Today - 20111122

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Today - 20111122
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  afternoon edition Loh Chee Kong news editor  cheekong@mediacorp.com.sg  SINGAPORE — There was no end-of-yearcheer for workers yesterday, as Singapore’seconomy was forecast to grow next yearat a relatively lacklustre pace of between1 and 3 per cent.The news would mean a more mod-est wage growth and bonus package nextyear for workers, economists told T oday .Companies will also be more cautious withhiring, they noted.The news also saw the Straits TimesIndex dropping 1.2 per cent yesterday to2,697.98, its lowest close since Oct 20.Still, UOB senior economist Alvin Liewsaid: “Given that (the labour) market re-mains fairly tight, there will be some kindof wage growth involved if the currentsituation continues.”Yesterday, the Ministry of Trade andIndustry (MTI) said it expects the economyto grow by around 5 per cent this year, as itprovided its forecast for next year.“Global economic conditions are ex-pected to remain subdued in 2012, with theoutlook clouded by increased uncertaintyand financial volatility,” the MTI said in astatement.It added that its economic growth fore-cast for next year “does not factor in down-side risks to growth, such as a worseningdebt situation or a full-blown financialcrisis in the advanced economies”.Should these risks come to pass,growth could come in lower than expected,the MTI said.The Singapore economy grew by 6.1 percent between July and September, com-pared to the same period last year, addedMTI.The ministry expects softer growth inthe fourth quarter, given the deterioratingexternal conditions, in particular in theelectronics and biomedical manufacturingsector and financial services sector.Singapore’s open economy has felt thebrunt of a global slowdown.In a separate statement, IE Singaporesaid that Singapore’s non-oil domestic ex-ports (NODX) contracted by 1.1 per cent inthe third quarter, compared to the sameperiod last year. Electronic domestic ex-ports fell by 17 per cent.For next year, Singapore’s NODX “mayexpand 3 per cent to 5 per cent”, IE Singa-pore added.At a press briefing yesterday, MonetaryAuthority of Singapore deputy managingdirector Ong Chong Tee said inflation willbe 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent next yearand the monetary policy stance remainsappropriate.Mr Liew noted that the tightening of imported labour would mitigate any po-tential job losses.He noted that the slowdown might nothave a uniform impact.Said Mr Liew: “In the depths of the lastrecession, some sectors — such as phar-maceuticals — were still performing well.While growth is expected to be rather weaknext year, pharmaceutical is expected to bestill providing some support.”However, should the slowdown “trans-late into a spillover effect” into the financialsector, the banking sector “may not begetting that kind of remuneration pack-age than they did when there was a sharprecovery”, Mr Liew noted.Credit Suisse economist Wu Kun Lungsaid that wage growth will “definitely slow”to less than 5 per cent in general. “If thereis a financial crisis, wage will even be flator turn negative,” he said.He added: “Bonus will also be lower,by how much is hard to say. Companiesmake bonus decisions depending on thisyear’s performance as well as next year’soutlook.”Still, Mr Liew reiterated that there arecertain growth sectors which could be im-mune — or at least buffered — from theslowdown.“For example, private wealth manage-ment is still looking fairly strong ... from astructural development perspective, youdo see that income levels are picking upwithin Asia — one of the key thrusts forprivate wealth activities itself,” he said. additionaL reporting by Cheow Xinyi ts nm 22, 2011.l.cm s  k MiCa (p) 031/10/2011 ã a pubLiCation of ã newS hotLine 6822 2268 Expect a subdued year ahead: MTI ecm ll  1%  3%  2012:gm cs -1.2% Year 20012002200320042005200620072008200920102011 Realeconomicgrowth(%) 1614121086420-2 +4.2%+4.6%+9.2%+7.4%+8.7%+8.8%+1.5%-0.8%+14.5%+5.0%(estimated) Post dotcom globl electonics slump Gowth despite SarS outbek Globl ecession fte Lehmn Highest on ecod,bod-bsed expnsion  SourCe: departMent of StatiStiCS, MiniStry of trade & induStry ¢ gdp growth over the LaSt deCade beCKhaM KeepS MuMon future pLanSSportS ã page 37  2 Parliament todaytuesday November 22, 2011 Bdok rsvo dhs fccopyc bhvou: Bksh sumita sreedharaN sumitas@mediacorp.com.sg  SINGAPORE — The recent spate of deathsat Bedok Reservoir illustrates the phe-nomenon of copycat suicides, Dr VivianBalakrishnan told Parliament yesterday, ashe sought to put into perspective the inci-dents that occurred in the last few months.“People who are depressed, that is theroot to the problem ... We do not have thehighest suicide rate, in fact, given our ethniccomposition and our location as a nation, weare doing quite well,” said Dr Balakrishnan,who did not provide figures.Dr Balakrishnan was previously Min-ister for Community Development, Youthand Sports.Dr Balakrishnan, who is the Ministerfor the Environment and Water Resources,was responding to a question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament LinaChiam on what additional measures —apart from beefing up security and puttingup warning signs — were being taken by na-tional water agency PUB in the light of therecent spate of deaths in Bedok Reservoir.According to Dr Balakrishnan, the PUBwill put up signs in the area providing informa-tion on helplines for those who are depressed.“We certainly intensified all our meas-ures to prevent these sort of untowardaccidents — we reviewed the safety param-eters, we increased patrols, we increasedlights, we put up more signs,” he said.Noting that investigations intosome of the deaths are still in progress,Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that a multi-pronged approach is needed to tackle theissue and it would involve society, includingfamily members and the community.He said: “This is a problem that goesbeyond our reservoirs. In fact, it illustratesthat there is this phenomenon called copy-cat suicides and, since I came from MCYSin the past, we know that there are otherpreferred modes of suicide which havebeen influenced by media coverage and theway it is portrayed to the public.”Dr Balakrishnan added that he felt themedia has been “responsible” in their report-ing of the recent deaths and the coverage hasbeen “toned down” after the first few cases.Responding to Mrs Chiam’s concerns onthe water quality, Dr Balakrishnan said thestandard operating procedure to treat waterdid not need to be changed after the incidents.Before the water from the reservoirsreaches public taps, it is filtered and chemi-cally disinfected to a standard well withinthe World Health Organization’s Guidelinesfor Drinking Water Quality, Dr Balakrishnansaid. He added that the treatment processrids the water of bacteria, such as those fromdecaying organic matter found naturally inthe reservoirs’ ecosystems. The treated wateris also tested daily and is safe to drink, he said. not eough trais to ru at2-miute itervals durig peak hours SINGAPORE — There are simply not enoughMRT trains to run at two-minute inter-vals throughout the morning and eveningpeak periods.Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Min-ister of State (Transport) Josephine Teosaid that, given the existing fleet, trainsare only able to operate at a two-minuteinterval for 45 minutes during morningpeak hours — between 7am and 9.30am— along the Yishun to Marina Bay stretchof the North South Line. Intervals at otherparts of the network are still slightlylonger than two minutes during themorning peak hours.Mrs Teo was responding to a questionfrom Non-Constituency Member of Parlia-ment Gerald Giam on “whether there areany constraints that prevent MRT trainsfrom running at two-minute intervalsthroughout the periods of 7am to 9.30amand 5pm to 8pm on weekdays”.Mrs Teo noted that the interval is af-fected by the number of trains and the sizeof the depots.Pointing out that the passenger load isuneven during the peak periods, Mrs Teoadded that, during the morning peak peri-od, there are between 1,350 and 1,420 pas-sengers per train along the North South andEast West lines and the stretches with theheaviest passenger loads were betweenBishan and Novena stations, as well as be-tween Jurong East and Dover stations.These stretches are most busy be-tween 7.45am and 8.45am. In contrast, theaverage passenger load at these stretchesis about 1,000 to 1,200 passengers pertrain for the half hour before and afterthis period.A total of 35 trains will be added tothe fleet in the next four years. This willincrease capacity along the North Southand East West lines by 25 per cent. Newtrains are also being bought for the NorthEast Line (NEL) and the Circle Line (CCL)and will be delivered in about four to fiveyears, Mrs Teo added.This is expected to increase the NEL’scapacity by up to 50 per cent and the CCL’scapacity by about 40 per cent.Depot building work is ongoing.Mrs Teo said that, despite the challengeof land scarcity, “we are fully committedto expanding the train fleet in order toimprove frequencies of train arrivals”.Responding to Mr Giam’s question onwhether the authorities plan ahead of time,Mrs Teo said that “there is advance plan-ning but projecting demand and ridershipis tricky business and hard to get 100-per-cent right.” sumita sreedharaN a&e subsds fo fogs h o sy: G K Yog SINGAPORE — Subsidies for foreignersneeding emergency care are here to stay,Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told Parlia-ment yesterday. He also provided statisticsto show that this contributed minimallyto the Government’s healthcare spending.He was responding to Member of Par-liament Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GroupRepresentation Constituency), who hadasked if the Government would removesubsidies for foreigners receiving Acci-dent and Emergency (A&E) care or imposemeans testing — where the patient’s abilityto pay determines the size of the bill.This is because foreigners here wouldprobably be covered by workplace insur-ance or travel insurance, he said.Currently, a 50-per-cent subsidy isgiven to all A&E patients regardless of theirnationality. Mr Gan said that, over the lastfive years, foreigners made up 18 per centof the yearly patient load at A&E depart-ments — amounting to government subsi-dies of S$14 million every year.This is less than 1 per cent of the HealthMinistry’s total spending on subsidisedpatient services at public hospitals, whichamounted to S$2.2 billion.“For A&E services, because they af-fect life and death, we want to make sureadministrative processes in the A&E de-partments are kept as simple as possible,”he said.He pointed out that not all foreignershere have workplace insurance as they areon long-term visit passes.And as A&E departments provide criti-cal attention for a short period of time,getting hospital staff to verify the patient’snationality or doing means testing will onlyadd to their administrative burden, he said.“We still like to keep our A&E depart-ments streamlined (and) focus on treat-ing the patients, ensuring that everyonewho comes to A&E receives the emergencytreatment that they need,” added Mr Gan.As for Singaporeans who need furtherhelp even after the 50-per-cent subsidy,Mr Gan cited the existing Medifund schemeand said the Government would continueto look at ways to help the needy. Ng JiNg yNg We do not have the highestsuicide rate, in fact, givenour ethnic compositionand our location as a nation,we are doing quite well. mn f  ennn nW rc vn blknn
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