Thursday, September 28, 2006
By Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 25 September 2006 1642 hrs
Good news for those who find going up and down steps a challenge.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is looking at measures to make all buildings in Singapore barrier-free.
For a start, it is setting its sights on buildings in Orchard Road, Bras Basah and Shenton Way (Read on...)
2. All public buses to be wheelchair-friendly by 2023
By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 15 February 2006 2049 hrs
SINGAPORE : Singapore has rolled out its first wheelchair-friendly bus.
This follows a recent report by the Committee on Aging Issues calling for a more elder-friendly public transport system.
The government is funding the $21 million required to make sure all public buses are wheelchair-accessible by 2023.
It is part of some $172 million it will be spending over the long-term to make Singapore's land transport infrastructure and system more accessible and user-friendly. (Read on...)
3. MediaCorp rolls out real-time subtitling for news bulletins
By Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 27 September 2006 1717 hrs
SINGAPORE : Local TV news will be making history next Monday when MediaCorp introduces real-time subtitling for its news bulletins. (Read on...)
I am quietly pleased that finally, the disabled and disadvantaged are getting the attention that they deserve. It seemed not too long ago ( I think in parliament) when some government minister was defending the policy of why it was not feasible to make all MRT stations handicap-friendly!
I am not going to deliver a harangue to the authorities about why it took such a looong time for our disabled to be able to share basic amenities that most of us have always taken for granted. I am just glad that our friends in wheelchairs or crutches will now be able to board a bus and then proceed into a building without any fuss. The hearing-impaired will of course benefit from subtitling of more TV programmes.
How our society treats its most disadvantaged and helpless, is a reflection of how much Singapore treasures its citizens. It should care for all of us, not just because we add value to the nation’s GDP. It is the duty of the government. Period.
I cannot resist a jibe at the government here. All citizens, no matter who they vote for should be accorded equal rights and benefits. For this, I continue to object to discriminatory policies like the “upgrading for votes” policy.
Ironically, sometimes it seems easier to convince the government to cater for the needs of our disadvantaged than to get Singaporeans to treat the disabled with empathy and patience. I was particularly disgusted by comments in the forum pages about how much inconvenience the wheel-chair loading buses have caused other commuters. Some of them were even late for work!
How uncaring can we be?
Let us continue to look out for blind-spots (no pun intended) where government policies can be improved upon and if need be, let us be the thorn in the flesh or a pain in the ass, till all members of our nation get equitable treatment.
Who knows, the people in power, who are pulling all the strings may be masochists who actually enjoy getting ranted at or having polemics and tirades thrown at them!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
1.Thai PM 'overthrown in army coup'
A faction of the Thai military led by the army chief says it has overthrown Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Soldiers have entered the prime minister's offices in Government House and tanks have surrounded the building.
Mr Thaksin, who is at the UN in New York, has declared a state of emergency and said he had removed the army chief.
A government spokesman insisted the coup "could not succeed", and told the Reuters news agency that the government was still in control.
The spokesman said it had not been decided when the prime minister would return home from the UN.
However, in a television broadcast the leadership of the armed forces said it had taken control of Bangkok, declared a nationwide martial law and ordered all troops to return to their bases.
The so-called "Council of Political Reform" they announced is apparently loyal to sacked military commander Lt Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin and has declared its loyalty to the king.
However, the BBC's Kate McGeown in Bangkok says King Bhumibol is held in high esteem by all Thais, and the declaration of loyalty does not necessarily imply that he backs the takeover attempt.
An army-owned TV station is showing images of the royal family and songs linked in the past with military coups.
BBC World, CNN and other international news channels have been taken off the air, readers in Thailand told the BBC News website by email.
Our correspondent says low-level rumours of a possible coup have been circulating for weeks.
There has been pressure growing on the prime minister to resign, including from groups close to King Bhumibol, following a political impasse in which April's general election was declared invalid, says the BBC's correspondent Jonathan Head in Bangkok.
But it had been thought that Thailand was making progress towards holding another election later in the year, our correspondent says.
Witnesses said several hundred troops were posted at key points around Bangkok, including at government installations and major intersections.
Russell Miles emailed the BBC News website to say there were troops "dressed in Swat-style gear strolling around" near Government House, and "a tense, but fairly controlled atmosphere".
He said: "We saw a group of blokes bundling a cameraman and another chap into a van. We are taking photos, but not out in the open."
At the United Nations, where the annual General Assembly is under way, it was announced that the agenda had been changed to allow Mr Thaksin to address it in the coming hours.
2.Timeline of Thaksin's recent troubles:
By Times Online and agencies
Recent political developments in Thailand leading up to today's declaration of a state of emergency by Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Prime Minister.
February 6, 2005: Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party wins a second landslide election victory, taking 377 of the 500 seats in parliament.
September 9: State-run television takes a current affairs show hosted by Sondhi Limthongkul, Mr Thaksin’s former business associate, off the air, citing repetition of "unfair" criticism of various parties.
January 23, 2006: Mr Thaksin’s relatives sell their controlling stake in Shin Corp, the telecoms empire he founded, to Temasek, the Singapore state investment firm. The tax-free $1.9 billion sale angers Bangkok’s middle classes and adds momentum to Mr Sondhi’s campaign.
February 24: Mr Thaksin calls a snap election on April 2, three years early and two days before a big anti-government rally.
February 27: Three main opposition parties announce an election boycott after Mr Thaksin rejects their demand for a neutral body to reform the constitution.
April 2: Election is held despite opposition boycott.
April 4: After a strong protest vote, Mr Thaksin meets revered King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, before announcing on national television that he will step down as soon as the next parliament meets.
April 5: Mr Thaksin hands day-to-day power to his Deputy Prime Minister, Chidchai Vanasatidya.
April 26: The three main opposition parties say that they will stand in a new election if April 2 poll is annulled.
May 8: Constitutional Court rules that the election is unconstitutional and a new poll should be held.
May 23: Mr Thaksin takes back reins of power, saying it was time to get back work on economic and security issues.
May 30: Government sets election re-run for October 15. King of Thailand approves the re-run in late July saying he wants a swift end to the crisis.
July 20: Thai army chief unexpectedly re-assigns more than 100 middle-ranking officers thought to be supporters of Mr Thaksin, adding to rumours about divided army and possible coup.
September 19: Mr Thaksin declares a state of emergency after tanks surround Government House.
3.Previous Coups in Thailand:
-1932:Bloodless coup against absolute monarch King Prajadhipok.
-1947:Military coup by the war-time pro-Japanese leader Phibun Songkhram
- 1971: Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn returns to power and abolishes the constitution and dissolves the parliament.
- October 1973: A student-led uprising ousts the “Three Tyrants” - Thanom, his son Col. Narong Kittikachorn and his father-in-law Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien - who ruled Thailand for much of the 1960s and early 1970s. A brief period of democracy ensues.
- Oct. 6, 1976: At least 46 student protesters, who were demonstrating against the return of Thanom to Thailand, are killed and hundreds more are wounded by the police and army. A coup installs a new military-guided, right-wing government.
- March 26, 1977: The military government thwarts a coup led by Gen. Chalard Hiranyasiri after Chalard and about 300 men seized four government and military buildings.
- Oct. 20, 1977: A bloodless military coup, led by Admiral Sangad Chaloryoo, installs Kriangsak Chomanan as prime minister.
- April 1, 1981: Factions in the military attempt to overthrow Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda’s government.
- Sept. 9, 1985: Retired military officers stage a failed coup attempt.
- Feb. 23, 1991: Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon topples the civilian government of Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan in a bloodless takeover.
- May 1992: Suchinda is forced from power when troops gun down at least 50 pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok. In the aftermath of the violence, his appointed prime minister resigns. King Bhumibol Adulyadej intervenes to end demonstrations, and parliament votes to reduce the power of the military in Thai politics.
(Most of the information above ie. Item 3, is from Canada.com/Associated Press)
4.Timeline of Thailand's History: (from founding of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I till present)
5.1Link to Wayne Soon's post on the coup and its ramifications for democracy
5.2 Link to liveblog on 19 Sept Thailand Coup
5.3 Link to OpinionAsia's Tin Maung Maung Than : Thai Democracy in the Twilight Zone
5.4 Temasek Holdings: Singapore connection at center of Thai crisis
While most of us were sleeping, events in Thailand were quickly unfolding.
Many questions will be answered over the next few days.
Is this the end of Thaksin? Will democracy take a backseat in Thailand?
Even more fundamental questions that all of us need to think about include:
Is there ever any legal basis for the removal of a democratically elected leader other than through the ballot box ?
Is there any moral basis for removing any leader outside the normal political process?
These are difficult questions that I do not intend to answer at 2.30 am in the morning. I shall leave them as food for thought.
I hope that reason prevails and that an amicable settlement results in the Land of a Million Smiles.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
An After-thought: MM Lee must have The Sixth Sense! What a coincidence that he spoke of military coups only a few days back. No wonder he is known as an Oracle!
Updated at 08.36 pm Singapore 20 Sept 2006( 01.36 pm GMT)
1.Thaksin arrives in London and likely to seek asylum (Asiaone)
2.Thai coup leader says Thaksin can return, but may face charges(CNA)05.13pm (10.13 GMT)
3. Thai coup leader to install new PM in two weeks (Reuters) 6:44am ET (11.44 am GMT)
4.Thai Coup Leader Says He'll Be Acting PM (AP) (7:14 AM EDT 12.14 pmGMT)
5. Thailand's king gives blessing to coup (CNN) ( 12.55 pm EDT 5.55 pm GMT)
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Addendum (2.10.2006): MM Lee says sorry that recent comments caused discomfort to PM Abdullah
By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew says he is sorry that his recent comments about Chinese Malaysians had caused Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi a great deal of discomfort.
Mr Lee had said during an international forum in Singapore more than two weeks ago that ethnic Chinese minorities in Malaysia and Indonesia are being marginalised.
In his letter to Mr Abdullah, Mr Lee said he had no intention to meddle in Malaysian politics.
Nor does he have the power to influence Malaysia's politics or to incite the feelings of Chinese in the country.
The remarks about Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority were made at what Mr Lee called a 'free flowing dialogue session' with former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
Setting the context, Mr Lee explained he was speaking to a liberal audience of Westerners who wanted to see a stronger opposition in Singapore.
He reiterated that Singapore needs a strong government to maintain good relations with neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia and to interact with their politicians who consider Singapore to be 'Chinese'.
Mr Lee said he did not say anything more than what he had said many times before, and added he said less than what he had written in his 1998 memoirs.
Mr Lee said UMNO leaders, including former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed and others, had on numerous occasions, publicly warned Malaysian Malays that if they ever lose power, they risk the same fate as Malays in Singapore, whom they allege are marginalised and discriminated against.
Mr Lee cited examples of such comments in the letter's annex, quoting Dr Mahathir and other leaders in media reports over the years about the "marginalisation" of Singapore Malays.
The Minister Mentor reiterated that Singapore understands the reality of Malaysian politics.
Singapore has never protested at such attacks on Singapore's multi-racial system or policies but merely clarified Singapore's position and explained to Singaporeans the root cause of such difficulties in bilateral relations.
Also in his letter, the Minister Mentor said relations between the 2 countries have improved since Mr Abdullah took the helm in November 2003 and that both Singaporeans and Malaysians appreciate this.
Mr Lee concluded that the last thing he wanted to do, after a decade of troubled relations with the former Prime Minister, was to cause Mr Abdullah a great deal of discomfort. - CNA/ch
Republic has to deal with different geographical and physical factors
By Lynn Lee
Straits Times 16 Sept 2006
MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew knows his critics want Singapore's political system to be as "free" as the West.
But he wonders if they know Singapore and the physical and geographical factors it has to consider.
And despite these considerations, it is in no way a closed society, as top students study abroad and return to rise to senior posts in the civil service and other sectors, he said yesterday .
He was replying to a question as to how critics see the system here, at a dialogue on good governance.
My main critics want me to be as liberal, open and contentious and adversarial with the opposition as the West. "I ask myself this question, 'Do they know, do they recognise this little island that they see?”said Mr Lee,who spoke at the session with Harvard University Professor Lawrence Summers.
Some had written to newspapers asking why Singapore could not take the lead from other small countries like Denmark and New Zealand.
His reply to them: Both countries had different physical, economic, geographic and strategic bases.
"Their neighbours are different," he told an audience of 250 at the dialogue, part of the Raffles Forum organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
The Singapore of today, he pointed out, was the result of the Government's efforts in educating the population, and "the systematic grooming of talent and putting the right people in the right jobs".
A World Bank report on governance released yesterday said that Singapore scored highly for government effectiveness and regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption and political stability.
But it did not rate as well in categories like "voice and accountability", which measures factors like civil society participation.
Earlier in the dialogue Mr Lee spoke of how the system developed--- and how Singapore got to be where it is on the back of good governance, education and hard work.
Infrastructure and conditions for investments, including ensuring the rule of law, were put in place.
Some 9,000 multinational companies are here because Singapore was able to offer "First World conditions in a Third World region".
In response to other questions, he spoke of the importance of a good system and finding good people for government.
A case in point was post-Suharto Indonesia. lt now has President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono who, with Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, understood the problems facing the country.
But he noted that it will take "more than 10 years to get that system right". An important requisite for the government was order.
He referred to how a group signed up to fight in Lebanon after the outbreak of hostilities there, and how Americans in Indonesia, were chased from their hotels.
Only a minority do these things in Indonesia, he said.
"But unless you are able to maintain order, what American company is able to get its CEO to go there with his wife and family?"
That was why foreign investments dropped, he said.
Mr Lee also said it was important for Singapore to have a government that was "really firm, stout-hearted, subtle and resolute''
"My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They were successful, they're hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education," he explained.
"And they want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese, compliant. So every time we say 'no' to some scheme to knock down the Causeway and build a bridge, he says 'Oh, you are not cooperative' You are only thinking of yourself."
Mr Lee explained that Singapore eventually said it would agree if there were "commensurate benefits".
"But you need a government that will be able to not only have the gumption but also the skill to say no in a very quiet, polite way that doesn't provoke them into doing something silly."
Another noteworthy article.
I managed to OCR it for the benefit for those who do not read the Straits Times.
If there is any inaccuracy, please let me know and I shall correct it as quickly as possible.
As I am a no-good coward, I will be monitoring closely to see if the moderation function for comments is necessary.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS: By displaying the comments does not in any way suggest that I agree or disagree with the views offered.
His ambition is not to preserve PAP, he says, but to keep a system that works
By Peh Shing Huei Sep 16, 2006 The Straits Times
MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew hopes the Singapore of 2046 will still have the system it has today - one that works.
'My ambition, having created this Singapore, is to preserve the system that produces the answers we must have as a society to survive,' he said yesterday.
He was replying to Harvard University professor Lawrence Summers, who asked what Mr Lee hoped Singapore would be 40 years from now.
'My hope is that there will be a government that is equal to the job, as the PAP was,' said Mr Lee, referring to the ruling People's Action Party he co-founded in 1954.
'We have structured the system such that a competent group which gets in will find a machine that works. Don't tinker with it. Run the system properly on the basis of merit, not nepotism, and you will always find a way out of the problem.'
'My ambition is not to preserve the PAP,' he added.
Mr Lee, who celebrates his 83rd birthday today, was speaking at the Raffles Forum organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings here.
The forum organisers arranged for a chocolate cake dessert for Mr Lee at the end of his lunchtime session, entitled Good Governance And The Wealth Of Nations, with Prof Summers and 250 business and political leaders.
Mr Lee outlined how politics and the system of government developed here.
Democracy for Singapore meant adjustments to meet the country's needs. The country was now a First World oasis and would continue to evolve to stay relevant. It required special kinds of people to be in charge here, he said, adding that a weak government would spell Singapore's end.
Mr Lee mused that the problem with Singapore was that it had 'now reached a very odd stage' - an electorate which wants the PAP in power, but also an opposition to 'squeeze' the Government.
'Well, that's all right. But if they become the government, that's real trouble,' he added. 'Our problem really is how to make the electorate sufficiently wise and sophisticated to understand that these are the limits.'
Beyond the limits, he painted two dark paths: One , which would happen in the absence of the Elected Presidency (EP) to protect the reserves from rogue regimes, is a military coup.
'Without the Elected President, if there's a freak result, within two to three years the army would have to come in and stop it,' he warned. 'And once you break that, by military intervention, you have destroyed a system which works on the basis of who was voted into office.'
Two, even with the EP, a corrupt government can still bankrupt the country:
'Even with an Elected President, if they (the opposition) win a second time, the reserves are open, because they can then arrange for their president to be elected and the country comes to a grinding halt,' he said.
He believes the present opposition parties, if they became the government, would cause Singapore to collapse.
'You've seen the candidates who have turned up. If they win, this place goes down. And nobody doubts it,' he said.
He added: 'The day we can produce an opposition of the same quality as us, that day we are in a safer condition.'
The problem, he said, is that the opposition, unlike the PAP, has been unable to 'induce' people of top quality to join it.
The PAP Government has also been able to stay relevant and keep abreast of changes.
'At the end of the day, we offer what every citizen wants - a good life, security, good health, good housing, good education and a future for their children. That's good governance.'
The dialogue was part of the activities leading up to the IMF-World Bank board of governors meetings next week.
At a press conference yesterday, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz called on rich countries to make good on promises to increase aid to poor nations.
Separately, IMF chief Rodrigo de Rato said the meetings would implement reforms crucial to the Fund's credibility and help strengthen political support for removing protectionism.
The above article is very noteworthy.
For obvious reasons I shall be monitoring closely to see if the moderation function for comments is necessary.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
( PS: Oh, ... eh I have no public comments on the above article.
By displaying the comments does not suggest in any way that I agree or disagree with the views of the writers)
Friday, September 15, 2006
Singapore's WWII "heroine" dies
(Kyodo) _ A woman captured and tortured by Japanese soldiers during World war II and dubbed Singapore's "war heroine" died Thursday at the age of 95, state-run local media said.
Elizabeth Choy died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Singapore, according to the reports.
She was captured and tortured by Japanese soldiers during Japan's invasion of Singapore between 1942 and 1945, but apparently had compassion for those who tortured her, reportedly saying "No" when asked by a war tribunal after the war if she wanted her torturers executed.
"If not for war, they would be just like me. They would be at home with their family, doing just ordinary things and peaceful work. Let us pray that there will be no more war," she was quoted to have once said.
According to a short official biography of her, Choy was born on Nov. 29, 1910, in North Borneo and came to Singapore in 1929 to further her studies.
During the Japanese occupation, she worked as a canteen operator with her husband at a hospital. They secretly brought food, medicine, money, messages and even radios to British prisoners-of-war and were eventually caught by the Japanese
The Japanese suspected that the Choys were connected with the British and the sinking of ships by relaying information secretly between prisoners-of-war in Singapore's Changi Prison and the Allied forces.
The Japanese tortured and killed some of the prisoners at Changi Prison in an incident that came to be known as the "Double Tenth Massacre."
Choy was interrogated by the Japanese military police but she never admitted to being a British sympathizer. She was released only after 200 days of starvation diet and repeated torture.
When the war ended, she was invited to Britain as a celebrated war heroine noted as the only female local to have been incarcerated for such an extended period. After the war, 21 Japanese officers were tried for war crimes related to the Double Tenth Massacre.
"My most agonizing torture was -- besides all the kicking and punching -- nothing compared to the electric shocks -- they applied electricity to my bare body," she had been quoted as saying in a recent documentary.
After the war, she worked for four years as a model in Britain and later became Singapore's first female legislator and worked as a teacher for 40 years.
Choy is mentioned in the "Who's Who in Singapore" directory as a war heroine.
Singaporean President S.R. Nathan said in his condolence message that "many among the older generation will recall her as a wartime heroine" but he added that she was "more than a war heroine."
"We have lost a truly remarkable woman and a shining example of courage and compassion," he said.
Links to more information about Mrs Elizabeth Choy
An Extra-ordinary Life
I did not have the privilege of personally knowing this remarkable woman.
The facts speak for themselves.
Courage, humility and forgiveness are just some of the obvious virtues that all of us can learn from Mrs. Choy.
May she rest in peace.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
"If not for war, they would be just like me. They would be at home with their family, doing just ordinary things and peaceful work. Let us pray that there will be no more war" Elizabeth Choy ( when asked why her torturers did not deserve execution)
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Dummy's Guide to the Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group
Even the most isolated and disinterested of us, would have heard of the IMF and World Bank Meeting that will be held in Singapore over the next week or so. The banners,newly painted signages, freshly metalled highways etc... it's obvious. The usual overkill of the Asian host!
I do confess that I know much more about the protest ( or non-protest in Singapore's case) than about the IMF and the WB. So after googling these two by-now ubiquitous acronyms,I now proudly declare that I understand the two institutions a wee bit more.
Hence, in accordance with the proud traditions passed down to me from my predecessors ( some say from Hippocrates, others say from Phua Chu Kang- anyway it is commonly known in surgical circles as "see one, do one, teach one"), I will try to enlighten the even less enlightened ones amongst you readers.
1.What's the Fuss about the Annual Meetings
The Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group normally meet once a year to discuss the work of their respective institutions. The Annual Meetings, which generally take place in September-October, have customarily been held in Washington for two consecutive years and in another member country in the third year. The Annual Meetings are preceded by the ministerial-level meetings of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the IMF's policy-guiding body, and the Development Committee, a joint IMF-World Bank forum.
2.IMF and WB were rather displeased with Singapore (ok, there were really pissed!)
Joint Statement From World Bank And IMF On CSO Participation In The Annual Meetings In Singapore
Press Release No. 06/193
September 7, 2006
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have accredited nearly 500 civil society representatives from more than 45 countries to attend the 2006 Annual Meetings in Singapore, a record number. Jointly with many of these Civil Society Organizations, we have organized what promises to be a dynamic Civil Society Forum at the Annual Meetings, with more than 40 sessions planned on critical development issues.
In the interest of good governance, transparency and accountability, we urge the Government of Singapore to allow all properly accredited civil society representatives to attend our meetings. We have consistently opposed any restrictions on full participation and peaceful expression of views. Open dialogue with civil society is also important for the effective operation of our institutions.
The Singapore Government has informed us of their objection to the accreditation of a number of these civil society representatives, and has stated their intention to block those individuals' access to the Annual Meetings. These individuals have been cleared to attend the Annual Meetings by their respective governments and we have accredited them according to our standard procedure.
We believe that all individuals who have been accredited to the Annual Meetings should be allowed to attend, consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding between the World Bank/IMF and the host government. We strongly urge the Singapore government to act swiftly and reverse their decision on entry and access to the Meetings for these representatives.
3.IMF & WB are used to engagement with Civil Society Organisations (CSO) (they don't see what the fuss is about)
The IMF (& WB) seeks to engage with CSOs through information sharing, dialogue, and consultation at both global and national levels.
The IMF uses the term “civil society organization” to refer to the wide range of citizens’ associations that exists in virtually all member countries to provide benefits, services or political influence to specific groups within society.
Over the years, the IMF has become more transparent and has sought to become more accountable, not only to the governments that own it, but also to the broader public.
The IMF has become committed to:
- Being transparent about its work. Dialogue with CSOs is an important channel for communication.
- Fostering a culture of listening and learning. CSOs can highlight important issues, offer information to supplement official data, and provide insights that may differ from perspectives in official circles.
- Strengthening country ownership of policies, which is essential to successful stabilization and reform. Constructive dialogue with CSOs can help to build mutual understanding and to increase support for reform.
4. so.. What is the IMF?
The International Monetary Fund—also known as the “IMF” or the “Fund”—was conceived at a United Nations conference convened in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, U.S. in July 1944. The 45 governments represented at that conference sought to build a framework for economic cooperation that would avoid a repetition of the disastrous economic policies that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Headquartered in Washington DC, it is governed by and accountable to the governments of the 184 countries that make up its near-global membership
4.1 How the IMF Promotes Global Economic Stability
4.2 How the IMF Helps to Resolve Economic Crises
4.3 How the IMF Helps Poor Countries
4.4 Where the IMF Gets its Money
Most resources for IMF loans are provided by member countries, primarily through their payment of quotas. Concessional lending and debt relief for low-income countries are financed through separate contribution-based trust funds. The IMF's annual operating expenses are largely paid for by the difference between its interest receipts and its interest payments.
The quota system
Each member of the IMF is assigned a quota, based broadly on its relative size in the world economy, which determines its contribution to the IMF's financial resources. Upon joining the IMF, a country normally pays up to one-quarter of its quota in the form of widely accepted foreign currencies (such as the U.S. dollar, the euro, the yen, or the pound sterling) or Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). The remaining three-quarters is paid in the country's own currency.
Quotas are reviewed at least every five years. The quota review that was concluded in 1998 led to a 45 percent increase in IMF quotas to SDR 213 billion (about $308 billion as of end-March 2006). The review concluded in January 2003 resulted in no change in quotas.
Special Drawing Rights (SDR): What is it?
The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement the existing official reserves of member countries. SDRs are allocated to member countries in proportion to their IMF quotas. The SDR also serves as the unit of account of the IMF and some other international organizations. Its value is based on a basket of key international currencies.
4.5 Singapore in relation to IMF
Singapore’s quota is 862.5 million SDR representing 0.40% of the total.
This translates to 8875 votes which is 0.41% of the total vote.
Our Governor on the board is Lim Hng Kiang and the alternate is Heng Swee Keat.
Link to IMF Members' Quotas and Voting Power, and IMF Board of Governors
5.The World Bank; What is it?
The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. It helps governments in developing countries reduce poverty by providing them with money and technical expertise they need for a wide range of projects-such as education, health, infrastructure, communications, government reforms and many other purposes
5.1 What is the difference between the World Bank and the World Bank Group?
The term "World Bank" refers only to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). The term "World Bank Group" incorporates five closely associated entities that work collaboratively toward poverty reduction: the World Bank (IBRD and IDA), and three other agencies, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
5.2 Who owns the World Bank & how does a country become a member?
The World Bank is like a cooperative in which a 184 member countries are shareholders. Under the Articles of Agreement of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), a country must first join the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prior to becoming a member of the bank. Membership in IDA, IFC and MIGA is conditioned upon membership in IBRD. For more detailed information on procedures for membership and subscription in each organization, go to General Information.
(My comments: Understooded? Must join IMF before joining IBRD ( which is one of 2 banks constituting the "World Bank". Must join IBRD before joining IDA,IFC or MIGA which are parts of the larger World Bank Group! Got it?) So that's how IMF and WB are related to each other other than that most of the people sitting on these boards are probably the same ones flying in on the same private jets!
5.3 Who runs the World Bank? What are the Boards of Governors and Executive Directors, and how are they selected?
The Board of Executive Directors and the President of the World Bank—who serves as chairman of the board—are responsible for the conduct of the general operations of the bank, oversee the work of the bank on a daily basis, and perform their duties under powers delegated to them by the Board of Governors. The directors meet twice a week in Washington, DC, to approve new loans and review bank operations and policies.
The Board of Governors is made up of shareholders—184 member countries—who are the ultimate policy makers at the World Bank. Generally, the governors are member countries' ministers of finance or ministers of development. They meet once a year at the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund to set the overall policies of the institution, review country membership and perform other tasks. Because the governors only meet annually, they delegate specific duties to the 24 Executive Directors, who work on-site at the bank.
According to the Articles of Agreement, the five largest shareholders, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, each appoint an executive director, while other member countries are represented by 19 executive directors who represent constituencies in several countries. Each of the directors is elected by a country or group of countries every two years. It is customary for election rules to ensure that a wide geographical balance is maintained on the board.
5.4 Who is the president of the World Bank, and how is the president elected?
Paul Wolfowitz is the 10th president of the World Bank. He is chairman of the bank's board of executive directors and also president of the five interrelated organizations that make up the World Bank Group. By tradition, the bank president is a national of and is nominated by the executive director of the largest shareholder in the bank, the United States. The president is elected by the board of governors for a five-year, renewable term. By a long-standing, informal agreement, the president of the bank is a United States national, while the managing director of the International Monetary Fund is a European.
(My comments: Now we know why everyone is always sucking up to our American and European friends!!)
5.5 Where does the World Bank get its money?
The World Bank raises money in several different ways to support the low interest and no interest loans (credits) and grants that the World Bank (IBRD and IDA) offers to developing and poor countries.
IBRD lending to developing countries is primarily financed by selling AAA-rated bonds in the world's financial markets. IBRD bonds are purchased by a wide range of private and institutional investors in North America, Europe and Asia. While IBRD earns a small margin on this lending, the greater proportion of income comes from lending out its own capital. This capital consists of reserves built up over the years and money paid in from the bank's 184 member country shareholders. IBRD income also pays for World Bank operating expenses and has contributed to IDA and debt relief. The WB maintains strict financial discipline to maintain the AAA status of our bonds and continue to extend financing to developing countries.
Shareholder support is also very important for the bank. This is reflected in the capital backing it has received from shareholders in meeting their debt service obligations to IBRD. It also has US$178 billion in what is known as "callable capital," which could be drawn from its shareholders as backing, should it ever be needed to meet IBRD obligations for borrowings (bonds) or guarantees. It has never had to call on this resource.
IDA, the world's largest source of interest-free loans and grant assistance to the poorest countries, is replenished every three years by 40 donor countries. Additional funds are regenerated through repayments of loan principal on 35-to-40-year, no-interest loans, which are then available for re-lending. IDA accounts for nearly 40% of its lending.
Now that you are even more confused than before you started, at least when you bump into some lost-looking suit in Marina area this week, you can drop some names like Bretton Woods; the World Bank Group ( and NOT just the World Bank); and with a straight face discuss the merits of increasing the quotas and SDR's and yes, do mention that you will be playing a round of golf with good old "Wolfy" at the club!
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
(PS: By the way, I think they should allow the protests, esply the ones with the chicks.. I mean the chickens)
2.International Monetary Fund
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The internet is an amazing medium which allows all of us to participate in useful discourse from wherever we are. Those of us who have a passion for what is happening around us can participate in what I see as an experiment in grass-root democracy (well, sort of anyway).
For this we must thank pioneers like Mr. Wang of Mr.Wang Bakes Good Karma whom I read everyday as his brain seems to ooze out posts and ideas effortlessly. I suspect that he must be a scion of some rich tycoon, and hence does not really need to work and can afford to spend his time blogging 24/7.
I do not wish to steal the thunder from Mr. Wang and I will immediately get to the point about this post. Mr. Wang in his inimitable way blogged about National Service and why it is time to have a relook at this once “sacred cow”. Before the conservatives amongst you “switch off” and mumble to yourselves, “Here we go again, same old sh*t again about NS slavery blah blah…”, let me assure you in Mr. Wang’s own words, “It has never been my intention to argue that NS is not necessary.” ( see.. he even reads minds!).
He is seeking feedback about how National Service can be a more worthwhile experience ( or as someone said, a less worthless one). To set the tone for Part 2 of the post, he assures the skeptics thus (in a comment):
"1. Is NS necessary? It has never been my intention to argue that NS is not necessary.
2. Forcing 1st Gen FTs to do NS.No, that is not my idea.
3. Forcing 2nd Gen FTs to do NS.If they are citizens, they would have to serve. But no, it is not my idea to force anyone to take up citizenship.
4. Professional armyNo, it was not my intention to argue that we can replace our conscript army with a professional army. Although I think hiring another 10,000 Gurkhas would be useful. Foreign talent is good, remember?”
My aim here is to rechannel more eyeballs to his post. The comments from netizens ( last count 94 comments) are just as important ( if not more important than the actual post itself). The majority of the comments are serious and well thought-out. Doubtlessly, there are some wisecracks but if the government wants sincere feedback and constructive ideas, Mindef should look no further.
My limited experience with my blog confirms that bloggers are generally responsible and constructive. In fact, I have already disabled the “moderation” function of my comments page as there had been no need to censor any comments for any defamatory or distasteful comments for there were none.
I would suggest that perhaps Mr. Wang should collate these comments ( in some sort of order) and forward them to Mindef. Let us see how the authorities respond to such sincere and constructive suggestions.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
PS: In case you are wondering... no, Mr. Wang did not ask me to do this. In fact I don't even know who he is.
Below is the post and links...
Rethinking NS - Part 1 (from Mr. Wang Bakes Good Karma)
Recently, I had lunch with a lawyer. A foreigner who has been working for some years in Singapore. He has PR status now and has been offered citizenship a few times. He also has a very young son, about three years old. During lunch, he asked me point-blank to explain the NS system and how he could avoid his son having to do NS (read on...)
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
The recent teachers’ day gives each of us an opportunity to reflect upon our education system as well as the crucial role played by our teachers during the most impressionable years of our lives.
I whole-heartedly and unreservedly agree with our PM’s quest as per our media’s headline: Govt determined to develop every student's potential to the fullest: PM Lee (see link) Our teachers will determine whether our next generation of citizens will be better than the last.
At the risk of sounding like a sycophant, I also support the Ministry of Education as it unveils a $250m plan to boost the teaching profession
1.Past policies were ok, but not great…
Not being an educationist, I can only comment as a parent and past student and of course as an active citizen. I also believe in life-long learning and those who know me, will confirm that I walk the talk.
I will just dwell briefly on some past policies which I consider to be mistaken. These include policies relating to “graduate mothers”; streaming; school ranking etc.
Thankfully, most of these have been abandoned or modified significantly or just left to die natural deaths. Authorities do not like to reverse policies, for to do so would be to admit to errors in policies or its implementation.
i.Graduate mother policy
However, the "graduate mother" policy was one in which the authorities openly reversed when Dr. Tony Tan became the Education Minister. He still has my respects for this. This ridiculous policy allows children of graduate mothers to have priority in the choice of school. A non-graduate's child queued further down the line and hence is disadvantaged. This was Eugenics in broad daylight! How could any nation tolerate such an unfair and distasteful policy? I am still speechless...
ii.a Streaming ( amended due to inaccuracies pointed out by a "commenter")
Children at the age of 9-10 years old ( end of Primary 3) are streamed into EM1/EM2/EM3. The lowest of these classifications ( can't remember which) indicates that the child should only be challenged with one language (ie monolingual). This policy has been "watered-down" considerably recently. Why don't the MOE just swallow their pride and end this unhelpful policy once and for all.
Also, at this juncture of their young lives, the so-called "really smart ones "are channelled via assessments into the GEP ( Gifted Education Programme) where they almost get a through-train to parent's nirvana! Sigh.. a subject for another post.
At the end of the primary school curriculm (Pr. 6), they will be categorised into Express/Normal classes etc. The stigmatisation from such labelling continue to affect many children in our very achievement-conscious society. For the uninitiated,"Normal" is not the stream of choice for most.
Let me state categorically, that my son's classmates, whether in Express or Normal classes are all extra-ordinarily intelligent and likeable boys who are the pride of their parents.
ii b Other type of Streaming
In my time at school, intelligence was too narrowly defined and talents were looked for almost exclusively in the sciences and mathematics. Any outstanding scholar with an eye for the Arts & Social Sciences would be the exception rather than the rule.
How can we forget how the smarter students would be automatically channeled into the “Science stream” without question as if everyone desired to be doctors and engineers! The rest would fill up the places in the “Arts stream” classes.
iii. School ranking system
This system was introduced to induce the schools to excel. It is a sort of insidious "Amazing Race" where annually, each school would try to outdo each other in their students' grades and statistics in order to be top of a league table. Some people continue to believe that without competition, we humans will be lazy and not try hard.
With the school ranking system, many schools were known to have dropped subjects like English Literature for no reason other than that it is harder to ace this subject compared to others like Mathematics etc. For the same reason, students deemed to be academically challenged were encouraged by some schools to drop subjects. Rumours even have it that some schools actually advised some students to leave the school or sit for examinations as private candidates.
Of course I do not know of any principals who have admitted to such practices.
2.Enlightened Era of the Multiple Intelligences
I am particularly encouraged that in recent years, our Education Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, has brought about the establishment of specialist schools for Sports, Art and Music etc ( have I missed any?).
This shows that new educational theories such as Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences are not only being accepted but also being put into practice.
Educationists amongst us would know that Howard Gardner, is a professor at Harvard University and the author of many books and articles. His theory of multiple intelligences has challenged long-held assumptions about intelligence -- especially about a single measure of intelligence.
THE ORIGINAL SEVEN INTELLIGENCES
Howard Gardner first identified and introduced to us seven different kinds of intelligence in Frames of Mind.
· Linguistic intelligence: a sensitivity to the meaning and order of words.
· Logical-mathematical intelligence: ability in mathematics and other complex logical systems.
· Musical intelligence: the ability to understand and create music. Musicians, composers and dancers show a heightened musical intelligence.
· Spatial intelligence: the ability to "think in pictures," to perceive the visual world accurately, and recreate (or alter) it in the mind or on paper. Spatial intelligence is highly developed in artists, architects, designers and sculptors.
· Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: the ability to use one's body in a skilled way, for self-expression or toward a goal. Mimes, dancers, basketball players, and actors are among those who display bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
· Interpersonal intelligence: an ability to perceive and understand other individuals -- their moods, desires, and motivations. Political and religious leaders, skilled parents and teachers, and therapists use this intelligence.
· Intrapersonal intelligence: an understanding of one's own emotions. Some novelists and or counselors use their own experience to guide others.
Gardner has also identified other intelligences such as the naturalist intelligence, and according to him, Charles Darwin is an example of one.
Links about Howard Gardners: The Theory of Mutltiple Intelligences
3.How to bring back the joy to childhood? (Clue: not more tuition classes)
Even if the government had the most enlightened education policies, not much will change for the kids, if our parents insist on anachronistic attitudes.
My personal observation is that there is just too much private tuition. It is not uncommon to find parents transporting their children from tuition class to tuition class on weekends and nights.
Don't be surprised that these children are not 10 year-old primary kids but 17-year old grown-up’s , many of whom go to very reputable Junior Colleges like Raffles and Hwa Chong.
Let’s pause and think. These ace students ( for one needs almost perfect score in the GCE O Levels to get admission into the top 2-3 JC’s), still need extra-coaching in those subjects that they are already aceing? Or did they ace only because they had weekly extra coaching? Should not our students’ school-teachers’ remedial classes be sufficient?
It is no wonder that the tuition industry is one of 2 industries thought to be recession-proof, the other being the food industry.
Let the children enjoy their childhood. Don’t spoon-feed them.
Let them learn how to learn.
4.Eh… shouldn’t we be getting more world-beating adults?
If we listen to our school children in radio talk-shows, one cannot but be impressed by how articulate they are and that they do not talk nonsense, unlike our generation.
Universities round the world love having Singaporean students as they generally do well.. very well. So if these smart kids graduate summa cum laude from the world’s most prestigious colleges, what really happens to them after they re-enter Singapore’s work-force?
Shouldn’t we expect more world-beating adults? ( I know I am revisiting some old issues which had ruffled many feathers a while ago in the MSM).
But seriously, what else can be done in order for our society to benefit from this enlightened education system? Any takers?
5.SAP schools-I think they are not conducive for the mixing of races
(NB: SAP-Special Assistance Programme- mainly Chinese-based schools which supposedly train future Chinese cultural elites)
I know this is sensitive and controversial, so I will state my personal view and pack up.
I strongly feel that in Singapore, it is not right that a student can be in an environment where there is nary a non-Chinese student for the whole four years of secondary education. Period.
Cheers to all,
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan