Tag Archives: Singapore

Lost Horizon: The Shangri-La Dialogue

Amid a rising China, the big questions coming into this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue surrounded the Trump administration’s intentions in the Asia Pacific.

Published by Fair Observer, June 5, 2017

By Tom Benner

The lobby of the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore — with its high ceilings, marble interior, massive columns and crystal chandeliers — pulsed on the evening of June 2 with anticipation and excitement. People were well-dressed, many in military attire, and they strode purposely by the television lights and camera crews jostling for images and b-roll that might capture the scene.

They were gathered for the opening of the Shangri-La Dialogue, which happens every year at this hotel, generally on the first weekend in June. Defense ministers, security types and journalists from around the world pack into the hotel for Asia’s largest annual defense summit.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding prime minister, started the Shangri-La Dialogue back in 2002, as a way to initiate a regional discussion on peace and security amid the dangers of the day.

The schedule typically follows the same format — participants arrive on late Friday afternoon in time for a gala dinner and a keynote address. Saturday and early Sunday are filled with talks, addresses and panel discussions, with private meetings and media availabilities on the side. By midday Sunday, the dialogue comes to a close. Commentators and journalists rush to meet deadlines, and participants head home until next year. Continue reading …

Water-short Singapore charts a course toward self-sufficiency

The island nation has little water of its own but is determined to shed a reliance on water imports. One key is water recycling, alongside desalination and catchment.

Published by the Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 10, 2017

By Tom Benner

SINGAPORE—Singapore may seem like an unlikely model for the rest of the world when it comes to water management. The island nation has no natural water resources to speak of, and as a newly independent nation half a century ago it was dealing with open sewage, taps running dry in the hot season, and rationing of clean drinking water.

But now, at a time when climate change is making water security an increasingly urgent global issue, Singapore is pointing a path toward self-sufficiency. Continue reading …

Tensions escalate over South China Sea claims

At security summit, Beijing vows to ignore pending international court ruling while US steps up military patrols.

Published by Al Jazeera English, June 5, 2016

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Asia’s largest defence summit concluded on Sunday amid growing fears of a legal and military showdown in the South China Sea over China’s rapid construction of artificial islands with ports, airstrips and helipads in one of the world’s most bitterly contested waterways.

Admiral Sun Jianguo of the People’s Liberation Army

At the weekend-long Shangri-La Dialogue , Chinese military officials vowed to ignore a legal ruling expected in the next few weeks by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on a Philippines’ challenge to China’s growing assertiveness in the key sea route between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

“We do not make trouble, but we have no fear of trouble,” said Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, who led the Chinese delegation at the summit.

Sun added: “China will not bear with the arbitration award, nor will it allow any infringement of its sovereignty.” Continue reading …

Singapore voters ask: How much change do we want?

Published by Al Jazeera English, Sept. 10, 2015

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Election fever is in full swing on this island nation with Singaporeans turning out by the thousands in recent days for heated rallies and stump speeches in the lead-up to Friday’s snap election.

Social media is abuzz with partisan banter, betting with bookies is brisk, and an air of unpredictability surrounds the outcome in the first national election since the death last March of founding father and political patriarch Lee Kuan Yew.

Facing its greatest challenge after half-a-century of ruling party domination, Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP) is up against nine opposition parties in the first election in independent Singapore in which every parliamentary seat is being contested. Continue reading …

Singapore’s new generation wants a kinder, chiller country

Published by Global Post, August 12, 2015

By Tom Benner

SINGAPORE — Fifty years after Singapore was accidentally born as an independent country after getting unceremoniously kicked out of Malaysia, it has become one of the most admired and envied countries in the world.

A tiny fishing island with no natural resources, Singapore started off with plenty of disadvantages: malaria, poverty, racial tensions among the ethnic Chinese, Malay and South Indian populations.

Nevertheless, it has since become one of the world’s wealthiest places, with the third-highest percentage of millionaires after Qatar and Switzerland. It places at or near the top of global rankings for safety, cleanliness, ease of doing business, and freedom from corruption. Continue reading …

If you want to try Singapore’s famous street food, you’d best make your trip now

Published by Global Post, July 10, 2015

By Tom Benner

SINGAPORE — When the former British colony of Singapore became a country nearly 50 years ago, its people were sustained by a multiethnic street food culture that would make the island-nation a global food mecca.

This was long before the arrival of celebrity chefs, Michelin-starred restaurants, eye-popping restaurant tabs, and the rise of Singapore as one of most expensive places in the world to live.

Back in the day, food hawkers generally had just one specialty dish, usually served from a rickshaw on the street — often on “opeh,” or banana leaves instead of paper plates. Continue reading …

ASEAN Economic Community: Global economic powerhouse in the making

Published by The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan Journal, April 2015 issue.

Credit: Deloitte Southeast Asia

Credit: Deloitte Southeast Asia

By Tom Benner

The unveiling of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as an economic community will take place on December 31. When the 10 countries that make up ASEAN join forces as a common market—the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)—there will be inevitable comparisons to the European Union.

As an integrated regional economy, the member states of the AEC—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—will comprise the world’s seventh-largest economy. Continue reading …