Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unfair bank charges

Do you feel that banks are imposing unfair and excessive charges for basic banking services, such as:

  • $40 to $50 for a bounced cheque or for a rejected cheque due to a minor mistake?
  • $200 or more for the annual fee on credit card?
  • $40 or more to make a small remittance overseas?
  • $50 to receive a foreign currency cheque?
Although the bank is willing to waive the annual fee for the credit card when the customer calls in to cancel the card, it is quite dishonest for the bank to try to earn the fee from unsuspecting customers, who may not be aware that they were being charged the hefty fee. 

If you have been the victim of excessive bank charges, please share your experience in this survey. I will need actual case studies. If there are sufficient cases, I will ask FISCA to organize an appropriate response on behalf of consumers. I take this opportunity to encourage more consumers to join FISCA.

Tan Kin Lian

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

Tom: Are there other benefits by living as souls?
Guru: Plenty.
Tom: What are they?
Guru: If we believe we are souls, we can then leave one body and subsequently take up another. We may consider bodies are like clothes which we wear one for one day, and then change to another on another day.
Tom: Reincarnation.
Guru: Correct and there is a huge benefit in this belief.
Tom: What’s that?
Guru: We’re not attached to our bodies.
Tom: We are souls and not bodies.
Guru: By being detached from the body, we gain enormous power.
Tom: What power?
Guru: By living as the soul and having a body, we always have the option of leaving the body.
Tom: So?
Guru: Since we’ve the power to leave the body, it also means that if we decide to stay with the body, it’s our own choice.
Tom: We’re empowered to leave or to stay.
Guru: It means that whatever situation we’re in, we choose to be there.
Tom: Right on.
Guru: It means that nobody in the entire universe can make us do what we don’t want.
Tom: We don’t have to do what we don’t want.
Guru: Since everything we do is our own choosing, we become masters of life.

Tommy Wong

This book is available here.

Unsolicited listing

Read this letter.

My view
Many people have been inconvenienced by this unsolicited listing. As it affect large numbers of people, the Police should tell the company that they are creating a nuisance and tell them to stop this activity. It is rather sad that Singapore is becoming a messy place, with all kinds of undesirable activities.

Credit card promotion

Here is a case of a mess-up on the credit card promotion with a restaurant.

My view
Businesses are spending too much money on promotions and are not planning them well. It is a waste of time and money. I receive many promotions through the mail, which I throw away without looking. What a waste of paper and money.

Law and order

Singapore had built a good reputation for law and order in the past. However, the situation has deteriorated in recent years. A senior police officer told me that the recruitment of policemen had not kept pace with the increase in population. Many Singaporeans prefer not to join the Police Force. A SAF officer told me that it is also difficult to get Singaporeans to join the SAF as full time soldiers.

I know that the Police and the SAF pay well and provides a good career for their officers. But, the problem is that the finance sector in Singapore pays so well that it attracts too many people, including the top talents.

The finance sector is able to pay well because they are allowed to make a lot of profits in trading (i.e. actually speculating on stocks, futures and derivatives) and in selling structured products that are bad for the public. Another sector that draws away too many people is the property sector. Too many people are taking a lot of money by being property agents.

Many people can earn a lot of money by selling financial products and properties, and they are taking away people from the productive sectors of the economy. This trend will be bad for the future of Singapore - we will be a less safe and  less productive nation.

Tan Kin Lian

Compulsive history

Read this article.

My view
I saw the video of Dr. Lim Hock Siew's speech a few months ago. It seemed to be quite fair. If he had made any outrageous statements, he would have been arrested.

Notebook Mall

Dear Mr. Tan

Since my retrenchment from a MNC in 2004, I tried many ideas but many went up in smoke.  Entrepreneurship in SG is tough with such high business operating cost. As you already know about my recent online venture - 

Apart from offering same product at much lower price than my competitors, I also came up with the idea such as SOHO Bundle targeting Small & Home Business. I think my mall may be the only online mall in Singapore currently that introduce product bundles to cater to different category of customers such as SOHO business owners.

Please help to publicise my mall in your blog.


Customer Service

The Star
Courteous service workers are a dying breed, and the cause lies in Singaporean characteristics,
be it the worker, the boss or overdemanding customer. As its new generation becomes more cosmopolitan, self-centred and seemingly always in a hurry, Singapore is finding it harder to develop a good service culture on its own.

Dam and flood control

Hi Mr. Tan

I was very surprised to see a news clip from CNA a few hours ago today (16 Jul 2010). It said that to prevent floods, the Chinese government used explosives to blast open a dam. I saw the video footage and it was
awesome!! The dam must have been incorrectly constructed, i thought in my naive mind!!

I went to internet to try to research on flood control, it seems to be a very technical and academic subject, i have difficulty understanding what is a dam, what is a levee, what is a barrage, and especially why blast open a dam, and how floods can happen. (i didn't see anything to say that massive floods occur because of blocked culverts)

I wonder if there are any experts reading your blog who could lend some help to interprete the reasons for the floods in singapore recently, and also how come a dam in china has need to be destroyed if floods are meant
for flood control? CNA news clip didnt elaborate on the issue, from the layman point of view, it seems like the dam is blocking flow of water out to sea, so blast it up.  Isn't our Marina Barrage a dam too?  What's the difference? Are there independent experts willing to share some knowledge?


Any knowledgeable person can contact rex at

FAQ - Invest in Foreign Currency Deposit

Before you invest in foreign currency deposits to earn a higher interest rate, you should consider the points expressed in this article.

Friday, July 16, 2010


This blog is written by C H Yak, a regular visitor to my blog:

Read more about LEVIATHAN and how a civil society can correct the damages of excessive government. 

Churning of Life Insurance

Letter published in Straits Times
WITH reference to last Saturday's report ('Windfall for jumping ship'), there are many factors in the scrum by insurers to lure agents away from rival firms.

One is the client list of the agents, a consequence of which will lead to a churning of insurance policiesIn such scenarios, clients are persuaded to cash in their existing policies to buy a new one.

To lessen the risk of such negative effects, the Life Insurance Association should consider organising seminars to educate the public. 

The association should have rules to ensure that agents fully inform their clients on the implications of surrendering their policies for another one. These measures seek to ensure that the public know the effects of churning and that their decisions are informed ones.

In the report, the association remarked that it took a serious view of churning or any activity that hurts a policyholder's interest. 

The association should inform the public about its penalties against errant agents who actively resort to churning. Such transparency may also deter agents who are thinking of resorting to this practice.

Such measures will not only help safeguard public interest against errant agents, but also maintain the high standards and reputation enjoyed by the profession.

Javern Sim

My view
The churning of insurance policies has been a serious problem over the past decades.  Many consumers had been the victims of this unethical practice and have lost large amount of their savings. 

The insurance companies are partly to blame, as they introduce new products, supposedly with better features, and give the chance for their agents to get unsuspecting customers to replace their policies. 

To overcome this unethical practice, it is necessary for the regulator to place limits on the amount of commission that can be paid on life insurance policies. This problem has been recognized in many countries and the appropriate action has been taken by the regulator. 

Non-renewal of credit card

Last year, my bank charged me $700 as annual fee for the renewal of the credit card. This was the first time that the annual fee was imposed, as I was given the free use of the credit card for the previous years. They bank did not notify me in advance of this fee. I could have easily overlooked it in my statement.

I telephoned the hotline of the bank. Before I could ask about the annual fee, the bank officer offered to waive the fee and to restore the forfeited points, as he noted that I had used the credit card extensively for my payments (for which the bank did earn a commission). I thanked him for the kindness.

As the year is ending, I have just faxed this letter to the bank:

"I wish to inform you that I do not wish to renew my credit card on its expiry. Please acknowledge this instruction by reply to me at I thank you for the wonderful service that you had rendered to me for the past years."

I feel that it is dishonest for the bank to try to levy a hefty annual fee, without getting the prior agreement of the customer.

Tan Kin Lian

Motor Insurance

Read this article. It explains the different types of motor insurance policies (apart from the comprehensive cover) and how you can get a lower premium by getting online quotes from websites.

Goldman Sachs settles securities claim

Read this report about the Goldman Sachs settlement.

Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay $550 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges of securities fraud linked to mortgage investments sold to investors, a person briefed on the matter told The New York Times's Edward Wyatt.

Under the terms of the deal, Goldman will pay $300 million in fines to the S.E.C., with the rest serving as restitution, this person said. Goldman will not admit wrongdoing.

The S.E.C.'s director of enforcement, Robert Khuzami, is scheduled to hold a press conference late Thursday afternoon.

My view
The regulator in USA is willing to take action on behalf of investors and make a settlement with a financial institution on the charges of fraud. The settlement is made without admission of liability. It would be impossible for the public to take legal action on their own.

I hope that this approach can also be taken by our regulator in Singapore. After all, we are following the same "free market" practice as in USA. Being "pro-business" does not mean that they are allowed to take advantage of the public.

Financial Fraud

Dear Mr. Tan
Could this happen here?

Expensive outsourcing project

Read this report.

My view
Many government agencies and commercial organizations spent millions of dollars on consultants and outsourcing projects and get poor results. This allows the management and the board to point fingers at the external parties, in case of any shortcoming.

I hope that leaders should take responsibility for decisions that are outsourced, and that if the mistake is serious, they should be held responsible and accountable, together with the outsourced parties.

World Cup and Youth Olympic Games

In my opinion, the biggest winner of World Cup 2010 is South Africa. I read about the pride of the people of South Africa in hosting the World Cup and the warm hospitality that they extend to their million of visitors.

I watched the opening ceremony over television and was amazed by the pride and joy of ordinary people, the speech given by Bishop Desmond Tutu and the respect given to the former President Nelson Mandela, popularly called Madiba (i.e. Grandfather). We may have read media reports about the high crime rate and lawlessness in that country, but the people were able to project a different image to the world during this historic event.

Singapore is now hosting the Youth Olympic Games. I am worried that, in spite of the the hundred of millions of dollars that are being spent on the games (which is three times over the original budget), there is so little excitement among the people of Singapore. There was even a media report that the ticket sales is poor, and that the schools have to be asked to buy the tickets.

I hope that our leaders and the organisers of the Youth Olymic Games realize that this is not just their show, and that it belongs to the people of Singapore. Time is running out. Let us use the remaining time to engage the people.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pinnacle Notes

If you have invested in Pinnacle Notes that have turned bad and you wish to join the legal action to be filed in US courts, please send an e-mail to, giving your name and contact number. We will send you a Q&A and a form to provide further particulars.

Comments in this Blog

Two vile persons continue to post personal attacks against me in this blog. They made more than 10 attacks on some days. Their purpose is only to attack, rather than to post their opinion. I have posted some of their vile comments that are relatively tame, but have blocked those that are outright vicious and vulgar.

I believe that they have been paid to harrass me, and stop me from posting my views on financial products that rip off the public. I have decided, for the time being, to allow posting of comments only from Google accounts. This will allow me to trace the identity of these vile persons, if they continue their activity.

If you wish to post a comment and do not have a Google account, you can send an e-mail to

Tan Kin Lian

Show of Support

I received this "Thank You" card.

Dear Mr. Tan
Thank you very much for your kind gestures and continuing efforts to help those caught in these toxic financila products. Being a nobody, I will and can only continue to show my support by being a FISCA member.

Dear CSC
Thank you for your touching words and wonderful gesture.

Invest in ETF

Hi Mr Tan,

Thank you for giving us precious advice via your blog and book and my sister and I are greatly enriched by your knowledge and expertise in giving us a transparent picture of how various investment instruments work.

From your experience, if we wish to diversify our ETF portfolio and invest beyond just STI ETF, which other ETF would you advice? We were informed by a financial advisor that we should invest in CAF, the Morgan Stanley China A share on NYSE but we hesitated as the trading hours are different and there are tax implications.

Do you think its good advice us to trade under Foreign Stock Exchange? Which China ETF is illiquid and comparable to CAF in the SGX? How do we know if the ETF is liquid? Thank you for your advice.

STI ETF is already well diverisfied. I suggest that you do not invest in overseas ETF as it may have high charges or other problems. Some ETFs are based on deriviatives and should be avoided.

Marketing through the Internet

Mr. Tan,
How do you market through the internet? Give some examples.

Try the following websites:

For the TKL website, look for the categories called Books and Training under the Information tab.

For the Prototype Website, you can add a tab called Marketing. You can introduce the producst of your company. You can also have a category called "Our Products" under the Information tab.

I have already received an enquiry from a visitor asking about the training programs. This enquiry is submitted using the Enquiry form. It is easy for the visitor.

If you offer good value products, the punlic will get to know about them and will buy them from you through the internet.


eGIRO has been implemented for nearly 10 years and is quite successful. Here is an article about it.

My view
MAS can ride on the eGIRO infrastructure to allow customers to make one-off payments to business and individual payees, to replace the writing of cheques. They should also allow e-submission of GIRO authorisation using Sing Pass.

Door to door selling

Read this article.

My view
It is time to have some control over door to door selling and telemarketing. I find it rude for people to call me over the telephone to market their product. It is intrusion of privacy.

It is time for them to market their products through the internet, rather than keep intruding on the private time of the public.

A fair settlement

The investors in Singapore cannot protest against the injustice suffered by them, due to the following reasons:
  • all protests are disallowed under the law and are dealt with sternly
  • the regulator and legislators in Singapore are not prepared to protect the rights of consumers and prefer to follow the "open eyes" ruling given by our top leader
To be fair, the regulator did work out some settlement for the mini-bond investors, but they left the other investors without any recourse - pinnacle notes, high notes, jubilee notes.


One vile person continues to be taunting the investors of the credit linked notes. He has posted the same mesage several dozen times. He said that the investors are not prepared to fight for their rights and use the term "talk only".

This shameless person can taunt people anonymously. Yet he is not showing his real name and is not prepared to step forward to organize action. I know who this person is, from his style of writing and his knowledge of the background.

Promotion of Books

Several titles of my books are available on promotion up to 31 July 2010. Please order now. They are suitable as gifts for your relatives and friends.

Medishield and private Shield

Read this article. It gives some tips on selecting the appropriate Shield plan. You should avoid paying premium for an expensive cover that is not likely to be used.

More information on buying a Shield plan can be found in
Practical Guide on Financial Planning.


See this cartoon.

My view.
Singaporeans study so hard that they lose the joy of their childhood. Yet, they are ignorant. Is this the fault of our education system?

Make electronic payments more convenient

Published in Straits Times Online

I REFER to the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) reply on Monday ("Why it's not feasible to ditch cheques") to my letter ("Cheques are cumbersome and redundant"; July 3).
I wish to encourage the use of electronic payments, especially for non-regular payments to business entities. I did not suggest that cheques be ditched entirely. I recognise that some people find it more convenient to use cheques, or prefer not to use electronic payments for various reasons.
I believe that MAS has statistics on the number of cheques used in Singapore as a proportion of the population, compared with that of other countries. I hope that it would share these statistics, and I would not be surprised to see that the proportion is high in Singapore.
Perhaps MAS should review the current measures that make it inconvenient to use electronic payments. For example, a customer who uses Internet banking has to register the payee first and authenticate it by SMS. This is an unnecessary hassle for small, one-off payments.
Customers are also not allowed to store their credit card details with online merchants, even if the customers are willing to take the risk. They have to enter their credit card details in full for each transaction. I find this to be inconvenient.
Tan Kin Lian

Economic growth

Read this article.

Massive pay rise

My view
There is no point in growing the economy, if it does not lead to a better quality of life for the people living here. Maybe the economic growth means higher pay for the top CEOs and ministers, but leaders should take into account the impact of the ordinary people, and not for their own interest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tan Kin Lian website

Here is the new Tan Kin Lian website. Click on "Ask Mr Tan" for a list of FAQs on insurance and finance. You can also click on the various categories under the Information tab.

This new website is designed using the Prototype Website, which is available for use by organisations for a modest fee.

DBS pays investors in Hong Kong

DBS Hong Kong to pay US$84 mln in Lehman settlement.  DBS Hong Kong, a unit of Singapore's DBS Group Holdings, will pay out a combined HK$651 million (US$84 million) to some buyers of Lehman Brothers constellation notes, the territory's financial regulator said Wednesday.

My view
I wonder if DBS will be offering some form of settlement to the investors of the High Notes in Singapore? It would be rather sad, if they compensated the HK investors and not the Singapore investors.

Excessive charges by the banks

It appears that MAS is taking a serious view about the computer glitch at DBS Bank. I consider that the attention is misplaced. Sure, someone made a serious mistake, but it was not intended. Let them learn their lesson.

I prefer MAS to put its attention on other matters that are important to consumers, such as the excessive charges for banking services for writing a cheque wrongly or for having a bounced cheque. The charges of $25 or $50 for these unintended mistakes are grossly excessive. MAS should investigate the real cost to the bank and ensure that the bank does not make a profit from these charges.

Unlike the computer glitch which was unintentional (i.e. caused by a routine repair job), the excessive charges by the banks are delibrate and unconscionable.

If the bank is allowed to make a handsome profit on these charges, you cnn be sure that they will be creative in making life difficult for their customers, so that they can be caught with these penalties.

Tan Kin Lian

Dual currency investment

Read this article. A dual currency investment carries high risk but does not give a commensurate return. It should be avoided.

MAS and DBS computer glitch

From what I read, MAS is going to hold DBS Bank accountable for the computer glitch that cause failure of banking services for 7 hours on 7 July 2010.

After operating its massive online banking services for many decades, this is the first time that DBS has encountered a serious failure of this nature and it is caused by a "routine repair job". It is not the second, third or repeated occasions.

Several thousand customers were inconvenienced, but no money or lives were lost.  We should expect this type of unfortunate, embarrassing event to occur, and should not overact to them. It is better to learn from the experience.

Singapore has a culture of "no tolerance for failure". Is this going to be another example of over-reacting to a  mistake, to edge into the psyche of Singaporeans?

If we are not careful, another Singaporean culture will manifest - finger pointing.  DBS officers will be pointing fingers to IBM and in turn IBM will be pointing fingers to their subcontractors or employees. A scrape-goat will eventually be found.

The likely response to this type of problem will be another layer of security and complexity and expensive consultants to advise on their implementation. Eventually, bank charges will be increased to cover the higher cost.

I hope that common sense will prevail over these dominant Singapore cultures, and that a low cost solution be found. There is no need to have a fully integrated system that can be brought down by a "routine repair job". It is better to design computer systems that can operate independently to handle the volumnous small transactions and have simple recovery procedures that can be activated easily, when the unexpected happens.

Tan Kin Lian

Taking full responsibility

The CEO of DBS Bank said that his bank will "take full responsibility" for the 7 hour failure of ATM and other banking services. What do these words "take full responsibility" mean? Is the bank giving monetary compensation to their customers who have been inconvenienced by the failure of the services? Will they be making a big donation to charity or paying a hefty fine?

In Japan, "takes full responsibility" means a full public apology followed by the immediate resignation of the president of the company. In older days, the responsible person is expected to undergo harakiri, a painful process of suicide by cutting off the stomach.

In Singapore, it is easy to utter these hollow words and there will be no consequence. I do not wish to have anybody punished seriously for an unfortunate mistake, but I wish to see credibility and integrity - and that words that have been uttered should coincide with appropriate action.

Tan Kin Lian

Retirement age and pensions

Read this article.

My view
An old age pension is suitable for Singapore. The cost is modest and should be borne by the working population. It is some form of insurance scheme and represents the recognition that a country can give to its elderly citizens. Most countries have recognized this philosophy. Singapore has to adapt.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Android phone

Recently, I bought the Motorola Milestone, which runs on Google Android operating system. It is the first time that I am using a smart phone. I find the applications to be top class, and available for free.

I am able to access Google Mail and Calendar from the smart phone. It also uses the Contacts in the server. I find this to be very useful as I do not need to maintain the Contacts or Appointments separately in my smart phone.

I also like the Google Maps, which gets my current location using GPS. Now, I check the Map to find ou the best route to take to my destination. There is a choice of travelling by car, public transport or walking. A few days ago, I had to visit a place that I am not familiar with. After parking the car, I used the Google Map to check my current location and the direction to walk to my destination. It was very useful.

Please share your views on the applications that you use regularly on your smart phone.

Tan Kin Lian

Fee for a mistake in the cheque

Dear Mr. Tan
I agree with your views about the outdated manner of writing cheques. I made a small correction to the amount in figures on my cheque but forget to initial the correction. The bank returned the cheque to me and charge a fee of $25. I called the bank and made a complaint. They finally agreed to waive this fee. Why should the fee be so high, just to return the cheque?

The bank imposed a high fee for many types of small mistakes. This helps them to make billion of dollars of profit. It is outrageous for the fee to be so high. MAS should step in and put a stop to these excessive overcharging.

Some time ago, my bank sent me a letter that the fee for a late payment of a credit card is $50. I cancelled the card immediately. Consumers should not accept this type of unconscionable charges.

Tommy Wong's books

Here are two book reviews (for book 1 and 2):

Land banking job adverts

Hello Mr Tan

Some years ago I was shocked to hear of a person who ran an advert for a secretary in Singapore. He would invite them to a local hotel lobby for the interview and make a list of the girls he liked. Later he would call the girls and say unfortunately the job had been delayed for a few months due to head office changes. She was an ideal candidate and he would take her to dinner to make up for it. Of course there was no job. He had a very high success rate with the girls because the job seekers were keen to please, keen to show themselves in the best light, and keen to keep his nterest for the job. Exploitation of the worst kind.

I have recently heard that some Land Banking and MLM companies are running adverts for job seekers on job sites where the job does not actually exist. These adverts are normally very cheap to publish they typically contain text sayng how great the company is. Applicants are obviously very keen to receive communications with the company. I regard this a partiularly unethical as job seekers are very often in a state of mind where they are keen to please any prospective employer and this leaves them open to be sold products or to introduce compliant family and friends who want to help them. Since much of the media will not carry land banking adverts the job sites are also way to continue advertising.

I would caution your readers that not all job adverts are what they seem and to carefully research all companys before approaching them.


My views
I agree with the views. It is important for the job seeker to check the background of the company, before attending an interview. Alternatively, it is better to have the interview by telephone or e-mail, rather than a physical visit.

A difficult choice

Hi Mr. Tan,
I am a insurance agent directly representing one of the insurance companies in Singapore. I have been in this line for more than a year now and have done pretty alright for myself. I joined this career as my mother was in this industry and encouraged me to join. Being a direct beneficiary of insurance as both my grandparents and my father tackled medical problems in their lives, I strongly believe in insurance and wish benefit people while making a living for myself.

Increasingly, however, I feel that my company's products are limited and not as competitive. For example, it is difficult for me to implement a BTITR strategy for my clients also as my company's term plans are relatively more expensive. I have explored the option of joining an IFA so that I can have a wider range of products to benefit my client, but due to the recurring nature of my income, it is not beneficial for me to do so.

What do you suggest I do such that I can do good by my clients and still make a living?
Tied Insurance Agent

It is a difficult choice for you to make, but you have to find the answer that suit you. Some IFAs found a way to charge a transparent fee for the advice given to the customer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mystery shopper

The regulator in Hong Kong will be using the mystery shopper to check on how financial products are sold to the public. Read this article.

My view
While this may not be popular with the financial institution, it is necessary to have this check. The financial institution has the duty to ensure that the products are sold properly to the retail investors. I hope that a similar scheme be implemented in Singapore.

Promotion of books

The promotion of books is drawing good response. Most popular items are financial planning and tangram. The promotion will end on 31 July 2010. Act now.

Commercial company and opt-out

Dear Mr. Tan
My company (a SME) just received a letter from Singapore Information Services Pte Ltd (the company doing Yellow Pages). Please see letter attached.

The letter seems to imply that I must pay the charges ($1 per day) unless I "call, email or fax" by 31 Jul 2010. I did not remember paying anything in previous years or having any business relationship with them. I can understand if the government uses this "opt-out" scheme for administrative efficiency, but this is a profit-making private company!

I suppose if I ignore the letter, there will be another letter later on demanding payment. How many SME owners will be mislead or just pay to avoid trouble!

My question is
a) How can a big established company like Singapore Information Services employ such sales tactic?
b) Isn't CASE supposed to be looking after the interest of consumers?

Huang HW

Winner of Quiz 6-3

The winner of the Intelligence Quiz Vol 3 book prize for Quiz 6-3 (correct answer is "salesman") is:

Mobile xxxx2405  NRIC: Sxxx8571/I.

Please send your mailing address, NRIC and mobile phone to

FIFI World Cup - Winners of Tangram Book Prize

The 3 winners of the Tangram book prize, who submitted the correct entry SHGU, are:

Mobile       NRIC
xxxx1115   Sxxx4636G
xxxx7893   Sxxx3544F
xxxx1448   Sxxx8352B

Congratulations. Please send your name, mailing address, NRIC and mobile number to

Phone book and spider web

Singtel used to print a phone book containing the telephone numbers of subscribers arranged in alphabetical order. The first 50 to 100 pages of the phone book described their various types of services, and can be searched by an index. Although the phone book is still available, it is used less frequently now.

Although the information in the phone book is volumnous, it is quite easy to search for the right page using the index. It is also easy to read the page of information.

When Singtel moves the information to its website, it changed the format and introduced the spider web. It now requires many mouse clicks to find the right page. Consumres find it difficult to figure out where to click. They usually need a staff to guide them.

This same pattern is adopted by the website of most large organisations. It is not natural to the user and causes a lot of difficulty.

My prototype website is designed to overcome this problem. It allows an organisation to store information for the public in various documents (in PDF format) that can b searched easily by the Title (partially or in full) or by a listing of all titles in the Category. It will be quite easy to read the document.

I hope that most organisations will consider to build a second website, based on my prototype. The cost is quite low. The second website can run with the main website for 6 to 12 months, to gauge the response of the consumers or the public.

Tan Kin Lian

RSS Feed

Regular visitors can add my blog to the RSS feed on your browser. This will allow you to keep track of new postings to my blog.

A reader wanted to have a feature to keep track of comments posted in my blog. I do not know how to enable this feature. Can someone guide me?

For readers who wish to follow the comments in my blog, you can save this link in your browser:

Crabby old man

Read this poem.

My views.
We should revere the elderly for their past contributions.

MAS reply to my suggestion on cheques

Why it's not feasible to ditch cheques

I REFER to Mr Tan Kin Lian's letter ('Cheques are cumbersome and redundant; July 3).

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) agrees that the use of cheques is less efficient than electronic means of payment ('Cheques are cumbersome and redundant', July 3). However, any effort to deter the use of cheques is likely to involve customers paying high cheque charges. Careful consideration has to be given to the needs of different segments of consumers and businesses.

MAS has been working with the industry to facilitate the development and use of alternative forms of payment like eGiro, Internet banking and kiosks, such as AXS and SAM.

Cheque usage in Singapore has declined by 9 per cent over the last five years while the use of eGiro has increased by 26 per cent, surpassing the volume of cheques cleared last year.

MAS will continue to partner the industry to enhance the electronic payment infrastructure and encourage the greater adoption of more efficient payment modes in Singapore.

Angelina Fernandez
Director (Communications)
Monetary Authority of Singapore

My comments
I did not suggest to ditch away with cheques (words created by the Straits Times). I only suggested that MAS should take the lead to make electronic payment easily, especially for payment to business entities. MAS did not want to call me to clarify my suggestion.

My earlier statement "Many countries have done away with cheques" is probably inaccurate and has been taken off-context by the Straits Times and MAS.

New Transport Fares - view by Rex

Is the new transport fare structure really good news to Singaporeans?

Actually those who take feeder services will save quite a bit of money, and also those who do other transfers frequently. Given the large number of flat units in huge towns where feeder services are daily part of travel pattern, it does seem logical that many many commuters will save money with the new structure.

Now why didn't Mrs Lim Hwee Hua et al, bring up this point? Instead, last night (11th July) she repeated the government standard answer: try it over a week before judging. This is plain stupid answer, because if your daily routine costs for the greater part of a week, is higher, for sure over the week the costs will be higher. It is an absolutely stupid, daft logic. Albert Einstein said that if you repeat an experiment with the same setup, you are insane to expect a different result. She is insane!

I think the correct reply to the issue should never have been crafted that way. It insults our intelligence. The correct government reply should be as follows:

The studies show that transfers via feeder services and other transfers form the bulk of commuters travel pattern. Hence we are very confident that majority commuters will benefit. We cannot please everybody under any system and we have always considered that the priority of the fare system should be focussed on benefiting the majority, and that for us is the fairest way to manage the public transport system.

I think the above kind of recommended reply is more honest. You can disagree with the concept (of majority benefit) but at least it is an honest reply to what is happening.

A government must remain honest and not tell lies or give false logic to explain issues.This is a very crucial factor to secure voters' support.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Survey: TV subscription for the World Cup 2010

Please join this survey.

Interim results, based on 77 replies
38 respondents subscribed for the 2006 World Cup and 11 for the 2010 World Cup. This reflected a drop of 71% in subscription.
Of the 66 who did not subscribe for the 2010 World Cup, 64% said that the price is too high and 56% want to boycott the subscription to show their unhappiness. 24% said that they would have subscribed, if the price is $30 or less.
Clearly, there has been much unhappiness, leading to a significant drop in subscription. I wonder if Singtel and Starhub would be releasing the information on the drop in subscriptions.

Survey - views of the young

Here are the revised survey results, based on 84 responses, from young Singaporeans, below 30 years.

I am quite well educated ................................................................ 87%
I am willing to be engaged with the community ................................50%
I can get a job easily ......................................................................49%
I am willing to speak my mind ........................................................40%
I am happy with my work environment ...........................................37%
My job pays quite well ...................................................................30%
I can compete easily against foreigners ............................................29%
I am happy with life in Singapore .....................................................29%
I will encourage other Singaporeans to be proud of our country .......29%
I prefer to stay in Singapore (even if I have the chance to emigrate) ..26%
My pay is adequate for the cost of living ......................................... 19%
I have a good future in Singapore ....................................................17%
I find the HDB flat to be affordable .................................................. 7%

My observation
Although the young Singaporeans are quite well educated and can get a job easily, they are unhappy with the pay, work environment, competition with foreigners for jobs, high cost of living and cost of HDB flats.

A small percentage said that HDB flats are affordable (7%), that they have a good future in Singapore (17%), and would prefer to stay in Singapore, even if they have a chance to emigrate (26%).

Earlier, I thought that the young Singaporeans fared better than older workers, but this survey results indicate otherwise. However, the sample size is small and this could reflect the unhappy segment of the young Singaporeans.
Tan Kin Lian

FAQ - Existing Life Policies

Many people asked for my advice on what to do with their existing life polciies, which has been giving a poor yield. My views are set out in this article.

Survey: views of young people in Singapore

This survey is for local-born Singaporeans, aged 30 and below, to express their views on life in Singapore.

Dear Mr Tan,
I accidentally chanced upon this website, which sells insurance directly to consumers. Would you care to take a look at it and comment about it on your blog?

Can you try this website and give me your findings. You can apply for motor insurance and compare with your existing rate.

Please try this website and share your findings here.

Develop a second website

Comment posted in my blog
Dear Mr. Tan
Do you really expect the government agency or large company to abandon its current website, where they spend many millions of dollars and thousand of hours of development and training staff, and go for your prototype website?
Are you sure that your website prototye is robust and free of bugs? Can the organisation take the risk?

I suggest the government agency or business organisation create a second website, which is linked to their current website by a label such as "Click here to view an alternative, simple website". This will provide an alternative for the public to test. The organisation can measure the number of transactions on the current and new website for 6 to 12 months.

The cost of developing a second website based on my proposed prottype is small, just a few thousand dollars, instead of a few hundred thousand dollars.
If the second website is popular and more than 50% of the transactions have moved over to the second website, the organisation can decide on the time needed to remove the current webiste (which is developed on the spider web concept). If the second website is not popular, it can be also removed in 6 to 12 months time, just by removing the link.

Tan Kin Lian

Subway on the Street

Here is an interesting article about solving problems of transport in a city.

My views
I am in favor of having certain raods that are dedicated for use by buses. Cars can use these roads, but they have to pay a heavy ERP fee (but they enjoy congestion free). Here are some of my ideas:
  • The bus should operate on short trips with a flat fare
  • The flat fare has to be paid on entry using stored value cards (i.e. no cash payment)
  • For longer distances, the commuter has to changed buses
  • The buses uses dedicated roads, which are relatively congestion free
My sugestion is for a system that can take care of most commuters. People who do not have stored value cards or do not like the flat fare can take other buses that operate on a distance-based fare. Anyway, all train rides require a stored value ticket anyway, so why not make it compulsory for buses?

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