Aerospace industry is making an Asian pivot of its own

Published by Christian Science Monitor Global Outlook, March 11, 2014.

The aerospace industry – and its supporting services, from parts and equipment manufacturers to maintenance, repair, and overhaul firms – are pivoting to Asia. The Asia-Pacific region will account for one in three new aircraft deliveries over the next two decades. Continue reading …

Up, up, and away at the Singapore Airshow

Published by Singapore Business News, March 9, 2014

US firms race to meet demand in the world’s fastest growing aviation market, making an Asian pivot of their own. Innovations in aviation from the airshow. An American aerospace manufacturer takes off in Singapore.

Little India’s 50-dollar men: A new look

Published by Element Magazine, Feb. 18, 2014

By Tom Benner

Prostitution is legal in Singapore. Men looking to pay for sex with women can go to the red-light district in Geylang, or the shopping centre Orchard Towers, nicknamed the “Four Floors Of Whores”.

But male prostitution is a trickier proposition. For starters, it’s illegal for two men to have sex in Singapore – a homosexual act is punishable by up to two years in jail. There is no regulated industry, no legal sanction, for male prostitution.

It is an open secret that gay men go to Little India in the hopes of meeting other willing men, particularly young South Asian foreign workers looking for extra cash. A noted 2006 documentary by Channel NewsAsia exposed the popularity of Little India as a place to meet and pick up South Asian men.

The potential headlines made for a juicy, if sensationalised, story: “Homosexual prostitution in Singapore’s Little India” … “Migrant workers by day, male prostitutes by night” … “Going undercover with commercial boys.” Continue reading …

Christie-Nixon comparisons are nothing new

Published by The Daily Record, Feb. 6, 2014

By Tom Benner

“Chris Christie, Meet Richard Nixon.”

That was the headline we put on an opinion column that appeared on Dec. 18, 1996, in the Daily Record, where I served as editorial page editor.

Richard Nixon wasn’t around to complain about the comparison, but Chris Christie sure was.

Christie was a young, aspiring politician at the time, brash and self-assertive in style, and he wasn’t shy about calling me on the phone to sell me on his way of seeing things. This time he was really miffed when he called. He insisted that such a comparison was completely unfair and off-base, and how could we allow it?
Continue reading …

Singapore soul searching follows migrant riot

Published by Al Jazeera English, Dec. 18, 2013

Deportations follow last week’s unrest in Little India as officials debate the best way to move forward.

By Tom Benner and Satish Cheney

Singapore – A heavy reliance on cheap foreign labour – and whether low-paid, low-status guest workers in this wealthy island-nation are treated fairly – is the cause for soul-searching and debate following a rare riot on December 8 in the Little India neighborhood.

The city-state will deport 53 people who were allegedly involved in the unrest.

Government officials blame alcohol for the riot – Singapore’s first in 44 years – which started after an Indian national was struck and killed by a bus that was ferrying foreign labourers from the Indian district to their dormitory-style living quarters. Some 400 people charged the bus and first responders, threw objects, and overturned police cars and damaged other vehicles, injuring 39 people and sending shock waves through the orderly, law-abiding country. Continue reading …

Singapore riot ignites burning class issues

Published by Al Jazeera English, Dec. 10, 2013

Experts say problems around foreign labour need to be addressed after Sunday’s riot by Indian and Bangladeshi workers.

Tom Benner

Singapore – Every Sunday as evening falls, tens of thousands of foreign-born transient workers from southern India and Bangladesh gather on the sidewalks and open fields of this city’s ethnic Indian neighborhood. For most, it is their one day off from the construction site or other job location, their one night out to eat, drink, and socialise with friends.

Low-paid migrant workers toil amid the seemingly incompatible demands of class-conscious Singaporeans, who don’t want to perform the dirty and sometimes dangerous manual labor involved in building the physical infrastructure underlying the island-nation’s economic miracle, but who simultaneously worry about the presence of too many guest workers living in their midst and clogging up sidewalks, trains and buses. Continue reading …

Singapore poverty in the spotlight

The island’s rich get richer while its poor get poorer, prompting calls for an official poverty line to be set

(Published by Al Jazeera English, Nov. 9, 2013)

By Tom Benner

Singapore - Begging is illegal here, under the island-nation’s Destitute Persons Act, carrying a fine of up to $3,000 or imprisonment for up to two years for repeat offenders.

But Singapore’s poor still can be found, often selling packets of tissues outside food centres. Or spending the night on benches near their jobs to save the transport fare home – they are commonly called “sleepers”. Or collecting empty soft drink cans out of trash bins.

The poor have no place in Singapore’s vaunted success story, but there are growing calls for one of the wealthiest countries in the world to acknowledge rapidly rising income inequality by setting an official poverty line. Hong Kong’s recent decision to set a poverty line as a way to better identify and assist its poor has prompted a similar debate in Singapore’s parliament. Continue reading …