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Daily round-up, Sep 12: Safeguards for new Singapore work pass; former Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi suffering from dementia; Japan to ease tourist visa rules

Daily round-up, Sep 12: Safeguards for new Singapore work pass; former Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi suffering from dementia; Japan to ease tourist visa rules

From top left to right, to bottom left and right: Singapore skyline (File photo: CNA/Jeremy Long); former Malaysia prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (File photo: Bernama); North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Photo: AFP/STR/KCNA via KNS); a shopping street in Tokyo, Japan (Photo: Pexels).

Let's get you up to speed with the day's stories.

Applicants for new work pass to attract top talent will be carefully vetted: Manpower Minister

Singapore will put in place safeguards to ensure that a new work pass for top talent is not abused, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng in Parliament on Monday (Aug 12).

The Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass (ONE Pass) is a new five-year Singapore work pass with a monthly salary threshold of S$30,000 or more.

Dr Tan said that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) already conducts back-end checks to sieve out potential cases of false salary declarations and this will also apply to all ONE Pass applications. After the application is approved, MOM will continue to engage the pass holders during their time in Singapore, he added.

Applicants who do not meet the salary threshold can also apply if they have outstanding achievements in the fields of arts, sports, science or academia. 

When asked how such talent will be assessed, Dr Tan said such applicants will be able to "help us push new frontiers, draw in greater investments and interest to grow our local ecosystem, and most importantly, create a diverse range of opportunities for Singaporeans”.

He said the pass is not meant to be used as a visit or travel document and that “MOM reserves the right to cancel the pass if there are extended periods of economic inactivity with no good reasons”.

Alongside the ONE Pass, there will be other adjustments to Singapore's work pass framework, such as a higher salary benchmark for top EP holders to be exempt from certain requirements. Dr Tan said these changes do not constitute a relaxation of existing policies.

Singapore cannot rely on 'sentiment-driven' collections to meet rising expenditure needs, GST hike to go ahead: Lawrence Wong

Responding to questions on whether the increase in tax revenue that was collected in FY2021/22 could help to defer the planned Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike in 2023 and 2024, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said Singapore cannot rely on collections such as stamp duties as a stable and sustainable source of revenue to meet rising recurrent expenditure needs.

Mr Wong, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, noted that such revenues can fluctuate from year to year.

S$60.7 billion in tax revenue was collected in FY2021/22, a 22.4 per cent jump from the previous year as the economy rebounded following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. The increase was also driven by higher-than-expected collections of "sentiment-based" revenue.

Mr Wong said the higher tax revenue was used to support new spending needs, including the enhancements to the Progressive Wage Credit scheme, as well as to provide short term relief for businesses and families.

On inflation, Mr Wong said the GST increase will proceed as planned despite rising inflation, but that the Government "will also ensure that the majority of Singaporean households will not feel the impact of the GST increase for at least five years, while lower-income households will not feel the impact for about 10 years".

Former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi has dementia: Khairy

Former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has dementia, announced Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also Abdullah’s son-in-law.

Abdullah, who is known affectionately as Pak Lah, was Malaysia’s fifth prime minister, serving between 2003 and 2009.

According to Khairy, Abdullah's condition is deteriorating and he can't remember the names of family members. "He may recognise them; he appears to, but he has reached the level of having difficulty to speak,” said Khairy.

Khairy also said that it has been challenging for the family to see Abdullah’s cognitive function deteriorate. 

Japan to waive tourist visa requirements as part of border easing: Report

Japan's government is planning to waive tourist visa requirements from some countries, local media reported on Monday (Sep 12).

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may decide as early as this week on the easing, which would also allow individual travellers to visit Japan without travel agency bookings. The government may also scrap the daily cap on arrivals by October.

Meanwhile, New Zealand has removed most of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including the need for tourists to be vaccinated in order to visit the country.

CNA Explains: North Korea's new law allows it to launch nuclear strikes to protect itself, but what are the chances of that happening?

North Korea has officially enshrined the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself in a new law that leader Kim Jong Un said makes its nuclear status "irreversible" and bars denuclearisation talks.

The law comes as North Korea appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017. 

CNA takes a closer look at what North Korea's new law entails, and what it could mean for neighbouring countries as well as the US.

Source: CNA

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