Sunday, May 27, 2018

New mandatory CareShield Life replaces ElderShield in 2020, will offer wider coverage for severely disabled, Health News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

New mandatory CareShield Life replaces ElderShield in 2020, will offer wider coverage for severely disabled, Health News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

New mandatory CareShield Life replaces ElderShield in 2020, will offer wider coverage for severely disabled

SINGAPORE - Another piece of the jigsaw to prepare Singapore for its ageing population, a national long-term care insurance to provide financial aid to those afflicted with severe disability, will be launched in 2020.

Called CareShield Life, the government-run scheme will be compulsory, automatically getting everyone who is between the ages of 30 and 40 in 2020 to start paying premiums. Future cohorts will join at the age of 30.

For them, the scheme replaces the optional ElderShield, offered by private insurers. CareShield's scope of coverage is also wider.

Premiums start at $206 a year for men and $253 a year for women at the age of 30. They will make 38 payments till the age of 67.

Should disability strike and a policyholder require care, he will receive a payout of at least $600 a month, for as long as care is needed.

In contrast, the ElderShield scheme pays $400 a month for up to six years, but with lower premiums paid over a shorter period.

People over 40 years old in 2020 have the option of sticking with ElderShield or switching to the new scheme in 2021 by topping up their premiums.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that over the past three years, the Government "has been preparing Singaporeans for an ageing population", including providing more nursing home and day-care facilities, the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life.

This review "is another important step in this journey", he said.

"It is an important strategy for us, an important part of our social safety network for Singaporeans in terms of long-term care. It also reflects the inclusive society that we aspire to build."

To ensure premiums are affordable no matter a family's income, Medisave can be used to fully pay for the new scheme. There will be permanent premium subsidies of 20 per cent to 30 per cent for people who qualify, and additional support for those who still cannot afford the premiums.

People who are disabled at the age of 30 will make one premium payment to join, and can start collecting payouts immediately.

Payouts will increase to adjust for the higher cost of long-term care in future, so long as the person is still paying premiums. So the payout amount in the year they turn 67 will be the payout they receive in future.

To pay for this, premiums will increase over the years. How much each will increase by will be decided by a council that will be appointed.

The recommendation for the scheme to be made compulsory and for the Government to run it was made by the ElderShield Review Committee headed by Mr Chaly Mah.

Their report was submitted on Friday (May 25) to Mr Gan, who said: "The Government accepts the committee's report and agrees with the key recommendations."

Mr Mah said the recommendations hinge on four key points: inclusivity, adequate protection, affordability and sustainability.

He said there was "some tension in our own deliberation and discussion on whether $600 was enough or not". But higher payouts would mean higher premiums.

The committee also urged the Government to provide incentives and subsidies to encourage older people, for whom it is not compulsory, to join CareShield Life.

Dr Chia Shi Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said the GPC agrees it should be mandatory as it is an "integral part of our social safety net".

It also wants the Government to run the scheme "so there is less concern about commercial interests affecting premium and payout adjustments". Said Dr Chia: "It would be naive to say that commercial calculations do not play any role."

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

8 new dengue cases in Bedok, bringing total to 55 in high-risk cluster , Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

8 new dengue cases in Bedok, bringing total to 55 in high-risk cluster , Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

8 new dengue cases in Bedok, bringing total to 55 in high-risk cluster

SINGAPORE - Eight new cases of dengue have emerged in Bedok over the past two weeks, bringing the total number in that cluster to 55, according to an update on the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

All the individuals reported to have dengue fever are residents, except one patient who works in the area, said NEA on Thursday (May 24).

The Straits Times understands that no deaths have been reported in the Bedok cluster so far.

The Bedok dengue cluster is one of two to be labelled a red high-risk area on the NEA website. The other is Jurong West, which has had three deaths from dengue fever so far.

In the Jurong West cluster, 14 new cases have emerged in the past two weeks, bringing the total number of cases to 90.

Given the new cases in Bedok, NEA said it will be conducting home visits in the area to remind residents to take precautions against dengue fever.

It has also sprayed insecticides in common corridors and residents' homes in the cluster, which is made up of Block 549 in Bedok North Avenue 1 and Blocks 533, 534, 535, 536, 537, 539, 540, 541, 556, 557 in Street 3.

Residents were informed on March 28 that their neighbourhood was a dengue cluster. 

Since then, multiple checks have been carried out, with a total of 57 breeding habitats detected. Out of these, 36 were found in residential premises, in common habitats such as flower bowls, flower vases, fountains, pails and dish-drying trays.

NEA has advised those suffering from symptoms of dengue fever to seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms include the sudden onset of fever for two to seven days, severe headaches with pain behind the eye, joint and muscle pain, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, bleeding from the nose or gums, and easy bruising in the skin.

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6-year-old boy pinned under SMRT bus in Choa Chu Kang accident dies in hospital , Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

6-year-old boy pinned under SMRT bus in Choa Chu Kang accident dies in hospital , Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

6-year-old boy pinned under SMRT bus in Choa Chu Kang accident dies in hospital

SINGAPORE - A six-year-old boy died in hospital on Thursday (May 24), after he was pinned under an SMRT bus while crossing the road in Choa Chu Kang.

The police said they were alerted to the accident involving a bus and a pedestrian in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 5, in the direction of Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4, at about 9am.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that it used lifting equipment to rescue a boy who was trapped under a bus. The Straits Times understands that the boy was found under the rear wheel of the bus.

The six-year-old boy was taken unconscious to National University Hospital, where he later died from his injuries, police said.

The bus driver, a 57-year-old man, is assisting the police with investigations.

Immigration consultant Charlie Lim told ST that he was driving out of the carpark when he saw the accident in front of Block 486.

"The boy was extracted from below the bus and sent up the ambulance," said Mr Lim, 44. "There was a lot of blood flowing under the bus."

He added that the boy's mother was seen standing next to the bus and appeared to be in a state of shock as she was being comforted by a group of friends and police officers.

Choa Chua Kang resident Dereth Tang, 40, said that he heard a screech coming from the block across his home.

"The screech was not loud, and it was the screaming and shouting that caught my attention," said Mr Tang, who is unemployed.

He called the ambulance and went down to take a look. 

SMRT told commuters at 10.15am via its SMRT Connect app that bus service 983 will skip three bus stops along Choa Chu Kang Avenue 5 and 6 due to an accident.

In response to queries, SMRT vice-president of corporate communications Margaret Teo said that the transport operator is sorry and sad that the accident has happened. 

"Our care team has reached out to the boy's family at the hospital to provide support and assistance," she said. "Meanwhile, we are assisting the police in their investigations."

SMRT also apologised to commuters who were affected.

The police has urged the public not to circulate images or videos of the boy at the accident scene out of respect for his family.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah 2nd Minister for Education at the Debate on the President’s Address: Being Singaporean


May 18, 2018

Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah 2nd Minister for Education at the Debate on the President’s Address: Being Singaporean

Mr Speaker, today I wish to speak about what it means to be Singaporean.
Every once in a while, the topic of the Singapore Identity comes up. Often, it is couched as a question - do we have a defining identity in view of our relatively short history? At other times, it is an expression of angst - we point to kiasuism, competitiveness and stress, and ask ourselves - is this all there is to us? We are known to be pragmatic, logical and rational but this also prompts us to wonder: “Are we all head and no heart?”
When I came to the Chamber, I found on my seat a copy of the letter from the NUS students of Tembusu College to the 4th Prime Minister of Singapore, that was quite widely publicised. In that letter, the students expressed their concerns, their hopes, their fears - many of those related to the Singapore identity.
The question of the Singapore Identity is particularly pertinent as we enter a new phase of the Singapore Story.
A new global situation is emerging.
Politically, we see the rise of China; the introspection of America; new tensions in the Middle East; Britain’s exit from the European Union; closer to home, a new situation in Malaysia.
The global economic centre of gravity is shifting to Asia.
Technology is penetrating lives and changing lifestyles; disrupting old jobs and creating new ones; triggering innovation and posing fresh conundrums.
Socially, we and the rest of the world are grappling with income inequality, social stratification, and the dangers of polarisation. Our population is ageing; new births are not replacing the ones who pass on.
Amidst all this - the ever-present shadow of terrorism.
Against this backdrop, the following questions arise:
  • Do we, this generation of Singaporeans, have what it takes to deal with these challenges and come out ahead?
  • In this time of change, what anchors us?
  • Who are we and what do we stand for?
  • What kind of future do we want to make for ourselves?
These questions go to the very heart of our identity.


We do have a unique identity and defining characteristics.
We sometimes forget, but our history is not short.
We achieved independence in 1965. Raffles founded modern Singapore in 1819. But our story actually stretches far back to 1299, to the first founding by Sang Nila Utama. It’s a 700-year journey through time and space that has made us the people we are, and given us the attributes which are now part of our uniquely Singaporean DNA.
From the 14th century, Singapura emerged as a thriving emporium built on regional trade. Open trade and commerce have always been in our lifeblood. That remains true today.
Singapore declined in the early 1700s due to the rise and relocation of other economic centres in the region - an early lesson on what happens when you are overtaken by competition - you lose your relevance and slide into obscurity.
The founding by Raffles in 1819 gave us a new lease of life. The bold move to make Singapore a free port and an open centre of free trade not only re-established our economic importance but took us beyond the region, plugging us into global trade for the first time. This global connection has carried on to the present day and continues to shape our economic outlook.
It also led to the coming of many peoples and the establishment of many cultures - the beginnings of our multi-culturalism.
Over the next 150 years, sojourners became settlers. People sank roots. We were not yet one people; not yet a nation. But from a harbour, Singapore was becoming home.
As a colony, Singapore grew in economic and strategic importance. But in the 1940s the winds of war swept the world and we were not spared.
1941 saw the fall of Singapore - an ignominious blow to the invincibility of the British Empire. It shattered forever the idea of the inevitability of colonial rule. The Japanese Occupation was a period of subjugation and suffering, sacrifice and bloodshed, experienced directly by our parents and grandparents. That is why, even to this day, the word “Syonan” evokes strong reactions.
With the end of WWII came a global tide of anti-colonialism and the rise of nation states.
Our response?
The upswell of a strong nationalist spirit and a fierce desire for the right to determine our own future.
Next came the turbulent years of internal self-government, merger, separation and - finally - independence.
In just 24 years, we made the tumultuous transition from subjugation to sovereignty.
Our hopes and dreams for the future were captured in the Proclamation of Independence:
“...Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society.”
That was the day we became One People. A Nation. Sovereign.
You could say that that was also the day a nascent Singapore Identity emerged - shaped by the events of the preceding centuries, and to be further forged and honed in the next 50 years, as we made the journey from 3rd World to 1st.
Who then are we, the people who have made this journey?


We are a people with a strong sense of self-determination. Our history has made us so. We have a deep and abiding belief that our future should be charted, not by others but by ourselves and on our own terms. Our independence was hard won. We will preserve and protect that inalienable right.
That is why the President’s Address makes securing Singapore’s place in the world one of our priorities.
That is also why we do not allow external interference with our politics.
As a small country we are often subject to eternal pressures. Countries larger and more powerful than us may from time to time try to dictate what we should do. However, we will act only in accordance with the best interests of Singapore. This takes courage, deftness - and a healthy sense of realism. These too are our attributes.
We wish to be friends with all. But we will defend ourselves if the need arises.
We advance and defend our right to self-determination through diplomacy and deterrence.
That is why we act on principle and support a rules based international order, where states must act in accordance with agreed rules and not purely on the basis of might or size.
And this is why we have the SAF and that is why we support NS.


Long before multiculturalism became a buzzword, we made it part of our identity as a nation. The power of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s words in 1965 still resonate today, when he said:
“We are going to have a multi-racial nation in Singapore. We will set the example. This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everybody will have his place: equal; language, culture, religion.”
To be Singaporean is to accept that all can practice their faiths - as long as you don’t do harm to others.
To be Singaporean is to be able to have your own distinct racial identity while at the same time being part of a larger Singaporean family, and sharing a broader national identity with many other races.
To be Singaporean is to be able to appreciate and celebrate other cultures, while retaining your own.
To be Singaporean is also to be part of a uniquely Singaporean culture: Singlish, eating at hawker centres, the concept of “chope-ing“ especially with a packet of tissue paper, our habit of calling everyone Auntie or Uncle, whether or not they are related to us; our preferred dress style – casual wear and slippers. And when you say “fun shot” every Singaporean immediately everyone puts their thumbs up! These are things which cut across all ethnicities.


At the core of our Singaporean identity is our values. More than anything else, it is our values that define us –
- Family, kindness, inclusiveness
- Honesty, integrity and anti-corruption.
- Meritocracy and the aspiration for equality
- Justice, fairness and rule of law


Because of our values, our hallmark is trust. People know they can trust us. In global and regional trade, many accord a premium to dealing with Singaporean businesses. MNCs set up shop here and investors invest because they know we can be trusted.
As a country and as a people, our brand is trustworthiness, reliability.


We are a committed people. When we say we will do something, we will.
Our biggest commitment is closely interwoven with our identity. That is to be found in the Pledge. What is the Pledge but a commitment, by every Singaporean to each other, to build a better life together? In the Pledge:
- We affirm our unity;
- We define the kind of society we want to build together - democratic, based on justice and equality
- We set out our goals - happiness, prosperity and progress for everyone.
This is instilled in every Singaporean schoolchild, every adult.
Anyone who becomes a citizen must take that Pledge as one of the first acts of citizenship and understand, through the Pledge, what it means to be Singaporean.


The pursuit of excellence is also part of our identity. This is a function of our size and lack of natural resources. If we want anyone to pay attention to us, if we want to have a place at the international table, if we are to secure our position in the world, then we have to be better than merely good. We have to be exceptional.
And through our combined efforts as a people, we are.
We are a tiny island of 719 square metres.
We have a population of 5.5 million, of which 3.4m are citizens.
There are 193 member states in the United Nations.
Almost all are bigger, more populous and far more generously endowed with natural resources than we are.
Yet we make our mark internationally.
Hub status
Singapore is the world’s busiest transhipment hub. In 2016 PSA Singapore was ranked Best Container Terminal Asia. In 2018, Changi Airport was voted the World’s Best Airport for the 6th consecutive year; SIA is the No. 1 Airline in the World; Singapore is the third most preferred seat of arbitration globally; Singapore is the 4th top financial centre in the world.
Global Mobility
The Singapore passport is the most powerful in the world in terms of global mobility
Our water story has been an amazing one. We have taken the little we have and made it robust and sustainable.
  • Singapore is a world leader in water recycling.
  • In the 2017 benchmarking exercise by the European Benchmarking Co-operation Foundation, PUB was ranked in the top 10% of water utilities benchmarked for (i) compliance with applicable standards for drinking water tests and (ii) wastewater treatment plant compliance with discharge standards.
  • We have one of the lowest Unaccounted-for-water (UFW) rates in the world.
  • PUB received the Stockholm Industry Water Award in 2007 and was named Water Agency of the Year in 2006 for being an exemplary model of integrated water management.
Music, Art and Sport
Over the years, Singapore has had many child prodigies in music. Most recent is 11-year-old violinist Chloe Chua - who won first prize in the junior division of Menuhin Competition - the Olympics of violin.
Our designers are dressing Hollywood stars – Dzojchen’s suits are worn by Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman and Nick Jonas. Heliopolis Accessories’ clutch bags have been worn by Emma Roberts and Janelle MonĂ¡e.
Our sportsmen and women have done us proud.
- Joseph Schooling won our first Olympic gold medal

- Yip Pin Xiu and Teresa Goh, gold and bronze medals at the 2016 Paralympics.

- Jason Chee – table tennis gold at the ASEAN Paralympic Games

- We’ve scaled Everest – Dr Kumaran Rasappan and also Nur Yusina Ya’akob, the first Malay Muslim woman from Singapore to reach the world’s highest peak.
Fun Stakes
And we’re not doing too bad in the fun stakes - Zouk is among top clubs in the world. The Manhattan Bar at the Regent Hotel is Asia’s number 1 for the 2nd year running.
Not bad for a small little red dot which you can barely find on any world map.
And this is not even the full list of our achievements. There are more which I will mention later.
Now, some may have felt uncomfortable during my recitation of this list of achievements - if so, you are displaying another very Singaporean trait - modesty. We are not given to blowing our own trumpet or puffing ourselves up. If anything, we are embarrassed by praise and accolades. We tend to duck our heads and mumble something about just doing our duty. But this is not about chest thumping or bragging. This is about understanding the significance of what I just listed.
Those things could not have been achieved by any single person, organization or the Government acting alone. Those were achieved by the collective effort of Singaporeans, each contributing in different ways.
To have been able to achieve all those things despite the odds, despite our size, despite our lack of resources, tells you something about us.
It tells you that we are determined. It tells you that we are resilient.
We don’t give up, not even when faced by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We will turn a weakness into strength.
It tells you that we are resourceful and entrepreneurial. We are the kind of people who will create something out of nothing, based just on the power of an idea.
It tells you we are innovative, able to adapt, to break new ground. If there is a worthy challenge, we will rise to the occasion and meet it.
We were once told that we are just a little red dot, a remark that was meant to put us in our place and remind us how small we are. Instead we took that label and we turned it into a badge of pride and a mark of excellence.
But being Singaporean is not just about achievements. Our achievements are the manifestation of something much deeper and more fundamental. Care. Above all, to be Singaporean is to care.
To be Singaporean is to care – about family, about others, about country. In this debate, much has been said about social mobility, inequality and the lack of social mixing. These are real concerns.
However, in the context of identity, the real point to note is not that this is becoming a problem. We know it is a problem. The real point to note is that we care that it is becoming a problem and we are determined to do something about it. That is the essence of being Singaporean. We care enough to want to do something. If we see something wrong, our first instinct is to help, to fix it, to improve the situation.
Take education. We care about our people.
We care about our children and their future. We want every child to fulfil his or her fullest potential, to give every child the opportunity to succeed, irrespective of starting point. This is the reason why we put so much emphasis on education.
Our 15 year olds are No. 1 in the world for mathematics, science and reading in PISA 2015, an international benchmarking test dubbed the World Cup for Education; our students are also the world’s No. 1 for problem solving through teamwork (PISA 2015’s Study on Collaborative Problem Solving); likewise, our Primary 4 and Secondary 2 students are the world’s No 1 in mathematics and science. This includes progress made by academically weaker students (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2015 (TIMSS)). Our Primary 4 students are No 2 in the world for reading.
Again, I cite this data not for the sake of trumpet blowing, but to ask people to look at the story that this data tells you. The data tells the story of how, over the years, our educators have built an exceptional education system where our students outperform their peers internationally. This was and continues to be driven not by a desire to top the rankings but by the desire to ensure that our children succeed, to give them the best chance to navigate the future and help them be the best they can be.
In this regard, I was struck by what the former Director-General of Education Ms Ho Peng said in her speech at the Appreciation Dinner upon her retirement. She said:
“We never went out to be a world class education system but through good thinking, planning and sheer hard work, we woke up one day to the realisation that we were regarded as world class. The idea took some getting used to - and I hope never - because education is such a complex business, it is after all to mould the future of our nation, that we must never be complacent, to always keep on our toes, to be forward-looking and yet remain connected with the ground, the voices of students, teachers, school leaders, parents and the community.
That is how our educators see their mission.
Yes, there is anxiety about stress and competitiveness. There is also a need to shift the focus from an over-emphasis on academics to embrace a broader skills approach.
We have been working on that. We have made several moves in the last few years, and will do more. But this too is an example of our Singaporeanness – we are never content to rest on our laurels. We will continually try to do better.
We care about adults too. We worry for those who may lose their jobs to technology.
We want our people to be fully employed. We want them to be able to cope with change so that they can secure their livelihoods. Care is the driving impetus behind SkillsFuture and Adapt & Grow.
We care about whether our people have jobs. We know and understand the concerns about cost of living. However, we recognise that the best way to address that is by generating economic activity with real wage increases and real productivity so that people can earn more in real terms. So that is where we direct our efforts.
Singapore is the top investment destination in Asia and 2nd in the world. We are the 2nd most competitive economy in the world. 2nd among 190 economies for ease of doing business. Top in Asia for best protection of IP. Top in Asia for innovation.
Again what story do these survey results tell? It is certainly not about growth for growth’s sake. What that data reflects is the enormous continuing effort that goes into trying to keep Singapore the best place to do business so that foreign investment will flow in, so that companies are anchored here, to make us a global exchange for goods and services - Why? For one purpose: to generate opportunities and jobs for our people so that we can make a better living.
We care about our people’s health:
We’re 1st in the world for life expectancy at birth, both sexes; 1st in the world for Health-related Sustainable Development Goals Indicators; 2nd in the world for healthcare efficiency; healthiest country in Asia and 4th in the world.
Again, this data speaks of our concern that our people should lead long and healthy lives. It is testament to the work that goes in to ensure that we are healthy and that if for any reason we fall ill, Singaporeans can get the best possible health care.
We care that our people have good homes, to have a place where they can bring up their families.
We have 90.7% home ownership of which 80% is public housing. The home ownership rate among resident households for HDB flats is 92.1%.
In the last decade we have expanded our social networks, increased social programmes and increased social expenditure. This includes the PGP, CHAS, Silver Support, Comcare, Medishield Life, to name just a few. Again, because we care.
Caring about others
Singaporean are a caring people. We have big hearts. This can be seen in many ways. For example, our response to the tsunami in 2004, the Nepal earthquake in 2015.
Our volunteerism rate has grown over the years from 1 to 10 individuals (9%) volunteering in 2000 to 1 in 3 (35%) volunteering in 2016; total volunteer hours have almost doubled from 66 million hours in 2014 to 121 million hours in 2016.


But our other Singaporean trait is that we are also pragmatic. It is not enough to simply care. Empathy without outcomes achieves little. Care has to be deliverable and sustainable, both operationally and financially. And that is the other part of our identity too - making sure that things actually get done. We work hard to translate care into reality. That’s why the STB tagline is “Passion made Possible” accompanied by the trust mark.


For us, it’s not enough to get things done just for today. We are also a people who think about tomorrow – about the future of our children and the future of Singapore, our country. The CFE and its work is about the future, as indeed is this Debate. Our preoccupation with the future is driven by our sense of duty and stewardship – that we must not only tend to our own generation but plant seeds that will bear fruit for the next.


We are green, we care about our environment and we love nature.
Long before the green movement, we had annual tree planting. From a Garden City we have moved to being a City in a Garden. Our Botanical Gardens is a World Heritage Site. We have Gardens by the Bay, the upcoming Rainforest Park at Mandai. We are a Permanent Observer of the Artic Council. We have designated this year as the year of Climate Action.
We love animals.
It’s not only dogs and cats. Just look at our response to the animals which share our urban home - otters, owls and woodpeckers; Campus Creatures is a popular FB page on animals seen around our schools, JCs, polys and universities; animal rescue and shelters are gaining more prominence.


We are Foodies.
We love, love, love our food! Before we have finished one meal, we are discussing the next! We have our traditional hawker food but young Singaporeans are coming up with creative new concepts:
- Baomakers by Pang Su Yi – traditional kong bak bao with innovative fillings – salted egg yolk chicken and prawn, chilli crab, crispy chicken with Japanese tartar sauce;

- Windowsill Pies set up by brothers Jonathan and Sean Gwee – yummalicious sweet pies;

- Hainanese Chicken Rice and Laksa Potato Chips by F.EAST, a Singapore husband and wife team – Lee Yue Jer and Kee Vern Cheng;

- Salted Egg Yolk fish skin and chips – from Golden Duck by Singaporean duo Jonathan Shen and Christopher Hwang. In fact, we’ve taken to putting salted egg yolk on just about everything - it’s fast becoming a part of Singapore’s food scene.
And we have a uniquely Singaporean sense of humour.
Think Phua Chu Kang, the Noose and more currently, the Ryan Sylvia YouTube Channel.


We are by no means perfect.
We are champion complainers - although Ministers from other countries have assured me that we do not have a monopoly on this! We can sometimes be inconsiderate and selfish. And yes we are Kiasu, and we are impatient. But overall, our positive attributes far outweigh our negative ones.


We value every individual but what makes us truly unique is our strong sense of unity.
Singapore is exceptional. If you ask Singaporeans, many will say they are just ordinary people doing ordinary things. But we are exceptional - and we have achieved extraordinary things - because of our unity, the way in which we pull together.
Members will recall Our Singapore Conversation, which distilled the 5 things that mattered most to Singaporeans. One of these was “Kampong Spirit”. Why is that so important? It is because what keeps us going, what makes us able to take on all the challenges we face, is the knowledge that we are there for each other, supporting each other, leaving no one behind.
The Singapore Story is still being written. It must be written by all Singaporeans. But let me make a special call out to the young, who are just starting out. You must help to write the next chapter. Earlier generations have done much. Now it is your turn. You have the qualities, the values and the opportunity to do so.
To the students of Tembusu College, not all the answers are clear right now, because the story is being written. You will be part of that story; you will write the story together with the fourth generation leadership, and with your fellow Singaporeans.
No matter what our background, each of us has a role to play, each has something to contribute to make Singapore a better place. As in an orchestra, each instrument taken alone may not sound very musical, but together they produce a soaring symphony.
Together, we are exceptional.
Together, we have achieved what we have.
Together, we have beaten seemingly impossible odds time and time again.
Together, then, is how we must tackle the future.
And we will succeed because of who and what we are – Singaporean.

Friday, May 18, 2018

After facing death, a busker's mission to fill a void in old folks' lives with joy - Channel NewsAsia

After facing death, a busker's mission to fill a void in old folks' lives with joy - Channel NewsAsia

After facing death, a busker's mission to fill a void in old folks' lives with joy

Mr Jack Tan has been making music since his younger days, but it was only when he thought his days were numbered that he found a higher purpose for his passion.

CNA Insider
When doctors found a growth last year, he was prepared to die. But welder Jack Tan didn't. And that filled him with a purpose: To take make his music touch the folks who needed it most -- senior citizens for whom the good times and the songs of yesteryear had (they thought) long  since faded..
(Updated: )


SINGAPORE: It is quiet, almost sombre, in the wards of the nursing home moments before Mr Jack Tan arrives. And it seems as if the only reception he will get would be the impassive faces of the patients.

But that is before the transformation begins. That is why the 56-year-old is there. That is his thing.

Once his equipment is set up and he starts on his electronic wind instrument, a range of emotions ripple through the three wards of the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home.

Resident Lilian Khoo, who is usually depressed and moody, is on her feet and dancing to the oldies he is playing for them.

(dp) Busker jack 1

"I've never seen her as happy as I've seen her today," says Mr Richard Then, the third son of the late Mdm Lee Ah Mooi.

Mdm Khoo is not the only one in smiles. Others are singing and clapping. One resident, however, is gripping Mr Then's hand instead – and crying.

Mr Tan knows his target audience well. Earlier, he told CNA Insider what to expect:

In the beginning, they'll ignore you. Some will start to love your music, some will dance along, some will sing along, some will cry.

Even a bedridden resident is responding to the music, moving his hands and feet. Mr Tan has seen this before as well, including among those on intravenous drip.

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His music has even brought tears out of patients in coma, which in one instance, he was told, came as a final relief before death.

The irony is that his decision to bring joy to others came about after he was faced with the prospect of his own death five years ago, and which he narrowly avoided last year.

Struck by an illness that is still dogging him and thinking that his days were numbered, Mr Tan, a welder, decided to make music as a busker. Now he is touching lives.

WATCH: Transformed, and transforming lives (8:19)


Music has been his passion since young, and he thanks his late mother for that. Her love of singing had an indelible influence on him.

"Whenever she was free after cooking, she used to sing," recalled Mr Tan, one of eight children – four boys and four girls – born to a hawker and a housewife. "And each time she sang, I'd sit beside her."

But as they were poor, his parents could not afford music lessons or even a musical instrument for him.

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At the age of 17, he started working part-time as a shopkeeper and saved up to learn music. His first lesson was on the drums, which he had always wanted to play.

By the time he was 19, he was drumming in bands in varied places, from pubs to street festivals for the seventh lunar month.

It was not long before he began thinking, "How far can I go? I want to go up."

So he auditioned, successfully, for the Singapore Soka Association's symphony band. For 18 years, he played for the Buddhist organisation, representing the country in international competitions and performing in big events locally, including four shows at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

He has also drummed for two-time Grammy winner and jazz artiste Shunzo Ohno, his "mentor". But he never thought of making music his career, as that would have been "quite difficult" in Singapore.

"I wanted to start a family. With a family, you'd need to have a daytime job," said Mr Tan, who is married with two sons, aged 20 and 25.

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That job that paid the bills was as a welder, first in the marine industry and then in aviation, spanning almost 30 years now.

It was always music, however, that nourished his soul. Yet, for all he had accomplished musically, he had not quite fulfilled his mother's words to him as a son enthralled by her singing.

Use music to touch people's hearts. That's what my mum said. You can be a very good singer, but if your music doesn't touch others, you're not a good singer.

Those words came flooding back to him during the "darkest moment" of his life.


In 2013, he started feeling fatigued and fell ill often. His company, ST Aerospace Engineering, sent him for blood tests, and that was when his life was turned upside down – even before he got the results.

At the Singapore General Hospital where the tests would be done, he saw thank-you cards from the families of leukaemia patients – many who had died – and noticed other patients with shaven heads.

He googled the disease and learnt that it was a type of blood cancer. He cried.

What the doctors found, however, was lead in his blood and low blood cell counts, which had weakened his immune system. But they could not conclusively diagnose leukaemia, though they suspected related issues with his bone marrow.

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"The doctor said, 'I can't give you any medication. I don't know what to request for you,'" said Mr Tan, who showed CNA Insider his medical reports. There was no medicine that could remove the lead in his blood either.

For three months, his company put him on administrative duties. The thought that he may not have much time left ran through his mind. So did the question 'why me', many times. But eventually, it gave way to another question.

"Why not take this opportunity to make my life more meaningful, and this period of time to make sure I can play music to touch people's hearts?" he asked himself.

I don't make a lot of money. I'm not very well-educated. I think, maybe, this small part I can contribute to society. Then that's why I said, 'Okay, I'll move on with this until the moment that I can't play.'

Having played in many different places before, he knew that he wanted his music to move the man in the street most of all. So he thought of busking, also because it would not be the choice of many musicians.

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It was not unlike what his mother used to do when she was young, during World War II. She told him that she used to sell flowers on the street and sing at the same time.

If she could she see him busking now, he thinks it would bring tears to her eyes.


Mr Tan's sons were supportive. But he received a different reaction when he told his friends and bosses that he was auditioning for a busking licence. He said:

You know what they told me? Oh my God, another beggar on the street. I was quite sad.

The comment played on his mind. At his first busking location, Tampines, he thought of wearing a cap and sunglasses so that his colleagues, friends and relatives would not recognise him.

In the end, he simply kept the volume of his music low. "I was so shy," he admitted. But the encouragement of other buskers soon gave him the confidence he needed.

"They came by and said, 'You play good music, just that you're not loud enough to capture passers-by,'" he recounted. "From that day, my whole concept of busking started to change."

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Mr Tan practising at home with an electronic wind instrument, which he first bought from Japan.

His choice of musical instrument had also changed. Two years earlier, he bought an electronic wind instrument with seven octaves and about 100 built-in synthesiser sounds.

Invented in Japan, it simulates the sound of various instruments, such as the flute, guitar, saxophone, trumpet, violin and drums, as well as voice. He took six months to master it.

"There's something different about this instrument. You can do a lot of magic," he said.

One of the things it has done is to help him cater for the musical tastes of the different generations, depending on his location. And slowly, he began to achieve his goal.

He remembers the time when he was playing the Chinese song Endless Love, which reminded him of his mother, and "this aunty cried on the street".

I asked the aunty, 'Why do you cry?' The aunty said, 'I cry because your music touched me. It reminded me of my late husband.

Then there were occasions when people would come back and request the same songs. As he began to recognise his passers-by, he would play the tunes they liked. And the crowds grew.

Outside City Hall MRT Station, one of his allocated sites, the crowd was so big once that the police came and asked him to move further away from the station exit.

He said appreciatively: "When people start to enjoy my music, I feel that, oh my God, I've done something that moved their hearts."

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Mr Tan busking at Clarke Quay.


Busking was giving Mr Tan purpose and satisfaction. But last year, his health robbed him of that. His fatigue wore him down to the point that he could no longer perform.

He then found himself waking up at night, short of breath. In June, the results of a hospital check-up showed that his sleep disorder had to do with his respiratory system.

Soon after, he had a thyroid issue that even turned his knuckles black. And within the span of a month, he began to feel numbness in his hands and feet.

That last symptom called for a scan to detect whether he had any cancerous cells or growth. The result showed a lump near his groin. But the doctors could not be certain it was cancerous.

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Mr Tan went for a positron emission tomography scan.

"I cried because it wasn't easy – one thing after another," he said. And when he was referred to the National Cancer Centre for surgery, he went into a tailspin, just because of the word "cancer". He became depressed.

The operation would be a high-risk one, as the growth was very near a main blood vessel. And the doctor told him that two patients had died during this kind of operation because of bleeding.

Not wanting to have the stress of living with the lump, however, he agreed to the surgery. Before the appointed date, he instructed his younger son: "If dad dies, this is the insurance you claim, this is my CPF."

Mr Tan also made a vow to keep if he survived the surgery. "I promised myself that I'd work much harder for music. I'd use music as therapy for those patients who need it more than me," he said.

Everyone lives with a mission. I hadn't finished my mission. I didn't want to die.

He was conscious during the operation – and wanted to rejoice once the surgeon told him the entire growth had been removed.

"I wanted to stand up and go out because my brother-in-law and sister were waiting for me … Just imagine, I was alive!" he said in his usual animated way.

His sisters were a pillar of support for him, before and after the surgery, caring for him on his road to recovery. Although he wanted to return to busking, they ordered him to rest first.

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Mr Tan did not busk until the year end, following his surgery last August.

"I told him, 'You should keep yourself all the more fit … because if you're sick, you won't be able to share enough (of your music),'" said sister Sharon.

In all, their brother could not busk for 10 months last year.


In January, Mr Tan was fired up again. And it marked the "turning point" of his busking journey, though not solely because of his recovery.

With Chinese New Year approaching, he started busking at weekends in Chinatown – and found a group of young-at-heart seniors who still remember the district for its lively sights and sounds of old.

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He became the spark that transformed their memories into relived experiences. The seniors came, they listened and they danced. Then they asked for more – for him to keep returning every weekend with his medley of melodies from the 1960s.

Unless he has to perform at an event, he has obliged, even adding colourful lights to his set-up.

"I believe some (older folks) can't even afford to see a concert," he said. "I just do my part to throw a mini-concert on the street for them."

Given their age profile, his usual night's takings of about S$110 to S$120 is the lowest among the handful of sites where he can busk – about half of what he can possibly earn.

But he stressed: "It's not about money. I want to bring joy."

WATCH: The songs of yesteryear brought back (4:56)

He keeps going because of the difference in the seniors now. Describing what he saw before, he said: "They didn't particularly have anything to do. They just sat down and watched people move about."

Still, he never expected the crowd to grow as big as it did, blocking an entire passageway along New Bridge Road at times. 

Prior to CNA Insider's earlier video on these street-jamming seniors, he had given out 400 name cards to them. In the three weeks since, more people have shown up, including youngsters who brought their parents.

Wholesale otak-otak seller Hero Loh is already an avowed fan. "His music is very good. When you hear it, you feel comfortable," said the 64-year-old. "If he continues, then I'll continue. Then we'll have (dance) partners; then I'll stay with him forever to dance."

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Even as people seek out Mr Tan on the street, he has also been doing more to bring his music – a repertoire of 400 to 500 songs now – into the wards of nursing homes and hospitals.

While he has been playing for patients for some years, the frequency has increased to about twice a month. And he wants to keep doing it for free.

"It's a blessing that I'm able to go and perform for them," he said. "I believe music can heal. It's a healing process."

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Mr Tan playing at the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home.

His own health is under control so far. Every morning, he must take probiotics for his colon. He has medication for high cholesterol and also for oily blood, which he needs to dilute.

His blood issues have yet to be resolved, though the lead content is coming down. And he did not have to fret about his hospital bills because of his company's medical benefits.

He still experiences fatigue, but his music is able to get him through it. "I have to psyche myself up and say I'm not sick, my blood is okay. This is how I change my mindset," he said.

"I still want to do more. I still think I can do more."

Know of any everyday heroes who are making an impact? Drop us a note here at CNA Insider.

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