Author Archives: Rubaashini Shunmuganathan

Founder of WILD RICE reminisces his journey of opening a new theatre in Funan, which began three years ago

WILD RICE, one of Singapore’s renowned theatre company, is all set to open the door of its latest 350-seat theatre at the Funan lifestyle complex.

Although the official opening will be taking place in September 2019, but the company will be having a Housewarming Season in July 2019 itself, ahead of the grand launch.

Housewarming Season is a programme that will showcase three sold-out-smash-hits from the 2018 Singapore Theatre Festival, and a new production by the rising talents of Young & WILD, WILD RICE’s award-winning youth division.

The programme which will be happening over six weeks in July and August, gives the company a chance to test out its new facilities, including Singapore’s first thrust stage – inspired by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s iconic Swan Theatre.

Ivan Heng, WILD RICE’s Founding Artistic Director, shared a memory on his Facebook page on 21 March (Thursday), saying how he, along with Randy Chan (member of the Board of Directors) and Tony Trickett (Executive Director) – who is also Heng’s husband – started their journey on wanting to build an iconic destination theatre in Singapore three years ago.

In his caption, he wrote, “On this very day, 3 years ago, Tony, Randy and I made a presentation to 4 CEOs from CapitaLand’s Development Management Committee and sealed our partnership building a 350-seat theatre at the new Funan”.

In the presentation, he revealed that they shared their vision to create one-of-a-kind destination theatre in the Republic, as well as their fund-raising strategy to raise S$15 million. Following that presentation, they went on further to draw the architectural plans for the theatre, with submission to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and National Arts Council.

“We agreed at that meeting that if all goes to plan, out theatre would open in July 2019. We are happy to report that we are on track to welcome our first audiences on 4 July,” he expressed.

He ended his post by saying how incredible the journey was for those who were involved, and thanked all for the support and encouragement that he had gotten.

For those interested, tickets for the Housewarming Season are now available on SISTIC. For more information, visit: wildrice.com.sg

CAPT’s former student shares harsh reality of the college and says it lacks diversity

The College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT) is a residential college of the National University of Singapore (NUS) where its curriculum focuses on active citizenship (AC) and community engagement (CE) through its formal and informal learning. This means that the college emphasises on the importance of both academic achievements as well as social and communication skills.

As such, Irie A, a former sociology student of the school penned down the reality of her life while she was studying in CAPT in her blog.

In her post dated 20 March (Wednesday), she started off by saying that the college is actually the reason why she became such a positive person in her life. This is because it has a supportive and thoughtful community where everyone in the school cares and helps out each other during all times, from bringing medication and food when she was sick to Resident Assistants (RAs) checking on her while she fights through anxiety attacks and bouts of depression.

“When you are surrounded by nothing but people who want to care for you, who want to share in great things with you, you want to be better for them. You want to give back,” she wrote.

However, she mentioned that although the school has its share of goodness, but it’s vital for her to be truthful and reveal the reality of the school. “Glorifying people – or in this case, an institution – is only doing everyone else a disservice. And while CAPT has not ‘died’, and is thankfully, thriving, my time in it has certainly passed, and I wanted to write something that could set the record straight.”

The downfall

Irie noted that she was thrilled to join CAPT after reading about CE on their website, and she had a great time in a few of the CE projects, especially the one where she had to mentor and tutor kids from low-income backgrounds.

However, after a while, she realised that CE in CAPT was “safe” and “politically correct”. It only focused on the good without highlighting anything that was bad or causes controversy. To top that, AC in CAPT was also neglected, and it was never actively promoted as CE. Besides that, socio-political discussion in CAPT was hardly encouraged too, unless it’s done in CAPT Café.

Although these issues didn’t bother Irie initially, but things took a different change when she participated in the Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme (CTPCLP), which is a research program that looks into addressing community issues from the both top-down and bottom-up.

“It researches policies and programmes and ways to aid marginalized community in sustainable, effective ways, with the end goal of empowering them, and removing the need for intervention. It did a lot of volunteer work on the ground, yes, but made sure this was also part of a bigger picture. This blend of the micro and macro – or the individual and institutional – was honestly inspiring. This was not available in CAPT,” she explained.

Lack of diversity

Another issue that bothered her in CAPT was its lack of diversity – be it in race, sexuality and religion. The college is often joked as the Church of Alice and Peter Tan where majority of the students are Christians Chinese from middle/upper-class society.

According to Irie, even though CAPT calls itself secular -at least on paper – but in actuality, the college may be racist. This is because religion rhetoric, conservative ideas partially influenced by religion and other racial incidents were common enough in CAPT.

“Sociology helped me see the intertwining of both macro and micro social forces. And the more I saw, the more I felt despair and annoyance and suffocation, the more I felt like I didn’t and couldn’t belong; the more I detached myself from the college,” she wrote.

As a girl from the Malay community, she said that there were very less diversity in the college as they were actively filtering to recruit more Christian Chinese, making CAPT a homogenous community. Therefore, the institute is filled with conservative thinking individuals who made racist jokes, discouraged LGBT community and passed homophobic remarks to the queer community.

She also opined that they may be a serious systematic problems in CAPT that is beyond her scope to solve. To make things worse, she feels that CAPT doesn’t even realise that it has systematic problems.

“I’m fully aware of how certain people or groups saw me, when I decided to kick up a fuss about how CAPT was flawed, during my time there. But the thing is, the fault never did lie within me. It was always there: CAPT just never had someone who could very loudly articulate their problems. I refuse silence,” she penned.

After leaving CAPT, Irie said that she can’t go back to the residential college as she feels extremely betrayed, confused and cheated. After being exposed to the outside world, she realised that “CAPT was a microcosm”.

After returning to her alma mater recently, she sadly found out that the situation in the residential college still remains the same today.

Despite all the issues, she ended her post by saying that she loved her residential college but also “hated it for how laughable it could be, given its politics, its culture of indifferences; its potential for more that it does not try to do anything with”.

 

Travel vblogger Nas Daily to relocate to Singapore with girlfriend

Famous travel vblogger Nuseir Yassin, better known as the founder of Nas Daily, is going to move to the city-state with his girlfriend, Aylne Tamir.

In an Instagram post on Wednesday (March 20), his girlfriend announced that she along with the blogger and his company, will be relocating to Singapore and could be staying here for “two months or two years”.

View this post on Instagram

It’s official: we are moving to Singapore! After 3 years straight of traveling, living in one place for 2 months has been AMAZING. No packing and unpacking. I can own liquids larger than 100 ml 😂, I have a laundry machine, I can cook at home, and I even had time to make FRIENDS! And now I get to do all this – in Singapore 😍 Singapore is the hub of Asia, and arguably a major hub of the world. That’s why @nasdaily is moving us, and his company there. STRATEGY MIS AMIGOS. Their airport is insane (it has a movie theatre and a butterfly garden), there’s almost no traffic (a blessing for an LA girl) and the people are amazingly nice (and smart!). We could be there two months or two years, but no matter how long it is it’s going to be SICK! See you soon, SINGAPORE! 📸: @foreverchasingadventure 👏🏼

A post shared by Dear Alyne (@dearalyne) on

She also revealed that their move is a strategic one because “Singapore is the hub of Asia, and arguably a major hub of the world”.

“After 3 years straight of travelling, living in one place for 2 months has been amazing. No packing and unpacking. I can own liquid larger than 100ml, I have a laundry machine, I can cook at home, and I even had time to make friends! And now I get to do all this – in Singapore,” Ms Tamir wrote in her post accompanied with a picture of her in Marina Bay Sands.

Mr Yassin also made this announcement in his Instagram account and mentioned that the couple will be coming to Singapore next month. He added that although Singapore is world’s most expensive city, but he thinks that “it’s the world’s best place for our purposes: to live and build up the Nas Daily Media Company”.

The 27-year-old Palestinian-Israeli visits different countries and upload his experience in one-minute videos on his Facebook channel, which has over 12 million followers.

The blogger along with his American-Israeli girlfriend, who is also a video content creator, first arrived in Singapore in August 2018 and left a month later. During his short stay, he has been vocal about how he is “really fascinated” with the country. Some of the videos that he had created while here was on how Singapore’s passport is a dream for many, how “you’re not gonna get any road rage” in the country and how its landfills are so “insanely clean” that they look like resorts.

However, in one of his videos, he called Singapore an “almost perfect” country which drew a lot of criticism from netizens as they felt he didn’t capture the reality of living here. In addition, the appearance of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the video also angered the public.

Mr Yassin lashed out to the public and called them “crybabies” and told “too many people in Singapore lack perspective” and that he would “happily take your air-conditioned public transportation over living in the Middle East”.

He added, “Try sleeping one night with rockets falling near your village and you can’t sleep because of sirens. Try living in a state of war every few years with all your neighbour”.

Frustrated retiree seeks answers about his savings and monthly payouts, but stonewalled by CPF board

The retired Singaporean man, Zol who wrote a letter to express his dismay over the moving goalposts of the CPF scheme, has been stonewalled by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) board after he raised questions as to whether CPF monies belonged to the CPF members and who decides the sum and term of the CPF retirement payout.

In his earlier letter published on TOC,  he was told by that he could only receive $482 monthly from June 2019 under the CPF Retirement Sum Scheme, and this payout would last about 28 years, when he would be 93 years old.

In his letter, Zol wrote, “How can the Central Provident Fund Board decide on the terms of payment for my own money? I would like the Finance Minister to clear the air – does CPF savings belong to each individual member?”

He also questioned the length of the payment and the monthly amount that he would be getting.

“As I am married with no children, I need to support myself from now till death. If I can not secure a job from now till 70 years old, what do I survive on during this 5-year period if I opt in at 70 years old? On top of this, the 4% interest may not even cover inflation in Singapore and the progressive increase in GST for now is 7% to 9%. If using present value to evaluate the 2 options (ie. start the plan at 65 or 70 years old), the best decision is to withdraw all my CPF money now.

In light of my situation (ie. married with no children), it is totally illogical to suggest a payout term of 28 years. When my wife and I pass on, there is no one to receive my balance payout.”

In an attempt to address the problem that he is facing, Zol recently wrote to the CPF board to request for his payout duration to be shortened so as to receive higher monthly payouts.

In his email to CPF, he quoted Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo saying “that of those CPF members who are receiving their payouts presently, 74% of them receive under $500” and that she also stressed that there is “tangible benefits” for members when payouts start later, like higher interest.

As such, he also questioned if CPF could help to “work out tangible benefits – like increase in value of average monthly payout to be more than $450 – for CPF members in the age band between 65 -69”.

As a respond to his first email sent out on 14 January (Monday), CPF replied and said:

Under the Retirement Sum Scheme, members who turned 55 between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2009, like yourself, are required to set aside their cohort Full Retirement Sum (FRS) of $106,000 in their Retirement Account (RA) (excluding interest earned) for basic retirement needs.

Members who meet their cohort FRS fully in cash at age 55 will be able to receive their cohort FRS payout of $910 from their payout eligibility age (PEA) for approximately 20 years, based on the RA base interest rate of 4%. Otherwise, for members who are unable to set aside the FRS fully in cash will receive a pro-rated payout rate, subject to a minimum amount of $250. In your case, you will receive a pro-rated payout rate of $482 for about 28 years.

Notwithstanding, the resulting payout duration may also vary from 20 years due to new policies introduced, which are shown below for your quick reference:-

Extra Interest (EI): An extra 1% per annum on the first $60,000 of a member’s combined balances [with up to $20,000 from Ordinary Account (OA)]

Additional Extra Interest (AEI): CPF members aged 55 and above, like yourself, will also earn an additional 1% extra interest on the first $30,000 of their combined balances (with up to $20,000 from OA)

The EI and AEI is used to extend the duration of the RSS payouts, capped at end-age 95. This will also help to extend the duration of members’ payouts to ensure that they do not outlive their retirement savings as much as possible.

In view of the above, we’re unable to adjust your monthly payout to last for 20 years as it will deplete your RA savings prematurely. Generally, you would need to receive substantial top-ups in your RA or defer the start of your monthly payouts to be eligible to receive higher payouts and/or shorter payout duration.

CPF also noted that they understand Mr Lee’s concern on CPF savings and monthly payouts, and will get back to him after carefully reviewing his case.

However, no reply from the board was received to date.

In his follow-up emails to the board for answers, he asked “who are the rightful owners of CPF savings”?

Zol noted to the CPF board that Nominated Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong once said in Parliament in March 2015 that CPF is not the members’ money, and PM Lee had commended the speech as excellent. However, a year later, then-Minister of Manpower and the current Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin, assured Singaporeans that CPF is indeed their money.

With the two examples, Zol sought clarification from them as to which statement is true.

Other than the above question, he also demanded to know “who decides and approves the sum and term of the Retirement payout” and what is the rationale behind it.

He noted that in CPF’s website, it is said that one can choose their desired amount of monthly payouts to meet their retirement needs.

However, that is obviously not the case with Zol as CPF told him that he will only be able to receive “a pro-rated payout rate of $482 for about 28 years” as he is unable to set aside his cohort Full Retirement Sum (FRS) of $106,000 in his Retirement Account (RA).

As a man who has no children of his own, Zol said that it is tough for people his age to have a full-time job and his monthly retirement sum can only support partial of his expenses, especially medical bills.

And Zol continues to wait for the replies to the questions as CPF board continues to give him the silent treatment.

 

Netizens rubbish MOM’s report that said there are more job openings available in Singapore

On March 19 (Tuesday), the Manpower Ministry (MOM) released its annual survey which revealed that there are more jobs up for grabs in 2018 due to good economic growth in the first half of the year.

It also said that employers are looking more than academic qualifications in order to have a bigger scale of candidates with the relevant skills or working experience. The survey, which included both private and public sector agencies, found 63,300 job vacancies as of September 2018, an increase from 53,100 from a year earlier.

Four out of the 10 vacancies were for new position created as a result of business formation and expansion, the report noted. These jobs were mostly from community, social and personal services like education and healthcare, as well as manufacturing such as electronics, transport equipment and information and communications.

Besides that, more of the available jobs were for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), and their percentage increased to 53 per cent in 2018, compared to 49 per cent in 2017 and 48 per cent in 2016. As for clerical, sales and service jobs, the number dropped to 23 per cent, while vacancies for cleaners, labourers and production and transport operators remained at 24 per cent.

The 2018 survey also found that the portion of PMET vacancies in which academic qualifications was not a main consideration for hiring rose to 52 per cent last year from 42 per cent in 2017, which was the first year the ministry tracked this metric.

However, for jobs like software, web and multimedia developers, system analysts and commercial and marketing sales executives, companies are still looking for relevant skills and work experience.

As more companies integrate technology into their work processes, infocomms and technology workers are still being in demand among roles for PMETs, but teaching and training profession still tops the list of recruits in demand, followed by software, web and multimedia developers as well as system analysts.

The ministry also said that for non-PMET roles, cleaners, shop sales assistants and security guards were the top three jobs in demands last year. However, the number for these vacancies has declined, especially for shop sales assistant, whose share of total job openings nearly halved over the last five years.

The MOM also revealed that non-PMET jobs remained harder to be taken by locals than PMET openings, with common issues being like unattractive pay, physically demanding work, as well as having to work shifts or on weekends and public holidays.

After this report was published in an article by the Straits Times (ST), netizens rubbished the results of the report and wrote their opinions in ST’s Facebook page. They said that this news is untrue and many of them are still unemployed, despite having the qualifications. Some even questioned why the report is not clearly stating which group the available jobs are for – Singaporeans or foreigners.

Some are saying that many of the job vacancies go to foreign PMETs and not local Singaporeans. One user named Pasakorn Sanrattana said that a lot of Singaporeans have opted to do menial jobs because they’re “underemployed and unemployed”.

Members of public say MOM’s statement that retrenchment in Singapore is at 7-year low last year is fake

Based on a data released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM), the overall employment growth in 2018 was the highest since 2014, with retrenchments down to the lowest level since 2011.

Reported in an article published by SG SME, a publication under Singapore Press Holding, it is stated that the number of people with jobs in Singapore has shot up to 38,300.

The report also said that more locals – both Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) – were employed, and the annual average unemployment rate and resident long-term unemployment rate dropped slightly, compared to 2017.

Which the report says is possible due to the good performance that the country received in the first nine months of the year.

But, out of the 38,300 increased employment last year, Singaporeans and PRs accounted for 27,400, more than double then 10,900 foreigners, excluding maids.

Besides that, for the entire 2018, a total of 10,730 employees were laid off – down from 14,720 in 2017 and 19,170 in 2016. Out of the 10,730 workers that were let go off last year, 7,070 were Singaporeans and PRs.

Although fewer locals were retrenched, but a high amount of them were professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), which made up three-quarters (75.8 per cent) of local retrenchment last year, said the report. This is an increase from 72 per cent in 2017.

According to the ministry, this was because PMET’s share in the workforce has risen and retrenchments were occurring mainly in higher-skilled industries.

As for growth in the foreign workforce, it was mostly from S Pass holders and there were 11,000 more of them employed here last year. Nonetheless, the Employment Pass (EP) holders in the country fell by 6,400 as a result of the raising of qualifying salary in January 2017. The minimum qualifying salary for EP is S$3,600.

The report also confirmed the preliminary income growth estimates, which showed that over the last five years, real median income growth for Singaporeans in full-time work was an average of 3.6 per cent per year from 2013 to 2018, an increase from 1.7 per cent per year in the previous five years. This includes employer contributions to the Central Provident Fund.

Looking at quarterly basis, the report found out that the percentage of locals who found work within six months of being retrenched improved in the fourth quarter of last year to 64 per cent, up from 62 per cent who found work in the third quarter.

In the future, the ministry said that hiring outlook seems positive for the construction sector, which saw an up in contracts awarded since the second half of 2017, but the manufacturing sector outlook stays modest.

The MOM also added that the cut in foreign worker quota for the services sector for next year, as announced in this year’s Budget statement, “will help to keep the labour market tight to sustain the impetus for restructuring, and support good employment outcomes for Singaporeans”.

The Straits Times shared this article by SG SME in its Facebook page and netizens quickly rubbished the claims by the report and said that it was fake news.

Many of them said that they’re indeed jobless, and with the increase of Foreign Talents (FTs) who is taking over PMETs jobs, which raise questions as whether retrenchment is low because locals are either already unemployed or forced to do some other jobs. Note that the retrenchment figures are only obtained from companies with more than twenty employees.

 

Others are saying that the retrenchment rate is low because they are not even employed in the first place. They’re again emphasising the fact that since employment rate is low, it will obviously mean that retrenchment rate is low as well.

However, Facebook user Vex Tan said that foreign workers are needed since Singapore has a small population and the country needs a bigger labour force.  Without it, “wages will be artificially high and productivity will suffer”, and this will impact businesses in Singapore as it will not be able to compete for foreign investment as well as to sell its products and services.

PVP politician, Brad Bowyer shares how he began his journey into politics and leaving PAP

Brad Bowyer, the new politician on the block’s journey into politics wasn’t a planned one. After arriving to Singapore in 1985 from the United Kingdom, Bowyer spent his first two years studying in Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC). Soon after that, he left the country to return to the UK to follow his dream of becoming a Commando, but that was short-lived due to an injury.

After returning back to Singapore in 1991 (and stayed here ever since then), Bowyer got involved in local theatre. As someone who has always been fond of theatre, Bowyer was on stage since he was six years old, noting that he preferred being backstage.

As such, that interest evolved into all sorts of different things from art and design to animation, and finally television production.

“I’ve had quite a career in film and television – either producing, teaching or as a consultant. I’ve also ran my own business several times in film and television production. My most recent business is a special-effect company which is still in existence and is doing very well. I was just forced to leave it because I had some health issues, which I’m recovering from it now,” explained Bowyer in an interview with TOC.

In order to recover from his health problems, the 52-year-old Singaporean citizen took a sabbatical for the whole of last year, but since October 2018 he has been working full-time on everything required to prepare for his political career like conducting research, being active on Facebook, writing articles, doing diagrams and more.

As the member of People’s Voice Party – the 11th political party in Singapore set up by Lim Tean, a lawyer and Singaporean opposition politician – Bowyer journey into politics didn’t actually start in an opposition party but rather with the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP).

“After the 2011 election, I saw that we did have a lot of problems, and I had a discussion with my wife and said that I can help out..so I wanted to work from the inside and to see what I can do to improve things. This is what got me to get involved in politics and I joined PAP,” he noted.

Starting off as a volunteer, Bowyer did a lot of meet-the people (MPS) sessions where he was one of the party’s letter writers. This means that he would basically meet citizens who come in, listen to their problems, decide which ministry the concerns had to be directed to and write the draft letter which will then be passed over to the MP.

After doing that for a while, he was then asked to take part in the election of the Central District Community which is one of the five districts that PAP oversees.

“I was put forward as their branch candidate for CDC and I got internally elected for that…We also had the national conversation going on and I was involved in facilitating the national conversation. So I was at PAP headquarters with different group of citizens and we were talking about different group of questioning, collating their thoughts and putting together the final report that came out of the national conversation,” he told.

When asked on why he decided to leave PAP and join People’s Voice Party, Bowyer said that there were two main reasons. The first was Singapore’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which he saw as “a corporate sell-out of the country”. The second was the selected presidency and the whole “joking around Madam President when she was still the Speaker of the house”.

Although he planned to just step away from PAP, but his journey took a different turn after he had some discussion with Lim Tean. As such, he got involved with National Solidarity Party (NSP), which he jokingly called Not Serious Party. After that, he left and joined the party that Lim Tean founded.

Over the years, Bowyer has been the victim of Internet Brigades (IBs) where they attack and troll him on numerous occasions. Even recently, he was slammed by them in regards to his Facebook post on Central Provident Fund (CPF).

When questioned if IBs have put him off from participating in politics, he said, “Words mean nothing. If you meet face-to-face and try to do something, then we will have a discussion.”

Being a new citizen of Singapore, Bowyer always thought the country can be a world leader and be a role model for other countries. However, the country needs to find a balance between social extremist (where they want everything for nothing), and capital extremist (where everything belongs to one person and others fail to succeed).

“Unfortunately, we are way too far to the right. I think we can be somewhere be in the middle where we take care of all the members of the society, but at the same time give the opportunity to those who wants to work harder to contribute more to do better in the society,” he concluded.

Singaporeans prefer to shop online using desktop rather than mobile device, according to Picodi survey

Based on a survey released by Picodi, Singaporeans prefer to shop online using their desktops (62%) compared to their smartphones (35%). Despite the global blooming of mobile commerce, only 1 out 3 transactions was made with the use of a mobile device in 2018.

On top of that, when Singaporeans do use their phone for shopping, the average order value was only S$96, which is about S$8 lesser than when they use desktops (S$104) and S$25 lesser when using tablets.

Apart from Singapore, other Asian countries that do more desktop shopping compared to mobile shopping are Malaysia (68%) and Indonesia (57%).

However, if we look at countries that have the highest online purchases made with smartphones, Peru tops the chart with 76%, followed by Nigeria (62%) and Thailand (56%).

As for who does online shopping, it is no surprise that Picodi’s data shows that Singaporean women purchase more than men, 57% and 43% respectively. The most popular categories for shoppers are food on delivery, clothing, grocery, travel and home & garden.

It is also the young generation that opts for online shopping where almost half of all online shoppers (46%) are people between the ages of 25 and 34. They are followed by people aged 35-44 (22%) and 18-24 (17%). The remaining 15% are consumers who are 45 years old and above.

The survey also revealed that the average order value of Singaporean shopper is the highest in August (S$210), closely followed by September (S$189) and July (S$151). Although November had an average order value of a moderate S$125, but it has the highest number of transactions – 16.9% of all the transactions made during the year. This is possible because shoppers shop in a number of different online stores and place more order despite having smaller baskets during checkout.

If we were to look at Singaporeans shoppers’ activity across the week, the survey noted that mobile users are most active on Sunday, but shopping on computers increased during the whole weekend. In addition, Singaporeans prefer to shop in the afternoon and evening, with the peak of sales made on computer occurred between 12pm and 6pm and the mobile shopping activity increased between 6pm and 12am.

Singapore is again named the world’s most expensive cities for expats, along with Hong Kong and Paris: EIU Survey

According to a survey by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released on Tuesday (19 March), Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris took home the title as the world’s most expensive cities for expats to live in.

This is the first time in the history of the survey that three cities took the first spot as the world’s most expensive city, said EIU.

Last year, Hong Kong and Paris were placed fourth and second respectively, while Singapore remained its position as the most expensive city in the last five years.

The EIU’s 2019 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey looks and compares over 400 individual prices across 10 products and services in cities around the world. These items include food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, along with private schools, domestic help and recreational costs.

Based on the survey, Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris are all 7 per cent more expensive than New York. Meanwhile, cities like Seoul and Copenhagen is at the same level with New York and shared the same seventh place.

Besides Singapore and Hong Kong, other Asian cities that’s part of the top ten chart for this year are Japan and Seoul, placing fifth and seventh respectively. Other cities that make up the top 10 list include Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen, New York, Tel Aviv and Los Angeles.

“When looking at the most expensive cities by category, Asian cities tend to be the priciest locations for general grocery shopping. However, European cities tend to have the highest costs in the household, personal care, recreation and entertainment categories—with Zurich and Geneva the most expensive in these categories—perhaps reflecting a greater premium on discretionary spending,” it said.

The report also mentioned that currency fluctuations remained to be a major cause for changes in the ranking.  Economies with appreciating currencies, such as the US, climbed up the ranking significantly.

Although Asia is home to some of the world’s most expensive cities, but they also have many of the world’s cheapest cities like Bangalore, Chennai and New Delhi in India, as well as Pakistan’s Karachi.

This bi-annually survey is done to help companies calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expats and business travellers.

Netizens lash out at director of global security firm who says that the worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 is premature

On 14 March (Thursday), Channel NewsAsia (CNA) published a commentary article which revealed that the worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 is premature.

Written by Ross Darrell Feingold, the director for business development at SafePro Group, a global security and protection specialist firm, it sought to address the aftermath of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, where a global debate had occurred among air safety regulators, airlines, pilots, flight attendants and passengers, questioning the safety of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

“We may be rushing to judge the reasons behind Ethiopian Airlines ET302’s crash,” Feingold opined.

He said that in the midst of this debate, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had earlier released a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community, but later grounded the aircraft.

The director also noted that despite the rush to temporary suspend the particular Boeing model, passengers can also make decisions to reduce their safety risks.

Feingold wrote that while a lot of countries like Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Oman and the United Kingdom and more have imposed temporary bans on 737 MAX 8, Singapore has taken things a notch higher when the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) suspended all operations in and out of the country of all types of the 737 MAX, and not just the 737 MAX 8.

“Inquiries I have received about the likely reason behind the crash range from state-sponsored and non-state actor terrorism to cyberwarfare and hackers, but I advise travel and security executives at public and private sector organisations, travel agents and individual travellers to avoid speculation regarding the cause,” said Feingold.

He added, “More immediately, the CAAS suspension will impact many airlines with operations at Changi Airport. The high regard fellow regulators in Asia have for CAAS makes it possible that other regulators in Asia will also impose a broad suspension on 737 MAX variants”.

Therefore, he said that disruption to passenger itineraries is bound to happen soon as airlines try to re-deploy their fleets to replace the suspended aircraft.

With the availability of tools to check on the model of aircraft and the routes available to choose from for travel between two destinations, he also mentioned that passengers must be responsible for their travel decisions.

“Passengers flying on a 737 MAX 8 can also inquire as to the status of the software updates and additional pilot training, which will be mandated by the US FAA and airlines will publicly report compliance with,” he explained.

Although passengers can’t completely get rid of aircraft incidents, but they should at least “make the same effort to familiarise themselves with airline and aircraft developments to the same extent they would inquire about public safety at their destination”.

After reading the article, more than 100 comments were received on Channel NewsAsia’s Facebook page where netizens lashed out at him and said suspending Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 is not a premature panic.