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Singapore NDP 2007 @ Marina Bay Part 2

June 17th, 2007 by Wai Loong (Add Your Comment)

Wow!

It has been another busy week again for me and I don’t think you’ll probably noticed that or care a hoot about me. But that’s alright because I completely understand that the world don’t owe me a living.

And we’re 1 week nearer to national day parade (NDP) 2007 for Singapore!

Let me just put a cool countdown timer here as a reminder for us all. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Countdown to Singapore NDP 2007:

This year, the Marina Bay floating platform was heavily publicized and the construction has been managed by DSTA, a local government agency.

However, there will be no mass display acts at this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) and is a change that has come about after a survey of 2,000 Singaporeans showed they did not like the mass display segments in previous NDPs. This year, the parade’s entertainment will be broken up into segments based on natural elements like earth, water and fire.

Spectators this year can expect a “Sea” segment; “People“, which pays tribute to Singapore pioneers; and “Fire” to light up the grand finale from a total of 3,500 performers.

Another main highlight is the NDP 2007 Orchestra, the largest orchestra ever put together for the National Day Parade. It is made up of 240 musicians from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and the SAF Central Band.

And there will be 2 instead of 1 NDP theme song:

The first one will be performed by Kit Chan, a renowned local singer while the other called “Will You”, to be sung by 8 local singers of different music genres, including a 17-year-old soprano. Unlike previous years, there will not be Chinese versions of the English songs.

Boy, if you’re a Singaporean and you’re reading this, are you celebrating or cursing?

What do I mean?

Well, if you’ve been living in Singapore for any length of time, you may be affected again – very soon! I must disclaim that this is NOT a complain, but a careful analysis of the future of us Singaporeans who dearly call this home (if you’re not, it’s a good reading too!).

Disclaimer: I did not make up these stories. If you feel some of them may be offensive, then please stop reading. All sources are imported from several abstract from Channel NewsAsia Singapore.

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1. Why should we celebrate?

Recently, the strong economic growth of Singapore is making this vibrant city more attractive for foreigners to come, work and play. Singaporeans are very thankful for all these visitors and talents who have chosen to help contribute to its growth.

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Singapore GDP to hit an expected 6.1% base on Q2 growth:

This is an excellent news if you’re hearing this first time since we hit 5%+ grow last year and the economy is expected to grow even after the general election last year:

Singapore’s economy is expected to grow six per cent this year, according to a survey of private sector economists by the Monetary Authority. The number is at the mid-point of the government’s latest growth forecast range of five to seven percent.

It is also higher than the previous median growth forecast of 5.4 per cent by the private sector. The financial services sector will be one of the star performers of Singapore’s economy this year, and so will construction.

Private sector economists expect the two sectors to power ahead at a 10 per cent clip in 2007.

Stocks & Finances:

The Singapore Straits Time Index (STI) has reached a new breakthrough above the 3,600 points and is growing bullish since 2004. If you’ve been investing in the market for any length of time, you’ll probably see a grin on your face in the mirror now.

Singaporeans and its residents are now living in an ever more condusive home and are aspiring to travel all over the world and strike a name for their own.

New MAS Proposal Framework To Regulate The Insurance Industry:

The insurance industry are now moving towards a more secured path to ensure more insurance related products are placed more competitively by transferring the risk of insurance companies to the securities markets, such as stocks and long term bonds. Will this vehicle end up reducing your premiums? It’s too early. Only time will tell. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is proposing a regulatory framework to securitise the insurance industry. It is aiming to allow insurers to transfer their insurance risks directly to the capital market.

MAS is proposing to register special purpose vehicles specifically for transferring insurance risks from insurers to the capital markets. These special vehicles will be known as reinsurers.

MAS is planning to grant regulatory credit to these reinsurers on a case-by-case basis. It is also proposing to allow them to participate in insurance securitisation as investors of insurance linked securities.

Retail & Small Businesses:

The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) has been tied in to inject GDP growth for the economy for the 2nd and 3rd quarter. Again, these are signs of economy contributers and they are just the beginning!

Auction site eBay has joined local retailers in offering promotions during the Great Singapore Sale, including free shopping for lucky online buyers. Each week, a winner will be picked, and will walk away with shopping worth up to S$200! Wow, that’s something to celebrate as a consumer right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Singapore has been ranked sixth in a newly-created index by MasterCard, which measures a city’s influence on global commerce. The new World Centers of Commerce index takes into account six key factors, including the city’s economic stability, and the ease of doing business there.

Forex analysts predict 12-month target of S$1.47 against US dollar. Singapore manufacturers may find their products less competitively priced when exporting to the US within the next 12 months. Some currency strategists say the Singapore dollar may well appreciate to $1.47 against the US dollar. This is 4% stronger than its current trading level of around S$1.54.

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Small Businesses Raked Up Big Financial Gains In Persistence:

Ever thinking of striking out on your own? Perhaps you already got the platform for it, but you just don’t know how. Here are some encouraging news I’ve receive today which will strike a new lease of fire for our would-be home grown entrepreneurs who may have become quite stuck in their career paths after struggling for many years trying to climb the cooperate ladders:

The world wide web is not just a place for trawling information and posting blogs. Increasingly, more Singaporeans are earning additional income by selling items on the internet.

Some have even switched to a full-time online career.

David Huang and Wu Kum Kee started out on eBay as buyers. Today, they are among the top sellers in Southeast Asia.

There are about 1.3 million eBay merchants worldwide – about 280,000 in Asia Pacific and about 4,000 in Singapore. Just like the 10,000 or so eBay merchants who gathered in Boston, many have gone through difficulties in the beginning.

Wu Kum Kee started out by selling gem stones online as a hobby. He has since made it his full-time career. Wu said: “It was a very tough decision for me to make because working as a product manager gave me a very stable income. I had to struggle with a lot of things. First of all, is the emotional element. A lot of people don’t perceive selling on eBay as a business. My family initially did not encourage me to do that. Anyway, I made that decision, and as time went by, my family became more supportive.”

For those who are thinking of pursuing that line of work, a tip is to start small by selling your own unwanted possessions.

If that is successful, do more research and come up with a business plan.

Real Estate & Properties:

You’ll also be glad that the government’s Ministry of National Development (MND) would inject 15 new sites in the government land sales programme in the second half of this year, in response to the robust growth of the economy and the increase in demand for various types of properties. These sites will comprise eight residential sites, two commercial sites, four hotel sites and a white site.

Advanced Manufacturing:

Singapore’s precision engineering sector may hit its target output of S$28 billion in 2010, instead of the initial timeline of 2018.

Energy & Petrol Refinery:

Singapore has what it takes to become a major trading hub and production centre of biofuels, but more can done to encourage domestic use of green fuel sources. This is according to policymakers and researchers at the “Sustainable Energy Asia Conference” in Singapore. The government’s push to attract big players in clean energy to Singapore is already showing results.

Boy, if you’re an investor, you must watch this trend very carefully as Singapore is fast developing its energy and water treatment technologies that rivals even the advanced nations. Here are some proofs:

International water experts have lauded Singapore’s progress as a global hydrohub. They feel that Singapore fully recognises the water and environmental challenges of a world with limited resources and a growing population.

These comments were made by the International Advisory Panel to the Environment and Water Technologies Executive Committee at the end of its second meeting on Friday. And it is attracting the interest of a number of international water companies.

But the panel noted that many solid steps have been taken, for example, through creating new scholarships. Singapore International Water Week, planned for 2008, is another event that is helping stake Singapore’s reputation as a global hydrohub.

IT, Computer & Networking Technologies:

The local authorities have waken up to the largely untapped potential of wasted computing power and have decided to tap into the powers of unutilized energy to do something good for the nation, such as for research agencies:

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has announced the formation of the National Grid Advisory Council.

Led by Mr Richard Lim, Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), it aims to lead enterprises in adopting Grid Computing, which is a service for sharing computer power and data storage capacity over the internet.

Environmental, Recycle & Reuse:

We learn from Taiwan how much plastic resources we can save by educating the public the need to reduce wastage to protect our future generation. However, water conservation seemed to have forgotten and it’s no secret to see damaged water dispensers in public restrooms.

Over 70 percent of shoppers have supported the Bring Your Own Bag Day exercises so far. Two of such exercises were held over the last two months and a total of 215 retail outlets are participating in the campaign. The campaign designates the first Wednesday of every month as Bring Your Own Bag Day.

Towards A Smoke-Free Green Country:

I hate smoke as much as many of us who do care about the environment and our next generation. Smoking causes all forms of cancer and is the main culprit for lung cancer, the top killers here locally after heart diseases:

More than 30% of entertainment nightspots in Singapore have pledged to go entirely smoke-free from 1 July.

This is when the new smoking restrictions kick in.

Under the new guidelines by the National Environment Agency, entertainment outlets are allowed to build fully-enclosed smoking rooms for their patrons.

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SAF To Promote 235 Warrant Officers To The Next Rank:

After reading the article, I don’t know if the NSmen should laugh or cry. You see, not every specialist wants to be promoted for obvious reasons. We should be allowed to continue doing what we are best at rather than being forced into assignments that are not aligned to our personal visions. But then again, these people may be happy after all for other reasons. Congratulations!

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has promoted 235 Warrant Officers to the next rank, in its annual promotion exercise.

The Defence Ministry (MINDEF) said all promotions would take effect from July 1. Among those promoted are five Master Warrant Officers. They have attained the highest rank of Senior Warrant Officer within the corps of Warrant Officers, Specialists and Enlistees (WOSEs).

Two National Service (NS) men were also promoted to the rank of First Warrant Officer.

International Trade Agreements:

Trade between Singapore and South Korea has doubled to over S$30 billion in the five years to 2006. And IE Singapore is hoping to build further on the strong ties with the implementation of the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

IE Singapore identifies three growth areas for expansion in India that will provide opportunities for Singapore companies looking to expand into India. These areas includes infrastructure development, manufacturing of consumer electronics and automotives, and retail services.

With the rising cost of China, India will most likely be the next super nation to partner with.

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Scholarship and Bond Breakers:

Many desperate graduates having received their prestiges degree from overseas are now seeing light to the strong grip of government bonds to reduce their bond services or financial penalty on premature termination. Smart Singaporeans have realized that money is the primary motivating factors other than loyalty to their nations to make such desperate decisions. Were they disloyal? Until now, it’s still debatable so don’t waste time swearing over it.

Its stringent demands on its scholars came up for public debate two years ago. And its highly competitive scholarship programme was devised by the man who had made waves with his uncompromising stance on naming and shaming bond-breakers. Now, in a surprise move, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) has reduced the financial penalty imposed on scholars who terminate their bonds prematurely.

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2. Should we curse?

This is the most difficult part of of the post I intended to craft. As much as your peace and wellbeing is concerned, I have cut down facts to a minimum without hiding off the truth as per reported on the local news:

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CPF Minimum Adjustments:

Retiring Singaporeans who have yet to meet the minimum sum of $94,600 will have to fork out cash $5,000 before being allowed to receive monthly withdrawal of $790 past age 62. This means all of us who are below 55 age now have to get that extra $5,000 by investment or cash before we can withdraw our own hard earned money? This is looks gloom for those whose life is impacted during recent retrenchments.

From the first of next month (July 2007), Singaporeans turning 55 years old will have to leave $99,600 in their CPF accounts under the Minimum Sum scheme.

That’s $5,000 more than the current $94,600.

The new amount will apply to CPF members who turn 55 between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2008. Those who set aside the $99,600 fully in cash will receive a monthly payout of $790 from age 62 for about 20 years. The increase in the CPF Minimum Sum is to ensure that Singaporeans set aside sufficient savings for their retirement.

Fast Pace & Pressure of Life here in Singapore:

The British Council conducted a study of the walking speed of pedestrians. And it is official – Singaporeans are the world’s fastest walkers!

Singaporeans clocked the shortest time of just over 10 seconds (10.55 seconds).
This was followed by Copenhagen (10.82 seconds) and Madrid (10.89 seconds).
New York is at number 8 and surprisingly, London ranked outside the top 10.
The slowest in the study was a city in Malawi – at more than 31 seconds (31.60 seconds)

Simply stated, we’re either moving too fast with the pace of living and have chosen to omitted certain important aspects of our life…

Furthermore, a later study revealed more stunning results:

From airports to public housing, Singapore has achieved many firsts. Now, the bustling city has landed a less welcomed honour — its pace of life is literally the fastest.

According to an international study by a British psychology professor, renowned for his quirky experiments, Singapore left 34 other cities including Madrid, Guangzhou, New York and London, trailing in its wake as the “fastest-moving city”.

Education:

As if MOE is not squeezing more juice out from the minds of our next generations…

Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) announced on Monday 07 May 2007 that O-level examinations would start a week earlier from 2007.

The Board said bringing the exams forward would allow results to be released earlier, enabling students to be admitted into junior colleges or the centralised institution at the same time in late January, instead of the current double-intake.

But this single-intake change kicks in only in 2009.

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GST Adjustment & Hikes:

A whopping 2% increase starting July 1st 2007 will hit hard at everyone in Singapore, not to forget her trading partners from all over the world. With a new 7% GST level, merchants and small business owners have taken to opportunity to readjust their sales in anticipating the rise of cost on raw materials and labor taxes. As per normal, average wages are still very tied to individual performances and all the more, the average citizen have to work smarter and more efficiently to make up for their “losses”.

The S$4 billion GST Offset Package announced during the 2007 Budget Statement is set to roll out.

The package which is available over a four year period will cover 2.4 million Singaporeans.

They will receive a total of S$650 million in GST Credits, which is to help Singaporeans with the 2%-point increase in GST from 1 July 2007, and the Senior Citizens Bonus.

An additional 800,000 HDB households will also receive $210 million of Utilities-Save (U-Save), Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) and rental rebates.

Singaporeans eligible for the GST Credits/Senior Citizens Bonus will receive a letter from the CPF Board.

To receive the funding which can be withdrawn as cash come July, Singaporeans must first sign up from 15 May-25 June 2007 at any DBS/POSB/UOB/OCBC automatic teller machine (ATM) or through the GST Offset Package website, www.gstoffset.gov.sg.

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NETS Fee Hikes:

As if the financial problems of the average citizens are not big enough, NETs is pushing its limits into helping the small residents to burn a small holes in our pockets for fun (holes ranging between 1.7% to 1.9% sizes, targeted to be introduced in 3 batches each 0.1% increments):

From July, retailers will have to pay a higher administrative fee to use NETS, the cashless payment system which was introduced some 22 years ago.

NETS has proposed to increase the fee three to four times.

So, many businesses who rely on the NETS system, are not very happy.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) is taking its unhappiness one step further.

The consumer watchdog plans to lodge a complaint against the fee hike to the Competition Commission of Singapore.

NETS, which is owned by DBS, OCBC and UOB, said the hike is necessary to stay competitive against international debit cards, which have higher charges and offer more attractive returns to card issuers.

So it is re-aligning its business model to that of international debit card schemes, and this involves paying an interchange fee, which is a fee paid to the card issuers for transactions processed by NETS.

But CASE is not buying that explanation. Its president, Yeo Guat Kwang, said: “You are telling me, you know now Toyota has to also fetch the same price as a Lexus… is this a reason? I don’t see this as a reason, you can’t accept such a reason.

“If it is cost factors, then they must come out to justify what are the main reasons… what are the key cost factors which will make them think that the current fee that they are charging, 0.3 to 0.55 is too low. Too low in what sense? Can’t cover all the cost, or is the profit not enough?”

CASE is also worried that businesses may pass the cost increase to the consumers.

“About 80 per cent of HDB retail outlets accept Nets and no other debit cards or credit cards,” said Mr Yeo. “Even government agencies accept Nets as a mode of payment.”

To help retailers adjust, Nets will implement the hike in stages, and offer SMEs rebates of up to 25 per cent on the new levy from July to the year’s end.
Promotions and discounts will help to draw more Nets users.

As all small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, the rise of cost will eventually force retailers to find alternatives for their survival. As a result of cost increase, excuses made will encourage many retail and businesses to pass unreasonable charges to the average citizens.

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Cable TV Subscription Increase:

Are you a sports enthusiast and subscribes to SCV? Then I rather you kick the habit or pay for it because StarHub is bent on to burn a big hole in your pockets.

StarHub will increase its subscription charges for cable TV by between $4 and $10 a month. From July 11, subscription for the Basic Group and Value Pack will go up by $4. That means their cheapest package of three basic groups will cost $24.

And in October, the price for the Sports Group will be up $10 to $25. In 2004, the price for this group almost doubled – from $8 to $15.

So sports fans will be the ones who pay most.

“We Have No Choice, ” says SCV

But there has been little or no warning for the general TV buff of what is to come next month. From July 11, SCV home viewers will have to fork out $4 more in subscription fees across the board — the first such hike in its basic pay-TV prices since the service was rolled out in 1995.

Singapore Post To Adjust Domestic Postage:

Ordinary folks who don’t send love letters will not be affected. Wait a minute… do young people still send love letters to each other? Perhaps it’s cheaper to run a blog and send open love letters. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Singapore Post is raising its domestic postage rates for standard mail for two categories by one cent. These are for letters of up to 20 grams and up to 40 grams.

The higher rates will come into effect next month (July 2007).

SingPost says the move is necessary because of the increase in the Goods and Services Tax from five per cent to seven per cent. Postage rates for all other categories will remain unchanged as SingPost plans to absorb the two per cent incremental increase in the GST rate.

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And Finally, When You Are Ready To Depart This Realm:

Choa Chu Kang Cemetery has a new burial system which uses concrete walls to replace earth graves and it costs S$11 million to develop.

With this new system, graves will be built using concrete slabs that are lowered into the ground. Concrete slabs were first introduced at Bidadari Cemetery five years ago.

From the end of this month, burials for Muslims will be carried out at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery in neat plots, which are designed to be more presentable.

So much so for the news right? As I’ve always believe that life is ever challenging and that we must all learn to look deep into ourselves and strive to master our strengths and add values to the lives of others.

As we continue to grow our income and the rich-poor divider widens, let’s not forget a large number of our own fellow countrymen who are defend-less against the onslaught of world of consumer businesses and politics.

I’ll just summarize up these thoughts with a local video clip “Singapore Dreaming” (appears to have been banned?) I’ve found on YouTube and hopefully you can just laugh over it and get on strong with your life. Let us all walk bravely into a brand new Singapore and do something of significance for our loved ones.

Enjoy and have a wonderful day ahead! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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About Insights, Inspirations, Tranquility, Peace and Harmony

Ng Wai Loong

Wai Loong is an electronics engineer by profession. He currently resides in Singapore, a thriving hub at the heart of South-East Asia. When he is not so stress out on the computers or laboratory, he enjoys value reading, jogging at his own pace and blogging in his spare time. Other times, he likes to catch up with some close friends over a cup of latte or teh tarik. As a gift from this friend, you are invited to interact freely with him on his personal blog.

PS: May the person reading this blog transforms his/her businesses, finances, relationships and life for ALL to WIN!