PULAU UBIN, Singapore — It takes no more than 15 minutes to make the eastward crossing on a juddery old bumboat from Changi Jetty on Singapore’s main island to Pulau Ubin, where gray-barked pulai trees stretch skyward, their pillar-straight trunks evoking the slate and glossy office towers that crowd the Singapore skyline. The 1,020-hectare boomerang-shaped Pulau Ubin is “the last kampong,” or village, and “a living showcase of what Singapore was like in the 1960s,” according to Visit Singapore, part of the country’s official tourist board. Not surprisingly for a place advertised as such, the short boat trip across the narrow strait aims to take visitors back a half century. Pulau Ubin, or Granite Island, is a preservationist’s pearl — a verdant throwback to the pre-industrial, pre-urban way of life still to be found here and there in rural Malaysia and Indonesia. Those old ways are otherwise history in Singapore, where 5.6 million people are jammed onto a mere 720 sq. km. of land area.
SINGAPORE — As Southeast Asia struggles with the rise of modern illnesses that have blighted Western societies such as heart disease and diabetes, a combination of government appeals and changing lifestyle choices suggests a growing awareness of the causes of such conditions. In an Aug. 20 national day speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore recommended that citizens cut back on sugar consumption — flagging-up the soft drinks that are popular among thirsty pedestrians cooling down after a walk in the city-state’s often stifling heat. “Just one can of soft drink can contain eight cubes of sugar,” Lee said. “That’s more than you need for one whole day.”=
JAKARTA — For the first time, three Asian universities are in the top 30 of the 2018 World University Rankings published by Times Higher Education. The rankings cover more than 1,000 universities worldwide and are arguably the best-known and most prestigious of such league tables. The new list for 2018 places the National University of Singapore as the highest ranked Asian school at 22nd, level with the University of Toronto. The other Asian schools in the top 30 are China’s Peking University at 27th — tied with New York University and the University of Edinburgh — and Tsinghua University, also in China, at 30th.
JAKARTA — The world’s seaborne trade exceeded 10 billion tons in a single year for the first time in 2015, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, with about 60% passing through Asia. Sitting between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Southeast Asia’s big archipelagos should be well placed to capitalize as trade expands. Indonesia and the Philippines comprise about 17,000 and 7,500 islands respectively, while Indonesia, home to the world’s fourth-biggest population — about 260 million people — has the second-longest coastline after Canada. However, the bulk of this seaborne trade is moving between Europe and Asia’s powerhouse economies in China and Japan, mainly through the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, which lies between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. “The largest archipelagic countries in the world are not being optimized,” said Fauziah Zen, an economist with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, at the recent launch of a report on Southeast Asia’s maritime infrastructure published by The Habibie Center, a Jakarta-based research organization.
SINGAPORE — Asia’s business schools have much ground to cover if they are to blend the region’s business models with the old nuts and bolts of MBA curricula borrowed from longer-established Western institutions. Not only is the region vast and diverse, from wealthy Singapore and Hong Kong to the middle classes emerging in China and Indonesia, the types of companies are also varied. Students come from or aim for companies as disparate as government-linked corporations, Asian-style family businesses, big Western multinationals, as well as an array of tech-based startups launched by the region’s young entrepreneurs. “The culture and the institutional details are very different,” said Nilanjan Sen, associate dean of Graduate Studies at Nanyang Business School in Singapore, discussing the gamut of businesses across Asia.
SINGAPORE/HONG KONG — There are plenty of metrics to chart Asia’s economic rise over the last two decades, ranging from economic growth rates and industrial output to tourist numbers and car sales. Less noticed, but just as striking, is the emergence of around a dozen first-rate Asian business schools. According to the Financial Times* global ranking of Master of Business Administration courses — an annual league table based on jobs found and money earned by graduates — 11 Asian business schools feature in the top 50 this year (including INSEAD, founded in France in 1957, but now French-Asian, with a campus in Singapore since 2000). “We can certainly link this with overall economic growth in knowledge-economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, which can regularly be found in the top 20s of global innovation indices,” said Mansoor Iqbal, senior MBA editor at Quacquarelli Symonds, an education consultancy.
SINGAPORE – A swimming pool maintenance company van was parked on the street outside No. 38, and, over the next twenty minutes or so, a couple more cars rolled by, along with two pairs of pedestrians, one mother imploring her four or five year old to keep off the road. The mundane comings and goings on Oxley Road gave scant indication that on the street sits a bungalow that has caused a rare and unprecedented public feud among Singapore’s first family 38 Oxley Road, a prime location close to Singapore’s financial and shopping centre, was the home of the late Lee Kuan Yew, the city-state’s founding father and one of 20th century Asia’s most influential political leaders. Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien Loong, is the current Prime Minister. He has been attacked by his siblings for allegedly refusing to honour the father’s wish that 38 Oxley Road be leveled after his death
JAKARTA — Official crackdowns on emigrants in Malaysia and Thailand have cast further doubt on over prospects that member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can finalize a long discussed deal on migrant workers’ rights. In June and July around 100,000 mostly Myanmar migrant workers fled Thailand after the military government in Bangkok announced hefty new fines for undocumented workers and their employers. Then, starting July 1, Malaysia made a series of arrests of alleged undocumented migrant workers, affecting more than 3,000 workers and around 60 employers accused of giving work to illegals. These tough actions — though a reprise of previous years’ crackdowns — come as the region’s governments mull proposed enhancements to the 2007 ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, signed in Cebu in the central Philippines during one of Manila’s past tenures as the group’s chair. Two years after the Cebu declaration, ASEAN countries started moves toward a set of region-wide legal norms, but progress has been slow. With Manila again chairing ASEAN this year, there has been a renewed push to address migrant rights — an important social and political issue in the Philippines.
JAKARTA — As Asia’s economies grow and its cities modernize, the region’s voracious appetite for construction materials has driven demand for sand — alongside illegal trade of the commodity — to unprecedented levels. With rapid urbanization and infrastructure expansion, some countries are mining surrounding seas and their river and lake beds at a pace that could have grave implications for the environment. Along with gravel, cement and water, sand is needed to make up the trillions of tons of concrete used so far in laying Asia’s new roads and constructing tens of thousands of urban buildings. Around a third of the world’s land area is classed as desert, but, rounded and smoothed by the heat and wind, desert sand grains are useless for construction. Sand also makes for a bulky, heavy cargo and the high transportation costs mean that sand is usually dug up or dredged relatively close to where it ends up being used. “International trade is limited, unless the two countries in question are close neighbors,” said Zoe Biller, an industry analyst
JAKARTA — Vehicle sales in Southeast Asia are set to outpace all other regions of the world during 2017, according to industry research, highlighting surging economic expansion in some parts of the region. But the growing number of new cars and trucks in urban centers is likely to worsen commerce-stifling traffic jams in major cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila — adding urgency to much needed transport infrastructure upgrades throughout much of the region. BMI Research — part of Fitch Group, a financial information company — has forecast that total vehicle sales in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will grow 8.1% in 2017, a marked increase in the combined 3.1% car sales growth the previous year across the 10 ASEAN countries, and more than double the sales growth rate of 3.7% projected for Asia as a whole in 2017. “Looking at passenger cars specifically, we expect Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam to be the best performing autos markets in the ASEAN region in 2017 with forecast growth of 20.4%, 19.2% and 18.0% in passenger car sales respectively,” BMI said in a recent report on the sector, citing “solid economic growth, strong private consumption and tax reform” as drivers of the car sales spike.