Singapore GE2020: Inconsistent manpower policies and renegotiating FTAs will erode confidence in S'pore, says Chan Chun Sing
SINGAPORE - Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday (July 8) warned against reopening negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) and implementing inconsistent manpower policies.
To do so would further erode confidence in Singapore, and reduce the country's attractiveness to investors in a world where protectionism is growing, said the PAP's second assistant secretary-general.
At a People's Action Party press conference, Mr Chan noted that global investor and consumer confidence has gone down.
"What we need to do is make sure that we have a conducive environment to inspire confidence in investors to plant their investments in Singapore, to create good jobs," he said.
Over the nine-day general election campaign period, some opposition parties - notably the Progress Singapore Party - have called for Singapore to review FTAs such as the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
The PSP, led by former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock, has also proposed introducing a quota for Employment Pass holders and lowering the quota for S Pass and work permit holders.
"At this point in time, we must be careful," Mr Chan said at the press conference. "Amidst growing protectionism, reopening FTA negotiations and inconsistent manpower policies will further erode confidence in Singapore and erode our attractiveness as a choice destination for investments."
He listed two things that Singapore has to get done within the next six to 12 months.
The first is to uphold existing bilateral and multilateral FTAs, so that Singapore can continue to access the overseas market.
"Now this is not easy. There are inherent forces that are going to bifurcate the trading relationships... the technological relationships," Mr Chan said.
His own ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to work to "mobilise like-minded partners" to this end.
Singapore hopes to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal - the world's largest trade pact - before the end of this year. It is also pushing to make deals on as many digital economic partnership agreements as possible, which will create new opportunities for businesses, he added.
The second thing that Singapore needs to do, Mr Chan said, is demonstrate to the world that it can have "consistent and coherent long-term policies".
"We need to demonstrate to the world and distinguish ourselves as an open and connected hub, so that people will put their long-term investments into Singapore," he said.
This will allow businesses to seize new opportunities and workers to secure the new jobs that emerge, he added.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Workers' Party candidate Leon Perera pointed out that foreign direct investment grew after the 2011 General Election, even though the ruling party lost Aljunied GRC that year.
Asked for his response to this, Mr Chan said anyone looking at long-term investment trends over many years will inevitably find that it moves upwards.
"But the real question is: Is this due to the effort, or would we have gone on an even higher trajectory if not for the obstacles that we faced?" he asked.
"I think it is wrong to assume that investments will come in to Singapore, regardless of what happens in Singapore."
In the first four months of this year, the Economic Development Board (EDB) secured a total of $13 billion in investment commitments for Singapore. This is higher than the yearly amounts secured from 2013 to 2018, and exceeds the $8 billion to $10 billion initially projected fro the whole of this year. The EDB secured $15.2 billion last year.
Mr Chan pointed out that it is an "immense challenge" to attract both foreign and local investment to Singapore, and noted that local businesses are facing great uncertainty.
Investors will be looking at whether Singapore can still provide a "safe harbour", and have continuity as well as coherence in its policies, he added.
"At this point in time, the last thing we need to do is add to the uncertainty," he said.
"It is not correct to say that, regardless of what happens in this election, people will continue to have the confidence to plant their investments in Singapore."
SINGAPORE - Nurse Antoinette Goh wants her patients to stay out of hospital.
Beyond providing medical care and support while they are warded, she sees the role of nurses as helping patients "continue to stay healthy after their discharge from the hospital to reduce the possibility of re-admission", said the assistant nurse clinician at the National University Health System's Regional Health Office.
As part of her job scope, she helps recovering patients' transition from the hospital to their home environments, taking into account their medical and social needs.
For instance, she conducts home visits to ensure that the patients' living environments are safe, and that they have the necessary support from their family members.
The patients she works with are often elderly, with complex medical conditions or several illnesses at the same time.
"I believe in empowering people, by helping them take ownership of their medical conditions," said Ms Goh, 31. This entails identifying their needs, helping them understand their medical conditions, and take active steps for their well-being such as watching their diets.
Outside of work, she volunteered at nursing homes and hospices, and is a regular on humanitarian trips to Cambodia, where she helps to set up mobile medical clinics and teach first aid to the communities there.
Ms Goh was one of 100 nurses presented with the yearly Nurses' Merit Award by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (July 8).
The award is given to nurses who have "displayed noteworthy and exceptional performance, participated in professional development, and contributed to raising the nursing profession," said the MOH.
They come from a variety of care settings, spanning the community care sector, private hospitals and public healthcare institutions.
Each award comes with a medal to be worn as part of the nurse's uniform, and a cash prize of $1,000.
Currently 42,000-strong, the nursing workforce has grown over the years from 36,000 in 2013, and its role has expanded to encompass community nursing, education, research and technology so as to improve the quality of care for patients and their resulting health and quality of life.
Mr Koh Chee Meng, an assistant nurse clinician at the Institute of Mental Health, was part of a team that piloted the institution's Recovery Oriented Transition Care Model last April. Under this programme, he conducts weekly home visits to follow up with discharged patients from his ward to ensure that they are coping well.
"I think it's important for us as nurses to ensure that they're not left alone, and for them to remember that we still care for them even when they are no longer in the hospital with us," he said.
He added that building rapport with the patients has made it easier for them to share the problems and worries that they struggle with.
The 60-year-old said he is a firm believer in life-long learning, and completed his nursing degree in May this year.
Mr Koh, who has been in nursing for 36 years, also holds a diploma in nursing from Nanyang Polytechnic, as well as an advanced diploma in nursing for mental health.
The degree course helped him learn how to better communicate with his patients and understand their needs, which has helped him to guide and support them along their road to recovery, said Mr Koh, who leads a team of nurses at IMH.
To support the professional growth of nurses in community care, MOH launched a Community Nursing Competency Framework in January, which defines the scope of work, roles and competencies of nurses at various stages of their career.
Besides providing greater clarity on their roles as community nurses, this will ensure that training and development can be better structured and organised.
Nurses who are keen in developing further clinical skills and knowledge in specific areas will be able to sign up for courses on the new National Nursing Academy website, which was launched in March to promote lifelong learning for nurses.
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GENEVA/MOSCOW - Temperatures in Arctic Siberia soared to a record average for June amid a heat wave that is stoking some of the worst wildfires the region has ever known, European Union (EU) data showed on Tuesday (July 7).
Global temperatures last month were on a par with a 2019 record, and "exceptional warmth" was recorded over Arctic Siberia, the EU's earth observation programme Copernicus said, part of a trend scientists are calling a "warning cry".
Average temperatures in the region were more than 5 deg C above normal and more than a degree higher than the two previous warmest Junes, in 2018 and 2019, the data showed.
The World Meteorological Organisation is also seeking to confirm reports of a temperature reading of more than 38 deg C in Siberia, which would be the highest temperature recorded north of the Arctic Circle.
"What is worrisome is that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world," said Mr Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The exceptional heat has sapped moisture from the earth across the region's vast boreal forests and tundra, fanning wildfires that have intensified since mid-June.
The Russian forestry agency said that, as of July 6, there were 246 forest fires covering 140,073ha and an emergency situation has been declared in seven regions. Russian state TV footage this week showed planes dumping water near huge columns of white smoke.
Copernicus says the fires have surpassed the record number of blazes seen in the region in the same month of last year.
"Higher temperatures and drier surface conditions are providing ideal conditions for these fires to burn and to persist for so long over such a large area," said Mr Mark Parrington, senior scientist at Copernicus.
Wildfire carbon dioxide emissions from the region last month were an estimated 59 megatonnes, compared with 53 megatonnes last year, the EU said.
NEW YORK - Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged accomplice of the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been moved to a jail in New York, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where she faces charges of facilitating a sex-trafficking ring.
Maxwell, 58, was arrested on Thursday in New Hampshire and had been held over the weekend at the Merrimack County Jail, a medium-security facility 32km from the luxurious home where investigators said she had been lying low.
The defendant is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, the prison bureau said on Monday (July 6).
Conditions there sparked public outcry last year after an electrical fire cut power and heat to roughly 1,600 prisoners during one of the coldest weeks of 2019.
Prosecutors have accused Maxwell, the daughter of the late British media magnate Robert Maxwell, of luring and grooming underage girls so that Epstein could sexually abuse them.
In some cases, Maxwell herself participated in the abuse, according to an indictment unsealed last week.
Maxwell is expected to make her first appearance in federal court in Manhattan on Friday on four criminal counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two counts of perjury.
Epstein had been awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking minors between 2002 and 2005 when he was found hanged at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan in August. Medical examiners concluded his death was a suicide.
Maxwell was a former Epstein girlfriend who became a longtime member of his inner circle. In a 2003 Vanity Fair article, Epstein was quoted as saying Maxwell was his best friend.
The indictment said Maxwell lured girls beginning in 1994 through 1997 by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to movies.
After Maxwell won the girls' trust, the indictment alleged, she would try to "normalise sexual abuse" by discussing sexual topics or by undressing in front of them or being present when they were undressed.
Epstein's alleged abuse included touching their genitals, placing sex toys on their genitals and having the girls touch Epstein while he masturbated.
Maxwell faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors have said Maxwell is a flight risk, and have asked that she be detained without bail.
Christian Everdell, a New York-based lawyer for Maxwell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Maxwell's transfer was handled by the US Marshals Service.
"This is what I call gutter politics," Progress Singapore Party's secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock said today (July 7) with regards to the controversy surrounding Worker's Party's (WP) candidate Raeesah Khan.
The 26-year-old is under police probe over comments she made on social media in the past.
Two police reports were made on July 4 and 5, over her old Facebook posts where she commented on the outcome of the City Harvest Church trial as well as the individuals who were spotted gathering at Robertson Quay during the circuit breaker.
Raeesah has since apologised for making "insensitive" and "improper" remarks, adding that she would "fully co-operate in any police investigations."
After a walkabout at Bukit Merah View Market, Dr Tan told the media he did not want to be involved in politics like that, and that whoever made the police reports had timed it.
He said: "[The posts were made] so long ago, they should've taken action [earlier]. Why wait till now? That is my question.
"When it comes to politicking of this nature, let us [take the high road], then the world will look at us and regard Singapore as a mature country."
Dr Tan also added: "I don't want to pick an event that happened two years ago. That shows that they have been waiting for this moment and this is what I call gutter politics."
“If there is a clash of priorities in terms of doing what I need to do for my residents against what I need to do on my personal or job fronts, I will always prioritise my residents’ interests,” said People’s Action Party’s Murali Pillai to the media on Tuesday (July 7).
The incumbent MP for Bukit Batok's remarks were made in reference to his opponent, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, questioning his ability to serve effectively since he was not a full-time MP.
Elaborating, Murali said that he spent six days a week speaking to residents of Bukit Batok and managing community programmes.
These include a Green Ribbon task force, where volunteers support families who are caring for someone mentally-challenged, and a tuition programme for children living in rental flats.
This election would be the second time the two political rivals are going head to head after the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election.
Dr Chee had also shared several Facebook posts about the upgrading works he alleged were delayed, remained incomplete and hazardous, openly criticising Murali’s management of Bukit Batok.
Murali said that people “may not necessarily have a perspective of other matters that are happening as well”.
“Bukit Batok residents know ultimately how the town is managed and I’m very sure that they will come to a fair conclusion.”
He also added that it was beneficial if Bukit Batok’s town council affairs could be managed together with the neighbouring Jurong and Yuhua constituencies for “very significant scale of operations”, which would mean "cost savings and more resources".
LA PAZ: Bolivian Health Minister Eidy Roca has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the third member of the cabinet to be infected in four days, interim President Jeanine Anez said on Sunday (Jul 5).
Anez expressed her support for Roca on Twitter as the country's rapidly worsening outbreak rose to 38,071 cases and 1,378 deaths.
The minister of the presidency, Yerko Nunez, has been hospitalised with a fever due to "complications from COVID-19," according to officials.
On Saturday, it was also reported that Mining Minister Jorge Fernando Oropeza had tested positive.
Roca's health is stable and she is "strictly complying with the safety protocol that includes isolation, medication and care," said a statement from her office.
Anez has been largely confined to the presidential residence from where she holds internet meetings.
"Most of the time she works from there and only comes (to the government palace) when her physical presence is necessary," deputy communication minister Isabel Fernandez said on Saturday.
Since the pandemic began in March, several Bolivian ministers have completed 14-day quarantines due to suspected coronavirus cases in their family or close associates.
LONDON - The UK government is looking "very closely" at the use of Huawei Technologies' equipment in the country's telecommunications network, a minister said, after the Sunday Telegraph reported that the Chinese company faces a ban within months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government in January said Huawei would be allowed to supply equipment for the UK's 5G networks, arguing the country needed diversity in its suppliers, and that any risks involved in using Chinese kit could be mitigated.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on June 30 that US sanctions on Huawei introduced in May were "designed to make 5G designed by Huawei very hard to do."
The Sunday Telegraph said Huawei now faces a UK ban within months, citing an intelligence report due to be presented to Johnson this week.
"When we came out with an interim report on this earlier in the year, there were a number of conditions that needed to be met and so I'm sure that the National Security Council will look at those conditions and make the right decision on this to make sure that we have both a very strong telecoms infrastructure and everyone can get a phone signal, but also that it is secure," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday (July 5) in a Sky News interview.
"We have been looking very closely at this."
Reportersr also said a report from the National Cybersecurity Centre has concluded that US sanctions mean Huawei will have to use untrusted technology because it's barred from relying on American intellectual property.
UK officials are drawing up plans to stop installing new Huawei equipment in as few as six months, and to speed up the removal of already-installed kit from the Chinese company, the newspaper said.
In an interview with reporters on Monday (July 6), Culture Minister Oliver Dowden declined to comment on the report but said the UK decision was not “not fixed in stone”.
“If the US impose sanctions which they have done, we believe that could have a significant impact on the reliability of Huawei equipment and whether we can use it safely,” he said.
The British government said on Sunday in an emailed statement that the evaluation of Huawei is an ongoing process and "we will update further in due course."
2,000 more university places offered in second admissions exercise amid coronavirus pandemic disruption
SINGAPORE - The six autonomous universities have offered around 2,000 more places during the second admissions exercise held to cater to Singaporeans whose overseas study plans had been disrupted by the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) on Monday (July 6) said the additional offers were made across a range of courses, while maintaining admission standards.
It is not known how many unique applicants are among these 2,000 offers, as some applicants may have applied for and received acceptances from more than one course.
Because of the additional offers, MOE said it expects the cohort participation rate to increase slightly this year - by up to two percentage points - from the originally planned 40 per cent, which translates to about 17,000 places this year.
Reporters reported last month that each of the six local universities received between 19 and 550 applications during the second admissions exercise held in May.
These included applicants who switched from overseas to local universities.
Another group of applicants were polytechnic diploma holders who had previously intended to join the workforce, but were now opting to study because of the weak job market.
The Covid-19 outbreak has left many Singaporean students with plans to study overseas unsure of what the future holds.
While many of them still hope to resume their overseas studies in January next year, some have decided to take a gap year.
MOE also said on Monday that existing Singaporean students who are already studying in an overseas university but who wish to switch to studying locally can write directly to the autonomous universities' admission offices, and their applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. This includes a review of whether credit transfers can be granted.
The autonomous universities have received a small number of such applications, and are prepared to take in as many of these transfer cases as they can accommodate, including for courses such as medicine, said MOE. This is subject to applicants meeting the admission criteria.
Students who prefer to wait for some months before resuming their studies overseas can also sign up for continuing education and training modular courses offered by the universities.