Report Could Hurt SingTel Shares - Dow Jones
- Report Could Hurt SingTel Shares
Contact Us: Sydney 61-2-8235-2950; djnews.sydney@...
0838 [Dow Jones] Local shares in SingTel (SGL) may come under
pressure after internal audit report leaked to Sydney Morning Herald
says Optus unit has serious flaws in financial, operational
Also identifies weakness in Optus credit management,
management of fixed assets such as cable network, and balance sheet
But Optus CFO Paul O'Sullivan on the defensive,
telling newspaper each key problem already addressed and fixed. (ERJ)
- Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: 17 March 2003
Is Singapore headed in the righ direction with its focus on the Bio-Chem and Pharmaceutical industry?
There is a certain Deja Vu here as many still remember the heavy focus on Manufacturing a few decades ago, which later led to an over concentration and exposure to this industry. This was an oversight which current management of Singapore Inc are still trying to undo. Are they moving from the frying pan into the fire?
The fact remains that "Virtually all of the industry's growth so far has come from foreigners, with little help from homegrown companies."
This again brings into perspective the actual value added made by GLCs and State Owned Enterprises. Read on and decide for yourselves.
BusinessWeek International Editions: Asian Business: Singapore
LITTLE ISLAND, BIG PHARMA Pharmaceutical exports are bolstering
By Michael Shari in Singapore
17 February 2003
(Copyright 2003 McGraw-Hill, Inc.)
For the past two years, Singapore has been making global drugmakers
an alluring offer: The government has set aside $1.8 billion to
encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in the city-state. The
money--to be spent over five years--pays for incentives ranging from
research and development funds to capital for startups. And that's in
addition to tax breaks and affordable space in government-built
research and manufacturing parks. ``We have money,'' says Philip Yeo,
co-chairman of the Singapore government's Economic Development Board
(EDB). ``We need warm bodies.''
Those bodies have arrived, and they're heating up Singapore's
exports. In the past year, three global players--GlaxoSmithKline,
Wyeth, and Schering-Plough--have built new drug-making plants on the
Southeast Asian island. Their arrival helped boost Singapore's
pharmaceutical exports by nearly 60% last year, to $4.7 billion--and
cemented the sector's place as the island's third-largest foreign
currency earner after petroleum products and electronics.
Bulking up pharma is the right prescription for Singapore's continued
growth. As semiconductor and other electronics exports last year fell
10%, to $7.1 billion, the economy appeared headed for a downturn.
Then, in December, pharmaceutical exports soared 131% from a year
earlier as multinationals fired up new plants making higher-value
drugs. That was enough to produce 0.1% overall growth in the fourth
quarter, and it kept the economy out of its second recession in two
years. Drug exports ``relieved concern of a double dip,'' says David
Cohen, director of macroeconomic forecasting at MMS International in
True, government subsidies have been partly responsible for the
sector's success. In early 2001, the EDB set a target of investing
$600 million over five years in new joint ventures with
multinationals or startups focused on R&D. The board also has $600
million to reimburse Novartis, Eli Lilly, Viacell, and others for up
to half of their R&D outlays. And it's giving another $600 million in
grants to government-run research institutes to encourage cooperation
with the private sector. As a result, since late 2001, five leading
drugmakers have committed to investing a total of nearly $1 billion
in the sector. ``The incentives are extremely good,'' says Victor
Hau, managing director of Singapore operations for Wyeth, which last
year opened two plants at a total cost of $294 million.
Singapore, of course, has a lot more than subsidies to attract
drugmakers. While relatively high wages discourage production of
generic drugs in the city-state, Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline, and others
make high-end brands for export to the U.S., Europe, and Japan. They
say the educated, English-speaking workforce, reliable electricity
and water supplies, and good air links make it a natural base for
their operations. Another attraction: Liberal rules on human stem-
cell research, a factor that led ES Cell Australia Ltd. to open a $10
million lab last year.
Still, Singapore has a ways to go. Virtually all of the industry's
growth so far has come from foreigners, with little help from
homegrown companies. Also, there's a limit to the number of
scientists this city-state of 4 million can produce. ``One of the
concerns people have is, `Do they have the critical mass of people
for a large-scale effort?''' says V. Thyagarajan, senior vice-
president and Asia director for GlaxoSmithKline.
But the government keeps pushing. On Jan. 29, the Agency for Science,
Technology & Research opened its own $35 million biopharmaceutical
plant. Scientists there will produce drugs from living cells in an
effort to prove that Singapore can achieve the highest standards of
quality control, says Miranda Yap, the plant's chief scientist. The
goal is to make medicines on a contract basis for global drugmakers.
The facility has already signed an agreement to conduct cell culture
research for hormone treatments for Inhibitex Inc., a biotech startup
in Alpharetta, Ga.
In November, the Singapore government plans to open Biopolis, a
185,000-square-meter research center for five existing biomedical
research institutes. Yeo hopes the facility will help jump-start
homegrown companies. In the meantime, multinational drug production
is helping keep the Singapore economy out of the sick bay.
Photograph: GOOD MIX Yeo's agency is wooing drugmakers PHOTOGRAPH BY
DANIEL ZHENG/GETTY IMAGES Illustration: Chart: A PRESCRIPTION FOR
GROWTH CHART BY ERIC HOFFMANN
- News - International News - Bell tolls for Singapore Inc as iron rice
By Bruce Cheesman KUALA LUMPUR.
10 March 2003
Australian Financial Review
(c) 2003 John Fairfax Holdings Limited. Not available for re-
National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan last week rang the death
knell for Singapore Inc when he declared that the civil service and
state-run companies would soon hand over many of their functions to
the private sector.
Singaporeans still reeling from the island republic's first economic
contraction, posted in 2001, since 1965 have suffered major shocks to
their collective psyche, with a big round of job losses in the public
sector since the beginning of the year.
A survey earlier this month showed that Singaporeans are becoming so
stressed at the seminal changes in their daily lives that there has
been a dramatic increase in the number of people wanting to emigrate.
The top destination along with the US is Australia.
Prior to Mr Mah's announcement last week that Singapore Inc was about
to be dismantled, the strongest sign of the trend was an end of
cradle-to-the-grave jobs at government-linked companies, known as
iron rice bowls.
The rot started when PSA Corp, the island's massive container
terminal, announced last month that 850 jobs were to be axed because
of increasing competition from other South-East Asian ports.
The Housing Development Board, responsible for the huge apartment
blocks that dominate the Singapore skyline, added to the island's job
woes by announcing early retirement packages for around 500
Neptune Orient Lines said on Wednesday that it could be axing over
1,000 jobs or 10 per cent of its global workforce following huge
Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, another GLC, announced last
month it would close down its oldest plant in Singapore and axe more
than 500 jobs.
There has been speculation even heavyweights such as SingTel and
Singapore Airlines could follow suit.
"At issue is not just the iron rice bowl the concept of lifelong
employment which many people nostalgically hark back to but also the
future of Singapore Inc," wrote The Straits Times. The paper reported
the top 22 GLCs accounted for 13 per cent of the island's gross
domestic product in 1998.
Singapore can claim to be the only country in South-East Asia with a
development model of a national entity along the lines of Japan Inc
and Korea Inc.
Crony capitalism has flourished in Thailand and Malaysia and there
have been national industries, but nothing comparable to the
corporate and state identity of Singapore Inc.
Singapore also has major government-investment arms that have the
largest investments in the region and the US of any South-East Asian
There have been mutterings about the efficacy of the state-owned
companies for more than a year following the much-dissected failure
of some of the acquisitions of the island's leading blue chips.
For the first time there has been open discussion of the lack of
corporate governance and management failures at many of the GLCs.
- Thursday March 6, 19:02 PM
Singapore braces for economic fallout of Gulf war
SINGAPORE, March 6 (Reuters) - Still reeling from mass layoffs and
the shock of its worst business downturn in four decades, Singapore's
policy makers are bracing for more bad news as war approaches in
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong this week began preparing the nation for
the fallout, saying a conflict could hurt the U.S. economy, stalling
the world's only engine of growth and triggering a global downturn.
"Without wanting to demoralise Singapore, my candid assessment is we
should expect the worst to come in the months ahead," Goh told
Singapore media during a state visit to Vietnam.
After emerging last year from recession, Singapore is again flirting
with crisis as its big state-backed companies slash jobs to compete
with lower cost rivals in China and as global demand falters for the
electronics exports at the core of its economy.
Singapore's main stock market barometer, the Straits Times Index
(STI), hit an 18-month low on Thursday as bank stocks fell to their
lowest since Asia's 1998 financial crisis on concerns earnings would
be hit by a sputtering economy.
"Some of the bigger foreign institutional funds are lightening their
exposure to Singapore stocks," said Goh Teik Cheng, head of research
at Millennium Securities. "The fastest way to do that is to unload
the banking stocks, which form a significant part of the index."
Economists say a war in Iraq is likely to compound the problems in
Singapore's small open economy which relies heavily on tourism,
imports all its oil and generates much of the demand for its main
electronics exports from the United States.
"At the moment, globally there is only one growth engine, that's the
United States," the prime minister said on Wednesday in Vietnam,
according to remarks published on Thursday.
The slowdown in global demand that followed the end of the stock
market boom in 2000 exposed structural problems in Singapore, which
has enjoyed average economic growth of 8.3 percent a year in its 37
years since independence.
State-linked organisations have shed 1,600 jobs in the past four
months alone, and the government has forecast unemployment will rise
beyond a 15-year high hit last year to between 5.0 and 5.5 percent in
the first half.
Goh said he expected oil prices to hit $40 a barrel "or even higher"
during an Iraq war -- compared to a price of around $36.7 on
Thursday -- and that this along with possible damage to U.S. consumer
confidence would affect growth in many countries.
"I see all this as a possibility over the next few months," he
said. "It is not for certain but there is probably a 20-30 percent
chance that it will happen."
Economists estimate every $10 rise over a year in the cost of crude
per barrel cuts world growth by 0.5 percentage point.
RIDING IT OUT
David Burton, the International Monetary Fund's Asia-Pacific
director, singled out Singapore and South Korea this week as having
the fiscal strength to help ride out a global slowdown.
But investment bank Salomon Smith Barney said Singapore would suffer
more than any Asian economy if its "intermediate-case scenario"
unfolds, whereby oil hits $42 a barrel this quarter and does not drop
to $30 until the fourth quarter.
Under such a scenario, Singapore's GDP growth would be reduced by two
percentage points this year compared with 0.7 percent for non-Japan
Asia as a whole, Don Hanna, the bank's chief Asia economist, wrote in
a recent report.
Goldman Sachs, by contrast, said South Korea and Thailand would be
the Asian economies hardest-hit by an oil shock. The bank put
Singapore in the middle of the pack along with the Philippines and
(Additional reporting by Alan Wheatley)
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication
or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly
prohibited without the written consent of Reuters Limited
- Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: 18 March 2003
See today's edition of the Busness Times as our ministers display
their unique talent for rendering lip-service and stating the obvious.
More Rhetoric from our leaders.....who "add value" by telling us what
we already know.
Published March 18, 2003
Exec jobs also at risk: minister
Lee Boon Yang says upscale positions are being lost to low-cost
By CHUANG PECK MING
LOW-SKILLED workers will not be the only ones seeing their jobs
shifting offshore. Manpower Minister Lee Boon Yang warned yesterday
that professionals, managers and executives are also at risk of
losing their jobs that way.
Hunting high and low: NUS graduates at a job fair this year
experienced first hand the tough job market
His warning came as upscale jobs that include basic research, chip
design, engineering and even financial analysis are migrating from
the United States and Europe to cheaper locations like India and the
'This is not just happening to US and European countries but also to
Singapore with the emergence of China and India as major
competitors,' Dr Lee told Parliament during the debate on his
'Many MNCs are moving their backroom operations and call centres to
India,' he said. 'Others are shifting to China and eastern European
countries which have ample highly skilled, well-educated people
willing to work at competitive salaries in areas like chip design,
software engineering, auditing financial statements and architectural
The new reality was highlighted amid concerns among Members of
Parliament that a rising share of the better educated among
Singapore's workforce is hit by structural unemployment.
Adding to the gloom is the immediate bleak outlook of the job
market. 'In view of the uncertainties gripping the global economy, we
should prepare for some worsening of the labour market,' Dr Lee
cautioned. 'This year may not see sharp recovery in jobs and
improvement in the unemployment rate.'
But do not despair. While Singapore has to move up the value-added
and technology chain to stay competitive - and keep jobs - it's not
the first time it's had to change gear, Dr Lee said.
Along with Minister of State for Manpower, Ng Eng Hen, he said
workers - including professionals, managers and executives - should
make good use of the current lull to re-skill and re-train.
'If workers lack, and cannot pick up, relevant skills, they will not
be employable,' Dr Lee said. 'Then we will suffer growing structural
He said more could be done for workers when the statutory board for
continuing education and training (CET) is set up before the year
ends. It will promote skills upgrading; build a comprehensive CET
infrastructure; enable sustained CET with employer help; develop the
CET and HR industries; and regulate CET standards.
'Its mandate is a broad one because it will serve the mainstream of
adult workers, not just the lower skilled or the unemployed' Dr Lee
- Published March 14, 2003
Business Times Mail Bag
Good luck trying to change S'poreans
WE are a nation of campaigns and contradictions. So much so that
these days, we are best off laughing at ourselves.
Come May 31, the young and the restless will head for Orchard Road,
where a government-organised Singapore Street Festival with graffiti,
street wear and inline-skating contests will be held.
The event, the first of its kind in South-east Asia, aims to nurture
a vibrant street culture in Singapore.
Little surprise why it is the first of its kind. Of the many
campaigns launched relentlessly to encourage creativity and spawn
ingenuity, organised graffiti must surely bring our government's
efforts to a new high, or low for the more cynical.
Let's be absolutely clear about something: well-intended campaigns
such as these provide opportunities to showcase and develop
individual skills and talents - nothing more. Elsewhere around the
country, receptive Singaporeans may hopefully pick up the not-so-
subtle message they convey: that such behaviour is officially
condoned, so let's have more of them!
The truth is that Singaporeans cannot be changed. The now defunct
Hong Lim Park is a perfect illustration that engineered or organised
spontaneity has short lifespans. Unfortunately, creativity, energy
and vibrancy share the single characteristic that lies well beyond
the reach of human persuasion: Attitude - with a capital A.
Attempting to nurture such attitudes is eminently consistent with our
government's approach to solving problems. But while you can usually
train people to do a job, you cannot as easily change their minds and
the way and manner in which they think and feel.
What we need - and need badly - are mavericks. And assuming they even
exist, will the people, the law, and the government accommodate such
mavericks? Most importantly, can and will the maverick instinct be
We are, at the end of the day, a rule-encumbered society.
Singaporeans are incapable of contemplating difference. We clamour
for action from the authorities when anything goes wrong. We are
incapable of seeing how some things can be changed through our own
Can we be blamed? This is a country where bar-top dancing is
outlawed, where protesters require a permit to galvanise collective
action, where fines and penalties abound and various forms of
behaviour are frowned upon.
We are in need of a revolution. But as with all revolutions, it is
not the people who must be changed, it is the people who must want
Cheng Shing Chow
No U-Turn Syndrome (NUTS)
Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millenium
by Sim Wong Hoo
Whats is NUTS? NUTS is when you want to do something and you seek
approval of a higher authority. When there is no rule saying that you
can do such a thing, then the standard answer is NO ...
In the US, when there is no sign on the road, it means that you can make
a U-turn. When the authority do not want people to make U-turns, they
will put up signs to tell you not to make U-turns.
In Singapore, it is the reverse. When there is no sign on the road, you
are not allowed to make U-turns. When the authority allow you to make
U-turns, then they will put up signs to give you that right.
The two different systems serve the same purpose - to better manage the
traffic. They may look quite similar, just coming from different
direction, but the social repercussion is significant.
In Singapore, the no U-turn without sign culture has permeated every
level of our thinking and every segment of our life. This no U-turn has
created a way of life that is based on rules. When there is a U-turn
sign or when there is a rule, we can U-turn. When there is no sign, we
When there is no rule, we cannot do anything. We become paralyzed.
I call this "no-rule=no-do" phenomenon - the "No U-Turn Syndrome" or
Singapore has prospered under a rule-based system for many years. When
we were at a lower level of development, we needed many multi-national
companies to come to Singapore to invest. What these MNCs needed were a
very reliable group of managers and workers who could follow exactly the
rules set by corporate headquarters overseas. Since they did not want
their overseas subsidiaries to innovate anything, they wanted us to
stick closely to the rules, no funny deals, no crazy ideas. They were
here to teach us, not to listen to ideas from us.
The efficiency and no-nonsense style of the Singapore government is
well-known. It has brought us prosperity and a good life. A rule-based
system is essential here too to get everybody to toe the line.
But the world has changed. And it is changing faster and faster. So fast
that the rules that were set yesterday are no longer valid and cannot
serve our new needs. It is not a matter of setting new rules to meet the
new situation because by the time new rules are formulated, they would
already be out ofdate. It is a matter of how to survive and prosper in
environments where they are no rules.It is a matter of how to live with
ambiguity. Things are no more black or white, things are in shades of
gray. How do we deal with them?
What is NUTS?
NUTS is when you want to do something and you seek the approval of a
higher authority. When there is no rule saying that you can do such a
thing, then the standard answer is NO.
What is wrong with this? There is nothing wrong if we choose to be stuck
in the old world of our own where nothing changes.
To meet the challenge of the new world, to meet the challenge of rising
to a knowledge-based economy, we have to innovate like mad. How can we
innovate when we need to obey rules to innovate? Innovate means to
create things out of nothing, it means moving into uncharted territories
where there are no rules.
How can you innovate when you have to get approval of somebody who looks
at a rule-book first?
Such is the syndrome of NUTS. NUTS is everywhere in the society
including schools, offices, hospitals, parks, factories and even in our
homes. Yes, in Creative (Singapore) too. Here are some hilarious
examples, they make you want to laugh and cry at the same time. I am
sure you can tell me more.
NUTS #2-"Creative Resource"-needed approval?
When our corporate headquarters were completed in 1997, we needed to
give it a name. The placeholder name was Creative Technology Centre.
Made sense, but it was a boring name that everybody had. I wanted a
special name, because we are "creative". So the usual names like,
"Creative Building, Plaza, Complex, House..." were suggested on the name
list. I rejected all of them. Finally we came out with a very good name,
"Creative Resource" - the source of all creativity - and everybody loved
But wait, before we could go ahead, we had to submit the building name
for approval. What! I was shocked. I needed somebody else"s approval for
the name of my own building. By some faceless committee that I did not
even know existed. Imagine having the name of your baby being approved
by somebody you do not know.
Hey, that is the regulation. OK, we submitted and no prize for guessing
the right answer. The answer was NO. The reason given was that the name
was not "Centre, Plaza, Building, Complex, House etc..." There was
actually a list of approved names in the rulebook and we were only given
the impression that we could name our own building.
I nearly jumped through the roof when I heard the answer. It was a very
typical case of NUTS. "Resource" was not in their rule book, hence the
standard answer was NO. I was not going to give up on this right. So we
fought back and wrote letters to appeal. Finally, after a long process,
our name was approved. Whew!
NUTS #3 - Cannot sing Singapore songs!!
While we were preparing for the opening ceremony of Creative Resource,
we wanted to have a lot of creative fun. We prepared a lot of
performances by our own staff. We were very fortunate to have invited
the Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong to grace the event. We wanted to
show him the best creativity in us.
The opening fanfare idea was to have a big group of kids running into
the building, singing a medley of Patriotic Singapore Songs. It was
going to be very delightful. After the songs were arranged and recorded,
at the last moment, someone in the team decided that we actually needed
to seek approval from the authority because of copyright issues. The
answer came back was of course a NO.
There was no rule to say that you could do a medley of Singapore songs.
There was a rule that said we could sing the Singapore song in special
celebratory occasions like ours, so this was allowed.
Our people started to panic, because there was no time to change the
recordings. They sought my advice. They were thinking of canceling this
delightful fanfare and disappointing the kids, from our Creative O
child-care centre, who had practiced so hard for this event.
I asked them why they had thought of seeking approval for a private
function especially when the answer could be a No. they were afraid that
the TV stations were there filming and it might have constituted a
There were a few NUTS at work here. First it is my own staff who were
NUTS, they were toeing the line so tightly that they felt the need to
seek approval for a private function that was not controversial at all.
I was sure that the PM would give his 100% endorsement. Then we had the
NUTS at the approval side who looked at the rule book and said No.
I asked them to go ahead and just do it, even violating the rejection
letter. Some of my NUTS staff must have freaked out. I told them I would
bear the full responsibility. If I had to pay a $2000 fine, I would pay
it. In the worst, worst case I might go to jail for it - that would be
In fact, the PM in his impromptu part of his speech also said, to move
forward, we would have to "just do it". It was a timely message.
NUTS #4 - No Title
Recently, Creative had just spent a few million dollars investing
heavily in a company. The key person in the company was needed urgently
to launch a new ".com" project that could be worth a lot more in the
future. In the era of the Internet, timing is everything. Then suddenly,
he told me that he needed to go for reservist during the critical
period. This meant that his whole team could be crippled because his
leadership was not there. I told him that there should not be a problem,
as he could always apply for a deferment. In fact, the Deputy Prime
Minister has told me in the Technopreneur 21 committee that, reservist
duties should not hinder Technopreneurship because the affected
reservist could apply for deferment and it would be considered
So the staff wrote a letter to apply for deferment. It was rejected. I
told him to write an appeal, mentioning Creative"s involvement and all
the relevant and valid reasons for such critically needed deferment. It
was still rejected and we were running out of time.
I guess I had to step in. I wrote the letter personally again, citing
all the reasons and the ".com" time-critical factors. It was still
rejected. I was very upset by this. It was already the last working day
before he had to go in-camp.
I had to call the officer personally. I identified myself, including my
role in the Technopreneur 21 committee and appealed for the fourth time.
The answer was still NO. after all the reasons were given, the answer
was still NO. Well, they had liberalized then - if you were a new
employee of a company, the deferment would be allowed. I argued
strenuously that the key person was more than a new employee. He was a
new employee of a company for which we had spent millions to acquire.
No! An acquisition does not constitute the equivalent of a new employee.
A new employee IS a new employee. Period. The rule book never said that
the people in a new acquisition are new employees. Therefore they are
not "new employees", regardless of the fact that their employee status
are the same in principle. It does not matter if you are Sim Wong Hoo or
the T21 chairman. NUTS is NUTS.
It almost drove me NUTS!
Fortunately, I heard from some people that I would get a better chance
if I were to call the unit Commanding Officer. I asked for his name and
phone number and the officer obliged. I managed to track down the CO on
his handphone at the very last minute. The CO was an understanding man
because he was also a reservist and in the computer line. The deferment
was finally granted
NUTS #5 - Creative NUTS
We had our equal share of NUTS in Creative and they really drove me NUTS
because they actually happened right on my head, the CEO of the company.
Such is the persistence and universality of NUTS.
First example, the time I needed some CD-ROM replicated for some
last-minute projects. I knew I had time because, we had an in-house
CD-ROM replication plant and it would have taken less than one day to
finish the job, especially my small little job of a few hundred pieces.
But when my assistant came back, she told me helplessly that they needed
a one-week lead-time. I almost jumped off my chair. This was a rush job
for the CEO and they just threw back their standard lead-time at me, it
was clearly written in their rule-book that the standard lead-time was
one week - for a rush job. So one week was what you would get even if
you were the CEO of the company, even if your job was very important.
I asked them who set the rules? They were the ones who set the rules! I
was amazed how NUTS they were. Then change the rules, I told them.
Finally they did it for me in two days.
There were several of such examples within Creative. And the managers
sometimes fought with me because that was the only way they could ensure
the quality of the products. Quality is good when we are shipping
products to customers. But when we need to rush, it is always during the
early stages of engineering run, where we need a lot of samples to test.
Quality then becomes secondary and time is primary. Staff with a NUTS
mentality would not have the flexibility to do such a switch, unless you
make another rule. And you can only live within the new rules.
NUTS #6 - More Creative NUTS
The second example in Creative has to do with customer support. Creative
pride ourselves as a company that provides the best technical support.
All our staff know that. We have 400 people in Oklahoma USA, just
listening to phone calls alone. We have a small technical/customer
support team in Singapore serving only the small Singapore market. The
team is hardworking and dedicated to the company. In general, their
service is good and efficient - when there are rules.
There was once when I received a customer"s letter addressed to me
complaining about our customer support department (CSD) with regards to
a missing CD from our product. Our CSD insisted that the customer get
the CD from his dealer who sold him the PC with our product. And the
customers attached the letters of exchange. It was such a minor issue
but I felt customer satisfaction was most important. So I wrote a small
note and asked them to give him the CD and be done with it. CD-ROMs are
very cheap anyway.
A few weeks later, I received another letter from this furious customer
complaining that our CSD wanted to charge him like $15 for the CD
because it was the responsibility of the dealer to give it to him. And
he attached even more letters for me to read.
I was very upset this time because, what could have been a very simple
and pleasant customer support issue, costing the company less than $1
for the CD-ROM if people in CSD had just given it to him in the first
place, now potentially cost the company a bomb:
Firstly, the CSD"s time to write all those letters of exhange, they are
way, way over $1. But because of NUTS, our CSD people did not see it.
They are just trying to follow rules when there are no rules in such
Secondly, the CEO"s time. I had to read about ten letters two times to
figure out the gist of it all. It must have cost the company thousands
of dollars. And even after my first instruction to just give him the
CD-ROM, they still went into a cat and mouse chase to try to ask him to
pay $15. Someone in CSD probably set the rule that if a customer wanted
an extra CD-ROM, it would cost him $15 - that is it, regardless of the
plight of the customer.
Thirdly,the most expensive part - the harm it had done to our brand
name. A potentially unhappy customer would hurt the company way beyond
the customer. He would tell all his friends not to buy from the company.
But people with NUTS mentality could not see beyond the rules. They
could not see that a $1 CD-ROM was much, much cheaper than their own
time, their CEO"s time and the value of the brand name.
I had to call all the three persons involved in this case to my office
and explain to them very slowly about our principle of customer support.
You could not fault them for dedication, they were trying to make an
extra $15 for the company. Not seeing the big picture of how much more
it would cost the company. I had told them that for us, the customer"s
interest is always in the #1 position. I told them that they were the
"customer"s advocates" - they had to be fighting with me for their
customer"s interest, rather than the other way round.
Finally, told them to call up the customer directly, apologize and give
him the CD-ROM he wanted and ensure that the customer was 100%
satisfied. If the customers are not satisfied - we should not take their
We are moving faster and faster into many uncharted territories, where
there are no rules. We do not want to be paralyzed by waiting for the
rule to be formulated before moving - it will be too late. We have to
discard our NUTS mentality and learn to live in a new world where there
are no clear rules. Not that it will be a cowboy lawless land. There
will be broad guiding principles such as common goals, objectives and
basic integrity to follow. The rest, we have to look at the big picture
and decide what is the best way to do a job, to achieve our goals.
Sim Wong Hoo
Excerpt from "No U-Turn Syndrome (NUTS)"
Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millennium
- Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: 18 March 2003
Cannot get a job? Well, go pursue a PHD!
In yet another display of "originality" and "resourcefulness", Singapore's ministry has set-up a Statutory Board on continuing education and training.
It is uncertain how this would address the current unemployment crisis. Perhaps the ministry may feel that the unemployed who cannot find work can become full time "professional" scholars and embark on a state funded program of "continuing education".
There is already one such program in existence paying scholars a monthly salary of SGD3,000/- a month to pursue their PHDs in Bio-Chem. All this at tax payers expense of cause.
At a time when the focus should be on job creation and increasing demand/opportunities for labour, the ministry has set its own agenda to focus instead on continuing education (and hiding the massive over supply in labour). The move is a puzzling one, especially since the unemployment problem is quite wide-spread afflicting most industries.
True, unemployment rates are relatively higher amongst lower skilled workers, but this is a normal trend in anty situation. The stat board "aims to enhance the employability of Singapore workers". But "employability of Singapore workers" is not the crux of the problem.
It is not as if there are overwhelming vacancies in certain skilled callings in Singapore's current labour market. So upgrading one's skill sets and qualifications will not assure you of a job if there are no jobs that require your enhanced skill sets. What happens then, well you can join the increasing number of PHDs and graduates who become hawkers and taxi drivers (not thet either are dishourable trades, but do you need a PHD to fry Char Kway Teow?)
Once again the ministry has unwittingly pinned the problem on the average worker (and his inability to adapt) when in fact the real root of the problem goes to job creation. But then again, pehaps this best describes public policy implementation in Singapore.
Read on fur further insights into Singapore styled "ingenuity"
Tuesday March 18, 10:17 AM
New stat board not the answer to all Singapore's labour problems:
Manpower Minister Lee Boon Yang has said the Ministry's new statutory
board focusing on continuing education and training is not the answer
to all Singapore's labour problems.
Instead, Dr Lee stressed that workers and employers must do their
There was a lot of interests among MPs over the new statutory board
for continuing education and training, or CET.
Dr Lee outlined the aims of the new CET in Parliament on Monday
during a debate to approve the budget for the Manpower Ministry.
"The statutory board will help, but it takes two hands to clap...I
should add that the statutory board is not, on its own, going to be
the magic bullet that solves all our employment problems."
The statutory board, which will take six to nine months to set up,
aims to enhance the employability of Singapore workers.
And not just blue-collar workers, but everyone, including
Dr Lee said: "However, we still need to prioritise and target our
training assistance...the lower-skilled workers are more vulnerable
to structural unemployment, they need a little extra help."
The new statutory board will also collaborate with industry and the
Economic Development Board to ensure training meets the needs of
But ultimately, Dr Lee noted workers, especially older ones, must
want retraining and be determined to fight for jobs.
"Despite the Government's efforts to promote lifelong learning there
is no queue or mad rush for our training programmes unlike when
MacDonald was selling 'hello kitty' dolls. Yes, this is a
disappointment," he said.
Dr Lee also recounted how in the ministry's hospitality retraining
and placement programme, 40 percent who were offered and accepted
jobs, quit within three months because they had to work shifts or on
"Maybe I should take Ms Irene Ng's suggestion of Money Back Guarantee
seriously - those who accepted training subsidies should be asked to
pay back to Government if they get a job but choose to drop out," he
- Top Financial News
Treasuries Rise, Dollar Pares Gain; U.S. Raises Terrorist Alert
By John Brinsley
Tokyo, March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Treasuries rallied, gold rose and the
dollar pared gains after President George W. Bush gave Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein 48 hours to flee his country or face attack and the
U.S. raised its terror alert level.
``Events in Iraq have reached the final days of decision,'' Bush said
yesterday in a televised speech, adding that Hussein and his sons
must leave the country or face military action ``at the time of our
choosing.'' The U.S. raised its terror threat alert to the second-
highest level of ``orange'' or ``high-risk,'' Homeland Security
Secretary Tom Ridge said, citing possible attacks.
Treasuries rose, pushing yields on the benchmark 10-year note down 2
basis points to 3.82 percent at 4:05 p.m. in Tokyo, after increasing
14 basis points yesterday. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.
The dollar was at $1.0637 per euro, from $1.0630 yesterday, when it
rose to a two-month high on optimism a war will be over quickly. Gold
for immediate delivery rose as much as $3.70 to $340.25 an ounce in
``This kind of solution might increase the risk of terrorism,'' said
Shinichi Sakai, who helps manage the equivalent of $5.90 billion at
Sompo Japan Asset Management Co. ``That doesn't give the market
relief'' and increases demand for the safest investments.
Crude oil fell for a fourth day on speculation that a U.S.- led war
against Iraq will start soon and end quickly with limited disruption
to Middle Eastern oil supplies. The countdown means the war might
begin as early as this week, analysts said.
The U.S. raised its terrorism threat indicator from ``yellow'' or
``elevated risk,'' the third time it has done so since the system was
established after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
``We are taking further actions to protect our homeland,'' Bush said,
including increasing security at airports and seaports. Hussein's
regime has supported terrorists, including the al-Qaeda group
responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.
``The intelligence community believes that terrorists will attempt
multiple attacks against U.S. and coalition targets worldwide in the
event of a U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein,'' Ridge
said in a written statement.
The dollar was little changed at 118.55 yen after rising as high as
118.97 yen, from 118.51 yen late yesterday in New York.
``Concerns about terrorism simply led to dollar selling,'' said
Masamichi Koike, senior vice president for foreign exchange at
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. ``Terrorism poses a big negative
impact on the U.S. and consumer sentiment.''
Crude oil for April delivery fell as much as $1.16, or 3.9 percent,
to $33.80 a barrel in electronic after-hours trading on the New York
Mercantile Exchange. Yesterday, oil fell 1.3 percent to $34.93 a
barrel in regular floor trading, its lowest closing price since Feb.
``It's a matter of hours before the war. We now have more conviction
in terms of direction,'' said Christopher Burton, a senior partner at
E Street Trading, a commodity futures brokerage in Long Beach,
California. ``All eyes are on one thing -- the Iraqi oil fields, how
soon they can be secured and whether Saddam will implement a scorched
More than 250,000 U.S. and U.K. troops have been deployed to the
Persian Gulf. The forces include units in Kuwait that would invade
Iraq from the south, backed by B-2 Stealth and B-52 bombers. Three
U.S. aircraft carriers are in place and three others are on the way.
The U.K. also sent a carrier.
- Top World News
Bush's Ultimatum Triggers 48-Hour Countdown for Iraq's Hussein
By Heidi Przybyla
Washington, March 18 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush
triggered a 48-hour global countdown to war by ordering Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein to leave his country or face an attack.
In a 14-minute nationally televised address last night, Bush also
warned United Nations weapons inspectors and journalists to leave
Iraq and said the U.S. is increasing homeland security to prevent
terror attacks by Iraqi agents or its terrorist sympathizers.
``It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power,'' Bush said
in the prime time speech from the White House.
The countdown means a potentially bloody conflict might begin as
early as this week, analysts said.
Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution,
said the war is likely to be ``short but potentially rather bloody,''
with U.S. and British casualties totaling as many as 1,000 or more if
the fighting is fiercest in the streets of Baghdad, the Iraqi
Bush, in his speech, urged the Iraqi military to ``permit the
peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass
Speaking directly to the Iraqi people, Bush said, ``if war comes, do
not fight for a dying regime. It is not worth your own life.''
Iraqi soldiers should refuse orders to destroy oil wells or use
chemical weapons, Bush said.
Bush's ultimatum probably won't convince Hussein to accept exile,
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner said after being
briefed at the White House.
Bush didn't say exactly when the 48-hour deadline will expire or when
the U.S. attack would begin if Hussein refuses exile.
Military action will start ``at a time of our choosing,'' Bush said.
The U.S. and U.K. have more than 250,000 troops poised in the Persian
Gulf, and a plan for overwhelming missile attacks intended to produce
shock and awe in Iraqi forces in the opening hours of a war, analysts
The shock-and-awe strategy of a near simultaneous air and ground
campaign is designed to limit civilian casualties and damage to Iraqi
infrastructure the U.S. will have to pay to rebuild, said Anthony
Cordesman, a military analyst and director of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies.
If the Iraqi military puts up a strong fight, the U.S. could suffer
heavy casualties that risk eroding public support and inspiring
terrorist sympathizers in the Muslim world, some analysts said.
The U.S. advantage of high-tech military equipment isn't much help in
hand-to-hand urban combat, said Charles Pena, director of defense
policy studies at the Cato Institute.
There is no question the U.S. will win the war, said O'Hanlon. The
bigger concern is the post-war phase in Iraq, he said.
Traditional U.S. allies such as France and Germany may be unwilling
to pay a significant portion of reconstruction and humanitarian aid
costs, while pictures of Iraqi civilian casualties, likely to be
beamed throughout the Muslim world may provoke terror plots aimed at
Americans, O'Hanlon said.
``I worry about the terrorist backlash and our being blamed for the
war by Arab nations,'' he said. ``We're going to see pictures of Iraq
civilian casualties and that's going to inspire terrorist
To prevent such attacks, the nation's terrorism threat indicator was
raised to its second-highest level, ``high risk,'' because of the
threat of a war with Iraq, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said
in a written statement.
``The intelligence community believes that terrorists will attempt
multiple attacks against U.S. and coalition targets worldwide in the
event of a U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein,'' Ridge
The higher threat level will prompt additional security at border
crossings, near power plants, at airports and other places where
large numbers of people congregate, Ridge said.
Bush said in his speech that ``every measure'' has been taken to
avoid war in Iraq.
He declared diplomatic efforts ended after failing to win support for
a second United Nations Security Council resolution stating that
Hussein has lost his last chance to disarm. France and Russia had
threatened to veto the resolution, saying the UN inspections were
making progress and should continue.
His speech marked the end of six months of U.S. and U.K. efforts to
rally Security Council support for using force to compel Iraq to
dismantle its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
An Iraq war would be the first war under a doctrine Bush crafted
after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The administration holds
that the U.S. can without provocation confront rogue nations that
might pose threats to America.
In San Francisco, protesters in tragedy masks and body bags blocked
rush-hour traffic yesterday while others lined sidewalks shouting
``Stop the War.''
Before Bush spoke, Iraq rejected the U.S. ultimatum, Agence France-
Presse reported. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri called Bush ``the No. 1
warmonger in the world,'' AFP said.
U.S. stocks rose yesterday as some investors anticipated a successful
outcome in the war against Iraq, which has the world's second-largest
oil reserves. Crude oil fell to a five-week low.
Cordesman said the U.S. strategy calls for a ground offensive to ``be
really underway on a full scale by probably the fourth day of the
Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato
Institute, said a protracted war with casualties risks losing support
from the American public.
``The political leaders expect it to go quickly and therefore the
American public expects and wants it to go quickly,'' he said. ``If
it bogs down then support will inevitably erode.''
- Singapore SMIs looking to relocate business to Johor
By RAVI NAMBIAR
19 March 2003
SINGAPORE'S small- and medium-scale industries (SMIs), which have
been affected by the worsening economic conditions at home, are
knocking on Johor's door for possible relocation.
Johor Corp chief executive Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim said many SMIs
are keen to take advantage of Malaysia's lower cost of doing business.
He said Johor, which is also seeing a migration of some companies to
China, is stepping up efforts to woo companies affected by the
economic downturn to relocate to Johor.
He added that enquiries from small industries had risen substantially
in recent weeks due to the impact on businesses of the economic slump
across the Causeway.
"The enquiries are coming in. This is good for Johor because we also
have a fair share of companies in Pasir Gudang wanting to relocate to
"For the Singaporean investor looking to relocate his business,
Malaysia is definitely a logical choice, and more so Johor because we
are just next door.
"Johor Corp is stepping up efforts to woo these companies," he told
reporters yesterday in Bandar Sri Alam, about 30km from Johor Baru.
He was speaking to reporters after launching a New Straits Times-
sponsored "Newspapers in Education" workshop in Sekolah Menengah
Kebangsaan Bandar Seri Alam.
He simultaneously launched a business development project for
students, "Tunas Bistari" at the school.
Muhammad Ali could not give figures on the actual number of Singapore
companies keen to relocate to Johor, but stressed that the numbers
He said Johor, with its well-developed array of industrial estates
and related infrastructure, is a viable alternative for companies in
Singapore looking to shift out of the republic.
The economic slowdown and the resultant bleak business outlook in
Singapore have hit companies in the city-state very hard, with a
spate of retrenchments and business closures in recent weeks.
"The economic conditions there have gotten so bad that many investors
are keen to move out somewhere else that offers a competitive
advantage. Johor is such a place," he said.
According to the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, Johor
attracted 161 investment projects valued at RM2.1 billion last year
second only to the Klang Valley which secured 215 projects with a
total capital outlay of RM4.2 billion.
Of the foreign investments received, Singaporean injection of cash
into manufacturing projects in Johor last year totalled RM674
million, spread over 72 projects which created 8,135 jobs.
Singapore has always been one of the top foreign investors in Johor.
- Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: 20 March 2003
If there is any sure indication that all is not well within a country, then it must surely be that Net Migration rates are rising. Basic rational is that fast deteriorating living conditions will prompt a mass exodus of the local populace.
Not only are Net Migration rates on the rise in Singapore, Singapore also has the dubious honour of taking poll position as the country with the highest immigration rate in the world. And it comes as no surprise really, given the dismal and oppressive domestic conditions.
So pronounced is the problem (which exacerbates an existing problem of falling birth rates) that the Singapore government has taken a personal front and virtually accused migrating Singaporeans of "deserting" their homeland.
Singaporeans are under siege, from a multitude of factors ranging from escalating unemployment rates, indecent costs of living, erosion of assets and personal wealth, to deteriorating quality of life style, all this in a suffocating social environment under a dictatorial regime which suppresses creativity and discourages independent thinking.
Latest numbers from GeographyIQ.com, an online world atlas packed with geographic, economic, political, historical and cultural information basically confirm what the world already knows.
The local populace have grown disenchanted with the ruling elite. Those who can leave have either left or are leaving. Those who cannot...well they will just have to put-up and shut up..... thats politics in Singapore for you.
1. Singapore 26.45 migrant(s)/1,000 population
2. Qatar 20.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population
3. Anguilla 17.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population
4. Kuwait 14.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population
5. Croatia 13.37 migrant(s)/1,000 population
6. Cayman Islands 12.58 migrant(s)/1,000 population
7. San Marino 11.45 migrant(s)/1,000 population
8. British Virgin Islands 11.39 migrant(s)/1,000 population
9. Afghanistan 11.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population
10. Sierra Leone 10.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population
11. French Guiana 10.14 migrant(s)/1,000 population
12. Luxembourg 9.26 migrant(s)/1,000 population
13. Macau 9.25 migrant(s)/1,000 population
14. Bosnia and Herzegovina 8.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population
15. Eritrea 7.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population
16. Hong Kong 7.90 migrant(s)/1,000 population
17. Monaco 7.85 migrant(s)/1,000 population
18. Jordan 7.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population
19. Andorra 6.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population
20. Canada 6.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population
21. Somalia 5.96 migrant(s)/1,000 population
22. Liechtenstein 4.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population
23. New Zealand 4.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population
24. Ireland 4.69 migrant(s)/1,000 population
25. Palau 4.45 migrant(s)/1,000 population
26. Australia 4.19 migrant(s)/1,000 population
Net migration = immigration - emigration in one year. Net migration
is simply the number of people who enter the country (immigration)
minus the number of people who leave the country (emigration) in the
course of a year. For example, if there are 5,000 immigrants and
1,000 emigrants, net migration is 4,000 per year (5,000 - 1,000 =
Rate of net migration = (net migration / 1,000 population) / 10.
Remember that, in our example, net migration was 4,000 for a
population of 2,000,000. What then is the number of migrants per
1,000 population? As was the case when we calculated the crude birth
and crude death rates, we must divide the population size by 2,000 to
insure that we are dealing with 1,000 members of the population
(2,000,000 / 2,000 = 1,000). In order to maintain equivalence on both
sides of the equation, the net migration of 4,000 must also be
divided by 2,000 (4,000 / 2,000 = 2). Finally, we divide 2 by 10 to
arrive at the rate of net migration expressed in percent per
year: .2% per year (2 / 10 = .2).
From: Agence France Presse
Date: Sat Mar 8, 2003 3:36 pm
Subject: More Singaporeans want to migrate
INCREASING numbers of Singaporeans are planning to leave the country
largely due to the high-stress lifestyle here, and Australia is the
most popular destination, poll results showed Thursday, Feb 27.
Agence France Presse February 27, 2003 The Straits Times Interactive
website's poll which drew 797 responses showed 43 percent wanted to
migrate because it was too stressful in Singapore, 20 percent cited
limited job opportunities, and 19 percent complained of high living
The rest were joining their families, or leaving because they were
Western countries were the choice destination for Singaporeans with
35 percent choosing laid-back Australia as their choice of a new
home, and the US the second most popular destination with a vote of
Next on the list were Canada and New Zealand.
Figures from the Australian High Commission showed more than 2,000
Singaporeans were granted permanent residency (PR) in 2001, up by
400 from the previous year, the Straits Times newspaper said in a
In the first half of 2002 alone, 1200 Singaporeans were given PR
status Down Under.
The number of Singaporeans who migrated to the US surged from 389 in
1998 to 1108 in 2001.
Last year, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong sparked a rare public outcry
in the city-state when he described Singaporeans who left the
country as "quitters."
"Applying for another country's PR doesn't mean we are deserting
Singapore. We see ourselves as Singapore's ambassadors to other
countries," said Evonne Yeo, who is planning to migrate with her
family to Australia.
- 03/19 21:50
Asian Stocks Rise as War Begins in Iraq; Toyota, Exporters Gain
By Tomoko Yamazaki
Tokyo, March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks rose after the White
House said the attack on Iraq has begun. Exporters such as Toyota
Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. paced gains.
U.S. President George W. Bush will make an address at 10:15 p.m.
``We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or a resolution of
this problem that has just been dragging on forever and ever it
seems,'' said Alex Muromcew, who helps manage $600 million in stocks
globally for Loomis Sayles & Co. in San Francisco. ``Markets hate
Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 2.2 percent to 8226.30 at the
11 a.m. lunch break in Tokyo. The Nikkei has added 4.5 percent in the
three days since Bush issued as ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to go
South Korea's Kospi index jumped 3.3 percent, as Samsung Electronics
Co. and other exporters gained on expectations demand will rebound as
the economy revives following the war.
Singapore's Straits Times Index climbed 1.9 percent, led by Chartered
Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. and other computer- related shares.
Every benchmark index in the region advanced, except those in China
which were little changed.
Muromcew said he's refraining from making large trades before knowing
the outcome of the war. Loomis Sayles's fund holds shares in Canon
Inc. and Rohm Co.
Japan's Topix index advanced 2.2 percent to 806.28, with automakers
and computer-related shares accounting for about a quarter of the
Nikkei 225 futures for June delivery gained 2 percent to 8210 in
Osaka and added 2 percent to 8195 in Singapore.
Toyota, the world's third-largest automaker, gained 2.2 percent to
2,830 yen. Sony Corp., which relies on the U.S. for more than a
quarter of its sales, climbed 2.8 percent to 4,470 yen.
Hyundai Motor, South Korea's biggest carmaker that sells most of its
cars overseas, rose 3 percent to 23,900 won. Samsung Electronics, the
world's largest computer-memory chipmaker, gained 2.2 percent to
``Once war starts, it will finally get rid of all the uncertainty
that's dragged the market,'' said Jo Yong Chan, a market analyst at
Daishin Economic Research Institute.
The Kospi rose 18.01 to 559.79. Kospi 200 futures advanced 1.8
percent to 70.55, while the underlying index gained 2.4 percent to
SK Global Co., which last week said it misstated 2001 financial
results by over 1.5 trillion won ($1.2 billion), rose 4 percent to
3,535 won after its creditors gave the company three more months to
pay $5.3 billion of debt.
The Straits Times jumped 27.19 to 1312.20, its third day of gains.
The index's underlying futures contract hasn't traded yet.
Chartered, which gets about two-thirds of its revenue from the U.S.,
climbed 1.5 percent to 68.5 Singapore cents. Venture Corp., the
island's largest electronics maker for companies such as Hewlett-
Packard Co., rose 2 percent to S$15.
Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., the island's smallest bank, jumped 5.6
percent to S$9.50 after the lender said it will pay shareholders a
special dividend of 49.75 Singapore cents (28 U.S. cents) a share.
The bank said yesterday shareholders will also have the option of
receiving preferred shares at 99.5 cents per share. The preferred
shares are expected to pay a dividend of 4 percent to 5
The S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9 percent to 2873.20. The benchmark's futures
contract due in March gained 0.4 percent to 2851. News Corp. rose 4
percent to A$11.09. News Corp., the world's fifth- largest media
company, gets three-quarters of its sales in the U.S.
``People seem confident that there is going to be war and that it's
going to be fast,'' said Brian Parker, who helps manage the
equivalent of $3.6 billion of stocks and bonds as an equities
strategist at Citigroup Asset Management in Sydney. ``Still, we just
don't know; war is always uncertain.''
- Top World News
U.S. Attacks Iraq, Beginning War to Disarm Saddam Hussein
By Bill Schmick
Washington, March 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. forces attacked Iraq,
opening the war that President George W. Bush says is necessary to
disarm Saddam Hussein and remove him from power.
``The disarmament of the Iraqi regime'' has begun, White House
spokesman Ari Fleischer said, as air raid sirens were heard and anti-
aircraft batteries opened fire in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
A cruise missile was fired at ``a target of opportunity,'' Cable News
Network said, citing unidentified Pentagon officials.
Fleischer said Bush will address the nation at 10:15 p.m. Washington
The attack came after Hussein defied an ultimatum from Bush to leave
Iraq by 8 p.m. Washington time. Bush says he took the offensive
because the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes on New York City and
Washington forced the U.S. to change its defense policy to include
preemptive action against groups or countries that pose a threat.
The U.S. remains at its second-highest level of alert for terrorist
attacks -- ``high risk'' -- with security tightened at airports,
harbors, borders and chemical plants and airspace restricted around
Washington, New York and other major cities.
More than 250,000 U.S. and U.K. troops are in the Persian Gulf
region. The U.S. has five aircraft carrier battle groups in the area
and a sixth, the USS Nimitz, is on the way.
Scorning the UN
Iraq for 12 years has scorned United Nations' mandates to get rid of
its weapons of mass destruction, Bush says. Hussein has used chemical
and biological weapons before and is willing to do so again and to
share them with terrorists, U.S. officials have said.
Of the five permanent members of the Security Council, only the U.S.
and Britain supported a war. France, Russia and China said UN weapons
inspectors should be given more time and France vowed to veto any
resolution endorsing war.
``The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its
responsibilities, so we will rise to ours,'' Bush said in a March 17
speech in which he told Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq or face an
Spain and Bulgaria, nonpermanent members of the council, also backed
the attacks, and the U.S. says 45 nations in all support the action.
Bush has vowed a ``fast and furious'' war dominated by new technology
that allows speedier communications, greater mobility and more
Ninety percent of U.S. warplanes are equipped to drop laser- guided
bombs. That compares with less than 10 percent in January 1991, when
Bush's father, former president George H. W. Bush, ordered an attack
on Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait.
That conflict, the Persian Gulf War, ended after six weeks of bombing
by the U.S. and allies, followed by a 100-hour ground invasion that
drove Iraqi soldiers back to Baghdad.
The UN backed that attack and the U.S. led a coalition of more than
50 countries; 38 of them contributed more than 200,000 troops, more
than 60 warships, 750 aircraft and 1,200 tanks.
Iraq's forces since 1991 ``have atrophied in terms of equipment and
training,'' General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs,
said in a speech in February.
They're ``probably 60 percent of what they were then,'' he said.
``The big unknown is whether they will use biological or chemical
Hussein used those weapons during a 1980-1988 war against neighboring
Iran and again on his own people in suppressing a 1988 civil
uprising, U.S. officials note.
Each U.S. soldier in the region has two suits designed to protect
against chemical and biological attacks, the Pentagon says. The
outfit can be worn over combat clothing and is considered effective
for up to 45 days or six cleanings. Once contaminated, the suit
provides 24 hours of protection.
Another worry is the likelihood of urban warfare that would draw out
the conflict and increase civilian casualties. The U.S. says Iraq has
put soldiers and military equipment at civilian, religious and
historical sites in Baghdad and other major cities.
Iraq reasons that some of these sites will be struck, killing
civilians and inflaming the Arab world and other public opinion
against the U.S., a Pentagon official told reporters.
Hussein took control of Iraq in 1979 at the age of 42 and invaded
neighboring Iran the following year. That war left Iraq more than $60
billion in debt. UN sanctions imposed after the Persian Gulf War
further damaged Iraq's economy by restricting exports of oil.
The UN later allowed Iraq to export oil and mandated that the revenue
be used to buy food and medicine. The U.S. says Hussein also sells
oil through illegal channels, raising money for arms programs.
Iraq has the world's second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia
and pumps about 3 percent of the world's oil. It is the third-largest
producer in the Middle East and the sixth-largest supplier to the
Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange soared 61
percent from mid-November to $39.99 a barrel on Feb. 27 amid
speculation a war would disrupt distribution. Prices fell below $30 a
barrel on Thursday on expectations a conflict would be brief and have
little effect on supplies.
New York prices peaked at a record $41.15 a barrel in October 1990
after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Oil then plunged by a third on Jan. 17,
1991, after U.S.-led forces began their air attack.
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has pledged to tap the
country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to cover shortages. The reserve
stands at 600 million barrels, equal to about 272 days of U.S.
imports from the Persian Gulf, based on the average over the past 12
After the 1991 war, Hussein pledged to halt development of weapons of
mass destruction and to let UN inspectors verify that. The inspectors
said Hussein repeatedly violated this agreement and they left Iraq in
December 1998 after being refused access to some sites. Hussein
wouldn't let them return.
The U.S. and U.K. banned Iraqi flights over parts of north and south
Iraq in a bid to protect the Kurdish minority in the north and the
Shi'ite Muslim population in the south, both areas of opposition to
Iraq doesn't recognize the no-fly zones. Its forces have fired on
coalition aircraft patrolling them and been struck in return with
bombs and missiles.
The U.S. says the UN sanctions didn't stop Iraq from rebuilding its
air defenses and equipping them with more sophisticated radar and
communications gear. Allied planes have hammered these defenses in
`Axis of Evil'
Bush stepped up criticism of Iraq following the Sept. 11 attacks. He
vowed to press for the ``regime change'' that's been U.S. policy
since October 1998. In his State of the Union address in January
2002, Bush labeled Iraq part of an ``axis of evil,'' along with Iran
and North Korea.
Bush made his case to the UN and on Nov. 8 the world body passed a
resolution demanding that Iraq disclose its arms programs and let
inspectors return. They went back Nov. 27.
In public reports on the inspections, chief inspector Hans Blix both
criticized and praised Iraq, citing evidence of cooperation as well
as resistance. He said on March 7 that his team needed ``months'' to
finish the job.
The U.S., U.K. and Spain on Feb. 24 introduced another UN resolution -
- the 18th since the 1991 war -- saying that Iraq had lost its
``final opportunity'' to cooperate.
France and other U.S. allies argued for continuing the policy of
``containing'' Iraq that was adopted after the Persian Gulf War. The
U.S. said that hadn't worked, and that Hussein's weapons and alleged
ties to terrorists meant he must be disarmed.
- First strike targeted Saddam
Thursday, March 20, 2003 Posted: 12:47 AM EST (0547 GMT)
A flash is seen on the horizon shortly before dawn in Baghdad
USS Donald Cook launches Tomahawk missiles from its position in the
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The first move of the U.S.-led attack against
Iraq early Thursday was a "decapitation strike" using Tomahawk cruise
missiles intended to kill Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Pentagon
sources told CNN.
Administration sources said the decision to strike came after a
nearly four-hour meeting in the White House Oval Office in which CIA
Director George Tenet and Pentagon officials told President Bush they
could lose the "target of opportunity" if they didn't act quick; Bush
then gave the green light.
Whether the mission succeeded is not known. But Pentagon officials
said it is very difficult to successfully target a single person on
the ground in such a bombing.
More than 40 satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired
from U.S. warships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, military
F117 stealth fighters, which carry two 2,000-pound bombs apiece, also
were involved in strikes apparently on a target other than Saddam.
Air raid sirens were heard in Baghdad at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday
(9:30 p.m. Wednesday ET) about 90 minutes after the U.S. deadline for
Saddam to step down or face a U.S.-led military attack.
Bush, in a brief address from the White House less than an hour after
the strike began, said the attack was aimed at "selected targets of
- Friday March 21, 8:16 AM
Singapore Airlines to Reduce Flights as Demand Falls
SYDNEY, March 21 Asia Pulse - Singapore Airlines Ltd (SGX:SIAL) will
reduce services from late March in response to softening demand
riding on fears regarding the Middle East.
The airline said there had been a softening of demand in the last few
weeks ahead of the anticipated war in Iraq.
A total of 65 services per week will be suspended, however there are
no service suspensions to or from Australia and New Zealand, the
Singapore Airlines said it would continue to monitor the
international situation and make adjustments to match capacity with
demand where necessary.
Singapore Airline's local offices would be endeavouring to contact
passengers or their travel agents as soon as possible to provide
details of the flight changes and to make arrangements for their
bookings onto other scheduled services.
The airline said services affected would include services to Europe,
services to the United States, services to North Asia, to South East
Asia and to West Asia and Africa.
The airline said European services to be suspended from March 30 to
May 31 would include all those to Brussels and Madrid.
Services to be reduced in frequency in the April to May period would
include those to Frankfurt, Manchester and Amsterdam.
The airline said for most of April and May all services to Las Vegas
and Chicago would be suspended.
During the same period services to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New
York would be reduced.
In the wider Asian region during April and May, services to Seoul,
Hong Kong, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Taipei, Kaohsiung Jakarta,
Denpasar-Bali Surabaya and Kuala Lumpur would be reduced in frequency.
Friday March 21, 12:38 AM
More Airlines Cancel Flights As War Breaks Out In Iraq
CAIRO (AP)--More airlines canceled flights Thursday in response to the start of war in Iraq, while others sent special planes to ferry their nationals home.
Lufthansa (G.LHA) canceled all of its flights from Germany to Tel Aviv, Israel; Amman, Jordan; Beirut, Lebanon; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for Thursday and Friday and said it would reassess the situation this weekend.
Even Singapore Airlines (P.SAL), which remained profitable even after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, said it was suspending 65 weekly flights due to "softening demand" as a result of the war.
Other airlines, including Air New Zealand (A.AIZ), Qantas (A.QAN) and Air Canada (T.AC), reported passengers were canceling reservations or asking to postpone them because of the war.
Airlines from India, Pakistan and Egypt sent extra planes to Kuwait to evacuate nationals who had left Iraq ahead of the U.S.-led attack, officials said.
More than 1 million Indian and 60,000 Pakistani workers are in the region. Evacuations are voluntary, but both India and Pakistan have announced emergency plans in case the situation worsens.
Thai Airways International (H.TAI) suspended flights from Bangkok to Kuwait and Bahrain, but said it is working with the Thai Foreign Ministry to establish "safe zones" in Abu Dhabi and Dubai from which it will help evacuate Thai workers.
Azerbaijan State Airlines offered the nation's main airport so civilian aircraft that usually refuel in Persian Gulf states would instead be able refuel in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
Meanwhile, other airlines worldwide announced they were canceling or scaling back Mideast flights, including Greek national carrier Olympic Airways (I.OAI), and Austrian Airlines.
British Airways (BAB) suspended service earlier to Tel Aviv and Kuwait, but said flights to other Mideast destinations were operating normally, as did Air France (F.AFG) and Spain's Iberia.
Dutch carrier KLM (KLM) canceled flights to Kuwait and Amman.
SriLankan Airlines canceled weekly flights to Kuwait and rerouted its other flights to avoid conflict zones in and near Iraq. Malaysian Airline canceled flights through Monday to Cairo, Dubai, Beirut and Istanbul. Russia's Aeroflot Airlines has suspended flights to and from Jordan until April 6, but said its service to other Mideast destinations would continue.
Bahrain-based Gulf Air canceled its two flights Thursday to Kuwait and said further decisions would be made "as the conflict evolves.
- U.S., coalition troops push into Iraq
U.S. and British forces clash with Iraqi troops
Thursday, March 20, 2003 Posted: 7:36 PM EST (0036 GMT)
Smoke and flames appear in the sky over Baghdad following an
explosion on Thursday evening.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Airstrikes on Baghdad continued as U.S. and
British forces moved into Iraq from the southeastern border with
Kuwait and clashed with Iraqi forces, according to coalition military
Iraqi officials, speaking early Friday on Iraqi television,
said "enemy forces have tried to violate" their borders in the south
Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron of the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, lead
element of the 3rd Infantry Division, clashed with Iraqi troops
across the Kuwaiti border Thursday night. Army sources told CNN that
soldiers destroyed a number of Iraqi military vehicles.
A group of Kiowa scout helicopters, flying no more than 50 feet above
the ground, led a convoy of Bradley fighting vehicles and M-1 Abrams
The first coalition forces began crossing into Iraq about 8 p.m.
(noon ET) Thursday. Among the first were U.S. Marines of the 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force, accompanied by a thunderous aerial and
artillery barrage on Iraqi positions that felt "like an earthquake,"
according to a New York Times reporter on the scene.
The Marines encountered two Iraqi armored personnel carriers and
destroyed them. (Full story)
British troops moved into the Al Faw Peninsula of southern Iraq but
had not yet captured the border town of Umm Qasr, a British military
spokesman told CNN. Kuwaiti media reported earlier Umm Qasr had been
occupied by advancing troops.
The Al Faw Peninsula runs from the Iraqi city of Basra to the Persian
Gulf and is home to a significant portion of Iraq's oil industry.
Iraqi television early Friday said the targets hit by coalition
forces included a military site in the southern city of Basra, near
the Kuwaiti border, and another target in Akashat, a town about 300
miles west of Baghdad near the Syrian border. Iraqi television
reported four Iraqi soldiers were killed.
In Washington, President Bush met Thursday with his Cabinet to review
strategies for Iraq. Speaking to reporters, Bush said the "coalition
of the willing" had grown to more than 40 countries.
He said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld briefed him on the "early
stages of the war," reporting the men and women of the U.S. military
had "performed with great skill and bravery." (Transcript)
On Thursday night in Baghdad, an intense U.S. and coalition bombing
attack rocked the Iraqi capital with a succession of explosions and
fires that destroyed at least two buildings -- including the
government facility containing the offices of Deputy Prime Minister
U.S. officials said about 20 cruise missiles were launched in the
most recent attacks from U.S. Navy ships and submarines in the Red
Sea and Persian Gulf and -- for the first time -- from two British
U.S. officials said the strikes were part of a psychological warfare
campaign to ratchet up the tension among Iraq troops and their high
command ahead of the main bombardment.
These officials said the strikes were meant to send a message to
those in Iraqi uniforms: To make them think that U.S. planes are
coming after them each and every night.
The strikes began at dawn in Baghdad on Thursday morning, with cruise
missiles and "bunker buster" bombs raining down on a leadership
compound where Saddam Hussein and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, may
In all, more than 60 cruise missiles have been fired at targets in
and around Baghdad since hostilities began, U.S. officials told CNN.
Pentagon officials confirmed U.S. Special Forces were performing
reconnaissance missions in southern Iraq.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday he ordered British
forces to take part in the U.S.-led military action in Iraq to
protect against a new threat of "disorder and chaos" that comes from
brutal regimes like Iraq or from terrorist groups. (Full story)
Iraqi television broadcast a taped message from Saddam that
denounced the U.S.-led military campaign as "criminal" and said his
countrymen would be victorious. U.S. intelligence specialists were
examining the tape to determine whether the speaker was Saddam or a
double. (Full story, text of speech)
Rumsfeld urged Iraqi leaders to surrender, warning the U.S. assault
would be "of a force and scope and scale that is beyond what has been
seen before." (Full story)
Iraq responded to Thursday's attack by firing at least four
missiles into northern Kuwait, two of which U.S. Patriot missiles
intercepted, U.S. military officials said. U.S. forces sounded
numerous alerts in the hours after the strikes, sending troops at
several bases scrambling for chemical protection gear and running for
bunkers. Air raid sirens also sounded in Kuwait City. (Full story)
The United States asked governments around the world to expel Iraqi
ambassadors and to temporarily suspend embassy services at Iraqi
embassies, CNN learned. The move seeks to delegitimize Saddam's
regime and prepare the diplomatic groundwork for a new Iraqi
government, a senior administration official told CNN. (Full story)
An S-3 Viking assigned to the Red Griffins of Sea Control Squadron 38
is launched from the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS
Constellation during night flight operations Thursday.
The Turkish parliament voted Thursday to let U.S. warplanes use
Turkey's airspace to launch strikes against Iraq and to allow the
Turkish military to enter northern Iraq. (Full story)
U.S. military officials confirmed oil wells were burning in
southern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon had
reports Iraqi forces set "as many as three or four" wells ablaze in
the southern part of the country. (Full story)
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday urged nations to act
quickly to meet Iraq's humanitarian needs. (Full story)
CNN correspondents Rym Brahimi, Ryan Chilcote, David Ensor, Dr.
Sanjay Gupta, John King, Art Harris, Nic Robertson, Walter Rodgers,
Barbara Starr and Lisa Rose Weaver and producer Elise Labott
contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts
operational security at risk.
- Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: 21 March 2003
It seems in latest policy change, the Singapore government have taken
to laying the blame on cupid and the stork for the island state's
declining birth rates.
Singapore already has the dubious distinction of having the world's
highest Net Migration rate.
But are the stork and cupid really to blame? Singaporeans are under
siege, from a multitude of factors ranging from escalating
unemployment rates, indecent costs of living, erosion of assets and
personal wealth, to deteriorating quality of life style, all this in
a suffocating social environment under a dictatorial regime which
suppresses creativity and discourages independent thinking.
These are hardly ideal conditions for procreation and reproduction.
These same oppressive dismal conditions which prompted a mass exodus of
the populace, are also deterring those who make the island their home
from starting a family.
Well the answer was in a previous issue of Singapore
Review "Singapore Needs A Little Love, Compassion & Love Potion 99?"
(also attached below) which the Straits Times has "tactfully"
neglected to publish. But the truth is hard to swallow.
MARCH 21, 2003
Govt queried: Why have Cupid and the stork failed?
MPs criticise policies that haven't succeeded in encouraging more
singles to get married and in increasing the birthrate in Singapore
CUPID and the stork flew into Parliament for a scolding yesterday as
MPs questioned why Singapore's approach to get singles to tie the
knot and have babies has failed.
They did not hold back their punches as they called on the Government
to relook its policies that have neither stopped nor reversed the
declining marriage and fertility rates.
And MPs were not short of policies to pummel, wrestling with issues
such as abortion, childcare, infant care and matchmaking agencies.
Nominated MP Jennifer Lee suggested that Singapore should not repeat
the policy failures of conservative countries like Spain and Italy in
getting their birthrates up, and instead turn to the Scandinavian
countries which have bucked the trend.
Was Singapore just going to throw in the towel and depend on
immigrants to boost the population figures? Or was it prepared to
pull out all the stops, the way Norway and Finland had done, she
She noted that these Scandinavian countries offered parents generous
childcare subsidies and paternity leave and encouraged the father's
involvement in raising children. 'It is an issue that's as important,
if not more so than cost competitiveness, which is getting so much
attention now, and the quality of our workforce. It addresses the
fact of whether we will have a workforce at all.'
But to get babies, Singaporeans need to get hitched and Dr Mohamad
Maliki Osman (Sembawang GRC) wanted to know just how good Cupid had
been at the Social Development Unit, which turns 20 next year.
He was not happy with the abortion rate of about 12,000 babies a year
either, lamenting: 'Every unborn child is a loss to our country.'
Echoing this view, Miss Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) asked why
Singaporeans do not 'go into a moral tizzy' over legalised abortion.
They get upset at irresponsible parents who abandon their babies and
yet baulk at the idea of a baby drop centre.
She urged the Government to consider the Safe-haven Baby Abandonment
laws in many states in the United States and developed countries.
These laws allow a parent to drop off an infant anonymously at
certain identified safe places.
She and other MPs also asked if more can be done to provide
affordable infant-care facilities for babies below 18 months.
Acting Community Development and Sports Minister Yaacob Ibrahim will
have a chance to reply today when the debate on his ministry's budget
Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
An amusing perception of the Singapore Procreation Process.
By Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: Feb 24, 2003
Singapore Needs A Little Love, Compassion & Love Potion 99?
Everything runs like clockwork in squeaky clean, efficient little
Singapore. Well, almost everything at least. And what does the Ruling
Elite do if there is a problem in their neat tidy backyard? They
address it by way of laws, fines, taxes, imprisonments and law
suites, this after all is the PAP way. It has worked in the past and
it will always work in the future. But then again perhaps not.
The tiny city state and its ever paternalistic government have a
problem which cannot be solved by the usual cocktail of laws, fines,
litigation and campaigns. This problem is a highly personal one which
extends into the private bedrooms of its citizens. How does a well
meaning parent tell its usually compliant and obedient children
to "get on with it", to "make hay whilst the sun shines" and more
directly put, to "go forth, procreate, multiply and reproduce."?
Along with the status of a developed nation, Singapore has also
inherited its trade mark problems. Its population (particularly the
better educated and wealthier Chinese majority) is not replacing
itself and birth rates have been declining continously over the
years. And this is a problem which the paternalistic government
cannot address in its usual draconian style. No, you cannot impose a
fine, and neither can you pass a law to solve this sensitive issue.
And if left unaddressed, there is every potential that the little
city-state with its population of 4 million people will "develop"
itself to extinction.
The task is growing more urgent because the birth rate among
Singapore's four million people is falling steadily and now
languishes at 1.4 children per woman. That's below the 2.1
demographers say is necessary for a population to replace itself.
In the past, Singapore's ruling elite have approached the problem
with their usual efficiency and diligence, by way of campaigns and
policy implementations. Indeed, their attempt to play cupid had not
gone unnoticed and has been the source of much amusement (see
previous article attached below; "Government Promotes Unions Of Its
Best and Brightest; Soul Mates in 7 Minutes?", The Wallstreet
Journal, 30 Jan 2003).
After several failed attempts, the "Powers that be" finally realized
that (at least for matters of the heart, and bedroom type activities)
they cannot point a gun to a person's head and mandate him/her to
kick start the domestic baby making factory. No Mr Lee, it does not
work this way, that's not how Adam and Eve started out, and that's
certainly not how the Good Lord created the universe.
Perhaps one reason for the government's dismal failures is the
overwhelming emphasis on academic qualifications and other "hard
factors". The government set-up two different social units to
encourage marriage amongst the younger generation. One for graduates
(SDU, Singapore's best and brightest?) and one for non-graduates
(SDS). The underlying message of cause was that new generation of
Singaporeans should choose their partners and marry within the
confines of their own designated Academic Caste System. Hence, it is
small wonder why many younger and more liberal minded Singaporeans
find this archaic medieval academic caste system highly objectionable
and terribly unromantic.
Many may also remember the infamous "Graduate Mother Scheme" which
the government tried to implement a decade ago. For those who are
unfamiliar, it would be best described as the PAP's way to implement
their version of the Laws of Un-Natural Selection, and propagate the
ruling elite's own twisted version of the theory of evolution.
Graduate couples were then given huge financial incentives and
support to have more children. The rationale being that children from
graduate couples were more likely to be intelligent and gifted. Of
cause the flip side of the equation logically implied that children
of non-graduate parents were total misfits and genetically inferior!
This measure of the worth of a human life (accessed solely on
academic merits) raised many questioning eyebrows, from graduates and
non-graduates alike. And it came as no surprise that the scheme was a
colossal failure, a heartening reflection that the Singapore
population still retained some semblance of independent thought and
dignity when it comes to matters of the heart at least
But aside from the colossal failures of the government sponsored
match making programs, a host of other factors account for the
declining birth rates. "Go forth and multiply" you say? Well that's
more easily said then done for the average couple in Singapore with
an average household income of approximately SGD3-4000/-. Unless you
are part of the ruling elite who take home a minimum net income of
SGD150,000/- per month (or SGD1.6 million per year), (the average pay
packet for a PAP minister), life is not easy in expensive little
The start-up costs for a new family can be staggering, with big
ticket items like a car and a house. Even a 1.6 Litre Japanese car
will cost at least SGD80,000/-, which is the equivalent of a decent 3
bedroom house in some countries. And a small 1,200 Sq Ft apartment
can set you back SGD1,000,000.- and more, depending on the locality
and tenor. What about government "subsidised" housing?
Well, "subsidised" housing here takes the form of HDB (Housing
Development Board) flats which will cost between SGD200,000 to
SGD400,000/-, the equivalent of a decent size house in Australia or
And the costs and expenses do not stop here. The government has also
imposed compulsory savings in the form of CPF (Central Provident
Fund), which is mandatory and ties up approx 20% of the monthly pay
of the citizens. There is no access to these funds until you reach
the retirement age of 55 years. And if you fall ill or need a
operation before this age, good luck matey you are on your own. Then
there are the other daily expenses like ERP (Electronic Road
Pricing), maid levies, GST, all of which is imposed in a city state
which is conspicuously bereft of any public welfare or unemployment
In short, staggering initial capital outlay required in starting a
family here, as well as increasing costs of living, have paved the
way for dual income households where both husband and wife typically
work 12 hour days just to make ends meet. And after a hectic work
day, there is little time left over for other more "romantic"
pastimes, let alone raising a child.
Even when there is an increase in marriage rates, there is no sure
sign that this would reverse the declining birth rates as the vast
majority of couples either opt not to have children, or in the event
they do, the wealthy and affluent class (which are most targeted by
the Singapore Government) have instead chosen to have children
abroad. One such individual was a banker (who requested to remain
anonymous) who stated that he would want his child to have a normal
and happy childhood, as opposed to the rigid, oppressive and highly
competitive pressure-cooked education system in Singapore. He took a
3 week holiday and arranged for his wife to give birth to their
bouncing baby boy in New York, so that the child had the rights and
benefits of US citizenship. And theirs is not an isolated case as
there are many who have opted for a better and easier life for their
children via this route.
In short, far from encouraging increasing birth-rates, a combination
of dismal government policies and "social engineering", and
unfavourable work and living conditions (for the locals) have
resulted in an exodus of the more affluent segments of the
population, further worsening an already bad situation.
At the end of the day, the act of procreation is highly intimate and
individualistic, very personal in nature. One really wonders if years
of repressive indoctrination have robbed the native populace of the
free will, independence and ability to rise to the occasion,
instilling an over-dependent, compliant and submissive culture which
is anti-thesis to the aggressive survival instinct that is crucial
But not withstanding the difficult and oppressive social and
financial environment moulded by the government, surely our fore
fathers and distant ancestors have faced greater challenges in the
past, and still managed to sow their royal oats and ensured the
continued existence of their bloodlines? So what's really missing in
Singapore's Procreation Equation? A liberal dose of good old
One can almost picture the look of uncomprehending horror on the
faces of the Ruling Elite. How preposterous, marry and procreate in
the name of love? But that would mean breaching the Academic Caste
System! GOOD HAVENS NO! We cant' have people running all over the
place, haphazardly falling in love and procreating, that's wrong!
That's not within the prescribed framework of the nicely laid out
plans Singapore's Ruling Elite had crafted for Singapore Inc.
But some would argue that "letting nature take its own natural
course" is a formulae that has worked for humanity in the last two to
five thousand years. Perhaps its high time some brave hearted martyr
ventures forth and informs the "Powers that be in Singapore" that
they should try a little bit of good old fashioned love (and throw in
the obligatory bouquet of roses) and compassion, if they wished to
Perhaps its also time for the overzealous parent to leave the
children some slack, they are all grown up and they have to figure
this one out for themselves. Alternatively, does anyone have the
recipe for Love Potion No 9. If you do, please mark it URGENT and
forward it to the PAP.
To subscribe, simply send an e-mail to:
- Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
Source: Singapore Review
Date: 22 March 2003
In the recent week, the entire world has received a massive dose of coverage on the US/Iraq conflict.
There was a vague sense of deja vu as I watched allied tanks and forces being deployed once again in a dessert strewn landscape. The first Gulf war seemed to have ocurred just yesterday.
With the wonders of the internet, I watch as history unfolds itself before my very eyes. But how accurate a picture is this? They say history is written by the side that wins the war.
After circulating updates on the Iraq war, Singapore Review received several e-mail attachments from un-registered readers which tell a different story.
For a different perspective of the war, click on the attached power-point attachment. How much of the attached analysis is fact and how much is propaganda?
Fires Rock Baghdad After Aerial Assault
2 hours, 22 minutes ago Add Top Stories - AP to My Yahoo!
By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The streets of Baghdad were silent and empty Friday night, with fires raging inside Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s Old Palace compound and a halo of smoke hanging in the sky, after the Iraqi capital endured the most ferocious attack of the war.
The attack, punctuated by the blasts of Tomahawk missiles striking targets across Baghdad, launched just after 9 p.m. as the U.S.-led forces stepped up their aerial assault on the city.
The squeal of the air raid sirens in the Iraqi capital preceded the ringing explosions, cutting through an eerie silence that enveloped the city as night fell.
The massive assault of 320 Tomahawk missiles launched from ships in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea filled the sky with towering fireballs. Two Iraqi palaces were among the buildings destroyed by the third missile attack on the city in two days.
The attack was apparently coordinated to simultaneously strike against Baghdad and two other cities, Mosul and Kirkuk in the north. The Iraqi defense minister, speaking as the missiles fell, said the coalition was also targeting the southern cities of Basra and Nassiriyah.
The air barrage came with U.S. ground troops already a third of the way to Baghdad, and with Saddam Hussein and his regime fighting to demonstrate their control of the country despite reports of surrendering Iraqi troops and the loss of strategic sites.
Baghdad, a city of 5 million, was extraordinarily quiet before the heaviest attack yet lit up the night sky. At one point, a half-dozen adjoining plumes of smoke twisted into the sky.
The spectacular blasts lit up the horizon, illuminating the city even as they devastated it. In response, the Iraqis opened up with anti-aircraft bursts that winked in the darkness. At one point, the sound of a missile roared through the street before exploding into a fireball.
Three major fires raged on Saddam Hussein's Old Palace compound, which stretches for 1.7 miles on the west bank of the Tigris River. The compound is the official center of the Iraqi state, and home to the offices of the prime minister's staff, the Cabinet and a Republican Guard camp.
Its turqoised-domed main building appeared untouched. But a building next to the palace was on fire, and black smoke billowed from a 10-story building in another part of the compound.
Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said two palaces were attacked: the Peace Palace, used for foreign dignitaries, and the Azzouhour Palace, a museum once used by the royal family. Pointing to the damaged Peace Palace, al-Sahhaf ripped into U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"This criminal dog calls it a military site," the minister said.
Despite the apparent setbacks, the Saddam regime was taking a hard line � denying military setbacks and verbally attacking its enemies in a show of public resolve.
Asked Friday night about an Iraqi counterattack, al-Sahhaf replied, "Our leadership and our armed forces will decide this, in what guarantees the defeat of those mercenaries, God willing." Speaking of Rumsfeld and President Bush (news - web sites), he declared, "Those only deserve to be hit with shoes."
The bravado stands in contrast with U.S. claims that Saddam's control was in danger of crumbling.
In Baghdad, bravado was scarce. Radio Baghdad was knocked off the air, and the streets were deserted after the missile attacks. Multiple fires were burning in the ordinarily bustling city of 5 million.
It was a contrast with daytime Baghdad, when life assumed a patina of normalcy.
Before the air raid sirens started again, the Iraqi Air Force stood before a flag-waving crowd � on a local soccer field. The Air Force played in one of two Baghdad soccer games, winning 1-0 against a team from the city of Najaf.
Highlights were shown on local television; it was likely the most action for the Air Force since the war began two days ago.
Many shops and cafes remained open Friday afternoon, secure in the safety of sunlight. Only the presence of armed Baath Party activists and jeeps mounted with heavy machine guns cruising the streets served notice of the ongoing war.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official � speaking on condition of anonymity � said Friday's bombardment might not be as intense as originally planned because surrender talks were continuing with senior Iraqi officials. The official said if the negotiations faltered in the coming hours, the bombing would go full-throttle.
Earlier, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, scores of bombs were readied to fire and stored in racks in the ship's cavernous hanger bay. Ordnance crews worked steadily through the day attaching global positioning system (news - web sites) and laser guidance kits to 500-pound, 1,000-pound and 2,000-pound bombs and moving the ordnance from the ship's 22 weapons magazine to holding bays.
Dozens of F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornet strike planes loaded with bombs roared off the Kitty Hawk's deck before nightfall Friday.
Al-Sahhaf acknowledged Friday that one of Saddam's homes was hit in an earlier U.S. bombardment, but said no one was hurt. The Iraqi News Agency said 37 people were injured in Thursday night's Baghdad raid.
Al-Sahhaf also denied any U.S.-led advance into Iraq (news - web sites) and argued that TV images of Iraqis surrendering were fabricated. "Those are not Iraqi soldiers at all," he insisted.
And he suggested that any captured U.S. and British soldiers may not be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Al-Sahhaf said Iraq was considering how to treat them.
"Those are mercenaries," he said. "Most probably they will be treated as mercenaries, hirelings and as war criminals. ... For sure, international law does not apply to those."
Later, however, a statement issued in Saddam's name on the official Iraqi News Agency said Iraq will follow the Geneva Conventions with respect to any captured soldiers despite the "grotesque crimes" committed by the Americans.