Saturday, April 25, 2009

Survey: Job satisfaction of Singaporeans

A Business Times report quoted a survey showing that Singaporeans have low job satisfaction - the second worst in the world (Japan is the worst). What are the key factors? Give your views in this survey.

Here are the survey results.

Get a better return from CPF retirement account

Mr Tan,
I bought the annuity in 2002 with my CPF. At that time I have faith in the Company. Today if I wish to surrender, they will pay me $X ( after about 6.5yrs ) And if I were to continue with the annuity policy, I will get about $Y p.m. 

I have substantial savings and have not make any withdrawal from my CPF. I have been following the development and I do not expect INCOME to pay any attractive yearly bonus.

 I am not sure is it better off if I had not take up this annuity and leave this sum in my CPF retirement account which many of my colleagues had done. I am prepared to keep the sum in my CPF. I am still working and no financial problem. Pls advise whether I should surrender the policy..

It is better to terminate the annuity and put the money back into the CPF special account. The surrender value that you get now represents a return of 3.9% p.a. for the last 6.5 years. It is slightly lower than the 4% given by CPF on the special account, but the loss is slight and can be ignored. It is better to look forward and get (hopefully) a better return from the CPF in the future. All the best!

Hong Kong: Legislators to lift lid on minibond probe secrets

Legislators plan to defy the Hong Kong Monetary Authority by making public portions of an investigation report into the Lehman Brothers minibonds saga that the de facto central bank wants to keep confidential.

Raymond Ho Chung-tai, chairman of the subcommittee probing the minibonds saga, said legislators will use the confidential portions of the report for discussion at public hearings.

A source says the among details the HKMA wants to keep confidential is the finding that around 50 percent of the 238 complainants are people who traditionally have a lesser appetite for risk – the elderly and those who are not well educated.

The next subcommittee hearing on Tuesday is expected to be a fiery meeting because legislators are expected to make some of the confidential findings public in the presence of HKMA chief executive Joseph Yam Chi-kwong.

A young person interested in politics

Hi Mr Tan,

I went tru the survery and read some of the comments in the post... just like to add:

I'm 27, just an average skilled worker, holding a diploma, getting 2k+ a monthly. Like most sg kids then, I have no interest in politics nor policies the white immortals came up with. I always thot: wats it gotta do with me? After all, I'm just another ordinary guy, interested in stuff like computers and have no interest in politics.

Fast forward 20 years and then we will realise: whats it gotta do with me? everything.

I have come to realise in recent years: Every scheme every policy every act, no matter how small affects us. It pains me to see how incompetent the current govt is. Its no joke whenever u seek help or answers, u are pushed into a chain of merry go rounds whereby each recipients declare someone else is responsible.

The media furthers this cause by dropping red herrings or changing the subjects to make govt related bodies look good.

Look at the recent Current affairs. Which agency or leader have ever declared "yes its our mistake. we will do watever we can to learn and not repeat" ?

Every single one starts by declaring "its not my fault. Everyone else is to blame" and then finds a scrapgoat, if not then its "everyone went in with their eyes open".
Whatever happened to govt is meant to serve the people, instead of the other way around now?

Its a sad state that singapore has fallen to, what has happen to inspirational leaders like the current Obama, hell, even the past LKY? Now they "fix oppositions and buy votes" if cannot? then declare "public order act" and use the army in case they lose. What is this? This is not the sg i knew when i was younger, or maybe i was so ignorant then.

The younger generations... they dont see these things. I never did then either, after all you cant blame them. What do pple care about in the teens? sports, bgrs, entertainment, games etc... Politics is 'boring stuff' for 'adults'. At least I used to think so.

If i were given a chance to get into politics now, i would snap at it, not becos of fame or fortune. I dislike fame, and I think i am already fortunate. The only reason to why I would want to get in, is only to be a voice of the oppressed and the repressed, to keep ministers in check or at the least, make them stay honest. I'm no noble man, being just a normal ordinary citizen, but I dislike injustice, and to think that I used to think such things dun usually happen in our sparkling clean Singapore.

Yet we STARE at it every single day, and still they want to whitewash every event and highlight their "achievements" and gloat about their paycheck. 6 times the POTUS paycheck? Where's 6 times the responsibility? All i see is 6 times the taichi, perhaps there is a correlation between higher pay and less responsibility after all. If not, how do people hold multiple directorships and run every inc at the same time? Somebody has got to keep them honest, and make them work for their paycheck.

I hope Singapore never experiences what Thailand is going tru... but I feel that like many people after they climb all the way to the top of the ivory tower, sometimes they need a good fall to be more down to earth. Bend a branch too much, eventually it will snap. Its a precarious balancing act those people are doing, how long before the "mortals" get sick and tired of being treated like idiots and being taken for a ride? For me, its probably too late to get my say into politics. If I knew then wat i knew now, i would have chose a much different path. The day President Ong stepped down was the day the govt 'won'. What we have left, is just a mascot doing the biddings of the mastermind.

A certain character from a action movie once told a "hero" in his fight against corruption: "you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villian".

For me, I waitng for a new dawn in singapore government. Failing which, I'm setting my sights on New Zealand. I heard the grass there is not only greener, but a lot less hectic.

(name deleted)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Improve the public bus service

Read this letter to MyPaper.

Protecting consumers

This article is published in The Online Citizen.

Jobs in service industry

Many department stores in Jakarta employ many sales assistants. They have the time to provide customer service. The sales assistants earn a minimum wage (about USD 100 per month), but this is sufficient to meet the cost of living. It creates many jobs for the young people.

I hope that our service sectors in Singapore take the same approach and employ more people to improve customer service. During the current economic downturn, many people (young and older) will be happy to have a job, even if the wages are low.  Being employed is better than being unemployoed, and remaining idle, at home.

They will learn the experience of customer service, which will be useful for the future quality of life in Singapore.

As many businesses are watching their cash flow, perhaps some government funding can be given for these customer service jobs?

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SCMP:Eightfold rise in funding to investigate bank gripe

The Monetary Authority will spend HK$138 million this year to handle complaints against banking services - an eightfold increase on last year, before US investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

It spent HK$17 million in this area last year. In the new plan, most of the money, some HK$84 million, will be used to pay for extra staff to handle complaints.

The funding was detailed in the authority's annual report published yesterday - which also revealed that Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, its chief executive, enjoyed a pay rise of 15.44 per cent last year, pocketing HK$11.93 million.

Mr Yam, one of the best paid central bankers in the world, saw his fixed pay rise 8.38 per cent to HK$7.783 million, while his performance-linked variable pay increased 15.87 per cent to HK$3.176 million. He also received other benefits.

The authority's three deputy chief executives averaged HK$7.04 million, and the 13 executive directors averaged HK$4.20 million.

Democratic Party lawmaker Kam Nai-wai said he was unhappy at Mr Yam's salary increase. He said that as the authority unveiled in January a full-year investment loss of HK$74.9 billion for the Exchange Fund, he could not find a reason why Mr Yam could enjoy such a large pay rise.

Mr Kam said the eightfold increase in spending to handle complaints against banking services was a reflection of underspending and understaffing in the authority's investigation efforts before the Lehman Brothers debacle.

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said Mr Yam's pay rise was incomprehensible. He questioned how HK$138 million would be spent as he had not seen any obvious results from the investigative work already done by the authority into matters relating to Lehmans Brothers.

Hong Kong investors lost billions on minibonds guaranteed by Lehman Brothers. They have urged Mr Yam to give up his bonuses and cut his pay for the Exchange Fund losses and what they said was poor regulation of banks that had dishonestly selling some financial products.

The authority said on March 27 it would freeze the salaries of Mr Yam and about 600 employees this year. Last year it reduced their variable pay - similar to a bonus - by 30 per cent. This cut the bonus to the equivalent of two months' pay on average, down from 2.9 months in 2007.

The city's de facto central bank budgeted staff costs of HK$656 million for the year, a rise of 3.96 per cent, making up 78.5 per cent of the total administrative expenditure budget of HK$836 million. In the report, Mr Yam described the global meltdown as "some of the most dramatic events in living memory". He said local banks were not insulated from the crisis, with profitability deteriorating and cost-to-income ratios rising.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Excellent facilities at Changi Airport

I am now using the Laptap Access point outside of my departure gate at Changi Airport. The facilities are excellent. It is more convenient to me than the DBS Asia Treasures Lounge which I used previously, and is located in a different terminal. If I do not have a laptop, I can use the free internet terminals which is also available here. 


DBS Asia Treasures Lounge

I have been a customer of DBS for more than 30 years. A few years ago, they offered me the membership of the Asia Treasures lounge in Changi Airport. I did not use the facilities initially.

Last two years, I used the facilities regularly for my trips to Jakarta. Recently, DBS decided not to renew my membership on its expiry. Their explanation was that my asset under management fell below $1 million.

I do not recall have met this $1 million mark when the membership was first offered to me. DBS must have raised the requirement for people who used the facilities regularly. So, current profit is more important than past relationship. This is the new value system in Singapore.

I have learned to accept the new world, but I do wish for the old world where long term relationship is treasured.

Tan Kin Lian

Monday, April 20, 2009

Contingency fee system

I discussed with a law professor in a local university. Is it good for Singapore to adopt a contingency fee system for legal practice?

We came to the conclusion that it is useful under certain circumstances and for the following reasons:

(a) Where the litigant cannot afford the legal fees to take up a case against a large organisation
(b) Where the lawyer is in a better position to judge the merit of the case and should take the risk of the outcome.

If more cases are tried in court, it will lead to a better understanding of the law. This will be good for the society.

Tan Kin Lian

The Standard:Minibond anger directed at Donald Tsang

About 850 angry Lehman Brothers minibond investors yesterday called for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to step down for failing to help them.

The Alliance of Lehman Brothers Victims claimed 3,000 protesters, wearing red headbands bearing the Chinese character for angry, joined a march from Causeway Bay to the central government offices.

Among the group were some Singapore and Taiwan investors who also urged the Hong Kong government to handle the issue faster. The protesters vented their anger by hitting a drum, pasted with Tsang's photo, outside the government headquarters.

A Singapore investor said her government has resolved 70 percent of about 8,000 cases through judgment. "It seems the Singapore government is more reactive. It takes too long here [Hong Kong] and the compensation is too little," she said.

Alliance chairman Peter Chan Kwong-yue criticized the authorities for not carrying out their responsibilities and hit out at the Securities and Futures Commission for allowing banks to sell the minibonds, and police and the Department of Justice for not following up the complaints.

Chan was angry over Tsang's silence. "He has not showed concern to the investors since October. It is so disappointing," he said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Kam Nai-wai said he hopes Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah will explain the incident to the Legislative Council.

A government spokesman said it has requested the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission to seriously handle the complaints.

"We note that two SFC-licensed minibond distributors have agreed with the SFC to make a voluntary offer to purchase from their eligible clients all outstanding Lehman Brothers minibonds at a price equal to the principal amount invested.

So far, there are about 6,000 cases in which voluntary settlements have been reached or are soon to be reached with the banks concerned."

Where are the jobs?

The unemployment rate in USA is now at 8.5% and is expected to increase to 10%. The unemployment rate in many countries Europe has been over 10% for many years. 

The unemployment rate in Singapore may appear low by international standards, but it is seriously under-reported. Due to the lack of employment benefit, many people do not bother to report that they are looking for work.

Minister of Manpower Gan Kim Yong advised graduates to take any job, rather than sit at home. But, where are the jobs? There are insufficient jobs for the large number of people looking for work. Those with jobs work long hours, to justify their cost to the employer. This is the outcome of the free market system.

If we continue to believe in the free market and in globalisation, it will take a long time for a solution to be found. The free market system has finally broken down, and yet economists and  policymakers do not want to face the reality that it is a failed system.

We need a better system (other than the free market) to distribute the work among the people in the world in a fair manner. This will give a better quality of life to all people. 

Tan Kin Lian

Bonus cut on life insurance policies

Dear Mr. Tan,
I received a letter fror my insurance company that they are cutting my bonus. I know that the global economic situation is bad, but I feel that there is no need for a big cut. After all, the insurance company made big profit last year, and they did not increase their bonus rate by much. Is it fair?

I agree with your views. There is lack of transparency in the manner in which the bonus has been cut. Some policies have a bigger cut in bonus compared to other policies. It seems that the old plans have bigger cut compared to the newer plans, as the insurance company hopes to sell their new plans. 

It is important that insurance companies should treat all policyholders fairly and that the bonus must be distributed fairly based on the actual experience of the insurance fund. It is not fair for an insurance company to withhold profits in good years and make a big cut in bad years.

If you wish to provide feedback on the bonus cut on your policy, you can give details here. It will be kept in confidence.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Survey: Getting our young into Politics

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew said that young people are not interested to go into politics. He quoted the example of his grandson, who is now on a scholarship.

I like to carry out this survey to get the views of a wider group of people. Please participate.

Here are the survey results.

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