UK minister’s scientist son working in Singapore

Hugo Cable

Hugo Cable

A UK government minister’s son is a quantum physicist based in Singapore.

Dr Hugo Cable is the son of UK Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The Guardian today reports scientists at some of Britain’s universities are planning to move to better funded research positions abroad because of the government’s proposed spending cuts.

Dr Cable is a research fellow at the Centre for Quantum Technologies. It’s an autonomous institution funded by the Singapore National Research Foundation and the Ministry of Education and hosted by the National University of Singapore.

Vince Cable, 65, a former chief economist of the oil company Shell, spoke about his son working in Singapore in a recent speech. Speaking about the proposed spending reviews, he said:

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Times on the Net: You can’t beat the traffic

The New York Times is the newspaper with the best website and gets around four million daily unique visitors (estimated cookies) – way above the other newspapers I checked on Google Trends and Double Click Ad Planner. (See the charts at the end of this post.)

The Straits Times resembles the American, not the British, newspapers shown in the charts in one way.

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The world’s biggest selling newspapers

The internet is said to be taking its toll on newspapers, but circulation is still healthy in highly wired countries like Japan and South Korea. Tokyo seems to be the newspaper capital, boasting the two most widely circulated newspapers in the world: Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun.

Tokyo has, in all, four of the 10 most widely circulated newspapers in the world. Two are published from London: the News of the World and the Sun. One is German: the Bild. Two are in China. And the other one is the Times of India.

So why aren't any American newspapers on the top 10 list? It can't be because of the internet. The internet is as widely used in Britain, Japan and South Korea as in America.

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How the Global Competitiveness Report is prepared

There were more respondents from Singapore than from many bigger economies to the World Economic Forum's executive opinion survey this year.

The survey is used to prepare the annual Global Competitiveness Report.

Singapore was ranked the world's third most competitive economy this year, same as last year.

This year there were 122 respondents from Singapore compared with 437 in the United States and only 102 in the United Kingdom and 103 in India. There were only 132 respondents from Japan but 362 from China.

Singapore also enjoys greater cohesion than, say, America, Britain or India. Politics is far more polarized in those countries. Have you ever heard a Republican praise a Democrat?

Such polarization can affect a country's ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report because of the way it is compiled.

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MPs’ pay in Singapore and other countries

Singapore's members of parliament are paid more than the members of the House of Commons and the European Parliament and their counterparts in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Japan¥1,300,000 a month ($15,200 a month,i.e  $182,000 a year).
UK£65,738 ($103,000)
European Parliament€7,665 a month ($9,880 a month, i.e, over $118,500 a year)
CanadaC$155,400 ($151,000)
AustraliaA$131,040 ($118,000)
New ZealandNZ$144,500 ($103,000)

(Table shows annual salaries unless mentioned otherwise.)

I discovered this after reading that the Indian parliament plans to treble its members' salaries. The Financial Times report says: "Parliamentarians in the world’s largest democracy currently receive Rs16,000 ($343, €266, £220) a month."

That's less than a day's pay for a Singapore MP.

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Immigration: Britain, Singapore, America

Immigrant-weary Singaporeans have nothing on Messrs Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, as their first election debate showed. They all want to curb immigration.

Brown wants no unskilled workers from outside the European Union, Cameron wants caps on immigration to bring numbers down to "tens of thousands" from "hundreds of thousands", Clegg wants immigrants to be sent only to those areas where they are needed. He called for regional work permits which will allow immigrants to work only in a certain part of the country. (See the second video towards the end of this post.)

It was considerably duller than the American presidential debates. Here's prize-winning Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts' irreverent take on it. But it's worth viewing because it shows where the leaders stand.

Watch Cameron in the ninth minute. He talks about meeting a 40-year-old black man in Plymouth who said he had served in the Royal Navy for 30 years. That means he joined the navy when he was 10 years old!

Immigration is the biggest election issue after the economy, reports Reuters. It adds:

According to a London School of Economics (LSE) pre-election report, 10.2 per cent of Britain's population is foreign-born (based on OECD 2007 figures).

Contrast that with Singapore, where foreigners make up nearly a third of the population.

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China visitors fell below 1m in Singapore in 2009

Singapore saw a sharp drop in visitors from China in 2009 when its exports to China exceeded imports from there for the first time in several years. The number of mainland visitors fell from more than a million in 2008 to about 936,700 in 2009.


Mainland Chinese are still the second biggest group of visitors after those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos. Their numbers rose marginally from more than 3.57 million in 2008 to over 3.68 million in 2009.

Visitors from Australia, the third biggest group, dipped from more than 833,000 to 830,000.

Indians continued to make up the fourth biggest group, although their numbers fell from 778,000 to 725,500, according to the Economic Survey of Singapore 2009 released by the Ministry of  Trade and Industry yesterday.

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Top guns: Britain’s favourite crime writers

American thriller writer James Patterson is very popular with library users in Britain. Not only is he the author of Sail, the most borrowed book last year, but of 17 others on the list of 250 most borrowed books. Most of them, however, were collaborations with other authors.

That leaves the field clear for another American, Patricia Cornwell, to claim the honour of being the favourite crime writer of library users in Britain. She authored five books on the list: The Front, No 7; Book Of The Dead, 22; Scarpetta, 78; At Risk, 81; and Predator, 205.


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UK top 25 karaoke hits

It's official. Waterloo, the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest winner by Abba, the Swedish pop group, tops the list of 25 most popular karaoke songs in Britain.

The list was compiled by PRS for Music, formerly the Performing Right Society, a licensing organization which monitors music use to collect royalties for songwriters.

Another Abba hit, Dancing Queen, is the fifth most popular karaoke song, reports the Telegraph.

The only other artists with two entries in the top 25 is the band Queen, with Bohemian Rhapsody, at number two, and Don’t Stop Me Now, at number 16.

Here are my own favourites from the top 25, followed by the full list.

The Beatles, of course, my all-time-favourites, singing Hey Jude surrounded by fans on the David Frost Show in 1968. The music begins after the first minute.

Next up: The Rolling Stones, Don MacLean, the Monkees, Neil Diamond, and — yes — Abba at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest!

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Tharman: Once upon a time in the West…

Tharman_N509 Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam knows his history.

While praising the "uniqueness" of Indian democracy, he defended the East Asian model by pointing out that democracy used to be limited in Britain and America too.

"It was not until 1930 that Britain got Universal Suffrage. The US did not get Universal Suffrage until 1965," he said.

He was referring to the 1965 Voting Rights Act which made it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote after the 1964 Civil Rights Act ended racial discrimination.

Britain gave the vote to women from the age of 21 only in 1928. Only older women, from the age of 30, had been allowed to vote in Britain since 1918

Mr Tharman recalled: "In Britain, before the Reform Act of 1832, only 1.8 per cent of the adults had the vote. After that Act, 2.7 per cent got the vote. After the Second Reform Act of 1884, 12.1 per cent got the vote."

But while democracy was limited, there was stability, economic growth and the middle class grew, he said.

Neatly, from there, he segued to the East Asian model. "A group of men (usually men) centralised power, planned in the long term interests of the country and executed those plans quite smoothly. Some of these countries did not hold elections…

"But, on the whole, the countries progressed. People received education, were empowered, the infrastructure developed, the economies grew steadily."

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