Thursday, 15 March 2012

Chikungunya Choo Choo

As I write there are up to six hour delays once again with the MRT system.  This time the fault is an electrical one in an Outram Park tunnel so if you were planning to travel from Dhoby Ghaut to Harbourfront (as we often did) then you are out of luck.

Singapore's MRT system is one of the most efficient in the world and certainly one of the cleanest but in recent months it has been plagued with faults, much to the consternation of the local population.

It and the associated transport network play a key part in keeping Singapore competitive and the 'Little Red Dot' as it is affectionately known, has scored highly once again in the most recent Global City Competitiveness Index conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

New York and London took first and second places respectively and Singapore came in a highly creditable third, and by far the most competitive within the Asia region.

The report also states that size alone does not determine a city’s growth potential. While some megacities, such as New York and Tokyo, are immensely influential, there are smaller ones, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, which have established themselves as globally competitive centres in recent years.

The top 32 Asian cities are all forecast to grow by at least 5% annually between now and 2016 and twelve of them will grow by at least 10%.

Singapore ranks particularly well in terms of its physical capital (ranked joint first overall), financial maturity (joint first), institutional effectiveness (6th), environment and natural hazards (joint 8th) and global appeal (4th). For locals, none of this will be surprising, given the city’s efficient transport, lean bureaucracy, safe and clean environment, and its increasingly highly regarded reputation

Another determining factor of competitiveness is the health of a county's citizens.  Singapore's quality of healthcare is first class, albeit the fact that for most, one has to pay for the cost of this privately.  But being situated in the tropics also means the prevalence of tropical diseases and it is a constant battle to stop mosquito-born and other diseases.

Chikungunya is a particularly unpleasant malady with no clinically-approved vaccine or treatment yet available.  It affects the joints, muscles and brings on a sudden fever when first contracted.  Most people recover in a week, but it has been known to linger on in some patients and even to kill others.

The good news of the day is that a team of A*STAR scientists have achieved a chikungunya breakthrough. They have "found a specific biomarker which serves as an early and accurate prognosis of patients who have a higher risk of the more severe form of chikungunya fever".

Such scientific breakthroughs are repaying the investment made by the Singapore government in research and technology.

So congratulations to my favourite country for these two auspicious achievements - science and competitiveness. Now if only those MRT faults could be cured.........
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