Sunday, December 16, 2018

WOTC - Encroaching on Singapore's territory

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is Malaysia being aggressive in encroaching on the territory of Singapore?

Here are the responses: (55 Votes)
51 % - There is dispute over the boundary that should be resolved through discussion and, if necessary, through arbitration.
22 % - Both countries have been reclaiming land, leading to disputes over the boundary line.
18 % - Malaysia is being aggressive in putting markers on disputed territory.
9 % - The dispute is unnecessary, as there are no natural resources to be tapped and freedom of navigation is respected.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Should Singapore increase defense spending?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singapore increase defense spending?

Here are the responses: (58 Votes)
52 % - The current spending is excessive and can be reduced.
29 % - The current spending is adequate.
14 % - A high defense spending can lead to unintended warfare. 
5 % - This is necessary due to our territorial dispute with Malaysia.

See the pie chart at:

Should employers be required by law to provide retrenchment benefits?

Someone asked for my view whether retrenchment benefit should be made compulsory under law, as it the practiced in many other countries.

Here is my reply:

In some countries, employers contribute to a company pension fund. When the service of the employee is terminated, and the employee does not qualify for a pension or deferred pension, the employee loses the contribution for his period of service.

A retrenchment benefit would be fair to offset this loss to the employee.

In Singapore, the employer contribute to the Central Provident Fund, and the contribution vests immediately with the employee.

This is likely to be the reason why the government does not mandate the payment of retrenchment benefits.

The employment law however does provide for the retrenchment benefit to be negotiated individually or bargained collectively under the terms of employment. Most employers are not likely to provide retrenchment benefit as they consider that the cost of the employee is already quite high, considering the salary and the CPF contribution.

I know that many people are struggling due to the high cost of housing and the high cost of living in Singapore. This is a separate issue that I frequently write in the social media. I do not think that this problem can be solved by making retrenchment benefits mandatory under law.

Tan Kin Lian

Saturday, December 15, 2018

WOTC - How to solve the dispute over air and water access

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is a good way to solve the dispute over the air and water access?

Here are the responses: (52 Votes)
54 % - Discuss the issue over nasi lemak and teh tarik.
40 % - Bring the case to the International Court.
4 % - Stick to our principled approach.
2 % - Increase our defense spending.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Dispute over water and air access

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Why did we have a dispute with Malaysia over water and air access?

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
40 % - Singapore refuses to pay a higher price for water, although the amount is small.
27 % - Malaysia is trying to trying to bring Singapore down.
18 % - Singapore refuses to help them to solve the new Malaysian govt to deal with their financial crisis.
16 % - Singapore must stick to our principled approach.

See the pie chart at:

Friday, December 14, 2018

An online voting system is better at preventing fraud

Many people distrust online voting system. They think that it can be manipulated.

This is the wrong thinking. Any system can be manipulated. There are ways to manage this risk and control the manipulation.

I explain in this post how the control can be exercised:

These people prefer a manual voting system because it is "safer". They do not realize that the manual system has more risks that are difficult to manage. The manual voting system has been abused in many countries for decades.

I explain the risks of the manual voting system in this post:

In fact, the people in power prefer a manual voting system, because they have the means to take advantage of its flaws.

Instead of being afraid of the hacking in an online voting system, the people who wants more transparency and a more robust democracy should be calling for a move to an online voting system.

Of course, it is important to ensure that the online system is secure and is safe from manipulation. The technology allows these goals to be achieved.

Tan Kin Lian

Can ASEAN be relevant?

PM Lee is the current chair of ASEAN. He will relinquish this seat by rotation at the end of 2018.

As the chair, he has the opportunity to make ASEAN more relevant. He could ask ASEAN to step in and find a solution to the territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia.

Some people will say that ASEAN is not useful in solving this kind of dispute. I feel that he should give ASEAN a chance.

ASEAN can never be relevant when its member countries, and its chair, undermine its role by not giving it the opportunity to do something useful.

How can other countries respect ASEAN when it cannot help to solve the dispute between two member countries?

He still have two more weeks to do something for ASEAN, right?
He should not miss this opportunity.

Tan Kin Lian

Introducing Flores, in Indonesia

I was in Bali two months ago. There were many touts selling tour packages at inflated prices. I declined them.

Later, I went to a booth selling the packages. The young man had curly hair and is quite dark - does not look like an ordinary Indonesian.

He was friendly, helpful and honest. I bought a tour package from him.

He came from Flores.

I searched Google Map for Flores. It pointed to a spot in the middle of East Nusa Tenggara.

Was Flores a town? I thought that it was a small island.

I learned later that Flores was the original name of East Nusa Tenggara. It is the entire island.

The people of Flores look like the people of New Guinea. Most of them are Christians.

Recently, a friend shared with me a chatty song. It attracted me because of the pretty girls and men dancing a line dance. Here is the video:

You can see the joy in their faces.

By the way, these dancers are stewardess and staff of Lion Air. They had a bad crash recently. I hope that they recover from the negative publicity. They seem to be contributing a lot to Indonesia as the second largest airline.

I learned later that the song is Gemu Fameri.

Here is another video that explain the song:

It is also called the Maumere song. I checked Google and found that Maumere is a town in Flores. The lyrics had some words that I recognized as Bahasa but many words that were strange. It must be a local language in Flores.

Tan Kin Lian

A manual voting system has many risks of fraud

Many people fear that electronic voting system could be abused by the people in charge. They prefer a manual voting system.

There are not aware that a manual voting system has more risks. Here are the risks:

a) It is easy for corrupt election officials to stuff the ballot boxes with fake votes in favor of certain parties.
b) The ballot boxes could be switched on the way to the counting centers.
c) The manual counting could be manipulated to show more votes for certain parties.

These abuses have been rampant in many countries.

The non incumbent parties rely on many volunteers to serve as agents at voting centers, counting centers and also to ensure the safe delivery of the ballot boxes. Still, they are not able to eliminate the fraud.

An electronic voting system also could be abused. But there are ways to ensure that the voting is secure and the the system is made safe from manipulation. It requires much less effort to ensure the integrity of the voting process.

If this is the case, why is the electronic voting system not adopted in many countries?

The answer is obvious to me. But many people miss it. What is the answer?

The incumbent party in power prefer to use the manual voting system. They have the means and resources to make better use of the defects to its advantage.

In countries where there is a more democratic practice, and where is a frequent change of government and where the election commission is truly independent, there is more chance for a better system to be adopted.

The electronic voting system has the advantage of being convenient, secure and safe from manipulation.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Commission rates on life insurance policies

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should MAS set control the commission rates paid on life insurance policies?

Here are the responses: (51 Votes)
29 % - Leave it to the market.
29 % - Set caps on the maximum commission that can be paid.
24 % - Require the insurance companies to disclose the commission rates.
18 % - Ban the payment of commissions and ask the adviser to collect a fee

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Food poisoning

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Why do we have many food poisoning cases recently?

Here are the responses: (58 Votes)
52 % - We employ food handles from third world countries that are not hygenic.
31 % - The operators are not managing the preparation carefully.
12 % - These are temporary lapses.
5 % - The food supplies are contaminated.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

WOTC - Pay a higher price for water from Malaysia

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singapore agree earlier to pay a higher price for water from Malaysia?

Here are the responses: (58 Votes)
59 % - The annual sum is small and is worth spending to build goodwill.
31 % - We should insist on our contractual right under international law
7 % - Our sovereignty is at stake. 
3 % - Our position in international law is questionable.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Dispute over air and water space

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is the cause of the dispute over air and water space?

Here are the responses: (57 Votes)
40 % - The inflexibility of the Singapore govt
35 % - Bullying by Malaysia
25 % - The price of water supplied by Malaysia
0 % - The origin of chendol

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Make life easier fro the citizens

Earlier this year, I took a train from Woodlands to Johor Bahru. It arrived within 5 minutes, compared to a duration of more than 1 hour by bus.

I found out later that there was a train service every hour (actually slightly more) during the peak hours. This is called the KTM Trebau service. You can check Google for the details.

I calculated that it was possible to have four departures every hour, as it is possible to make the return journey every 15 minutes.

I wanted to suggest that the frequency of the train service be increased. I am sure that there will be a big demand for this service.

I read a news report that Malaysia had requested for more departures for this service, but the Singapore govt is "studying the matter". Already many months have passed.

Why does it take so many months for Singapore to study this request? Why are we making it difficult for KTM to increase the departures and put their infrastructure to better use?

It seems to be quite childish for both govts to be playing tit-for-tat and making life difficult for the citizens.

Tan Kin Lian

Be frugal but generous

Some people may get the wrong impression that I am a person who will give away financial benefit easily to the other party. If I were the leader of a country, would I give away everything?

The answer is "no".

The people who know me well will also know that I am a frugal person. Some might even describe me as "stingy". So, you can be sure that your money is safe with me, if you ever have to entrust it to me, because I would not spend it away easily.

Let me explain first why I like to waive the penalty of $350 million for the cancellation of the High Speed Rail. I have two reasons:

a) Both countries did spend money on the feasibility studies and preparatory work for the High Speed Rail. The money spend on each side is likely to be similar in amount. If Malaysia asked to cancel the project for financial reasons, they would have incurred their expenses also. Out of goodwill and friendly, I would waive the penalty.

I would also consider the money spent ($350 million or more) is not wasted. I believe that the High Speed Rail will be feasible at some time in the future. If it is re-introduced, the money spent on the preparatory work would be recovered. It is a matter of time.

b) On the price of water, I have held for a long time that Malaysia's request for 50 sens per 1,000 gallons is fair. Yes, it is an increase of 16 times from the current level of 3 sens. But we are talking about a passage of 65 years, from 1962 to 2017. Surely, inflation would have justified the increase?

The revised price of 50 sens plus the cost of treatment would probably be much lower than the cost of producing water from other sources, such as desalination and reverse osmosis. I do not know the actual figures, but I trust my gut feel and judgment. I will be happy to be enlightened with the facts.

Anyway, based on the volume of water that is drawn under the agreement, the revised price of 50 sens work out to $15 million A YEAR. This is a small sum of money compared to a national budget of $60 billion.

Be helpful
When we were poor, every dollar is important to us. I can understand this attitude.

However, when we are financially well off, we do not need to be so stingy. We can afford to be generous and helpful. The money that we forego can go to help the other party a great deal, especially when they are financially weak.

I am not talking about giving away a lot of money. It is money that we can afford to give away and get the goodwill and appreciation of the other party.

Be prudent
If you had followed my views closely, you would know that I am unhappy about the large sums of money that are being spent on infrastructure and weapons.

I believe that we could exercise cost control and reduce these expenditures. At heart, I am still a frugal and prudent person.

But when it comes to negotiating with a friendly neighbor, I would prefer to take a more generous approach, because we can afford to be more generous, and it would be more helpful to our neighbor.

Thank you for reading my post completely.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Views about Singapore Democratic Party

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your views about the Singapore Democratic Party?

Here are the responses: (63 Votes)
30 % - They will get better support at the next general election.
30 % - They will continue to be tainted by the poor image of Dr. Chee Soon Juan.
24 % - They are well organized and have done their groundwork for many years.
16 % - Dr. Chee Soon Juan is an articulate and effective leader.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Views about Workers' Party

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your views about the Workers' Party?

Here are the responses: (63 Votes)
37 % - They will continue to be well supported.
25 % - They are a credible and effective alternative party.
25 % - They will be considerably weakened after the judgment is passed on Aljunied town council.
13 % - They are too much aligned to the PAP

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Resolve issues with trust and understanding

I am not small minded. I do not make decisions based on self interest.

Some people suggest that I support Malaysia because I have many properties there.

I do not have "many properties". I just have an apartment in Forest City which is not ready yet. That apartment is affected negatively by Dr. M's decision to restrict sale to foreigners, but I do not hold it against him. He has to do what is right for Malaysia.

But some people are guided by self interest. So, they think that other people think like them. They cannot understand that other people may think differently.

I do have an interest to promote friendly relations between Singapore and Malaysia. I have visited Malaysia and met people of different races there. They are friendly and helpful. Most of them are humble, polite and kind. They work hard to make a living and raise a family. They do not look down on other people - at least among those that I have met.

I do not treat the Malaysian govt as an enemy. I also do not treat the Malaysian people as an enemy.

They may be misunderstanding between countries. There may be differences of views. These differences can be resolved amicable with trust and understanding.

Tan Kin Lian

Electronic voting system

The Election Dept plans to introduce mechanical counting of the votes at the next general election.

I prefer that they go for a electronic voting system. The voters can vote online using the SingPass. Those living overseas can also vote online.

For voters who are not familiar with voting online, they can still visit any polling center and show their NRIC. They can submit their vote electronically.

Here are the important elements of the electronic voting system:

a) There is a register of voters. The SingPass or NRIC will identify the voter. This database ensures that a person can only vote once. It also checks that the correct person is submitting the vote. It prevents a fraud from impersonating a voter.

b) Each vote is registered into 2 databases. The Election Dept holds the primary database. The second database is held by the Supreme Court.

This stops a hacker from altering the votes in the primary database. The vote can be audited against the second. Any votes that do not match can be treated as spoiled.

There is technology to prevent the vote from being altered by a hacker.

c) To ensure secrecy of the vote, the identity of the voter will not appear in the voting slip. Instead, there will be a serial number. This serial number ensures that the vote is valid (i.e not a fake vote). There is another table to link the identify of the voter to the serial number, but this table cannot be accessed, except to verify the validity of the vote.

d) If a voter claims that a hacker had voted with his stolen identity, the voter can submit a new vote to replace the earlier vote, but this will be placed under strict control and verification.

At the close of polling, the results can be computed almost immediately.

Singapore has the opportunity to introduce a workable electronic voting system to the world. Due to our small population, it is easy to have this change implemented. The larger countries will have a bigger challenge, but they will be encouraged by a successful experiment on a smaller scale.

Tan Kin Lian

Why blockchain will not work as expected

I want to explain why I think that blockchain will not take off.

It was built on the concept of avoiding a trusted third party. This was necessary when one is creating a cryptocurrency. But it will not work well in other situations. In fact, it will be costly and troublesome to manage.

Why is there a need to avoid a trusted third party anyway?

When I use GMail, I have to trust Google. When I use Facebook, I have to trust Facebook (Mr. Zukerberg).

If I don't trust Google, I can go to Yahoo, Microsoft or other e-mail platforms.

My point is that it is better to select a trusted party.

There will be situations where a new platform has to be developed for a specific need and to cater to a defined group of users. For example, a logistic platform for a defined community of shippers and ship owners.

This community can form a cooperative (which they jointly own and control) to be the trusted party to manage the platform.

Apart from owning the trusted party, there is also the need to ensure that the trusted party manage the platform properly. This can be achieved by transparency and audit. All the users should have the means to satisfy themselves that the platform is operating properly. They can look at the audit reports to ensure that the control totals are matched every day.

There is also technology available that allows the transactions to be stored in a duplicate database, to be used to verify the transactions, in case of fraudulent alterations.

There are effective ways under the current technology to ensure transparency and audit. There is no need to go through the blockchain technology, which I consider to be cumbersome and costly.

In the year 1999, there was a lot of hype about the Y2K issue. Many governments around the world, including our own govt, fell for the hype and invested hundred of million dollars to prevent this Y2K issue. The consultants made a lot of money by providing their services for an imaginary and over-hyped problem.

I think blockchain could also be a similar situation.

Let me put in a caveat. There will be situations where the blockchain technology make sense, e.g. cyptocurrency. But these situations will be limited. It will not be extensive.

In case some blockchain enthusiasts think that I am talking nonsense, without understanding what blockchain is, I must declare that my knowledge is limited to watching this video. It is enough for me to form an opinion.

Click here.

Let us wait and see.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - How do you describe the PAP govt?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How would you describe the PAP govt?

Here are the responses: (60 Votes)
68 % - No heart
17 % - No ears
8 % - Quite competent.
7 % - No brain

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Which minister do you like most? (3)

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Which of the following ministers do you like most?

Here are the responses: (23 Votes)
74 % - Ng Chee Meng
9 % - Desmond Lee 
9 % - Josephine Teo
9 % - Indranee Rajah
0 % - Grace Fu

See the pie chart at:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Focus on win-win solution to resolve the maritime dispute

I thank Gerard Pereira for sharing the article diving the timeline of the dispute regarding the maritime boundary. It explains to me about the brown line (based on the 1979 claim by Malaysia) and why it jutted westward of the red line (agreed between the two countries in 1995).

I now understand the stand taken by the Singapore govt regarding the intrusion of the Malaysia vessels.

I observed that the red line stopped at a certain place before the brown line. I wondered why the 1995 agreement did not extend to include the brown line. If it had been agreed at that time, this dispute could have been avoided.

Was Malaysia acting unfairly in gazetting the boundary in 2018, without consulting Singapore? I withhold my comment.

Both sides have their good reasons for the stance that they have taken in this maritime dispute. It is better for the two govts to meet and resolve the dispute.

Each side has set out their separate pre-condition before the talks can start. I hope that this further "pre-condition" dispute can be resolved. It is not worth generating the bad relations over this side dispute.

When the talks begin, I hope that both sides focus on a win-win relationship, to replace the current lose-lose relations.

What is this win-win relationship?

Singapore likes to have the brown line recognized as the boundary, so that Tuas Port can have the room to develop. Singapore also likes to keep control of the air space, so that Seletar Airport can operate properly as planned.

What does Malaysia want? Let us ask them. Maybe, they want some financial benefit. Maybe the want better access to Pasir Gudang Port through the crooked bridge.

Should Singapore allow Pasir Gudang Port to be developed as a competitor to Tuas Port? I am clear that the answer should be "yes". It is not a good strategy to do well by hampering the effort of the other party. It is better to do well by being more efficient and productive. We can do it.

Maybe the win-win arrangement is to give each party what they really want. Nobody wants a bad and unhappy neighbor. Nobody wants to see both sides suffer.

I send best wishes to both govts in sorting out this issue.

Tan Kin Lian

Find a way to solve the dispute

Some people accused me of taking the side of Malaysia on this dispute. That accusation is unfair.

My first task is to understand the nature of the dispute. Our govt has given its side of the dispute. But the Malaysian govt has a different perspective.

The dispute concerns the sending of vessels to certain parts of the waters. Each party claim that the water comes under their "sovereignty".

I look at Google Map and see a line that appears to run midway between the shores of Johore and Singapore prior to the building of Tuas Port. After Tuas Port was built, the waters between this line and the port seems to be quite narrow.

I saw a map from the CNA article that shows the line being pushed towards Johore. How did this new line came about? Was there agreement for this revised line to be pushed outwards from Singapore?

The CNA article shows that the "intruding vessels" were between the original and the new lines.

The CNA article did not explain this new line. If anyone knows the background for this revised line, please share with me.

Malaysia has asked that both countries withdraw this vessels from the disputed waters for talks to start. The Singapore govt ask that Malaysia should withdraw their vessels before talks can begin.

I do not wish to comment on which side is acting fairly in this respect.

I like to approach this matter by understanding the nature of the dispute, rather than act on "patriotism". There were many wars in the past that occurred because the people of both sides acted on "patriotism". It is better to understand the nature of the dispute and to try to resolve it by being fair to both sides.

It is not good for one side to win at the expense of the other side. It is also not good for the stronger side to win because of their strength.

For the people who accuse me of being unpatriotic to Singapore, I wish to tell them to look at the issue more rationally. Do not take any side blindly.

If I am convinced that the Singapore side is acting fairly, you can be sure that I will speak out. It is my duty as a loyal citizen.

In the meantime, I like to urge both govts to act with restrain and find a way to solve the dispute.

Tan Kin Lian

Act on these attractive offers

Here are the most recent feedback given to govt agencies and commercial organizations and on govt policies.

Read the feedback and vote (agree, disagree) on each feedback. Play an active part as a citizen. Give your view.

Do not fall into the trap and lock up your savings in a life insurance policy that gives you a poor return over many years in the future. If you want to quit, you will lose a lot of money. So, you are stuck.

Here are some tips on how to avoid this costly mistake.

3 financial books $15 (discount of 58%)

6 puzzle books $18 (discount of 59%)

Click on these links to see how ordinary people voted on various issues concerning life in Singapore.

Click here to give your votes on the current issues:

You will win a prize for participating.

Click here to find out how the ordinary people assess the performance of our govt agencies and ministers.

Click on the link to submit your vote and win a prize.

Promote cashless payments

There is a fear among some people that cashless payments, e.g. through e-wallets, allow the govt to track the spending of citizens.

This fear is misplaced.

The e-wallet payments are micro-payments. They are payments of small amounts, e.g. to hawkers and small retailers.

There are more than 30 million transactions a day, assuming 6 transactions for each person.

If the govt wants to track the transactions of any individual person, they can already do it through the banking system. These payments are made through bank transfers and credit cards. These payments are larger and more significant.

There is no need for the govt to go down to track the micro-payments.

Furthermore, the payments are for spending at outlets and do not go down to the individual items that are purchased.

So, this fear is unfounded.

Many people still prefer cash, because they can draw it out of ATM machines without paying any charge. They can also bank in cash without any fee.

The banks have to incur costs to provide these cash withdrawal and deposit services. These cost are not negligible.

If the banks were to introduce a fee for cash withdrawal and cash deposit, the cost may encourage people to move towards cashless payments.

I know that the banks are already making big profit. These new fees will increase their profits.

In return for allowing banks to impose these fees, MAS should insist that the banks provide a higher interest rate for savings and fixed deposits.

This will offset the fees that have to be paid by consumers.

If we do not make this change, we will continue with our inefficient and costly payment system, while other countries move ahead.

Tan Kin Lian

Need for wallet clearing house

My friend told me that he wanted to pay through WeChat pay, but was not able to top up the wallet as he does not have a bank account.

He could have asked his friend to transfer funds into his wallet and he can reimburse cash to his friend, or make a credit card transfer.

Cashless payment is popular in China because there are two big platforms - WeChat Pay and AliPay. The merchant only needs to open two accounts.

In Singapore, the merchant has to open 20 accounts to collect cashless payments from 20 platforms, maybe more.

The solution in Singapore is to introduce a low cash clearing house for cashless payments using wallets.

The approach adopted by the govt of using PayNow for the transfers is not efficient. There is a high cost in transfers through the bank clearing system. Although the banks are subsidising the cost at the present time, it is not a sustainable operation.

We need to introduce a wallet clearing house in Singapore.

Tan Kin Lian

Merchant refused to collect cash

A friend told this story about paying for a purchase in China.

He wanted to pay cash. The merchant insisted on cashless payments.

He could not find someone to make the payment on his behalf.

The merchant told him that he will give the food free, i.e. no need to pay.

OK, we still find all kinds of excuses to pay cash. We can keep far behind other countries. We can continue to be a high cost country, with inefficient and costly way of doing business.

WOTC - Most respected senior ministers

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Which of these senior ministers do you respect most?

Here are the responses: (41 Votes)
80 % - Tharman Shanmugaratnam
7 % - Teo Chee Hean
5 % - Ng Eng Hen 
5 % - Lee Hsien Loong
2 % - Khaw Boon Wan

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Bonus for civil servants

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should civil servants be given a bonus based on KPI?

Here are the responses: (58 Votes)
38 % - This will encourage the civil servants to improve their performance.
36 % - The bonus will lead them to forget about their service to the public.
19 % - The bonus leads to jealousy, competition and loss of teamwork among the civil servants in a department
7 % - Civil servants should be behave like business executives.

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Swiss system of direct democracy

The Swiss practices a system of direct democracy. It allows the people to decide on the laws that govern their lives. The decisions are taken at referendums held every three months.

This article in the World Economic Forum explains how the Swiss system works.

This is democratic and works well.

In many countries, the politicians work for vested interests or are corrupt. They do not want to have truly democratic arrangements to work. They want to preserve their power and privileges.

I hope that more countries will adopt the Swiss system of direct democracy.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Most respected ministers (2)

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Which of these ministers do you respect most?

Here are the responses: (35 Votes)
29 % - S Iswaran
23 % - Masagoes Zulkilfli 
17 % - Vivian Balakrishnan
17 % - Lawrence Wong
14 % - K Shanmugam 

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Vote share of PAP at next GE

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What do you expect the vote share of the PAP at the next general election?

Here are the responses: (79 Votes)
37 % - 55 to 60%
32 % - Below 55%
19 % - 60 to 65%
10 % - 65 to 70%
3 % - 70% or higher

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Should Tan Cheng Bock set up a new party?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Dr. Tan Cheng Bock set up a new party?

Here are the responses: (74 Votes)
64 % - It is better for Dr. Tan to lead a coalition of the existing non-PAP parties.
16 % - It is better for Dr. Tan to set up a new party and attract its own members.
11 % - A coalition of the smaller non-PAP parties will not be credible anyway.
9 % - The new party will split the non-PAP votes.

See the pie chart at:

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Relations between friends

My friend wants to borrow my car. I am not using it. It does not cost me anything to lend the car to my friend.

Should I lend the car to my friend, or negotiate for some benefit in return, such as the access to their holiday home in another country?

I would not negotiate for the "package". It is not friendly.

I will lend my car to the friend, without condition. I would trust that he will let me use his holiday home when I need it, and if it is available.

My friend might let me down, but I would take that risk. That is what friends are for. We have to trust each other.

I believe that the same approach can be done for relations between neighboring countries.

I do not agree with the "negotiate a package" approach that was adopted by the govt in dealing with issues concerning Malaysia. History had shown that it did not work. It was difficult to negotiate a complicated package.

I am not totally adverse to negotiate a package with another country. But there need to be room for give and talk, and some leeway for generosity.

If both parties want to get the best deal, without regard for the interest and fairness to the other party, then the deal will not be struck.

Tan Kin Lian

Have an open mind towards a more protectionist world

China is now promoting globalization. But critics complained that many industries in China are still protected or are receiving govt subsidies.

Rather than complain about China, the other countries can also adopt the same approach, i.e. to protect some of their industries through tariffs and other measures.

The tariffs should be non-discriminatory, i.e. they should be applied to all countries. The intent is to protect the local industry and allow it to grow.

The tariffs increase the cost to consumers. There is nothing wrong with this approach. Consumption and sales tax, such as GST, also increase cost to consumers.

The higher cost to consumers caused by tariffs brings revenue to the govt. The govt needs revenue to provide social welfare for low income people and to provide essential services, such as health care, education and infrastructure to the people.

Some economists argue that tariffs allow the local manufacturers to make excessive profits. They cannot make the excessive profits because the country could raise the wages of workers and improve the working conditions. This will give better income to the workers, which will be good for the long term development of the country.

If the local businesses, through tariff protections, make more profit (and after paying more to the workers), the govt can take a share of their profit through taxation.

Under the current globalized system, it is difficult to get corporations to pay their share of tax because they can shift their profits to tax havens.

I am in favor of protectionism and tariffs as a way to put the global economy into a more sustainable path. It will help to improve wages and reduce inequality around the world.

Small countries, such as Singapore, will be adversely affected by a more protectionist world. We can find our niche in the new environment. As a small and well educated country, we should be able to make the adjustment. We must.

With protectionism, there will still be ample opportunity for world trade. Not every country wants to produce all of the products and services that they need. They would prefer to buy many of the products from other countries.

World trade will continue, but will be at a lower scale than now.

We need an open mind to address the challenges of the global economy and to reduce the gross inequality that exists in many countries, which is likely to cause more social unrests.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - most respected 4G leaders (1)

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Which of these 4G leaders do you respect most?

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
38 % - Tan Chuan Jin
36 % - Heng Swee Keat
13 % - Ong Ye Kung
9 % - Chan Chun Sing
4 % - Gan Kim Yong

See the pie chart at:

WOT - Compensation of life insurance agents

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should MAS review the compensation of life insurance agents?

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
31 % - They should ensure that the compensation packages are reasonable.
29 % - They compensation packages are too generous and are at the expense of consumers.
22 % - They should leave it to the market.
18 % - The migration of agents due to high payouts is bad for the life insurance industry.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Smart city project

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the smart city project making good progress

Here are the responses: (76 Votes)
62 % - It will be another disaster, due to poor management.
20 % - It has created a few initiates that are struggling.
18 % - It has made a small impact and need more time to be fully implemented.
0 % - It has launched several initiatives that are doing very well.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Confidence in 4G leaders

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Are you confident about the new generation (4G) leaders?

Here are the responses: (83 Votes)
61 % - I do not have confidence in the new team, due to their background.
30 % - They are likely to keep to the current policies, as they will be reluctant to make big changes.
5 % - Being a new generation, they now have the chance to bring about big changes in govt policies.
4 % - We have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

See the pie chart at:

Friday, December 07, 2018

Resolve the water issue

The 1962 water agreement with the Malaysian govt allows the water price to be revised in 1987, i.e. after 25 years. Malaysia did not take up this revision.

Singapore govt said that Malaysia lost the right to revise the price, because they failed to act. They quote "international law". They have legal experts to confirm this position.

The Malaysian side also has legal experts who took the view that that they did not lose the right to raise the water price, even though they did not act earlier.

Who is right?

I don't know. But I know who is wrong. The amount involved is $15 million a year. It would cost us much more to argue the case in international court. The expert lawyers will be very happy, thank you very much.

There is also a moral issue. I do not expect my 1962 rental to remain the same today. It probably went up 15 times, maybe more.

What is the cost of producing water through other means, i.e. desalination and osmosis? Can this be a benchmark?

My common sense says, pay Dr. M the 50 sens that he ask for. The amount ($15 million a year) is too small to quibble. The cost of the quibbling, and the ensuing disputes over water and air rights, is many times more than $15 million a year.

Some people worry. Will Malaysia take this opportunity to bring up other issues? They might, but their case on the new issues will be much weaker.

However, I trust the people and the govt of Malaysia to be reasonable. We can only build good relations based on trust, understanding and mutual respect.

Tan Kin Lian

Extending a helping hand

Some people think that Dr. M is back to his old ways of "do Singapore in". This perception is also being fanned by some people at senior levels and the media.

I have a different view. Here are my reasons:

a) Dr. M today is quite different from the past. He came back from retirement to remove a kleptocratic govt (quoting the description that he used). He does not want to see his country go down the drain.

b) Malaysia faced financial challenges. His ministers approached Singapore to waive the penalty for the cancellation of the High Speed Rail. We refused. He asked Singapore to pay a higher price for the water. We refused.

c) He came to Singapore during the ASEAN meeting to receive an honorary doctor of law degree (which he does not need). His main purpose was, in my guess, to talk about the price of water. The meeting concluded with an understanding to continue discussions. We are talking about $15 million a year, not a lot of money.

Dr. M must be disappointed at the attitude of the Singapore govt leaders. I can understand his disappointment.

I have been alarmed at the billions that we spend on infrastructure projects in Singapore. In some cases, I felt the large sums spent were excessive and unnecessary.

I would certainly have preferred to spend just a few hundred millions to build good relations with Malaysia, especially during their hour of need.

Sadly, we did not extend a hand of help. We missed the opportunity to build goodwill.

We will now pay the price for the bad relations. It will cost many times more than the money that we should have spent.

Some people will argue that we need to be "principled" and to adhere to the rule of law.

I cannot understand why being "principled" should preclude us from being generous in helping someone who needs the help.

There is still time to change our approach. I hope that our foreign minister can play a role in bringing this about. He should not miss this opportunity.

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

WOTC - Facebook and fake news

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is Facebook a good tool for people to communicate.

Here are the responses: (55 Votes)
55 % - It is a good tool for people to communicate and share information.
40 % - The benefits outweigh the risks.
5 % - It has been misused to spread lies and falsehood.
0 % - It has been used to spread hate and terrorist activity.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Fake news law

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do we need a fake news law?

Here are the responses: (54 Votes)
76 % - The fake news law can be abused to silence critics of the govt policies.
13 % - It is needed to stop people from spreading hatred and racist comments.
7 % - The existing laws can cope with the lies and hate speech.
4 % - A new law is required to stop people from deliberately spreading lies.

See the pie chart at:

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