Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew dies aged 91

Published by Al Jazeera English, March 23, 2015

Singapore – Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern-day Singapore, has died. He was 91.

The former prime minister, who had been hospitalised in intensive care for severe pneumonia since early February, died early on Monday morning in Singapore General Hospital.

Incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s office announced seven days of mourning in the city-state ahead of a state funeral next Sunday.

Lee is widely considered to be single-handedly responsible for Singapore’s unique success story, the architect behind its fantastic transformation from glorified fishing village into one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Continue reading …

Camelot in Tokyo

Japan celebrates JFK’s legacy with former President Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, speaking at a symposium in Tokyo, describes the lasting impact of John F. Kennedy's leadership.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, speaking at a symposium in Tokyo, describes the lasting impact of John F. Kennedy’s leadership.

Published by Nikkei Asian Review, March 19, 2015

TOKYO – Camelot is alive and well in Tokyo. Political leaders including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined academics, government officials, media pundits and even an astronaut to praise the legacy of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his lasting impact on modern life.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation on Wednesday hosted its first international symposium on the late president, titled “The Torch Has Been Passed: JFK’s Legacy Today.”

The event took place at a fully packed Okuma Auditorium at Waseda University in Tokyo, where President Kennedy’s brother, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, delivered a lecture to students in 1962. Kennedy had dispatched his brother to Japan at a time of anti-American student protests in Japan; Robert calmed an angry crowd of students at Waseda (and Japanese television viewers at home), and his trip marked a turning point in U.S.-Japan relations, wrote Dartmouth College scholar Jennifer Lind, who attended Wednesday’s event.

Kennedy had hoped to be the first sitting U.S. president to make a state visit to Japan in 1964, but was tragically assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in his third year in office while on visit to Dallas, Texas. Continue reading …

How technology and globalisation are redefining talent acquisition

Published by Singapore Business News, March 17, 2015

Multinational corporations are transforming the way they scout for talent, with technology offering new tools that enable both employers and prospective employees to reach wider and find the right fit.

So says Gonzalo Ruiz, Head of Global Talent Acquisition for Siemens.

“In the next five to 10 years, the old model of recruiting in a company by advertising a job opening and find the best candidates will be outdated,” says Ruiz. Ruiz sees four drivers that are changing the way HR professionals go about talent acquisition. Continue reading …

Food paradise endangered

Trying to keep Singapore’s hawker culture alive

Published by Nikkei Asian Review, March 7, 2015

SINGAPORE — Kuah Yong Say started selling his specialty black carrot cake, a savory stir-fry with radish and dark soya sauce, as a street vendor back in 1964, his trishaw a kind of early-day food truck. He would serve his only dish not on a plate, but on a large plant leaf.

Now 75 years old, Kuah owns his own food stall in a government-built hawker center. He is one of the lucky ones: His two daughters, both in their 40s, quit their jobs in sales several years ago so they could take over the day-to-day running of the family business.

His is the exception, not the rule. As elderly street food hawkers retire, there are far fewer young people willing to carry on Singapore’s venerable street food tradition. Nor would many status-conscious Singaporean parents want them to.

Street food — the very thing that made Singapore a global food mecca — is threatened by the island-nation’s growing wealth and changing tastes. That has foodies, bargain lovers and even the Singaporean government worried about the fate of humble yet beloved artisanal and traditional foods. Efforts, including a government pilot program, are underway to preserve the endangered street food culture. Continue reading …

Southeast Asia set to become a new EU

ASEAN’s single market poised to hit the scene this year, but will regional politics thwart economic prosperity?

Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb.19, 2015

By Tom Benner

Singapore – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is on course to declare its 10-member nations a unified common market as of December 31, 2015, but sceptics say European Union-style economic integration will be difficult to achieve.

Measures are largely in place designed to reduce trade barriers and ease investment, as well as the free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labour.

Meanwhile, leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia in recent weeks have been pushing for a common time zone – as opposed to the current three spanning the ASEAN region. A single time zone would facilitate the ease of doing business within the region and allow for coordinated opening times for banks and stock markets, proponents say. Continue reading …

A second home for foreign correspondents in Japan since 1945

Oct. 31, 2014


One of my favorite things about the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo is a wall in the library/workroom filled with books by current and former members. You’re in good company when you get to spend time perusing those shelves.

I didn’t know, for example, that the prolific James Michener wrote the novel that became the basis for the 1957 movie Sayonara with Marlon Brando, which took on the post-WWII issue of racial prejudice among American military members stationed in Japan.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another famed FCCJ author, Robert Whiting, whose classic You Gotta Have Wa uses baseball to explain cultural differences between the US and Japan. Continue reading

After two Olympic shutouts, Japan wants baseball back for the Tokyo 2020 summer games

Published by the Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 29, 2014

Tokyo — Japanese baseball fans are some of the world’s most diehard. Cities across Japan, including Tokyo, now regularly slow down during the World Series in October to watch homegrown players hit and pitch in the United States. Last year Japanese watched Boston closer Koji Uehara, and this year Nori Aoki, who plays for Kansas City is hammering out hits. In all, 12 Japanese players have appeared in the MLB fall classic.

So with Tokyo hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020, Japan is already lobbying – hard – to have baseball restored to the Games. The sport was shut out of the 2012 London Olympics and won’t make an appearance in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil. Continue reading …