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.
JAKARTA — Vast differences in living standards and wages across Southeast Asia have driven a massive rise in migration in the region since the mid-1990s, resulting in an estimated 6.77 million migrant workers sending home substantial chunks of their often meager wages to support families in poorer areas. According to a World Bank report released Monday, in 2015 Southeast Asian migrants sent around $62 billion worth of remittances to their home countries. That amount is almost the same as the gross domestic product of Myanmar for the same year and around three times Cambodia’s. Remittances are a vital part of several countries’ economies — making up 10% of GDP in the Philippines, 7% in Vietnam, 5% in Myanmar and 3% in Cambodia, though the majority of migrants from the Philippines and Vietnam work outside Southeast Asia.
DUBLIN — Ahead of the U.K. exit from the European Union in March 2019, several Asian financial institutions have already set up hubs in other cities within the bloc to ensure continued access to the continent. Ireland is among the countries hoping to benefit from Asian unease prompted by the Brexit vote, with Dublin regularly touted alongside Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Paris as possible destinations for banks trying to reposition due to Brexit. So far, Nomura International and Daiwa Securities have set up hubs in Frankfurt, base of the European Central Bank, to serve their European businesses while still keeping their London presence; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has chosen Amsterdam for its new European base; and Bank of China has opened a new subsidiary in Dublin.
KUALA LUMPUR — Businesses in Southeast Asia are increasingly counting the cost of land grabs, more than half of which result in delayed projects and nearly three-quarters of which lead to lawsuits, according to a wide-ranging research report. Out of a sample of 51 major land disputes surveyed across the region, all but 6 remain unresolved, meaning that Southeast Asia is the region most prone to land conflict in the world. That is according to research published Tuesday by UK-based consultancy TMP Systems and the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global coalition of land rights activists funded in part by the British and Norwegian governments. That 88% of land disputes in Southeast Asia are not resolved puts the region above the 61% global average, according to the research, which covers land disputes dating from 2001.
KUALA LUMPUR — As seismic activity increases around the rumbling Mount Agung volcano in the Indonesian tourist magnet island Bali, British people on the island are coming to terms with the uncertainty of not knowing if the volcano will go off and how severe any eruption might be. “Getting a heavy fall of ash is probably my biggest concern. But I guess that will all depend on winds and the size of the eruption,” said Graham Hindle, a gas industry worker who divides his time between his job in the western Australian desert and his family in Bali, an island a little over a quarter the size of Wales.
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.
TANJUNG GUSTO, Indonesia — The fast pace of development in Indonesia’s cities has spawned many a technology-based startup in the last few years, from ride-hailing apps to online shopping giants to touchscreen food delivery services. These are the early fruits of a tech economy the government hopes will be worth $130 billion by 2020. For many in remote parts of the far-flung archipelago, where standards of living are much lower than in the cities of Java and Sumatra, startups are more homespun and their ambitions are modest. Yet across the gamut of would-be entrepreneurs, from rural remote villages canopied by palm trees to thronged vast cities, there are common challenges: from raising cash, to nudging government into necessary reforms, managing complicated logistics and fending off jealous competitors, many of the hurdles are identical and boil down to the scramble for funding sources and government backing.
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.