Contributed By Wayne Chan
Singapore, the world’s best place to do business
For the sixth consecutive time, Singapore was named the best country in the world to do business, according to the annual Doing Business report by the World Bank. The report evaluates nations on criteria such as as how easy it is to commence a new enterprise, trade across borders, register property, protect investors or get credit. Rounding up the top five spots were Hong Kong, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A.
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan|
Flash floods take the nation by storm
Singapore fell victim to the most unexpected of occurrences, as unusually intense downpours flooded areas including Orchard Road, Joo Chiat, Telok Kurau and Braddell Road in June. The first flash flood hit Orchard Road with water half a meter deep, flooding basement carparks and shops, making roads impassable to vehicles. Singapore’s national water agency, the Public Utility Board, said almost 100mm of rain fell within a two-hour period on that wet Wednesday morning in June, approximately more than 60 percent of the average monthly rainfall for that month.
PUB also discovered that a culvert (a drain that diverts water) along Orchard Road, which channels water from drains in Nassim Road and Cuscaden Road into two sections of Stamford Canal, had become clogged. Thus began some major efforts to review and improve Singapore’s drainage system, previously thought adequate. A S$26 million plan to raise the roads in the Orchard areas was put in place to prevent a similar occurrence.
Haze blankets the nation
The haze enveloped the little red dot again, with the Pollutant Standards Index reaching 108 on Oct. 21—crossing the unhealthy level of 100 for the first time since 2006. Smoke from Indonesian forest fires caused by farmers burning trees and bushes for agricultural purposes affected neighboring regions. Foreign Affairs Minister, George Yeo said in Parliament that “there are limits to what we can do.” This was in response to Members of Parliament who pointed out that Indonesia has not yet ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
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YOG—a new dawn in local sports
Singapore witnessed one of the biggest world events on local soil as it played host to the first-ever Youth Olympic Games in August. As a celebration of young sporting talent and a coming-of-age showcase for Singapore, the YOG saw the participation of approximately 5,000 athletes, along with 20,000 local and international volunteers. The 12-day sports extravanganza ended with China scooping up 30 gold medals, followed by Russia with 19 and South Korea with 11. As part of the country’s commitment to the Olympic Movement, Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew presented the first Youth Olympic Games scholarships to six students from Botswana, Guyana, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Thailand for studies at the Singapore Sports School.
Burma releases pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after 15 years of house imprisonment
After 15 years of house arrest, the Burmese junta finally released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November. Upon her release, she was greeted by hundreds of supporters, to whom she said, “We haven’t seen each other for so long, I have so much to tell you,” immediately re-establishing the bond that has made her such a challenge to the nation’s military rulers. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner and only daughter of Aung San, considered to be the father of modern-day Burma, is frequently hailed as the “Nelson Mandela” of the present generation, thanks to her unwavering fight for democracy in her homeland. Echoing the sentiments of analysts, however, Bono from U2 remarked, “There is a cautious joy amongst the campaigners for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release.” Indeed, it is still too early to say if she will be a force to be reckoned with for the military establishment in Burma, but it is a step forward nonetheless.
China overtakes Japan as world’s second largest economy
Leading the world out of the global recession last year, China surpassed Japan in July to become the world’s second largest economy, with a US$1.33 trillion economy as compared to the latter’s US$1.28 trillion. Economists have long forecasted China’s ascension to the echelons of global economic dominance—it is said that Napoleon himself foresaw this more than a century ago, as he warned, “When China awakes, the world will tremble.” With the global financial crisis of 2009 weakening most of the Western economies, this inevitability has been accelerated into today’s reality. Indeed, since its economic reforms in 1978, the Chinese economy has grown rapidly, recording back-to-back double-digit GDP growth annually.
Asia’s role in this—to recognize the importance of cultivating intercultural intelligence and communication, and to cooperate in creating solutions to global problems, rather than adopt the traditionally individualistic perspective to handling international affairs.
Spain beats Netherlands 1-0 to win the World Cup
After a climactic four weeks and 64 games, the 32 countries in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa were whittled down to just two teams.
The Spaniards, masters of possession football, met with the Netherlands in a show-down at once innovative, incisive and counter-offensive in the final game. Going into overtime after a scoreless but highly combative contest, FC Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta’s finally broke his team out of the deadlock in the 129th minute to nab the World Cup title.
As the first African nation to host the World Cup, South Africa delivered admirably, cementing its role as one of the world’s emerging economies.
33 Chilean miners snatched from the jaws of death
After spending a record 69 days trapped in a caved-in mine in Chile, all 33 miners were successfully rescued in a massive, complicated but glitch-free rescue operation. The deluge of media frenzy showered on the miners has been nothing short of spectacular, riding on the rich human element behind it all: the hardy stories of the miners’ faith, including that of their loved ones, such as the one where the girlfriend of 34-year-old drill operator Claudio Yáñez accepted his proposal while he was still underground. The total cost of the rescue mission is estimated at US$20 million.