Opinion Editor's Weekly Picks

On scams, slave trading, no-go zone, sharing economy and zoos: Opinion Editor's Weekly Picks

In case you missed them, here’s my pick of five articles from The Straits Times’ Opinion  pages this week.

1. Doctor scams, Singapore style

Senior Health Correspondent Salma Khalik puts the spotlight mercilessly on scams by clinics and doctors to fleece insurers and companies via inflated, even illusory, medical claims.

The examples alone make for eye-popping reading.

Nowadays, many people are using the government’s CHAS and Pioneer Generation health benefits cards.

The subsidy system is “ripe for the picking”, she says in this no-holds barred commentary.

2. A COE–style system for foreign workers?

An out of the box piece from well-known commentator and former civil servant Donald Low, on foreign worker policies.

His main point is that the government should move away from being fixated on managing wages of foreign workers, and look more at addressing their welfare.

But along the way, he goes through the pros and cons of a minimum wage policy.

He then discusses the idea of making employers bid for foreign workers’ permits in the same way people bid for COEs to own cars.

But he  relinquishes the idea, saying it would be akin to slave trading, and people would find it “repugnant, regardless of how efficient the system might be.”

3. Can the city of Paris sue Fox News for inventing negative stories?

The issue arose after Fox News broadcast a report on “no-go zones” in Paris that it said even police were afraid to enter. The network later apologised and said the report was inaccurate.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to sue Fox for defaming the city.

There are  legal issues here - can a city behave like a person and sue for defamation? Can Paris sue when Fox News isn’t  even broadcast in France?

But Harvard law professor and Bloomberg View columnist Noah Feldman goes to the heart of the issue when he asked: “How should the news media be policed to stop them from making stuff up?”

False reports don’t lose a network viewers; they may increase viewership, since sensational fake news gets repeated and creates its own information cascade.

“What’s needed is an incentive system so that Fox won’t make mistakes like this in the first place. Fox is a business. And the best incentives for business come from the bottom line.”

4. 2015: The year of the sharing economy

This article by April Rinne, a sharing economy expert, was first published on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda blog. She argues that 2015 will see the sharing economy becoming a more important part of the global, and cities’ agenda.

A sharing economy is based on the idea that people need access, not ownership, over services. For example, having a community bike-sharing scheme, not individual bikes. Think renting out your car for a day, or renting out a room to tourists for a weekend.

She identifies cities embracing the sharing economy like Portland, Oregon and Seoul; and the resistant ones like Barcelona.

Singapore too is grappling with this, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority starting a public consultation on short-term rentals of residential homes.

Her advice to governments:

“Engage with sharing-economy companies: Cities and policymakers have much to gain by working with those sharing-economy companies that have social impact at their core, seek to build community and see policymakers as potential allies.”

5. Temasek’s gameplan

Money Editor Lee Sushyan dissects Temasek Holdings’ latest Mandai venture in this article.

Temasek is partnering the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to develop the Mandai area, which includes the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

The move raised some eyebrows. Why is Temasek investing in the zoo?

The move harks back to Temasek’s early days when it invested in, and built up, early companies that grew to become national icons, says the writer.

Opinion Editor Chua Mui Hoong blogs weekly on notable commentaries or issues.

muihoong@sph.com.sg