Thursday, December 03, 2009

ST Forum: Letting athletes train in lieu of NS not feasible

From the Straits Times Forum on 3 Dec 2009 [link]:

Letting athletes train in lieu of NS not feasible

I REFER to Mr Lee Seck Kay's letter last Thursday, 'Let top male athletes train in lieu of NS'.

The Ministry of Defence, in consultation with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, considers top male athletes' requests to defer their national service (NS) on a case-by-case basis.

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan had explained this arrangement in his reply to Nominated Member of Parliament Joscelin Yeo's question on this issue. Athletes who are preparing for and competing in major international competitions may be allowed to delay NS enlistment for a certain period.

Those granted such deferments in the past included swimmer Sng Ju Wei and sailor Maximilian Soh. Like everyone else, these individuals still have to do NS after their deferment period.

NS ensures Singapore's national security and survival. This is the basis of the Enlistment Act, which mandates that all NS-liable males are to be enlisted at the earliest opportunity on turning 18 years of age. The suggestion put forth by Mr Lee, to let top athletes train full time in lieu of NS, goes against this core principle.

We thank Mr Lee for his feedback.

Koh Peng Keng
Director, Sports Division
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports
I'm surprised at the shoddy reply given by Koh Peng Keng from MCYS. Nowhere in the Enlistment Act does it state that all NS-liable males are to be enlisted at the earliest opportunity on turning 18. All it says is that if you do get called up, you have to register. The SAF council has the option of not calling you up.

It is no secret that Singapore award citizenship status to sportsmen under the foreign talent scheme. None of them have ever been enlisted despite being eligible (all male citizens and PRs between 16 1/2 and 40). The same goes for the many foreign talents who were given scholarships by government organizations such as A*STAR. I know many male scholars who had to take up Singapore citizenship in their 20s in return for receiving their scholarship awards. They were never asked to serve NS. As far as I know, A*STAR guarantees their male scholars that they do not have to serve NS if they take up citizenship.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Please donate blood

Singapore has a relatively low voluntary blood donation rate because many people are apathetic, afraid of blood, ineligible for various health reasons, etc. Blood stocks tend to be low at the end of the year and there will probably be a public call for more blood donors soon.

I've been a regular blood donor since my undergraduate days in NUS and will encourage you to be one. If you are an NUS student or staff, it is very convenient to donate blood. Just head to the NUH blood donation centre which is next door.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Myth of the 5000 year-old civilization

"No -- 5,000 years, and don’t forget, we invented all these things, and we’re going to go ahead in the next 5,000 years. It’s the only country where a language has survived 5,000 years, the only country by the present generation shares the same basic thinking as the past. And they’re very proud of it.

You read Hu Jintao’s speech on the 60th anniversary, translated on the web -- what is it? We have 5,000 years of civilization. We’re going to get there."

-Lee Kuan Yew (taken from here)

Actually, Mr. Lee, you are wrong about two things.

1. China hasn't been around for 5,000 years. The earliest archaeologically confirmed dynasty was the Shang dynasty which lasted from 1600 B.C. to 1046 B.C.). We have only evidence for at best 3,700 years of Chinese civilization. Furthermore, Chinese civilization originated in the plains of North China and present day China is a lot bigger than the China of a thousand years ago.

2. There is no 5,000 years of the same language. Old Chinese is very different from Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese or any other modern Chinese language. The Chinese languages, like all other languages, evolve and accumulate changes with time. The relationship between contemporary Chinese languages and Old Chinese is akin to that between modern Romance languages (such as French, Italian, Spanish, etc) and Old Latin.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. However, if you were ever in a position to decide or control ethnic and linguistic policies of a country, then you should have at least tried to learn more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A taxi driver in Singapore with a Stanford PhD

This is an extremely but sad (from my perspective) blog. Ageism can hit anyone in Singapore. Even a Stanford PhD is not spared. It's another number 1 for Singapore - we have the most educated taxi driver in the world.

It's probably only in Singapore where we have a Stanford PhD driving a taxi. What's next? NUS graduates picking up cardboard boxes for a living? Tsinghua graduates working in KTV lounges?

In any case, it is still a fascinating read, a rare glimpse into the life of a taxi driver in Singapore from the point of view of a Stanford PhD.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Yahoo News: China is rich abroad because of worker bulge

From Yahoo News on 2 Aug 2009:

GENEVA (AFP) - – China can finance the US economy because its workforce is large relative to children and old people, a new analysis suggests, trying to solve a mystery why Beijing is a major net creditor rather than a borrower as emerging economies usually are.

And this strong ratio of workers to dependants is set to last for at least 15 years although the net benefit for China will decline as the burden of old people creeps up while the cost of children remains steady.

The personal research by economists writing in a publication of the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements also implies that the workforce is skewed, with young people who have left a child-bulge bracket up to the age of 15 now boosting the workforce.

And they are saving money substantially.

Economists Guonan Ma and Zhou Haiwen argue that China's savings glut can in part be explained by its low "youth dependency ratio," that is, the ratio of those below the age of 15 to the working age population.

A country's "old-age dependency ratio," by contrast, compares the percentage of pensioners over 65 to the work force.

"One striking feature of China's demographic transition during 1985-2007 is that its youth dependency ratio fell by half while its old-age dependency increased only slightly, leaving the overall dependence unchanged," the report said.

The suggestion that demographics are a hidden key to why China is able to buy assets around the world, holding huge amounts of US government debt, casts surprising light on an issue at the heart of long-standing tension between the United States and China.

It also gives a new perspective to the view long held by many economists that so-called global imbalances, principally the US trade deficit with China matched by import earnings for China, would be a factor leading to a crisis of the kind the world is now experiencing.

The conventional view is that the massive Chinese investment abroad is a way of "sterilising" the country's huge earnings from exports, or preventing them from causing inflation and driving up the yuan. The export surpluses are an undisputed fact: however, the new research suggests that they are not the only big source of surplus funding available to China.

For the United States, struggling to spark a recovery, the stakes are high, a point apparently driven home by senior US officials during talks in Washington last week with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged China to shift its economy away from exports and toward domestic demand to strengthen the ailing global economy. He was in essence asking the Chinese to save less and import more.

The personal research from the Ma and Haiwen offers insights into why China has funds to invest abroad and points to a high ratio of personal savings and a reduction of government borrowing as important factors.

These, they say, are driven by demographics and enable the emerging Chinese powerhouse to export capital instead of importing it, and thereby defying classical economic theory.

With a relatively low percentage of the population under 15, the Chinese government is freed from having to spend vast sums on child-related services and can go abroad in search of securities and companies to buy, according to this analysis.

The BIS, known as the central bankers' central bank, circulated the report last week, adding that the arguments developed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the bank.

A net debtor in 1999, China has since become a major net creditor and is likely to remain so until 2025, according to the study.

The country's "net foreign asset position (NFA)," the difference between its overseas assets and liabilities, came to 30 percent of its gross domestic product in 2007 and amounted to more than 1.0 trillion dollars.

In absolute terms, its NFA status was second only to that of Japan.

The authors of the study describe the turnaround in China's external financial situation as "puzzling," given its relatively low per capita income level, 2,500 dollars, and its sizzling growth of recent years.

"A faster growing economy tends to attract more capital inflows," the report noted, adding that "by conventional wisdom China should ... be a significant importer of foreign savings."

But that is not what has happened, the report contends, largely because the Chinese are zealous savers rather than consumers of foreign goods.

And those savings are increasingly being invested abroad, notably in the United States, where Chinese holdings in US Treasury bonds now amount to more than 800 billion dollars.

"Given China's growing role in the global financial system, the stakes are high, not only for China but for the rest of the world," the authors contend.

In 1985, according to the study, for every 100 people in work, just over 45 children aged under 15 were dependent on them. By 2005, 100 workers were supporting slightly fewer than 15 youngsters.

A reduced obligation to meet the youth-related needs, the report said, should boost overall savings and drive net capital outflow.

"This is because a lower youth dependency could lead to reduced investment in housing, schools and hospitals."

China's overall dependency ratio, expressed as all children under 15 plus pensioners over 65 divided by all workers in between, is also falling.

The labour force in China has in effect been growing faster than the population that depends on it, further strengthening savings.

The study found that China's overall dependency fell from 55 percent in 1985 to 38 percent in 2007.

A declining dependency ratio tends to lift household savings rates while increasing the labour supply, thereby acting as a constraint on wage rises. Government savings are also enhanced as less money is spent on health care and pensions.

The report also pointed to a reduction of Chinese government debt, which hit a peak of 30 percent of output in 2002. It noted that conversely, a rise in official debt would tend to reduce domestic savings and increase foreign borrowing.

While Beijing is on course to remain a net creditor until 2025, youth dependency is unlikely to fall further and so "may thus cease to be a main driver" of China's external financial position.

But the old-age dependency ratio is also forecast to double to 20 percent in the next 15 years, cutting spare funds for investment abroad.

China's foreign asset position "is expected to adjust gradually, facilitated by continued strong economic growth and a more flexible renminbi (the Chinese currency)."

And "this should assist an orderly global rebalancing without creating excess stress on the rest of the world during the transition."

In summary, China has a lot of active workers and few young and old people. As a result, China does not have to spend a lot of money on social welfare (medical care for the retirees and schools for children) and is able to save a lot of money. As a result, it is a net saver. The Chinese savings are then used to invest in its own economic development. In fact, China has so much savings that it has to send some of it to the US.

Does that remind of you of another country in another time? Well, Singapore was like that in the eighties and nineties. The birth rate then fell below replacement level and the number of retirees was small relative to the working population. At that stage of our economic development, we had a lot of active workers and few dependents. The savings were plentiful and effectively confiscated by CPF which were then reinvested in the local economy. I do not wish to comment on how efficiently they were invested but you may ask the economist Alwyn Young what he thinks.

Fast forward today to the 21st century. We no longer have a bulge in the over-15 and under-65 part of the population. The bulge is slowly moving up. We have even fewer children but an ever increasing population of retirees. Sooner or later, the country will become a net consumer and the time to pay the demographic piper will come. What does that mean? Well, for starters, the funds available to Temasek Holdings and other investment agencies will gradually decrease. In fact, it won't be just Temasek Holdings. Our banks will see a fall in deposits as retirees start to draw down on their savings.

This spells trouble for our model of economic growth which has been largely financed by cheap plentiful savings by Singaporean workers. The solution? The government imports more foreign workers and grant more PRs and citizenships (to capture their savings in CPF). To stem the potential haemorrhage from CPF withdrawals, they have raised the withdrawal age as well as implemented a plethora of schemes to restrict withdrawal.

Did you really think that they did all that to help you plan for your retirement?

The tougher and more sustainable solution would have been to increase our birth rate to raise the future pool of local workers. That would require a rethink of our policy on social welfare. It is perfectly achievable but that would probably necessitate European-level subsidies which in turn would mean raising taxes. But you see, few in the government have the courage to challenge the prevailing policy of growth at all cost. When you have million-dollar salaries that depend on annual GDP figures, you can throw long term policy shifts out of the window.

I despair for the long term future of Singapore.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Uncontroversial issues

Over the years, starting from the old Sintercom forum, which was shut down in 2001, and soc.culture.singapore, I've been involved in numerous online arguments with people. While I find some of the issues to be thought-provoking and interesting, many of them should have been decisively settled by sheer weight of logic and evidence. I am tired of arguing over the same things again and again, so I will be starting a series of posts to discuss some uncontroversial issues on which I have very strong views. I consider them uncontroversial because it is no longer possible for a well-informed rational person to sustain an argument over them. This does not mean that they won't touch some raw nerves. Nevertheless, arguments will continue because some people will hold on to their positions for irrational and emotional reasons.

In some sense, the series of posts will be a repository of arguments that I have used for nearly a decade. In my opinion, my arguments are still good and I have not found the need to change them.

Here is a list of uncontroversial issues that I will like to discuss:
  1. Mother tongue and ethnicity
  2. Foreign students in Singapore universities
  3. Gender equality and national service
  4. Homosexuality and the consequence of legalizing it
  5. The scholarship system
  6. Promoting bilingualism in Singapore
  7. Racism in Singapore

Hopefully, I will like to finish discussing all of them before the year is over.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bottled water or not?

I don't know what this guy is complaining about. If bottled water were banned, then can't he bring his own water bottle or go into a kopitiam and order a cup of water? No one is asking him to drink from the tap in toilets. His post becomes even more ludicrous when he says that bottled water is a 'basic right'. Excuse me but I can't seem to find the right to bottled water anywhere in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Bottled water is a sheer waste of money. Hardly anyone used bottled water when I was growing up in Singapore. It didn't make any sense to me to pay money to get what I could bring from home for free. I had the habit of bringing my own water bottle when I went to the gym or to office. There were occasions when I bought bottled water but it was only when I forgot to or could not bring my own water bottle. Using bottled water is a habit that Singaporeans acquired only in the last 15 years as a result of increasing material affluence.

This reminds me of some self-centered Singaporeans who complained when they were charged 10 cents for a plastic bag on the Bring-Your-Own-Bag (BYOB) day. Excuse me but even my Chinese-educated Zaobao-reading Channel 8-viewing retiree parents know better and bring their own bags every time to NTUC. (In fact, I'm proud to say, they are more conscientious than I in terms of recycling.) They also have enough sense to bring their own water bottles when they go out.

And I haven't even touched on the environmental effects of plastic water bottles. A lot of the plastic water bottles end up in the ocean. That's how we got the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. What about the oil and gas that we have to use to produce the bottles?

Monday, July 13, 2009

S'pore aligning tax code with OECD's

This was published on Asiaone's website [link] on 2 Jul 2009.
S'pore aligning tax code with OECD's

DRAFT amendments have been made to the local tax regime to align Singapore with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's standard for the effective exchange of information on tax matters.

One proposed change will lift the domestic interest requirement for information exchanged under Double Taxation Agreements (DTA) that incorporate the OECD standard.

'The amendments will enable the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to assist on requests from our DTA partners for information where Singapore does not have a domestic tax stake or interest in the request at hand,' said Lim Hwee Hua, Second Minister for Finance and Transport.

Also, IRAS will be given greater power and scope to request information held by banks and trust companies, as well as exchange information on taxes other than income tax, when presented with genuine requests.

The standard, however, allows the requested jurisdiction to reject requests that are frivolous or spurious in nature - otherwise known as 'fishing expeditions'.

'Banks cannot serve to harbour financial criminals, but they are equally held accountable to their clients in ensuring that confidentiality cannot be lifted without justification,' said Mrs Lim.

Other financial centres such as Hong Kong, Switzerland and Luxembourg have announced similar plans to implement the OECD standard.

The draft legislative amendments to the income tax law have been aired for public consultation until July 28.

This article was first published in The Business Times.

I'm surprised that no one has realized the significance of this move to revise our tax laws. Here's a clue [link]. Then think about Indonesia and our banking industry [link].

Obama has essentially made Singapore do what the Indonesians had asked for years. Intentionally or unintentionally, 'Barry' Obama has done a favour for his step-father's homeland. Maybe it is time for Singapore to act like an honest citizen of the world like the rest of the world.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Of Migrant and Stayers

The Kent Ridge Commons (KRC) has a new article Migrants and Stayers. Well, it is not exactly new because the article was written more than two years ago after Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (GCT) had said that Singapore was 'leaking talent'. Around the same time, I also offered my own perspective [link] on why Singapore was 'leaking talent'. There is a subtle but important difference between what I wrote and the KRC article. The latter concentrates on why some young Singaporeans want to leave while the former tries to explain why some Singaporeans are leaving or have left.

I'm just going to repeat myself again in this post. This is an issue that I have given much thought about over these years. After all, I left Singapore to pursue my postgraduate studies in the US and the issue is very close to my heart.

There are many reasons - social, economic and political - why many Singaporeans want to emigrate. Some people wish to leave because of the lack of political and social freedom in Singapore. Homosexuals enjoy no legal protection and we have close to no press freedom. And I can go on and on. But that's unlikely to be the main reason why people leave. Make no mistake about it: I support gay rights and I value press freedom but I am not going to say that these things are why people are leaving.

Let us consider another small country with a similar population size and a English-speaking population - New Zealand. New Zealand undeniably offers more political and social freedoms than Singapore. Nevertheless, a large proportion of their university undergraduates choose to leave NZ for Australia for sheer availability of economic opportunities. It can't be that Australia fares much better in terms of human right, can it?

Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why many Singaporeans are emigrating. In the pursuit of economic developement, we have become very much westernized over the past decades. This very high level of westernization is a result of a deliberate government policy to attract western MNCs. After all, well-trained English-speaking workers make a perfect fit to the labour needs of investors from Australia/UK/USA, much like the workers in their own countries but cheaper. The government built an English-medium education system, emphasized engineering and technical training and developed the use of information technology. Mind you, it did and still does not do this out of pure altruism or familial love for its people. Let's be clear about it: the purpose is to attract investors.

A consequence, intended or unintended, is that many young Singaporeans have become a good fit to the labour needs of MNCs... and of their home countries. That engineering diploma, which was good enough for the American MNC, has become good enough for an American company operating out of California. This means that Singaporeans have better prospects to emigrate. Singaporeans have become a much better fit to the world or to see it another way, the world has become a better fit to Singaporeans. The rest of the world has become much more comfortable - economically, socially and culturally - for Singaporeans. The catchword is 'globalization'.

Many people underestimate the difficulties of emigration. First of all, emigration involves cultural uprooting. The US, which is one of the most welcoming socities, can be difficult for an immigrant to assimilate into, especially for an Asian. I have met Koreans, Malaysians, Thai, Chinese and Japanese students who have told me that they feel out of place in the wider American society and desire to return to their home countries after spending a few years in the US. Indians don't seem to have that problem - their home country is already highly westernized (for different reasons) and they are accustomed to living in a messy complex democratic society. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Singapore's Asian culture has been drastically blanched to westernize our work force. (I confess to being one of the highly westernized.) The loss of the inclination towards cultural protectionism has led to the increased propensity of Singaporeans to emigrate.

In summary, Singaporeans are showing a greater wilingness and ability to emigrate because of the socio-cultural transformation triggered by our economic development policy. By making Singaporeans into workers more desirable for MNCs, the government has also inadvertently moulded them into better emigrants.

I hope that what I have written has shed some light on Singaporean emigration. I welcome all comments. In particular, I will like to know how Singapore should respond to the trend of increasing emigration.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Come together?

This is the logo of NDP 2009. No kidding. I'm not bluffing you.

Come together? Five fingers of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality? Reaching up? Five fingers reaching up? Was there no one in the committee that designed this who foresaw the potential for sexual innuendos and schoolboy snickers?

They told us that we had to stand up for Singapore but this is ridiculous!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ST: Spore's population is 4.84 million

From the Straits Times on 17 June 2009:
SINGAPORE'S population grew 5.5 per cent last year to reach 4.84 million, due largely to the influx of foreigners. The number of residents, that is, Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PR), rose 1.7 per cent to 3.64 million in June last year, said a report released by the National Population Secretariat (NPS) on Wednesday. There were 79,167 new PRs in 2008 - up 15, 540 from 63,627 the previous year and 20,513 new citizens, an increase of 3,179 from 17,334 over the same period. More than half of the new residents aged 20 and above had at least post-secondary education which shows that Singapore continues to attract talented foreigners. With more foreigners settling in Singapore, NPS said it has become 'more important' to help them integrate. NPS also said that Singapore continues to face the long-term demographic challenge of low fertility and ageing population. Singapore's total feritility rate of 1.28 in 2008 remained below the replacement level of 2.1. The proportion of residents aged 65 years and above also continues to increase to 8.7 per cent last year from 6.8 per cent in 1998. These trends underscore the need to 'continue working on long-term strategies to build a sustainable population, in spite of the economic downturn', added NPS. NPS also continues to engage thousands of Singaporeans who are overseas for work and studies through its Overseas Singaporean Unit to help them stay connected with home. As of June last year, there were more than 180,000 Singaporeans overseas.
Wow, over 50 percent of the new PRs over 20 in Singapore have at least post-secondary education and the ST calls our foreign talent policy a success in attracting talented people.

On the other hand, over 80 percent of each P1 cohort in Singapore go on to attend ITE, Polytechnic and Pre-University.

We the people of Singapore must be uber-talented.

And to the talents in Singapore Press Holdings, keep up the good work in nation-building.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The MSG scare

I am pissed.

The blogger at the boy who knew too much claims that, in his own words, that he has a heightened sensitivity to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and that many westerners experience the 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' when eating MSG-laden food. In particular, based on absolutely no rigorous medical research, he believes that Chinese people have some special ability to clear MSG from their system due to genetic adaptation whereas westerners don't.

This is of course bunkum because:

1. Glutamates occur naturally in food, especially fermented/aged ones like soy sauce, fish sauce, ripe tomatoes, meat, and Parmesan cheese. The Italians get on fine with tomatoes and cheese.
2. Our bodies make glutamate on its own and breast milk is especially high in glutamate to entice babies to suckle.
3. MSG was only chemically isolated in the 20th century. Hence, its use as a food additive started only in the 20th century. Pray tell, how did Chinese people adapt to something they have only started adding to their food barely a century ago?
4. Marmite, frequently cited as the most-missed foodstuff by British expatriates (of whom the blogger is one), is a yeast-extract that contains very high concentrations of glutamates, much more than soy sauce. They use it on their toasts and in their soups. Mysteriously, you never hear about the Brits feeling dizzy or getting headaches from their beloved Marmites. Ditto for Vegemite, the perennial Australian favourite.
5. Glutamates are used extensively in flavouring chips, crisps, fast food, canned soups, etc, all of which are consumed in copious amounts in the UK. Apparently, one never hears of the Brits suffering from an epidemic of the so-called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.

Moral of the day: Don't make baseless claims about something you know squat about, even if you have many gifts (or so you claim). Ching Chong also has access to the internet.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Kent Ridge Common

I must say that I am impressed by this new independent student daily from the National University of Singapore. I wish I had something like this to read during my time in NUS. As an undergraduate in NUS many years ago, I found the student publication like The Ridge to be feeble and boring. Instead of addressing pertinent issues like scholarships for foreigners, ways to improve undergraduate science education and NS service obligations for undergraduates, The Ridge, which I only read very occasionally, would concern itself with mundane issues like the allocation of ECA points or the frequency of shuttle buses. Most of my classmates did not even realize that The Ridge existed as it was largely irrelevant to their university lives. The Kent Ridge Commons is refreshingly different.

I'm definitely subscribing to its RSS feed.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Why I don't use plastic bags

Ever since I bought my car and begin grocery shopping on my own, I've tried to avoid using plastic bags. Instead, I use regular reusable shopping bags like these or a cardboard box (I have a few of these at home). The former cost 1 USD each and don't break or tear as easily as disposable plastic bags.

One practical reason why I do not use plastic bags is because they tear easily. Some people use them for a garbage disposal but I don't because they usually have holes in them. A stray chicken bone or prawn shell can easily pierce the flimsy plastic material. Once a hole is made in the bag, rubbish can leak into the bin and dirty it. Hence, it is a better idea to use regular garbage bags.

Another reason is that I usually get more plastic bags than I need. After a trip to the local grocery place, I get about ten plastic bags, sometimes more. That's really more than I need even if I were to use them for garbage disposal. Before I stopped using plastic bags, I would save the plastic bags I got from my grocery shopping. Within half a year, I accumulated a whole box full of bags that I could not use up. Furthermore, many of them had holes in them and could not be used for garbage disposal. In the end, I had to bring them to the plastic bag recycling bin at the grocer's. I'm sure many people simply throw away their excess plastic bags.

What finally led me to use reusable shopping bags was when I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Because plastic bags tear so easily, pieces of them are blown from landfills, which don't have to be near the sea, and accumulate in the oceans. The plastic remain in polymer form and after they are broken down into small enough pieces, they enter the food chain. I don't have to tell you what a bad idea it is to have fish nibbling or seabirds choking on small pieces of plastic.

It is not difficult to switch to using reusable shopping bags. They are actually convenient (since they are more durable), make housekeeping easier (less clutter) and reduce the amount of plastic that goes into our seafood.

Please make the switch.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Public transport in Singapore

A thought has occurred to me:

There are two primary modes of public transport in Singapore - the Rapid Transit System (RTS), a.k.a. trains, and buses. Buses run on diesel, the cost of which is sensitive to the fluctuating price of oil, and trains run on electricity. Given the scarcity of petroleum and the volatility of its price, isn't it wiser to expand the train network and reduce the employment of buses in our public transport system?

With the advent of new energy technologies, it is quite likely that electricity generation in Singaporem which is almost wholly dependent on gas, could be supplemented or even replaced by solar, nuclear or even coal sources. In any case, the price of gas is considerably less volatile than that of oil and is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.