Saturday, January 08, 2011

World Richest Governments

Singapore government is the 11th richest n the world. It is richer than many countries with larger populations.

Website for professional fees

Published in the Straits Times Forum page on 8 Jan 2011

I refer to the letter from Chan Ban Choon entitled “provide guidelines on lawyers’ fees (ST 4 Jan 2011). Mr. Chan complained that several lawyers have quoted fees varying from $500 to $7,000 for a standard tenancy agreement. He suggested that the law society or relevant government bodies should set guidelines of fees for standard work.

I recall a similar situation a few months ago where the Competition Commission had instructed the medical association to remove their guidelines for medical fees on the grounds that free competition will bring down fees to benefit consumers.

It now seems that consumers are not benefiting from the competitive environment and that professional fees are going up. It is difficult for consumers to know the market rate of fee for a piece of work and to go around asking for quotations.

I suggest that the Competition Commission should set up a website (or outsource the work to an authorised party) to allow professional firms to post their fees for standard types of work This will make it easy for consumers to view the postings, select a professional for the work and negotiate the fees.
This approach is likely to achieve the aim of the competition law to bring down professional fees for the benefit of consumers.

Tan Kin Lian

Friday, January 07, 2011

Windows Phone 7 applications

Update: an article on these applications appeared in Shin Ming papers

I have created new videos of these 4 applications that are now available on Windows Marketplace (to run on the Windows Phone 7). They will be made available on iPhone in a few weeks time:


4D Simulator

One in a Million

Toto Luck

Telephone sales of general insurance

Hi Mr Tan, 
What is your view on the practice of insurance company/bank selling general insurance via the phone ? How can consumer decide if an insurance plan is suitable for him/her in that 5 min phone call?

Personally I feel that it might not be fair to push up General insurance via phone, they should be more transparent and provide email information on the plan. Most of the time they would say this plan is an exclusive plan to you and there is no write up on it. I think it would be more fair to consumer to get more information before deciding on the plan, than to accept and exercise the free-look. 

I agree with your views that an insurance policy should not be sold over the telehpone in 5 mins without providing sufficient information to the customer.

SGEP - Singapore General Election Portal

Read a collection of interesting articles from blogs and the media in this portal. The editor will also write an "editorial" every few days.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Learning tips - Lunar New Year

Here are some tips on interesting things to do during the Lunar New Year.

Personal financial plan

You can generate a personal financial plan based on your own financial situation. This statement shows how you can invest your savings to earn a higher yield and get a higher payout on your retirement (which can be 50% more than the payout provided by the usual life insurance policies. This guidance is most important for young people who have just started work, but is also suitable for older people who have to invest their savings for retirement.
You can generate your financial plan in

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Civil servants and voting

Dear Sir,
I totally agree with the views in your blog entry, Damaged caused by the GRC system.

In my many years of staying in a GRC ward, the MP has done nothing much except for building some shelters here and there, appearing in tree planting events or social events to look good. I've never seen him made any house visits.

This coming election, I'd like to either vote for the opposition or cast an invalid vote. But the problem is I'm a civil servant. Not that I support the govt or PAP, but I think of civil service as a "stable" job and a way to "get back" money and benefits from the govt.

Will there be any implications for a civil servant to vote against the PAP? I've heard stories that they will be able to find out and then either put you in cold storage or assign rubbish jobs to you? Are they true?

It is the right of any citizen to vote for any suitable person. There is no requirement to vote for the current ruling party. Anyway, your vote is secret.

Fertility rate and foreigners

Hi Mr Tan,
The letter mentioned in your blog entry "Fertility rate continues to drop" hit the nail on its head. How does the government expect S'poreans to re-produce more when national policies make life so hard for the middle and lower income groups. For example, how does/can one think about having babies when the threat of being replaced by a cheap foreigner at work is very real once a person turns 40?

The scary belief I hold is that the PAP government is fully aware of this, but they are keeping the floodgates open to foreigners nonetheless. Reason being PAP have no solution to restore the national procreation rate. PAP is simply being myopic and taking the easy way out by artificially increasing the population to offset the declining birth rate (I say "artificially" because the foreigners we get are only here to earn their bucks and return to their homeland either once they have earned enough or when S'pore is in trouble). This may lead to short term economic growth, but will undoubtedly result in long term damage not only to the economy, but to social cohesion as well.


TKL book - Get value from your life insurance

My new book will be launched in February. It will contain 20 case studies of actual life insurance policies bought by consumers. These are the policies that are most commonly sold in Singapore. If you have bought a life insurance policy previously, you are likely to find it featured among the case studies.

My analysis will show the effect of deduction taken away from the policy after 25 years. If the deduction is more than 20%, the consumer is getting a poor yield (representing a reduction in yield of 2% or higher). I also tell you what to do about your existing policy, i.e how to decide if you should continue or terminate the policy.

More importantly, it tells the consumer, especially the new entrants to the workforce, on how to manage their personal fiannces and insurance coverage. I describe a new policy that does not have any upfront deduction, i.e. 100% of the savings is invested from the first month. This is the type of life insurance policy that is suitable for consumers.

More details about my book will be given later. (I am now at the airport waiting to board the plane to Jakarta).

Tan Kin Lian

Unfair Train Penalty

I wrote this letter which was published in the Straits Times Forum page today.
My aim is to tell the commercial enterprises that they should balance corporate profits with fair treatment of their customers.
I also intend the same message to go to our government leaders and remind them about their responsibility to the citizens. They should not allow the citizens to bear the burden of higher cost as commercial enterprises seek to increase their profits.

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Humorous signboards

Have a good laugh with these signboards

Editor of SGEP

Read this message from the Editor of SGEP.
Play your part as a citizen of Singapore in making the general election reflects your views.

Fertility rate continues to drop

Here are the reasons:,-why-not-here

Wisdom on how to live life - on special offer

Tommy Wong’s books “Wisdom on How to Live Life” are currently on special offer.
 The books can be ordered here.

SGEP Editorial

SGEP now has an "editorial" on the home page that contains a summary of the key news for the day. You can visit SGEP home page visting the "Latest" page. SGEP or  Do make it a point to visit the home page of SGEP daily. Learn about the issues that affect your voting at the general election.

Competition and professional fees

Chan Ban Choon wrote to the Straits Times about the need to provide the Law Society or government to provide guidelines on lawyer's fees. He pointed out that some lawyers are charing fees that are too high and "as they like". 

There used to be a guideline on professional fees set by the various bodies. I recall that the Competition Competition asked the doctors to remove the guidelines, so that the fees can be reduced by free market competition. I heard that this was not the outcome of the removal of fees. Some doctors increased their fees, and charged "what they like".

It is not possible for consumers to know what are the fair rates of fees for professional services, and to know the standard of the fees. This has to be set by knowledgeable people who takes into account the interest of the consumers and the professionals. The old arrangement, where the professional bodies provide the guidelines, used to work fairly well.

I suggest that the old arrangement be restored. It should be clear that the fees are guidelines and that professionals can deviate from the guidelines if they have specific reasons and have informed consumers about the deviation and the reason. 

Another arrangement is for the Competitions Competition to maintain a website (or outsource the work to an authorized party) showing the fees for various types of standard work that are charged by various professional firms, such as lawyers, doctors and engineers. This will be helpful to consumers who can check the website and get to a professional that charge competitive rates. It will encourage competition and bring down the fees to a reasonable level.

Tan Kin Lian

Taipei International Flora Show

Two letters were printed in the Straits Times about the poor standard of the Singapore pavilion at the Taipei International Flora Show. This is unacceptable as Singapore has prided itself for several decades as a "garden city".

This is another example of the bad state of affairs that has occurred in Singapore in recent years. The change to a "hands off" approach and "leave it to the private sector" is probably the cause of this deterioration. It is time for us to change our policies or find new leaders.

Monday, January 03, 2011

GRC and arrogance

Dear Mr. Tan,
I refer to your blog entry "Damage caused by the GRC system". I fully agree with your friend that this system has actually resulted in the typical arrogance (get out of my elite face) we see in MPs nowadays. Our ministers and MPs even publicly called us names such as "daft", "champion grumblers" (LKY), "very very selfish" (Vivian), "lesser mortals" (Charles Chong), etc.

That said, the recent announcement by PM Lee to have smaller GRCs and more SMCs is telling. Basically, the PAP is very afraid of losing a GRC at the next election, thereby knocking down 6 MPs at a sweep. Thus the party wants to reduce the potential damage.


Business cost and SCCCI

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also expressed concern over the increasing business costs:

Regulation of estate agents

A new body has been set up to regulate estate agents. This body has the goal of enforcing standards of service.

This body should have another role, that is, to ensure that consumers are paying a fair fee for property transactions and that the fees charged by the agencies are advertised. This will allow consumers to get access to the efficent agencies that charge lower fees.

The fees for making property transactions are too high in Singapore. An estate agent can make one transaction a month and earn more than a regular job. This is why this industry attracts so many people, including professionals trained in other fields, to handle the property transactions. It is a waste of resources for the economy.

Some people pointed out that fees are higher in other countries. But, unlike Singapore, these countries are big and have properties located in sparsely populated areas. .

Singapore does not need so many property agents, especially those who are qualified in other fields. The first step to stop this wasteful use of resources and to bring the cost down, is to regulate the fee for property transactions (especially for sale and rental of HDB flats) to half of the current level, or to make it easy for the consumers to handle these transactions directly without going through an agent.

Tan Kin Lian

Advertisement on cataract surgery

A medical center advertised their service on cataract surgery. I looked for the price of the surgery but it was not listed. This is the most important information for the consumers, but is not disclosed.

In the past, there is a ban against advertisements by medical practitioners. This ban has now been removed in the interest of promoting a "free market". What is the point of allowing advertising when the most essential information is not provided? This will encourage unnecessary consumption by consumers, without the benefit of market competition on prices. Consumers seemed to be getting the worst of the situation.

Tan Kin Lian

Regulation of TCM specialists

The papers reported that the Ministry of Health is now investigating TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioners for operating as "TCM specialists" without a licence. Well done to MOH.

I am glad that MOH did not take the stand that this matter can be sorted out by the free market, that the public should be "educated" to decide on TCM  and that the public should "open their eyes" before they buy TCM from the so-called specialists.

It is right that MOH take the responsibility to regulate the practitioners and make sure that they are operating ethically in the interest of the public. I hope that MAS will also adopt a similar approach on financial products, especially those that are toxic and harmful.

Tan Kin Lian

Bank transfer by standing order

The Straits Times Forum published a letter from Stuart King about the time taken by the bank to make a transfer from one bank to another in Singapore. He asked why does it have to take three days, when banks are not connected electronically and can make the transfer instantaneously.

This is just another example where the "free market" does not work. MAS has to come in and tell the banks to improve their service to the public!

Damage caused by the GRC system

A friend who migrated and became a citizen 20 years ago made this observation. In the past, the MPs in Singapore were responsive to the needs and views of the people. They had to serve the people well to get re-elected.

Their changed gradually under the GRC system. They did not have to have to bother with the people and only need to please one or two persons at the top. The situation has got to be quite bad over the years.

As my friend was brought up in a different environment, he was able to see a different perspective from a local citizen. The local people tend to overlook the gradual change in environment, like the frog which was boiled in hot water.

The frog was put into a pot of cold water and felt comfortable. The water was gradually heated up. The frog adjusted to the increasing temperature of the water and did not realize the danger until the frog was finally boiled alive.

If the people of Singapore does not want to face the fate of the boiled frog, they have to get rid of the GRC system and elect MPs who are accountable to the people. The first step is to vote against the ruling party in the GRCs in the next general election so that the leaders realize the harm that is caused by this kind of bad system.

Tan Kin Lian

High cost of doing business

I experienced the high cost of doing business in Singapore. I had to pay a professional fee of $3,500 for an engineer to certify that the renovation to my premises is safe. I saw the drawing done by the engineer. It is similar to the drawing that done by me to ask for quotation. A fee of $500 would be more than adequate.

My staff faced a lot of trouble in applying for a work permit through the online process of the Ministry of Manpower. Each application took more than 10 hours of my staff's time to go through the many stages of the complicated process. Many telephone calls have to be made to seek clarification to go though the computer system.

The application for utility supply to the premises also took many hours. The process is complicated. Many telephone calls have to be made to the utilities company and the building developer to get information for the application. Many telephone calls are not answered.

The time spent by my staff has to be reflected in my cost of doing business. My staff do not work for free.

Each government agency and privatized company, operating under a near monopoly, can impose its costly requirements in time and money on the public, but the government leaders must realize that they add to the cost of doing business, which has to be covered by higher prices to be paid by the citizens.

The situation has become very bad in recent years, and is exacerbated by the high property prices, also an outcome of government policies, which adds to the cost of doing business and the cost of living. Matters have really got out of hand.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, January 02, 2011

ERP fine

My car pass a ERP gantry point with the ERP card not properly inserted. I discovered it immediately and called to inform LTA. They said, "wait for the notice".

The ERP notice came one week later. The ERP fee was $1 and the fine was $10. I wonder why the LTA refused to collect the $1 from me, when I found the mistake. They wanted to impose the fine of $10 for the oversight. This is inconsiderate. They government wants to make a profit from an honest mistake!

I am aware that the LTA did have some administrative work to print and mail the notice. But this is work that they create for themselves under their system. If they have a friendlier system, they could have taken my report and notify the computer that the matter was settled. But, the LTA preferred to follow their own procedure, for their own convenience, and impost a cost on the citizens.

I hope that our government leaders and civil servants realize that they have to treat the people fairly and not impose a burden on them.

Tan Kin Lian

Fidrec and fairness of its process

An slightly edited version of this letter was published in the Straits Times Forum, 1 January 2011 

I refer to the letter entitled “Fidrec adjudicators’ decision not binding on complainant” by Ms. Eileen Pek, head of Banking & Capital Markets of this center.
Fidrec was established as an alternative avenue for consumers to resolve their disputes with the financial institutions, instead of using the expensive route of taking legal action in court.
It is important for Fidrec to be seen by consumers as being impartial and fair in its decisions. In his letter of 8 December, Larry Haverkamp had pointed out several aspects of the process which were unfair to consumers. These issues were not adequately addressed in Ms. Pek reply. The main justification of her reply seemed to be that the adjudicator’s decisions are not binding on the complainant.
Ms. Pek said that if the complainant is not happy with the decision, the complaint is free to continue with legal action. Mr. Haverkamp had pointed out that the consumer would have been placed in a weaker position after the Fidrec process, as they would have given valuable information for the financial institution to mount its defence in court.
Many consumers, who have gone through the Fidrec process to resolve their complaints of mis-selling of the structured financial products, had told me that the process was unfair, disappointing and biased against them.
It is important that Fidrec built up trust among consumers of its role as an alternative dispute resolution center. I suggest that Fidrec or the Monetary Authority of Singapore should arrange an independent organisation to carry out a survey among consumers who have gone through their process to find out if they felt that their cases have been fairly dealt with through the Fidrec process.
Tan Kin Lian

Family Life 1.1

Here is a book, to be published, that explains how to play the game Family Life 1.1 and learn the skill of being successful in life.


I wish to look for people who are willing to help me to promote this book and the web game. You can help to promote through the social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and other places.
All promoters will be named in the book with their e-mail adderss and website (if applicable) and country of residence.. If there are business opportunities in the future, priority will be given to the promoters who have been active in the promotion. If you are interested, send your name, e-mail address and telephone number to

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