Sunday, May 31, 2020

Why I preferred the communist party system of China

Most people criticized the system in China where the Communist Party is entrenched in the country's constitution. They prefer the multi party systems practiced in democratic countries. I prefer the system in China. It prefer a one party system. Under this system, the competition is within the party. The leadership of the party has to be elected among its members.

China has transformed its economy very well

In 1989 or thereabouts, I visited China as a member of a minister's delegation. We were received by the vice premier.
At that time, China was very poor and backward. Singapore was advanced.
The vice premier spoke in Mandarin. He said that the biggest challenge in China was to find jobs for the millions of workers in the state enterprises. These enterprises were inefficient and overstaffed. They are developing the service sector to allow the excess workers to be absorbed into the economy.
I was struck with the clarity of their goal.
Well, as things turned out, they succeeded very well in their transformation.
Singapore now face the same challenge - the transform the economy to face the future. Can we do it?

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Attacking people based on wrong assumptions

I want to share this story to show how evil some people can be. They do not check the facts. They make wrong assumptions and attack other people based on these assumptions.

Recently, I advertised for a software developer for a salary of $1,800 to $3,600. I offered the position to citizens, permanent residents and dependent pass holders.

The dependent pass holders are spouse of employment pass holders and are now living in Singapore. 

Although the job holder has to develop software based on the Microsoft .NET platform, I am prepared to take a person who does not have the working experience and provide training. 

Actually, the main duty is to provide support for the software platforms that have been developed. As this is not a full time job, I wanted the person to develop software as well.

I advertised on Facebook and on Career Future (which is operated by the Ministry of Manpower).

I did not get any single application from locals. No locals wrote to ask for more details of the job. 

I shared my experience on Facebook.

Several people criticized me for offering an inadequate salary. I cannot understand why they should take that view without knowing the facts. 

I received a few applications from foreigners who are now working in Singapore, including a dependent pass holder.

I interviewed the dependent pass holder. She is suitable for the job, although she does not have the required experience on the development platform. She has knowledge of the platform but not the actual working experience. She can be trained. She has excellent work attitude and is willing to learn. 

I offered her a hourly rate which she considered to be adequate. It worked out to a full time monthly salary in the range that I had indicated.

I would love to pay a higher salary, but I have to keep my expenses low to be within the revenue of my company.

I shared my experience on the difficulty of applying for a "letter of consent" in the MOM website. This is the same website that is used to apply for an employment pass, which commands a minimum salary of $3,600.

A few people assumed that I was employing a foreigner on an employment pass for a salary of $3,600 per month and attacked me for not offering the job to a local. They did not check the facts and are ready to attack somebody on their false assumptions.

I was actually employing a dependent pass holding at a much lower salary.

I would have preferred to give the same job to a local, if they take the trouble to find out what is required, and have a good work attitude.

I hope that the unemployed locals who found it difficult to get a job offer can learn from this episode. They need to have a positive work attitude and be willing to learn. They also need to understand that the employer can only pay them as well as the business can afford. They have to be an asset to the company.

Maintaining my weight at 72 kg

During the two months of the circuit breaker, I managed to keep my weight at 72 kg.

On some days, it increased to 73 kg or 74 kg, but I exercised more to bring the weight back to 72 kg.

I frequently go on 90 min walk in the hot sun and wear a mask (as mandated by the insane ministers). Insane or not?

Shhhh. Don't tell them. When nobody is around, I take off the mask.

The insane ministers want me to get obese and to die from heart attack. Liddat? Why are they so bad?

Changing to a new computer

My friend approached me on a problem. His computer died. He wants to find someone to help him to buy a new computer and to transfer his files into the new computer.
I told him that I have changed my computer (home, office, laptop) several times during the past years. Each time, I changed to a new computer, I never bother to transfer my files.
Why? I stored my important files in the Cloud. I use Google Drive.
My friend has a Singnet account for his email. I will also advise him how he can access that account from GMail.
I will also give him some tips on how to use Facebook, as he is afraid to use it. He found it too complicated.
I will create a video to cover my tips on "How to upgrade your Online Skills".
Good or not?

Retrieving a letter of consent after approval

I got the approval for the Letter of Consent. I still have to go through a complicated process to get the letter of approval. Insane or not? APPLICATION OUTCOME NOTIFICATION Name of Employing Company : TAN KIN LIAN & ASSOCIATES PTE. LTD. Your EP Online application for xxxxxxxxxx on 29/05/2020 is approved. 1. Select "Apply > Check Status - Application Outcome" or "Renew > Check Status - Renewal Outcome" on the left menu bar. 2. Enter a Search Criteria (e.g. FIN or Application No) and click "Retrieve". 3. From the Search Results, either select the radio button or click on the Status hyperlink. 4. Print the Outcome letter - LOC Issuance Letter.
Why can't they just send the approval letter to me? I now have to look for my mobile phone to sign in to the website.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Buying a Dell All-in-One Computer

My 10 year old computer in my home died. I think the display board failed, but it could be replaced. As it was quite old, I decided that it was time to buy a new computer.

In this post, I share a secret on how you can get the same computer at a lower price and save $400.

An alternative response to the covid-19 pandemic

Someone asked me how I would have responded differently to the covid-19 pandemic, in the context of what has happened in Singapore.

My views have been stated in several dozen posts in the website called #HearMeOut.

I will summarize the key points here. You can check the earlier posts to verify the accuracy of this summary.

At the initial stage, PM Lee said that the virus will kill 0.2% of the infected people. He was looking at the global statistics available at that time. I agreed with that view. I was not concerned about the virus.

I agreed with the government's view that it was not necessary to wear a mask. I also agreed with the view that the limited stock of masks should be reserved for the health workers who were highly exposed to the risk of infection. The risk to the general public was negligible.

I changed my view about wearing of masks after a few weeks. I decided, out of common sense, that the mask can be washed and re-used and that the limited protection offered by the mask is better than no protection at all.

I would not consider it necessary to impose a rule to make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors. The public should be advised to wear a mask when they are in crowded places. I would leave it to their common sense.

The government was alarmed when they found the large number of infected cases in the foreign worker dormitories. They were worried that the virus would spread in the general community.

They were also worried that the increase in cases would "overwhelm the healthcare system".

I think there were also worried that it would upset their contact tracing strategy.

They decided to call the circuit breaker and closed down workplaces and business outlets.

I publicly expressed in strong terms that it was a bad judgment on the part of the ministers. The cost to the government in relief measures and to the livelihood of several hundred of thousand families was horrendous. It was not necessary at that time.

Most people agreed with the view of the government, but I did not. I did not get much support for my alternative view.

Here is my perspective:

a) I never agreed with the strenuous efforts made in collecting contact tracing details. I felt that it was a waste of time that could have been better spent on other useful activities. I do not mind contact tracing by asking the infected people who they had met within the past two weeks. It is not comprehensive, but it is adequate.

b) I preferred that hand sanitizers be provided at all public places - and be clearly visible to everybody. Instead, they were made available in only a few places and most were hidden away.

c) I also preferred that the temperature scanning should be carried out by a central agency, using proper equipment and trained personnel, rather than be left to the workplaces (which were unreliable and waste a lot of manpower).

After the first four weeks of the circuit breaker, the ministers decided to extend it by another four weeks. I declared them to be insane.

Here are my reasons:

a) Although a large number of new cases were detected each day, it was the result of large scale testing in the dormitories.

b) Most of these cases were mild. Most of the infected people did not need hospital treatment. They could be quarantined in the isolation facilities. They were not dropping like flies.

c) The hospital system was not overwhelmed, even after the infected cases went past 20,000 and later 30,000. The number of severe ill patients under intensive care remained below 30. It has since dropped below 10.

d) The death rate in Singapore was extremely low. It was only 2 per million of population (it has since increased to 4). It was nowhere alarming, compared to over 400 per million in some countries.

e) The ministers lost their perspective. They were so worried about 30 deaths from covid-19. They forget that 20,000 people die every year in Singapore from all causes.

f) It was quite clear by that time that the virus was mild in Singapore, probably due to our warm climate. It was nowhere as lethal as the virus in cold countries.

The ministers, with the support of the public agencies and the military, were efficient in to set up 20,000 beds in the isolation centers within a few weeks. I said that it was commendable but not exemplary. Many other countries were able to carry out similar undertakings with similar success.

I consider the ministers to be insane in extending the circuit breaker. They confirmed their insanity by relaxing the circuit breaker in three phases, which, in effect, is prolonging the circuit breaker.

Some people supported the extension of the circuit breaker by stating that the number of deaths would have increased, if it was not done.

We do not know if this will become so serious. We do not know how many lives would have been saved.

We should not overlook the lives that were lost due to the circuit breaker, from people who delayed their treatment for other serious illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, and from people who suffered depression and other mental health issues.

One thing is clear. The circuit breaker cost $100 billion in taxpayer's money to provide relief to the affected businesses and households. This is only partial relief. It does not compensate them adequately for the full extent of their losses.

Many small businesses will not survive. Many families will have their finances completely ravaged.

The $100 billion could have been put to better use to waive GST totally for 8 years or to provide $800 a month to every person above age 70 for 25 years.

In the light of the uncertainty, what would I have done?

I would wait before calling the circuit breaker. I would see how bad the situation would develop, before taking extreme measures that are costly in economic terms and potentially more damaging in health and lives.

I would not act in haste or in panic. I would carry out my risk evaluation in a calm manner.

In the light of uncertainty, I would monitor and adjust our strategy in the light of new evidence. I would not take the extreme measures which may turn out to be the worst option.

I declare the ministers to be insane and that the government had wasted the $100 billion and cost a lot of damage to businesses and households.

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Poor design of websites of government agencies

The websites of most government agencies are poorly designed. They are complicated, confusing and often have bugs. They cause the general public to waste a lot of time in submitting transactions with these agencies.  Some people commented that the poor design is due to outsourcing of the development work to certain countries.  I disagree.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


1. What will happen in Hong Kong with the new national security law?

WOTC - Reduce reliance on foreign workers

Wisdom of the Crowd: 73% of the respondents said that we should improve the wages and working conditions to attract locals to do the jobs now done by foreign workers, and also use tools to improve productivity. The other 27% said that we will still have to rely on foreign workers to do many of the jobs shunned by locals. 

Insane ministers

I made the following post - The ministers made a bad judgement when they start the circuit breaker. They are insane for extending it.
Why do I say this?

Monday, May 25, 2020

WOTC - International travel after the pandemic

Wisdom of the Crowd: 81% of the respondents expect international travel to resume after the pandemic is over, but will be below the level before the pandemic. 5% expect it to reach the level before the pandemic. 14% think that it will be seriously damaged permanently.

WOTC - Impact of corna virus in the future

Wisdom of the Crowd: 18% of the respondents expect the corona virus to be a serious problems in the years ahead. 82% expect the virus to be eradicated or be mild.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. There is a high level of trust in the govt in Singapore
2. The ministerial task force has done well in dealing with the corona virus.

Vote in

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Monitor work at home.

Some offices have several CCTVs to monitor different parts of the workplace. They record movements in the office. The owner can set the CCTV to send an alert when there is movement after office hours. 

The cost of the CCTV, including a SD card, is $60. This is a useful device to install in the workplace at home for the supervisor to monitor the workers. It creates a self discipline for the worker to work during the designated hours. 

Hardship faced by small business

This is an example of the hardship faced by small businesses during the Circuit Breaker lockdown.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Where did the covid-19 virus originate?
2. Do you like working from home after the circuit breaker is lifted?
3. Are people productive when they work from home?

Vote in

WOTC - International travel and tourism

Wisdom of the Crowd: 81% of the respondents expect international travel and tourism to recover, but will remain below the level before the pandemic. 14% are pessimistic and said that it has been damaged permanently.

WOTC - the Singapore economy

Wisdom of the Crowd: 98% of the respondents are pessimistic about the prospects for the Singapore economy, even after the pandemic. It is worrisome.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The impact of the pandemic on political systems

The covid-19 pandemic will cause a major change in the political systems in many countries.  To address the economic disruption, many countries have to implement fiscal stimulus plan that cause a large increase in debt. It required the government to play a large role in the economy. The neo-liberal system that has been in favor for the past three decades, and which advocated a smaller role for the government, failed to produce a suitable response. The government had to step in.

Is Zoom secure

I used Zoom for online talks. Someone asked me - is Zoom secure? I like to give my views. We need to identify what is the risk of using Zoom.

WOTC - Extension of circuit breaker

Wisdom of the Crowd: 66% disagree with the extension of the circuit breaker and prefer other ways to stop the spread of the corona virus. 34% agree with the extension.

WOTC - Infected foreign workers

Wisdom of the Crowd: 51% of the respondents think that the infected foreign workers will not pose a danger to the general community. 49% think that it would.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Reduce reliance on foreign workers

The covid-19 crisis has shown the flaws in Singapore's reliance on foreign workers. 

Due to the unsanitary and overcrowded conditions in the foreign worker dormitories, the covid virus has inflected most, if not all, the foreign workers. 

 It has caused the government to implement a circuit breaker (it is actually a lockdown) for two months. The cost to the economy is a horrendous $60 billion (my estimate), which could have been used to suspend GST totally for six years. 

 Looking ahead, what can Singapore do to reduce the reliance on foreign workers?

Foreign workers in community facilities

There are videos showing the foreign workers in the community facilities who are not observing social distancing. They congregate and socialize.

Some people commented that they are having a good time - no need to work, get three meals a day and get paid in full.

But other people said that they depend more on overtime pay, so the confinement is hard on their finances. 

It becomes a lose-lose situation.
I hope that this is a good lesson for the country, and for the government. The reliance on foreign workers is bad, and has hit us badly.

Quora: If Trump were to cancel debt to China, would other countries think twice about buying US bonds in the future?

Buddha Buck, studied at University at Buffalo answered

Let’s rephrase that: If Trump were to default on 4% of the US debt, would every investor in the world think twice about buying US bonds in the future?

Yes, yes they would. And for good reason. It would mean that the trustworthiness of the US government to pay back the debt — like it has been doing continuously since 1789 — is gone. The US would be a dead-beat nation, unable to raise money via debt it needs to finance its operations.

The US economy would collapse. Of the $22T GDP, a good $5T of that comes directly from government spending. Except the government can’t spend anything because they don’t have the money.

Taxes would go up sharply, and government spending would fall. Neither of which is particularly good for the economy.

Investors would flee US Bonds, driving the price of those bonds down and the yields up, reflecting the suddenly increased risk of owning the bonds. Prices of other bonds and of stocks, etc, would go up as literally tens of trillions of dollars flood the market from former US Bond-holders who now want something else, anything else, than US Bonds.

The main “country” that owns US bonds is the US. Not the US Government (although it owns quite a lot of US bonds), but the US public. Retirement funds, banks, wealthy individuals, companies, hedge funds, etc. The same is true for other “countries” that own US bonds — it isn’t just the governments, it’s other institutions as well. The reason it gets lumped all together is that the US Treasury reports only on the aggregate nationality of the bondholders. When you hear $1.268T of the US debt in February was owned by Japan, compared to $1.092T owned by China, that means that $1.268T of US debt was owned by entities based in Japan, not the Japanese government or the Japanese central bank.

It would also likely lead to Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. There is a very strong argument to be made that defaulting on the debt is unconstitutional. Certainly the completely foreseeable outcome of the debt is bad enough that even the Senate Republicans can’t cover for it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Platform to process the contact tracing records

The govt require workplaces and business outlets to implement contract tracing. This must involve tens of million dollars. Most of the cost is incurred by businesses and are passed to their customers through higher prices.

How well is the contact tracing records being used? How often have the govt identified people who have been in contact with the infected people from their database?

Expansion of isolation facilities

There is a positive aspect in the actions taken by the ministerial task force during the covid-19 crisis.
They were able to expand the isolation facilities quickly when the need arose.

Discharge of patients staying in isolated facilities

1,164 patients were discharged from hospital and isolation facilities on 14 May 2020. This was described as a "high".

This is how I see the significance of this figure.

Quora: Why is the White House in “complete chaos” over the coronavirus?

  1. usually when a new administration comes in there is a ‘handover period’ when the new team bed in with the old team to get briefed on the role and get a handle on the big issues. The Trump administration didn’t do this - they just fired everyone from Obama’s staff and then tried to work it out as best they could.
  2. A huge number of Federal posts still remain unfilled even after firing all the previous Obama staffers. This includes, amongst other things, the Federal task force (set up by the much hated Obama ) for dealing with infectious disease pandemics.
For bonus points: the US used to embed a member of staff permanently with China’s CDDC (equivalent of the US CDC) so that the US could be updated on any relevant developments in China. The Trump administration cancelled that post in 2017.
So, at the time when it really, really needs expertise and experience around it, the Trump White House finds itself very much alone. That has had fairly predictable consequences at the worst possible time.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Who should Joe Biden select as his vice president candidate?
2. How do you see the low spread of infection in the community?
Vote in

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Vote in Wisdom of the Crowd

Submit your vote on these issues in The Wisdom of the Crowd. You will win a prize at the end of the month.

WOTC - Rally in the stock market

Wisdom of the Crowd: 80% of the respondents expect the current stock market rally to fizzle out. 20% are optimistic.

WOTC - Second wave of infection

Wisdom of the Crowd: 72% of the respondents said that the second wave of the infection will be less serious than the first wave. 28% expect it to be more serious.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

High death rates in UK, USA

The death rates in UK and USA increased sharply in recent months.  They have nearly caught up with Italy and Spain. The death per million population are Spain 584 Italy 514 UK 489 USA 259 What is the reason for the  sharp increase in UK and USA?

Unhappy with M of Manpower

My friend managed to find a job recently. She is disappointed with the policy of the M of Manpower.

It has been difficult for me in the last 10 years. I was always working on contract basis even with same or 15% to 20% lower of my salary.

Employer still prefers to employ foreigners. They do not need to contribute CPF or pay levy (Employment Pass Holder) and with poor/lower staff benefits. Foreigners always like to claim everything they also can do.

They can come early and work very late every day. This has affected the jobs available for Singaporeans.

I saw the foreigners bring their own culture and provide assistance to the employer to get more of their friends being employed. Some even exploit our local employees.

The workplace becomes a small community of their own. It is sad to see it is happening in Singapore.

I was jobless for almost more than 1.5 years. I think likely due to above 55 years old and today employer still favoured foreign talents rather than employing Singaporeans even for the same pay.

I have many years of experience in several functions and vast knowledge and experience working with different multinational companies. Still I could not find an employer willing to give me the opportunity.

Perhaps this time I am lucky to find an employer willing to employ me for my experience that I can contribute and age is not a factor. I bring to them my knowledge of enterprise resource planning.

A sense of proportion

When I present a view after careful research, some people (I shall not call them idiots) will come to contradict and challenge me.

I find it difficult to engage in a discussion with them. They cannot tell the difference between 20 deaths (in Singapore) and 3,000 deaths (in Wuhan). They think both are the same in severity.

They cannot tell the difference between $60 billion and $60 million. They think both amounts are the same in magnitude.

They think that it is all right to spend $60 billion to reduce the number of infected cases. What nonsense!

They have no sense of proportion. They can't tell what is big, what is small, what is important, what is not.

They make their argument on lofty principles like "every life is invaluable".

What to do? I delete their nonsense. They can post their views in he insane ministers' Facebook pages. Their views will be welcome there.

WOTC - Increase in infection rates

Wisdom of the Crowd: 76% of the respondents said that the increase in infection of covid-19 will not lead to many deaths in Singapore.

WOTC - Extension of circuit breaker

Wisdom of the Crowd: 38% of the respondents agreed with the extension of the circuit breaker. 62% disagreed.

Use policy decisions based on risk evaluation

My friend sent me this link to an article about covid-19. I read it. It described the harm that the virus can do to the body.

 I replied to my friend that I do not pay attention to scare stories. Even though the stories may be true, it applies to a small number of people. I will wait for more cases to be confirmed before I worry about this outcome. Meanwhile, I will treat it like an accident. 

 He replied - spoken like a true statistician. 

I like to draw the following observations: 

a) It is important to look at the actual data and to assess the cost of risk - i.e. the severity (amount of loss) and the frequency (or likelihood). If the cost is high, we should pay attention. 

b) We should not worry about "what could happen". There are too many things that could happen. The sky could fall down, right? 

c) Policy decisions should be made by proper risk evaluation, i.e. the cost of risk. It should not be made by "what could happen".

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

PM Johnson faces a dilemma

PM Johnson of the UK faces a dilemma. The death rate in the UK for covid-19 is quite high, at 482 per million, just slightly below Italy and Spain. 

The lockdown has been damaging to the UK economy. He cannot continue the lockdown for much longer as the economic damage will be very serious. 

He starts a public communication campaign to encourage the UK residents to return to work, but to continue safe measures. The people are not convinced about the new message. They are scared of of covid. They do not want to be exposed to the risk of infection. 

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Why were there so few deaths among the infected foreign workers?

Vote in

WOTC - Mistake made by the ministerial task force

Wisdom of the Crowd: 48% of the respondents said that the ministerial task force made many mistakes along the way in the handling of the crisis. 40% said they overlook the overcrowding in the worker dormitories.

WOTC - Is the corona virus already widespread in the community?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 76% of the respondents said that the corona virus was already quite widespread in the community but did not cause much harm. 24% said that it the virus was well contained and did not spread widely in the community.

A risk management issue

I wish to pose a risk management issue for you to consider.

A low income family has a small amount of savings. They child is seriously ill. The medical expense will wipe out the entire savings. The chance of survival is low.

Should the family use the savings in an attempt to save their child? The parents want to do the best they can for the child.

AGM Voting Software

I developed this platform for carrying out the voting in an AGM conducted over teleconferencing.

Several managing agents representing a few hundred condos in Singapore are interested in using this platform during the circuit breaker period.

You can view the videos and explanation of this platform here It can also be used for AGMs for associations, socieities and listed companies.

If you know of anybody who is interested in this platform, please refer them to

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Deaths per million

A good indicator of the severity of the covid-19 virus is the death per million of population. Here are the figures, ranked by country that are most severely hit. Most of these countries are in Europe and North America, which has just passed through winter. The countries in South East Asia have low rates as they are in the warm climate. Australia also just passed through summer and have low rates as well.

Some of the countries with cold climates have low death rates due to better social discipline. They include South Korea, Japan and China.

Risk management concept

Some people argued that human life is valuable and that every effort should be made to save every human life and that money should not be an issue.

This is an irrational approach. 

The flaws in this argument are:

Profitable companies return subsidies under Job Support schemes

Some profitable companies, such as banks and pharmaceutical companies, have returned the subsidies given by the government under the Job Support schemes.  Their action is laudable. However, some other profitable companies may pocket the subsidies.  This shows the weakness of the approach adopted by the finance minister to help business meet the cost of the circuit breaker measures. What is a better approach?

Learn the fundamentals of risk management

Many people think that the best option is to have a total lockdown of the economy to stop the spread of the corona virus. This is often the wrong approach. It is too costly.

In risk management, we have to consider several approaches and weigh the cost of each option. This takes into account the severity and the frequency.

This risk management concept is explained in this course. It is available FREE now.

The risk management concept can also apply to personal risk management, e.g. should you buy insurance, what kind, and is it worth it?

Blog Archive