As sperm counts drop in China, the fertility market cashes in

Overseas hospital operators like IHH Healthcare Bhd, which is listed in Malaysia and Singapore, are among those likely to benefit from increased patronage from Chinese patients. — Reuters pic

BEIJING, July 13 — On a recent afternoon, a visitor from northern China took a smoke break outside the Beijing Perfect Family Hospital. Cigarettes were one reason he had come to the capital: He reckons his nicotine habit played a part in damaging his fertility.

The 38-year-old construction businessman, who asked to be identified by his last name, Zhang, worked hard to build a business with his wife, who is 35. But when they were finally ready to have kids, it was a struggle. So the Zhangs became one more couple among millions of Chinese to turn to an assisted reproductive-health market that has the potential to be worth about US$15 billion (RM64.3 billion).

A paradox has emerged in China: As the country finally relaxes its one-child policy, factors like lower sperm counts, later pregnancies and other health barriers are making it harder for many to get pregnant. As a result, businesses from China to Australia, and even California are lining up to help — and profit from — the growing market of hopeful prospective parents.

Families in the world’s most populous country are willing to pay top dollar for fertility therapies. Zhang said his package for IVF, or in vitro fertilisation, was 100,000 yuan for each round.

“Now that our economic conditions are better, we all want children but it’s hard for a lot of us,” he said, puffing on his second cigarette. “All the years of smoking and drinking and business dinners take a toll. It’s difficult for me and my wife to conceive naturally and we needed help.”

Changing lifestyles

For decades, couples in urban China were only allowed to have one child, but the country, which is trying to boost its shrinking workforce, now allows two. China’s market for IVF alone was worth US$670 million in 2016 and is expected to surge to US$1.5 billion in 2022, according to BIS Research. Assuming that 65 per cent of infertile couples choose to seek treatment, the total assisted reproductive health market could someday be worth about 107 billion yuan using an average cost of as much as 40,000 yuan, brokerage firm Hua Chuang Securities Co estimates.

Sperm counts (measured by the number of sperm per millilitre) dropped very significantly from 100 million in the early 1970s to as low as 20 million in 2012 in China, according to Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. The higher stress levels accompanying economic development, pollution, late marriage and late childbirth, smoking and alcohol use could be contributing factors, he said.

A study in central China showed that only about 18 per cent of those tested had healthy enough semen to be sperm donors in 2015. That number had been much higher at 56 per cent in 2001, according the study, which was published this year in the medical journal Fertility & Sterility. Many Chinese women, meanwhile, are choosing to have children later as they pursue their careers.

Yet the desire to have biological children looms large, and that’s driving demand for services like IVF.

Global business

Virtus Health Ltd, an Australian company that offers fertility treatments, receives regular approaches from Chinese firms looking for partnerships, but getting a local licence is difficult. So, Virtus works with medical tourism agencies in China that help patients get to its Australian and Singapore clinics. It has Chinese-speaking fertility specialists, scientists and nurses and its websites are translated into Chinese, according to the firm’s chief executive officer, Sue Channon.

Thousands of miles away, Mark Surrey, co-founder and medical director of the Southern California Reproductive Center in Beverly Hills, says about 20 per cent of its patients came from China over the past year.

“There are increasing numbers of people in China who have the socioeconomic means to choose what kind of reproductive technology that they would like,” Surrey said. Among other services, the centre’s California-based clinics offer tests to learn the gender of the embryo. Such services can be particularly attractive to patients from mainland China, where gender selection is banned.

Local market

At home, China’s “public facilities are currently quite overburdened, which significantly impacts the patient experience,” said Roberta Lipson, chief executive officer at United Family Healthcare, partly owned by China’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group.

Her company has been conducting IVF and fertility services in the northern city of Tianjin for over two years, with clinical expertise from around China, as well as from the UK and Australia. “We hope to get licensed in our other cities throughout China to provide a more convenient option for private patients,” Lipson said in an email.

Still, Chinese patients face a number of regulatory hurdles at home. Single women, for instance, aren’t allowed to freeze their eggs in the country. Such restrictions have many patients considering trips abroad.

As of last year, the country had 451 sperm banks and medical institutions licensed to provide reproductive care, the National Health and Family Planning Commission estimates. But that’s outpaced by demand in a country of 1.4 billion people.

“Assisted reproduction has become one of the fastest-growing, high-potential fields in China’s medical market,” analysts with Haitong Securities wrote in a January report.

Overseas hospital operators like IHH Healthcare Bhd, which is listed in Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand’s Bumrungrad Hospital PCL and Bangkok Dusit Medical Services PCL are among those likely to benefit from increased patronage from Chinese patients, said Laura Nelson Carney, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein.

Zhang, standing on the busy and narrow street in downtown Beijing, said he knows many others with similar troubles. “Our friends can talk about it openly,” he said. “Many of them used IVF too.”

The process requires multiple visits to Beijing: They visited in November for the extraction of eggs and sperm, and again in March for preparations. Still, he will likely consider having two children — if the first attempt doesn’t result in twins. — Bloomberg

Peugeot-Citroen global sales lifted by Iran despite China plunge

French carmaker PSA unveils its new DS 7 Crossback SUV car during a media presentation in Paris February 28, 2017. ― Reuters pic

PARIS, July 13 ― French auto giant Peugeot Citroen (PSA) said today global sales rose slightly in the first half with its Iran comeback compensating for problems in China where volumes plunged by almost 50 per cent.

Between January and June, PSA’s sales in China fell by 48.6 per cent to 152,380 units, while in Europe, its main market, turnover was down 1.9 per cent to 1.03 million units, largely due to a poor performance by its luxury DS brand.

Overall the carmaker, which is pushing plans to buy General Motors’ European brands Opel and Vauxhall, sold nearly 1.58 million vehicles in the first half of 2017, with global sales up 2.3 per cent.

In the Middle East and Africa, sales tripled largely due to renewed production in Iran where it entered into a partnership deal with a local manufacturer following the easing of international sanctions.

The French manufacturer has been struggling to contain sharp sales falls in China since 2016, but said it had put in place “specific action plans” to address the situation.

But PSA’s woes in China were offset by its performance in the Middle East and Africa region where sales more than tripled to 277,931 units, of which 207,900 were produced in Iran under a Peugeot licence.

It also saw growth in Latin America where turnover was up by 8.5 per cent in the first half with the sale of 96,357 vehicles.

If the planned takeover of GM’s Europe business is successful, it would see PSA regaining its position as the second-biggest car manufacturer in Europe after Germany’s Volkswagen group. ― AFP

After China Offers To Mediate In Kashmir, India’s Decisive Response

China says India is using the road-building to cross over their border.

China has warned of “serious consequences” if India does not yield to its demand to withdraw soldiers who Beijing claims are on its terrain. “It is not the first time that has happened. And when such situations arise, how we handle it…is a test of our maturity,” the Foreign Secretary said.

NEW DELHI: A day after China’s latest snub on the border stand-off at Sikkim, the government has said that “diplomatic channels are available and are being used” to resolve the confrontation that began nearly a month ago. India has also dismissed China’s offer- designed to provoke and made yesterday- to help mediate in Kashmir to bring “peace and stability to the region.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said today, “We are ready to talk Kashmir with Pakistan, but no third party mediation…Our stand is absolutely clear. You are aware that the heart of the matter is cross-border terrorism emanating from a particular country that threatens peace and stability in the country, region, and the world.”

Tomorrow evening, Home Minister Rajnath Singh will brief the leaders of opposition parties on the developments in China, as also the recent attack on Amarnath yatris or pilgrims in which seven people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir. The government hopes to build support among the opposition ahead of parliament starting its new session on Monday.

Just two days ago, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that India and China are capable of managing the differences that crop up occasionally over the disputed border that runs 2,175 miles.

Delivering a lecture in Singapore, Mr Jaishankar said that, “As you know, no part of the border has been agreed upon. It is likely that from time to time there are differences.”

China has warned of “serious consequences” if India does not yield to its demand to withdraw soldiers who Beijing claims are on its terrain. “It is not the first time that has happened. And when such situations arise, how we handle it…is a test of our maturity,” the Foreign Secretary said.

But the next day, China retorted the border dispute this time “is different” and that India “illegally trespassed”.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Germany at the G-20 summit and talked informally “on a range of issues”, said the Foreign Ministry which refused to confirm if the Sikkim confrontation was part of the discussion.

China’s version of events is that early in June, Indian soldiers crossed the Sikkim border into the area it calls Donglang and stopped the construction of a road on the plateau. Bhutan says the area that the road is being built on belongs to the tiny Himalayan kingdom; India endorses that stand. China says India is using the road-building to cross over their border.

Troops from the two sides have confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from Bhutan and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land that connects mainland India to its seven northeastern states.

India has said it had warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.

‘Shocked’ At Actor Dileep’s Arrest, Says Kerala Actress Who Was Assaulted

Malayalam actor Dileep has been booed by crowds every time he appeared in public since his arrest.

Sent to jail for 14 days, actor Dileep is now in the custody of the police for two days as they take him to different places to collect evidence.

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The Kerala actress who was abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving car in February this year, said today that she has not named anyone in the case out of “personal enmity” and was shocked by arrest of superstar Dileep in the case. Without naming the actor, with whom she has acted in several films, she said in a statement that she had not made accusations against him to the police.

“I have not tried to make anyone an accused because of personal enmity or anything else. I have not informed anyone of any name specifically,’ the actress said, admitting that “it’s true that we’ve had some personal problems and we moved away from our friendship.”

She has also denied media reports of financial deals with Dileep that went sour, offering to assist in any investigation on this. “If the person is alleging that he has been trapped in a false case, I hope the truth will come out soon. If this person has done wrong, or if this person is innocent, either ways, the truth should be revealed soon,” she said the statement, which she said she was writing because she is “not in a frame of mind” to speak to TV channels.

Dileep has denied the police’s allegation that he blamed the actress for his first marriage falling apart and so contracted her former driver to assault her, videotape the attack and take nude photos.

The 48-year-old actor, considered by many to be Kerala’s number 3 superstar after Mammootty and Mohanlal, has been booed by crowds every time he has appeared in public since his arrest on Monday evening, signalling a steep decline in popularity.

Sent to jail for 14 days, he is now in the custody of the police for two days as they take him to different places to collect evidence. On Thursday cops took him to three places in Thrissur – two hotels and a sports academy- and at each he faced an angry crowd shouting slogans. Yesterday they took him to two places in Ernakulam.

The main accused in the case, Pulsar Suni, the actress’ former driver, has alleged that he met the actor in several places to plan the attack on her. On February 17, she was on her way to Kochi when she was sexually assaulted by at least four men, who also recorded the attack.

India Planning Missile To Target All Of China From South Bases: US Report

India is estimated to have produced enough plutonium for 150-200 nuclear warheads, say US experts

Noting that India continues to modernise its nuclear arsenal with development of several new nuclear weapon systems, the two experts estimate that New Delhi currently operates seven nuclear-capable systems: two aircraft, four land-based ballistic missiles, and one sea-based ballistic missile.

WASHINGTON: India continues to modernise its atomic arsenal with an eye on China and the country’s nuclear strategy which traditionally focused on Pakistan now appears to place increased emphasis on the Communist giant, two top American nuclear experts have said.

An article published in the July-August issue of the digital journal – After Midnight – has also claimed that India is now developing a missile which can target all of China from its bases in South India.

India is estimated to have produced enough plutonium for 150-200 nuclear warheads but has likely produced only 120-130, wrote Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris in the article – “Indian nuclear forces 2017”.

India’s nuclear strategy, which has traditionally focused on Pakistan, now appears to place increased emphasis on China, the two experts claimed. “While India has traditionally been focused on deterring Pakistan, its nuclear modernisation indicates that it is putting increased emphasis on its future strategic relationship with China,” they wrote.

“That adjustment will result in significantly new capabilities being deployed over the next decade that may influence how India views nuclear weapons’ role against Pakistan,” they said.

Noting that India continues to modernise its nuclear arsenal with development of several new nuclear weapon systems, the two experts estimate that New Delhi currently operates seven nuclear-capable systems: two aircraft, four land-based ballistic missiles, and one sea-based ballistic missile.

“At least four more systems are in development. The development program is in a dynamic phase, with long-range land-and sea-based missiles emerging for possible deployment within the next decade,” it said.

India is estimated to have produced approximately 600 kilograms of weapon-grade plutonium, sufficient for 150-200 nuclear warheads; however, not all the material has been converted into nuclear warheads, it said.

Based on available information about its nuclear-capable delivery force structure and strategy, we estimate that India has produced 120-130 nuclear warheads, the article said adding that the country will need more warheads to arm the new missiles it is currently developing.

Kristensen and Norris said that the two-stage, solid-fuel, rail-mobile Agni-2, an improvement on the Agni-1, which can deliver a nuclear or conventional warhead more than 2,000 kilometres is probably targeted on western, central, and southern China.

Although the Agni-4 will be capable of striking targets in nearly all of China from northeastern India (including Beijing and Shanghai), India is also developing the longer-range Agni-5, a three-stage, solid-fuel, rail-mobile, near-intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a warhead more than 5,000 kilometres (3,100-plus miles), it said.

“The extra range will allow the Indian military to establish Agni-5 bases in central and southern India, further away from China,” the research article said.

Turkey’s deepening tragedy of murdered women

Nazli Okutken shows a portrait of her sister Eda Okutken, killed by her husband, as she speaks to journalists on June 13, 2017, in Izmir. — AFP pic

IZMIR, July 12 — As she did most afternoons, Pinar Unluer was waiting to collect her six-year-old son from his school in Turkey’s Aegean city of Izmir.

She was then shot dead in broad daylight only metres away from the school, by a man whose marriage proposal she had rejected.

The 29-year-old was among 210 Turkish women killed or forced to commit suicide in 2012 in misogynist attacks by men, according to the women’s rights group We Will Stop Femicide.

Since then there has been a chilling increase in the number of women killed, often at the hands of men they know.

Newspapers report almost daily on murders of women by men they knew, and the rights group says 328 women were killed last year.

In the first five months of 2017, 173 women were killed across Turkey compared with 137 in the same period of 2016, the group said in its monthly report in May.

“When a woman is killed, I feel the same pain. I see them as my daughters,” Pinar’s father, Zeki Unluer, told AFP.

“When my daughter was laid to rest, my wife and I died.”

‘Crisis’

Since 2010, 118 women have been killed in Izmir alone, even though the city, Turkey’s third-largest, is considered its most progressive and a bastion of secular society.

Women’s activists told AFP that the rise in killings had come as more women sought to exercise their rights, including divorcing abusive partners.

“Women are changing but men are not. Men cannot keep up and there is a crisis,” said Gulsum Kav, a founding member of We Will Stop Femicide.

The Turkish government has said that the number of women killed every year is unacceptable, but activists warn that the problem is getting worse.

‘Our women are dying’

The notorious attempted rape and murder of a 20-year-old student, Ozgecan Aslan, by a minibus driver in southern Turkey in 2015 sparked nationwide protests and hopes that action would finally be taken to reduce the killings.

But even though Pinar Unluer’s killer is now serving a life sentence in prison, her father said he had seen no change, and denounced what he called legal loopholes that let perpetrators escape long sentences.

“I would ask (to a minister): ‘If it were your children, your daughters, your mothers, what would you think? Our women are dying, you are doing nothing’.”

He said that Pinar’s killer had sought a reduced sentence by claiming he had been provoked, a tactic often used in such cases.

Activists also say the killers try to get reduced sentences by claiming insanity, alleging that a woman had insulted them or that they had been cheated on.

Eda Okutgen, described by her sister Nazli Okutgen as having “a heart of gold”, was stabbed multiple times in November 2014 by her ex-husband in Izmir.

He was initially given life in prison for her murder, but a higher court annulled the sentence, and he is now claiming insanity in a retrial, Nazli Okutgen told AFP.

‘Can be stopped’

Over 37 per cent of Turkish women said they had experienced physical or sexual violence — or both — according to an exhaustive 2014 survey of 15,000 households by the country’s family ministry.

And according to the Ankara-based Foundation for Women’s Solidarity, the state of emergency imposed after last July’s attempted coup has worsened the situation.

In a report, the group says that many women’s complaints are treated dismissively by police officers, who claim they are too busy or handling “more important” affairs.

In one example in the report, an officer tells a victim: “There has been a coup, the police have other business.”

Turkey has ratified the Council of Europe’s 2011 Istanbul Convention, the world’s first binding instrument to prevent and combat violence against women.

There are also Turkish laws to protect women and punish perpetrators of assault, including law 6284 — passed in 2012 to protect families and prevent violence against women.

But according to Kav, of We Will Stop Femicide, officials were not putting the law into practice.

“These murders are something that can be stopped. There are solutions,” she said, pointing to the drop in women’s murders from 180 in 2010 to 121 the following year, a decline she attributed to the law’s debate which shone a spotlight on the problem.

“The law is there giving women the right to be protected,” she said, “but when women go to police or the prosecutor for protection, they are either sent back home, they try to reconcile (couples) or they receive a protection order only on paper.”

Conservative mentality

Activists also say government officials have, on occasion, failed to help by making inflammatory remarks on how women should behave: Last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan infuriated many by saying a woman was “incomplete” if she failed to reproduce.

And while gender equality should be a pillar of the secular republic, as set up by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, the only female cabinet member is Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, and women make up just 79 of the 548 lawmakers in parliament.

Reyhan Kaplan, of the Izmir Women’s Solidarity Association, criticised the government for a “conservative mentality which intervenes in a woman’s life”.

But the main reason for violence is “men not seeing women as equal, seeing themselves better than women”, she said. — AFP

Lee siblings welcome PM’s offer to settle dispute in private

Dr Lee Wei Ling, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang are seen in these file photos. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, July 6 — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings said this morning they welcome his offer to manage their disagreement away from the public eye, and they would stop posting on social media “provided that we and our father’s wish are not attacked or misrepresented”.

Two days after the parliamentary debates earlier this week over their allegations that saw 29 Members of Parliament speak about the issues, Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling released a seven-page public statement on Facebook putting forth the background to the dispute and their reasons for going public.

They also revealed that soon after their first joint statement on June 14, which set off the public spat over the past weeks, they had privately offered a “ceasefire” but their “attempts at reconciliation” were rebuffed.

They added: “We attempted to reach out over the past two years, through various intermediaries… We look forward to talking without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies.”

PM first to invoke lawyers, rebuffed attempts at relocation

They claimed that PM Lee quarrelled with them on April 12, 2015, the day their father founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s will was read. And he had allegedly not spoken to them since.

They also added that PM Lee was the first to invoke lawyers, a move that “gobsmacked” them since they were “were siblings discussing (their) fathers’ house”.

Shortly after he wrote to them that he had hired Lucien Wong to deal with the situation and asked them for their lawyers, all direct communication ceased. They added that the first Chinese New Year reunion dinner following Lee Kuan Yew’s death, all relatives were invited except them.

They said they attempted to reach out over the past two years through various intermediaries and even privately offered a ceasefire shortly after their first public statement on June 14, but their “attempts at reconciliation were rebuffed”.

“We therefore welcome Hsien Loong’s stated desire on July 4, 2017 to manage his disagreement with us in private. We look forward to talking without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies,” their statement read.

Independent in quiry needed, not Parliamentary sitting

In their latest seven-page public statement, they reiterated allegations that PM Lee misused his power as prime minister and had hijacked the organs of state to pursue his personal goals.

In a separate 10-page document, also released on Facebook on Thursday, they summarised the proof of their accusations shared to date. The eight-point summary included accusing PM Lee of misleading their father into believing that 38 Oxley Road was either already gazetted or would “inevitably” be gazetted on his passing, and using a “secret ministerial committee” to challenge Lee Kuan Yew’s Final Will.

Saying that they “love Singapore” and “want only that it prospers, under a government that has integrity and respects the rule of law”, they again said they would not have brought this dispute into the public eye if there was “a neutral and unbiased venue to resolve (their) differences in private”.

They also insisted that the recently-concluded two-day parliamentary sitting raised more questions and answers, and without an opportunity to present their point of view in Parliament, they had “no choice” but to make their response through this public statement.

Parliament, they insisted, was no place to investigate their accusations of abuse of power, given that PM Lee’s party controls almost all the seats in the House, so MPs cannot effectively question him.

They also said it seems releasing “further evidence on social media” at this time will “only muddy the facts, and put pressure on government agencies to make excuses for PM Lee”.

“If there is ever a truly independent inquiry to examine the evidence, they are welcome to ask. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Singapore whether they hold Lee Hsien Loong to a true accounting,” they said.

Concluding their statement by saying that they are not politicians and have no wish to see Singapore “embroiled in a never-ending public argument”, they will “cease presenting further evidence on social media” on the condition that their fathers’ wishes are “not attacked or misrepresented”.

They also thanked the numerous Singaporeans who had reached out to give them their support and gave their views.

They said: “Ultimately, it is up to the government, and the people of Singapore, to decide whether and how to hold Lee Hsien Loong to account.”

PM waives Parliamentary privilege

Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling had been embroiled in a public dispute with their eldest brother PM Lee Hsien Loong over the fate of their father’s house on 38 Oxley Road which blew up in the public sphere after a six-page statement released on June 14, accusing PM Lee of abuses of power for personal gain.

But during the parliamentary debate which spanned almost 11 hours across two days, none of the MPs who spoke substantiated any allegations of abuse of power hurled against PM Lee by his siblings.

In contrast, the government has been shown to have “acted properly and with due process”, PM Lee said as he wrapped up the debate on Tuesday.

He added that facts and explanations have been put on the record, and Singaporeans have been given “a full account of how the government works, and what the government has done, in the case of 38 Oxley Road”.

Yesterday, PM Lee also waived his Parliamentary privilege and released to the media his ministerial statements and the accompanying materials, including email exchanges between family members.

By doing so, it means if any part of his statement is disputed, further legal action can be pursued. — TODAY

SINGAPORE, July 6 — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings said this morning they welcome his offer to manage their disagreement away from the public eye, and they would stop posting on social media “provided that we and our father’s wish are not attacked or misrepresented”. Two days after the parliamentary debates earlier this week over their allegations that saw 29 Members of Parliament speak about the issues, Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling released a seven-page public statement on Facebook putting forth the background to the dispute and their reasons for going public. They also revealed that soon after their first joint statement on June 14, which set off the public spat over the past weeks, they had privately offered a “ceasefire” but their “attempts at reconciliation” were rebuffed. They added: “We attempted to reach out over the past two years, through various intermediaries… We look forward to talking without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies.” PM first to invoke lawyers, rebuffed attempts at relocation They claimed that PM Lee quarrelled with them on April 12, 2015, the day their father founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s will was read. And he had allegedly not spoken to them since. They also added that PM Lee was the first to invoke lawyers, a move that “gobsmacked” them since they were “were siblings discussing (their) fathers’ house”. Shortly after he wrote to them that he had hired Lucien Wong to deal with the situation and asked them for their lawyers, all direct communication ceased. They added that the first Chinese New Year reunion dinner following Lee Kuan Yew’s death, all relatives were invited except them. They said they attempted to reach out over the past two years through various intermediaries and even privately offered a ceasefire shortly after their first public statement on June 14, but their “attempts at reconciliation were rebuffed”. “We therefore welcome Hsien Loong’s stated desire on July 4, 2017 to manage his disagreement with us in private. We look forward to talking without the involvement of lawyers or government agencies,” their statement read. Independent in quiry needed, not Parliamentary sitting In their latest seven-page public statement, they reiterated allegations that PM Lee misused his power as prime minister and had hijacked the organs of state to pursue his personal goals. In a separate 10-page document, also released on Facebook on Thursday, they summarised the proof of their accusations shared to date. The eight-point summary included accusing PM Lee of misleading their father into believing that 38 Oxley Road was either already gazetted or would “inevitably” be gazetted on his passing, and using a “secret ministerial committee” to challenge Lee Kuan Yew’s Final Will. Saying that they “love Singapore” and “want only that it prospers, under a government that has integrity and respects the rule of law”, they again said they would not have brought this dispute into the public eye if there was “a neutral and unbiased venue to resolve (their) differences in private”. They also insisted that the recently-concluded two-day parliamentary sitting raised more questions and answers, and without an opportunity to present their point of view in Parliament, they had “no choice” but to make their response through this public statement. Parliament, they insisted, was no place to investigate their accusations of abuse of power, given that PM Lee’s party controls almost all the seats in the House, so MPs cannot effectively question him. They also said it seems releasing “further evidence on social media” at this time will “only muddy the facts, and put pressure on government agencies to make excuses for PM Lee”. “If there is ever a truly independent inquiry to examine the evidence, they are welcome to ask. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Singapore whether they hold Lee Hsien Loong to a true accounting,” they said. Concluding their statement by saying that they are not politicians and have no wish to see Singapore “embroiled in a never-ending public argument”, they will “cease presenting further evidence on social media” on the condition that their fathers’ wishes are “not attacked or misrepresented”. They also thanked the numerous Singaporeans who had reached out to give them their support and gave their views. They said: “Ultimately, it is up to the government, and the people of Singapore, to decide whether and how to hold Lee Hsien Loong to account.” PM waives Parliamentary privilege Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling had been embroiled in a public dispute with their eldest brother PM Lee Hsien Loong over the fate of their father’s house on 38 Oxley Road which blew up in the public sphere after a six-page statement released on June 14, accusing PM Lee of abuses of power for personal gain. But during the parliamentary debate which spanned almost 11 hours across two days, none of the MPs who spoke substantiated any allegations of abuse of power hurled against PM Lee by his siblings. In contrast, the government has been shown to have “acted properly and with due process”, PM Lee said as he wrapped up the debate on Tuesday. He added that facts and explanations have been put on the record, and Singaporeans have been given “a full account of how the government works, and what the government has done, in the case of 38 Oxley Road”. Yesterday, PM Lee also waived his Parliamentary privilege and released to the media his ministerial statements and the accompanying materials, including email exchanges between family members. By doing so, it means if any part of his statement is disputed, further legal action can be pursued. — TODAY

Pave the way for the healing process for PM Lee’s family

“We all use language to communicate, to express ourselves, to get our ideas across, and to connect with the person to whom we are speaking. When a relationship is working, the act of communicating seems to flow relatively effortlessly. When a relationship is deteriorating, the act of communicating can be as frustrating as climbing a hill of sand.” – Chip Rose, attorney and mediator – I have, with much sadness, followed closely the on-going feud between Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.

While Workers Party Chief Low Thia Khiang and his fellow members of Parliament are of the view that the best way to settle the dispute is for PM Lee to sue his siblings for the serious allegations (“Dispute should be resolved in court: WP Chief’), I fully support PM Lee’s view that it would not do any good to sue his own siblings for they are still his own flesh and blood (Suing siblings cannot be my preferred choice, says PM Lee” Monday 3rd July 2017, The Strait Times).

It is troubling that because of this unsettled feud, the whole Lee family is paraded on the world – and for all the wrong reasons.

When it comes to getting money, often, sadly, there is no such as family. Many families get caught into this unfortunate predicament, and that’s the harsh reality. Certainly, those with special needs have to get better protection as their conditions can be taken advantage of and be deprived of a fair share when properties are sold.

While social media is useful is raising awareness of social problems, it can also be unhelpful in some ways.

If one looks at the many problems that arise in relationships, you would be able to find a common pattern – many people just don’t know how to communicate or at least communicate in an effective manner.

American psychologist, philosopher and author William James once said: “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship or deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

As with any relationship, every happy successful partnership begins and ends with the same ingredient – the willingness to negotiate. Unfortunately, as human beings, we have the tendency of not wanting to submit. We do not want to admit that we are wrong as it can be seen as “losing face.”

Bear in mind that bitterness only eats inside of us and will eventually destroy us. One problem that should not be ignored is physical illness. When you’re bitter, you’re causing your body stress, and sustained stress can make you sick. In addition, bitterness robs you of your chance to be happy.

I have always admired Dr Lee Wei Ling as she has been an extraordinary caregiver to her father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. She was always there for him – often 24/7. Caregiving is extremely taxing and entails huge sacrifices. Perhaps this arduous journey could have taken a toll on her with her being bent on protecting her dad and his wishes. Dr Lee should have been given an award by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Family and Development for her remarkable care-giving responsibilities. It is not too late to do so.

Now that both PM Lee and his siblings have made their views public, let us put an end to the squabbling and begin the healing process. Top-notch family therapists and counsellors could help with reconciliation efforts.

For all intents and purposes, let’s remember that it takes years to build trust and just seconds to destroy it. This applies to marriage, while studying, nation-building , at the workplace and in the community.

With the Lunar New Year 7 months away, I am sure all Singaporeans would love to see the Lees reunite for the reunion dinner on the eve of this beautiful spring festival.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

PROFILE OF THE WRITER

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Raymond Anthony Fernando is a motivational speaker, poet, author, trainer, songwriter, freelance television actor, ghostwriter, media celebrity, regular newspaper forum page writer and an advocate for the mentally ill.

He is a volunteer with the Institute of Mental Health. The author of 32 books was married to Doris Lau Siew Lang, herself an author of 8 books. Doris was called to the Lord in April 2014. This Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010, who is born on Valentine’s Day, has contributed 31 years of service to the public sector, 15 years of experience in public relations work, and received several awards and commendations from government organisations.

Raymond attributes his success to his beloved wife, Doris, who has always been his greatest inspiration.

Cheaper Or Costlier After GST? Here Are Some Price Changes Announced

GST replaced a host of provincial and national levies. (Representational image)

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) unifies the $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into one of the world’s biggest common markets.

New Delhi: Some of the country’s biggest automakers and retailers announced price cuts as Asia’s third-largest economy switched to a new nationwide sales tax, replacing a host of provincial and national levies. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) unifies the $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into one of the world’s biggest common markets. FMCG major Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has reduced the prices of some of its detergents and soaps, extending the tax benefits the company has got under the GST regime to consumers. The company has slashed the price of its detergent soap Rin bar of 250 gm to Rs. 15 from Rs. 18 and increased weight (grammage) of its Surf Excel bar costing Rs. 10 to 105 gm from 95 gm at the same price.

Hypermarket Big Bazaar, owned by Future Retail Ltd, announced discounts of 2 percent to 22 per cent on groceries and household supplies across its stores in 26 states. Fashion portal Myntra, part of online retailer Flipkart, was also offering GST discounts.

As the reforms set in, e-commerce players are optimistic that more tax benefits will come in within the new tax regime, which will be shared with the consumers.

“Earlier, we were not able to take tax credit for many things. Now when we are able to take these, there is definitely some saving from the cost side also. If we have more margin, then we should pass it on to the consumer and we are definitely doing that,” Vishwas Shringi, founder of Voylla Fashions, told IANS.

Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar JLR and BMW reduced the prices in the range of Rs. 2,300 to over Rs. 2 lakh of different models to pass on to consumers the benefit of lower tax incidence under the GST regime.

Here are the few price changes announced so far:

People planning to purchase white goods will have to shell out more money as most appliances and durable makers have increased their prices in the new tax regime under GST.

Durable makers would also go for another hike before the festive seasons as the industry is considering a price revision based on input credit, when their existing stock of raw materials and components would replenish.

“For our sector, the net tax would go up. The current tax rate is around 25-27 per cent and would go to 28 per cent. Therefore, immediately the consumer price, which is market operating price, would go up if brand and dealers want to retain the same margin,” said Godrej Appliances Business Head and Executive Vice President Kamal Nandi.

Videocon COO C M Singh echoed similar views. “Once we start getting input credit from the freshly purchased raw material, which would happen down the line in two months, then we would have price at the same level as pre GST days,” Singh said.

Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) has slashed prices of most of its models by up to 3 per cent with immediate effect except for diesel versions of sedan Ciaz and MPV Ertiga with mild hybrid technology, which saw increase in prices by over Rs. 1 lakh.

It has cut the price of Alto in the range of Rs. 2,300 to Rs. 5,400, WagonR Rs. 5,300-Rs. 8,300 and that of Swift between Rs. 6,700 and Rs. 10,700. It has also reduced the price of Baleno in the range of Rs. 6,600 and Rs. 13,100. The company has also reduced the price of Dzire, ranging between Rs. 8,100 and Rs. 15,100. Price of Ertiga petrol has been cut by up to Rs. 21,800 while that of petrol powered Ciaz by up to Rs. 23,400.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor also announced slashing prices ranging between Rs. 10,500 and Rs. 2.17 lakh (ex-showroom Bengaluru). The company said it has reduced prices of all new Fortuner by up to Rs. 2.17 lakh, Innova Crysta by up to Rs. 98,500 and Corolla Altis by up to Rs. 92,500. It has also lowered the prices of Platinum Etios by Rs. 24,500 and that of Etios Liva by up to Rs. 10,500.

Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover has reduced prices of its entire vehicle range in India on an average by 7 per cent to pass on the benefit of reduced tax under GST.

BMW has also cut prices of its models, ranging from Rs. 70,000 on base end version of X1 to Rs. 1.8 lakh on the top end of its sedan 7 series.

Also, tech giant Apple has announced a reduction in the maximum retail prices of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac line of computers across the board, with a few exceptions.

MACC to quiz Customs officers over ‘missing’ military radar

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said today it would investigate the brief disappearance of a military radar shipment that was later found to have reached its Netherlands destination.

The anti-graft body said its investigating team would head to the Tanjung Pelepas Port in Johor, where the container of the equipment was reported missing, and verify if there were elements of corruption and abuse of power in the incident.

“The MACC will take statements from a few officers from the Royal Malaysian Customs Department to assist with investigations.

“Besides that, the MACC will work with the police that are also investigating claims of the disappearance of the high-tech military radar equipment. However, MACC’s investigation will solely be focused on elements of corruption and abuse of power and will not interfere with the police investigation,” MACC said in a statement.

The Customs Department clarified last Thursday that the military radar shipment was not missing as reported and had actually reached its Rotterdam Port destination in the Netherlands.

Local daily The Star had reported that the consignment of military radar worth millions of ringgit had arrived from Australia last month and was to be shipped to Netherlands via Johor.

However, the consignment was held at the port as it did not have the necessary permits. It was then reportedly found missing during a recent audit, leading to a police report being lodged.