Street Food: History, Culture, Society

Let’s assume the “street food” we know is hawker centre food, an evolution from the original street food pushcarts and stalls next to drains, with foldable tables and stools in old distant Singapore. This reflection on the state of hawker fare has been overcooked in recent times e.g. the demise of hawker food as hawking is long hard work and few inspiring ultra-rich success cases.

Everyone knows the ingredients on how hawkers are fading away. The hawker industry is dying out literally as the younger generation do not want to takeover the wok of their hawker parents as the job is not rewarding enough. The government charged high rents for hawker stalls, putting off aspiring hawkers and it sounds easier and better to be a taxi driver than a hawker. There  are no new hawker centres so there are not enough opportunities for those who want to try it out anyway. Hawking street food were honest means of livelihood for the uneducated but Singaporeans are more educated now so there is already a resistance to take up the trade since the stereotype is only the uneducated are hawkers.

However, there are more food courts now so some can argue convincingly that street food is still around just set in a different environment from before e.g. from pushcarts to hawker centres to food courts, char kway teow is still char kway teow. Also, more and more foreign-born are becoming hawkers as migrants have less hangups about any hawker stigma so there are new hawkers entering the industry, just that they might be more comfortable speaking in Thai, Vietnamese or with a strong China accent. Food stalls in hawker centres are more ecletic than before to cater to a more diverse customer base interested in choices from pasta, to muffins, to cuppaccino, to Vietnamese beef noodles, to pad Thai. So there is in fact a renaissance in hawker fare and street food is being redefined as the customers are more international in origin and taste.

Still, as we do not want the romanticised memory of the old hawker aunty and uncle to fade away, the government is trying to revitalise the craft in little encouraging ways by opening up 5 new hawker centres by 2016. Nonetheless, I doubt that infrastructure per se can bring back the street food we remember. We just have to accept that adapt to changing times. “Street food” will always be around, just maybe not the price and way we remember it when we were younger.


Where Creativity Lies: Street Food in Singapore
By Blake Beshore, Special Contributor
Blake Beshore’s picture

You would be hard-pressed to find a more diverse and creative food scene than at the inaugural World Street Food Congress in Singapore. The Congress featured 10 days of education, recognition, and celebration of the street food world and hosted some of the most influential movers and shakers in the food industry. Host KF Seetoh, Anthony Bourdain, Claus Meyer, Daniel Wang, Johnny Chan, James Oseland, Vo Quoc, and Brett Burmeister were there, to name a few.

But it wasn’t just the novelty of unique, traditional food sold streetside that brought the event to life. Singapore’s street food culture is one that all countries could benefit from following. Here’s what I learned after spending a few days in the midst of 37 different food stalls with cuisines originating from 10 different countries.

The Need for Street

The conference was divided into two components: the Jamboree, which allowed visitors to experience many different types of street food through its 37 different stalls, and a two-day dialogue with many of the prominent speakers in attendance. Anthony Bourdain, the host of CNN’s culinary experience show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, was the keynote speaker. I had seen Bourdain speak once before, but not with this much passion in his voice. He spoke of the origins of street food and expressed that this type of food did not spawn from abundance, but rather from necessity, poverty, oppression, and deprivation.

Street food originated from the twin problems of vendors needing an income and customers looking for low-cost, on-the-go food options. Vendors and individuals found ways to use every part of an animal for consumption and implemented many techniques to make the food last longer and taste better.

Bourdain followed this part of his presentation by explaining that street food is also about storytelling: telling an intimate story of family heritage. Love of street food runs through family lines, and the tradition is passed down to the next generation, keeping the entire industry alive.

This family tradition aspect of street food is what differs most from food in America. Bourdain blamed the fast-food culture in the States for a lot of problems — even pointing to the surge in popularity of McDonald’s and KFC in China. Their popularity has begun to weaken the importance of traditional cuisine because younger generations are taking a less active role in preserving their cultures’ cuisine and comfort food.

Keeping the Business Alive

Street food is a way into — not a way out of — the food industry. It allows countless people to share their passion and showcases the entrepreneurial spirit of many of the vendors. The investment or barrier to entry is low for many cooks, so it’s an appealing business opportunity with large growth potential.

However, increased regulations have put street food vendors on the defensive and made it difficult for them to earn a living. Many people have called into question the sanitary aspects of street food. To put it in perspective, we have to consider the consumers of street food. Vendors and cooks selling the food are most likely selling it to their neighbors — not tourists. It’s a local business. Their neighbors will always be there to judge good food from bad, and because they’re cooking for their neighbors, many of the vendors take pride in providing quality, sanitary food to their friends and families.

The way street food is served in Singapore is also changing. It still remains street food at heart, but it’s now served in a more Western-style setting, with stalls and booths lined up in a warehouse. It’s reminiscent of a mall food court, and each vendor is rated for sanitation quality. The cuisine is becoming more accessible and cleaner in an effort to preserve street food’s existence.

Street Food in America

Could this model of Asian street food be replicated and maintained in the U.S.? Possibly. With proper regulation, active and curious eaters, and food vendors in each major city, there’s a chance that street food could be the future of food sales in America if we use the Singapore model. But it would risk being trashed and propagandized by the uninformed and uneducated.

Street food isn’t just a food sale service. It’s an industry born of tradition and heritage that once strived to soften the blows of poverty and deprivation. It might be a new and unique way to eat a meal in a foreign country, but it has a bigger story behind it than just that — one that needs to be preserved.


Singapore and Malaysia Point Fingers at Indonesia, Indonesia Points Back

The taichi is ongoing. Singapore and Malaysia are blaming Indonesia for not enforcing the no-slash and burn laws in Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia, while Indonesia is smoking out the Malaysian, Singapore and other foreign companies supposedly involved in slash and burn that led to the current haze. Malaysia already declared Muar and other parts of Johor as under a state of emergency because of the haze.

The whole haze problem has shifted to blame and shame, easier for governments, NGOs like Greenpeace and anyone else to do and appear relevant, although maybe it should not be the first item on the agenda. On the top of list is rather what more Indonesia and others can do to mitigate the problem –  transboundary haze pollution.

Malaysian firms suspected to have sent haze home
Sun, June 23 2013 14:31
Jakarta (ANTARA New) – Tens of companies have allegedly practiced slash-and-burns to open plantations in Sumatra`s Riau, causing forest fires that send blankets of smoke not only to the province itself but also to neighboring countries, Singapore and Malaysia.

It was reported on Saturday (June 22) that a joint team from the ministry of environment and other relevant ministries had found at least 20 domestic and foreign companies which were suspected to have caused land and forest fires.

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya in Riau on Saturday made statements twice when he earlier announced that there were 14 companies (one believed to belong to Malaysian firm), allegedly involved in the burning of land and bushes.

He stated later, based on field checks, there were 8 Malaysian companies which were strongly believed to have contributed to the forest fires which caused Riau province, Singapore and Malaysia to be shrouded with haze. The eight Malaysian firms are not included in the 14 reported earlier.

“There are eight Malaysian oil palm companies which are strongly suspected to be behind the forest fires. We are still collecting data in the field to ascertain the suspicion,” Balthasar told a press conference on Saturday.

The minister named the eight Malaysian companies as PT Langgam Inti Hiberida, PT Bumi Rakksa Sejati, PT Tunggal Mitra Plantation, PT Udaya Loh Dinawi, PT Adei Plantation, PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, PT Multi Gambut Industri and PT Mustika Agro Lestari.

“The eight companies excluded the 14 companies mentioned earlier to be involved in the land and bush fires,” the minister said.

He said that the number of suspected companies could increase further in the field. We will continue to investigate other companies whether they came from Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore.

The section head of Forest Fire Handling and Forest Protection of Riau`s Forest Service, Rahidi said on Sunday that hotspots detected by the US NOAA satellite were found in the areas belonging to tens of local and foreign companies in Riau.

The hotspots were detected in the areas of PT Siak Seraya, PT Kimia Tirta Utama, PT Inti Indo Sawit Subur, Village Unit Cooperatives (KUD) Dayus Mas, PT Padasa Enam Utama, PT Kartayatam Bhakti Mulia, PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo, PT Riau Sakti Trans, PT Raja Garuda Masa Sejati PT Sabira Negeri Utama, PT Guntung Hasrat Makmur, PT Panca Surya Agrindo, PT Bumi Reksa Nusa Sejati, PT Surya Bratasena Plantation, PT Adei Crumb Rubber, PT Rokan Adi Raya, Cooperatives 13 Anak Suku Bonai, PT Karyatama Bhakti Muli and PT Agroraya Gematrans.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the government would not tolerate companies burning land and bushes that caused haze to shroud Raiu and its surrounding.

“Companies which are proved to have practiced slash-and-burn activities and caused land and forest fires will be acted upon firmly. There will be no compromise,” the minister said when attending a function to see off a land and forest fire extinguisher team in Dumai, Riau, on Saturday.

He said that the government was now concentrating on putting out land and forest fires under the coordination of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB). The agency team is composed of members from relevant ministries.

He said that the government had assigned the National Police to handle the legal process and take sanctions against firms behind forest fires. “Firms burning land will be dealt with by the police and the government will not hesitate to punish even those who already have business permits,” the forestry minister said.

The office of the environment minister is now collecting proof in the field. If the team already has enough proof, it will hand it to the police or to the prosecutor to be taken to the court.

“The fire sources are found within the areas of the companies. If the proof is enough we will take it to the court. Therefore, we will continue to coordinate with the Riau Regional Police and Prosecutor Office,” Environment Minister Balthasar said.

Deputy III for Damaged Environment Control and Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment Arief Yuwono said that forest fire perpetrators would be charged based on Law No.32/2009 on Protection and Management of the Environment.

“The law has a clause with regard to forest fires which carries a crime sanction,” Arief said.

Deputy V of the Ministry of Environment Sudariyono said that based on Law 32/2009, everyone had the obligation to preserve the environment, including land owners.

He said that the law did not say `deliberately or not deliberately`. It suggested that forest fires should not take place. “Owners have the obligation to protect it from fires. They have to be responsible for a fire that takes place, deliberately burned or not,” he said.

Article 98, point (I) of Law 32/2009 stipulated that a land fire perpetrator is punishable by a minimal three years or maximal 10 years in jail or a minimum fine of Rp3 billion or maximum fine of Rp10 billion.

If the fire causes the fall of a victim the perpetrator is punishable by a minimum four years or maximum 12 years in jail with a fine of Rp4 billion to Rp12 billion. If it claims a live the punishment will be between 5 and 15 years in jail and a fine of between Rp5 to Rp15 billion.

Yet, Deputy III Arief of the environment ministry said his side was collecting proof, including whether the fires took place due to deliberate burning.

He said that the forest fires could be analyzed whether it had happened due to deliberate burning. “With soil analysis, we can see proof such as the fire has taken place after the perpetrators used kerosene in burning the bushes,” said Arief.

Arief said that his side would see two things with regard to the forest fires in Riau, namely whether they were caused by negligence of deliberate acts. “It will be analyzed by our investigators. So, it would be proved whether the forest got fire or deliberately burned,” he said.

In the meantime Rahidi of the Riau Environment Service said most of the hotspots detected by the NOAA satellite in the areas of the plantation companies in Riau had been put out. “Most of them have been put out,” Rahidi said on Sunday.

Yet, the number of hotspots can just increase any time. After all, winds are still blowing from southwest to North West that could blow haze to Singapore and Malaysia, according to Riau`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) on Saturday.

“Geographically, Singapore and Malaysia are located in the western direction of Riau Province. So, if the winds are blowing from southwest to northwest, the movement of haze has the potential to shroud the two neighboring countries,” Riau`s BMKG analysts Tri Puryanti said on Saturday. (*)

Call It Smog or Haze, No Clear Solution

The first big major haze was in 1997. The smoke from the forest fires were so bad that it reached Thailand and even Philippines. PSI shot to more than 200 compared to the 100s range now.

Incidentally, is it “haze” or “smog”? “Smog” is traditionally a urban city smoke and fog mix, hence smog, e.g. London smog 1952. In modern urban cities, bad air from vehicles plus industries also lead to the modern “smog“. When the smoke from forest fires comes from another place, another country, to call it “smog” just does not give it accuracy and justice. “Haze” is not the perfect description, but it suits its purpose better than “smog”.

Indonesia has neither answers nor clear solution to its transnational haze problem. It is one thing when farmers practice slash and burn. It is another scale altogether when companies illegally practice slash and burn on a wider commercial scale, which has an unhealthy impact on Malaysia and Singapore. What can Singapore or its fellow victim, Malaysia, do besides complaining loudly year after year? Indonesia so far has not ratified the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, since they felt being singled out as the annual regional problem while Malaysia and Singapore, the main victims, don’t want to share the cost of putting out the forest fires. ASEAN excluding Indonesia want to prevent haze from forest fires, and in the deadlock, Indonesia prefers a more downwind action and have damage control of forest fires and its haze instead. Should we pay for a solution as Indonesia would not budge on a problem within its borders until it gets a handout? Looks like more than 10 years after the 2002 ASEAN Agreement, that regional plan has gone up in smoke.


Sumatra Forest Fires Cause Worst Singapore Smog for 16 Years
By Jasmine Ng – 2013-06-18T11:21:58Z

Forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra shrouded Singapore and Malaysia in smog for a fifth day, leading to an advisory asking people to stay indoors.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency said its pollution index eased to a “moderate” 82 by 6 p.m., after rising to an “unhealthy” 152 late on Monday, which was the worst level since 1997, according to The Straits Times newspaper. The reading for smaller PM2.5 particulates, linked to lung diseases, stayed above 149 micrograms per cubic meter, compared to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safe standard of 12.

Malaysia’s Johor state registered readings above 100 on the country’s pollutant index at 5 p.m., according to the country’s Department of Environment. The Malay Peninsula has been plagued for decades by forest fires in Sumatra to the West and Kalimantan on Borneo island to the East.

“Reduce outdoor activity and drink a lot of water during this period,” Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a Facebook post today, adding that the haze is expected to worsen in coming days.

The annual fires hit a peak in 1997, when the haze cost the economies of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore an estimated $3.5 billion, figures published by the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, Indonesia showed. The current smog could hurt the city-state’s services industry, according to Wai Ho Leong, an economist at Barclays Plc in Singapore.
Palm Plantations

Large tracts of peat lands around the coastal city of Dumai facing Singapore have caught fire, leading to the smog, according to The Straits Times, which cited Indonesian officials. Farmers are also burning plantations to clear land for the next sowing season, the report said. Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil.

“For too long, commercial interests in Indonesia have been allowed to over-ride environmental concerns,” Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, said in a Facebook post yesterday.

In a separate post today, Balakrishnan asked Indonesia’s Minister of Environment Balthasar Kambuaya to name the companies responsible for the fires and to publish maps of land ownership. “The combination of satellite photos, which are updated daily, and these concession maps would enable us to pinpoint the errant companies,” he added.

Singapore’s manpower ministry yesterday issued an advisory urging employers to minimize strenuous work outdoors.

At least 138 hot spots were detected over Sumatra, with hazy conditions expected to persist for the next few days, the NEA said yesterday. The fires typically occur during a dry season for the region from June to September, it said.

Pasir Gudang in Malaysia’s Johor recorded the highest reading of 148, according to the environment department’s 5 p.m. report today. Three of the four areas in Johor indicated levels above 100.

Nizam Ismail’s “Response to MCCY Letter – My Intentions being Misperceived”.

With the Malaysian election as little more than racial politics on steroids, what about Singapore with the Nizam Ismail storm in a teacup few days ago?

Nizam Ismail’s main purpose in issuing his response is to debunk the government’s assertion that he is promoting race-based politics, and that he has used Association of Muslim Professional (AMP) as a platform for self-promotion .

He goes to great length to explain that Community Forum (ComFor) was not created for the purposes of pushing a Malay agenda. He clarifies that ComFor is rather an extension of Community in Review forum (CIR) and is meant to track strategies of the AMP Convention.

Nizam has however failed to convincing explain the necessity for a new forum to track CIR. What he essentially did not say, or cannot say, is that his vision for ComFor was to push for community-based approaches to be included within the national approach adopted by CIR. ComFor would do what CIR could not officially? ComFor is a watchdog group if you like, to make sure the rights and privileges of the Malays are front and center.

Nizam is also known to have used other platforms on social media (e.g. Suara Melayu Singapura) to argue for an alternate political structure for the Malay community. This comprises a system whereby the Malay community nominates its own leaders. This is clearly a political model of racial representation to advance Malay interests, and “Collective Leadership” by another name even. Incidentally, “Collective Leadership” was frowned upon by the government years ago and made know to AMP as it was too racial in its politics.

Nizam kept saying his ideas are made on a personal capacity basis despite his positions within AMP and its subsidiary Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). What it means is that he is pushing for Malay affirmative action in one platform, and claim to focus on the national approach on the other. In so doing, he is merely attempting to mask race-based politics under the guise of class-based programs.

A central point to his proposed class-based programs would be whether he is championing for Malays to have priority in the receipt of state funds. As it already stands, assistance schemes and programs are dished out at the national level, and dispersed progressively based on the principle that those that are most in should receive them first.

Is Nizam therefore suggesting that Malays in need of economic assistance form an under-class of their own? How is this a national-level or fair class-based initiative as he claims to espouse?

Confusingly, in his blog post he argues that race-based self-help groups perpetuate cultural stereotypes or myth of race-based deficiencies. This statement runs contrary to his actions as he took the advantage of AMP’s race-based machinery anyway to advance Malay interests, instead of working in a race-neutral enterprise. He is an advocate of racial politics. Clearly, he has not been misperceived.

Off to a Good Start on Core Issues in Parliament

With more opposition presence in parliament, the debate has gotten with a good start generally. Lina Chiam  is not holding her flag high and steady. While her idea on helping hawkers is worth looking into, her party’s idea to allow singles below 35 to own their own HDB flats once they reach 21 is quite preposterous.  HDB is already rushing to build flats for newly married and now they have to cater to singles? The resale market is already bullish and singles entering the market now would only drive demand and therefore prices up. Of course sellers would be happy.

Following up on Chen Show Mao‘s  stress on investment in healthcare and education for Singaporeans and Singapore’s human capital, Gerald Giam on the other hand is riding in fast and hard, showing that the WP is tackling headon heartland issues as a priority – health, house and transport. However, WP’s Muhamad Faisal stumbled to talk about the economy and negative externalities, oversimplifying the casino issue. To be objective, the PAP also touched on core issues like healthcare, transport, but the curiosity and excitement centres on WP naturally as their number of MPs has increased 6-fold in parliament and there are high expectations.

Focus on those who fall through the cracks
By Gwendolyn Ng
my paper
Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011

Hot-potato topics such as housing, health care and education dominated the parliamentary debates yesterday as the House focused on the plight of Singaporeans who have fallen through the cracks.

Many MPs highlighted a nagging concern of many young home buyers – the affordability of Housing Board flats.

Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for Jurong GRC, called on the Government to lower flat prices and give more subsidies to first- time buyers.

He added that these could come with caveats, like raising the minimum occupancy period to 15 years from the current five years, or for housing subsidies to be paid back if the flat is sold before the minimum period.

Mr Ang said: “Many Singaporeans feel that what they need is a roof (over their heads). They do not need to encash their flat; they do not want to be slaves to their houses.”

Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Lina Chiam of the Singapore People’s Party asked for the criteria for buying flats to be relooked, as they may no longer be appropriate.

Currently, to qualify to buy an HDB flat, one must either be married or be 35 years or older, she noted.

Mrs Chiam said: “I urge the Government to reconsider these restrictions and allow Singaporeans to buy their first HDB flat… when they reach the age of 21.

“By the time a citizen reaches 35 years old (and wishes to buy) a flat, the price of the flat may have tripled and be out of that person’s reach.”

Similarly, affordability was in the spotlight on the issue of health care.

Workers’ Party NCMP Gerald Giam highlighted how Singaporeans worry about high health-care costs and suggested that the 3M health-care model could be tweaked.

The 3M model refers to Medisave’s compulsory medical savings, MediShield’s basic health insurance and Medifund’s government aid for the low income.

As an example, Mr Giam said 60 per cent of the elderly’s medical bills were paid from their children’s Medisave accounts in 2005.

This is “a departure from the principle of self-reliance”, he said, and the situation could be compounded if the patients’ children are low-income earners, which is “often the case”.

So, he argued that the Government is “asking one disadvantaged group to pay for another”.

His suggestions to address cost concerns included expanding the coverage of MediShield and providing assistance to those who cannot afford the premiums.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, a Tanjong Pagar GRC MP, suggested giving additional rebates pegged to the patients’ age.

He pointed out that medical costs incurred tend to increase as patients age and the elderly receive the same amount of health-care subsidies as younger patients in most areas.

“I hope that further provisions can be made to help buffer the elderly and carers from health-care costs,” said Dr Chia.

In the face of an ageing population and smaller families, MP for Jurong GRC Halimah Yacob said that the pressure on caregivers will escalate.

So, she urged the Government to provide more accessible and affordable home-care services.

She pointed out that caregivers also need to be looked after, by providing them with care, because they will age, too.

On tertiary education, Mr Ang suggested extending subsidies to reputable private universities here, other than SIM University, to help more Singaporeans further their education here.

He said: “As Singapore gears itself towards a knowledge-based economy, we will probably need more graduates and not less.”

Assure, Ensure, I’m Not So Sure

Star cancer geneticists Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins who arrived here in 2006, called it quits in 2011. Singapore can recruit but can’t retain. They and other researchers find Singapore stifling still whatever the National Research Foundation pulls out of its hat to have foreign brains drive our research industries.

The global economy with US and Europe  pulling everything down, is uninspiring. Singapore is small and our manufacturing and export-oriented economy would be knocked around and there is nothing our overpaid ministers can do.

However, our tax structure and burden is sustainable as there is no serious aging population and immigrants here contribute to direct and indirect tax. On people-centred growth and a skilled workforce, Singapore is expensive compared to the competition and bringing foreign skilled workers might keep labour cost down. However there is ever growing resentment towards foreigners in Singapore as there is the misconception that foreigners are stealing jobs from locals left, right and centre.

The year ahead in Singapore is as uncertain and shaky as the global economy and no amount of assurance by the new government can make us feel confident.


Govt to ensure economic growth
Long-term strategic plans to ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth for Singapore. -myp
Reico Wong
Wed, Oct 12, 2011
my paper

Four government ministries and agencies unveiled their long-term strategic plans yesterday, following President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s opening address to the 12th Parliament on Monday.

At the forefront of their agenda was the common pledge to ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth for Singapore.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday cautioned that headwinds from slower global growth, stemming from uncertainties in developed economies, will mean slower growth in Singapore in the next few years.

“We must steer a path that enables Singapore to respond to these challenges, transform the nation’s capabilities and help our citizens achieve higher standards of living,” he said.

Monetary Authority of Singapore

To remain vigilant against a resurgence of cost pressures, even as inflation is expected to moderate towards the year’s end.

To conduct regular stress tests on Singapore’s financial sector and work with other agencies to secure and strengthen overall financial stability.

Banks will be required to maintain prudent capital buffers, in line with and in addition to Basel III minimum requirements. The risk-based capital framework for insurance companies will also be enhanced.

To impose stronger safeguards in the sale of investment products to retail investors, and to step up financial-education efforts to help them make informed decisions.

To continue to deepen the talent pool to build strong and distinctive capabilities in the finance industry, which is expected to remain a key growth engine for the Singapore economy.

National Research Foundation

In the next five years, the NRF will seek to strengthen the considerable expertise in research and development to attract talent, generate intellectual property and enhance Singapore’s competitiveness in a globalised world.

The five Research Centres of Excellence will provide opportunities for some 800 PhD students to be trained. The NRF Fellowship Programme will enhance Singapore’s intellectual capital, with top young scientists – local and foreign – undertaking research in Singapore.

The Competitive Research Programme provides research grants to local researchers from universities and the industry.

The National Framework of Innovation and Entrepreneurship will help to translate the treasure trove of knowledge from tertiary and research institutions into applications and products to benefit Singapore’s economy and society.

Ministry of Finance

To maintain a sound and sustainable fiscal system, with a resilient revenue structure to meet higher spending needs in areas such as transport infrastructure and education.

To ensure that the overall burden of tax on Singaporeans remains low by global standards.

To keep the tax system progressive and ensure that government transfer schemes provide targeted and effective aid to lower- and middle-income households in need. It will also simplify tax administration and enhance tax certainty to continue to support Singapore’s pro-business environment.

To maintain a framework that enables the Government of Singapore Investment Corp and Temasek Holdings to pursue investment strategies that generate sustainable portfolio returns.

To support and catalyse efforts to raise skills and improve quality of jobs in every sector.

To encourage co-contributions from charitable individuals and companies through significant tax deductions, and matching grants for donations.

Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore

To focus on ensuring people-centred growth, by investing in equipping workers to take on higher-skilled jobs through training and upgrading.

To step up efforts to re-position Singapore’s economy towards value-added and more- productive sectors.

This includes expanding the range of offerings in the logistics and professional-services sector, and raising the standard of tourism offerings. Emerging clusters, such as clean technology and media, will be developed.

To review existing free-trade agreements to ensure their relevance and accessibility to small and medium-sized enterprises, and to continue to expand trade linkages with emerging markets.

To reinforce Singapore’s position as the gateway to Asia – the centre of dynamic growth now – and the best location for both the expansion and headquartering of global companies.

A GST Promise by Tharman

Echoing what PM Lee claimed some weeks back that the budget is sound and there is no need to increase GST after the GE, Finance Minister Tharman himself re-assured locals that an expected increase of GST to 10% after GE is not in the pipeline for at least 5 years.

Can we trust the PAP government to keep to its promise? Particularly as this pledge to keep GST at the current 7% is not without conditions. The PAP arguably failed to keep its pre-GE 2006 promise of lower healthcare costs  and what would prevent it from going back on its word for delaying a GST increase for at least 5 years?

Nothing. As the PAP can simply come up with real or imagined reasons especially if they continue to dominate the 87 seats in parliament from May onwards. In 2006, the PAP explained away the need for GST to increase from 5% to 7% after GE 2006 by reasoning that the increase in the regressive tax was to help the poor in a ridiculous Robbing Peter to Pay Paul policy. That is the outcome if the PAP has a control over parliament and can pass bills and policies without real competition.

GE: Tharman says GST will not be raised for at least another 5 years

SINGAPORE : Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has reiterated that the goods and services tax (GST) will not be raised for at least another five years.

Mr Tharman said there is no need to raise the GST as Singapore’s budget is in a healthy state.

The GST was last raised from 5 per cent to 7 per cent in 2007.

Mr Tharman was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a community event in Jurong on Saturday.

He said: “As Finance Minister, I have made that very clear in Parliament that at least for the next five years – it does not mean we will raise it in five years’ time – but at least for five years, there is absolutely no reason to raise the GST, because this was the whole idea – we strengthen our revenue base in time. In fact, in the good years before the crisis, it came in very handy in the crisis but it is also going to come in handy in the next five years when we build our infrastructure in health, in infrastructure and we increase our support for the poor.

“Basically, the GST and changes to the constitution have provided us a lot addition to our revenue base. Firstly, it has provided us to react very forcefully during the crisis, it wasn’t just the draw on the reserves…we were very fortunate that we made the revenue changes in time so that we could react forcefully to help Singapore through the crisis and now post-crisis, it has helped us to build up our infrastructure, education, health, including continuous education and training.

“That was the original motivation for GST, help the poor more and prepare Singaporeans for the future through investment income, two very solid sources of revenue to help us in the years to come.”

Mr Tharman also said that his team is taking the opposition seriously, whether they are well-known or otherwise.

But he said that the People’s Action Party (PAP) team has a track record in Jurong, having made many improvements for the elderly, children and low-income families in the last 10 years.

Mr Tharman added that aside from national schemes, Jurong also has its own local schemes that have benefited the residents there, and so residents already know what the PAP can do more and that they can deliver on their promises.