Of planes, ships and chendol

Of planes, ships and chendol

By: 
The Edge Singapore
10/12/18, 09:00 am

SINGAPORE (Dec 10): When CNN dubbed the Singapore version of chendol one of the top 50 desserts in the world this past week, Malaysians reacted with predictable outrage. And, the bitterness over the sweet dessert quickly proved to be an ill omen for bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore. Now, Malaysia wants to reclaim the management of airspace over south Johor, while Singapore is protesting the intrusion of Malaysian vessels into its territorial waters.

The first sign of trouble brewing came on Nov 23, when some passengers of Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly were told via SMS that flights to and from Singapore would be suspended from Dec 1. Singapore wants to shift all turboprop flights from Changi Airport to Seletar, but the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia had not given Firefly the go-ahead to shift.

On Dec 4, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced plans to take back “full control” of the airspace over southern Johor, which has been managed by Singapore under an international agreement for the past 44 years. He cited national sovereignty and hindrance to development plans of the Pasir Gudang area as reasons.

On the same day, Singapore announced that Malaysian “government vessels” had repeatedly intruded into Singapore’s waters for over a fortnight. This came after Malaysia’s unilateral move to extend Johor’s port limits into Singapore waters on Oct 25.

The return of Dr Mahathir Mohamad following a watershed general election that ousted the corrupt Najib Razak government had some observers in Singapore worrying that relations with its northern neighbour would turn bumpy. Indeed, it wasn’t long before old, thorny issues such as water price hikes and a replacement “crooked bridge” were resurrected.

Many in Singapore see the latest episodes as Malaysia’s need for a foreign bogeyman to hold itself together. Bilahari Kausikan, the famously vocal former Singapore diplomat, calls Malaysia’s new governing coalition “intrinsically unstable” and reliant on the leadership of Mahathir. “So, wish the good doctor good health and long life: It may well be worse without him.”

Yet, Pakatan Harapan’s election victory in May was convincing, even if it was unexpected by everyone, including Singapore’s leaders. And, while Mahathir has had to tread carefully around the issues of race and religion, there appears to be broad support for his government’s efforts to tackle the economic mess left behind by Najib’s monumental corruption. “So far, there are no indications that there is domestic pressure from the people to the extent that the Mahathir government had to resort to foreign policy issues,” says Dr Norshahril Saat of ISEAS — Yusof Ishak Institute. “Creating another issue in the foreign policy front would be a distraction for them.”

Could Singapore be underestimating the determination of Malaysia on the airspace and territorial waters issues? Should Singapore try adopting a different tack in managing its relations with Malaysia?

One reason bilateral issues such as airspace and water keep cropping up is simply that many Malaysians feel — rightly or wrongly — that they are constantly being unfairly bested by Singapore. CNN’s highlighting of the Singapore version of chendol rather than the Malaysian one is a case in point. While everything from chicken rice to bak kut teh and now chendol might taste better in Malaysia, it is often Singapore that is cited as the home of these delicious dishes. Why? Perhaps it is because more people in the world have heard of Singapore than Malaysia.

Obviously, Malaysians should just get over it. But it would be a mistake for Singapore to attribute its prickly relations with its neighbour to little more than Malaysia’s new leadership.

This story appears in The Edge Singapore (Issue 860, week of Dec 10) which is on sale now. Subscribe here

CapitaLand Mall Trust upgraded to 'buy' by UOB on Jurong Lake District plans, Funan launch

SINGAPORE (May 27): CapitaLand Mall Trust will benefit from the development of Jurong Lake District (JLD) as it has three retail malls located within Jurong Gateway, says UOB KayHian. See: CapitaLand Mall Trust declares 3.6% higher DPU of 2.88 cents on higher income IMM Building, JCube and Westgate, which in total accounts for 20% of CMT’s portfolio valuation, are located within Jurong Gateway and adjacent to Jurong East MRT station. Meanwhile, Funan, which is about 90% pre-committed for retail space and 98% pre-committed for office space, is scheduled to open next month. See als....
Read More >>

Time to 'buy' MindChamps as growth initiatives bear fruit: RHB

SINGAPORE (May 27): RHB Research continues to keep MindChamps Preschool at “buy” at a lower target price of 83 cents compared to 87 cents previously, indicating a 26% upside plus 2.2% yield. The reduced target price comes after cutting FY19-20F earnings by 7% and 11%, respectively, upon management indications that adopting SFRS 16 has negatively impacted the group’s 1Q19 pre-tax profit by about $90 million or -15%. In a May 17 report, analyst Juliana Cai says she nonetheless remains positive on MindChamps as she expects the group to start reaping returns from its investments as its....
Read More >>

Ascendas-Singbridge establishes co-innovation lab with IMDA & Enterprise Singapore

SINGAPORE (May 27): Singapore’s smart nation ambitions have been further bolstered by a new partnership between Ascendas-Singbridge, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to form the Smart Urban Co-Innovation Lab. All three parties are looking to have a total of 30 co-innovation projects come out from the lab, which is expected to be launched at the end of the year as the first developer-led lab in Southeast Asia. This announcement follows last year’s call for innovation led by IMDA, Ascendas and JTC. Ascendas has published 12 probl....
Read More >>