[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, April 29, 2007

[Thai delegates]
For the past two days I spend time looking after the Thai delegates as well. I find them very friendly and cheerful. And they sing well too!

At our closing dinner last night, the emcees had invited delegates to take to the stage to sing songs from within Asean. They managed to pull it of very well. And with humour too.

Similarly, they wowed with their antics during a presentation on Thailand. I enjoyed a good laugh.

Yesterday, I was on the cable car with three of them and brought them around VivoCity.

So while the daughter of the king of Thailand visits Singapore, four prominent Thai youths were out and about in Singapore too.

The Thai delegates are amicable people and they are a fun-loving bunch often drawing laughter from participants of the Youth Caucus. I guess I will miss them too.

[Singapore and Vietnam forge stronger bonds]
Singapore's National Youth Council and the National Committee on Youth of Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday. Since the event was held at the Hyatt, do expect that your stomach's needs will be well taken care of.

It was the first time that I witnessed the actual signing of a MOU. The signing was short and sharp. First there was an address by ministers from both sides followed by the signing of two copies of documents. After both sets were signed by both ministers, they stood up and exchanged handshakes.

The Vietnamese delegates and I then proceeded next door for lunch. Don't blink.

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Tartar with Crispy Lavoche and Remoulade Sauce

Clear Tomato Soup with Spring Vegetables

Grilled Breast of Chicken Marinated in Dijon Mustard on Sweet Potato Mash and Chimicurri Sauce.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberries and Whipped Cream

The dessert was my favourite. The outside part was cake-like and when you tuck in, there's chocolate sauce inside. Simply delicious.

There were two huge tables at the end of the ballroom for the Asean ministers. This was followed by six other tables.

It was a great first-time experience.

On Thursday, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan hosted a dinner for the youth delegates and other Asean ministers at The Legends at Fort Canning.

There was a little photo exhibition with photos from around the region.

We were also treated to an array of dance and cultural performances.

Most of the participants were dressed in their traditional costumes for the dinner. I took the opportunity to mingle and take photos with the rest of the youth liason officers and delegates from various countries.

In his opening address, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said: "As the Youth Caucus told us this morning, the pre-requsite is education. We make sure our people have the required education to enable them to exploit the many many opportunities that are opening up. But education alone is textbook knowledge, it's not enough. We also need young people to be able to look into their hearts and to exploit their talent and their potential in terms of their ability to volunteer, their ability to commit to causes that they believe in. So the proposal by the Youth Caucus and the various ways to promote greater interaction and engagement amongst young Asean. I think will lead to an empowering of youth expression, youth collaboration and multiple, multiple youth projects."

He also spoke about the launch of the $5 million fund set aside by the government for youth projects in the region.

[Opening of 5th Asean Ministerial Meeting on youth]
If there is one phrase to go by for Youth Caucus that would be "preparation is the key to success".

Amid food, games and fun, there's the serious discussions. As described by Chairman of the Central Youth Council of the People's Association Youth Movement (PAYM), Mr Lee Hong Chuang, the Youth Caucus is meant to be a serious event.

A day before the presentation to the youth ministers in Asean, the four groups worked till late at night just to complete and fully rehearse for their roles during the official opening the following day.

The Learning Lounge at NACLI was reconfigured to the environment to simulate the actual settings. Of course the Hyatt Ballroom is nicer.

The Prime Minister was at Hyatt to officiate the official opening of the 5th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Youth. So the security was very tight - there were two policemen specially stationed there to look after his car.

At the ceremony, PM also announced the setting up of a $5 million Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund, which will go towards funding joint youth activities and promote networking over the next five years.

This fund will be used to support joint expeditions, community projects and leadership programmes for youths aged between 15 and 35.

Said PM Lee in his opening speech: "Building an ASEAN Community is a long-term commitment that requires a shared vision and common resolve. People-to-people projects like the Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund will foster this by promoting greater understanding and friendship among the youth of the region, who will eventually be the ASEAN leaders of tomorrow."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

While the delegates are presenting their ideas to the youth ministers at Hyatt, I'm at Far East Plaza.

It's not that I can't get into the hotel but just that if I'm in it will be a bit boring as I can't see and hear what's going on. One has to be in suit to get in and I am certainly not dressed that well.

But it is also a good opportunity for me to use Wireless@sg.

The four plenary sessions held by four distinguished speakers was held at the Brickworks Auditorium at NACLI. Outside guests were invited too.

Elim Chew spoke about Social Enterprise and presented a series of engaging clips. Some of them thought her presentation was boring. They say that they have been through that presentation before.

On Tuesday night the delegates and YLOs (youth liason officers) were treated to a dinner hosted by Parlimentary Secretary of Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports Teo Ser Luck at Ministry of Sound.

Some of the delegates asked me what that ministry does. I told them matter-of-factly that it was in charge of parties.

Apart from the food (the cold noodles were delicious), we were treated to various performances. Well as usual, there was hip hop. Later that night, Teo Ser Luck took to the dance floor.

I think I shall make my way back to the Hyatt to check out the action behind-the-scenes.

More posts soon about the delegates presentation rehearsals.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

[A Royal Performance]
1. On Monday afternoon, NUS held a concert in honour of Princess Sirindhorn, Crown Princess of Thailand. The Singapore Chinese Orchestra and the NUS Thai Music Ensemble performed. To the delight of the audience, the Crown Princess herself went up on stage to play a Thai instrument which looked like the Chinese er hu. The Singapore Foreign Ministry was honoured to be a co-organiser of the concert which was strongly supported by the Thai community in Singapore.

2. Princess Sirindhorn was in Singapore to attend the International Convention for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology. Yesterday, PM Lee hosted her to lunch. She also had a good meeting with MM Lee.

3. Princess Sirindhorn is a remarkable person with a wide interest and totally without airs. At PM's lunch, I learnt that one important reason for her interest in Rehabilitation Engineering is the plight of those maimed in Southern Thailand. She visits that part of the country often. In addition to a strong command of the Chinese language (much better than mine), she also knows some Sanskrit.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

[Youth Caucus]
Time's running out and I have to get back to the event site soon.

So here are a few photos along the theme of making friends with ASEAN youth.

I will post a summary on the four plenary sessions sometime soon.

I'm in charge of the Vietnam delegates on their trip here. Two out of three of them are in Singapore for the first time. One was impressed with how clean and green we are. She will be formulating ideas on Environment - one of the four topics for discussion.

[Press blackout]
I could have blogged about the MM dialogue with YP members that was held on Saturday afternoon but I didn't.

One wonders why. It is because after the event, all reporters were told to embargo their reports. And so, it was only until Monday that the story. I thought I should do so too.

Since the delegates of the Youth Caucus are out and I manage to have some free time to go home and get some stuff for a special item, I decided to visit VivoCity as well.

Wireless@sg rocks. I can blog anywhere at anytime. If I have time that is.

Friday, April 20, 2007

[i am @ Youth.SG]
This Sunday will be Earth Day and it is timely to be blogging about green issues. You could label this post "How to save the environment 101".

The Singapore government has recently stepped up its efforts to stop carbon dioxide emissions - the gas behind global warming which in turn causes climate change. Apart from promising to use more natural gas to generate power, the National Environment Agency (NEA) hopes to have 60% of the state's electricity be generated by natural gas by 2015.

Our current air quality standards are sound with concentrations of major air pollutants are well within the World Health Organisation's standards.

But more is being done. Two weeks back, the NEA launched a campaign to encourage using reuseable bags. Singapore consumes 2.5 billion plastic bags each year and 2,900 kilograms of carbon dioxide is generated with every tonne of plastic bags incinerated. It is a wise move to cut down on using such bags to reduce emissions. The NEA hopes to inculcate the habit of using reusable bags - currently only 2% of Singaporeans practice this. Organisations like Ikea and NTUC Fairprice will be asking shoppers who still want a plastic bag to make a 10 cent donation to drive home the message. Guess what my mum's reaction was? "Wah, now plastic bag must pay ten cents leh!"

Still, we can do more to add to current efforts by the government to slowdown global warming.

Currently, only 56% of Singaporean households have the habit of recycling. Although the NEA reports that there has been an increase in the figures, 56% is just slightly more than half of the number of households in Singapore.

Recycling is not new. According to NEA's website, a National Recycling Programme was launched in 2001 to actively involve Singaporeans to achieve the targeted recycling rate of 60% by 2012. There's even a day specially marked for recycling - 23 September! However, this cannot be done by the government alone. Although the government sets the targets, it is people like you and me who carry out such actions to make things happen (or not happen).

Why is it important for us to recycle or have the habit of recycling?

Apart from the emissions that are spewed when burning waste, our landfill areas for burying non-incinerable trash are running out. Singapore's last remaining landfill on mainland was exhausted in 1999 and the current one that we have is Semakau Landfill.

But the message is not seen to be strong as indicated by the numbers.

In a recent letter to Today, Patrick Wong noted our lack of efforts to recycle. He wrote: "For establishments that are guaranteed large amounts of trash daily, where are the efforts to recycle? For example, at Lau Pa Sat, where thousands eat daily, I see cleaners recycling the cans, but not the plastic cups given with each drink."

Some food establishments have grey bins for recycling aluminum cans but it stops there. HDB estates have centralised recycling bins as well. I'm not sure if you notice but here are some of the different types of recycling bins around Singapore.

Changi Airport

Orchard Road

HDB Estate

Plaza Singapura

The bins in HDB estates will complement the current programme that distributes recycling bags (that are made of plastic) to households to store items that can be recycled (e.g. newspapers). These bags are then left outside their homes for fortnightly collection. Does it sound familiar?

My friend Rachel from Switzerland tells me that that Swiss people are very enthusiastic towards recycling. Even in their homes they have dedicated little bins to sort out the trash according to their types - glass bottles, plastic and aluminum cans. And since February, my flat has this bag in which I put all my cans for recycling.

On the home front the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC) brings together efforts from various government agencies, industry representatives, academia, and non-governmental organisations (e.g. the Singapore Environment Council) to tackle climate change.

Internationally, Singapore is a party to the Kyoto Protocol and a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Good habits are picked up and nurtured at home. So while the government makes the effort to encourage recycling in HDB estates by providing the facilities, it is up to the people to start or cultivate a recycling culture.

Corporate partners also have to have a hand in this. One example is the habit of recycling papers (that are printed on one-side) in the office.

The key to succeed is to band Singaporeans together to join the national effort in protecting the environment so that all stakeholders take responsibility of their daily lives, at work, at play, or at home, to pro-actively partner the government in energy conservation and efficiency efforts.

It means little efforts like saving energy by switching off the air-conditioner and lights when not in use, recycling or even putting trash in the correct place. It's cliche but green efforts begin at home. Just like the phrase "home is where the heart is".

This post is in conjuction with the Youth.SG blogging festival.

Thought of the day: It's never too late to start saving the environment.

Read more about the blogging festival on Youth.SG

Thursday, April 19, 2007

[I am a hubber]
My visit to the HDB Hub at Toa Payoh today was unexpected. I was at a dim sum outlet in Toa Payoh and decided to chill out at The Coffee Bean outlet at the HDB Hub.

While sitting and sipping chilled coffee, I looked to the basement and thought to myself that it would be great to check out what was downstairs.

It is none other than the HDB Gallery.

You get transported to the past - the 50s to be exact all through to the 90s as you go into this tunnel-like walkway with screens showing the evolution of the HDB.

It's a little like the TV serial "Growing Up". Not sure if many remember that.

There are scenes of slumps and squatters and a little on the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961.

There's also a segment dedicated to green developments for HDB flats in the future and how modern technology will change flats in the future.

At level 3, there's the Habitat Forum.

Specially designed and furnished 2, 3, 4 and 5-room flats are on display in this gallery.

This one's a study area in the 4-room model. It has parquet flooring for the bedrooms and the master bedroom is fully carpeted.

The 5-room model is more stylo and packs a punch.

It is based on a zen like concept with spaces tucked away for relaxation. Behind the sitting area is a armchair with a display area to show off collectables such as vases and Chinese paintings.

If only my home was as cosy as this.

One would have thought this was a condominum apartment instead.