Tag Archives: Singapore

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

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 …

North Koreans are visiting Singapore – whither the ‘hermit’ kingdom?

A nonprofit in Singapore is paving a path that some say may help open up North Korea to the outside world and stoke interest in private commerce and economic growth there.

Published by The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 18, 2013

By Tom Benner, Contributor / September 18, 2013

Singapore

Neither Dennis Rodman nor tough talk from Washington and Seoul have improved relations with the new regime in North Korea.

But a little-known professionals’ network is trying to pave a path that may help open up the reclusive North to the outside world and stoke interest in private commerce and economic growth there.

The Choson Exchange, a nonprofit based in Singapore, regularly sends business volunteers to Pyongyang and brings North Koreans to Singapore, in an effort to connect young people through workshops in economic policy, international business, and law.

The group’s ability to network with young North Korean professionals signals an apparent willingness within the regime to open up to market ideas, the one force that analysts say can drive positive change in the country. “The idea behind all of this,” says Geoffrey See, the founder of the program, “is that we would like to see North Korea integrate with the rest of the world.” Continue reading …

Global education lessons: Singapore leads in STEM, now takes on the arts

Just as the US is abandoning funding of arts programs in schools to focus more on testing of core subjects, a leader in math and science education turns to the arts as a way of improving “entrepreneurial” thinking it admired in Americans. Will it beat the US at it’s own game?

Published by the Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 1, 2013

By Tom Benner

Chew Jun Ru knew he wanted to become a musician back in high school. But the eldest of four had parents who shared the traditional Singaporean view of the arts – they insisted he find a career with a solid future.

“It was crazy at the time. They could not believe what they were hearing,” says Mr. Chew, now 24. “It’s just music. I’m not doing drugs. It’s not something I should be ashamed of.”

In June, Chew – who plays the erhu, a traditional Chinese two-stringed bowed instrument – graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, an undergraduate arts institution here. In August he left for Beijing on full scholarship to the China Conservatory of Music.

His ability to win over his parents – they couldn’t be prouder now – speaks to the growing acceptance of, and focus on, arts education.

Innovation and creativity are seen as increasingly important to core curricula in this traditionally buttoned-up financial center, at a time when American schools are cutting back on arts. Singapore‘s embrace of the arts isn’t just for art’s sake, but because of the growing recognition that arts education is crucial to Singapore’s growing innovation-driven economy.

Continue reading …

Singapore rules US death a suicide, but suspicions linger

Singapore has invited the US to audit a firm to ensure the case of Shane Todd didn’t involve secret technology transfer to China.

Published by The Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 2013

By Tom Benner, Contributor, Satish Cheney, Contributor

Singapore authorities on Monday ruled the hanging death of American scientist Shane Todd last year was a suicide. State coroner Chay Yuen Fatt found that there was no foul play and that the 31-year-old Mr. Todd died by asphyxia due to hanging.
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Todd’s family immediately criticized the ruling as predetermined, and vowed to continue a high-profile campaign that has put Singapore’s normally cordial relations with the United States under strain.

Todd was found hanged to death in his Singapore apartment in June 2012, days before he was to leave the country for good and return to the US. His parents in Montana have long rejected the possibility of suicide, instead believing their son died trying to stop a transfer of highly-sensitive military-grade technology from his employer, Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME), to Huawei Technologies, suspected by some countries of enabling Chinese espionage with their devices. Continue reading …

American’s death in Singapore ruled suicide

Coroner says scientist hanged himself but questions about China and high-tech secrets remain.

Published by Al Jazeera English, July 8, 2013

Tom Benner

Singapore – Authorities in Singapore have ruled that American electronics engineer Shane Todd, whose hanging death in June 2012 touched off accusations of espionage and murder, was a victim of suicide.

State coroner Chay Yuen Fatt on Monday told a packed courtroom in Singapore’s Subordinate Courts building that there was no foul play, and Todd died by asphyxia caused by hanging.

The finding was immediately rejected by family members who say Todd died an American hero, trying to stop the secret transfer of highly sensitive US military technology from his Singapore research agency employer to a Chinese telecommunications giant suspected by some countries of manufacturing devices that can be used for spying.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the coroner’s verdict of suicide,” the Todd family said in a statement.

The coroner’s inquiry focused on the cause of death. Larger questions raised by the case remain: did a clandestine plot actually exist to transfer US export-controlled technology to the Chinese, and could its possible revelation have motivated a suicide or a murder? A separate and highly delicate investigation into whether Todd or his employer actually possessed technological information that may have compromised US national security is planned, but not yet under way. Continue reading …