‘They keep me young’: Meet the OG bartenders in their 60s at Singapore’s top bars

Having worked as bartenders for so long, what keeps both Ding and Foo working in such a demanding scene at their age? Both shared that it’s more rewarding now with awards such as 50 Best Bars giving them a sense of pride.

“When we won the Best Bar award in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017 and won a spot in World’s 50 Best Bars, we were filled with joy and pride,” said Ding. “I’m still working at this age, it’s tiring, but as long as I’m in good health and able to contribute, I would be happy to keep working.”

As for Foo, he reckoned the changes in the industry has certainly enhanced his social skills. But while he takes great pride in being an integral part of the team, he jokingly embraced the idea of taking a break soon.

“I now work behind the scenes more. It has been a good ride, but a change in environment and some rest would definitely be welcomed!”

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Tripling Singapore's AI workforce to 15,000 not just about numbers, but 'talents and ideas': Experts

Some of the increase in AI workers that Singapore seeks will come from local universities. In 2020, the undergraduate intake for information and digital technologies degree courses was 3,100 across the country’s six autonomous universities, according to the Education Ministry.

But not all graduates will specialise in AI, leaving a gap likely to be filled by other sources, including continuing education and overseas workers.

An apprenticeship scheme by AI Singapore – the national programme to develop AI capabilities – will be redesigned as part of NAIS 2.0.

Close to 300 people have graduated from the apprenticeship since it started in 2018. About 90 per cent have gone on to become data scientists, machine learning operations engineers, AI engineers, software engineers and other roles.

AI Singapore said its graduates have between five to 15 years of experience, with diverse backgrounds in engineering, banking and finance, teaching, law and human resources. 

Still, given a worldwide scarcity, Singapore will have to present itself as an attractive destination for AI talent – and it does have some advantages in this area.

Assoc Prof Kan pointed to the country’s transparency, suitability as a testbed and interconnectivity. And speed of AI regulation and rollout can allow Singapore to serve as a role model for other countries facing more difficulties scaling up deployment, he said.

Mr Adrian Goh, co-founder of tech talent platform Nodeflair, said government support to foster tech trends and welcome innovation – as seen in cryptocurrency-friendly policies – has helped make Singapore attractive.

The country’s strong English proficiency also attracts global companies like FAANG – Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – and Nvidia, while the high quality of life appeals to overseas AI talent.

Compared to the United States, where tech workers face challenges securing visas, Singapore has a streamlined employment pass system, Mr Goh added.

On the other hand, compared to Singapore, other countries in the region offer “cost-efficient growth options” with their emerging talent pools, he said.

Singapore’s software engineers have the highest median salaries among seven Asian economies, according to a recent Nodeflair report. The median salary for a lead software engineer was about S$6,600, versus S$2,400 in Malaysia and S$2,100 in Vietnam, which had the next highest salaries.

Dr Lily Phan, IDC’s research director for the future of work in the Asia-Pacific, also cited a lack of “AI-readiness” infrastructure, which was a limiting factor for 47 per cent of Singapore companies her market intelligence firm surveyed.

“It’s the combination of different factors to make AI really work: Strategy, infrastructure, skills, governance (regulatory framework), data and culture,” she said.

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Commentary: More screen time won’t ruin your kids’ ability to read books


In our Temasek Foundation Innovates research project, we found that children are spending more time on their screens after the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, 18.5 per cent more children spent over one hour daily perusing English materials on digital devices post-pandemic. We also found that parents have become more receptive to their child’s device use not only for learning and communication, but also for entertainment.  

Longer screen time for children is not as negative as some may think it is. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), while maintaining the importance of control and moderation in screen time for young children, has recognised that age-appropriate and educational digital content can bridge the learning achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.

The rise of a wired generation does not mean the end of deep reading. Over the years, the number of e-books and other online resources loaned out by the National Library Board (NLB) has been on a steady increase, with usage growing by 2.1 million to 82.7 million in 2022. NLB also has a mobile app to facilitate the borrowing of e-books for reading on digital devices.

However, reading on mobile phones and tablets is potentially distracting given the presence of other apps on these devices. E-readers, on the other hand, are designed to be optimised for the reading of long-form texts. They are also now relatively inexpensive, and can be used by students for deep reading.

For younger children, ways to encourage deep reading include reading aloud to them or with them. Putting time aside for reading together, just as we put aside time for excursions and play, is important to cultivating habitual reading. It is also important for adults to engage in conversation with children about the book to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of it.

These habits will help a new generation develop a “biliterate brain” – a term coined by Maryanne Wolf – that can engage in both deep and digital reading. Rather than view them in opposition to each other, we need to intentionally cultivate these literacies in our kids, in tandem with the evolving times.

Victor Lim Fei is Associate Professor, in the English Language and Literature Academic Group, at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. Sun He is a Senior Education Research Scientist and Assistant Centre Director at the Centre for Research in Child Development. Loh Chin Ee is Associate Professor and Deputy Head (Research) in the English Language and Literature Academic Group.

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HM Queen awards trophy to King's Cup winners

HM Queen awards trophy to King's Cup winners
best wishes: Her Majesty the Queen is greeted by onlookers at Kata Beach while walking to the race.

Phuket: Her Majesty the Queen yesterday represented His Majesty the King in presenting the trophy to the winners of the 35th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta at Beyond Kata hotel in Muang district.

HM the Queen also participated in the race as a crew member on Vayu THA72 in the IRC Zero class which involved four boats from three countries — Australia, the US and Thailand. Vayu THA72 finished first in the two races yesterday, the last day of the Dec 4-9 tournament. The internationally renowned competition began on Dec 4 at Kata Beach.

Thomas Arthur Whitcraft, chairman of 35th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Organising Committee and a member of Vayu, said HM the Queen showcased flawless sailing skills and talents comparable to those of professional athletes.

He said her abilities in navigating impressed him because she had practised about two years before attaining the prestigious title of Yacht Master.

HM the Queen’s participation in the annual international sailing competition was to honour and preserve the legacy of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great who was known for his passion and support for sailing.

Her participation was also to inspire and foster a new generation of enthusiasts in the sport.

The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta was held for the first time in 1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday of the late king. It has been held every year since, during the first week of December.

This year, teams from 14 countries (Australia, Germany, the US, Belgium, Estonia, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, the UK, the Netherlands and Thailand) took part in the competition, which concluded yesterday.

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PM appeals for better wage rate

Wage rise of by 2–16 baht ‘not enough’ for workers

Kanchanaburi: Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has promised to seek a revision on the tripartite wage committee’s decision to raise the daily minimum wage rate by between 2 and 16 baht across the country, saying he couldn’t agree with such a low hike.

The government has been implementing various measures aimed at shouldering the operating costs of businesses, including subsidising electricity in the manufacturing sector and capping diesel fuel prices for transport, he said.

Now the government has to ask these businesses to cooperate in raising the minimum wage with a more suitable rate for the tens of millions of workers in the country, he said.

In return for what the government had given them, it was now time for employers to give something back.

He would seek talks in coming weeks with the tripartite wage committee, a panel comprising officials from the Ministry of Labour, employers and employees.

The PM said if the committee’s decision to raise wages by only 2–16 baht is submitted to the cabinet for endorsement, he will reject it and call for a more suitable raise. “Should we really have to leave the minimum wages for Thai workers this ridiculously low, while Singapore, for one, offers a minimum wage of 1,000 baht a day?” he asked.

“Are we willing to let our workers be treated as if they were second- or third-class citizens of the world?” Mr Srettha added.

While inspecting government projects in Kanchanaburi yesterday, Mr Srettha was asked by reporters to elaborate on how he would push for a revision of the panel’s decision. He said he would not give a direct order to the committee to revise the decision, but instead discuss the matter with members to find a solution to the low-wage problem.

“Business operators and employers alike have benefited greatly from the government’s measures, and now it’s time for them to give back [by offering better wages] to the workforce, which is the most important mechanism in the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Mr Srettha said that in the southern border provinces, he has started to raise confidence among local business operators by securing deals with Malaysia.

The wage hike for workers in these provinces should be higher in return for those gains, he said, noting these workers will only receive a hike of 2–3 baht.

Asked what should be the proper minimum wage rate, Mr Srettha said the new rate must be agreed by all sides.

“The raise for the three southernmost provinces isn’t enough for even buying one egg,” he said, referring to a revised rate of 330 baht per day from 328 baht.

When asked whether he would push for a wage rate of 400 baht per day across the board as promised during the election season, the PM said it may be suitable for some provinces.

When asked if he was concerned if the government’s push would end up driving away businesses to another country, Mr Srettha said the notion is more of a threat rather than a possibility.

“No, no one would ever move away simply because the minimum daily wage is raised from 300 baht to 400 baht, especially while the government continues offering more benefits including tax privileges,” he said.

Now that Thailand has won against Singapore in terms of its ability to attract major companies to set up data centres here, Thai workers should be paid better wages.

“I’m not saying this because I am trying to please the voters. The election campaign ended a long while ago,” he said.

“What’s happening now is the reality in which living conditions of the people need to be improved and be taken care of along with the government’s economic stimulation efforts,” he said.

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Teachers jailed for sex abuse

Four of six teachers and two students accused of being involved in the prolonged sexual abuse of three female students in Mukdahan have been sentenced to life imprisonment, according to Thicha Nanakorn, an adviser to the Child, Youth and Family Foundation.

The foundation and other local partners in 2020 began helping the victims pursue criminal and civil charges against eight teachers and students, until the provincial court agreed on July 1, 2020 to hear the case, she posted on Facebook yesterday.

She cited a ruling handed down on Friday by the Mukdahan provincial court. The student victims were all under 15 years of age at the time the sexual abuse began, she said.

Two teachers were given the benefit of the doubt as there was insufficient evidence to prove their involvement.

The convicted six parties were also ordered to jointly pay financial compensation of around 3 million baht, plus interest of 7.5% per year, to the victims, said Ms Thicha.

Ms Thicha said she planned to seek talks with Education Minister Pol Gen Permpoon Chidchob about how to prevent similar sexual assaults from happening again.

In the Mukdahan case, she said, repeated abuse of the students occurred from May 16, 2019 until March 4, 2020 at the house of one of the convicted teachers.

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Thailand calls for climate damage fund cash boost

Thailand has called for stronger action from its partners in developed nations to raise $100 billion for a lost and damage fund by 2025, saying it is crucial for developing states to meet their climate goals.

Speaking as a representative of the government during the COP28 meeting in Dubai yesterday, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Pol Gen Phatcharavat Wongsuwan, said Thailand has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 and meeting its Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emission target by 2065.

The country is moving towards phasing down fossil fuels in line with its 2050 Carbon Neutrality goal, he said. “The climate finance goal of US$100 billion by 2025 is crucial for developing states to achieve their climate targets as promised,” he said.

“No country is spared from the adverse effects of climate change,” he added. “I am gratified the fund has been established and will be materialised further at COP28.”

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, developed nations transferred $89.6 billion to the fund in 2021.

The fund, with a goal of raising $100 billion by 2025, will be used by developing nations to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The fund has been a long-standing demand by developing nations coping with the costs of extreme weather events. At COP28, the UAE committed $100 million to the fund, and Germany $100 million, according to a report by The Guardian. The US, meanwhile, has pledged $17.5 million and Japan $10 million, the report said.

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Hospital says staff gave wrong meds

Bangchak Hospital in Samut Prakan yesterday admitted one of its pharmacists gave a toddler trichloroacetic acid, a medicine used to treat warts, instead of a sleeping aid.

The boy, aged one year and four months, had fallen and hit his head on a bathroom floor. His mother brought him to the hospital for treatment on Friday.

There, a doctor ordered a sleeping aid for the boy before a CT scan. His aunt went to the hospital’s pharmacy department and was given two oral syringes — one for sleeping and the other filled with water. She later gave them to a nurse who told the mother to feed her child both liquids.

The mother said she only fed him the content of half a syringe before he began to cry. The nurse insisted the toddler must finish the contents of both syringes. While attempting to dispense the second liquid, a drop spilt on the mother’s arm and the spot began to burn.

She demanded to know what liquid was given to her child. She asked for help on the Be One Facebook page and members helped her file a complaint with the hospital.

Dr Wanchat Chinsuwatey, Bangchak Hospital director, yesterday said a hospital official gave the wrong medication to the toddler.

He said the official and the nurse have been suspended pending questioning. The official may be fired if the action is considered a violation of proper conduct. The hospital will cover the medical expenses of the toddler, who is now under the care of Ramathibodi Hospital.

A new Facebook post yesterday said the toddler has improved and swelling around his neck has subsided. However, his skin shows burn traces and he is still hooked to a ventilator. The toddler’s family wants to talk to the official who gave the wrong medicine and demand an apology.

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4am pubs to impose drunk driver curbs

Nightspots told to provide sobering-up zones

4am pubs to impose drunk driver curbs
Santi: Checkpoints will be beefed up

The National Alcohol Beverage Policy Committee has ordered pubs and restaurants opening until 4am from Dec 15 to open sobering-up areas and prevent drunk customers from driving.

Santi Promphat, deputy minister of public health, yesterday said the committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, met on Friday to extend the opening hours for entertainment venues in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Bangkok and Surat Thani (only on Koh Samui), under a government policy to spur the economy.

The policy change also applies to hotels nationwide.

Nighttime entertainment venues must strictly comply with rules and regulations, particularly the Entertainment Place Act and Section 29 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which prevent establishments from selling alcoholic beverages to people under 20 years old.

Mr Santi said operators of these venues must provide breathalyser tests to customers who will drink and drive. These businesses must also provide areas for drivers with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit of 50 milligrammes per decilitre to sober up.

Customers must wait in the area until they can drive, he said.

If customers refuse to wait, pub operators must contact the friends and relatives of customers so they can be driven home or provide transport for the customers, he said. Customers mut pay for this service.

Various agencies will compile the information and carry out an impact assessment on the extension of operating hours, he said.

Motorists should not drive while intoxicated during the New Year’s festival. Businesses must comply with the law and prohibit the sale of alcoholic drinks to people under 20 years old, he said, adding alcohol sales are allowed from 11am–2pm and again from 5pm–midnight.

Mr Santi also urged family members to keep an eye on their children to prevent them from driving while drunk. Checkpoints will be beefed up to check motorists.

He said that during the “seven dangerous days” last year, road accidents occurred 2,440 times, with 317 dead and 2,437 injured. Drunk driving was the second biggest cause of road accidents, accounting for 25.49%, he said.

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Chalermchai to lead Democrats

‘madam dear’ misses out on bid

Chalermchai to lead Democrats
Chalermchai: Chosen unopposed

Acting leader of the Democrat Party, Chalermchai Sri-on, was yesterday elected its new leader amid speculation the party, the country’s oldest, was at risk of crumbling.

Mr Chalermchai was chosen unopposed after former party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva withdrew his candidacy and announced his resignation as a party member to “allow those entrusted with leading the party to work with peace of mind”.

Watanya “Madam Dear” Bunnag, chairwoman of the political innovation committee, was unable to contest the post because she failed to win enough support from the meeting to waive a regulation requiring a candidate to have been with the party for five years. She defected from the Palang Pracharath Party last year.

Sathit Pitutecha, a former deputy leader, also quit his party membership, saying the party had abandoned its ideology and could be eventually abandoned by voters too.

The meeting, chaired by Mr Chalermchai, was the third attempt to fill the leadership void after two previous attempts failed due to a lack of quorum.

After the meeting convened, former leader Chuan Leekpai nominated Mr Abhisit as a party leader candidate and expressed confidence he could get the party on a democratic path and restore its former glory. Mr Abhisit, however, said that without unity the party could not move forward and asked for a recess so he could hold talks with Mr Chalermchai.

Before ordering a 10-minute recess, Mr Chalermchai gave his assurance that he strictly adhered to democratic principles and would not let the party become a “spare part.”

After emerging from the talks, Mr Abhisit withdrew from the race and announced his resignation. “I have no association with any party. My political allegiance is always blue [the party’s colour]. And to give those entrusted with leading the party peace of a mind, I decided to quit,” he said. Mr Abhisit bade farewell, left the meeting and refused to comment when approached by reporters.

The leadership contest resumed in which acting deputy leader Dech-it Khaothong nominated Mr Chalermchai as the party leader candidate. He was supported by 219 votes.

Khayan Wipromchai, a former MP for Lamphun, nominated Ms Watanya as a contender and asked the meeting to waive the regulation requiring a candidate to be with the party for five years. Mr Chuan also spoke in support of the proposed waiver.

But Ms Watanya had only 139 votes, lower than the required 195 votes. She said she had yet to decide if she would stay on with the party and would not accept just any party post.

Mr Chalermchai ran unopposed and promised to restore party unity and uphold its principles. He received 88.5% support and became the 9th Democrat leader.

In an interview, Mr Sathit said the Democrat Party had abandoned its ideology when some of the MPs voted for Srettha Thavisin as the prime minister. He said some members were prone to cronyism instead of upholding ideological principles and the party did not try to adapt to changes. Some members were also considering quitting.

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