SINGAPORENEWSBLOG.COM   
Central Provident Fund  
The Central Provident Fund board was set up in late 2014 with a single goal in mind: to make the CPF system as strong, fair and efficient as possible. The Fund itself is hugely important to Singaporean society, as it provides for retirement, housing, healthcare and employment benefits in the state. If poorly managed, the CPF could slow down or even halt the state's increasingly powerful economy.
Well, the first batch of recommendations from the Panel has now been handed in to the government and, certainly, there are some interesting issues raised and ideas offered. In particular, this list of recommendations focuses upon future adjustments to the Minimum Sum and the issue of lump sum withdrawals.
What the CPF Advisory Panel is hoping to respond to with this review is to strike a balance between providing a life-long, reliable safety net for the country's citizens, while also allowing them the economic freedom and flexibility upon which the state's economic boom has been founded.
For example, on the issue of retirement, the Panel proposes adjusting the Minimum Sum in order to allow people a more flexible monthly pay out during their retirement. A key suggestion is that those CPF members who turn 55 in the year 2016 put a large enough proportion of their CPF savings in order to make up a basic pay out of about $700 per month when they retire in 2026.
If that is you, then you'll need to put a Basic Retirement Sum of $80,500 as premiums in 2016, as worked out by external actuaries hired by the CPF. If, however, you turn 55 in 2020, then you have a 70% chance of having enough saved up in your fund to meet this Basic Retirement Sum.
To offer a more flexible service, the Panel recommends that CPF members can withdraw cash from their savings above the Basic Retirement Sum. However, these withdrawals will only be available subject to a charge or a pledge on the value of property held by the member. So, should you make a withdrawal and sell your property, then the pledged amount will be returned to your CPF, thus garnishing your basic pay out. If you do not own your own home, then it is highly recommended that your Full Retirement Sum is twice the Basic Retirement Sum, which would be something like $161,000 if you are retiring in 2016.
The Panel also wants to make topping up pay outs to ensure larger monthly amount in future easier for members. An Enhanced Retirement Sum would be established that will allow members to add savings or cash to their premiums. It is likely that this ERS would be three time the BRS. If, for example, you wished to top up in 2016, this would be capped at $241,500.
Another key recommendation involves the concept of deferral, which would allow members to put off their retirement provisions until the age of 70. As well as allowing them more time to save more money for retirement, this will also help those who wish to work past retirement age, a phenomenon that is becoming more and more popular in Singapore.
Law and order in Singapore  
Recently, a Singaporean insurance agent was sentenced to a 14 day detention order for an assault on a taxi driver. The assault took place when a 23 year old punched a driver, after drinking in Clarke Quay with friends. He had argued with the driver over the $18 fare in the run up to the incident.
Though his eventual punishment was far smaller than the potential five years in prison that Lai could have served, it is interesting to note that the story was quite big news in Singapore. In this bustling, multicultural melting pot of a state, with a population of over 5 million people crammed onto a 716 km² island, incidents are extremely rare. In a similarly densely packed, business-heavy urban area, like, say, Paris, New York or London, such a story would barely be a story or, at least, certainly not a story that would grab many headlines.
The reason for this is that Singapore is one of the most peaceful, safe and non-violent states in the world. This fact, as much as the low tax rates, superb education, gorgeous weather and pro-business legal system, contributes massively to why so many people are now coming here to work, study and live.
So how do the Singaporean authorities manage to keep the peace so effectively?
Singaporean law and order
Singapore's laws are there to ensure that the population are free to roam the streets in peace and quiet, without needing to worry about the lewd or violent behaviour. In some cases, these laws become very strict indeed, though it is this strictness, and the respect for authority that they inspire, that ensures the state remains a law-abiding one.
For example, littering, chewing gum and smoking can all get you in big trouble in Singapore. Expect a fine of up to $1,000 the first time you are caught dropping your rubbish on the street and $2,000 the second time, plus a spot of Corrective Work Order. Corrective Work Order, or CWO, forces you to donate a few hours of your spare time cleaning up a public place wearing an unmissably bright orange jacket watched and recorded by the local media.
As most people know, chewing gum is strictly contraband in Singapore, as a preventative measure against the littering that the authorities so despise. Possessing, selling or gifting chewing gum will all land you in trouble. Though this might sound draconian, the ban was brought in as chewing gum stuck on the Mass Rapid Transit train doors was actually preventing trains from being able to run, causing a serious safety hazard.
One of the major no-nos of Singapore is drugs. Possessing any of the following quantities of following controlled substances will land you the death penalty: 15 grammes heroin, 30 grammes morphine, 30 grammes cocaine, 500 grammes cannabis and 1.2 kg of opium. Again, if this sounds strict, it is worth remembering Singapore's geographical position. Just an hour away from the notorious Golden Triangle, Asia's chief opium producing area located on the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, the authorities must do all they can to ensure that the drug trade, and the violence and corruption that come with it, do not invade their shores.
All of these laws contribute greatly to ensuring Singapore remains the healthy, thriving, happy society it is today and help keep incidents like the one we mentioned earlier thankfully rare occurrences.
EU-Singapore FTA may have to wait   
As the Singaporean economy grows and grows, more and more foreign money pours into Singapore. Thanks to the state's low corporate tax rates, tremendously free market and highly advantageous business laws, firms and organisations from around the world are lining up to pump their cash through Singapore.
Though the state is benefiting greatly from this investment and interest, it is only understandable that Singaporean companies would become interesting in sending investment the other way – i.e. investing money in western countries, particularly those in the EU. Yet, due to the stricter and more regimented economies there, this is not always straight forward.
In order to make things simpler for both sides, a potential Free Trade Agreement between the more powerful EU economies and Singapore has long been mooted. After all, a mutually beneficial FTA would allow both consumers and businesses on all sides to make the most from Singapore's strengthening economic power. However, though Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both backed such a move, it now seems unlikely it will come into place until at least late 2016. The main issue, according to Mr Lee, is that countries in the EU require more time to get their own economic issues in order before opening up the gates for such trading. Currently we understand that Singapore has an extensive network of 20 implemented FTAs with 31 trading partners.
After meeting with Ms Merkel, Lee said, “The ratification process is on the European side. The text is still undergoing some legal scrubbing. Some parts are completed, some parts are not. Then you have to go through a long process, including voting at the European Parliament and including ratification by majority of the European member states.”
One of the central issues holding the potential FTA back is such an agreement's need for a provision for investor-state dispute settlement. This provision would allow a company to take action against a country's government outside of its borders and, though very helpful for companies in Singapore investing in the EU, it has been less popular with those on the other side.
Chancellor Merkel, however, is very much keen on pushing through the FTA as quickly as she can. Given Germany's status as one of the world's most active and consistent exporters of products, it is clear why Merkel wants to open up as many potential trade routes as possible for her economy. Mr. Lee highlighted the similarities between Germany and Singapore at the press conference, with the states sharing many of the same advantages and disadvantages. As well as both housing booming economies and powerful workforces, both nations may soon have to deal with issues brought about by ageing population and lowering birth rates. Many of the same political issues are on both state's radar too, such as multicultural integration and the threat of radical political ideologies.
In particular, Mr. Lee cited the Islamic State group as a menace to both Germany and Singapore, pointing out that both German and Singaporean Muslims have left their native countries to join the brutal jihadist outfit. Therefore, anything that strengthens the existing bonds between the two states, and makes communication between them more straightforward, should be welcomed.
Singaporean society as described  
“Recently I read about somebody who made a post on her blog poking fun at an older man who had a hole in his shirt. I think that is wrong because an old or torn shirt does not mean he deserves less respect…. These are not essential to who you are, what you stand for, what people should think of you. It has to manifest in the way we interact with one another. “
Lee Hsien Loong is the Prime Minister of Singapore. Here he discusses how important it is for Singaporeans not to look down on those who have less, materially, even though the economy is booming and business is good.
“When society's brightest and most able think that they made good because they are inherently superior and entitled to their success; when they do not credit their good fortune also to birth and circumstance; when economic inequality gives rise to social immobility and a growing social distance between the winners of meritocracy and the masses; and when the winners seek to cement their membership of a social class that is distinct from, exclusive, and not representative of Singapore society – that is elitism.”
Goh Chok Tong was the Prime Minister of Singapore between 1990 and 2004.
“Never forget we're servants of the people, not their masters. Always maintain a sense of humility and service. Never lord it over the people we're looking after and serving. Be as strict with ourselves as we are with others.”
Lee Hsien Loong again, this time describing how Singaporean's see the role of politicians.
“In the early pioneering days, we do first and talk later. Today some of us talk first and don't do.”
Ngiam Tong Dow was once one of Singapore's most important and influential civil servants. Now he is one of the country's most outspoken opinion formers, often voicing strong dissenting ideas.
“While Singaporeans are fully aware of potential trade-offs in policy, we should also be on guard against viewing trade-offs only from the Government's perspective….. It seems to me that more often than not, the policy trade-off was biased against the people, especially those who are adversely affected.”
Low Thia Khiang was the opposition leader in 2011 when he made this criticism of certain policies.
“The most important thing is that you have to respect an individual, whether he's got six Cs or six As and whether he's a brain surgeon or a dustman. I think we should give him the same respect. If you don't give respect to your own citizens, I think you condemn them forever.”
Chiam See Tong was another opposition leader, here he re-iterates Lee Hsien Loong's earlier point about the importance of respecting all the state's citizens regardless of their wealth or status.
Singapore Tourist Survival Guide  

With a varied cultural mixture of entertainment, cuisine and shopping, Singapore stands out as one of the most travel-friendly Asian countries. Whether you travel in August or January, the city-island has warm weather all year round. Besides, tourists also love Singapore because it is easy to get around the island, as it has an extensive and easy-to-use public transport system.
Another reason why Singapore is so attractive for tourists is that one of the spoken languages is English, but they also speak Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Malay and Tamil. Therefore, the language barrier in Singapore is almost anecdotic.
If you are travelling there, it might be useful to know that in terms of electricity, in Singapore they 230 Volts and 50 Hertz. Also, the phone code is +65.
Also, the official currency of the country is Singapore dollar. In comparison with American currency, US$1 equals SGD1.25. You can find many money exchanges throughout the city, particularly in the CBD and other tourist hotspots. You can always exchange money at major hotels and local banks, although the exchange rate will not be favourable for you. You can also withdraw money from the ATM machines scattered throughout the state.
Make sure you carry cash if you are thinking of making small purchases or buying goods from the markets and street vendors. However, you only need your credit card in major shopping centres.
Although Singapore is highly tolerant of Western behaviour, there are certain local customs and laws that differ from those in the West. For instance, it might strike you that chewing gum is strictly prohibited for sale, import and personal use. But what might surprise you even more is that spitting is against the law. Besides, littering is not tolerated and offenders can get a tough fine for doing it.
From luxury hotels like the Raffles Hotel to the five-star Shangri-La Hotel Singapore to budget accommodations like the Fragance Hotels and Value Hotels, there is a large array of accommodations to choose from in Singapore.
As Singapore experiences a tropical climate that is hot and humid all year round, make sure you carry sunblock and drink enough water, especially from March to June when the weather is particularly hot.
As to transportation, whether visitors choose to travel by standard trains or by light rail services, they can get anywhere on the island within a short timeframe. Also, buses connect most destinations on the island and a plethora of metered taxis can be found at any time.
Located approximately 20 minutes' drive from the CBD of Singapore, Changi International Airport (SIN) is well connected with the city by rail service as well as by express bus shuttles and metered taxis.
Some of the most important events that take place in Singapore include the World Gourmet Summig (three-week fine food festival), Singapore International Film Festival (featuring a mix of up to 300 international documentaries, animation, shots and retrospectives), Singapore Airlines International Cup, Vesak Day (devotees flock to Buddhist temples where they make offerings, eat vegetarian food and even release captive animals), Singapore Arts Festival, Singapore Dragon Boat Festival, and the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts with celebration dinners, loud auctions and outdoor street performances of Chinese opera, puppetry, singing and comedy.

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Class   
Customers are now able to book premium economy tickets from Singapore Airlines for the first time. The new class of ticket will first be available on August 9th flights to Sydney, which went on sale recently. Though prices will vary depending on flight times and travel dates, generally a premium economy ticket will cost you about 15% - 20% more than its economy equivalent.
So, what will that extra 15% get you? Well, there's more legroom for start, wider seats and generally superior amenities and facilities. Also, you will have a longer menu to choose your refreshments from, with more meal options.
A premium economy seat on an SIA airplane will pack a calf rest and a footbar, with a width between 18.5 inches and 19.5 inches, while the chair itself will recline a full eight inches. This means a more comfortable seating arrangement a more flexibility in terms of how each individual customer decides to spend their flight. Champagne is available for those looking to travel in style, as are an extensive list of wines.
Flight entertainment is similarly more varied and more luxurious. You can expect a 13.3 inch full high definition in-flight monitor, equipped with headphones that prevent outside noise seeping in to break your concentration, and two USB ports powered by your very own in-seat power supply. A Premium Economy Class Ticket also entitles you to greater storage space, including dedicated spaces for your phone, water, laptop and tablet.
Yet SIA's commitment to giving Premium Economy customers a higher class of trip extends beyond the flight itself. In fact, from the moment you arrive at your departure airport to the moment you leave your destination airport, the entire experience is maximise for simplicity, convenience and comfort.
Yet SIA's commitment to giving Premium Economy customers a higher class of trip extends beyond the flight itself. In fact, from the moment you arrive at your departure airport to the moment you leave your destination airport, the entire experience is maximise for simplicity, convenience and comfort.
Existing members of SIA's KrisFlyer scheme, who can already take advantage of special promotions and air miles from the company and its partners, have even more reasons to go Premium Economy. They receive 10% extra in miles every time they buy this type of ticket.
SIA plans to roll out the availability of Premium Economy tickets soon, with flights to Beijing, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, London, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo and Zurich all slated to be equipped for this class of customer by next year.
According to SIA Chief Executive Office Goh Choon Phong, the new class was created to match the demands of the airline's huge customer base. He says, “Many of our customers' suggestions have been incorporated into the new product, and we are confident it will be well received by travellers who are looking for more features - in the seat design, in-flight offerings and exclusive privileges - all underpinned by the exceptional service that SIA is well known for, both on the ground and in the air."
Singapore's most influential people  

Any list of people claiming to be this or that is bound to be fairly subjective. This is particularly the case when considering those people who have been most influential on the development of Singapore. After all, this tally is potentially very long and open to a great deal of personal bias. However, it is safe to say there are certain names that would be fairly universal.
One name that should feature is Dr Kanwaljit Soin, who became a much-needed female member of parliament when she was nominated in 1992. After holding her political position for four years, she has since continued to work tirelessly to raise awareness of female issues. While serving as president of the Association of Women for Action and Research in the 1990s she became one of Singapore's most widely-respected commentators on women's issues.
Two individuals who have certainly left a permanent mark on Singapore's landscape are Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell. These Singapore-based architects are known for a variety of eye-catching designs, ranging from tall, ultra-contemporary condominium buildings, to a grandiose churches. Equally at home when designing properties for railway stations or for holiday resorts, this dynamic duo's work features in Singapore, Bali, Bangkok and China.
The arts have flourished in this particular corner of South East Asia for a considerable time. Foremost amongst the influential Singaporeans who have focused on local tastes is Philip Cheah. In the 1980s, Singapore was regarded as something of a cultural backwater, with little to inspire the creatively-minded. Together with his brother Michael, Philip embarked on creating the ‘BigO', a magazine that championed local talent amongst musicians and artists of all shades. While he was director of the Singapore International film Festival in the 1990s, Cheah placed the spotlight on dynamic young Singaporean filmmakers, single-handedly rejuvenating the local movie industry.
Prior to his death in 2008 at the grand old age of 82, J B Jeyaretnam (or JBJ as he was affectionately nicknamed) was a tireless campaigner for Singapore democracy. His son Kenneth said: “My father demonstrated that democracy means the right to change government if you are not satisfied with it”. His dignified approach to the city state's politics won him the respect of colleagues and political opponents in equal measures.

Changi airport's first-rate customer service  
According to statistics, Singapore's main airport, Changi, welcomed over 51 million passengers through its doors last year. As the hub for a variety of major airlines, including Jetstar Asia Airways, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, Tigerair, Valuair and Scoot, Changi is currently the second busiest airport in the Asian continent; indeed, it ranks as seventh most-visited airport anywhere on the globe.
Changi's three passenger terminals have a total handling capacity of 66 million, which is welcome news for the airport's management teams since last year's passenger figures were 10% up on the previous year. In addition to the phenomenal amounts of air travelers using Changi, it is also one of the world's busiest cargo hubs, handling 1.8 million tonnes last year.
For such a bustling airport, attention to customer service has always been paramount. Changi has won an incredible 430+ awards since opening in 1981, including no fewer than 30 ‘Best Airport' awards in 2012. But the good news for the vast numbers of passengers who continue to use this airport is that complacency is never on the agenda. Despite all the accolades, the management at Changi remain determined to out-do previous achievements. Upgrades to the airport are an ongoing task, whether to improve existing facilities or to build new ones which are even more customer-friendly.
To this end, the airport launched a feedback system three years ago. This was aimed at allowing customers to gauge the airport's performance in a number of key areas. Visitors completing the feedback forms were asked to rate staff and facilities. In addition, a real-time inspection system was launched, with a view to monitoring any potential faults in the airport.
Since the system was launched in 2010, it has been regarded as an unparalleled success. In fact, maintenance costs at the airport have been cut by more than $ 2 million, with response time to repairs slashed by 30%.
The revolutionary E-inspection system allows maintenance workers to report any issues to contractors using smart phones that have been installed with highly-specialized software. In this way they can keep tabs on the progress of any repair simply by referring to a hand-held device. As well as monitoring repairs, the feedback system also allows visitors to rate a diverse cross-section of the airport staff. From immigration officers to counter staff to cleaners, customers can now give constructive feedback on every aspect of Changi's widespread operations.
Committee of investigation formed in wake of riot  
The riots that convulsed Little India late in 2013 are still leaving an indelible mark. While the chaotic disturbances were brought under control by a controlled police response, the repercussions of the ugly scenes are lasting considerably longer.
Singapore is certainly not used to such civil disobedience. The whole situation was prompted when an Indian migrant worker was struck and killed by a bus. Crowds of his fellow construction workers, many of whom had been drinking for some time, appear to have used the tragic accident as an excuse to cause wanton mayhem on the streets of Singapore. Some of them began throwing missiles at the police who had gathered to try and defuse the situation. In the ensuing riots, several police cars and an ambulance were set alight.
Order was restored, with many Singaporeans left baffled by the unexpected outbreak of violence that had occurred in the heart of their normally peace-loving city. It is testament to the resolve of Singapore's citizens that the streets were cleared of debris very swiftly and the shops which had been affected by the rioting opened for business the following day.
All the media reporting on the events were unanimous in their verdict that this was, in all likelihood, a unique incident. However, the authorities have let it be known that they are determined to get to the root of what prompted a section of Singapore society to act in this way. After all, the Indian migrant community are not exactly strangers to the city; many of these workers have been living in Singapore for a long time, having been made more than welcome for the skills they continue bringing to the city. The degree of their integration has, until now, been taken for granted.
The Singapore government have decided to appoint a special committee to investigate the riots that occurred in Little India. This committee of inquiry has been instigated due to the levels of violence experienced on Singapore streets – estimated to be the worst case of rioting since 1969.
Teo Chee Hean, Home Affairs Minister, set up the four-man committee, with orders to report their findings within six months. It has also been announced that the chairman of the investigatory committee will be a former judge of Singapore's Supreme Court, G Pannir Selvam. The members acting alongside him will be an ex-police commissioner, Tee Tu Bia, a former trade union president, John De Pavya, and a citizens committee consultant, Andrew Chua Thiam Chwee.
Samurai-wielding MRT passenger causes a scene  
Many movie-goers delight in the escapism of martial arts. Watching athletic antagonists wielding swords while undertaking death-defying acrobatics, is a popular slice of cinema escapism. However, it is somewhat more intimidating to come across a samurai warrior in real life.
But this is the situation that occurred on Singapore's bustling Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) rail network in Dec last year. As commuters boarded their usual train, expecting an unremarkable commute, they were somewhat taken aback when a man clambered aboard wielding a samurai sword. Having jumped the ‘fare gate' at Paya Lebar station, he joined the westbound train, leaving a trail of bemused onlookers in his wake.
According to an official MRT spokesman: “the male passenger was apprehended at 12:45 PM around Bugis MRT station and the incident is now under police investigation”.
As with any dramatic incident in the modern age, the unfolding events were captured on mobile phones. A bank executive who happened to witness the incident recorded a brief video of the samurai warrior exiting, perhaps to do battle with evil forces at some pre-arranged destination?
Naturally, the sight of someone in possession of a large fearsome-looking blade in somewhere as densely-populated as Singapore never goes unnoticed for very long. Thankfully the culprit was soon being tailed by three transit security officers, hanging onto his every suspicious movement. Witnesses described the strange man calmly chatting to his pursuers; although what was being discussed, or in what language, was less apparent. Apparently this sense of calm was strained to say the least, with bystanders describing the blade carrying individual as becoming increasingly agitated. Eventually he drew his weapon and began pointing it towards the uniformed men.
He was described as being middle-aged, and slightly overweight. His hair was dyed and permed, and he was sporting the traditional Japanese ‘hakama' garment.
During their fraught experience, none of the 30 or so passengers sharing his train compartment said anything to him. The mysterious case came to its conclusion when the weird swordsman was finally apprehended by the police. When he clambered off the train at Dhoby Grant station, it appeared that the officers, who had perhaps been adopting a ‘softly softly' approach for fear of unsettling the antagonist beside so many passers-by, decided to take action.
Again, in similar fashion to the recent disturbances in Little India, the reason this particular incident has caused waves in social media is because of its unique, isolated nature. Singaporeans are used to seeing many colourful and good natured people during their daily life, so a lone idiot brandishing an offensive weapon naturally sticks out like a sore thumb.
  
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