Sunday 29 December 2013

So how unlucky was 2013 for you?

It's called “triskaidekaphobia”.

That’s the fear of the number 13.

For those of you who suffer from this condition, it must a relief that in three days, 2013 will finally be over. It's basically 365 days where every day is Friday the 13th.

I’ve read that in some high-rise buildings, there is no 13th storey. They either call it Floor 12A or just skip to 14.

Sometimes I wish there is no year 2013. We either call it 2012A or just skip to 2014.

But it’s a little too late for that now.

The year started unluckily for me when I struggled to produce a stool sample for my medical check-up in January. Coincidentally, that was the same month as the Punggol East by-election where the People’s Action Party candidate was a colorectal surgeon. Somehow, I believe those two things are related.

Since the colorectal surgeon lost the by-election, I guess 2013 started unluckily for him too.

The year also seemed unlucky at first for MediaCorp actress Joanne Peh when her break-up with long-time boyfriend Bobby Tonelli was reported in 8 Days magazine in March.

Then in April, the publication reported that MediaCorp actor Qi Yuwu was dating Peh, much to everyone’s incredulity, including mine. But now, eight months later, they’re apparently still together just to spite me.

I once tried to broach the subject with their artiste manager, but unluckily for me, the artiste manager headed me off at the pass: “Don’t ask me if it’s a publicity stunt hor.”

I mentioned how my column on Peh’s surprise split with Tonelli seemed to be popular since the article was reproduced on three AsiaOne-related sites, which was a record for me.

The artiste manager replied: “So she helped not only 8 Days’ sales.”

But despite my hard-hitting analysis of the Peh-Tonelli break-up, my greatest journalistic achievement of 2013 is that I’m the first person to use the word “selfie” in a Singapore Press Holdings newspaper article.

I looked it up.

Before I used the word in my Mother’s Day column on May 12 for a “Yo mama” joke (“Yo mama so ugly, she took a selfie with Instagram and broke the Internet”), the only previous appearance of the word in an SPH paper was eight days earlier in a caption for a newswire photo in The Straits Times.

The caption was: “A Javanese dancer in traditional costume taking a ‘selfie’ – a type of self-portrait – on Monday.”

The word was so unfamiliar at the time that a definition had to be provided. Now, mere seven months later, even I’m sick of the word.

Before May, the word never appeared in The Straits Times, The New Paper, The Business Times or MyPaper.

In May, “selfie” was used twice – in the caption and my column. In June and July, four and three times respectively.

Then the numbers surged to double digits in the following months, partly thanks to the emergence of Singapore’s sultan of selfies, Mr Baey Yam Keng, otherwise known as the Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC.

So far in December alone, the word has appeared in SPH papers more than 40 times (not counting this column you're reading), the most yet.

Is it any wonder “selfie” is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year?

Unluckily for me, I won’t be getting any award for my achievement. But then I’m no Anthony Chen. The Ilo Ilo director has won more fiim awards this year than Mr Baey has taken selfies.

Speaking of films I don’t want to see, whatever happened to the much publicised Ris Low movie, Justice Devil?

The unappealing trailer was released in early September and the movie was supposed to follow two weeks later. Well, it’s now 16 weeks later and still no movie.

Maybe 2013 isn't so unlucky after all.

That’s more than can be said for the new Downtown Line, which broke down on its opening day last Sunday and again two nights ago.

I hope the child who might have caused the most recent breakdown won’t be deported.

But living in Yew Tee, I don’t really care that much about Downtown Line since I'm unlikely to use it.

Closer to home, I'm more concerned that a bag of stool (not the kind you sit on) was left at the back door of the People's Action Party’s Yew Tee branch office two weeks ago.

I could’ve used a bag of stool in the beginning of 2013.

Some guys have all the luck.

I can’t wait for 2014 to get here.

Hold on... isn’t the number 14 also considered unlucky by the Chinese?

Alamak. Maybe we should just skip to 2015.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 December 2013

Tuesday 24 December 2013

PM Lee Hsien Loong apologises for calling women 'mak ciks'

No, that's not a made-up headline.

Yesterday, the prime minister posted a Christmasy photo on Instagram with the comment:
Ho Ching and I strolled down Orchard Road to see the Christmas lights, and met this group of mak ciks from Jurong at Plaza Singapura. They were enjoying themselves, like the crowds which thronged the street. – LHL

Which is all well and good. Merry even.

Then someone pointed out:
I see some women in the picture above who do not qualify to be a 'makcik' ...hehehe
And someone else commented:
Sir, kakaks & adiks lah... :D

Which prompted the PM to apologise:
Sorry I said “mak ciks” – “kakaks and adiks” would have been better. I am indeed older than I realise! :) - LHL
He said "sorry"! He even used an emoticon! :)

I got the joke. Some of the women look younger than him, so he shouldn't be calling them "makcik", which means "aunt", according to Google Translate.

But I also looked up "kakak" and "adik", and they mean "older sister" and "younger brother" respectively.

Then isn't calling the women "kakaks" pretty much the same as calling them "makciks"?

And the only man in the picture who could be a "younger brother" looks like the PM's bodyguard.

No, wait. That's Ho Ching.

I'm kidding! Please don't deport me.

Anyway, Google Translate may not be so reliable. I found out from elsewhere that "adik" can refer to a younger person of any sex. (My Malay sucks worse than my Chinese.)

And "kakaks" probably refers to the women in the picture who are older than him.

Good thing he didn't call them "pak cik".

Sunday 22 December 2013

What makes a hero? A viral video – and a checked shirt

All we want for Christmas is a hero.

But not just any hero.

A hero in a checked shirt.

What is a hero anyway? Like for everything else in life, I get my answer in an 80s pop song.
I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero till the end of the night.
He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast.
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.
That is, of course, Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler from the 1984 movie Footloose.

Younger readers may know it better as the song by the Fairy Godmother from Shrek 2.

It could also be the tune the local media was singing in its quest for the “mystery man” in a checked shirt who tried to stop rioters from destroying a bus during the Little India riot in a viral video two weeks ago.

And Mr Thangavel Govindarasu stepped forward.

I don’t know how fast, strong or “fresh from the fight” he is, but he’s got a checked shirt.

Then someone checked his checked shirt and it was different from the checked shirt worn by the hero in the video. Checkmate!

And so like any mystery man befitting his “mystery man” label, Mr Thangavel disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared, retracting his claim that he’s the sought-after hero.

But Mr Thangavel said he did protect the woman on the bus from rioters. So he was also a hero in his own way. Too bad it wasn’t on video.

This raises the question: If you’re a hero in a riot and no one is around to record it, do you make a sound?

Fortunately, someone was around to record the man carrying a samurai sword on the MRT train last week.

You’ve seen the picture. Everybody in the train carriage gave Samurai Jack a wide berth – well, everybody except for one hero sitting in a reserved seat with his eyes closed.

Why is he a hero?

Because while the other passengers were cowering from the rogue swordsman, our hero stood his ground.

Or rather, sat his ground.

Or rather, sat in the reserved seat with his eyes closed.

The question is, was he really such a sound sleeper that he was oblivious to the somewhat low-budget production of 47 Ronin going on around him? (Can't afford Keanu Reeves.)

Or was he just pretending to sleep because, die die (literally), he didn’t want to give up his precious reserved seat?

“You know how many old people and pregnant women I had to fight off to sit here? Sword or no sword, this reserved seat is mine!

“As long as samurai guy thinks I’m asleep, he won’t bother me. After all, I’ve had a lot of practice pretending to sleep to avoid eye contact with old people and pregnant women who need this seat more than I do.”

Act blur level: possum.

Why isn’t the media looking for him? Maybe because he wasn’t wearing a checked shirt.

One person who has had more than his share of media attention is my man crush, Mr Baey Yam Keng.

From giving advice to the prime minister on taking selfies to hunting down a high-rise used diaper thrower, the heroics of the Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC have been recorded on Instagram for all to behold and savour.

His haters could’ve made a meal out of the selfie Mr Baey took at last weekend’s ZoukOut with Mr Lincoln Cheng, the founder of Zouk who was arrested and found guilty of possession of controlled drugs as well as obscene magazines and videotapes 18 years ago.

“Is it appropriate for the MP to be consorting with a convicted lawbreaker? Is the selfie an endorsement of Mr Cheng’s lifestyle?”

Instead, everyone was distracted by Mr Baey’s $2.50 nasi padang and 50-cent bandung.

Someone claimed to have been charged more for the same food and thus brewed a storm in a teacup – or in this case, on a plastic plate.

Lest we forget, until last year, Mr Baey was managing director of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a public relations company where he’s still senior advisor. So he’s supposed to be an expert on PR.

An expert.

On public relations.

Supposed to be.

This weekend, the now famous nasi padang stall at Block 475, Tampines Street 44, is extending the $2.50 offer to “everyone” with proceeds going to the Tampines North welfare fund. Not sure if you can also get the 50-cent bandung though.

So is Mr Baey the hero I’m holding out for till the end of the night?

Based on his selfies at the gym, he is strong.

Based on his selfies at the Standard Chartered Marathon (albeit in the 10km race), he is fast.

And based on all his selfies, he looks pretty fresh from the fight.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear a checked shirt on Instagram.

Well, to paraphrase another movie song from the 80s: We don’t need another hero... in a checked shirt.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 December 2013

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Mm... mm... uh... good?

Spotted in the basement of Yew Tee Point.

Is "comming" a typo?

But the word appears twice, so it could be on purpose.

The double "m" could be intended to echo the double "m" in "Yummi".

Then shouldn't it be "cumming" for it to work? So people like me won't be wondering whether it's a typo.

But that would also bring a whole different meaning to Yummi Bites.

This is, of course, in the same place as Sod Cafe.

That's definitely not a typo.

EARLIER: Bugger! And me without my KY jelly

UPDATE: Yummi Bites has commed.

Monday 16 December 2013

Guy Fawkes takes a selfie

Hey, I just discovered I don't need the mask to look like Anonymous.

From now on, instead of the Guy Fawkes mask, it should be called the Smong mask.

Speaking of Anonymous, what happened to the legion? I was expecting them.

Earlier: Hacked? I'd be more worried about a blowtorch

Sunday 15 December 2013

Where alcohol should really be banned — Mirkwood, Fish & Co

Alcohol means trouble.

Last week, I learnt that otherwise normally responsible people can behave abominably under the influence of alcohol.

Of course, you can argue that elves can't be considered “people”, but that’s just racist.

If you haven't seen The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, you may want to stop reading this to avoid spoilers. You may also want to stop reading because, well, you have better things to do.

In the movie, the dwarves are captured by the elves in Mirkwood forest and imprisoned in funky little elf dungeons.

Taking a break, the elf holding the keys to the dungeons is persuaded by his elf buddy to sample the king’s wine.

He soon passes out drunk, allowing Bilbo the hobbit to steal the keys and free the dwarves, which leads to a chaotic chase sequence with gnarly orcs, flying arrows and damaged barrels.

In a word: trouble.

And it all started because of alcohol.

In the elves’ defence, I have seen all The Lord Of The Rings movies (including the extended editions on DVD) and the first Hobbit movie, but I’ve never seen elves behaving like such booze hounds before.

What is this – Mirkwood or ZoukOut?

And I thought elves can hold their liquor. I remember Legolas the elf drinking Gimli the dwarf under the table in The Lord Of The Rings.

But then Legolas is no ordinary elf. He married a Victoria's Secret model.

In the aftermath of dwarves’ escape (which occurs only once in 50 years), it seems to me that if alcohol should be banned anywhere, it should be in the elf kingdom.

Like what the Singapore authorities are doing in Little India this weekend, Thranduil the Elvenking should declare Mirkwood a “proclaimed area” under the Public Order Preservation Act, allowing him to take action against anyone who consumes alcohol in his kingdom.

At least whenever there are dwarves imprisoned in the funky little elf dungeons.

And a pesky hobbit with the ability to turn invisible using the One Ring is around.

In other words, the weekend.

I wonder if alcohol consumption was also involved in the creation of the Fish & Co ad that read: “Stay away from riot and eat Bombay fish and chips.”

Posted on the restaurant chain’s Facebook page soon after the Little India riot, the ad was criticised for being insensitive and went viral. The post has since been removed and Fish & Co apologised for the ad, which has been called a “marketing stunt”.

Marketing stunt? Really? You mean the evil geniuses at Fish & Co planned for people to complain about the ad, so that the company can apologise for it - all just to publicise the Bombay fish and chips?

In which case, couldn’t we have easily foiled their dastardly scheme by simply ignoring the ad and not sharing it online?

So by making a big deal out of the ad, the detractors were merely playing into Fish & Co’s greasy devious hands.

I’m not so bothered by the ad because I always order the swordfish collar anyway.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell what is considered insensitive nowadays.

For instance, I’m a little troubled by the number of headlines about the riot that read: “Big trouble in Little India.”

That’s not insensitive?

Even Taufik Batisah tweeted it. But then this is the same guy who tweeted: “Winner winner chicken dinner.” So you just can’t tell with these wacky former Singapore Idols.

What I find more troubling is how many people actually realised that “Big trouble in Little India” is not just a play on the words “big” and “little” but also a reference to an old movie from the 80s, Big Trouble In Little China.

My wife didn’t. Does Taufik?

Big Trouble In Little China had big action sequences, ancient sorcerers and nasty-looking creatures. So it’s basically like The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – but with Kurt Russell, who is now actually old enough play Gandalf.

Well, at least now I know what Blu-ray I want this Christmas - Big Trouble In Little China. And maybe Star Trek Into Darkness if it has a director’s commentary track.

I can wait until 2015 for The Hobbit extended edition trilogy boxed set.

Would anyone hold it against me if I get the Bombay fish and chips at Fish & Co. today?

I haven’t tried it yet. I promise not to order any alcohol even though I won’t be anywhere near Mirkwood.

I don’t want any trouble.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 December 2013

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Nitpicking the language of race, nationality & geography

It was a surprising choice of words - at least to me.

The Straits Times headline was "Little India Riot: 27 suspects from South Asia arrested in connection with the riot".

Why "South Asia"? Why not just say India?

I have mostly only heard the term "South Asian" used this way in US movies and TV shows, the same way "Asian" is used to describe anyone who looks Oriental since "Oriental" is no longer considered politically correct.

But this is Singapore, not America. We don't say "South Asian". We just say "Indian".

Growing up, we were taught that Singapore has three major races: Chinese, Malay and Indian.

Not Chinese, Malay and South Asian.

Then I read the transcript of the Dec 9 press conference about the riot. Here's an excerpt:

Details on the nationalities on those arrested?

Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar:
Yes, we have arrested 27 subjects and they are from South Asia.

Could we take that to mean that they are Indian nationals.

Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee:
We cannot…we have to verify. South Asia is a big place.

Big place? No kidding.

According to Wikipedia (my bible), South Asia means Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka - plus maybe also Tibet and Burma.

All this just to avoid saying the arrested "subjects" were Indian?

The problem with the word "Indian" is that to Singaporeans, it can mean both race and nationality. Like "Chinese".

When you say "Chinese man", do you mean just his race or that he's from China? Nowadays, the distinction is a big deal.

You may be tempted to say "China man" to make the distinction, but be aware that it's considered a racial slur in some places. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "India man" though.

So we use terms like "Chinese nationals" and "Indian nationals".

(Another problem is that "Indian" can also be either an adjective or a noun, but that's a whole other discussion.)

The Straits Times later reported:
Of those arrested, 24 are Indian nationals, two are Bangladeshi nationals and one is a Singapore Permanent Resident, said the police in a media release on Monday.

I guess we can assume the Singapore PR is from "South Asia" as well.

Just as in America where you call someone "Asian" when you're not sure if the person is Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese or Cambodian, etc, will it now be more commonplace for Singaporeans to call someone "South Asian" when we're not sure if the person is Bangladeshi or Indian, etc?

And when I say Indian, I mean Indian national.

And not Red Indian. I mean, American Indian. I mean, native American. I mean... never mind.

EARLIER: Five Little India riot myths debunked

Monday 9 December 2013

5 Little India riot myths – debunked!

The trouble is not just that we believe things that aren't true – it's that we now also spread the untruths online.

Here are five facts about the Little India riot:

1. The man killed by the bus was not Bangladeshi.

From The Straits Times:
The Bangladesh High Commissioner in Singapore has issued a statement refuting some media reports which state that a Bangladeshi worker was involved in an accident which triggered the riots.

It said: "In some press and media reports there has been unsubstantiated news reporting which says that a Bangladeshi worker was hit by a bus that escalated the riot incident."

"I want to categorically state that as per available information the news reports that appeared on a section of media and news involving a Bangladeshi worker is not based on facts."

2. He was not decapitated.

From The Straits Times:
The 33-year-old Indian national who died in the fatal accident, which sparked the Little India riot on Sunday night has been identified.

Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu has been working in Singapore as a construction worker with Heng Hup Soon, a scaffolding company, for about two years, said a man who identified his body at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) mortuary on Monday morning.

The man, who declined to be named, said Mr Kumaravelu's family has not been notified of his death. He added that Mr Kumaravelu's body was not decapitated as reported by some news outlets but he did suffer injuries to his face.

3. The bus driver is not from China. He is Singaporean.

From The Straits Times:
The driver involved in the Little India accident on Sunday night that sparked a riot has been arrested and is out on bail, police said on Monday.

The male Singaporean driver, who was warded at Tan Tock Seng hospital earlier today, is being investigated for causing death by a negligent act.

He is understood to have been ferrying workers between Little India and a dormitory at Jalan Papan when he reversed into Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu, a 33-year-old Indian national. The deceased is believed to have been drunk.

Also, the driver is not a woman.

4. Policemen were not killed.

From Today:
Police received a call at 9:23pm yesterday with a message “A bus has knocked down someone here, ambulance required.”

Police investigations revealed a fatal traffic accident had occurred between a private bus and a pedestrian at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road.

Shortly after, a riot broke out involving a crowd of about 400 subjects where the subjects damaged several vehicles including 16 police vehicles.

About 300 Police Officers, including those from the Special Operations Command and the Gurkha Contingent, responded to the scene.
As of noon today, 22 Police Officers and 5 Auxilliary Police Officers have sought treatment at the hospital. The officers sustained injuries and lacerations. All of them have since been discharged from the hospital.

5. The Outram MRT station shooting had nothing to do with the riot

The shooting happened in 2008.

EARLIER: Singapore's first YouTube riot in Little India?

UPDATE: Nitpicking the language of race, nationality & geography

Videos: Singapore's first YouTube riot in Little India

From The Straits Times:
Police have arrested 27 suspects from South Asia in connection with the Little India riot on Sunday, which left 10 police officers and four civil defence officers injured.

The riot, which were not premeditated, were sparked off by a fatal accident involving a 33-year-old Indian national who was knocked down by a private bus, and had involved some 400 people. Five police vehicles and one ambulance were damaged in the fracas, which started at about 9.23pm on Sunday.

Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee said in a press conference on Monday that the riot was resolved by the police within an hour after the call was received. He added that no Singaporean was believed to have been involved in the riot, adding that destruction of property and fighting the police is not the Singapore way.

The driver of the private bus involved in the accident before the riot remains in hospital and is not arrested, said CP Ng. Some 300 police officers responded to the Little India riot but not a single shot - lethal or non-lethal - was fired.

UPDATE: Five Little India riot myths debunked

Sunday 8 December 2013

Why disqualified Standard Chartered Marathon ‘winner’ is my hero

I felt like a fraud.

Two Sundays ago, I ran the 73-storey Swissotel Vertical Marathon at Swissotel The Stamford. When people asked me what my time was, I would say just over 11 minutes and they would be impressed.

I don’t blame them. I was impressed with myself too.

Five months earlier, I had run the 40-storey National Vertical Marathon at Asia Square and my time was 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

So somehow I managed to climb nearly double the number of storeys in less time at Swissotel The Stamford. I even paused on several floors to take pictures with my iPhone.

It was quite an unbelievable achievement.

But I believed it because I used two running apps on my iPhone to record my time and both said under 12 minutes. I convinced myself that I had trained much, much, much harder for the Swissotel event, which accounted for my much, much, much improved performance.

Then a couple of days later, the official results were posted online. I found out my official time was 17 minutes and 53 seconds.


So it wasn’t under 12 minutes. It was way, way, way over 11 minutes. That actually made more sense.

It was also considerably less impressive. So my stupid iPhone apps were wrong!

But I had already told people my time was “just over 11 minutes”. What should I do? Should I contact everyone I told and inform them my time was actually almost 18 minutes?

I was in a quandary.

Then came Mr Tam Chua Puh - my hero.

Now probably the most famous pastry chef in the country, Mr Tam, 43, was the first Singaporean to cross the finish line at last Sunday’s Standard Chartered Marathon.

But he was disqualified because he had run less than 6km of the 42.195km race.

What was amazing was that he didn’t intend to be the first Singaporean to finish - he just wanted the finisher's medal and T-shirt.

I can relate to that. Before joining any organised run, I always check out the T-shirt first.

It can’t be too ugly (like the Illumi Run shirt), too kiddie (like the Chua Chu Kang Big Farm Walk And Run shirt) or too girly (like the Shape Run shirt).

I mean, I can run on my own for free. When I pay to join a running event, I’m essentially buying the shirt. So it better be something I want to wear.

(I don’t care much about the medals because when I wear them out, they just get in the way when I’m trying to eat my bak chor mee.)

While most events have an event tee, some bigger events, like the Standard Chartered Marathon, have a finisher’s tee as well. That’s value for money.

But while everyone who signs up gets an event tee, only those who finish the race can get the finisher’s tee. That’s why it’s called a finisher’s tee and not a run-part-of-the-way-and-take-a-short-cut tee.

And that’s why finisher’s tees are coveted by someone like Mr Tam.

You may not realise this, but running a marathon is hard. I joined the Army Half Marathon in September and ended up walking a quarter of the way.

But if Mr Tam couldn’t complete the 42.195km, why didn’t he join the shorter 21km or 10km race at the Standard Chartered Marathon?

One reason could be the Standard Chartered Marathon doesn’t have finisher’s tees for the 21km and 10km races. Anyway, a 42.195km finisher’s tee is twice as impressive as a 21km finisher's tee and more than four times as impressive as a 10km finisher’s tee.

I have a 6km finisher’s tee from last year’s Jurong Lake Run, which I am now embarrassed to wear. I can let Mr Tam have it since it more closely indicates the distance he can run.

Mr Tam told The Straits Times that he was also disqualified from two previous Standard Chartered Marathons. He didn’t say whether he returned the finisher’s tees.

Mr Tam could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Whenever I’ve seen a fat person wearing a marathon finisher’s tee, I’ve always wondered: “Really? This person can run 42.195km?”

Not that all fat people can’t be athletic. Look at Tao Li.

I’ve had overweight people and elderly people run past me before. At the Jurong Lake Run, I was overtaken by a woman pushing a stroller with a child in it.

That’s why it meant so much to me to beat the one-legged guy with crutches at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon.

But what Mr Tam has taught me is, so what if people think you ran 42.195km when you didn't?

So what if people think I finished the Swissotel Vertical Marathon in less than 12 minutes when I didn't?

As long as I wasn’t the first Singaporean to cross the finish line, no one has to know.

Unless they read this column.


- Published in The New Paper, 8 December 2013

EARLIER: Making a mountain out of a (Swissotel Vertical) Marathon

Saturday 7 December 2013

Singapore - where billionaires go to 'hunt the homeless'?

On last night's The Daily Show:

Singapore is mentioned at 3:59.

No, we don't hunt the homeless here. Or maybe I'm just not rich enough to be invited for such recreation.

But we do have billionaires moving to Singapore.

From Janus blog, 7 January 2013
Singapore, the top choice of American billionaires
Hedge fund founder Jim Rogers and Facebook billionaire Eduardo Saverin call Singapore home.

Now, with higher taxes following the aversion of the Fiscal Cliff, more wealthy Americans will find relocating themselves to Singapore an attractive proposition.

Instead of 39.6% of income tax for annual earnings above US$400,000, the highest possible income tax rate in Singapore is 20% for earnings over S$320,000 (US$261,000) a year. Corporate tax in Singapore is also lower at a flat rate of 17%.

Moreover, in contrast to the capital gains tax of 20% in the United States, capital gains tax does not exist in Singapore. This means individuals and businesses in Singapore can keep every cent they have made from investments and dividends.

But more than the attractive taxes, Singapore possess many qualities that make it a smart choice to relocate your business.

According to Jim Rogers: “If you were smart in 1807, you moved to London, if you were smart in 1907, you moved to New York City, and if you are smart in 2007, you move to Asia… Singapore 40 years ago was a swamp with a half a million people.

Singapore now, 40 years later, is the country with the largest foreign currency reserve per capita of any country in the world…

It’s got the best education in the world, the best health care in the world. It’s astonishing to come to Singapore and see that everything works…

Singapore is going to be the financial center of Southeast Asia, probably Asia, and likely one of the top financial centers of the world.”

Eduardo Saverin also likes Singapore, but for different reasons.

Explaining his 2009 move to Singapore, he told a local newspaper: “I got out of Changi Airport and was amazed by the line of trees and saw how clean and green Singapore was. Then I discovered the various entrepreneur programmes and the long list of government funding available for start-ups. I decided I must live here.”

From Parliament, 13 August 2012
Number of homeless in Singapore
In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports assisted 217, 339 and 264 homeless individuals respectively.

Over the same period, we have also provided shelter and support to 72, 128 and 141 families respectively. In total, we assisted 820 such individuals and 341 families over the last three years.

The majority of homeless individuals are men in their 50s who have attained secondary education or lower.

The majority of affected families are low income households (with monthly income of $1, 500 or less), with 4 or more members and have weak social support.

These individuals and families have housing difficulties due to a variety of reasons.

Some had sold their flats to resolve their financial problems and could not afford to purchase or rent another flat in the short-term.

Others were unable to stay with their families due to strained family relationships, anti-social behaviour or addiction-related problems.

The Ministry works closely with the Ministry of National Development and the Housing Development Board (HDB) to address the housing needs of this group. Those who are destitute will be admitted to Welfare Homes which provide basic accommodation and needs.

In addition, Voluntary Welfare Organisations, Family Service Centres and Community Development Councils provide financial assistance and social intervention to the individuals and families so that they regain their resilience and independence.

The support includes equipping them with financial planning and budgeting skills, job training and employment assistance and relationship management.

Efforts are also taken to ensure the children continue to attend school so that their education is not disrupted.