Saturday, May 22, 2010

Expensive computerisation projects

I heard about companies spending several tens of million dollars in computerisation projects. This is far too expensive. Most of the money goes towards paying consultants to advice on workflow and customisation of system.

My friend, who worked in a large insurance company, told me that they spend more than 100 million to computerise their operations and the new computer system is still not working well. This is mind boggling. The money comes from the bonus of their policyholders!

Sometimes, I wonder if the board and top management is happy to spend so much money and if they are preapred to consider a lower cost option, if available. I believe that a large organisation can cut its computerisation budget by 50%, if they adopt a sensible approach towards computerisation. Apart from the cost savings, they will also be able to implement the new system more quickly, have less hassle and a higher chance of success.

But first, they must be keen to explore this possibility. If they prefer to spend big budget, there will always be the opportunity to make a big splash.

Tan Kin Lian

Resort World Sentosa

I attended a company dinner held at the conference center in Resort World Sentosa recently. This is my first visit to Sentosa after the integrated resort opened. Here are some photos (for the benefit of those who have not yet visited the resort).

I was quite surprised to see that the place was quite attractive and there was a large crowd in the hotels and shops. I did not enter the casino (as I refused to pay $100), so I don't know if it was very crowded inside as well.

Goh Keng Swee - The Star

Read this article by Seah Cheang Nee published in The Star, Malaysia. The writer was previously the editor of a newspaper in Singapore. He has a good knowledge of Singapore's history.

Web consultation (skin problems)

A skin specialist plans to set up an innovative service to provide consultation on skin problems through the internet. Details are shown here.

I am helping the specialist to find out the market acceptance for this type of service. Please participate in this survey.

I receive only 6 reponses. I hope to get more responses to refleclt a more reliable sample. Please participate.

Interacting with customers on feedback

I have posted articles on my experience as a customer interacting with a few large organisations (i.e. CISCO, Starhub, DBS and Singapore Airlines). CISCO took the trouble to contact me and talk to me. I did not hear from the other organisations.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Standard Chartered Bank

Dear Mr. Tan,
I have 4 banks personal account. I wish to highlight that SCB service is the best. I have encounter some transfer fund issue last year and due to the error of the bank. The SQ manager called me and followed up with a apology letter thereafter sending a wine hamper to my house.

I visited the branch in Tampines and Raffles Place, their staff is very attentive during my opening account and applying credit card I like their recent launch of internet payment of credit card to other bank credit card bills. This save me a lot of time rather issuing a cheques or queueing at the AXS machine for payment.

Further more, I can just do bill payment post dated before the due date once I login to the account. This can reduce oversight of payment and incurred interest fee and appealing process. I hope other local bank can think out of box rather than limited the credit card payment from their own bank.

I have also compared all the internet banking service, so far SCB is the simplest and easy to get transaction done within a few minutes.


My comments
Well done to Standard Chartered Bank. I also observe that they did not sell any of the credit linked notes that caused losses to the bank customers. I like their advertisement on their commitment to look after the welfare of their customers. It sets a good goal for them to live up to.

MRT Circle Line

This is the display panel on the MRT train running on the Circle Line. It shows the time for most of the way. The display changes to the name of the station only close to arrival. This is not useful.

A useful system is: show the name of the next station and the side that the door will be opening. It should appear immediately on leaving the previous station.

Most commuters already have a watch and mobile phone that shows the time.


There are two systems to dispaly the name of the next station for trains on the North South line.

The display panel show the station name in words and also indicates the side where the door will open.

The lighted route map shows the lights for the stations that have passed.

Both display systems on the train has been out -of-order for over two weeks. See the photos.

I find the light route map to be unnecessary. The display panel should be sufficient for this purpose.

 A simpler system is less costly and less likely to fail.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Excellent service recovery by CISCO

I posted a blog to share my bad experience with replacing a faulty videocam. I received an e-mail from the customer advocacy senior manager of CISCO asking to talk to me. We had a conversation at the arranged time. He listened attentively and positively to my experience and suggestions. He found several of the suggestions to be practical and useful and will be implementing them.

From my past experience, this is one of the rare occasions that the customer service manager is interested to listen, and really listen, to the customer. I hope that this excellent example of service recovery will be emulated by other organisations. Well done to CISCO.

I also hope that CISCO will act promptly to simplify its process to make it easy for its customers to submit their feedback and claim for replacement of faulty products.

Tan Kin Lian

Why we should identifying ourselves as souls?

Extract from Tommy Wong's book, "Wisdom on How to Live Life"

Tom: What is the problem identifying ourselves as the body?
Guru: If we identify ourselves with the body only, then we won’t want the body to die because when the body dies, it’s also the end of our beings.
Tom: Yes, that’ll be a problem, because we don’t want to lose our beings.
Guru: Exactly! So the problem is after we’re born, there is no way not to die.
Tom: Sounds like we’re at a death trap. Is there any way out?
Guru: Humans are blessed beings. So how can the Divine lay a death trap for us?
Tom: But the body will die, and there is no way out!
Guru: Bingo, the secret is that we’re not the body.
Tom: Oh yes, you said that we’re the soul and not the body.
Guru: Well remembered!
Tom: How will that help us?
Guru: If we identify ourselves as souls and our souls continue to live even after the death of our bodies, then we’ll not be too concerned with the death of our bodies.

Tommy Wong

Tommy Wong's book can be purchased online here.

Customer Service Portal

I am developing a customer service portal for big organisations to put up their general enquiry form. This allows their customers to provide brief details of their queries and for the customer service officer to call the customer with the answer. This will reduce the waiting time at the call center during peak hours. It will also improve customer service. More details of this portal can be found here.

This portal can be used by many organisations. The customer will find it easy to contact many organisations at the same portal and be familiar with one standard interface.

Tan Kin Lian

SMS Response

If you wish to receive responses by SMS to a promotion, contest, event, registration or other activity, you can try this service. It is low cost and easy to set up. It can be used by a business or an individual.

Calling NTUC Income

Here is my experience in calling NTUC Income during a busy period. There was no pressing of button and irrelevant messages, so there is no hassle for the customer. I am told that I have to wait 3 minutes for my call to be attended. This is better than being put on hold for an unspecified period.  They also provide an option for the call center to call back the customer, which is a good feature.

I decided not to wait and to call back later, when the call center is free.

Easysearch Portal

There are several applications on this portal of general interest to the public. Try it.


Many jobs in the private and public sector has been outsourced during the past decade. In the past, these organisations employ clearners, security guards and technicians and paid fair wages relative to the other "core workers" in their organisations. The workers are protected by the collective bargaining of wages in the organisations.

After outsourcing, these organisations were able to reduce their operating cost. The contractors who won the jobs were able to employ foreign workers or re-emply the retrenched workers at lower wages or to work for longer hours. This is a key contributor for the stagnation of wages in Singapore during the past decade.

The customers do not benefit much from the reduction in cost. Most of the benefits accrue to the shareholders and top managers of these organisations. This accounts for the widening gap between the high and low income earners.

While wages remain stagnant, the cost of living continues to increase. This makes life very difficult for many Singaporeans.

I hope that our top leaders will realise that this is a bad trend and that outsourcing is a source of this problem. To correct this situation, there should be a minimum wage for all workers and that the public sector should set an example by insisting on an expected standard of service and be willing to pay fair fees for outsourced work.

Tan Kin Lian

Restructuring of company

I know of a manager who recently lost his job (after 11 years) due to a change in top management. The new management wanted to resctructure the company (which is an excuse for bringing in his buddies) and asked him to leave. He was offered only 3 months of salary for 11 years of service. The retrenched manager had no option, but to accept this poor package. His termination was not due to poor performance, as he had received a good testimonial from the previous CEO (who has since retired) for his 11 years of service.

This is a need for better protection of workers (including managers) in Singapore from unfair employment practice. The law should provide a fair rate of retrenchment benefit for termination due to reasons other than poor performance.

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SIA Krisflyer website

I spent more than 1 hour to reset the PIN for my Krisflyer account. I called the call center more than 5 times and got the assistance of the staff who was helpful and patient.

However, the website behaved erratically and baffled me and the staff. The problem with the website was worsened by the "security measures" introduced to "protect the interest of the customer". Actually, these measures were not necessary and made the website difficult to use. It also made it difficult to change the PIN. Some of these measures are:

a) freeze the login for 24 hours after 3 wrong entry of the PIN
b) verify the date of birth and IC (when the server record was wrong)
c) require the new PIN to be activated within 1 hour of being sent.
d) the website showed different information to me and to the staff who was assisting me.

The staff sent me a total of 4 new PINs to login after the earlier PINs did not work.

This video shows about 5 minutes of the 1 hour episode.

Experience on call centers

I have created some short videos (less than 5 mins) on my experience in calling the call centers of a few large organisations.

They can be viewed here:

I hope that the large organisations can understand the frustration and difficulty of their customers in navigating through their automated system, and in listening to irrelevant messages. They should simplify the system to make it easier for their customer to talk to a customer service officer. They should also provide an option in the website for the customer to submit a form and for the call center staff to call back with the answer.

I was quite surprised that the calls were answered quickly for SIA, DBS and Starhub. The customer service officers were helpful and competent.  Well done.

Tan Kin Lian

Take early action

An edited version of this letter was publised in the Straits Times on 19 May.

Editor, Forum page
In his letter “Do your checks before investing in land abroad”, Dr. Tan Tee Khoon gave a good description of the mode of operation of land banking schemes. He said “Potential investors may be misled about the prospects of obtaining planning permission or redevelopment”.

While investors should follow the advice of Dr. Tan in doing their checks before making such investments, there is also a need for the authority to play its part.

When the seller knowingly misrepresents a product that is sold to the public, it can be considered as “cheating”. When the cheating involves a large sum of money and many victims, it is necessary for the authority to investigate the complaints and gather evidence to charge the perpetuators in court.

It is better to take early action, before more victims fall into the trap. It is difficult for the public to be savvy in detecting misrepresentations in statements that are published in documents or advertisements.

We read about similar cases in other countries where action is taken by the authority to close down the operation of companies that are suspected of engaging in fraudulent activities. There is also adequate media publicity to warn the public about these operations.

I hope that our authority in Singapore take the appropriate action to prevent more people from being caught in these schemes.

Tan Kin Lian

Calling SIA Call Center

I called the SIA Call Center to enquire about my Krisflyer points. The experience with the call center was quite satisfactory. The waiting time was short. The automated messages was still frustrating, but not as bad as other large organisations.

However, the experience with the Krisflyer website was quite bad. Read this report.

Tan Kin Lian

Calling DBS Credit Card

I called the DBS call center to enquire about my credit card points. I find the automation system to be quite troublesome. I also get many irrelevant messages. It is quite frustrating.

After pressing the wrong option on 3 attempts, I was directed to a customer service officer. The waiting time was rather short - which was quite surprising.

Watch this video about my experience.

The CSO is helpful and provides good service. The automation system is what caused the trouble. (This comment applies to the automation system used by most large organisations, not just DBS). The system used by DBS to verify the customer is quite frustrating and should be changed.

Tan Kin Lian

Give better value to consumers

Some people, presumably insurance agents, dislike my postings on the bad practices of life insurance companies (i.e. cut in bonus, high charges, low yields, rejection of claims) and continue to make personal attacks against me in their anonymous postings.

It is better for these people to realise that the life insurance companies should change its bad practices and treat consumers fairly. This would be beneficial for the long term growth of the industry. Any business can thrive only when it offers value to its customers.

I also hope that my postings will prompt the insurance companies to change its products to offer a better return to its policyholders. Lately, I saw from some benefit illustrations that the distribution cost and effect of deduction has been reduced, i.e. give better value to consumers. Although they are still high, it is a step in the right direction.  More can be done.

REQUEST. Please do not use this posting as another opportunity to "bash" the insurance agents or products.

Tan Kin Lian

Congential conditions

Hi Mr. Tan,
My student was found to have a hole in the heart in an ECG program initiated by his secondary school. He subsequently underwent heart surgery. He has been active in sports all along so the condition was never detected before.
He has been insured medically since birth. However, the insurance company has refused to pay a single cent towards the medical costs citing congenital cause.
Even the medishield claims [with the same company] were also rejected. Have all the premiums paid by his parents been just money down the drain?
I would like to know if there is any recourse for his parents to relieve them at least a little of the medical expenses.

Generally, health insurance policies exclude congenital conditions. The rationale is that people who knows that they have congenital condition are more likely to buy insurance, so the exclusion is to prevent what is called adverse selection.
In some countries, the government insists that congenital conditions must be covered. I think that this is one provision in the new health plan that has recently been passed in US Congress. Unfortunately, we do not have such a requirement by the regulators in Singapore. In my view, the Ministry of health should have insisted that all convenital conditions are covered under Medishiled and private Shield plans - but this was unfortunately not the case.
Although the health plan does not cover congenital conditions, it does cover all of the other illness that are not connected with the congenital conditions, such as infection, injury and others. The premium is used to cover these other conditions.

Hi Mr. Tan
Thank you for your kind reply to my query. However, it seems that I can't really do anything to help my student.

I do agree with you that the MOH should look into making congenital cases covered by shield plans. I am sure my student isn't the only case which was not detected at birth and only surfaced much later in life.
However, I'm still upset that the insurance company didn't even bother to give a token sum to help the parents defray costs.

Please ask the student to write to the insurance company to request for an ex-gratia payment to cover part of the bill, considering the premiums that have been paid over the years, for which there was (presumably) no claim. If the insurance company reject the request, ask the student to write to the Minister for Health, as the Medishield scheme comes under his Ministry.

Fraud Alert

Read this article. Be careful about investing in new schemes created to cheat the public.

Cut in policyholder's bonus

Read the letter.

My comment.
This criticism is not confined to one insurer. Many insurers have cut their bonus during a difficult time but are rather slow in restoring their bonus when the market recovered. This is unfair to policyholders, especially those whose policies have matured while the bonus are still not restored.

I agree with the call to MAS to investigate if the insurers have been fair in their treatment of the policyholders.

To avoid this type of unfair treatment, the public should invest in a low cost investment fund, which is transparent and give a better yield, over the long term. This is explained in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

Life insurance companies

This article explains that life insurance company works for shareholders and not for customers.

My comment
In the past, most life insurance companies are mutual companies (including cooperatives) that work for the interest of customers. In recent years, most of these companies have become de-mutualised or have started to think about maximising profits. It is dangerous to entrust your long term savings to these companies, especially if they have the discretion to pay a lower rate of bonus to customers.

It is better to invest in a low cost investment fund, which is within your control. This is explained in my book on financial planning.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Intelligence Quiz online

Try the updated version of the Intelligence Quiz online.

You can also play it on the smart phone by browsing the internet using this link There is a bug when you click on "Answer" but this will be corrected soon.

You can learn the technique to play this puzzle from my book available here.

Give your views of this online game in this survey.

Tip for solving Intelligence Quiz.
1. Look for clues that indicate a fixed house, e.g. first house, second house, last house.
2. Look for clues that is related to an item that has already been identified.
3. Look for clues that exactly fit into the empty slots.
4. By following these steps, you can solve the Intelligence Quiz.

Portal on scams


Many Singaporeans I know, are always in the pursuit of material wealth and at times being complacement, only to realise later that they are victims of scams. How nice if we could have a similar portal like this, all under one roof:


Starhub Call Center

I called Starhub at their call center to enquire about Open Net, the new national broadband. Here is my experience.

I am quite surprised that the call is answered quick quickly (after going through 3 minutes of navigating through their system) and the staff is quite knowledgeable. So, apart from the automated messages (which is quite frustrating and time wasting), the service is quite good. In the past, I have to wait a long time to be answered by a person, but on this occasion, it was quite fast.

Many large organisations require customers to suffer the hassle of navigating through their automated system, so this is not unique to Starhub.

Poor customer service (HP)

Here is another example of poor customer service. Most big organisations have a bad call center that makes life difficult for customers through the bad use of techbology.

Courage and dare to change

I have heard these phrases used on many occasions, "be careful" and "don't down the slippery slope". They usually come out from people who are extremely cautious and do not wish to change the status quo. This attitude reflects the mindset of many Singaporeans.

I wish to quote the words of Dr. Goh Keng Swee in his last speech to Parliament in 1984.

Prudence does not mean that one must always take counsel of one's fears. In the course of our political struggles, we learnt tht in a desperate situation timidity leads to disaster. Safety can be won only by daring."

Dining Etiquette

Here are some pointers on dining etiquette.

Tips with your money

Here are 10 important tips.

My tips on insurance and finance can be found in Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

Medical expenses of parents

Dear Mr. Tan,
Thank you for your many insightful postings, I believe many people benefit from your blog.

My parents, who are current in their mid-sixties, are working class people, who worked hard to bring up my siblings and I. They don't have much savings, nor much in their medisave accounts. I don't believe their included under Eldershield.

Is there a good way to plan for their future medical needs? Based on some earlier posts on your blog, insurance for the elderly seems to be expensive. They'd probably exclude coverage on what my parents really need coverage on (my dad has a history of hypertension, so I believe all heart conditions are excluded?).

So far, I can only think of setting aside a lumpsum of cash in FD, as an emergency fund. However, being of limited means, I am not sure how much to set aside as well. I've taken a look at the MOH medical bills, and wonder which bills to take into consideration. I suppose I should also need to take into consideration my medisave savings, since they can be used for my parents.

You can top up the Medisave account of your parents and enjoy some tax relief. Your parents can use the Medisave to buy Medishield or pay their medical bills out of Medisave, if they are not insured.

Most importantly, they should go to a subsidised ward if they fall ill, as the cost is much lower than a non-subsidised ward or private hospital. The medical care in the subsidised ward is of quite acceptable standard.

I hope that they can stay in good health and do not require hospitalisation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unfair practice of used car dealer

Dear Mr. Tan
I signed a purchase agreement to buy a used vehicle from a large used car dealer whic his a subsidiary of a large motor distributor.

They were unable to attain a loan approval for the vehicle I have purchased. I wanted to to pay in cash but they refuse to complete the deal. No where in the agreement does it that states that there must be a successful loan for the purchase agreement to be valid. I have also paid a $500 deposit.

As they are so big, they don't even need to be under the CASETRUST-SVTA accreditation. In addition, CASE says that they can mediate and if the dealer does not honour the deal, there is nothing CASE can do about it.

Should a consumer back out from a deal, the dealer would sue the the buyer. However, when the dealer refuses to complete the deal, they get away with it. I have spent much time and effort going through many different cars, it doesn't feel good to be taken advantage of.
This is akin to a new car dealer that sells you a "GUARANTEED COE" new car, and just walks away when COE rises.

The dealer knows that a helpless consumer will not pursue their rights if they are being bullied as it costs too much money and time. They are a big company and have the financial clout and legal personnel to corner the consumer into submission.

Hopefully, you can get highlight this on your website and help prevent other consumers from being cornered and bullied by a large MNC.


Bad Customer Service (CISCO)

I bought a Flip videocam which was highly recommended on the user reviews. The videocam was easy to use and satisfactory. Unfortunately, it stopped working after two weeks.

I called the manufacturer CISCO on its warranty. I had a difficult time. Here is my experience:

a. It was difficult to communicate with the call center (which was outsourced overseas)
b. Much time was spent to spell out the details for the call center staff to record into their system.
c. I was asked later to detailed form on another website.
d. There was some fault in the computer system that garbled up the details.
e. When I appeared at their agent to get a replacement videocam, the staff was quite rude and unhelpful.

I do not know why a high-tech company like CISCO make it so troublesome to the customer to have a replacement of a faulty product. The technology is supposed to make life easier for the customer, but it actually made life more difficult by passing the hassle of the paperwork to the customer.

Compare it with the "old fashion" way. If I buy a product from a retail store and it is faulty, I bring it to the retail store. They will check the date of purchase and confirm that it is faulty and replace it. They will do the paper work later and does not involve the customer in this hassle.

Tan Kin Lian

Implementing I.T. systems

Comment posted in my blog.

Dear Mr Tan,

I have been involved in implementing IT Projects in the private sector since I started working 20 years ago. I am an Accountant by profession. I have gone thru implementing many kinds of IT systems. I find implementing the simple ones have the best chances of success.

IT systems have come a long way since then. Modern IT systems is able to cater to a lot of requirements. What is critical to the success of implementing IT systems is there must be a Project Manager handling the implementation full time. He must have enough experience implementing IT Projects and he must have approval to hire resources.

The Directors and the employees have an unrealistic expectation in implementing IT systems. They want the system to be able to do everything without lifting a finger because its a million dollar system. This is in turn compounded by the IT Consultants promising almost everything can be done without managing customers expectation. The IT Consultants charge their fees by project. So they will allocate a number of man hours to the project. If the project runs into difficulties, the IT Consultants will charge additional fees.

Another critical factor to the success of the project is the employees themselves. The question is are they willing to change their working habits and spent time to learn new skills to adapt to the system while also doing their job?

Thirdly, IT systems should be implemented by phases SLOWLY. This is so that the person working on the system has time to adapt to it. Implementing every thing at once brings the risk of multi-million dollar failure.
This is because there is huge resistance to change on the part of employees.

The consultancy firms will be happy that the hospitals want to implement all at once bec it will bring them huge revenues.  They of course hope that their clients will succeed in implementing the system as it will bring them recognition.

No one wants to hire and pay mature workers who have hands on experience adequately and who can get the job done well. Instead CEO's nowadays say pay the consultants WELL. IT Consultants are skilled in "Consulting and IT work". Not in actually implementing the system.

What is actually needed is a person in the Co. who understands IT, its strength and limitations, who understands the company employees and culture, what they can or cannot do and assist them and have adequate experience in implementing IT projects and have hands on experience utilising IT.

Customer Service at Call Centers

I will be using my videocam to record my experience in calling the call center of big organisations, such as the government agencies, banks, telcos, insurance companies and airlines. Each video will be for up to 5 minutes. I will upload the video showing my personal experience - which hopefully will be good, but could show the negative aspects.

I hope that these videos will be educational and will encourage the big organisations to make changes to their call centers to improve the customer experience.

Please share the call centers that you wish me to try, giving me the name and the telephone number.

Tan Kin Lian

Investing in land abroad

Read this letter.

My comment
When several people lodge complaints with the authority that they have been misled into purchasing these investments through misrepresentations of the facts, the authority should investigate if there were intent to  to defraud the public. The authority should also report the results of the investigation, even if no conclusive evidence could be found about the alleged misrepresentations. This would at least warn the public about the dangers of investing in these products.

This type of actions were taken in Malaysia and the UK leading to the closing down of the companies involved in the fraudulent activities and the prosecution of the perpetuators in court.

Taxi surcharges

Read this letter about taxi surcharges, which is getting out of hand.

My comment
It is better to raise the taxi fare and to remove all surcharges, such as the peak hour and location surcharges. All taxis plying the road should charge a standard taxi fare while premium taxi services (which charge a different fare, should be called by telephone or other means.

Excessive charge to repair a damage

Comment posted in my survey.

 My car ran into the parking barrier. Upon inspection only the arm was damaged. We both agreed to it and took photos respectively.  The car park management later sent me a letter asking for 1,571 SGD payment to repair the barrier arm.  The break down was like this:

• Labour to attend to ACCIDENT Case by the contractor $ 150.00
• 3M Magnetic Barrier Arm only $ 650.00
• Barrier arm Aluminium Bracket $ 80.00
• Delivery and installation charges $ 250.00
• Admin Charges 30% $ 339.00
7% GST $ 102.83
Total: $ 1,571.83

I disputed all the charges levied, especially the 30% admin charge that made no sense at all.  I replied them saying i would take responsibility for the accident. But only on reasonable grounds. That barrier arm is simple to install (held on by 4 nuts and bolts), and the market price for it is only around 300 SGD (unbranded).

I advised them to file a claim with the Singapore Courts, and we will appear in court, state our cases and let the judge decide. That was March. I am still waiting to hear from them.

My comment
It is a sad episode when the company wanted to make a profit from an unfortunate event. It would be a nice gesture for them to charge only the direct cost and not seek to recover the labour and admin charges.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dr. Goh Keng Swee's immense contribution to Singapore

Many people are aware about the immense contribution that Dr. Goh Keng Swee had made to improve the life of millions of people in Singapore. He was the architect of our economy strategy that transformed Singapore from a developing country to a thriving developed economy. His strategy to attract the multinatinal companies into Singapore laid the foundation for our economic growth. The same strategy is now emulated by many other countries that desired to grow their economy.

There is another aspect of his contribution tht may not be well known. Dr. Goh was the keynote speaker at the historic seminar on the modernisation of the labour movement in 1969. He laid out a convincing case for the labour movement to set up coooperatives to take care of the needs of Singapore, in life insurance, savings and other economic ventures.

This strategy led to the formation of NTUC Income in 1970. Dr. Goh was the chairman of the board of trustees of NTUC Income for nearly 10 years and provided the guidance and advice for NTUC Income to establish a foothold in a challenging market environment.  Without his guidance, it may not be possible for NTUC Income to be what it is today.

Later, the labour movement set up a consumer cooperative (i.e. NTUC Fairprice) and a taxi cooperative (which has since been privatised). The lives of many people are improved by the the contribution of the insurance, supermarket and other coopertives.

I heard stories about the frugal habits of Dr. Goh. He does not believe in wasting money unnecessarily. In his last speech in Parliament in 1984, according to the Straits Times report (quoting Prime Minister Lee), Dr. Goh said about the importance of "public service". I hope that Dr. Goh's message about "public service" can be rekindled.

Tan Kin Lian

Read this report in the Straits Times.

Case study - think out of the box

Case Study.
My friend told me this case. Mr. X is a retiree widower (i.e his wife has passed away). He applied for a 2 room HDB flat with his daughter to form a family unit.

The daughter now wants to get married and apply for a larger flat. Mr. X wishes to live independently. The HDB wants to take back the flat as Mr. X is not able to form a family unit.

They asked him to sell his flat (which cost him $30,000 after grant) and apply for a studio apartment costing $80,000. Mr. X does not have the money to top up. He appealed many times to HDB to remain in his flat, but was declined. Mr. X is still fighting for permission to keep his flat.

What would you do to help Mr. X ,without changing the HDB rules on the family unit? Give your answer here. A prize will be given for an innovative answer.

Expensive computerisation projects

A knowledgeable insider told me that a few hospitals in Singapore each spent tens of million dollars to computerised their operations, after engaging big name consultancy firms. They abandoned their projects due to difficulty in implementation and wrote off their investments. It was very wasteful, and probably explains why hospital bills are expensive.

He said that this type of practice of paying a lot of money to consultants for computerisation projects happen in many government agencies as well.

I am not able to verify this information. I hope to get get confirmation from people who work in these places and are able to share their information.

Tan Kin Lian

Workload of teachers

Read this letter.

My comment
The workload of teachers can be reduced by employing more non-teachers for the support duties. There are many unemployed people who would love to have the opportunity for these support duties. I hope that the government will be willing to spend some money to create the employment and reduce the workload of teachers.

Claim for repairs to vehicle

Here are the results of the survey.

Dear Sir,
I would like your advice about a traffic accident involving my car colliding with a taxi. Both cars were at a traffic stop wainting for the light to turn green. When the light turn green, the taxi in front of me started to move but braked suddenly after a few feet. Because of the proxiity of the cars, a collision occured but the force of the collision was mild.

The taxi driver of the taxi and I both came out and inspected our cars but found no damage to both cars. The taxi driver and I both agreed that there were no damages to both cars as the force of the collison were mild.

The taxi claimed that he stopped the car suddenly to avoid a collision with a lorry but the taxi was making a U turn while the lorry was making a right turn at Alecandra road. However I did not see the lorry. From the traffic junction I found that it was not possible for the lorry to collide with the taxi as alleged.

As both cars were not damaged, I was surprised that the taxi send an invoice of the repairs to the taxi costing over $2000. to my insurance company. The officer of my insurance company said that the taxi has been repaired.  Who allowed the taxi to be repaired whe there was no damage as a result of the acxcident?


You can tell the insurance company to reject the claim from the taxi as the damages were not caused by you. However, the taxi driver will get his lawyer to sue you directly. You must be prepared to get your lawyer to reject their claim and to fight the case in court, if they issue you a summons.

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Case study - lower insurance premium

This is a case study. You are insured with an insurance company that has been operating fairly efficiently and has been providing satisfactory service. It incurs the following expenses and charges a premium of $1,000:

average claim per policy $550
expenses $200
commission to agents $150
profit margin $100
premium $1,000

Another insurance company offers you a lower premium of $900 but if the lower premium is due to any of the following factors:

a) they are more efficient in handling their claims
b) they are likely to be more difficult in paying claims due to inadequate premium
c) they may offer a lower quality of service
d) they are keen to gain market share and don't mind making a loss

Here are the results of the survey.

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