Saturday, May 28, 2016

World class taxi service in the most expensive city in the world

It was raining lightly on Saturday morning. A taxi with a green sign came by. I stopped it.

Taxi - where are you going?
TKL - Midview City
Taxi - Sorry, I am going to Hougang, Sorry.

This is the quality of our taxi service. It is now quite expensive with surcharge and call fee. Most taxis display the sign "Busy", "On Call" even when they are empty. Those that display a green "Taxi" sign will have the excuse, "Changing shift", "Out of the way".

The passenger has the right to insist that the taxi provide the public service that they are supposed to. But, there is no point to risk a confrontation over this "right".

I thank the PAP government for this expensive, world class taxi service based on the unique free market model that they had designed for Singapore. It has been running on auto-pilot for several years.

This is how we achieve the distinction of being the most expensive and most stressed city in the world.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bernie Sanders support this candidate for election into the Senate

Sisters and Brothers -
There are few people who have done more to address the obscene proliferation of money in politics than Russ Feingold.
There is also no one the Koch brothers want to keep out of the U.S. Senate more than Russ Feingold.
Russ is running to win a seat in the Senate from Republican Ron Johnson, someone who was called the Koch brothers’ "model legislator."
Russ Feingold is someone we need in the Senate, and I'm proud to endorse his campaign. Can you join me in helping elect Russ Feingold?
Let me tell you a little about what made Russ so effective when he was in the Senate. Russ was the sole vote in the Senate against the USA Patriot Act in 2001. He opposed the war in Iraq, he fought disastrous trade deals and worked to reform our health care system. Russ was also an author of the McCain-Feingold Act to reform our corrupt campaign finance system.
Meanwhile, his Republican opponent credits a Koch brothers organization with inspiring him to run for Senate in the first place. Ron Johnson wants to privatize veterans' health care and even said he supports Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.
Russ has already faced a huge influx of big money trying to keep him out of the Senate. In fact, the Koch brothers had their ads from a $2 million campaign against Russ taken off the air by TV stations when they were noted to be "false, misleading, and deceptive."
That won't be the last time the Koch brothers try to take out Russ. We need to make sure that Russ can fight back and win.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is working hard in California

Sisters and Brothers,
California, here we come. A shocking new poll just came out that shows us just TWO POINTS back from Secretary Clinton in California's June 7 primary.
California Poll (May 13-22)
Public Policy Institute of California
Hillary Clinton: 46%
Bernie Sanders: 44%
The first poll of this primary in California had us losing the state by 53 percent. Now we're within striking distance of winning the most delegates in a single state of this entire election.
Winning California would send an unmistakable message to the political establishment and the Democratic convention, and that's why we have to ask for your help in two ways:
Make no mistake: every vote we earn, delegate we secure, and state we win is an affirmation of the progressive values shared by our political revolution. That's why we're going to have thousands of volunteers knocking on doors and making calls this weekend, and why we're going to work hard towards the final FEC deadline of our primary next week.
Bernie wants to see California in our win column. I do too.
Do you?
Five more states also vote with California, and we're going to fight to win there too. Let's keep our political revolution going all the way to the convention.
In solidarity,
Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

Voters in America

The voters in America are now registered as Democrats, Republicans and Independents. In some states, the proportions are equal, i.e. one third for each camp. Link

Nationally, there were more Democrats than Republicans in the past, but this has now reversed. Generally, the voters have became disillusioned with both parties, as the politicians were working for the "money interests".

In the 2016 primary election, there were strong support for the non-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They attracted the support of the people who were disillusioned with the two "establishment" parties.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Be considerate to pedestrians

I alight at the bus stop in Yio Chu Kang Road and cross the road to get to my home.

Many years ago, I could cross the road at any place. The traffic is usually quite light, so it did not pose any problem to pedestrians.

One day, the road authority decided to construct a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights. This is probably useful on the times of the day when the traffic is heavy.

The road authority decided, in their infinite wisdom, that they should erect a barrier 50 meters on both sides of the crossing to force pedestrians to use the crossing. I do not understand why they have to force pedestrians to walk the extra distance, when most of the time they could cross the road safely without the help of the traffic lights.

Again, in their infinite wisdom, they set the traffic lights to stop the vehicles after a long delay. Sometimes, it takes two minutes or longer. During this time, there is usually a safe gap for pedestrians to cross the road without waiting for the vehicles to stop.

Many pedestrians cross the road during this safe gap, as they do not need to wait for the green man to appear.

I do not understand why the road authority make life difficult for people, and unnecessarily. They could have allowed the pedestrians to cross the road without the assistance of the traffic light during most times of the day. The pedestrians would be quite happy to use the pedestrian crossing when necessary.

The customer buys a 5 year policy but did not realize that the money is locked up for 10 years

If you buy a 10 year life insurance policy, you expect to pay premium for 10 years and to get the maturity benefit at the end of 10 years.

If you buy a 5 year policy, you expect to get the maturity benefit back after 5 years.

That is what an ordinary lay person will expect. However, there is a catch.

It is now quite common for an insurance company to issue a policy where the premium is payable for 5 years but the maturity benefit ill be paid at the end of 10 years.

The insurance agent, or the marketing officer of the bank, tells the customer - "I want to introduce you a 5 year life insurance policy. You only need to pay premium for five years and can get a yield of x% on maturity".

The agent does not tell the customer precisely that the maturity is at the end of 10 years. Or maybe the agent did tell the customer, but the customer does not pay attention to this point.

The agent knows that the customer does not want to lock up the money for a long period, so he or she will not emphasize this period of 10 years.

In the past, the insurance agent is required to present a benefit illustration that follows a standard format. This format will be transparent in showing the actual term of the policy.

In recent years, the insurance agent or the marketing officer started to show a modified format. This takes the form of a simplified benefit illustration or may be presented on a mobile tablet. It is easy for the agent to hide this point, or for the customer to mis-understood it.

The bank or insurance company will send the actual benefit illustration, that follows the standard format, together with a thick wad of papers. Most customers do not read all the papers. They thought that they have already understood the product. When they realize that they were misled, it would be too late.

A poor deal for their customers

Dear Mr Tan,

I notice that the policies from various insurance companies mostly work on the same pattern.

1. Low guaranteed returns
2. High but non-guaranteed returns.
3. Long break-even period.

Do you know why they don't have anything more innovative and provides a decent deal for the customers?

They make more profit by giving a poor deal to their customers.
They provide low guaranteed returns so that they can make a good profit on early withdrawal or "surrender" of the policy.
They give high, non-guaranteed return to make the policy look good on maturity. However, a high component of the return is not guaranteed.

Bernie Sanders gets another senator to speak to his supporters

Sisters and Brothers -
When I introduced a bill in the Senate that would slow the effects of climate change, I knew that I could count on Bernie Sanders to stand with me from the very first day.
Last year Bernie and I introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act, which would prevent new fracking, coal mining, and oil drilling on federal lands, as well as all new offshore oil drilling.
Bernie and I are committed to this fight because we know we can – and must – slow the pace of climate change. Scientists tell us that we need to keep 80 percent of remaining fossil fuels in the ground to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
To stop climate change from destroying our planet, we must act quickly and boldly to bring an end to the extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels in lands owned by the American people.
Not one more lease to extract coal.

Not one more license for fracking.

Not a single additional offshore oil drilling rig.
We must keep 80 percent of the world’s proven reserves in the ground – and the Keep It in the Ground Act is a powerful step toward this goal to avert climate catastrophe.
The fossil fuel industry is geared up for a fight. The Koch Brothers want us to fail, and we expect heavy resistance from people who profit off of the destruction of our planet.
Showing tremendous public support will help pass the Keep It in the Ground Act – will you be a partner with me and Bernie in this movement to fight climate change?
We’re building a movement to take on climate change and speed up our transition to clean, renewable energy. We need to act together and we need to act now.
Jeff Merkley
U.S. Senator from Oregon

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

An unusual Singaporean

Thomas (not his real name) came to see me on three separate occasions. His friend recommended a Prulink policy to him. He wanted my opinion about the policy.

I asked him to send the benefit illustration to me. He did. I analyzed the policy and presented my report to him. He insisted on seeing me, and indicated that he would pay my consulting fee.

I asked him to make a donation to FISCA instead. On each visit, he wrote a cheque for $250. I spent between 1 to 2 hours to explain the policy to him. He had several related questions and wanted my explanation.

He made three visits and donated a total of $750 towards FISCA.

I find him to be an unusual Singaporean. He was willing to pay for consulting fees, even though he could have avoided it.

Thomas felt that the fee was worth it, as it saved him a few tens of thousands from making a bad investment. 

Max Growth Plus

The Max Growth Plus a policy which requires premium to be paid for 6 years. The policy matures at the end of 12 years.

The return on the policy at maturity is quite modest, slightly less than 3% per annum.

The risk is that the policyholder may have to terminate the policy before the maturity date. In that case, he is likely to lose a large sum of his savings.

As the yield on maturity is not attractive, it is not advisable for the policyholder to buy this policy and take the risk of suffering a large loss on early withdrawal.

Read more details from the PDF here.

We need a law on renewal of leases

The food court in Thomson Plaza was operated by Kopitiam for many years. One day, customers saw different stalls. A new operator, Koufu, had taken over.

The convenience store at Yio Chu Kang MRT station was operated by Cheers for many years. A new operator, 7-eleven, took over.

Did the consumers benefit from the change of operators? Did they get a better selection of food or daily necessities? Did you enjoy lower prices? No! They probably end up paying more.

The original tenants did not give up the outlets because they failed in their business. They continue to do well and opened more outlets at other locations. They gave up the existing outlets because a new operator submitted a higher bid for the lease of their premises.

The new operators had to spend a considerable sum of money to renovate the outlets. The higher rental and renovation costs must be recovered through higher prices charged to the consumers.

This type of change of operators had been happening all over the place for many year. This is how the cost of living continues to escalate in the most expensive city in the world. This bad practice has to stop. How can it be done?

We need our parliament to pass a law regarding renewal of leases. The existing tenants must be given the option to renew the lease at the existing rental plus an adjustment for inflation. A further adjustment may be allowed if the existing rental is more than 10% below the market - which can be determined by market data available from the tax authority.

This law will be fair to both tenants and landlords. It will stop the wasteful practice that is prevalent in Singapore. It might help to moderate the cost of doing business and the prices charged to consumers.

Bernie Sanders endorse several candidates for Congress and state legislatures

Sisters and Brothers -
No president, not Bernie Sanders, not the greatest president you could possibly imagine, can take on the billionaire class alone. And that’s because change never happens from the top down, it always occurs from the bottom up.
That’s why today I am announcing my support for eight progressive state legislative candidates who embody the spirit of our political revolution.
Today, they are state representatives running for re-election or challenging to win their first race. Tomorrow, they’ll be progressives running for Congress and maybe even the presidency. And in 2020, they’ll help determine how congressional districts are drawn for the remainder of the next decade — a key to Democrats taking back and holding the House of Representatives for the decade to come.
It’s up to us to transform the future of the Democratic Party, and that’s why I am proud to ask:
Justin Bamberg is a state representative from South Carolina who was an early endorser of Hillary Clinton’s campaign but switched his endorsement before the primary because of Bernie’s work for "racial, social, and economic justice." Justin won his last election by ONLY 113 votes and needs our support in what’s sure to be another close race this November.
David Bowen is the son of Jamaican immigrants who is running for his second term in the Wisconsin State Legislature. He fought for and won a living wage for Milwaukee city employees and is a progressive champion Wisconsin needs.
Clara Hart is a refugee from Mozambique whose family fled from violence when she was just 8 years old. Now she's running for the South Dakota House, where she hopes to continue her work for immigrant families.
Terry Alexander is a representative in the South Carolina legislature who supports raising the minimum wage, expanding health care, and protecting the right to vote. He is a courageous legislator who I'm proud to support.
Carol Ammons became the first African-American woman to win election in her district of the Illinois State Legislature, scoring an upset election victory against a well-funded establishment opponent. She's fighting for progressive issues and candidates and deserves our support.
Chris Pearson is running for the Vermont State Senate after spending four terms in the Vermont House of Representatives. He is a champion on the issues of livable wages, strong labor union advocacy, climate change, and voting rights. This year he was able to pass a bill into law for automatic voter registration. Chris is a good friend of working people and of mine.
Jane Kim is the first Korean American to win election in San Francisco, and she's running to become a California state senator. The daughter of immigrants, Jane is a civil rights attorney who's fought for affordable housing and fair wages in her city.
Joe Salazar is a representative to Colorado's state house who is a tireless advocate for stopping fracking, protecting civil rights, and advancing criminal justice reform. He won his last election by just 221 votes, and your support will go a long way to helping him win this year.
We are going to keep fighting for every vote, every delegate, and every state, but this moment also requires helping progressives who are fighting for change at the local level. That is the political revolution, and that’s why splitting your contribution between our campaign and this great slate of local candidates is so important.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hybrid products sold be banks should be banned

Some banks sell hybrid products, such as the following example.

You can get a higher interest rate on your fixed deposit provided that you also invest in a life insurance policy.

The bank may offer an interest rate of 3.3% on the deposit (when the normal interest rate is say 1% lower) provided that a certain amount is invested in the insurance product.

I have come across many cases where the customer is not properly informed about the insurance product. As it is sold as a secondary product, the customer does not pay sufficient attention to understand the features of the product.

In some cases, they think that they are investing in another investment and are not aware that it is a life insurance policy that has a high penalty if the regular premium is not paid.

In some cases, they were given the impression that it is a 5 year policy when the 5 year is the period of premium payment and the policy will only mature after 10 years.

In some cases, they were not aware that the policy requires the premiums to be paid for several years. They were under the impression that it is a one time investment.

The customers are usually assured that they can get back their money at any time, and were not aware that the withdrawal amount, or surrender value, is far less than the invested amount. They have to suffer a large penalty on withdrawal before the maturity date. In other words, the investment could be locked up for 5 years, 10 years or even longer.

The risk of mis-selling is high when the life insurance is sold as a secondary investment to accompany a higher rate of interest paid on the fixed deposit.

Due to this risk of mis-selling, which is quite rampant, the Monetary Authority of Singapore should ban the sale of these hybrid products.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Prepare for a world of tariffs

If Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders becomes the President, America will introduce tariffs on products that are imported into the country. Donald Trump referred to tariffs of 35% for cars entering the country. Bernie Sanders did not state any figure, but he probably have to use the same approach.

Even if Hillary Clinton is elected as President, she would come under the same pressure to introduce tariffs to bring the jobs back to America.

My view is that it is good for countries to introduce tariffs. This is the only way to protect jobs in their country. The disappearance of the middle class, due to reduction of wages caused by global competition, is not good for any country.  It has lead to social tensions and unrest.

Here are some good effects on the introduction of tariffs:

a) The government collects revenue form the import tariffs.
b) The additional revenue can allow the government to provide better public services without increasing taxation.
c) The higher prices for imported goods encourages companies to produce the goods within the country and to pay higher wages to the local workers.
d) The price of consumer goods will increase, but not to the same extent of the tariffs. Corporate profits and top management salaries will have to adjust downwards to offset part of the tariffs.
e) The government may be able to reduce the VAT or sales tax, as they now have an additional source of revenue from the import tariffs.
f) There is less need for countries to adjust their currency values to become more competitive in their exports.

There could be some negative effects on the re-introduction of tariffs into the global trading system, but they are likely to be more than compensated by the positive effects.

I am in favor of introducing tariffs into the new global trading system.

US polls on the November general election

The latest polls shows that Hillary Clinton might lose to Donald Trump. But Bernie Sanders will beat Donald Trump by a big margin.

Say "No" to "Corporate Greed"

When a profitable company retrench its local workers by outsourcing their jobs to low wage countries, the company is engaging in "corporate greed".
We need a government that knows how to deal with this kind of unacceptable behavior. Does the PAP government have this ability to look after the interest of its citizens?
Prabu Ramachandran
7 hrsSingapore
Globalisation is the biggest myth, bullshit & lie that we have been fed. 1500 jobs from DBS outsourced to India. Orchard Road retail belt is failing. These 2 may seem un related but they are part of economics and the bigger economy.
Taxi companies are being challenged by 3rd party app companies, this benefits the consumer and the drivers as it created a new market.
Singtel we know outsources local call receivers to KL & Malacca to save on the SGDMYR exchange rate. These companies are backed by Temasek Holdings which is supposed to be SINGAPOREANS' national fund management. It makes sense that they should act in the interest of Singaporeans & creating jobs for Singaporeans.

ASEAN agreement on free movement of labor

Has Singaporeans woken up to this development? Are they still in slumber? Will they only wake up when they have lost their jobs to low cost foreigners?

Dealing with tax havens

This is how the UK government wishes to deal with tax havens.
Perhaps the Singapore government should set up similar measures?

Bernie Sander's campaign supports another candidate to challenge the current head of the Democratic National Committee

Sisters and Brothers -
The political revolution is not just about electing a president. We need a Congress with members who believe, like Bernie, that we cannot change a corrupt system by taking its money.
So let me introduce you to Tim Canova, a progressive challenger who is running against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a Democratic primary in Florida this year.
Tim endorsed Bernie’s presidential campaign, and was inspired to run because of Wasserman Schultz’ support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. His campaign is funded like ours, by lots of people giving small amounts of money.
And on issues like taking on Wall Street, making tuition free at public colleges, and reforming our broken campaign finance system, he is someone you can be proud to support. That's why Bernie is endorsing Tim's campaign, and why we’re proud to ask:
A few weeks ago, we raised a tremendous amount of money for three progressive candidates for Congress. Your support changed their races overnight. In the days ahead, we’re going to add a dozen or more additional candidates to that list.
We’re doing this because it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. We need real change. We need U.S. Senators, members of Congress and state legislators who have the guts to take on the big money interests whose greed is destroying the American middle class.
Tim Canova is one of those candidates, and I hope you’ll join Bernie in support of his campaign:
Thank you for powering this political revolution.
All my best,

Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Invest our efforts at home and in nearby countries

Whenever the Singapore economy is in trouble, we see our leaders travelling around the world to open opportunities in other countries. Like this visit.

Does the PM realize that similar visits in past years did not produce the positive results? Such as the visits to India and several other countries? It seemed that the flow of the business opportunities went in the other direction.

There are so many opportunities to be developed in Singapore, such as our infrastructure, transport, education, health and public services and improving the efficiency of our financial services and business processes. It is better to focus the attention at home.

There are also business opportunities in neighboring countries, where our old relationships, business ties and familiarity with the business environment give us an advantage.

There are still issues to be sorted out between the respective governments. It is better to spend the time to work on these issues.

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