Thursday, October 18, 2018

COI on secial enterprise hawker centers

I suggest that a Commission of Inquiry be formed to look into the operation of the social enterprise hawker centers.

They can look into the following:

a) Are the social enterprises making a profit from the cleaning and washing? They charge each stall $1,000 a month but the actual cost is likely to be much lower.

b) Are the other charges reasonable, or are they excessive?

c) Should the additional charges be based on the actual cost of operations?

d) Did they call for an open tender for these services? Is the award made properly? Are related businesses being favored?

e) Are the civil servants negligent in oversee the operation of these SEHCs?

Improve the signs in Singapore

I had dinner at the Black Society Restaurant at Vivocity. Many of my guests were not able to find the restaurant, although they were given the address #02-156. The signs in the mall were poor. It is too big.

I tried to locate it by looking at the numbers of the units. Some units did not have any number.

It would be useful if they have signs at strategic locations to indicate the range of unit numbers in each direction. This method is used in hotels. It is quite helpful.

My guests also had trouble to find their cars. But one guest use a good method. He was a basement 2 and he removed the lift lobby as G. He searched for the lift lobby G on level 2 and took the lift down to basement 2. He found his car easily. I took a lift from him..

We need to improve signs in our malls and all over Singapore. Somehow, Singaporeans are bad in giving helpful signs.

Voting in the Wisdom of the Crowd

The results of the Wisdom of the Crowd should be interpreted with common sense.

Some of the topics are politically inclined and the voting will be biased according the the participants.

Many of the participants are likely to be anti PAP but I have also observed the actions of members of the IB (i.e. the internet brigade set up by a rich political party). They have a way of rounding up their gang to cast their votes in favor of the PAP.

There could also be other participants who are unbiased, i.e not pro-PAP or anti-PAP.

There are other topics that do not have any political overtones. They are likely to reflect the preferences of the people at large. For example, topics on how to improve the education system, reduce cost of living or give better job security.

It also depends on how the choices are framed. I try to give options that gives choices for all possible sides of the spectrum.

I may not be perfect. But I try my best to be fair in framing the choices.

Some people will criticize the choices are not comprehensive. That is their opinion. They are free to create their own poll.

Some people will criticize the framing of the question or choices unfairly. Their purpose is primary to defame this website. I delete their comments.

I will interpret the results with some caution, i.e. knowing that there would be bias due to the inclination of the participants. I find the results to be quite illuminating.

I like to thank the regular participants for your contribution.

WOTC - Combat climate change

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is Singapore acting effectively to combat climate change

Here are the responses: (67 Votes)
39 % - We talk a lot but do little.
27 % - The Singapore govt takes the opportunity to increase tax revenue.
22 % - We are slow in introducing solar and other renewable energy.
12 % - Yes. We have implemented emission control and other measures

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - A positive culture

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do we have a positive culture in Singapore?

Here are the responses: (66 Votes)
79 % - They are worried and uncertain about the future.
9 % - They are negative and tend to imagine the worst possible case.
6 % - Yes. Many people are positive and optimistic. 
6 % - They are positive in believing statements from the govt.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Converting civil servants' pension scheme to CPF

Dear Sir,
I am a researcher working in National Taiwan University. I am working on a project analysing impacts of pension integration in East Asia. I just found your blog article entitled "civil servants and pension scheme" (24/4/2001). This is the only article I have found so far discussing this issue.

Here are his questions and my answers.

1.What's the rationale behind the Singapore government's decision to merge civil servants pension scheme into CPF in 1973?

The government wanted every worker, including civil servants, to join the CPF scheme. They can use their CPF savings to purchase a house and to be used for medical treatment and other approved purposes.

Although they did not expressly state this reason, I personally guess that they did not like to have the unknown liability of paying pensions for a lifetime, when life expectancy is improving. They also did not like the liability of lifetime medical benefits which were provided to all civil servants at that time. When the civil servants convert to the CPF scheme, they lose their right to the lifetime medical benefits.

2.How did the government convince civil servants to accept the change? Had there been any substantial resistance?

If I remembered correctly, the government gave generous terms of conversion. Many civil servants found the CPF scheme to be more attractive. This option was given to the civil servants who joined prior to the cutoff date. Civil servants recruited after the cutoff date were given CPF benefits. They did not have the option of getting a pension.

3.Does the change has any impact on the recruitment, retaining, morale and performance of public sector workers?

The government pays the top civil servants extremely well. There was no problem in recruiting people into these top layers. For the lower levels, they were generally quite happy to receive the CPF benefits, as they perceived that they could get a lump sum at age 55. However, the government has now implemented a hold back a large portion of the CPF savings until age 65 and later. This deferral of the withdrawal of CPF savings is extremely unpopular. But it applies to all workers, and not just the civil servants.

4.How did people in general saw the change? Did they support or oppose the change?

Many workers are now unhappy with the CPF scheme as the interest rate is quite low, at 2.5% on the ordinary account and 4% on the other accounts and they have to keep a large part of the CPF savings to be withdrawn as a life annuity. Many of them prefer to take out their CPF savings at age 55, as they need to use it for other purposes.

Note - I am giving my views out of memory. So, I could make some mistakes.

Presidential system compared to Parliamentary system

A man from the Philippines sent an email to ask me this question:

John - What is the best political system for Singapore Presidential System or Parliamentary System? in Presidential System the President is the head of state and head of government the President is elected by the people not the parliament and there is a term limit for the President. in Parliamentary System the President is head of state and ceremonial no powers and elected by people or can be elected by parliament the Prime Minister is head of government there is no term limit for Prime Minister. What is the best political system of Singapore will you choose Presidential or Parliamentary?

TKL - Singapore follows the Parliamentary system like the UK. I prefer the Presidential system adopted in the US, Philippines, Indonesia and many other countries.
The Presidential system is more flexible; the Parliamentary system is old fashioned.

John - Why Presidential System is flexible for Singapore do you want Singapore to become a presidential system like my country the Philippines and reject Parliamentary System like UK.

TKL - The president is elected directly by the people. He appoints his ministers from anywhere in the country and is not restricted to politicians. There is also better separation of power between the legislative branch (congress or parliament) and the executive branch (president and ministers).

Govt spending to improve life for the people

Whenever I suggest that the govt should provide a certain service, some people will come forward to say that the govt will take this excuse to raise taxes.

I guess that this group represents up to 30% of the public. They have been conditioned to think that every service should be paid for separately.

This fear is not justified.

The govt has already raised a lot of money through GST and various types of taxes. They have a large budget surplus, after spending extravagantly on many infrastructure and grandiose projects, that they have to return the surplus in SG bonus to the citizens.

There is no need to raise additional taxes to fund useful welfare and other projects that improve the lives of the people.

What are some of the useful things that the govt can provide?

a) Provide free shuttle within a town
b) Allow better access to subsidized health care
c) Reduce rental on hawker stalls
d) Employ more teachers so that parents do not need to engage private tutors.
e) Pension for low income people above 75 years

All of these can be funded just by being more prudent on our spending on the grandiose projects.

We need a new govt that can run this country more responsibly.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Private patients in public hospitals

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should public hospitals be allowed to take private patients?

Here are the responses: (61 Votes)
43 % - No, the public hospitals will favor private patients at the expense of locals.
38 % - No, the public hospitals should only serve locals due to lack of capacity.
11 % - Yes, the private patients represent less than 1.5% of all patients.
8 % - Yes, this is a way to retain the good specialists in the private sector.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Free shuttle service

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the govt provide free shuttle service within a town?

Here are the responses: (65 Votes)
54 % - It will improve the public transport network.
17 % - It is all right, as the commuters will pay for the MRT or express bus rides.
15 % - It will lead to abuse.
14 % - It is too costly.

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Changi Airport is too expensive

I searched for a flight from Singapore to Penang and back.

The Changi airport tax is $48. The Penang airport tax is $12.

For short distance on budget airlines, the fare can be as low as $30. So, the Changi airport tax of $48 is too high.

Airlines will bypass Singapore. Passengers will also choose other airports.

But Singaporeans are stuck and have to fly out of Changi. It is too troublesome to go to Senai, Johore.

So, Singaporeans are stuck with high cost. Sad.

Worse, the Changi airport tax is expected to increase over the next few years to fund the development of Terminal 5. We are pricing Changi out of the market!

Three changes to the education system

I wish to give three suggestions to the minister of education, Ong Ye Kung.

It is a good goal to reduce stress for students.

But reducing the examination in the early years is not the solution. If the schools do not conduct the examinations, many parents will send their children to tuition centers for the exams. This is already predicted by many observant citizens.

The first suggestion will take several years to implement and goes beyond the scope of the education minister.

We have to provide adequate salaries to non office jobs, so that the young are happy to take up jobs, such as teaching, nursing, police officers, security, technical, service, hospitality, retail.

Many people are needed for these jobs. We should give them to locals first, before looking for foreigners. Locals will be willing to do these jobs, if the pay is adequate.

We have to change the pay structure. The govt can take the lead for the private sector to follow.

The second suggestion can be implemented quite early. We have to reduce the content that a student has to learn in each year. We should not press them with a heavy work load.

I remembered, when I was in school, that I learned the concept of ratios in secondary one. Today, it is learned in primary four (I stand corrected). There is no need to teach too much at an early age to the children. We can take the time.

If the content is reduced, many students can pass the exam in each year, without too much stress. There is no need for parents to send them to tuition centers to catch up.

The third suggestion concerns giving the top prize - a prestigious scholarship, to the best students. We have already observed over the past decades that top academic results do not lead to top performance in business or government. We need a broader set of skills and experience.

Instead of giving expensive scholarships to a select and privileged few, it is better to use the budget to reduce the cost of education for the many.

How do we identify the future leaders in government and business? Let them prove themselves when they start their work. There is plenty of time for the real leaders to emerge.

Tan Kin Lian

Increase in price of rice

Minister Lawrence Wong gave a speech. He said that the price of rice may increase by 30% in 2050. I suppose that he meant this to be in real terms, after removing inflation.

This is a real increase of less than 1% per year. There are other cost of living that make a greater impact, e.g. price of housing (which he is responsible for).

It seems that he is blowing up a small issue to detract by a big issue.

WOTC - Reduce examination

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

The education minister is reducing exams to reduce stress.

Here are the responses: (55 Votes)
49 % - We have to address the root cause of the issue - by assuring every citizen that they can get a good job in many fields.
31 % - It will not reduce stress in the education system as parents will want their children to score well in the PSLE.
11 % - It is a good move and is likely to achieve its goal.
9 % - Similar attempts have been tried by previous education ministers which did not work.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Port Dickson By-election

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will Anwar Ibrahim win Port Dickson by-election?

Here are the responses: (54 Votes)
50 % - He will get 65 to 80% of the votes
26 % - He will get more than 80% of the votes.
20 % - He will get 50 to 65% of the votes.
4 % - He will get less than 50% of the votes.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Error not rectified for two weeks

Two weeks ago, I logged in to Scoot website. I wanted to change my profile. I got a message "Internal Server Error". They promised to look into the problem and fixed it.

Today, I logged in again to change my profile. I got the same message "Internal Server Error". They did not fixed the problem for two weeks.

What is their IT staff doing? What is their customer service staff doing?

Nobody seems to care. This seems to be the standard in Singapore Airlines today. It mirrors the behavior in many government agencies and govt linked companies.

Proverty and wealth

WOTC - Electronic arrival card

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Singapore is introducing electronic arrival cards

Here are the responses: (43 Votes)
53 % - It is better to scrap the arrival cards, following the practice in mny countries.
23 % - The new system will cost money and cause trouble when it breaks down.
19 % - It will imptove productivity
5 % - We are a Smart Nation

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

WOTC - Donate to victims of natural disasters

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will you donate to the victims of natural disasters?

Here are the responses: (35 Votes)
43 % - I will make a donation within my means.
43 % - I do not trust the aid agencies that are involved
11 % - I do not have the spare money to donate.
3 % - I will be more than generous.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Help a startup

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will you help a new start up?

Here are the responses: (34 Votes)
62 % - If I like the concept, I will help to make it succeed.
32 % - I do not have time to take an interest
6 % - If I do not know the founder, I will not be involved.
0 % - I prefer to see the startup fail.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Use of QR code

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Are you familiar with the use of QR code?

Here are the responses: (35 Votes)
29 % - I have a QR code scanner installed in my mobile phone.
29 % - I use it occasionally
26 % - I do not know how to use a QR code scanner
17 % - I have seen other people use it.

See the pie chart at:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Give subsidy to shared bike operators

My recent poll indicates that most people expect most bike sharing operators to cease the operations within one year.

I agree with the finding.

Recently, a big operator Ofo increased their charges. An average ride will cost $2.50.

I do not see many people keen to use their bikes with these charges.

Under the integrated fare structure for public transport, the commuter can take a bus, which will add only a small amount to the integrated fare, maybe $0.10 on average. Why would they take a costly shared bike?

The weather is hot and humid in the day. It is uncomfortable to ride a bike.

Instead of adding to the cost of the bike sharing operation, by imposing a licence fee, the authority should subsidize the bike operation by giving a grant for each bike.

This will reduce the cost of using a shared bike to, say $0.20. It should be treated as part of the integrated public transport system.

It is quite common to see regulations that make businesses non viable. These regulations are written by people who are not in touch with the ground.

WOTC - Competition in electricity supply

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it good to have competition in the electricity supply market?

Here are the responses: (30 Votes)
60 % - The electricity should be provided by a public agency with full transparency and accountability.
20 % - It will help to bring down prices.
10 % - The competition will add marketing cost and other administrative expenses and will eventually increase cost.
10 % - The cost of electricity should be regulated, based on the actual cost of supply.

See the pie chart at:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Special zone for young people

Mr. Tan
I believe that rental is killing all. Instead of providing for the workers, monies was contributed to the landlord. In turn, a part of it will be contributed as tax.

should the government create a special zone for young people to venture into business where the rental is cheaper? Where it could be a buffer for them to reduce the rental and increase on income of workers?

Yes. This is a good idea.
Dr. Goh Keng Swee used the same strategy to bring industrialization to Singapore. He provided special incentives for selected factories.

China also developed special economic zones. See the progress made by China today.

Lopsided fare structure for public transport

In the last financial year, Comfort Delgro made a profit on the bus operations but a loss on the rail operation.

This is caused by the flawed fare structure adopted in Singapore.

If a commuter takes a journey of 15 km, of which 1 km is by feeder bus to the station and the 14 km is by MRT, the total fare will be $1.41 of which the bus will take $0.77 and the MRT will take $0.64.

I guess that 65% of public transport users take a bus to change to the MRT. The bus take a larger share of the total fare, in spite of travelling a much shorter distance.

Which should our fare structure be so lopsided?

If the fare is reduced for short distance, the distribution will be fairer between the different operators that take the passenger on the entire journey.

Eventually, all the fares will be collected by own party, i.e. the govt, so this will not matter. But in the meantime, we have a lopsided fare structure.

Why liddat?

WOTC - Express and normal streams

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it good to place students in different express and normal streams?

Here are the responses: (24 Votes)
58 % - It creates a stigma for students at the non-express streams.
21 % - It is better to give the students an option to study non-academic subjects
17 % - It allows them to learn at their suitable pace.
4 % - It is better to ask the weak student to stay back one year.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Is PSLE a good feature of our education system?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the PSLE exam a good feature of our education system?

Here are the responses: (27 Votes)
44 % - It adds stress to the students and encourages a competitive and selfish behavior.
22 % - It gives children from wealthy families a big advantage as they can afford private tuition.
19 % - It encourages students to study hard and get good results.
15 % - It is a fair way to send students to good secondary schools.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

WOTC - Digital display of next stop

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the bus have a digital display of the next stop

Here are the responses: (27 Votes)
85 % - This is useful and can be installed at low cost.
11 % - Most buses in other cities already have this display.
4 % - This is not necessary.
0 % - The commuter can use Google Map to track the progress of the bus

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - A degree in a private university

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should weak students pursue a degree in a private university?

Here are the responses: (28 Votes)
43 % - They can pursue a degree after establishing a career
36 % - A university education is important for the future.
11 % - They should start work earlier and get experience.
11 % - They should not waste time and pursue in getting a degree that is not related to their work.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Improve service and operations of KTM

I sent this email to the minister for transport of Malaysia. Do you think I will get a reply?

Mr. Anthony Loke
Minister of Transport

Dear Minister,

I wish to give a few suggestions to improve the service and operations of KTM.

I am a Singaporean and have traveled on KTM a few times.
I prefer to travel by train, rather than bus, from town to town in Malaysia.
I was disappointed to find that the trains are infrequent, have low occupancy and cost more than express bus.
This should not be the case.

I suggest the following:
a) Increase the frequency of the train service, say every hour.
b) Reduce the fare to be comparable to express bus
c) Introduce some express service that skips the small towns.

The aim should be to encourage more people to travel by train, rather than express bus. This is the case in most cities around the world.

I also like to suggest a simple improvement to the KTM website.
It is difficult to pick the origin and destination.
The user has to select the state and then the town.
It is better to allow to user to type, e.g. Penang or Kuala Lumpur and for the town to appear.
Many websites have this kind of search function.

The user also has to pick the time slot, e.g. 6 am to 12 noon.
It is quite frustrating to get the remark "No Service Available"
You should remove this time slot and show all the services available for the day.
There are usually not many entries, maybe 18 at the most.
This will help the user to plan the journey.

I hope that you find these suggestions useful.
I wish you all the best in your challenging work.

Tan Kin Lian

LRT to link Singapore and Johor Bahru

Dear Tan,
I have seen you mention about the jam on the causeway. I was wondering if we could build a monorail or LRT system above the causeway which could ferry the passengers to and fro Malaysia and Singapore to replace the buses.

Such a system would be cheaper than the MRT line. Both countries will need to connect their MRT to their ICQ building to disperse the crowd . People who use it regularly could buy a monthly concession ticket. ICA could also scan their passport prior to enter the LRT. Foreigner who brought the concession will have all the relevant information stored in concession ticket to reduce the time to process the relevant travel documents.

They are building the new RTS (rapid transit link) between Woodlands North Station and Chagar Station (JB). It is a LRT and will be ready by 2024.

In the meantime, commuters can use the KTM Trebau Express to travel from Woodlands to JB Sentral. They have joint checkpoint clearance. The total time to reach JB is 10 mins, including the checkpoints.

The Malaysian govt wants to increase the frequency, but the Singapore govt has not given a reply.

In my view, the frequency and capacity can and should be increased 4 times.

Family subscriptions

I am familiar with three websites that offer a family subscription:

a) Netflix - movies
b) Spotify - music
c) SPH - news

Spotify has a good way to manage the authorised users. Netflix and SPH has an inferiour way.

Spotify allows the subscriber to register the email address of up to four authorized users. Each user enters his own email address and password. The user can also use Facebook to login.

The Netflix and SPH websites register only the subscriber email and password. The subscriber has to share the credentials with the authorized users. To retain privacy, the subscriber has to create a new password for the account, instead of use the regular password.

Spotify wins.

Do I like Grab?

Do I like Grab?

I stopped using Grab in Singapore for some time now. I prefer to use public transport.

I only use Grab for my trip to the airport in the early morning when there is no public transport.

If I am traveling light, I will now take the bus to and from the airport. It takes 1 hour but I can leave home earlier or arrive home later.

When I was in Malaysia, I found Grab to be very good. They arrive within 2 mins and the fares are quite low. They provide a much better service than taxis. I hope that the taxi drivers can join GrabTaxi or JustGrab to protect their livelihood.

So, it is Grab for me in Malaysia but only rarely in Singapore.


What is a mole?

1) Moles are very common, and most people have one or more. Moles are concentrations of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in your skin. People with light skin tend to have more moles.

2) In espionage jargon, a mole (also called a "penetration agent", "deep cover agent", or "sleeper agent") is a long-term spy (espionage agent) who is recruited before having access to secret intelligence, subsequently managing to get into the target organization.

There are a few moles in my website. They comment often with the aim of undermining my views.

Sometimes they quote correct statistics to show a different perspective to my view. At other times, they quote bogus statistics to confuse my readers.

These moles usually do not have a proper photo of their identity.

Different Grab services

There are four Grab services:

a) JustGrab - you get a car or taxi
b) GrabTaxi - you get a taxi only
c) GrabCar - you get a car - not taxi.
d) GrabShare - you get a car or taxi and share with other passengers

The cheapest fare is GrabShare, followed by GrabCar, followed by JustGrab and the most expensive is GrabTaxi.

For people who prefer a taxi, just call GrabTaxi. It is more convenient than calling a taxi on the road. However, I suspect that not many taxi drivers are on this platform. This may change.

My preference is JustGrab. I have taken many Grab trips with non taxis. Generally, they are quite safe.

I have taken GrabShare before, but I don't like the detour. But maybe, I will try it again.

In case of accident, I have a personal accident policy that pays $1 million on death. It cost me about $600 a year.

Are things actually all right in Singapore?

Sometimes I wonder if things are actually all right in Singapore, except that detractors (including me), exaggerate the negative aspects.

If we continue to trust the PAP government, can we look towards a better future? Let them find the answers for us, as they are well paid to do this work. They are probably the most qualified talents available in Singapore.

However, there is another part of my brain that says that the problems are really serious and that the PAP government is the underlying cause of this situation.

The challenges faced by the people in Singapore are quite similar to those faced in other countries.

The neo-liberal philosophy that has guided economic policies in the free world for three decades have produced serious inequality. This is very bad in US, Singapore and a few third world countries, but not so bad in Europe, Australia and other countries.

Singapore is therefore not unique in having the problem of inequality, but we are probably an extreme case.

The next question is - can we trust the PAP leaders to recognize the flaw and to put in corrective measures?

My frank view is - NO. There is something seriously wrong with the whole process of governance in Singapore. Here are the flaws:

a) We have a "sleeping" parliament
b) We are run by elites who think that they know all the answers.
c) Our elections are not fair and not free.
d) Many govt policies are half baked, because they come from an over-powerful leader.

I may be biased and pessimistic in my view on this matter. But normally, I am an optimistic person.

What is the solution? There are two options:

a) For the people to change the government
b) For the PAP to realize that they should listen to the people and involve them in the major policy decisions. For example, they can adopt the referendum system to decide on major policies.

Tan Kin Lian


I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the PSLE exam a good feature of our education system?

Here are the responses: (27 Votes)
44 % - It adds stress to the students and encourages a competitive and selfish behavior.
22 % - It gives children from wealthy families a big advantage as they can afford private tuition.
19 % - It encourages students to study hard and get good results.
15 % - It is a fair way to send students to good secondary schools.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Digital display in bus

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the bus have a digital display of the next stop

Here are the responses: (27 Votes)
85 % - This is useful and can be installed at low cost.
11 % - Most buses in other cities already have this display.
4 % - This is not necessary.
0 % - The commuter can use Google Map to track the progress of the bus

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Be careful about design specification of infrastructure projects

I have held this view.

A major source of high infrastructure spending is design specification.

If the specification is excessive, it will certainly lead to high cost, even with a competitive tender system.

Some consultants recommend design specification to favor certain parties.

This is also the experience found by the new finance minister of Malaysia.

It's smarter spending not austerity, argues Malaysian finance minister

The Malaysian government is not in austerity mode and will spend where necessary, said finance minister Lim Guan Eng. “We are also more selective in making public investments,” he added.

Mr Lim revealed that the government has cut back on the LRT3 (third Light Rail Transit) project by reducing the cost by 47 per cent (RM31.65 billion to RM16.63 billion) by changing the design specifications and shaved off RM5.22 (S$1.74 billion) off the MRT2 (Mass Rapid Transit line two) cost by rationalising the above ground portion of the project.

Cancellation of Lucky Draw for Mercedes - full refund

Dear Friends,

By now, it is likely that you have read at least one unflattering news article about us. For reasons we can only speculate on, the mainstream media have tried to make us sound like cowboys who are in trouble with the authorities.

The reality, however, is quite different.

We started The GIVEN Company to make charitable giving a win-win for everyone: for our partner charities, for socially responsible corporates, and for you, the generous, kind-hearted members of public. Our goal is not to ‘bait’ or ‘bribe’ people into giving to charity, as some of our critics have suggested, but rather to provide a nudge for those who currently don’t give and positive reinforcement for those who already do.

By utilising the existing lucky draw / donation draw framework and combining it with the technological advantages of an online platform, our goal is simply to provide the most effective, efficient and sustainable fundraising platform available to all charities, large and small.


We consulted with over 30 registered charities, as well as relevant government agencies, before our official launch to ensure our compliance with legislation and discuss our plans.

Obviously, we didn’t expect any of these organisations to officially endorse a potentially disruptive startup trying something new, any more than we would expect the Land Transport Authority to endorse Grab or Uber.

And while many whom we met were understandably cautious, almost everyone we spoke to agreed that our platform would help solve a pressing need for the charity sector and believed in its potential for good. All we had to do was prove it. That is why we decided to fund this project ourselves and take the entrepreneurial plunge.


While we expected and were prepared for detractors, having to address their concerns undoubtedly diverted our resources, delayed our marketing efforts and impacted overall sales. Therefore, having consulted with all our stakeholders, we believe that it would be in the best interests of our partner charities to reschedule the draw for sometime next year, but as it will take time for us to sort out the details (and with less than a month to go before our original draw date), we should first cancel this inaugural draw.

We are reaching out to everyone who has supported our initiative and will fully refund your purchases automatically via credit card (think of it as every ticket winning $20 each!), and you will also get to keep your T-shirts for free. Furthermore, in the spirit of encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism, we will also personally honour your charitable intentions by donating over $13,000 to our partner charities from our own pockets. This reflects all the money that has been raised so far, and it will be split based on which charities each of you voted for.

We apologise for not being able to give away the Mercedes-Benz as planned and any disappointment this may cause. As a fundraising platform, we strive to always put the interests of the charities and their beneficiaries first, ahead of ourselves.


Thank you once more for supporting our budding social enterprise. I would like to reiterate that this is by no means the end of The GIVEN Company; we will work to bring our first draw back online as quickly as possible, and have already been approached by a number of other charities to explore new and innovative ways of fundraising using our alternative, technology-led framework. Watch this space.

On behalf of the team,

Charles Tan
The GIVEN Company

WOTC - Asset enhancement policy

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is asset enhancement in HDB flats a good policy?

Here are the responses: (23 Votes)
43 % - The HDB flat should be treated as a home, and not as an investment.
30 % - It increased the cost of housing and burden for younger people.
17 % - It is bad for the govt to encourage people to over-invest in housing.
9 % - It helped many owners to realize profit on their HDB flats.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Invest in HDB flats

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Did the govt give good advice on investing in HDB flats?

Here are the responses: (25 Votes)
56 % - The govt misrepresented the case for investing in HDB flats.
24 % - It was good only for the initial years, but will start to decline after that.
16 % - The asset enhancement policy has been harmful to Singapore
4 % - It benefited many owners.

See the pie chart at:

Bring tongkat ali into Singapore

Someone posted a remark that I should check if ICA allows a traveler to bring tongkat ali into Singapore.

I did not believe him, as there are people who like to create imaginary problems.

So, I posted a joke about being asked by ICA if I have any tongkat ali to declare.

I asked Google - am I allowed to bring tongkat ali into Singapore.

Google asked me to read this webpage,

It was not helpful. The website referred to the goods that are not allowed to be "imported". It did not explain what is "imported". If I carry a mobile phone, am I importing the mobile phone?

However, I did not see any mention of tongkat ali being in the list prohibited from being "imported".

I watched this video. It did not mention anything about declaring tongkat ali.

I finally checked this page which explains about bringing food into Singapore.

The tongkat ali cannot be considered as meat or fish or as fresh fruit and vegetable. So, I guess that it fits into the category of "processed food". I am allowed to bring 1 kg into Singapore.

So, if the imaginary customers officer had asked me "any tongkat ali to declare", my reply would be "yes sir, 100 gm".

Monday, October 08, 2018

Travel in West Malaysia

My friend lives in Kluang and travels to Singapore weekly.
I followed him on a trip to Kluang, and then to Segamat, Malacca, KL, Ipoh, Penang - all by bus and train.

I am now quite familiar with traveling to towns in West Malaysia.

It is convenient to travel by express bus from one town to another. Within the town, you can now call Grab. It is convenient and inexpensive.

Have a data card and get Google Map to guide you. You can also ask Google to tell you about the good eating places.

Most of the people can speak English. But it will be nice to learn some Malay words. I see the Malay words on signboards and check with Google Translate. My standard of Malay has improved a lot.

Is it risky? No! The people are nice and helpful. I met all the races and enjoy their friendship.

I suggest that Singaporeans should travel to Malaysia and see for yourself. Do not be misguided that it is an unsafe country. Do not form opinion out of ignorance.

Why does MAS and CAD allow this scammer to continue his scams?

Dear sir,
I have been following your blog an i am glad you have been advising the public on current affairs.

I was a victim of this scammer name XXX in 2008. Collected money from students to trade & lost everything. He was charged by CAD & MAS for solicitation money without license.

He was charged again doing the same thing & his trial has just ended recently.
He is apparently back in business doing the same thing with another person as the front/ spokesperson.
Do a google search on XXX, you should find plenty of evidence.
I am wondering why MAS or CAD has easily let him go since he had committed the offences not once but twice & now the third. My concern is the public vulnerability to his scams.

Hacking of Super Micro computers by China?

Two computer security experts were discussing the implant of a chip in the Super Micro computers.

They said that this kind of hacking is very serious.

I asked them - what can the implanted chip actually do? How can the stolen data be sent out to the hacker?

They could not answer me, but they swore that it can be done.

I believe that the Bloomberg report is an exaggeration. Perhaps it is fake news with the target of causing concern about technology and manufacturing from China. It could be just a new way to create economic warfare.

I will be studying more report about what these implanted chips can do. In the meantime, I hold the view that the threat is exaggerated.…/analyst-downgrades-chipmaker-supe…

WOTC - NTUC buys over Kopitiam

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it good for NTUC Foodfare to buy over Kopitiam?

Here are the responses: (23 Votes)
65 % - The acquisition will reduce competition and led to higher prices.
22 % - NTUC Foodfare manages its existing food courts badly. 
9 % - This will allow NTUC Foodfare to improve its operating efficiency and bring down prices.
4 % - NTUC Foodfare is a social enterprise. It will help to bring down the cost of food.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Will people support the PAP?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will people support the PAP because they are afraid of change?

Here are the responses: (28 Votes)
36 % - Many people are so fed up that they will vote against PAP 
32 % - The PAP will deliver carrots and threats to convince the swing voters.
18 % - It will happen again - people are afraid of uncertainty.
14 % - An alternative govt goes better prospects for the future.

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Itinerary for 4 day trip to KL, Ipoh, Penang

Dear Mr Tan
Just liked your FB. Would you mind sharing your 4-day KL/Ipoh/Penang on your FB? Your mode of transport especially. More people will benefit from it. It looks like a lot of fun. Would love to replicate it.
Many thanks!

Here is the itinerary.

Day 1.
We took MRT to Kranji and changed to SBS 170 to pass the Singapore and Johore checkpoints and continued on Bus 170 to Larkin Sentral.

We took a bus from Larkin to TBS (integrated terminal), KL. From there, we took a taxi to a hotel in Bukit Bintang.

Day 2
We took Grab to KL Sentral and took the KTM train to Ipoh. On arrival, we took Grab to the hotel.

Day 3
We took Grab to Amanjaya bus terminal and took an express bus to Sungei Nibong, Penang. We took Grab to a hotel in Georgetown.

Day 4
We stayed in Georgetown for another day.

Day 5
We took Grab to the airport and Scoot flight back to Singapore.

Hotel bookings
We book the Goldbrick Hotel in Bukit Bintang, the Station 18 Hotel in Ipoh and the Mingood Hotel in Georgetown.

The booking were made by The hotel staff advised us to book with in the future, as their charges are lower.

The Goldbrick hotel room is rather small, but the location is convenient.

The Station 18 hotel was 3.5 km outside of the town center. There are many hotels in the town center which are more convenient. When booking, look for the distance from the town center.

Mingood Hotel is well located, but is old. It is comfortable and the staff are nice.

We wanted to take the KTM train but found that there were only a limited number of services each day. It was difficult to fit into the schedule.

Express Bus
It is easy to take the express bus because it is available every hour and sometimes, every half hour.

Grab is very easy to use. We have to wait 2 mins for the driver to arrive. The fares are low. The drivers are friendly and helpful.

Food and shopping
We rely on Google and on the locals to recommend the good eating places. It was quite easy.

Avoid Checkpoint Jam

It took two hours to get from Kranji to Larkin Sentral, due to long queues at the checkpoint. A better way is to use KTM from Woodlands to JB checkpoint. It takes 10 mins, but adds $5 to the trip. After CIQ, take SBS 170 to Larkin.

Bad computer system with Scoot

I traveled on JetStar for the past ten years.

Recently, I decided to change to Scoot. My experience with Scoot was quite discouraging, for the following reasons:

a) They require me to login with my KrisFlyer number. I tried to login with my email address and password, but it failed.

b) I tried to change my Profile. It showed "Internal Server Error".

c) I book a ticket for a friend and used his credit card. They asked for a lot of details to create a customer profile. It was difficult to do it when we were overseas, use a mobile phone and the internet connection was poor.

It is sad that the people who designed the system in Scoot did not make things easy for their customer. They are likely to lose a lot of customers with their bad systems.

Their parent, Singapore Airlines had a bad system with poor customer experience. I had not been using them for a long time. On the few occasions that I used it, it was quite difficult.

Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Scoot is chasing away its customers with a bad computer system.

Using Skype

I opened a Skype account but did not use it for many years. I was able to use WhatsApp to send messages and make phone call.

I now find that I need to use Skype to call a telephone an overseas number, and avoid high IDD charges.

I re-installed Skype on my mobile phone. I found the quality of the call to be very good. I am able to make phone call to overseas numbers and pay a low call rate.

I have to pay about 10 cents for each Skype call to a telephone. That is okay.

Free shuttle service in Penang

Penang has several free shuttles called CAT (Central Area Transit). I took CAT and CAT 2. A Penang local told me that they will be introducing other free shuttles to places like Air Itam, etc.

The free shuttle is available for locals and visitors.

The cost of the free shuttle is borne by the government and is part of the public services. It is like employing the Police to take care of security. The cost of paying the policemen is also paid by the government.

There is no need to charge a fee for every service. Some service can be provided free.

LHL, HSK, KBW and other ministers should visit Penang and learn basic lessons about public service.

DBS Bank suspend a credit card wrongly

Customer Service Manager
DBS Bank

Dear Derrick

Thank you for your reply.

Your bank has suspended my credit card due to a small payment of US $20.xx from a merchant that you deem to be suspicious. I was not able to take your call because I was overseas.

I wish to bring the following points to your attention.

1) Are you aware that a telephone call to the customer who is overseas will cause him to incur a high IDD charge? If the customer calls back, he will have to incur double of the charge, as he has to pay for his call and the receiving call?

2) Are you aware that suspending a credit card will cause recurring payments to fail, and that may cause a large financial loss in some instances.

3) I have made payment to this vendor before on the same credit card. What has happened to your CRM system? Are you not able to tell if the payment is from an existing vendor that has been approved previously?

Do not give me the "rubbish" that you are protecting the customer's interest by suspending the account. You are not. You can causing a lot of inconvenience and potential financial loss.

I suggest that you make the following change:

1) You can call the customer in case of a suspicious transaction.

2) If you fail to reach the customer, you should NOT suspend the credit card for small payments. Let the unauthorized payments accumulate to a larger sum (say $1,000) before you act. If you are really interested in taking care of your customer, your bank can afford to bear the small loss. It will not cause any dent in your billion dollar profits.

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