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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Torn up over tourism

In News Reports, Sports on April 23, 2013 at 2:25 am

How should Singapore present itself to the rest of the world? As a glitzy Dubai or a charming Penang? Singapore Tourism Board chief Lionel Yeo thinks we can be both and wants to ratchet up Singapore-flavoured offerings. It marks a change from the days when we were told to be enthusiastic about international attention on Formula One (Oh! Look at the numbers tuning in worldwide!) and how casinos will bring in the well-heeled.

Thing is, can we be both? Or is it already too late?

In the international eye, Singapore is probably more Dubai than Penang – efficient, fast-paced, haven for billionaires. Expensive clubs. Designer boutiques. Playground for the rich and famous. The tourism strategy has brought in a lot of money, as well as foreigners – both the spending kind and those needed to staff the low-wage positions in the hospitality industry. For the rest of us, we can only look in. Not rich enough to play; too rich to want a job tending bar and waiting tables. We might feel proud about how far we have come, as we cruise along the East Coast Parkway and gape at the skyline. We might even feel like tourists in our own country!

What about the new effort to display our local offerings then? Here’s the good: our local designers can expect a leg-up. Also, heritage and conservation, something increasingly dear to Singaporeans, will now have…. an economic dimension! We need to preserve them…because they bring in the tourists!

Okay, enough of that.

Anyway, that was what was reported in ST yesterday. Today, however, the media reported that at a tourism conference, expectations were scaled back on tourism numbers and spending in the future. That’s because those big ticket draws are already in place and have contributed to the spurt in numbers. A rising rate of growth would be “unsustainable’’. (Did anyone heave a sigh of relief at the propect of a not-as-crowded future?). Besides, neighbouring countries are also putting up theme parks and F1 races. Singapore’s first-mover advantage will be eroded.

Media reports said STB estimated that visitor arrivals could grow at 3 to 4 per cent and tourism receipts at 4 to 6 per cent annually over the next 10 years. This contrasts with the record growth posted between 2002 and last year, when visitor arrivals grew at a compounded annual rate of 6.6 per cent. Tourism receipts also grew at a corresponding 10 per cent in the same period.

According to Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, Singapore should concentrate on “high-yield growth’’ (code words for big spenders) and those who come “regularly’’. He wants the industry to create more content for visitors in the lifestyle and business sectors. One example, according to ST, is the Fort Canning Centre and Black Box Theatre, which the STB and National Parks Board are looking at turning into a museum with modern art, for an Asian audience.

One wonders if the big spenders will really be interested in experiencing the Singapore way of life and take tours of the HDB heartland and what not. As for those who “come’’ regularly, they would have “been there, done that’’.

Or maybe the new direction is just a marketing gimmick – to tell big spenders that besides the main showpiece of glitzy stuff, there are still those “curiosities’’ they might have missed. So why not have a cheng teng cocktail at a hawker centre and gawp at the locals in their flip flops? If or when that happens, hopefully, prices of our local deserts won’t be jacked up. According to an ST report, there was a suggestion to create more places like “Newton Circus’’. Hey, there might be a good idea – keep the tourists at these high-priced places with a Singapore flavour! No need for them to import inflation into the heartland!

Does anyone remember the old days when Singapore was merely positioned as a Garden City? That was a good one. Very few of our neighbours can replicate that, unless they want to tear down whole buildings and start re-landscaping. So beautiful, our Singapore. Air-con city in a tropical paradise….Can brand like that also leh!

Mr Yap said something refreshing published in ST yesterday: “The STB cannot do our work in a way that ignores what locals care about. It’s about striking a balance…and being respectful to how Singaporeans feel about what is going to happen to their city.’’

That’s something to think about. Because while we might be consulted – and want to be consulted – about our own living surroundings, we tend to leave the business of luring foreign tourists to agencies, forgetting that their actions would affect the place we live in – and even our way of life.

This article first appeared on http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg
Also on Breakfast Network: The coming storm over City Harvest Church saga/Aren’t medics trained to deal with asthmatic soldiers?

Hot case and hot property

In Money, News Reports, Politics, Sports on January 15, 2013 at 6:52 am

Trying trysts
I’m having a hard time trying to make sense of the sex-for-grades case. Which way does this go: She gave sex so she can get good grades? Or: If she gave him sex, he will give her good grades ? Or: She loves him and never thought anything about grades? Or: He wasn’t averse to having something on the side but grades didn’t cross his mind?
I think we know more about MontBlanc pens (and he says he uses Shaeffer), monogrammed tailored shirts and his red sofa (who has a picture?) which is where both trysts occurred.

The media needs to give a better guide on what the case is about – the criminal one. We all know teacher-student sex is wrong; married man-other woman sex is wrong. The criminal part is again on that famous word “corrupt intent’’.
Anyway, it was fun to read about the exchange between law teacher and ex-law student (and nobody’s found out where she works???) I was especially amused by her use of “undue prejudice’’ instead of favour or disfavour in her statement to CPIB. I don’t think I would ever use such a phrase but now I will bear it in mind….
What’s interesting is that like the Ng Boon Gay case, it sheds light on CPIB’s practices. A key one appears to be: You not afraid the whole world will know about you? – that was in response to Darinne Koh’s request about a lawyer. I believe a similar statement/comment/promise was made to Cecilia Sue in the Ng Boon Gay case too.

Hot property
Not women, but those places were people want to buy to live in or invest in. So we have PRs screaming unfair that they have to pay more stamp duty etc. It’s a further differentiation in the status of a PR and citizen. I am tempted to say that PRs should lump it. They still have their own home to go to while the rest of us have to actually live here. But then again, that would make me sound real xenophobic.

For me, the most important thing is whether property prices will fall as a result. (I also want to buy something lah.) And how creative developers can get in making the price right. They’ve shown themselves to be extremely entrepreneurial in the past. An ST Forum page letter writer already alluded to this today – give rebates, absorb stamp duty etc. Then the G would have to jump in again. Very hard to rein in private enterprise…

As for those gigantic ECs, seems like Mr Khaw Boon Wan thinks that capping the size would put paid to all the high-priced skysuites. That, and restricting the development of public areas to add to the unit’s size. Then there is the dual key concept for multi-generational families to live next to each other, except that some owners are renting it out. Now they definitely must be multi-generational families.

Actually, I didn’t realise it was so easy for EC owners to rent out their places. They don’t have to abide by HDB rules on staying on a certain period before renting it out? I would love to know how many people are profiting this way – and also how does the G even know about this? Taxes on rental income? Check against registered addresses?

Teaching teachers

In News Reports, Sports on November 16, 2012 at 12:29 am

I feel sorry for teachers. Now they are going to have a conversation about what sort of values they have to uphold. As teachers, the code has to be stricter than for most I suppose. Just as its stricter for scholars, public servants and I don’t know who else. Lest they bring their profession, institution or agency into disrepute.

There were some noises about this before, way before the case of the female teacher and the 15-year old. I remember teachers having to recite something at an assembly of educators. Now it seems parts of two current documents on ethics will be grouped together and “codified” in some form. Reports don’t say if breaches of the code will bring on penalties. Are these guidelines? Or rules?

What’s good is that the teachers will be discussing the code first. Seems it will get right down to the nitty-gritty like whether they should visit casinos. Oh dear. Is a teacher a teacher all the time, 24/7?  Can there be a separation of personal and professional capacity? ST said that some nitty-gritties are already in place, on sending out suggestive texts and dining/lunching with students alone. I think that’s fine but how much further will the new Code go? Can you imagine a Code that goes like this:

Thou shalt not smoke, swear, gamble or consume alcohol in public places in case students/parents catch you in the act.

In fact, don’t even do it at home – unless you know who your neighbours are.

Thou shalt refrain from touching a student on (itemise parts of the anatomy) to avoid innocent acts being misconstrued.

Better still, never touch a student.

Thou shalt use only good English on social media to set a good example for the Speak Good English movement.

Better still, refrain from using social media lest your views bring the profession into disrepute – never mind that you are speaking in your personal capacity.

Thou shalt observe civility at all times and practise all G campaigns to be kind, speak Mandarin, do not litter, return your tray, go forth and multiply, be as productive as you can be…..

Okay, I am exaggerating. But it’s kind of ridiculous to expect all our teachers to be saints. Because, as one un-named principal said, you risk scaring away people who can teach. I also happen to think that we pile too much on teachers, practically asking them to do the jobs that parents should take on.

Another thing we have to bear in mind: while the reports on teachers indulging in sex with students etc were embarrassing and high-profile, they were just some bad apples. And you have bad apples everywhere.

Let’s hope that the Code is broad enough for teachers to be themselves and not a strait jacket that will stifle their personalities and turn them into safe but boring automatons.

Phrases for the National Conversation

In News Reports, Politics, Society, Sports on September 16, 2012 at 2:00 am

I read Linda Collins’ piece in The Sunday Times today and her contribution to the Singapore Conversation. Hers is: Move down the bus! What a great idea to have phrases embedded in the national consciousness that we would reflect what Singapore is about. So here’s my list:
Kid in a neighbourhood school: “I am NOT in a neighbourhood school. I’m in a good school.’’
Kid in a top school: “I am NOT elitist. I am special. That’s my humble opinion anyway.’’
Parents on selecting kindergartens: “PCF is good enough. They have graduation ceremonies too.’’
On welcoming foreign talent: “Sure we welcome foreigners. Look at Kai Kai and Jia Jia.’’
On feeling squeezed on the MRT: “We might not have elbow room, but we still have breathing space.’’
Lower income on raising pay: “We want both: hand-out and leg-up.’’
Higher-income on doing more: “Sure thing. It’s tax-deductible.’’
On the NIMBY syndrome: “You are welcome to use my backyard – if you can find it.’’
On the Government doing everything: “The Government is not God; it’s just demi-God.’’
The single’s mantra: “I am just single. Not hopeless.’’
The homosexual’s mantra: “I am gay…and, boy, am I happy too!’’
On having more children: “Show me the money.’’
On the LionsXII’s 0-0 draw against Johor: “Why fight? We’re neighbours.’’
On returning trays in eating places: “Bring your own maid.’’
I want to add this last phrase in case someone out there doesn’t have a sense of humour which we seem to sorely lack here: “Just joking.’’

Less G is good, more P is better

In News Reports, Politics, Society, Sports on August 11, 2012 at 2:45 am

I agree entirely with Jeremy Au-Yeong’s column in ST today. Go buy ST. Or go read online since it is now added to circulation numbers…

Jeremy talks about how the G should get out of sports (I’m paraphrasing loosely), because its overwhelming presence tends to complicate feelings people have towards, among things, sporting achievements. So Feng Tianwei’s Olympic bronze looks tarnished because people tend to mix it up with the G’s policy on foreign talent. That heads of NSAs are predominantly men-in-white is another example of the G’s all-pervasive influence.

The thing is, Singapore is G-directed. Whose fault is this? The G who thinks that people wouldn’t come forward if it didn’t take the lead? Or the people who want the G to do everything? It’s mutual reinforcement. Why should people, or local companies or local titans etc do anything when the G is there to do it? It is everywhere, at the grassroots, in the unions, on GLCs, as patrons of charities, dispensing largesse, dishing out penalties, intervening  in the bedroom….you know what I mean.

Some people think that the civil service is subordinate to political control more than before, and that it does not function as the independent bureaucracy political and management theory would have. MInisters are said to be extremely interventionist and top civil servants mere drawers of water and hewers of wood. It doesn’t help when you see civil servants at political events. It raises the question of whether they are there to serve the G or the party. (ok, you can argue that a minister’ walkabout in his own constituency is in his capacity as a minister rather than a Member of Parliament. But..really?)

I suppose it’s normal for a political party in power to want to control as many levers as possible, whether to mobilise opinion or votes or carry out policies. We’ve taken the G’s presence for granted. That’s why we keep running to the G and say “The G should be doing this and that…” or we blame the G for every single thing that goes wrong in our lives – which we demand that the G fix. NOW.

I have always taken the view that this is all pretty unhealthy. We should have less G, not more. And the people  should DO more, not demand more. Citizens have entitlements, but it doesn’t extend to abdicating our responsibility for this country to the G. An election every five years does not mean we have delegated our brains to the elected (even if the G does think so). BTW, it doesn’t do the G any good either, to be the source of all woes…

I think re-calibrating the G-citizen relaionship  is one big part of the national conversation that we want to have following PM’s message on what sort of Singapore we want to be. I dread thinking that the results of the conversation will boil down to: The G should do this or that – whether to get Singaporeans to have more babies, integrate better with foreigners, provide social safety nets etc. Then it’s back to the old days of Remaking Singapore, Singapore 21 and those other national conversations which I find pretty forgettable. The thing is, are we, as citizens, up to the job of looking after ourselves and our country?

I read the pieces in ST on expert views to get Singapore and non-Singaporeans to integrate better. Useful views, but many require the G to take the lead (again!) – like national level programmes to have newcomers do community service, limiting foreign children from enrolling in international schools. having an “immigration bonus” for Singaporeans. And when it came to organising SPORTING activities at the grassroots – look who’s doing the talking, its the politicians being interviewed again..Let the G go calibrate its immigration and work permit regime, can we the citizens of Singaporean take on the ground level work of dealing with newcomers? A man I respect gave an idea recently: He said the workplace is the right place to start. Getting Singaporeans to open their doors is too difficult. After work, we want to rest in the castle that is our home. But the workplace is where we spend most of our time, and that’s probably where we meet foreigners. Daily interactions over lunch, around the water-cooler, bitching about bosses and work - and hopefully leading to visits to each others’ homes, joint outings. Employers can take the lead. A happy work environment is surely a bonus. No need for the G to do anything at the workplace level.

So in this national conversation, deciding on one fundamental value from which all/most approaches should spring would be this: How much Government do we want? To this end, I recommend a feature in ST in its Saturday section written by an expert in parenting. Go buy ST.

Extend the joy

In News Reports, Society, Sports on August 2, 2012 at 1:06 am

So good to hear good news! Pure, unadulterated, straight-up good news. We got a medal! Yay!!!! Thank you Feng Tianwei, you made our day! Wish TNP wouldn’t be such a party-pooper and place the doped-up muscle-men on the front page alongside Feng. Who cares about these dopey men? Their bodies can’t even compare to the cast of Magic Mike – get an eye-full of hunk candy in today’s Life! Now I want to know more about Feng. Probably been in the news many times before, but that was before. Let’s celebrate our heroine! Let it all hang out! Don’t anyone out there try to kill this great moment in Singapore’s history. In a period of so much scandal and discontent, there is still sports to cheer us. Thankfully.

While we’re on the Olympics, I note that there was a question asked at the ST inter-JC current affairs quiz about the number of condoms given out at the Olympic Village. The ST report today however never gave the answer – except that the school got whatever the figure was, correct. How many leh? Another question was which Batman movie was playing when the Colorado gunman went on his shooting spree in the cinema hall. Answer: Dark Knight Rises. I sure hope that the quiz tested the students on more fundamental and important questions, rather than the pop culture type. It will be too easy though in the next round, they got a question on Singapore’s Olympic bronze – like when was the last time we took a medal, or who was the first Singapore Olympian or even Feng’s scores. But if they got it wrong….they should be paddled on their backsides….

Can die!

In News Reports, Sports on May 10, 2012 at 1:47 am

It’s happened again. That Billy Ng story and the Glasgow Rangers. This is not a comment on whether he is really a fan or nor or whether he’s just trying to get the price down. It’s just that phrase that keeps getting repeated in ST: that the football club is “in administration”! I know it’s bankrupt and might just get liquidated if no White or Blue Knight comes along. So we are talking about it being in receivership or something? Some kind of Chapter 11 in Yank-speak? Because, you know, there are a lot of people “in administration” too….

Okay, I got a long answer from someone who should know….

to answer your question: Now that Rangers are heading for administration, what does this mean for them in a football sense?

Firstly, they will be deducted 10 points by the Scottish Premier League. That is a standard punishment for any SPL club suffering an “insolvency event” as covered by the league’s rules. They state: “Where the Insolvency Event occurs during the season, the points deduction shall apply immediately.” That will leave Rangers on 51 points, 14 points behind the SPL leaders Celtic.

What happens to the players?

That is very much down to the administrator. When a club enters administration, there is a moratorium on the debt to allow the club the chance to continue. Players’ contracts are still valid and will continue to be honoured if the administrator decides the club can afford to do so.

There may be some redundancies if the administrator decides there is not enough cashflow to pay everyone, but it is often preferable to retain the club’s top players if possible, if only to sell them on in the next transfer window.

Players may be asked to take a wage cut or, if players are made redundant, they may be offered a settlement. If that is deemed unacceptable they become another of the club’s creditors.

What about assets like Ibrox Stadium and the club’s training facility at Murray Park – could they be sold?

All of the club’s assets revert to the administrator, whose aim is to exit administration by satisfying creditors. As such, the administrator must decide how best to raise the money required to do that, for example selling players or, indeed, fixed assets.

By that rationale, Ibrox and Murray Park could be sold, though the sale of the stadium is more problematic because of the listed building status of the main stand there. Glasgow planning regulations are said to prohibit the training complex being sold for residential development, making the land less attractive to developers.

Can Rangers continue as the same club, with the same history?

Yes, as has been the case with previous clubs who have gone into administration. But it is not always the case. In the example of Airdrie, for instance, the club went out of business, then bought over the registration of Clydebank, who were themselves in administration, and formed Airdrie United, a completely different entity.

When has this happened before in the SPL and what were the consequences?

Four clubs have gone into administration since the SPL was formed in 1998. The first ofthose was Motherwell in April 2002. They avoided a points penalty, as no such punitive rule existed at that time, but 19 players were released or made redundant.

Dundee also avoided a 10-point deduction, having entered administration in 2004 with debts of around £20m, resulting in 25 staff losing their jobs. They had begun the process of coming out of administration in time to miss the points penalty.

The scenario was the same for Livingston, who had seven players made redundant. But in 2008, Gretna were docked 10 points and ultimately went out of business following the withdrawal of funding by their owner Brooks Mileson.

If Rangers qualify for Europe next season, will they be allowed to play in European competition?

That depends. If they come out of administration as the same entity, their licence to compete in Uefa competitions would be issued by the Scottish Football Association, provided they had exited administration by the end of March.

Failure to exit administration by then would mean they would not have a licence and wouldn’t be able to compete in Europe next season.

If they come out of administration as a different entity, their license would lapse and they would have to apply for a new one. It would then be up to the SFA and Uefa to decide if a new licence can be granted.

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