Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise

January 31, 2013

Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise

by Mely Caballero-Anthony and P. K. Hangzo, RSIS

SingaporeThrough strategic planning and investment in research and technology, strong political will, and effective governance, Singapore has emerged from water insecurity to become a global hydrohub.

It has built a robust and diversified range of water sources and has successfully addressed its water challenges in the process. As a result it has earned international recognition as a model city for water management. This has also led to a new direction in its water diplomacy, which is no longer centred on securing Singapore’s water supply from Malaysia.

Singapore has in recent years capitalised on its domain expertise in water management. In the process, its water diplomacy has taken on the character of ‘niche diplomacy’. The term was coined to describe how middle powers, through their ideas and positive international impression, can influence international issues regardless of their size and lack of military power. Singapore, in this context, has been able to turn its niche expertise in the management of an increasingly important resource — water — into an approach to diplomacy that has allowed it to enhance its regional and international standing and influence.

It has done this through sharing water expertise as well as humanitarian activities. Singapore’s growing expertise in water management has also enabled the country to set the agenda on a number of global water issues, including water standards, which remain a challenge worldwide.

In March 2012, the Technology and Water Quality Office of Singapore’s national water agency, the Public Utility Board (PUB), was designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for safe drinking water management and integrated urban water management. Under this arrangement, Singapore serves as the WHO’s regional policy research hub on relevant concerns, such as regulatory issues, water industry structure and water pricing. It will also conduct capacity-building activities and training courses for WHO member states, particularly those in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.

Urban water security has become an important policy agenda in most countries. Cities in developing countries are under pressure to meet the burgeoning demand for water brought about by rapid economic and population growth. With the number of people living in urban areas projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion by 2050, the situation is set to become more critical. However, it presents significant opportunities for Singapore to contribute to tackling global water security challenges.

There are already several Singaporean projects along these lines. For example, the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) signed an agreement in 2011 with the government of Mauritius to assist it to develop a system capable of providing an uninterrupted supply of potable water, to reduce non-revenue water to a minimum, to improve the country’s Total Water Management system and to develop a plan to meet increasing and changing needs.

In June 2012 the SCE also signed an agreement with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) in India to set up waste-water treatment plants to generate water for consumption. The program is co-funded by DJB and the Temasek Foundation, and will establish a water reclamation plant with 40 million gallons per day capacity. It is projected that this plant will benefit 3–4 million consumers.

The SCE and Temasek Foundation established a similar arrangement with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) of the city of Bangalore in southern India. BWSSB officials would be trained to manage, operate and maintain recycle-and-reuse plants and would also help them develop strategies to raise public awareness and acceptance of recycled waste-water.

Singapore is increasingly integrating its water expertise into its response strategy for humanitarian emergencies in Southeast Asia. In the wake of the devastating floods in Thailand in 2011, which caused more than 800 deaths, PUB delivered water quality monitoring equipment to Thailand’s Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA). PUB, together with industry partners, also provided training to MWA staff on risk assessment and water safety plan formulation, as well as laboratory services for the testing of water samples.

Other initiatives have involved tackling more chronic needs. Through the Water for Life project launched by the Singapore International Foundation in 2010, Singapore helped rural communities in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to gain access to clean water, providing some 2000 bio-sand filters to help reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases. This was followed by a similar project in Kampong Speu.

Singapore has made determined efforts to extend its water expertise beyond its shores. Its niche expertise in water has strengthened its ties with other states and increased its influence at the regional and international level.

Mely Caballero-Anthony is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

P. K. Hangzo is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

A version of this article was first published here in NTS Insight, and appeared here as RSIS Commentary No. 221/2012.

Anwar-Led Pakatan Rakyat now a serious contender for Power

January 31, 2013

Pakatan Rakyat now a serious contender for Power in Putrajaya

by Dan Martin (01-30-12), AFP

Anwar @KL112After bloodying the government’s nose in 2008 elections, a more experienced and organised Opposition is eyeing the once-unthinkable: toppling one of the world’s longest-serving governments.

Malaysians vote soon with the formerly hapless opposition buoyed by a new track record of state-level government, signs of growing voter support, and what its leader Anwar Ibrahim calls a sense of history in the making.

“I am convinced, insya Allah (God willing), that we will win government,” Anwar told AFP, evoking the winds of change that powered the “Arab Spring” elsewhere in the Muslim world.Of course we call it a ‘Malaysian Spring’, but our method is elections (not uprisings).”

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is expected to call a fresh vote in weeks,Najib3 pitting his Malay-dominated Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition against Anwar’s multi-ethnic Opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact).

The 57-year-old ruling bloc enjoys deep pockets, mainstream media control, an electoral system the opposition says is rigged, and a record of decades of economic growth under its authoritarian template.

Few expect the Opposition to win the 112 parliamentary seats needed to take power. The three-party alliance won 82 seats in the 2008 polls, up from 21, stunning the BN with its biggest-ever setback.

But speculation is rife that Pakatan could win enough in the polls – which must be held by late June – to lure ruling coalition defectors and form a government.
Wan-Saiful“Before this year, many were in denial about Pakatan’s potential. Today, we see society beginning to accept that the possibility (of a BN defeat) is real,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan (left), who runs the independent Malaysian think tank Ideas.

The country’s stock market has trembled recently over the uncertainty as opinion polls suggest the vote will be tight. One recent survey put Najib and Anwar neck-and-neck as prime ministerial candidates.

In a January 12 show of force, the Opposition held a rally that drew close to 100,000 people, paralysing much of the capital Kuala Lumpur in one of Malaysia’s biggest-ever political gatherings.

This is IT-KL112“I think it’s very close, and the party that makes the least mistakes will be the party that wins,” said Ambiga Sreenavasan, head of BERSIH, an NGO coalition that has organised large public rallies for electoral reform.

Pakatan attacks the ruling coalition, and particularly its dominant partner the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), as corrupt, repressive and lacking a long-term vision for Malaysia. Anwar says Pakatan would end authoritarianism and free the media.

BN could lose 20 more seats

It would lure foreign investment by attacking rampant graft and reforming the system of preferences for Malays that is blamed for harming national economic competitiveness and stoking resentment among minority Chinese and Indians.

“The people are committed to reform. There is a legitimate expectation among the public for them to see that reforms do take place,” Anwar said.

Anwar, who was acquitted a year ago on sodomy charges he called a bogus UMNO attempt to ruin him politically, has been integral to the Opposition’s revival.

The former BN heir-apparent’s spectacular 1998 ouster in a power struggle with then-premier Mahathir Mohamad gifted the Opposition a charismatic leader with top government experience to rally around.

The loose alliance of 2008 is stronger today, having since agreed on a common manifesto, and has shown it can govern in four states won five years ago, the most ever in opposition hands. Malaysia has 13 states.

“Cooperation between the parties is much stronger than 2008. They have done more to prepare the ground for new voters,” said leading political pollster Ibrahim Suffian.

Concerns linger over Pakatan’s ability to govern nationally.

Besides Anwar’s multi-racial PKR (Parti KeADILan Rakyat), it includes PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) representing Muslim ethnic Malays, and the secular DAP (Democratic Action Party) dominated by ethnic Chinese.

PAS’s calls for an Islamic state are a source of alliance squabbling, but We the RakyatAnwar dismisses any concern, saying PAS realises the goal is a non-starter in the diverse nation.

Economists, meanwhile, warn that populist Pakatan promises such as free primary-to-university education could sink Malaysia into debt, while noting ever-larger public handouts by Najib’s government also posed a risk.

Najib took office in 2009 and has portrayed himself as a reformer but surveys suggest BN is still viewed as a corruption-plagued, status-quo force.

Eroding minority support, particularly Chinese, that hurt the coalition in 2008 appears to be accelerating, independent polls show, while first-time voters estimated to number up to three million are a question mark.

One top UMNO official told AFP that party officials fear the coalition could lose 20 more seats – it now has 140 – raising the spectre of a Pakatan power play.

“All said, Najib still has the advantage, but an Opposition victory is clearly possible,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asian politics expert at Singapore Management University.


Not all demand is created equal

January 30, 2013

Not all demand is created equal

by Raghuram Rajan

Raghuram RajanRaghuram Rajan, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the chief economic adviser in India’s finance ministry, served as the International Monetary Fund’s youngest-ever chief economist and was Chairman of India’s Committee on Financial Sector Reforms. He is the author of Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy.

TWO fundamental beliefs have driven economic policy around the world in recent years. The first is that the world suffers from a shortage of aggregate demand relative to supply; the second is that monetary and fiscal stimulus will close the gap.

Is it possible that the diagnosis is right, but that the remedy is wrong? That would explain why we have made little headway so far in restoring growth to pre-crisis levels. And it would also indicate that we must rethink our remedies.

High levels of involuntary unemployment throughout the advanced economies suggest that demand lags behind potential supply. While unemployment is significantly higher in sectors that were booming before the crisis, such as construction in the United States, it is more widespread, underpinning the view that greater demand is necessary to restore full employment.

Policymakers initially resorted to government spending and low interest rates to boost demand. As government debt has ballooned and policy interest rates have hit rock bottom, central banks have focused on increasingly innovative policy to boost demand. Yet growth continues to be painfully slow.

What if the problem is the assumption that all demand is created equal? Pre-crisis demand was boosted by massive amounts of borrowing.

When borrowing becomes easier, it is not the well-to-do, whose spending is not constrained by their incomes, who increase their consumption; rather, the increase comes from poorer and younger families whose needs and dreams far outpace their incomes.

Moreover, the goods that are easiest to buy are those that are easy to post as collateral — houses and cars, rather than perishables. And rising house prices in some regions make it easier to borrow even more to spend on other daily needs such as diapers and baby food.

While it catalyses a more generalised demand, it is not unreasonable to believe that much of debt-fuelled demand is more focused.

So, as lending dries up, borrowing households can no longer spend, and demand for certain goods changes disproportionately, especially in areas that boomed earlier.

Of course, the effects spread through the economy. But unemployment is most pronounced in the construction and automobile sectors, or in regions where house prices rose particularly rapidly.

A general stimulus to demand, such as a cut in payroll taxes, may be ineffective in restoring the economy to full employment. The general stimulus goes to everyone, not just the former borrowers.

Indeed, because the pattern of demand that is expressible has shifted with the change in access to borrowing, the pace at which the economy can grow without inflation may also fall.

Unlike a normal cyclical recession, in which demand falls across the board and recovery requires merely rehiring laid-off workers to resume their old jobs, economic recovery following a lending bust typically requires workers to move across industries and to new locations.

There is thus a subtle but important difference between my debt-driven demand view and the neo-Keynesian explanation that deleveraging (saving by chastened borrowers) or debt overhang (the inability of debt-laden borrowers to spend) is responsible for slow post-crisis growth.

The neo-Keynesian economist wants to boost demand generally. But if we believe that debt-driven demand is different, demand stimulus will at best be a palliative.

Writing down former borrowers’ debt may be slightly more effective in producing the old pattern of demand, but it will probably not restore it to the pre-crisis level.

The only sustainable solution is to allow the supply side to adjust to more normal and sustainable sources of demand — to ease the way for construction workers and autoworkers to retrain for faster-growing industries.

The worst thing that governments can do is to stand in the way by propping up unviable firms or by sustaining demand in unviable industries through easy credit.

Supply-side adjustments take time, and, after five years of recession, economies have made some headway. But continued misdiagnosis will have lasting effects.

The advanced countries will spend decades working off high public-debt loads, while their central banks will have to unwind bloated balance sheets and back off from promises of support that markets have come to rely on.

Frighteningly, the new Japanese government is still trying to deal with the aftermath of the country’s two-decade-old property bust.

One can only hope that it will not indulge in more of the kind of spending that already has proven so ineffective — and that has left Japan with the highest debt burden in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Unfortunately, history provides little cause for optimism.– Project Syndicate

Jocelyn On the Significance of Nik Aziz’s Visit to Karpal Singh

January 30, 2013

Jocelyn On the Significance of Nik Aziz’s Visit to Karpal Singh

jocelynby Jocelyn Tan @

Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat made a significant visit to Karpal Singh’s house on Thaipusam day but behind the big smiles and the birthday cake for the PAS leader is the message that PAS is not quitting the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

KARPAL Singh was still taking his bath when Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and his entourage arrived at his house in Penang’s Western Road. It was the first time that the PAS leader was calling on the DAP leader, and everyone in the house was quite thrilled.

“My wife was banging on the bathroom door telling me to hurry up, that he is already here, he is inside the house. I think Nik Aziz must have heard it as well,” said the DAP chairman.

Nik Aziz, accompanied by Penang PAS commissioner Datuk Salleh Man, was about 15 minutes early although Karpal’s house lies smack along the kavadi route of the Thaipusam festivities.

The meeting of these two long-time adversaries is still the talk of their party Nikky and Karpisupporters today. Some loved it that the two men looked so cosy and congenial in the company of each other. Although both men had exchanged sharp words in the past, they greeted one another with megawatt smiles and held on to each others’ hands.

To Karpal, Nik Aziz is “the old man” (said fondly); after all, Karpal is only 72 to Nik Aziz’s 82 years. But others, especially some in PAS, were unsure what to make of it because Karpal has been a leading critic of PAS’ Islamic policies. This is the very same man who had declared “over my dead body” to PAS’ goal of setting up an Islamic state in Malaysia.

In fact, many in PAS think that Karpal ranks up there with MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek when it comes to criticising the theocratic policies of PAS. Let’s just say the two men are not the best loved figures among PAS members.

Harakahdaily played up the event, splashing photographs of Nik Aziz cutting a birthday cake surrounded by Karpal’s family and several other Pakatan Rakyat MPs and state assemblymen.

Utusan Malaysia also gave it the front-page treatment in its Monday edition, with the heading: “Hari jadi Nik Aziz di raikan dirumah Karpal Singh” (Nik Aziz’s birthday celebrated in Karpal Singh’s house). In fact, PAS dominated Utusan Malaysia’s front page that day because the lead story was “Nasharudin dipecat” — it was a report on PAS sacking its former deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa from its Syura Council.

Nik Aziz had turned 82 on January 10. His birthday cake was custom-made — it had the emblems of the three Pakatan parties and the words “Selamat Hari Jadi Tok Guru”.

Karpal on his part looked thrilled to bits. The fiery politician has seen it all but this was something else. He recognised the significance of this influential leader coming to his house as Hindus passed by outside, shouting “Vel! Vel!” in praise of the deity.

“It was nice of him to come. We have our differences but we get along. My feelings even before this have been quite warm. He is one of those people whom you cannot hate, he exudes friendliness,” said Karpal.

“We went into Parliament together in 1978, you know. I remember he sat beside me.”

No one in PAS can quite recall the Mursyidul Am ever celebrating his birthday, let alone cut a birthday cake. Apparently, the more conservative segment of PAS thinks that celebrating birthdays is a western practice that they would rather not emulate.

But Nik Aziz is the ultimate consummate politician. The fact that he agreed to go to Karpal’s home on no less than on Thaipusam day says a lot about the man. It was a risky political move and only someone of his extended years and stature could dare do it.

But it was less of a birthday celebration than about sending out signals to those watching. Nik Aziz was basically telling his audience that although PAS and DAP differed regarding the thorny kalimah Allah issue, he was not above calling on its top leader.

Nik-Aziz-and-Sebastian-group-photoLater in the afternoon, he met with the new Catholic Church head for the Penang diocese, Bishop Sebastian Francis (left). The meeting was just as cordial and Nik Aziz even presented the Bishop with a cake ringed with cherries.

This time, his message was that although PAS is against the use of the term Allah in Christian Bibles, PAS leaders could still sit down and talk with Christian leaders.

Politically speaking, Nik Aziz is trying to portray a moderate image for PAS and to reach out to the middle ground, especially among the Chinese community. Hence, his visit to the house of a DAP leader.

The kalimah Allah has damaged Pakatan, particularly given that it has placed PAS on one side and DAP and PKR on the other. They are the proverbial “strange bedfellows” still living in the same house but in different bedrooms and they want to persuade voters that they are still together despite differences on this fundamental matter.

But Nik Aziz is probably aware that people inside and outside his party are bound to see all this as yet another instance of PAS dancing to DAP’s tune. But PAS needs DAP’s help to hold on to its seats in the west coast.

Critics in PAS said all these gestures benefit DAP more than their own party. They think that reaching out to Karpal is a waste of time because it is not going to change him and they are probably right.

Karpal is still enjoying the warm buzz from the visit but he said: “My stand on hudud law and the Islamic state remains the same, visit or no visit. What needs to be heard, has to be said.”

Not Possible to have 100% Clean Electoral Roll, says EC Chief

January 30, 2013

Not Possible to have 100% Clean Electoral Roll, says EC Chief

by Hazlan Zakaria

It is not possible for any country to ensure its electoral roll is 100 percent clean, the Election Commission (EC) says, for the list will be affected by daily occurrences of deaths as well as changes in addresses as people move about the country.

“If I clean today, tomorrow someone dies and it is not clean again…NONE“How clean do you want it to be? What kind of detergent do we need to use?” EC chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told a press conference in Putrajaya today.

He stressed that in spite of revelations to the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on immigrants in Sabah, the electoral roll for the state – and for the rest of the country – was as clean as these could be made.

“Believe us, the electoral roll is clean. As far as the EC is concerned, we only accept citizens with blue MyKad as voters.

“As for how they got the identity card, that’s (under the purview of) the National Registration Department (NRD),” he said, washing his hands clean of possible inaccuracies.

Before the names are entered into the roll, the EC carries out a “vigorous check” with the NRD to ensure that those being registered are citizens and are alive.

“If it is okay, only then we register,” Abdul Aziz explained after launching the commission’s dedicated 13th general election website.

He also appealed to members of the public to be proactive and check their details for discrepancies and update the EC with their latest details and addresses.

For this, he said, voters could SMS, email, phone in or go through the EC’s new dedicated GE13 website at

No comment on Sabah RCI

Asked to comment on the ongoing RCI, Abdul Aziz refused to touch on the testimonies of the witnesses.

“I have been advised not to comment as the proceedings are still going on. Four EC officers are waiting to testify and they will answer any and all questions that the commission may ask,” he said.

The RCI hearing in Kota Kinabalu has to date featured damning testimonies on the awarding of citizenship to illegal immigrants and their subsequent registration as voters.

Asked why the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) was not named as an election observer, Abdul Aziz said it was the EC’s prerogative to choose whoever it wanted, and he went on to say it was not because Suhakam had any ill feeling toward the commission.

NONE“(Suhakam chief) Hasmy Agam (right) is my friend too.”

He added that thus far 16 NGOs have been appointed as local observers while five ASEAN countries and the grouping’s secretariat would be coming as international observers.

‘Malaysia, Australia poles apart’

The EC chief also dismissed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s early announcement of election dates as inconsequential to Malaysian politics as both countries were poles apart and used differing electoral guidelines. “We have different laws, different systems and different conventions.”

Commenting further on the EC’s dedicated GE13 website, Abdul Aziz said it would be the one-stop portal for all things related to the coming general election, including news, turnout rates, enforcement updates, nomination statistics as well as other information and a live stream of all voting results.

He said the new site costs less then RM100,000 out of the total RM400 million budgeted for the commission’s GE13 budget. This budget is a whopping RM150 million more than the cost of GE12 in 2008.

Abdul Aziz attributed the inflated cost to inflation, ballooning staff and allowances as well as extra expenses for new types of voting, overseas voting and to handle and increasing number of voters, which will total 13.3 million as against the 10 million voters in 2008, after the latest registrants are gazetted in March

Shame on All of Us, Fellow Malaysians

January 30, 2013

Shame on All of Us, Fellow Malaysians

Note: We are all so engrossed with our nation’s politics that we lose our compassion and sense of caring. One of the objectives of  9 strategic objectives of Vision 2020 is to nurture and build a caring nation. But we have shown our ugly side. The passing of young William Yau has not moved us one wee bit. What is wrong with us, I wonder. Other kids before William  too have died in vain because we do not care enough.

Now  I read the story which appears in the New Straits Times today about the poisoning  of elephants in Sabah. I hope the authorities find the culprits of this barbarous act and make them pay for their cruelty to animals with punitive sentences.


I am moved to see the above picture of the baby elephant trying to revive its mother. It shows me what love is about. I don’t think animals have problems (I disagree with BTN propagandist Sharifah Zohra Jabeen) but we do as we do not know how to co-exist with them.–Din Merican  

Jumbos believed poisoned

10 DEAD: All were found to have badly damaged internal organs

KOTA KINABALU: A TRAIL of 10 dead elephants in one of the last bastions for the species in Sabah has raised concerns on how far people will go to protect their interest.

Carcasses of the Bornean pygmy elephants from a single herd were found near a logging camp and an oil palm plantation not far from the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, about 130km from Tawau, between December 29 and January 25.

The elephants were believed to have been poisoned with a rat poison-like chemical, large amounts of which may have been used in areas where they feed on.

Only a 3-month-old male baby elephant was found alive next to its mother and promptly sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near here. The odds of the elephant surviving, however, remained slim as it was still nursing from its mother.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Laurentius Ambu yesterday said the discovery was disturbing because of the large number that were found dead.

“We are on the lookout if there could be more in the area, which is part of the Forest Management Unit concession held by Yayasan Sabah.”

The 100,000ha concession area, between the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin Conservation Areas, accounts for nearly 1,000 or half the elephant population in the state.

Laurentius said the family of elephants live within a 400km square area.”The dead elephants, three males and seven females, were found within an area of about 10 sq km radius but it may have consumed the poison elsewhere before dying near the logging camp.”

A post-mortem have been conducted on most of the carcasses and senior veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said all were found with badly damaged internal organs.

“There were no signs of external injuries such as gunshots or cuts.We have sent samples to the Chemistry Department as well as to the Veterinary Services Department to check on the possibility of bacterial infection.The livers were enlarge or inflamed, the lungs congested and there was internal bleeding in the intestines.”

A task force made up of the Wildlife Department, Forestry Department, Police, Yayasan Sabah and World Wildlife Fund has been formed to probe the findings.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun expressed shock on the death of the elephants.”This is a very sad day for conservation and Sabah.”