Thursday, August 16, 2012

I want to share this joke. The original version had people from different nationalities. To avoid misunderstanding, I am not using the nationalities.

Four prisoners had to be whipped for their crime. They are allowed a choice of oil or lotion to be applied to their back before being whipped.

John asked for coconut oil. He was whipped and collapsed. George asked for suntan lotion. He was whipped and also collapsed. Robert, being a strong person said, "nothing for me". He took his whipping and walked away, none the worse.

Last to be whipped was Tom. The prison officer asked, "What do you want for your back?" He thought for a while and said, "Can I have Robert on my back?"

Singapore ranking in survey of healthy nations

Singapore rank top in the survey of the world's most healthy countries

Congratulations to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, National Parks Board and other agencies. Well done!

Exorbitant roaming charges

I have written a letter to the newspaper about the high roaming charges for data usage on mobile phones and tablets when used outside Singapore. 

My telco charges $10 to $20 per megabyte. I am able to get data usage locally on prepaid card at $0.20 per megabye. So, the roaming charges are 100 times of the actual cost. 

I have written to my mobile operator a few times, but they refused to review th
e rates. So, I have to go through the inconvenience of buying a new SIM card each time, or topping up the local SIM card.

I am willing to pay $1 per megabyte (5 times of the actual cost0 but not 100 times! I hope that our businesses in Singapore behave in a reasonable manner and do not fleece their customers excessively.

Setting interest rate

For many years, the setting of interest rate, such as LIBOR and SIBOR, were left to the banks, working under the association.

Recently, there were scandals that there were dishonesty in fixing the rates in London, and that some banks were posting fictitious rates and benefiting from their acts by trading on these false rates. Apparently, there were similar abuses in other countries.

The Association of Banks in Singapore has recommended that the Monetary Authority of Singapore should be involved in the fixing of the rates.

I support this move, as there a neutral and responsible body should take the responsibility in overseeing this activity. While it may be challenging, the responsibility cannot be delegating to interested parties, such as the banks.

I hope that the recent scandals in several fields around the world underlines the need for regulators to play a more active role, instead of leaving matters to the market or to the participants with vested interest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How to address the fertility issue?

Suggestions to improve the procurement process

Negative aspect of social media

There is a tendency for social media to reflect the negative aspect, often times when it is untrue

This is the negative aspect of human behavior and is an unhealthy trend.

Influence of the media

When Kim Jong Il, the former head of state of North Korea passed away, the people were in deep grief. They were genuinely devastated about the loss of their dear leader.

People from outside the country, who have read widely about the negative aspects  of this leader, were surprised why the people in North Korea adored him so much, and the adoration was genuine. They overlooked a reality - the people were influenced regularly and for decades by the state controlled media about the greatness of their leader. It may be subtle, but it was most powerful.

This is the influence of the media.

Are small businesses punishing Groupon?

The Groupon model seems to be hurting small businesses, according to this report.

Groupon operates in Singapore and several other discount coupon schemes follow the same business model. They may face the same difficulty.

What are your views?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A more efficient procurement process

10 August 2012 

Editor, Forum Page
Straits Times

Recently, the National Parks Board awarded a tender for several foldable bicycles
costing $2,200 each. The tender was awarded to the sole bidder at a price
considered to be outrageously high.

The public asked why there was only one bid, when there should be many potential
suppliers that could meet the specification?

The short time allowed for submission for the bid and the intervening holidays
were suspected to be the key factors. 

Having participated in several bids in the GE Biz portal, I wish to 
point out that the portal is extremely difficult to use. 

I had a lot of trouble to register to be a supplier and continue to face difficulty 
in getting information on the tenders that are being invited, and worse, 
to submit a bid. 

It is quite expensive to pay an experienced staff to search the portal 
regularly for tenders and to prepare and submit the quotations. 

I can understand why small businesses are reluctant to participate in the GEBiz
portal and for those who managed to clear this hurdel, decide to give up after a while. 
It is just not worthwhile to spend a lot of work and money, and not get the business 
to cover the cost.

If the government agencies want to have a more transparent and efficient 
procurement process, they should take a look at the GEBiz portal and get 
feedback from users on how the portal can be made more user friendly to 

Tan Kin Lian
Tan Kin Lian & Associates Pte Ltd

The old way of streaming

When I was in primary school in the 1950s, I remembered that the students who could not pass the examination had to stay back at the same level for one year. This probably applied to less than 10% of each cohort.

I find this to be a better way, compared to "streaming" that was adopted in the 1980s. When students are streamed to a non-Express class, they are stigmatized and it is quite glaring. This turned out to be a worse system.

Do you prefer the system used in the 1950s or the streaming system today?

Set the right standards for our education

In our drive for excellence in education, we may be doing something that is harmful for our future.

The pressure of competition in school, even in primary school, is pushing parents to engage tutors for their children. Tuition is costly and takes away the time of children to play and enjoy their childhood.

The root cause is not the competition itself, but the increasing standard that is going too far. I recall my secondary 1 maths teacher teaching the concept of ratios. The problem goes as follows, "If 3 man can repair a road in 8 days, how long will it take 6 men to repair the road?". The teacher explained, "Should it take more or less days?" If less days, then you should calculate 8 days X 3 man / 6 man = 4 days.  A few years ago, I saw a similar problem now taught in primary 4.

Do we really need to push our young children to such a high standard that they cannot cope? What is wrong with setting the syllabus at a more manageable pace for our children? What is the point of teaching them to solve problems by applying formulas that are mechanically drummed into them by tutors?

We have to re-think our approach towards educating our young. Do you agree that the standards are too high, and quite inappropriate?

Monday, August 13, 2012

One up to the girls!

I want to share another joke.

Hilary Clinton was the first lady when Bill Clinton was the President of the United States.  She is an intelligent and capable lady in her own right. She is now the Secretary of State under the Obama Administration.

Here is a story told shortly after Bill Clinton was elected as President. The couple drove their car into a gas station. Hilary said, "Bill, do you see the man at the gas pump? He was my boy friend in high school."

Bill Clinton said, "Wow, if you married him, you would be pumping gas today".

Hilary replied, "If I had married him, he would be the President of the United States".

One up to the girls!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fearing President Brezhnev

Here is another joke.

An American visited Moscow during the days of the Cold War and met with a Russian friend in a restaurant. Russia was part of the Soviet Union and the leader was President Leonard Brezhnev, who was much feared by the citizens.

The American asked his Russian friend, "Tell me, what is your opinion of President Brezhnev?"

The Russian looked around him and found that there were too many people in the restaurant and it was not safe to speak. He beckoned to his friend and they both went outside.

Outside, the American was waited in anticipation of a candid answer. The Russian saw that there were people walking by on the street and was still frightened to talk.

They went up a bus which took them outside the town and dropped off near the forest.

The American said, "All right, there is not a single soul around now. Tell me, what is your opinion about President Brezhnev?"

The Russian said, "Actually, I admire him a lot".

If you do not catch this joke, wait a while for someone to explain it to you. It is a fact that many Singaporeans do not have a sense of humor.

Low fertility rate

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew laments the low fertility rate. In my view, he has to shoulder most of the responsibility for this bad outcome. It is not just the "stop at two policy", but the graduate mother's scheme, national service policy and many other government policies that were initiated by him. It is quite sad that after building up Singapore with his great leadership, he is now seeing the failure of this leadership ....

Want to be a scholar?

Contrary to popular belief, it is better not to go to school. (Just a joke!)

American and Russian Presidents

i want to share this joke, which I believed was used by President Ronald Reagan.

An American told a Russian, "In the USA, a citizen can go to the White House and tell the President .... President Reagan, I do not like the way you are running this country".

The Russian replied, "But in Russia, we can also say the same thing to President Brezhnev in the Kremlin. "

The American was surprised and asked for clarification. The Russian confirmed, "I can go to the Kremlin and tell President Breshnev ... Comrade President, I do not like the way that President Reagan is running his country!"

Ha, ha. This is for my readers who are not trolls and have a sense of humor.

Tips on insurance for consumers

Consumers write to me from time to time to ask about the insurance policy that they had bought. Usually, it was too late to do anything about the policy, which was unsuitable for their long term needs and gave a poor return on their savings.

To avoid this risk, consumers should learn about the different types of policies, BEFORE THEY GET COMMITTED! There is a talk on insurance organised by FISCA ,scheduled for 25 August. Do not miss it.

Observations on a morning walk (2)

Twinkle back on a leash
Twinkle (my pet dog) is now back on a leash. After two mornings of freedom, i.e. without a leash, she forgot her discipline and went far away from me. I had to call her back, before she gets knocked down by a car.

It is difficult for a 12 year old dog (which is equivalent to a 84 year old person) to change her habits and instincts. It may take a longer time, but for her, there is not that much time left.

Walking down Sunrise Way, I was surprised to see a stretch of houses with the Singapore flag hanging at the  gate. They were obviously not put up by any Resident Committee and were likely to be the work of the owners.

Perhaps a few residents decide to put up the flag and the neighbors had to join in, as they do not want to be the odd house out. This can be described as "peer pressure".  Anyway, the surprise was soon to disappear, as further down the road, there was no more flags. So, it is just a small stretch.

The Singapore flag at my house is now in front of the gate, and is not "behind bars".

Strengthen your heartware

Prime Minster Lee asked Singaporeans to strengthen their heartware

Sequential bus stop numbers

Here is a simple and useful ways to improve the bus service. The bus should display the bus stop number in a sequence that depends on each bus service. This number can start from 1 at the start of the journey and increase by 1 for each stop. This will help commuters to know how many stops before their destination and the right stop to alight. If the commuter is not familiar with the stop, the commuter can ask the bus driver who can reply with the stop number.

When a passenger travels on a bus route that he or she is not familiar with, it is difficult to know the stop to get down. If you ask the other passengers, you are likely to encounter a foreigner who does not know. Even if you meet with a local person, the chance is that the local does not know either or there may be a language issue.

I wish to relate my personal experience. On a few occasions, I missed my bus stop (on my regular route) and did not realize that I had already passed it. If there was a sequential bus stop number, I would have been alerted. Sometimes, I alighted one stop before the actual stop and had to walk the extra distance. This would be avoided if there is a display of the bus stop number.

Contribute your views

Former Primer Minister Goh Chok Tong urge Singaporeans to contribute their views:

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