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The assessment of gross national happiness (GNH) was designed in an attempt to measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product (GDP).
At first offered as a casual, offhand remark, the concept was taken seriously, as the Centre for Bhutan Studies, under the leadership of Karma Ura, developed a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population's general level of well-being.
Two Canadians, Michael and Martha Pennock played a major role in developing the Bhutanese survey, which took a six to seven hour interview to complete. They developed a shorter international version of the survey which has been used in their home region of Victoria BC as well as in Brazil.
Like many psychological and social indicators, GNH is somewhat easier to state than to define with mathematical precision. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan's five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country.
At this level of generality, the concept of GNH is transcultural—a nation need not be Buddhist to value sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance. Through collaboration with an international group of scholars and empirical researchers the Centre for Bhutan Studies further defined these four pillars with greater specificity into eight general contributors to happiness—physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality.
Although the GNH framework reflects its Buddhist origins, it is solidly based upon the empirical research literature of happiness, positive psychology and well-being.The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.
The Prime Minister has called for a National Conversation. There is promise that sacred cows can be sacrificed. However, many people are skeptical. They have seen a few similar exercises carried out over the past years - and the major policies continued to be unchanged, and things got worse!
The Prime Minister can win over the people just by adopting one major change, such as:
a) Reduce the price of new HDB flats
b) Abolish GST
c) Reduce National Service obligation
Suppose, the Prime Minister ask for a national debate on one or more of these issues and invite people who have proposed alternative views for this debate. And, if one of these sacred cows are really slaughtered, the Prime Minister would have gained a lot of credibility for this National Conversation.
My call is to the Finance Minister. If you wish to hear my views about GST or even to engage in a public debate on this matter, I will be willing to participate in it. I strongly believe that GST has been bad for Singapore and has been one major factor in escalating the cost of living and the cost of doing business. The harm to Singapore far outweighs the benefits. I am not asking for GST to be reduced, but to be abolished entirely.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a regressive tax. It takes a higher proportion of the income of the poor, compared to the rich. Most people felt that is is bad.
However, the proponents have put forward a few reasons why they felt that GST is good for Singapore. I like to state some of these reasons and point out why there are fallacious.
1. GST is a tax on spending. It is good to encourage people to save, instead of spend.
Fallacy: Most people, except the very rich, have to spend almost all of their wages to meet the daily necessities. They do not have any choice to avoid this spending. The tax hits them hard, by adding to their burden.
2. GST is an efficient tax, as it has a low cost of collection.
Fallacy: It may be low cost to the tax collectors, but it adds a high cost to the business to account for the input and output tax. Nearly all transactions have to be accounted for. The tax has to be computed for almost every transaction, adding significantly to the compliance cost.
3. By introducing GST, the government can reduce income tax and encourage rich people from around the world to migrate to Singapore.
Fallacy: The rich people do not have to pay income tax on their earnings outside of Singapore. We do not really know how much income tax that they contribute to Singapore, but I suspect that it is not that much. They did buy expensive property and in the process inflate the property prices and adding a burden to the local residents.
4. People can avoid income tax, but it is difficult to avoid GST.
Fallacy: Singapore has an efficient system of collecting tax and tax leakage is relatively small. We do not need GST to solve a non-existent problem.
5. The government needs to expands its tax base and collect sufficient tax to meet its obligations to the citizens.
Fallacy: The government already collects more than sufficient revenue from many other sources. It collects too much tax and have to make regular refunds. It is costly to collect the tax and make the refunds. Why not reduce or remove the tax in the first place?
GST is unnecessary and harmful for Singapore. It has added to the cost of living and the cost of doing business. I hope to see, one day, that GST be abolished entirely.
There is nothing wrong when taxes have to go up to fund higher social spending, provided that the taxes are levied on people with high incomes and does not cause a burden on the lower and middle classes that are struggling.
Should you buy life insurance at a younger age to enjoy a lower premium rate?
This is the argument put forward by insurance agents to convince customers to put aside a large part of their savings towards a life insurance policy. This reasoning is flawed, as it fails to address the following key points:
a) Is the insurance necessary in the first place?
b) Is the consumer buying the right type of insurance?
c) Is the consumer paying the right price for the insurance cover?
In most cases, the answer to these questions is "no". The consumer is buying an insurance that is not needed, is buying the wrong type of insurance, and is paying a high cost for the cover.
What then, is the right type of insurance?
Life insurance is needed when a person has financial commitments, e.g. a family with dependent children, and needs to provide for their financial security in the event of premature death. A young person who is not yet married does not have this commitment. The priority is to accumulate and invest savings that may be needed in the future.
What about buying life insurance early to enjoy a lower premium rate? It depends on the type of insurance that is bought. For term insurance, which covers death from all causes, the premium rate is quite flat for people below age 55, which is the period that insurance is really needed. After that age, the consumer should have accumulated sufficient savings with a proper financial plan, and does not need to rely on insurance.
Life insurance should be used to protect against premature death, and should not be used as a form of savings and investments - unless it is able to provide a yield that is comparable to other types of investments. In most cases, the yield is terribly low!
At the younger ages, the biggest risk is premature death caused by accidents. The premium rate for an accident insurance is flat, regardless of age.
It does make sense to get a life insurance policy, especially a term insurance policy, at an early age as part of your financial plan. But, make sure you pay a premium of not more than 0.15% of the amount that is covered. For example, you should pay not more than $450 a year to insure for $300,000. If you opt for personal accident insurance, you should pay $180 to $360 depending on your occupation.
Do take your time to look for a suitable insurance cover. There is no great hurry.
I recently read an interesting blog you wrote about using smartphone and GPS technology to help people share taxis and ease congestion. This concept is something that I totally agree with you on.
I'm pleased to inform you that I (along with three business partners) have recently launched such an app for the iOS platform to do exactly that. It is called GoMyWay (you can download it thru the iTunes app store for your iPhone or iPad). Also do check out:
We believe the app would give people in Singapore a viable commuting alternative and increase the liveability of Singapore. However, this requires widespread adoption and we are working very hard in marketing this app at the moment. In this vein, it would be great if you could write about our app on your blog given you have such a wide and loyal following.
Comment posted in this blog: t is true that FX trading is best to left to professional traders from banks and hedge funds. it is almost impossible for retail trader to make money in long run. According to CEO of FXCM, one of the few largest US based retail FX broker, he said he will be surprised if there are more than 5%of the retail FX traders can make money in long run. For those ISO/SME Awards, it is for show only, so long a company afford to pay, it is not very difficult to get it and it doesn't guarantee the trading strategy is a successful. Did you ever heard Warren Buffet goes to apply ISO??? Don't easily believe the story from those school marketer, I don't care how fast the coach turns his personal accout from 1K to 1 million, how I know how many accounts he got margin call before getting a profitable one, and almost certainly , the super high returns is link to over-leveraging, just likes someone said a fundamental news suddenly came up in the middle of the night from US/Europe is good enough to act on.
When my friend was appointed Singapore's ambassador to another country, he told this story. "When you make a request and the diplomat said yes, he meant maybe. When he said maybe, he meant no ". He continued, "When you make a request to a lady and she said no, she meant maybe. When she said maybe, she meant yes. And when she said yes, she is not a lady."