Best of our wild blogs: 27 Sep 13

It’s about time we learn about the life of an old resident of Singapore – “Uncommon Tales of a Common Monkey” by Amanda Tan (Fri 04 Oct 2013: 7.30pm @ SBG) from Otterman speaks

#13 Upper Pierce Reservoir Park
from My Nature Experiences

Forest Wagtail foraging
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Malaysia clearcutting forest reserves for timber and palm oil
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Singapore’s total population reaches 5.4m

Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 26 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's total population grew by 1.6 per cent to reach 5.4 million as of June this year.

That is the slowest growth rate in the past nine years, according to the latest report from the National Population and Talent Division.

As the population ages and shrinks, there has only been a marginal increase in the number of Singaporeans getting married and having babies.

This is despite a third round of enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) package at the start of the year aimed at encouraging Singaporeans to get married and have babies.

The M&P package was introduced in 2001 and the previous enhancements were implemented in 2004 and 2008.

There are now 3.31 million Singapore citizens, making up about 60 per cent of the total population.

Together with 0.53 million permanent residents (PR), the total number or residents stands at 3.84 million.

Non-residents, mainly transient workers, number about 1.55 million or a third of the total population.

But the numbers also show that their growth has slowed down due to the tightened foreign manpower policies and weaker economic conditions.

Growth in foreign employment in the non-construction sectors halved to 3.5 per cent from 7.1 per cent in 2012.

The report said foreign employment growth was mainly driven by the construction sector to support major ongoing infrastructure developments in housing and transport.

There are 35,000 foreign workers in the construction sector compared to about 29,000 the year before.

Singapore's population is ageing. The proportion of citizens aged 65 years and above increased from 7.8 per cent in 2002 to 11.7 per cent in 2013.

The median age of the citizen population also rose from 35.3 years in 2002 to 40 years in 2013.

The PR population has remained stable. The number of new PR statuses granted has held steady at about 30,000 a year over the past three years.

These are mainly in the "prime working ages" of between 25 and 49. New citizens are drawn from this pool of PRs.

Over the past five years, there have been some 20,000 new citizens each year.

The government plans to continue its "calibrated rate of immigration" of between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year to keep the citizen population from shrinking.

Professor David Chan, director of Singapore Management University’s Behavioural Sciences Institute, said: "It is important to bring in foreigners that are economically active, so that they can contribute to the country.

“But having said that, I think it is important that you bring in people, and some of them may become our PRs, and some of them may want to sink their roots here and become citizens. So you really want people who are not only economically active but who have the integration potential."

Authorities said immigration is needed to balance the effects of Singapore's aging and shrinking population.
The number of marriages involving at least one citizen has gone up -- but only slightly, by about 2 per cent.

The Total Fertility Rate has increased from 1.2 to 1.29, but that is still well below the replacement level of 2.1.

Dr Mathew Mathews, research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said: "I think a year ago, most people were looking at it as being a Dragon Year effect. But the fact is that we are seeing a shift (in fertility rate) across all races.

"It's not a major change, but it clearly is signalling… that there are good things to come and hopefully when more of the -- whether it's housing infrastructure or clearer articulation by the government in terms of assurances (that) Singaporeans will be taken care of... if they feel more confident they are being taken care of, then people will be more willing to embark into marriage and parenthood."

The government introduced an enhanced Marriage and Parenthood package in January this year to encourage couples to have more children.

Singapore’s population growth slowest in 9 years
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 27 Sep 13

SINGAPORE — The total population here grew over last year at its slowest pace since 2004, partly due to tightened foreign manpower policies and weaker economic conditions. A bright spot was the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) inching up to a five-year high, thanks to the “Dragon Year effect”.

As at end-June, Singapore’s total population stood at 5.4 million — a rise of 1.6 per cent over last year.

In comparison, the total population grew by 2.5 per cent between last year and 2011.

The citizen population grew by 0.9 per cent to 3.31 million — and continued to grow older, while growth in the non-resident population slowed, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) said in its annual Population in Brief report.

In particular, growth in foreign employment in the non-construction sector was halved to 25,000 workers last year, compared to 2011.

The TFR inched up to 1.29 last year, higher than 1.20 in 2011 but still way below the 2.1 replacement rate.

“More Singaporeans are getting married, and our birth rates have improved,” said the NPTD, which nevertheless noted that the TFR has been below replacement rate for more than three decades.

It added: “We need to continue our efforts to provide a supportive environment for Singaporeans to achieve their aspirations of getting married and having children.”

According to figures from the Department of Statistics, there were 531,200 permanent residents here as at end-June, falling slightly from 533,100 last year.

Over the same period, the non-resident population — made up of work pass holders, dependants and international students — grew from 1.49 million to 1.55 million.

About 30,000 PRs are granted each year since 2009, “to keep the PR population stable at between 0.5 million and 0.6 million and to ensure a pool of suitable candidates for citizenship”, said the NPTD.

It added that over the last five years, about 20,000 people were granted citizenship each year.

“We plan to continue this calibrated rate of immigration of between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year to keep our citizen population from shrinking,” NPTD said.

For the first time, the proportion of citizens and PRs aged 65 years and above crossed the 10 per cent mark among the resident population, rising from 9.9 per cent last year to 11 per cent this year.

The citizen old-age support ratio has shrank steadily over the years. Currently, for each citizen aged 65 and above, there are 5.5 citizens in the working age band of 20 to 64 years old.

Sociologists TODAY spoke to said the latest population figures were “not surprising”, given the Government’s concerted effort to moderate the influx of foreigners in recent years — in line with the desire of citizens who had expressed dissatisfaction over congestion on public transport and keen competition for jobs and housing.

Said National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan: “The slower growth … is carefully calibrated to ease the consequences of too many people on a small island, so we are seeing the effects right now.”

Following the controversy earlier this year over the population projection in the Population White Paper, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Faculty Associate Tan Ern Ser felt that policymakers need to come up with an optimal population size, as Singapore deals with the challenges of an ageing population.

“We would need to know what our growth model and engines are, and determine what our optimum population size and profile can be, corresponding to meeting the needs of the economy and still have a liveable environment,” he said.

Based on current trends, it would be “anyone’s guess” if the old-age support ratio can be improved in the years ahead, IPS Senior Research Fellow Leong Chan Hoong said.

Associate Professor Straughan said that a mindset shift could be required to redefine the concept of an economically active individual, instead of “looking at (the age of) post-65 as a total exit”.

She noted that people are living longer and healthier lives.

On improving birth rates, the sociologists felt that it was too early to say if the Government’s enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package — which was rolled out early this year — has been effective.

To create a more conducive environment, Assoc Prof Tan said that the Government should continue to enhance basic conditions such as work-life balance, support for parents, lower costs of living and job security. Assoc Prof Straughan suggested focusing national efforts on getting more singles to tie the knot.

“The trick is to encourage more women to get married, especially in the age group of 25 to 29, because if you get married earlier, it buys you more years of natural procreation,” she said.

Population growth slowest in 9 years
1.6% rise brings total to 5.4 million, as fewer foreign workers are hired
Tham Yuen-C And Tessa Wong Straits Times 27 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE'S population grew to 5.4 million in June this year, a 1.6 per cent annual increase that is the slowest in nine years.

At the same time, the pool of old folk continues to swell, with one in 10 now 65 and above, according to official figures released yesterday.

The main reason for the population slowdown is the slower pace of growth in the foreign workforce.

The bulk of the growth came from the construction sector, where foreigners are hired for key infrastructure projects such as housing and transport, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) said in a statement.

But in the non-construction sectors, growth slowed to about half that of a year ago, with 25,000 hired for the year ending in June this year, against 48,000 for the previous year.

The drop is a result of changes in official rules in recent years, which make it harder for companies to hire foreigners.

Yet more measures were announced earlier this week. These include a higher starting pay for foreign professionals, and companies having to advertise vacancies in a national jobs bank before they can apply to hire a foreigner on an Employment Pass.

As a result of the tightening of the tap, the non-resident population rose by just 4 per cent this year, compared to 7 per cent a year earlier. It reached 1.55 million in June, from 1.49 million a year ago.

Together with the resident population, it lifted Singapore's total population by 1.6 per cent, higher than the 1.3 per cent in 2004.

This new pace of growth still falls within the 1.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent range which the Government used in its controversial Population White Paper that forecast Singapore's population to top 6.9 million by 2030.

MP Liang Eng Hwa said that "at this pace, the growth is more sustainable".

But, he added, "we need to watch the demographic changes closely to see if the workforce will shrink significantly".

MP Inderjit Singh, a strong critic of the White Paper, found comfort in the figures.

"It shows the Government did listen to us when we suggested taking a pause to resolve issues like housing, transportation and hospital beds, before thinking about growing the population," said Mr Singh. "I think that is happening right now."

During the debate on the White Paper in Parliament, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other ministers made clear that the 6.9 million figure was not a target, but a projection for the purpose of infrastructure and land-use planning.

He emphasised that the Government was not deciding now on any specific population size beyond 2020.

He also promised to maintain a Singaporean core.

The number of citizens grew to 3.31 million in June this year, from 3.29 million a year ago. This rise of less than 1 per cent is a result of more babies being born and immigration, said the NPTD.

Birth rates have gone up, with the latest figures showing the total fertility rate climbing to 1.29 last year, from 1.20 in 2011.

Fast-ageing S'pore, fewer to support aged
Experts fear this will exert pressure on economy, society and governance
Tessa Wong Straits Times 27 Sep 13;

SINGAPOREANS are living longer and not having enough babies to replace themselves, meaning the swiftly ageing population has fewer working citizens supporting the growing pool of elderly.

These worrying trends, which emerged from the latest population figures released yesterday, can exert significant pressure on Singapore's economy, society and governance in future, said experts. They added that those working may have to toil longer and pay more taxes, and the Government will need to invest more in elder-friendly facilities.

These will be in demand by a growing number of Singaporeans, with those aged 65 and above forming 11.7 per cent of the citizen population this year, up from 7.8 per cent in 2002.

This year's Population in Brief report also showed that the old-age support ratio - which is the number of citizens in the working age band of 20 to 64 needed to support one older citizen - is decreasing rapidly.

It has fallen from 8.4 in 2000 to 5.5 today. But a better picture emerges when permanent residents are included, with the ratio at 6.4 this year, down from 8.7 in 2002.

According to World Bank data, Singapore has the highest proportion of older residents and the fastest ageing population in South-east Asia.

It is greying much faster than other developed nations such as Australia, the United States and most European countries, though the rate is on a par with Hong Kong's and slower than Japan's and South Korea's.

Economists and demographers say this will mean greater demand for health care and eldercare services, and elder-friendly infrastructure such as barrier-free accessibility features in transport and housing.

DBS economist Irvin Seah said that with the Government inevitably spending more, it will mean a "heavier financial burden on the working population, which in turn may mean higher taxes".

But Ms Selena Ling of OCBC said that the state may continue with its redistributive tax model, where the rich pay more through wealth and asset taxes.

"Singapore has been financially prudent, we can afford to draw down on our reserves as well," the economist added.

An ageing population will also require a slight "reorientation" of the economy, she said. This would involve a greater focus on developing medical services and attracting more workers to the sector, as well as increasing productivity and the use of technology in jobs so that people can continue to work as they age.

Still, some population statistics gave cause for cheer. More Singaporeans are getting married, with 23,192 marriages involving at least one citizen last year, up from 22,712 the year before.

Singapore residents are also continuing to have more babies. After hitting an all-time low of 1.15 in 2010, the total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.2 in 2011, and 1.29 in last year's Dragon Year - though it is still below the replacement rate of 2.1.

This upward trend was seen across all three major races, with the biggest increase among the Chinese.

But Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Yap Mui Teng warned that the reversal in the TFR's decline may be due to couples wanting to have a child in the auspicious Dragon Year.

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Singapore: SSI discusses maritime sustainability, updates progress

Haidi Lun Channel NewsAsia 26 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: To coincide with World Maritime Day, the who's who of the global shipping industry gathered in Singapore on Thursday to discuss the issue of maritime sustainability.

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) -- a 21-member strong industry group comprising ship owners, builders, banks and customers -- gave an update on the progress that has been made to date.

It aims to achieve a vision of a global shipping industry that is both profitable and sustainable.

Some initiatives include a financing model dubbed "Save as You Sail" to encourage ship owners to retrofit their vessels with more energy-efficient technology, and a scheme to boost the recycling of shipbuilding materials and other operational technology aimed at cutting down emissions.

SSI members say they are hoping to set an example for the broader shipping industry.

Roger Jansen, President and Business Unit Leader of Ocean Transportation at Cargill, elaborated: "Luckily we are a good sound business. We have been profitable even in the last couple of years when the shipping business, as a whole, went through a difficult couple of years. And we are very happy to use some of these proceeds to invest in projects, to give some leadership in the technical field, but also in setting the norms in the shipping market in terms of standards around vessels, the environment and labour."

Some players, however, are more concerned about shoring up the industry's profitability.

With the shipping industry carrying over 90 per cent of all global trade, industry insiders say they simply cannot imagine a sustainable global economy without also a sustainable maritime industry.

But the real challenge is striking a balance between what is good for the earth and what is good for the bottom line -- particularly in these uncertain economic times.

Shipping companies are well-aware of this difficult dynamic and the risks they take in embracing costly, fuel-efficient new technology.

C.K. Ong, President of U-Ming Marine Transport Corporation, said: "We are subject to institutional investors' scrutiny. It is difficult to strike a balance because if you want to protect the environment, it comes at a cost. But I believe the cost will ultimately be paid off in the longer term, but it will always be subject to risk.

“When we invest in this new technology and new devices to improve efficiency, we are working under the assumption that the bulker cost will be maintained at a high level. But who knows, we are living in a very dynamic world anything could change, if the bulker price drops all our investment would probably not be paid off."

Soaring rates five years ago spurred ship owners to commission what turned out to be an excessive number of new vessels.

And the industry is now saddled with overcapacity and rising fuel costs amidst slow demand.

Many analysts see this weakness in demand carrying through to next year.

The SSI says its next challenges include tackling poor labour conditions, influencing regulations and standards, as well as removing barriers to getting new technology on ships.

- CNA/gn

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Malaysia: Shrimp industry hit by EMS disease

The Star 27 Sep 13;

MALACCA: Local shrimp farmers are being adversely affected by large-scale losses of their products due to a disease called “Early Mortality Syndrome” (EMS), says an industry expert.

The disease has caused high mortality rates of cultivated shrimp in China, Vietnam and Thailand for the past two years.

The problem has also affected Malaysia, said the industry expert Shamar Kamarudin.

He said EMS or Acute Hepatopancreatic Necrosis Syndrome (AHPNS) comes from bacteria and delays shrimp growth that prevents it from reaching maturity.

“It simply means the shrimp will be undersized and eventually they cannot be harvested.

“The disease can infect shrimp through virus carriers such as wild shrimps, crabs and the shrimp seeds itself,” he said in an interview here yesterday.

In the latest case, he said an EMS case was detected in July in Johor, where 100% of all shrimps in seven ponds died due to infection.

The virus is known to affect two species of shrimps commonly bred worldwide, which are the giant tiger prawn and white shrimp.

Shamar noted that some farms could experience total death rates of shrimps, while infected ponds are very unlikely to be re-cultivated.

“Many farmers had to switch to fish farming instead,” he added.

Shamar, who is an aquaculture expert with a company, advised farmers to carry out prevention methods, including maintaining pond hygiene to reduce the risk of virus contamination.

“Water quality and appropriate pH level of the pond should be checked,” he added.

Meanwhile, Melaka Biotech Holding managing director Badrul Hisham Badrudin said that a new vaccine would be introduced to shrimp farmers in the state next month aimed at reducing the risk of the virus attacks.

He added that the vaccine was developed by Bio Nexus, which is a subsidiary of Malaysian Biotechnology Corp (Biotech Corp).

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Indonesia: Conservation Agency, Police Seize Protected Animals in Solo Crackdown

Arie Susanto Jakarta Globe 26 Sep 13;

The Solo branch of the government’s conservation agency together with local police has managed to seize twenty protected animals during a two-day inspection in the Central Java city, as part of ongoing operations against illegal trade.

The Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) captured several black-capped lories and palm cockatoos after finding them caged and on display at the Kartasura subdistrict government office, while a porcupine, white-bellied sea eagle, a white heron and an oriental darter were seized from a trader at the Depok Bird Market.

Additionally, illegal traders were found at the Sondokoro Agritourism Park, also in Solo, where officials confiscated several peacocks, eclectus parrots, black eagles, yellow-crested cockatoos and Javan rusa, among other animals.

The animals captured by the BKSDA were then brought to a safari park in Batang, Central Java, and the Jurug Zoo in Solo.

According to an official, the agency has long been monitoring the traders at the Depok Bird Market in relation to illegal activities there.

“We are now investigating a seller. He has long been the target of our operations as he would often trade in protected species,” said Johan Setiawan, head of conservation for the local BKSDA office.

Johan also said that the BKSDA had previously issued notifications to traders, warned them against trading in protected species.

“We had previously issued a notification to all traders in the Depok Bird Market warning them not to sell protected animals, but some have violated the regulation. We have also sent a letter to the Sondokoro Park before,” he said.

Following the seizure of the animals, Johan said the BKSDA would expand its inspections to several other Central Java locations that are popular with animal traders.

The Depok Market Vendors Association expressed regret over the captures and insisted its members had obeyed the law.

“We have earlier encouraged the 300 bird traders here not to sell protected species. But one trader has broken the rules and marred our reputation as legal bird traders,” said Suwarjono, chair of the group.

Animals seized by the BKSDA are protected under the 1990 Indonesian Law on Natural Resources Conservation. Traders found violating the law could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to Rp 100 million ($8,700).

In a 2009 study by animal conservation group Profauna, the Depok Bird Market was named as a hub for illegal trade in protected bird species. Arie Susanto

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