowing in and out of fabric stores that housed spools in every color of the rainbow. In Chinatown, temples stood next to churches that stood next to mosques, and old men agonized over games of checkers on the sidewalk.

Singapore's melting pot is also evident in its food, from popular Hainanese chicken rice sold at stands inside open-air food courts called hawker centers to expensive high teas offered on weekends in upscale hotels.

One must when visiting Singapore is tasting a durian, a popular, soccer-ball-size fruit known for its spiky texture and pungent odor — the smell is so bad and so permeating that the fruit is actually banned in some public places.

Durians can be purchased in several parts of town, but the best are said to be found in the Geylang district, which also happens to be Singapore's red-light district. My morning walk to Geylang was eye-opening, mostly because it was one of the first areas I visited in Singapore that felt real.

Community centers stood next to organic food shops and auto mechanics, and little girls in pigtails ate bowls of noodles at corner cafes. I saw a few signs advertising “traditional Thai massage” and adult toys, but for the most part during the day it just seemed like a regular neighborhood.

I saw durians at several market stands, including Deluxe Trading Co., where a worker offered me a free sample. After he hacked open a Mountain King variety with a machete, he handed me a large piece of its yellow fruit. The exterior was thick and waxy like a balloon, but the inside was soft like mashed potatoes. Ignoring the rotten smell, I took a big bite.

I instantly regretted it. It tasted like boiled eggs, tapioca pudding and ammonia that had been stirred together with a sweaty foot. The flavor lingered in my throat for hours.

In addition to Singapore treasures such as the durian, the National Museum of Singapore, the Merlion statue, the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel and the Singapore Zoo's Night Safari, there are also some quirky attractions that keep visitors guessing about what this country has to offer.

One of the oddest I encountered was in the heart of Clarke Quay, an entertainment district known for trendy bars and restaurants. Named Clinic, the bar served drinks in bags made to look like IV drips and provided wheelchairs instead of regular chairs. The whole thing kind of weirded me out, but there's no denying it was unique.

More my style was the Scarlet, a boutique hotel that looked like Dracula's summer home. From the elaborate lobby (think crushed velvet and leather) to the cheeky his and hers offerings at Desire restaurant (starters are called “foreplay,” desserts are called “lust bites”) to drink specials at the Bold bar targeting cougars, gym rats and sugar daddies, the hotel is just the place for anyone who wants a saucy stay in Singapore.


Singapore Dollar Rangebound Late Ahead Of ECB Meeting, US Data

Latest Change
USD/SGD 1.3794 -0.0004
Overnight rate 0.31% +0.185
Two-year bond yield: 0.59% unchanged
10-year bond yield: 2.54% +2 bps
Two-year swap offer: 1.41% +2 bps
10-year swap offer: 2.93% +4 bps
2-10-yr swap curve: 148 bps -2 bps
SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--The Singapore dollar was marginally stronger but tightly rangebound in the late Asian session Thursday as market participants awaited the outcome of the European Central Bank's interest rate decision, and U.S. jobs data later this week.

The U.S. currency held a tight range against the Singapore dollar, trading between S$1.3793 and S$1.3819.

The U.S. Department of Labor will Friday release its non-farm payrolls data for November with economists expecting to see 125,000 jobs lost in the month and the unemployment rate stable at 10.2%. The ECB holds its policy meeting Thursday.

"Most of the other markets are in a range as well because everyone is waiting for the meeting tonight and tomorrow is the jobs data," a trader from a local house said.

The trader said the Singapore dollar is likely to hold the current range until the release of the data Friday.

Longer-dated Singapore government bond yields were higher in line with U.S. Treasury yields, as investors adjusted positions ahead of the data.

-By Sam Holmes, Dow Jones Newswires; +65-6415-4157;


Passengers stranded at Tullamarine after fault forces Singapore Airlines flight to return

HUNDREDS of passengers are stranded at Melbourne airport after a Singapore Airlines flight was forced to turn back after an hour in the air.

Singapore Airlines Flight SQ228 from Melbourne to Singapore took off at 5pm but was back on the ground about 6pm when the crew discovered the air-conditioning would not work above an altitude of 5000 feet.

The passengers have been told by the crew the lengthy delay is due to the arrival of air-conditioner parts from Sydney.

Katina Demetriou from Geelong said her niece Angela is aboard the air-craft.

"Angela has been texting me on her mobile phone and the latest word is they'll be stuck at Melbourne airport until 12pm. The passengers are not happy but at least the air-conditioning is working on the ground, ''Mrs Demetriou said.


Google Street View Now Live in Singapore

Google is pushing ahead with Street View despite the numerous controversies surrounding the product. Some countries are more welcoming than others though and it looks like the latest venture is getting a warmer reception. Google has just launched the service in Singapore making it the first country in South Asia to get Street View and one of the first in the region after Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan. While countries like Japan or Germany had more than a few issues with the service, in Singapore the local government is excited about the image and tourism opportunities it opens up.

“STB is very excited by Street View’s marketing potential as it will further raise Singapore’s prominence and reach through the Internet. People unfamiliar with Singapore can now get a first look at our city,” Mr Ken Low, assistant chief executive of Marketing, with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said.

“The convenience of Google Maps, and the Street View feature, will give people from anywhere in the world a much better idea and picture of what Singapore looks like, and what it has to offer and we welcome private sector initiatives such as these which help us add value to our visitors’ experiences,” he added.

The feature is now live on Google Maps and can be accessed directly through the local version at Google has done a good job photographing the city and covers virtually every inch of the city / country. Apart from the novelty factor, Street View provides a very useful service for the country's citizens and especially for those planning to visit Singapore.

It remains to be seen if the public is as enthusiastic about the service as the country's government as Street View has been the center of unwanted attention more than once. Japan and several European countries have raised concerns about the privacy issues and Google has had to reshoot several cities in Japan and also make several concessions in Germany.


Top HSBC executive quits in Singapore

The chief executive of HSBC Private Bank in Singapore has stepped down after three years in the role.

Jimmy So has left the bank to pursue other opportunities. A statement by HSBC Prviate Bank did not confirm his destination.

Nancie Dupier, formerly chief investment officer, head of investment and product group for the Americas, will take over from So on 1 February 2010. Dupier is the latest of a string of senior female appointments in private banking in recent years. She will be operating in an increasingly competititve Singapore market, where BSI has raided Coutts for a large team of private bankers, and Coutts has been active in making good the losses.

Dupier joined HSBC Bank USA, private banking in 2005 as chief investment officer, head of investment and product group, Americas. Prior to HSBC, Dupier held senior executive roles at Chase Manhattan, JP Morgan and Bank of America.

In New York, Dupier will be succeeded by Thomas Moore who is becoming head of private bank investment group and chief investment officer for the Americas. Moore joined HSBC in 2001 having previously been a senior investment executive/chief investment officer for JP Morgan Chase’s personal asset management Group.


President Raul Castro Met with Singapore’s Prime Minister

Havana, December 2.- Cuban President Raul Castro met on Tuesday in Havana with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who wound up an official visit to Cuba.

Both leaders expressed satisfaction on the state of bilateral relations and ways of improving the ties.

The Cuban President and Singapore’s Prime Minister also discussed their respective country’s challenges, climate change as well as international issues. (Taken from RHC)


Singapore Surprise

Scenic, clean and picture-perfect, Singapore is a perfect tourist destination. It strikes an idyllic balance between the rising growth of metropolitan cities and traditional suburbs.

I travelled with a pre-planned itinerary as advised, which made my stay in Singapore a lot more organised and much easier. On the first day, I had the morning to myself, which I spent at Esplanade, a stunning waterfront location. It connects to Merlion Park, a popular tourist destination named after the national symbol of Singapore — The Merlion. The Merlion has the body of a fish, which represents Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, and the head of a lion, which symbolises the legend of the discovery of the country. Situated centrally, both Esplanade and Merlion Park are equipped with a mall, several restaurants and a breathtaking view of the city’s marina.

After a bit of retail therapy and picture-taking, it was time for the much-awaited Singapore night safari. It claims to be the world’s first night safari and offers an exhilarating display of the predatory and survival skills of wild animals.

Before I could start, I was warned not to step down from a moving tram and to keep my hands (and head) in at all times so I don’t get 
eaten alive!

With that in mind, I hopped on to one of the open trams for a 45-minute ride and tour of the jungles. Venturing deep into the heart of the wildnerness, I was in awe of the animals moving all around me, including leopards, wild elephants, giraffes, tigers and, of course, the king of the 
jungle: the lion.

Much to the despair of my mother, my father and I hiked across the marked trails to see more animals and study their nocturnal habits. We caught glimpses of Malayan bats hunting and giant flying squirrels gliding over our heads. Just when I thought I was done for the day, I came across a unique kind of pedicure. I dunked my tootsies in a tank full of Doctor Fish who nibbled away at my feet, enjoying themselves quite a bit, 
if I may say so. One man’s trash is indeed another’s treasure!

After the safari came a spectacular performance by the Thumbuakar Tribe who literally lit up the night with daring acts that included fire eating, tribal stunts, blowpipe demonstrations, and a tribal dance.

The next day started with a city tour that included visits to the National Orchid Garden and Thian Hock Keng, the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore. For a person not too fond of flowers, The Orchid Garden was a pleasant surprise. With more than 20,000 orchids and eye-catching flowers from around the world, I felt like I was in a fairytale. The flowers are designed and placed in the most beautiful and creative ways. However, my visit to Thian Hock Keng was more moving. My tour guide, Fifi, shared her memories of her parents sleeping in the temple along with 
hundreds of other people from Singapore’s Chinese community.

I also visited her old one-bedroom house in China Town which she shared with 40 other people. With hardly any room to move, Fifi and her sisters would spend their days there while her brothers 
attended school. It was heartening to see what a long way she has come from those days. I was told all three of her kids are now in university and studying on scholarships.

After a few more visits to historical monuments around town, it was time for some adventure. I was most eager to get to Sentosa, an island resort theme park. From riding the Luge, a self steering, gravity-driven cart, to the Megazip, one of the longest and steepest ziplines in Asia, to travelling 110 metres above ground on the Tiger Sky Tower, I was pumped with adrenaline. This probably explains why I befriended a python at one of the park’s kiosks and happily let it wrap itself around my neck for some photos.

After visiting a few more attractions, I was done for the day and was ready to get on the cable car to take me back to the main city. And on that high note, it was the perfect end to 
my trip.


Taifa Queens all set for Singapore meet

Chaneta assistant secretary general Rose Mkisi has expressed her optimism that Taifa Queens would excel in the Six-Nation Netball Championship.

The national team would fly out to Singapore tomorrow for the high profile tournament that will get underway on December 11.

"We've asked our players to be prepared to work hard so as to turn things around and I?m confident that they?ll respond magnificently," Mkisi said.

The invitation of Taifa Queens came after Tanzania hosted successfully the seven-nation tournament that took place at the National Stadium in September.

Despite failing to win the trophy at home, the local girls put in scintillating displays that signalled the revival of netball.

The tournament attracted several powerhouse netball teams including Malawi who are ranked first in Africa, South Africa and Zambia.

The players who will represent Tanzania in Singapore include; Paskalia Kibasa, Faraja Malaki, Monica Kessy, Jackline Sikozi, Lilian Sylidion and Neema Emmanuel.

Others are Zuhura Twalib and Levina Julius, Doritha Mbunda, Monica Aloyce, Nyirabu Max, Semeni Mathew, Judith Kazinja, Sophia Komba and Agnes Simkonda.

Minister for Information, Culture and Sports George Mkuchika presented the team with the national flag on Tuesday and urged them to focus on their coach?s instructions.

"You are representing millions of Tanzanians, thus you?ve to use this tournament to make them proud and this is possible only if you follow what your coaches tell you," he advised.

Taifa Queens first outing would be against mighty Ireland on Sunday before taking on Scotland the next day.


A Former Shop Becomes a House in Singapore

FOR Amy Long, a Singapore management consultant raised abroad, living in a shophouse has always been a dream. The humble terraced structures, which once housed storefronts at street level and cramped dwellings above, were built mostly between 1840 and 1960. And “as a Singaporean who grew up overseas” — in the United States, Germany, Hong Kong and Korea — “I’ve always been drawn to the nostalgic part of the country,” said Ms. Long, 27.

When she moved back to Singapore after receiving her undergraduate degree from Stanford in 2003, she and her boyfriend, TQ (pronounced TEE-cue) Shang, 31, who is also a management consultant, bought a 900-square-foot apartment near downtown. But its compact size provided an excuse to pursue Ms. Long’s shophouse fantasy.

They began their hunt in 2008, and soon found there wasn’t much to choose from — the few they saw were either run-down or overpriced. So after Ms. Long discovered that a co-worker, Dale Hardcastle, renovated and sold shophouses as a hobby, she said, “I cornered him at the next office party.”

It turned out that Mr. Hardcastle and a partner were working on a row of six shophouses in a residential suburb of Singapore. And although Ms. Long and Mr. Shang were apprehensive about the less-central location, when they visited the work site, Ms. Long said, “it just felt right — even amidst dangling electrical wires and concrete floors.” They negotiated the purchase of the still-unfinished shophouse for 3 million Singapore dollars (about $2.2 million).

Mr. Hardcastle preserved the original facade of the shophouse, which was constructed around 1950, but rebuilt most of the interior. Since shophouses are attached units, like brownstones, they tend to be long and narrow: this one is 16 by 98 feet, so a floating staircase and a loft-like design were created on the first level to open up the space.

The centerpiece is an atrium garden installed between the living and dining areas — about 70 square feet planted with palm trees, bamboo and other tropical greenery — which helps keep the building cool. Three bronze-framed glass doors can be closed to seal its perimeter.

Both bedrooms are on the second floor, along with a den overlooking the garden; on the third level, the couple set up a home office.

For decorating help, Ms. Long turned to her best friend from high school in Manhattan, Amy Chang, who was then studying at the New York School of Interior Design.

“We started by looking at design books and Web sites, and e-mailing images and colors back and forth,” Ms. Long said. “TQ and I knew from the beginning that we wanted to focus on regional and environmentally responsible materials. We also wanted to strike a balance between East and West, modern and classic, in relation to the shophouse architecture.”

Many of the furnishings were bought during a two-week period when Ms. Chang came to visit. The two women went to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand, buying silks for upholstery and bedding, an oversize fringed lantern for the dining area and a wall hanging by the Thai textile artist Kachama Perez that now hangs on the second floor.

Several pieces, including beds, cabinets and a dining set, were custom made with regional materials like teak and rattan in Jepara, Indonesia, from designs Ms. Long and Ms. Chang created based on European antiques. A chaise longue of Filipino water hyacinth and a teak coffee table with a cutout design came from Ms. Long’s and Mr. Shang’s old apartment.

The couple, who got engaged last month, had set a decorating budget of 80,000 Singapore dollars (around $60,000), and found themselves with a few thousand Singapore dollars left over. But as Ms. Long put it: “A house is never complete — we intentionally left room to grow.”


Eircom staff vote in favour of Singapore telco's takeover bid

EIRCOM staff yesterday overwhelmingly approved a takeover of the company by Singapore Technologies Telemedia (STT).

The results of a ballot were formally tallied by yesterday morning, with 97pc of the 8,672 valid votes in favour of the deal, which is expected to be sealed by January 4. The favourable ballot of members of the Employee Share Option Trust (ESOT), which includes current and retired employees, had been anticipated, with ESOT directors having previously indicated that they would back the €138m (A$225m) takeover bid. ESOT, which has over 12,000 members, controls 35pc of Eircom.

About 6pc of them voted in the ballot. While the percentage of voters was deemed by an industry source to have been respectable, there was some surprise expressed at the extent of support for the takeover, even though it was expected to be carried.

Eircom Holdings, the Australian fund that controls 57.1pc of the telecoms company, plans to hold a shareholder vote on the STT takeover on December 15, immediately prior to its own annual general meeting in Sydney.

Shareholders in Eircom Holdings (ERC), formerly Babcock & Brown Capital, can opt for either a cash payment of 40 Australian cents per share, or one share in Emerald Communications, the Cayman Islands-based special purpose vehicle being used by STT to secure control in Eircom, for every share held in ERC.

The shareholders are also receiving a cash return from Eircom Holdings under a capital reduction programme and can also opt for a mix of stock and cash under the takeover deal.


ESOT has agreed to roll its 35pc stake over into Emerald Communications. The members have received €770m tax free since the trust was established in 1999.

The change in ownership will be the fifth in less than a decade for Eircom, which has a nearly €4bn debt pile and which had a €435m pension deficit at the end of last June. Under the terms of the takeover, it's possible that ESOT could have to stump up over €10m for additional shares in Eircom by 2011 under the structure of the deal with STT.

STT has previously indicated that it might float Eircom on the stock exchange again as early as 2012.

That would provide for a return to shareholders, although STT has also committed to establishing a grey market for the stock if an initial public offering does not take place by 2014.

Eircom's new owner is likely to be nervously eyeing the Irish telco's recent financial performance.

Last week, Eircom reported that its operating profit slumped 25pc to €58m in the first quarter of its financial year, compared to the same period last year, as revenue fell 9pc to €468m.

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TIMELINE-Carbon pledges, schemes pile up ahead of Copenhagen

Asian city-state with high per-capita emissions, will head to global climate talks next week with a pledge to cut carbon pollution by 16 percent versus projected business-as-usual levels by 2020. [ID:nSP257502]

The announcement is the latest in a series of pledges to lower carbon emissions made in the run-up to the United Nations Dec 7-18 Copenhagen talks on a broader global climate deal.

Top emitters China, the United States and India have all announced preliminary reduction targets in recent weeks, while New Zealand has passed the world's second formal emissions trading scheme and politicians in Australia have become embroiled in a struggle over a similar scheme.

For a Q+A on carbon emissions trading schemes, click [ID:nSP485500]

Here is a timeline showing how countries' pledges and carbon reduction schemes stand ahead of the Copenhagen conference.

* Jan 2005 - The European Union begins what is still the world's largest multi-country, multi-sector greenhouse gas emission trading system (EU ETS).

The scheme fails to have much impact on emissions in its first trading phase from 2005-07 after the EU hands out too many emissions permits, causing a carbon price crash.

* Feb 16, 2005 - Kyoto Protocol comes into force, introducing mandatory targets for 37 developed nations, excluding the United States. The present round of Kyoto expires in 2012 and the world has committed to sign a new pact in Copenhagen in December.

* Dec 2005 - Seven U.S. states agree to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first mandatory, market-based CO2 emissions reduction programme in the United States. In 2007, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland join Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont, taking the total to 10 states in the eastern United States. * Jan-Feb 2007 - California legislature passes California Global Warming Solutions Act. The governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington agree to develop a regional target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

-- The scheme, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), expands to include other U.S. states and later Canadian provinces in a regional greenhouse gas emissions trading system.

* Jan 23, 2008 - The EU commits to reducing its overall emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

* Oct 2008 - Japan launches a voluntary carbon market, which allows companies exceeding voluntary targets to buy carbon allowances. It approves its first domestic carbon credits in June 2009. [ID:nT68923]

* March 16, 2009 - The Maldives says it will shift entirely to renewable energy and become the first carbon-neutral country, to fight the climate change that threatens the low-lying archipelago's existence. [ID:nCOL471188]

* Nov 11 - A group of developing countries pledge to green their economies, but stop short of committing to "carbon neutrality" at a summit hosted by the Maldives.

* Nov 25 - New Zealand passes a revised emissions trading plan, the second to pass into law after Europe's began in 2005. [ID:nWEL18236]

For a FACTBOX on the scheme, click [ID:nSP124540])

On the same day, the White House says the United States will pledge in Copenhagen to cut greenhouse gas emissions roughly by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, a drop of about 3 percent below the 1990 benchmark year used in U.N. treaties. [ID:nGEE5AO1RB]

* Nov 26 - China pledges to reduce its carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP -- by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. It says the target is voluntary and domestic, rather than an international commitment. [ID:nPEK13768]

For Q+A on China's intensity target click [ID:nPEK12370]

* Nov 30 - A draft text written by Copenhagen host Denmark says the world should agree to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels as part of a U.N. climate pact.

The text, which Denmark says is not a formal proposal, says rich countries should account for 80 percent of global emission cuts by 2050. [ID:nGEE5AT202]

* Dec 2 - Australia's parliament rejects laws to set up a sweeping carbon emissions trade scheme.

For a FACTBOX on the scheme, click [ID:nSYD524612])

On the same day India reveals a target to cut its carbon intensity by 24 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. [ID:nSP402484] * Dec 3 - Singapore says it will head to Copenhagen with a pledge to cut carbon pollution by 16 percent versus projected business-as-usual levels by 2020. [ID:nSP257502]


BayTSP Delivers Media Content in Singapore

BayTSP has deployed an online content identification system for content owners and advertisers. Users can leverage this system for a number of tasks including targeting audiences, management of video advertising and monetizing content on user-generated content sites.

Developed with support from the Infocomm development authority of Singapore, or “IDA (News - Alert),” this is the first production system that integrates contextual analysis of audio and video with online advertising and promotion programs.

The new online content identification system is the latest development of BayTSP’s content authentication platform, or “CAP”. This platform uses multiple digital fingerprinting and watermarking technologies to identify content posted on user-generated content sites.

MediaCorp, a major media company in Singapore is partnering with BayTSP in this initiative and will provide the content in addition to exploring advertising models.

BayTSP CEO Mark Ishikawa hopes IDA’s support will enable Singapore to monetize digital content online. Because their content authentication platform identifies content where it appears online, content owners such as MediaCorp have more options for partnering with UGC sites.

This helps content owners to deliver highly relevant advertising and promotions alongside user posted content, added Ishikawa.

According to Mock Pak Lum, managing director, MediaCorp Technologies, his company sees great potential in using business intelligence to identify where its digital audiences are congregating and what content is popular.

Through this partnership MediaCorp aims to explore the potential of innovative content fingerprinting combined with digital advertising for further monetisation of its content. It also hopes to develop a viable business model to combat content piracy, Lum added.

“Through this accelerator project, we hope to enable content owners, advertisers and media service providers to leverage on infocomm technologies to open up new growth opportunities to reach out to the growing number of digital media consumers in Asia,” Andrew Khaw, senior director, industry development group of IDA, Singapore, said.

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PM Lee says teaching of Chinese needs to cater to range of abilities

HAVANA, CUBA: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the teaching of the Chinese language has to cater to the changing landscape as well as the range of language backgrounds and learning abilities.

He said Singapore wants to succeed at mother tongue as it is critical to Singapore - not just economically but because of the sense of identity as Singaporeans and as Asians in a globalised world.

At the same time, Mr Lee said Singapore needs to know what can be achieved and the best way of attaining it.

Mr Lee was speaking to the Singapore media at the end of his trip to Cuba on Thursday.

Mr Lee's comments follow an ongoing debate, after Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said the teaching and learning of Chinese should have been done differently from the start.

After a flurry of comments over the past few weeks about Singapore's bilingual policy, Prime Minister Lee put things in perspective.

He said: "We have to try and do what is educationally sound and pedagogically and academically in the interest of the child. If you politicise this and ask what is it (or) which is the popular thing to do when I teach Chinese or when I teach English or when I teach Science, then we're going to do a big disfavour to the child.

"We have to find out what is educationally sound, and what is the best way to teach it and is within the capabilities of the kids, to interest them in the subject and not to turn them off the language. That is what we will try and achieve."

He said the reason why Singapore has to tweak the way it teaches the Chinese language is because of the changing profiles of the students. There are now more of them from English-speaking homes.

So more schools are expected to use English to teach the Chinese language.

On the other hand, the proportion of students who take Higher Chinese (HCL) in secondary schools has also increased as more students understand the importance of learning the language.

"Now 27 percent take HCL in secondary schools, more than double the figure before the last changes were made," said Mr Lee.

There is also a need to have a tailored approach of teaching the language which adapts to everybody.

Mr Lee said: "We are trying, in an English-speaking environment, to maintain a level of working proficiency in Chinese and other mother tongues for all of the population. But different levels of proficiency, depending on the ability of the person and the language background which he comes from, his home background.

"Some can reach almost first language standard and join the bicultural programmes. A majority should have a functional mastery of the language - some from Chinese-speaking homes, some from English-speaking homes too, because many students from English-speaking homes actually have good language aptitude and quite often do Higher Chinese.

"But some students from English-speaking homes are going to have a lot of difficulties with Chinese, however hard they try. Maybe they are generally weak in school, but not always. The correlation between your language ability and your general academic skills is not that close. Quite often, we come across students who are generally bright and able, but have a lot of difficulties with Chinese.

"So we have to set standards for this group which are realistic, which they can aim for, but without bringing down standards for everybody else. That is why we introduced CL-B."

CL-B refers to the simplified Chinese Language B syllabus introduced for weaker students in 1999.

Technology has also made it a totally different experience for a person to read, learn and work with the Chinese language.

Mr Lee said: "In China now, everybody uses computer inputs one way or other. The young people are working on keyboards so much that when they have to write the characters, they do not remember how to produce them."

Communication styles too are changing, with more people using email and SMS.

Prime Minister Lee said: "There are all sorts of strange abbreviations. I was exchanging messages with a young person in Chinese and the person typed '3488'. So I asked, what on earth is '3488' ('暂时拜拜')?

"There are all sorts of other abbreviations and synonyms which have become part of the lingo. If you stick to the traditional formal language teaching, you are not going to teach people that, you are not going to use that, and students are going to learn a very formal language. But that is not what they will often encounter in real life."

Mr Lee said testing methods will also need to change.

"So, in an exam, you can bring an electronic dictionary along and ideally, everybody should have a keyboard and should type and write on the keyboard rather than have the burden of struggling with the mechanics of memorising and writing characters by hand," he said.

Moving forward, he said the way the Chinese language is taught in schools will be updated based on changing language usage and ability patterns in society.

There were revisions in 1999 and in 2004 to cater to different learning tracks for students, depending on their language abilities. Revision number three of the teaching and learning of the Chinese language is already underway. The Education Ministry is expected to release the results during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament.


Singapore welcomes Obama's decision on Afghanistan

SINGAPORE, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday the country welcomes the United States' continued commitment in Afghanistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled his new Afghanistan strategy Tuesday night, saying he will deploy another 30,000 soldiers to the war-weary country, mainly in the first half of 2010.

"This is a positive and pragmatic way forward. Singapore continues to support the multinational stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan," the ministry said in a statement, adding that a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Weapon Locating Radar and a medical team are now deployed in Oruzgan province and an engineering team in Bamiyan province in support of these efforts.

The ministry said that Singapore has also offered to deploy a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle detachment if these are useful to the multinational efforts. Singapore has also been offering a variety of training programs for Afghan officials, including healthcare, anti-narcotics control, and water and waste management.


Singapore welcomes US' continued commitment in Afghanistan

SINGAPORE : Singapore has welcomed the United States' continued commitment in Afghanistan, as outlined by President Barack Obama.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry said this is a positive and pragmatic way forward.

It said Singapore continues to support the multinational stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

An SAF Weapon Locating Radar and a medical team are now in Oruzgan province, with an engineering team in Bamiyan province in support of these efforts.

The ministry said Singapore has also offered to deploy a KC-135 aerial refuelling tanker and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle detachment if these are useful to the multinational efforts.

Singapore has also been offering a variety of training programmes for Afghan officials, including healthcare, anti-narcotics control, and water and waste management. - CNA/ms


Disney Channels to Sell Ad Time in Singapore, Philippines

SINGAPORE/MANILA: Disney Channels Southeast Asia will begin selling ad time on its feeds in Singapore and the Philippines, working with StarHub and SkyCable, respectively.

The cable platforms will serve as the local advertising sales representatives for Disney Channels in each of their markets. Announcing the move, Laura E. Wendt, the VP and managing director of Disney Channels Southeast Asia, stated: "After expanding our distribution and creating Disney Channel franchises that kids love and enjoy, our move to advertising gives brands in both Singapore and the Philippines a local touch point and an association with our popular properties such as Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place.”


City breakers booking flights to New York and Singapore can uncover a "myriad of culinary delights".

This is according to Garry Taylor, director and strategist at the International Culinary Tourism Association, who was commenting after a recent Lonely Planet poll which revealed that the cities were the best in the world in which to "gorge on food".

"Both New York and Singapore offer a myriad of culinary delights and I feel the difference between these and other major cities is basically the way the destination marketing organisations market their culinary experiences," he explained.

Mr Taylor went on to say that some cities are better than others at realising that culinary tourism is at the centre of the tourism business, not the periphery.

This is because, he explained, "every visitor will eat", whereas not everyone will visit a museum or art gallery.

New York and Singapore came top of the Lonely Planet poll thanks to the range of food both cities offer, from cheap street food to expensive fine dining.


IADC Seminar a success in Singapore

More than 30 participants from around the world, including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Namibia, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Tanzania, Turkey and the United Kingdom, came to Singapore for the recent 33rd IADC International Seminar on Dredging and Reclamation.

Seminar participants and some of the lecturers gather for festivities. The seminar was organised by the International Association of Dredging Companies in cooperation with the National University of Singapore in Singapore. Since 1993 the IADC has regularly run week long seminars especially developed for professionals in dredging related industries to familiarize them better with the many aspects and challenges of dredging.

Dredging experts from IADC member companies presented lectures and complemented theory with their practical knowledge and experience. Amongst the subjects covered were the development of new ports and maintenance of existing ports, project phasing, descriptions of types of dredging equipment, costing of projects and types of dredging projects.

Events outside of the classroom were equally important and stimulating. Singapore has been the site of many extensive dredging projects and a highlight of the week was a site visit to one of these, the Jurong Island Project.

Enthusiastic employees of an IADC member dredging company were happy to show participants dredging equipment in action and provided them with a deeper insight into the intricacies of the dredging operation. In addition, a midweek dinner was organised, where the participants, lecturers and other dredging employees mingled, networked and discussed the real world of dredging.

The next IADC seminar will be organised in co-operation with UNESCO – IHE in Delft, The Netherlands from 21 to 25 June 2010. The Seminar is aimed at decision makers and their advisors in governments, port and harbour authorities, off shore companies and other organisations that have to execute dredging projects. The cost of the seminar will be €1,950 (VAT inclusive). The fee includes all tuition, seminar proceedings, workshops and a special participants’ dinner, but is exclusive of all travel costs and accommodation.

For more information contact the IADC Secretariat, Mr. Frans-Herman Cammel. Email:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Singapore The Lion City

Singapore derives its name from the Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city) which is why it is also known as the Lion City. Folklore has it that Malay a prince named Sang Nila Utama saw a lion as the first living creature on the island and decided to name it Singapura as a result.

The Lion City was originally a British trading colony in 1819 and joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963; however, Singapore separated two years later and became independent. It subsequently became one of the world's most prosperous countries with strong international trading links (its port is one of the world's busiest in terms of tonnage handled) and with per capita GDP equal to that of the leading Western European nations.

All who enter Singapore require a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond date of departure. Visa is not required if visitors plan to stay no more than 14 days; most tourists are given a 14-day Social Visit Pass on arrival at Changi International Airport.

Singapore’s climate is equatorial, warm and humid all year round with intermittent rains throughout the year.

Several languages are spoken in Singapore but majority speak Mandarin and English including Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Tamil and other Chinese dialects.

The currency unit is the Singapore dollar (S$). Approximately S$1.50 = US$1

Singapore’s Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit services serve domestics travel.
Air-conditioned taxis and buses regularly ply the city.

International Direct Dial Country Code = 65
Fixed Lines = 2,000,000
Mobile Cellular = 4,500,000

Singapore Telecommunications Limited SGX, commonly known as SingTel is Singapore's largest telecommunications company and the largest mobile network operator in Asia Pacific outside of the People's Republic of China. A former government monopoly privatized in 1992, SingTel divested its postal operation SingPost in 2003 and now concentrates on providing internet service provider, mobile phone and fixed line telephony services.

Other cellular service providers in Singapore are MobileOne, SingTel 1800 and Starhub.

Several prepaid calling card and phone card companies are available to call both to and from Singapore.

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Singapore (Chinese: 新加坡; pinyin: Xīnjiāpō; Malay: Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர், Cingkappūr), officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island city-state located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, lying 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 710.2 km2 (274.2 sq mi), Singapore is a microstate and the smallest nation in Southeast Asia. This is substantially larger than Monaco and Vatican City, the only other surviving sovereign city-states.

Before European settlement, the island now known as Singapore was the site of a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived along the nearby coast, rivers and on smaller islands. In 1819, the British East India Company, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, established a trading post on the island, which was used as a port along the spice route.[8] Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia.

During the Second World War, the British colony was occupied by the Japanese after the Battle of Singapore, which Winston Churchill called "Britain's greatest defeat". Singapore reverted to British rule in 1945, immediately after the war. Eighteen years later, in 1963, the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, the merger proved unsuccessful, and, less than two years later, it seceded from the federation and became an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations on August 9, 1965. Singapore was admitted to the United Nations on September 21 of that year.

Since independence, Singapore's standard of living has risen dramatically. Foreign direct investment and a state-led drive to industrialization based on plans drawn up by the Dutch economist Albert Winsemius have created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning. Singapore is the 5th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita. In December 2008, the foreign exchange reserves of this small island nation stood at around US$174.2billi The Singapore government, with approval from the President, announced in March 2009 that it would tap into their official reserves for the first time ever and withdraw some S$4.9 billion. The funds were then used as part of the S$20.5 billion resilience package unveiled by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 5 February 2009. As of January 2009, Singapore's official reserves stands at US$170.3 billion.

In 2009, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore the tenth most expensive city in the world in which to live—the third in Asia, after Tokyo and Osaka. The 2009 Cost of Living survey, by consultancy firm Mercer, has ranked Singapore similarly as the tenth most expensive city for expatriates to live in.

The population of Singapore including non-residents is approximately 4.86 million.[16] Singapore is highly cosmopolitan and diverse with Chinese people forming an ethnic majority with large populations of Malay, Indian and other people. English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese are the official languages.

Singapore is a parliamentary republic, and the Constitution of Singapore establishes representative democracy as the nation's political system. The People's Action Party (PAP) dominates the political process and has won control of Parliament in every election since self-government in 1959