Singapore doesn't have a clue how to implement "Minimum Wage" without upsetting it's economy

May 4th, 2012 
Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large Dr Tommy Koh contended that Singapore’s practice of importing large numbers of cheap and unskilled labour has depressed wages in its service and non-tradable sectors.
He further noted that construction workers in Hong Kong are twice as productive as those in Singapore, and receive two-and-a-half times the income earned here.
Dr Koh was speaking on Thur (3 May) at a roundtable discussion on Singapore’s population trends at the Institute of Policy Study (IPS).
Dr Tommy Koh was not alone in expressing this view. His view also echoed those expressed by IPS senior adjunct fellow Yeoh Lam Kheong and LKY School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani earlier. Both Yeoh and Mahbubani have called for a refinement of the import of new citizens and PRs to target more skilled labour.
On wage gap issue, Dr Koh spoke of Prof Lim Chong Yah’s wage shock proposal as one of the three existing ways to narrow the income gap. However, while he did not agree with Prof Lim’s proposal, he agreed with the Prof Lim’s aim.
He said that the wage gap issue needed to be addressed “not through palliatives but by seeing what we can do to fundamentally alter the wages of the bottom 30 per cent of our people”.
He did not agree that the income gap is “part of globalisation and technological change”.
Ethen Jin-Chew:
The real hard truth, one that differs from LKY’s is as follows:
PAP had, in the decades passed, allowed the overall cost of doing business to increase directly through their adopted social economic policies. They did that in the name of gaining prosperity for Singapore.
Cost components such as transport (COE for cars, lorries, fuel tax, road tax, ERP etc); rentals of business premises such as office and warehouse; private condos prices and accommodation and power and electricity have all been increased to the level of being uncompetitive amoung ASEAN countries.
There is no way that PAP will allow LTA’s humongous tax revenue to be reduced. There’s no way that PAP will allow PUB’s revenue to be reduced by lowering power and electricity charges. There’s no way that PAP will ever let the labour ministry’s revenue be lowered by reducing domestic maid levies to facilitate young married couples to better cope with career and raising children. So please stop telling our young to have more children because it is just IMPOSSIBLE.
The fact that most of the cost increases are man-made and is linked to GLC’s income, the only way Singapore can still remain competitive, in the eyes of the PAP, is to disallow rational increase in wages for the low and middle income group, this include fresh graduates. This scenario has been allowed to persist without much notice until recent years. It is simply a trade off for a political agenda.
PAP only cares about how to grow the coffers of the GLCs and their tax revenue. Wage improvement of the low and middle income common Singaporean is the last thing they really care about. Singapore remains one of the very few countries in the world yet to implement minimum wage.
The choice of benefitting businesses over the well being of our less fortunate citizens tells plenty about the mindset of our labour policy maker – one with the smallest of heart for his people. When he enjoys the sight of his swelling bank account every end of the month he obviously does not spare a thought at all about the less fortunate Singaporean who have to support a family with SGD1200 or less a month, or the young graduate who is still stuck with SGD2500 to 3500 monthly salary 5 or more years after graduation.
Like the frog in a pot of water that’s gradually and slowly heating up, it won’t feel the distress and pain until it’s too late.
A country is like the growing up and maturing of a person, he who refuses to heed the wisdom of sincere advice and opinion is doomed to failure. It’s a sin for us, the concerned citizens and patriots, not to point out the dangers ahead.

PAP simply cares only for holding on to power and wealth.
You can mess around with my research, deny me fundings and try all kinds of nonsense, but time is not on your side, by end 2012, the entire state of affairs in Singapore will be in a big mess, and nobody will know how to solve it, except me, and with the “special” treatment you gave me, I am just returnng you the favour, better pray to God for help.
– Contributed by Oogle.  

No more Shanty towns beside rubbish heaps

No more Shanty towns beside rubbish heaps

One of the greatest nightmares
Is the creating of a rubbish heap
Where people dump their waste
Which should be burned in the incinerator
But governments did not do their duty
And allow the poor to live beside it
To pick up rubbish as food to survive
If I have a choice I will outlaw this in the UN
By building an incinerator instead
And relocate all the inhabitants to proper container build cities
When solar power is supplied to these containers
Which can be stacked up to four storey high
A proper building for toilets and baths and cleaning
Which can be coin operated for water supply
The inhabitants can be taught a skill by NGOs part-time
While they work part-time on machines
That supply energy to the local grid
Nothing is impossible if you set your mind
At least they have an income while they build their skills
This is the only way to break the poverty cycle
Or they will never have a future
To be productive citizens of the world to come.

– Contributed by Oogle. 

Insurance should cover every person who seeks coverage

Insurance should cover every person who seeks coverage, whether or not they suffer from pre-existing medical conditions, chronic diseases or congenital health conditions, said Singapore’s ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh.
Speaking on Thursday at an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) roundtable on Singapore’s population trends, Koh, who is also special adviser to the IPS, said the government should step in to ensure that insurance coverage is fair and accessible for all.
He identified insurance as one area where Singapore “didn’t get it right”, touching also on the nation-state’s failure to achieve inclusive growth — more specifically in terms of plugging the income gap.
“We need to fix the equity of our existing healthcare system. We have a system at the moment that does not meet my standard of fairness,” he said.
“I think the state should intervene and require all insurance companies to insure people with prior medical conditions. There should be no one in Singapore who is not insured against a potential catastrophic disease,” he added, noting that, currently, insurance companies will not cover applicants who have pre-existing medical conditions.
Industry experts and veterans agreed with Koh’s sentiment, with some pointing out that the effects of not being insured go beyond simply affording medical treatment.
Chief executive officer of Fortis Healthcare Dr Jeremy Lim, who was present at Thursday’s roundtable, told Yahoo! Singapore that patients who suffer from chronic conditions like cancer and kidney failure face challenges in finding good jobs, over and above seeking coverage for treatment.
“Hence it is a double whammy — uninsurable with ongoing medical expenses, and tremendously reduced earning power,” he said.
Noting that one possible way to solve this problem is by establishing a national health insurance scheme, he said the decision would be more a moral one than an economic one, as the move to do so would promote social cohesion.
In a commentary published in The Straits Times Thursday last week, Lim said insurers should work to improve the health of the insured population so that they consume fewer healthcare services, instead of charging higher premiums, lowering payouts and excluding high-risk individuals.
“Learning from the experiences of other systems, we can offer national health insurance (either government-provided or government-mandated) and start coverage conservatively with ramping up as we gain more experience with truly national schemes,” he suggested as a start, referencing the English National Health Service, which began with greater ambition than it was able to afford.
Former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian also weighed in on the issue, noting that MediShield, the government’s existing general coverage plan for most Singaporeans, currently excludes pre-existing illness and congenital conditions, as well as applicants who suffer from chronic diseases.
He said alternative measures include the exclusion of coverage of pre-existing conditions for a waiting period of between one and two years, and provide full coverage thereafter, or simply the charging of a higher premium for applicants with pre-existing conditions.
Tan recommended, however, that MediShield be reviewed to provide coverage for applicants with these illnesses so that under its “integrated scheme” with private insurance providers, the latter will automatically provide the same coverage as well.
“While the insurance scheme should be run on a viable basis, and appropriate risk management methods should be applied, the purpose should not be to maximise profits for the insurance company,” said Tan. “It should have its social purpose of providing cover to those who need it at an economic cost.”
Income gap is “socially unconscionable”
Turning to the wage gap, Koh spoke of economist Lim Chong Yah’s wage shock therapy as one of three existing ways to plug it, and that while he did not agree with Lim’s proposal, he agreed with the latter’s aim.
He said that the issue needed to be addressed “not through palliatives but by seeing what we can do to fundamentally alter the wages of the bottom 30 per cent of our people”.
Koh also opposed the view of economist Shandre Thangavelu, who was also at Thursday’s roundtable, that the income gap is “part of globalisation and technological change”.
The ambassador contended that Singapore’s practice of importing large numbers of cheap and unskilled labour depresses wages in its service and non-tradable sectors. He further noted that construction workers in Hong Kong are twice as productive as those in Singapore, and receive two-and-a-half times the income earned here.
His view echoed those expressed by IPS senior adjunct fellow Yeoh Lam Kheong and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani earlier on Thursday, who both called for a refinement of the import of new citizens and PRs to target more skilled labour.
“There are many equity issues we need to look at in Singapore, although I agree that we have done many things right. We just need to improve on a tremendously successful story,” Koh concluded.
Should the existing MediShield and Medifund schemes be reviewed to accommodate the needs of chronically-ill and people with pre-existing medical conditions?
What might the government’s concerns be in doing such a review?

Insurance should cover every person who seeks coverage

I have a diabetes condition and I qualify to use my Medisave up to $300 a year for my chronic illness to see a doctor for my illness, but what I am more concerned, is the complications that arise from my diabetes condition like gum disease and rotting teeth, worsening eye condition, worsening kidney disease and erectile dysfunction. Will the government consider to let us use our Medisave for these associated conditions as well?
I do not need a comprehensive blood test as it is a waste of my Medisave money every month including tons of medications which only gives me side effects. A normal blood test to determine my blood/sugar level is sufficient, but if you require more than necessary, do not make me food the bill. I rather go to the polyclinic and pay $8 per visit rather than all this subsidised nonsense. What I really require is to manage my complications so that it will not worsen my main illness.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Neisseria meningitidis and Clumping

Neisseria meningitidis is a parasitic, aerobic, Gram-negative, non endospore forming, nonmotile (although piliated) , coccal bacterium that is responsible for causing meningitis, inflammation of the meninges layer covering the brain. Because it is an aerobic organism, like most members of the Neisseriaceae family, it also has catalase and oxidase activity. Colonies appear smooth, moist, and glistening (Rake). N. meningitidis resides primarily in humans on the surface of mucosal membranes such as those found in the respiratory tract. Progression through meningitis almost always follows after entering the blood stream (See Pathology below). Symptoms of this disease were first noted in 1805, having been described as an epidemic cerebrospinal fever (Vieusseaux) but it was not isolated until 1887 by Weichselbaum (Weichselbaum). In the U.S. every year, there are approximately 3000 to 4000 cases of N. meningitidis linked meningitis (Wong et al). Because this bacterium poses a health threat, genome sequencing has already begun for a few of these strains to enable deeper understanding of its mechanism of infection. This also provides for studies towards dealing with antibiotic resistant strains. 

Neisseria meningitidis, like most other members of the Neisseriaceae family are aerobic organisms with catalase and oxidase activity. One interesting observation made by Duong and Archibald was that in both N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis, the superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzyme was not present. As a compensation for oxidative damage in a low pressure oxygen environment, N. gonorrhoeae’s natural environment, catalase activity was notably high in addition to high glutathione content (Archibald).

In terms of metabolism, N. meningitidis requires mineral salts, lactate, some amino acids such as cysteine, and glutamic acid as a carbon source (Catlin). In 2004, knock out experiments of the gdhA gene which encodes glutamate dehydrogenase in N. meningitidis, confirmed the importance of glutamic acid metabolism towards growth and virulence. In addition to organic nutrient requirements, iron is also needed as an electron acceptor as demonstrated by the increase in generation times during iron restriction (Archibald and DeVoe). In a human host, this iron is supplied from heme iron in the blood where active transport is mediated a TonB dependent receptor. 

Clumping. As mentioned in the previous section, iron reduction is a necessary part of N. meningitidis metabolism. Humans are its primary reservoir from which heme iron, along with other nutrients in the blood, satisfies its requirement for growth. The result of this is an aggregation of blood cells – clumping, a sign of infection. Although not always, it has been shown by Lappann et al that N. meningitidis is capable of forming biofilm communities in a slow flow environment. 

Updated 01:47 PM May 04, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO – A young research associate killed by a highly virulent strain of meningococcal disease is believed to have contracted the bacteria from the San Francisco lab where he was working on a vaccine against it, public health officials said yesterday.
United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention experts are seeking to confirm what they already suspect: that Richard Din, 25, died Saturday in an unusual case of a scientist being fatally infected with an agent from his own laboratory.
Mr Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman, said the CDC in Atlanta would test a biopsy sample from Din and a sample of the laboratory pathogen he was working with to create fingerprints for each.
“If the fingerprints match, you know it’s highly likely he acquired the infection from working in the lab,” he said.
“Someone getting sick and dying from the organism they’re working with in the lab is exceedingly rare,” he added.
Meanwhile, dozens of people, including relatives, close friends, medical personnel who treated Din and some of his co-workers at the research department of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center were being given antibiotics as a precaution.
Dr Harry Lampiris, chief of infectious disease at the San Francisco VA, said it is likely Din died as a result of his work with Neisseria meningitidis, a strain of bacteria that causes meningococcal disease, which leads to meningitis and bloodstream infections.
“It’s our responsibility to assume it’s laboratory-associated until proven otherwise,” he told Reuters.
Since the 1960s, vaccines have been available for some strains of meningococcal disease. But scientists in the San Francisco lab have spent more than 20 years trying unsuccessfully to develop a vaccine against serogroup B, the strain that killed Din.
“It’s been like the Holy Grail to develop the vaccine against B,” Dr Lampiris said.
Din died of multiple organ failure caused by meningococcal infection and septic shock, said Ms Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. He died less than a day after becoming ill.
The disease can come on quickly with symptoms including high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, rash, confusion and fatigue.
Dr Lampiris said co-workers described Din, who began work at the lab in October, as “a very talented, hard-working and fastidious individual”.
“He was a very bright person who was probably at the beginning of a long research career,” he said.
Meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, commonly strikes infants and college students living in dormitories, Dr Lampiris said. He said Din had not had contact with either group.
About 1,000 Americans each year suffer from meningococcal disease, and an estimated 10 to 15 per cent die from it, Mr Skinner said. He could not say how many of the cases resulted from serogroup B.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the circumstances of Din’s death, along with its federal counterpart and the CDC, the city Public Health Department and the San Francisco VA. REUTERS.

If you are able to stop the process of clumping, you would have reduced the effectiveness of the disease in causing damage and the spread of the disease, indirectly giving you time to find a 100% cure for the disease.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Developing the SRGAP2, a new generation of human intelligence

Updated 06:07 PM May 04, 2012

WASHINGTON – Scientists have identified the gene which may have driven the crucial step in evolution where man learned to talk.
By duplicating itself two and a half million years ago the gene could have given early human brains the power of speech and invention, leaving cousins such as chimpanzees behind.
The gene, known as SRGAP2, helps control the development of the neocortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher functions like language and conscious thought.
The duplicated gene helped our brain cells move faster and make more connections enabling the brain to grow bigger and more complex, according to researchers.
In a study published in the Cell journal, the scientists reported that the gene duplicated about 3.5 million years ago to create a “daughter” gene, and again a million years later creating a “granddaughter” copy.
Although humans and chimpanzees separated six million years ago, we still share 96 per cent of our genome and the gene is one of only about 30 which have copied themselves since that time, reported The Daily Telegraph.
The first duplication was relatively inactive but the second occurred at about the time when primitive Homo Sapiens separated from its brother Australopithecus species and began developing more sophisticated tools and behaviours.
The scientists suggest the duplication process explains how our species developed speech, complex behaviour and mastery of tools around that time.
The copy and the original gene make similar proteins, which are known to help the brain develop.
However, as the scientists found over two studies, the second version made neurons develop longer dendrites, the ‘fingers’ that pick up electrical impulses from other cells, said The Daily Mail.
Genetic scientist Evan Eichler at the University of Washington, who led the research, said the benefit of the duplication would have been instant, meaning human ancestors could have distanced themselves from rival species within a generation reported The Daily Telegraph.
Prof Eichler said: “This innovation could not have happened without that incomplete duplication. Our data suggest a mechanism where incomplete duplication of this gene created a novel function ‘at birth’.”AGENCIES

Open Doors to Collaboration in Research works

Updated 09:17 PM May 02, 2012

LONDON – The UK government has drafted in the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to help make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to anyone who wants to read or use it.
The initiative, which has the backing of Downing Street and should be up and running in two years, will be announced by the universities and science minister, David Willetts, in a speech to the Publishers Association later today.
The move will embolden what has been dubbed the “academic spring” – a growing campaign among academics and research funders for open access in academic publishing. They want to unlock the results of research from behind the lucrative paywalls of journals controlled by publishing companies.
Almost 11,000 researchers have signed up to a boycott of journals owned by the huge academic publisher Elsevier. Subscriptions to the thousands of research journals can cost a big university library millions of pounds each year – costs that have started to bite as budgets are squeezed. Harvard University, frustrated by the rising costs of journal subscriptions, recently encouraged its faculty members to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls.
“Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the very forefront of open research,” Mr Willetts writes in the Guardian.
Mr Willetts said he recognised the value that academic publishers brought to the research process. “But, as the world changes, both cultural and technological change, their business model is going to change. I want to work with the Publishers Association as we move to the new model.”
Mr Wales is a vocal supporter of free and open access to information on the web and he was brought in by No 10 earlier this year as an unpaid adviser to government on crowdsourcing and opening up policymaking. On open access, he will assist the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the UK Research Councils to develop new ways to store and distribute research data and articles.
He will initially advise the research councils on its £2m (S$4m) Gateway to Research project, a website that will act as a portal, linking to publicly funded UK research all over the web. “Jimmy Mr Wales can make sure that we maximise the collaborative potential, the added value from that portal,” Mr Willetts added. “Wikipedia has become a crucial part of our cultural landscape and having the advice from the person who created Wikipedia as we embark on this big project will be incredibly helpful.”
Mr Wales will also feed ideas into the work of Dame Janet Finch, a former vice-chancellor of Keele University, who was asked by Willetts to convene academics, librarians and publishers to work out how an open-access scheme for publicly funded research might work in the UK. Her recommendations to government are expected in June this year.
A government source said that, in the longer term, Mr Wales would help to set up the next generation of open-access platforms for British researchers. “He’s also going to be advising us on the format in which academic papers should be published and data standards. One of the big opportunities is, right now, a journal article might be published but the underlying data isn’t and we want to move into a world where the data is published alongside an article in an open format, available free of charge.”
This initiative is most likely to result in a central repository that will host all research articles that result from public funding. The aim is that, even if an academic publishes their work in a traditional subscription journal, a version of their article would simultaneously appear on the freely available repository. The repository would also have built-in tools to share, comment and discuss articles.
One of the biggest challenges in achieving full open access for research will be the resistance of journal publishers to changing their lucrative business models. The majority of the world’s scientific research, estimated at about 1.5m new articles a year, is published in journals owned by a small number of large publishing companies including Elsevier, Springer and Wiley.
Scientists submit manuscripts to the journals, which are sent out for peer review before publication. The work is then available to other researchers by subscription, usually through their libraries. Publishers of the academic journals, which can cost universities up to £16,500 a year each to access, argue the price is necessary to sustain a high-quality peer review process.
David Prosser, executive director of Research Libraries UK, which represents academic libraries, welcomed the plans in principle and said the details of their implementation would be crucial.
A parallel system that runs alongside the journals might be difficult to operate, he said. “What would an author put into this parallel system, are they putting in a different type of research output other than the paper?”
Making research data standardised and more available would be valuable, he added. “The worry is that there’s all this data out there and it’s in lots of different formats and it’s not interoperable and it’s not being archived properly and it’s going to disappear and there’s a danger of a data black hole. The fact that the government is talking about doing something for that is absolutely fabulous.” GUARDIAN

Towards a Prosperous and Great Democracy Nation

According to a high-level source in Beijing, key leaders in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo have reached four points of consensus that will be announced on or around the 18th Party Congress. The tenor of the decision is that China will take the path of democracy. The news has been circulated hurriedly in Beijing.
According to the source, the four points of consensus are:
1. People from all walks of life, political parties, and social organizations should send representatives to form a preparatory committee for a new constitution. They will draft a new constitution that protects the rights of citizens to freely form associations and political parties.
2. It will be announced that the Chinese Communist Party has finished its historical mission as the ruling party. Party membership will need to be re-registered, with the free choice to re-enter the Party or leave it.
3. “June 4,” Falun Gong, and all groups who have been wrongly persecuted in the process of devoting themselves to China’s realization of democracy will be redressed and receive compensation.
4. The military will be nationalized.

The claim from the source cannot be verified, but it is said to be a matter of discussion among high-level leaders. The source also said that a democratic party has already been formed in the Beijing Academy of Sciences, and that over 30 scholars in the Academy have gotten involved in the movement, forming a “Chinese Scientists’ Liberal Democratic Party.”
The four points of consensus are supposed to be announced on or around the 18th Party Congress, according to the source. The congress is supposed to be held this fall, in October or November, though there have been rumors that it will be postponed amidst the current political uncertainty associated with Bo Xilai’s downfall.
Shi Cangshan, an independent China analyst in Washington responded to the news: “The domino effect set off by the Wang Lijun incident is still going on, and the Party’s behind-the-scenes operations are being exposed.”
Shi said that the reason Party leaders would want to announce four consensuses such as the above is to take the initiative on its inevitable decline. “The group that has engaged in these massive persecutions of the Chinese people, including the persecution of Falun Gong, is being exposed, and this is deeply implicated with the demise of the CCP. Better that they take the initiative, which will benefit themselves and the world.”
Read original Chinese article.

And God will fulfill all his promises to solve Poverty and Hunger and pass his Knowlege and Technologies freely to everyone for the eternal benefit of mankind, towards a perfect economy, that He has decreed, for peace, prosperity and freedom forever. To solve Death and Diseases. Never doubt the power of God.
– Contributed by Oogle.