Saturday, June 05, 2010

Competition Law

I am surprised that SISTIC should be charged, found guilty and fined nearly $1 million for breaching the Competition Act. Here are my reasons:

a) SISTIC competed fairly to win the contract from the venue owners to handle the ticketing of their shows.
b) It is more sensible for the venue owner to get one ticketing company, rather than several companies, to handle the sale of the tickets.
c) The ticket charge (presumably $2) is a small charge for the work of issuing a ticket
d) ticket charge can be considered as part of the total cost of the show. If the customer does not like the total price, the customer is not required to  watch the show.

The ticket charge is small, as compared to the charge of $30 imposed by the banks to transfer US$100. If SISTIC should be fined for this charged for this fee, why are the banks allowed to impose a charge that is 15 times of this sum? The work is similar in both cases.

I am not sure if I got my facts and issues correctly, so I look forward to getting the views of other people on this matter.

Tan Kin Lian

Poor return from endowment policy

Dear Mr Tan,
In 1995, my mother was sold an endowment product. The policy is maturing in about 5 years time. By that time, she would have paid a total of $16,000 in premium for the life policy and $2,000 for the critical illness rider. The insurance company said that the guaranteed payout after 21 years is $14,000 and the projected payout is about $16,000.

This is really a ridiculous situation. If she had left her money in FD over 21 years, she would have got a better return than this endowment product. This product is giving a negative returns over the 21 year period! At that time, my mother was not working and the premium was all she could afford. It is sickening that there are people out there who will even try to milk money out of such poor people, as the agent sold the policy as a "savings plan".

Is there any action that I can take against the insurance company? The agent who sold the policy has long since vanished.

I agree with your views. A fair return for 21 years should be 3% p.a. This would give a maturity benefit of $21,800, instead of $16,000. Another insurance company has advertised that it gave a return of more than 5% over a similar period in the past. This would have produced more than  $27,200. 

I suggest that you write a complaint to MAS and to the newspaper.

Avoid markeeteers

In the past, many people have approached me on land banking and time sharing products. These are people who meet me at various events and claimed to know me. They gave me a business cards indicating their involvement in these companies. They wanted to market the products to me. I declined. Some of these marketeers called my home telephone to tell me about the investment opportunities. I also declined to talk to them.

I make it a point to avoid every one who markets investment products. I know that they earn commission from their sales to investors. It is easy for them to tell stories about how much profit can be made from these investments, so that they can close a sale and earn their commission. But the stories of the potential profits are mostly exaggerated.

I do not even bother to spend time to due research on these investment products. I just avoided all of them. This is why I did not know about the min-bonds, pinnacle notes and other credit-linked notes until they busted.

Tan Kin Lian

Medical insurance

Dear Mr. Tan,
I hope that you can post some advice in your blog on choosing between the Medishield, Shield and hospital insurance.

You can view some of my postings on medical insurance here. You can get a more complete writeup in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

My advice is to buy a Medishield plan (from CPF) or a Shield Plan B from an insurance company. There is no need to insure the co-payment and deductible, as these expenses are small and can be paid out of Medisave.

Lawyers and shady practices

Dear Mr. Tan,
The land banking company that is mentioned in many blogs for failing to return the investments on maturity is being advised by a big legal firm in Singapore. This firm is headed by a well known lawyer who is also a MP. How can the Government allow the MP to be involved in advising a company that is engaged in shady practices? Is this why the relevant bodies are not prepared to investigate this land banking company, in spite of many complaints being lodged with the CAD and MAS?

I do not know whether this MP is aware about the practices of the land banking company. Perhaps, it is another partner that is advising the company.

Friday, June 04, 2010


I wanted to look for GSM building in Middle Road. I went to the RED map, type in "GSM" and found the map immediately. It is easy to use and fast to search. I found that the nearest MRT stations were Bras Basah and Bugis.  RED map is available at:

Practical Guide on Financial Planning

I wrote this book to contain tips that are important to every person, from the time that a young person starts work to the later stages of life of raising a family and approaching retirement.

The tips cover:
- need to set aside savings
- investing the savings in a low cost fund
- avoiding structured and unregulated investments
- managing risks of volatile markets
- withdrawing savings during retirement

The book cost only $12 but you will need to spend 12 hours to read and understand the concepts. This can save you a lot of money later on, by avoiding the investments that are bad for you.

The book can be ordered online here. It is an excellent gift for young people who are starting work.

I also give a monthly talk on the key principles contained in this book. The talks are organised by FISCA. Many people attend the talk to ask questions that has been worrying them, especially on advice that were given to them by financial advisers.

Tan Kin Lian

Lawyer to handle a complaint

Dear Mr. Tan,
I wish to engage a lawyer to handle my complaint on the Vista investment plan. I have not been properly adviced about the penalty charges on the early termination of this plan. This has caused me to lose a large part of the amount that I have invested. Can you recommend this lawyer?

I am not able to give you a name right now. If I come across a lawyer that is interested to take this case, I will inform you.

Discounted value of bonus on life policy

Dear Kin Lian
I have a GE policy with bonus @ $14,000. Recently I applied to withdraw the bonus instead of cancelling the policy or take a loan. Apparently I am granted only @ $8,000.

I was informed that my sum assured still remain the same. What I am disturb about is what happen to the balance $6,000. Will I loose it totally just because I draw out $8,000.

A bonus of $14,000 is the amount that is payable on the maturity date of the policy or on death. So, this is an amount payable many years into the future. If you wish to withdraw the bonus now, you will get the present value of the bonus, i.e. the discounted value. In your case, the discounted value is $8,000. This is probably a fair amount depending on the rate of discount used to compute it.

General election - 2010 or 2011

A reader asked me to conduct a poll on the current government. I have already done the poll on a few occasions in the past year. I believe that the results would probably be the same. You can view the results here:

US Debt of USD 13 trillion

The debt of the US Federal government has readed USD 13 trillion, is 13 followed by 12 zeroes.

Many governments faced large debts amounting to a high proportion of the GDP. They include many countries in Europe, the UK and Japan. We have seen what happened with the Euro when Greece, Spain and now Hungary gets into trouble. It will be a matter of time, before the loss of confidence affects the US dollar. When that happens, there will be a bigger financial crisis.

I do not have an answer about what can be done to protect our savings from this impending disaster. Perhaps, the best form of investments is in productive assets, i.e. the shares of companies that run an operation and earns a profit. While the values of the shares may drop in a crisis, the company should continue to earn a profit and pay a dividend. If business is bad, the company can cut cost by reducing their workforce.

It is important to reduce debts. When a crisis hits, the banks will pull back the loans. Those who have borrowed money will have to sell assets at highly depressed prices to repay the loans. This will include borrowings to buy investment properties.

The prognosis for the global economy is discouraging. It reflects the failure of the capitalist and free market system. We do not need to revert to full socialism. A better model is a regulated market, fairer distribution of income and higher taxes for those that earn extreme incomes.

Tan Kin Lian

Car park wardens

I visited the National Skin Center two weeks ago. On driving into the car park, I was guided by a uniformed warden to a vacant space. I talked to him and learned that he was 66 years old.

It is a good idea to provide this type of employment for our older workers who need a job to get by. It keeps the elderly worker physically fit and active, and improves service to visitors of the car park. The warden can also provide directions.

If these decisions are left to individual businesss, most of them would prefer to save cost and not create this type of employment. However, if they are mandated to be necessary for car paks of certain sizes, there will be more jobs that are created for our older workers.

Tan Kin Lian

Public transport fares, service and profits

A vandal broke in to a MRT depot and painted graffiti on a train. The vandalism was not noticed by the employees for some time, until a video was posted on Youtube by a passenger. What does this tell us?

SMRT has cut down its employees to be bare minimum to reduce cost and improve profits. It would have been better if SMRT had employed more people and show a smaller (but still healthy profit). This will create jobs for more people to provide better security and improve customer service. They should also run more trains to reduce the congestion and waiting time.

These actions can be taken without increasing the fares, as SMRT is showing a healthy profit. The Public Transport Council has to be more vigilent in moniting the fares, level of service and profits of our bus and train operators.

This is an example of the failure of the unregulated market in getting the right outcome for the country.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Logic Quiz

Try puzzle 8 in this webpage. It is a new type of logic quiz.

Althought the structure of the quiz is different, I was able to apply the same technique as the Intelligence Quiz to solve this puzzle.

Trend towards contract work

Dear Mr. Tan
Without good paying jobs, consumption will suffer, which will cause even fewer jobs and less consumption:
My comment
I have observed this trend for some time. I agree with the findings. If workers do not have security of employment, things will continue to get worse.

How can top CEOs and bankers continue to make so much money, when other people in the economy suffer a drop in income? This is a consequence of our free market system. The solution is to get back to a more regulated economy - i.e. more regulation on terms of employments, hours of work, security of jobs, fair compensation and other factors.

Economic growth and asset prices

Some economies were able to achieve rapid growth over an extended period. During the initial years, they adopted economic policies that proved to be attractive for inward foreign investments. This created jobs and lead to a productive economy.

The next stage of the economic development was funded by the rapid rise in property prices. As these assets appreciated in value, the owners felt that they had become wealthy. The governments were also able to use the appreciated values of their assets to take more borrowings to fund national development and other spending. Some of these spendings become wasteful and were not economical justifiable.

After a few decades of inflated asset values, these economies will have to face their reality. Asset bubbles allow more debts and borrowings and do not really create productive wealth. There has to be a payback time.

We have seen the bursting of the asset bubbles in Japan in the 1990s and the continuing pain for two decades. We are now seeing this situation in the USA and Europe. Singapore is also funded on this type of asset bubbles. The high property prices have to be paid through many years of future hard work.

It is sad that in an asset bubble, the earlier owners (including foreign funds) creamed off the big profits and leave the burden of higher asset prices to be paid for by future generations.

Tan Kin Lian

How to end the meaningless struggle?

Extract from Tommy Wong's book, "Wisdom on How to Live Life"

Tom: Can you elaborate further on living as souls?
Guru: As we live as souls and we know that souls’ existence is eternal, we’re not too interested in undertaking tasks that are merely for the sustenance of our bodies.
Tom: So life is not about working for a living?
Guru: It should not be, but unfortunately many do and life becomes a meaningless struggle.
Tom: Meaningless, why meaningless?
Guru: Because many struggle just to keep their bodies going and yet their bodies are bound to perish. That’s why it’s meaningless.
Tom: Can we make life more meaningful?
Guru: Sure, by undertaking tasks that is good for the soul.
Tom: Such as?
Guru: To know spiritual truths, and to live with these truths and discriminate against falsehood.
Tom: Name one spiritual truth.
Guru: We are souls and not bodies.

Tommy Wong

This book can be purchased online here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Training videos

Youtube is an excellent channel for businesses to upload videos for staff training, communication and marketing. It can be done in a simple, lost cost way and can achieve good results. Here is an example of the use of videos for marketing.

Survey for university thesis

Dear Mr Tan,

I would like to request for your favor, if possible, to kindly help to publicize my survey on food consumption pattern in CBD. The survey consist of 10 questions and would only take approximately 3 minutes to fill up. The target audience would be anyone who is currently working in CBD area.

Survey Link :

The findings from this survey are going to be used for university thesis. Thanks in advance for your help. I really, really appreciate it.


Improvement in service

I wrote to my bank to suggest that they should allow the customer to enter a reference number for an ATM funds transfer. This will allow the recipient of the funds to know the party who has made the transfer.

The bank acknowledged my suggestion but did not give me any reply for several weeks. This type of poor communication is quite common in Singapore.

I sent a reminder to the service quality manager. She replied that the bank is now studying the technical feasibility of providing a virtual keyboard on the touchscreen of the ATM.

I suggested that they should just implement the numeric input, which just involves a simple change to the software and is quite easy and inexpensive to implement. There is no need to make any hardware modification to the ATM machine and can be done with ATM machines that do not have a touch screen. It will probably meet the needs of most people involved in the funds transfer.

It is better to look for simple and inexpensive ways to implement improvements. There is no need to spend a lot of money or time to make comprehensive and complex changes. They should also learn to call and talk to the customer, rather than work independently to find their own solutions.

Tan Kin Lian

Positive thinking

Some people have a habit of looking at the negative side and to focus on what could go wrong. This habit is developed over the years, and could be attributed to the education system. They do not acquire the skill of looking at the positive side.

Here is an example to illustrate my point. My friend, who is a skin specialist, wanted to create a website for patients to submit their case for consultation through the internet. I helped him to carry out a survey.

Several respondents to the survey pointed out why this approach would not work, as the specialist needs to see the patient to be able to give the right treatment.

They overlook to see the cases where this approach might work, e.g. where the symptoms are adequately described in the laboratory tests or medical reports. In these cases, a personal visit and examination may not be necessary.

Even if the specialists needs to see the patient before coming to a medical decision, the earlier submission of the medical reports and tests would be helpful in reducing the time that needs to be spent by the patient or the doctor at the visit. So, the website would still be useful.

If we learn to see the positive side, to see what can work (rather than what cannot work), we will have a different outcome. We need to learn to have a positive approach and see the positive side.

I wish to share a story that is almost 30 years old. A minister was chairing a meeting to develop a recreational facility for workers. The planners came and give several reasons why the site was not suitable. The minister asked them to go back and look for the reasons why the site was suitable. They planners came back with these positive reasons. The project went ahead. This story, which was told to me by a friend, showed that there is a positive and negative side to any issue. The correct approach is to see both sides and come to a balanced decision.

Tan Kin Lian

Dual currency investments

A reader asked why dual currency investments are risky. I have described this type of risky investments in several postings in my blog. You can read them here:

There is a chapter in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning, that explains the the risk of various tyoes of structured products, including dual currency investments, and of unregulated products, such as land banking, ponzi schemes and other scams.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Civil servant's pay

Mr Tan Kin Lian,

It came upon me an interesting article from BBC. UK government is making effort to make the salaries of senior civil servants transparent. The names of person who earns above GBP 150,000 per year were revealed.

This is what the British Prime Minster said. "Openness will not be comfortable for us in government, but it will enable the public to hold our feet to the fire. This way lies better government."

From Cashew Nut

Some 171 civil servants are paid more than Prime Minister David Cameron's £142,500-a-year salary, according to Cabinet Office figures.

Risky financial products

This article explains that the approach taken in Hong Kong may not be sufficient to protect the investors.

My comment.
There is a mention of Deposit Plus which is similar to the dual currency deposits sold in Singapore. It is risky and should be avoided.

Fraud in the financial sector

Read this article about securities and market fraud in Hong Kong.

My comments
The same challenges apply to Singapore.

Investor sues land banking company

Read this report.

My comment
Many investors have approached me for assistance on similar investments which were not repaid after the maturity date.

20 year impasse

Someone attacked me for posting my views about the 20 year impasse in reaching agreement on the bilaterial issues and challenged me to state what I would have done if I were "PM, SM or MM". It is difficult to be engaged in a discussion with a vile person whose primary purpose is to attack another person under anonymity.

I like to give my views in this hypothetical situation. It would not be possible to judge if my approach would achieve any useful results. I would approach this issue on the personal values that I follow:

- honesty
- fairness
- positive
- courage
- public service

If we are honest and fair, it would be easy to win the trust of the other party. Both parties can look at the positive aspects and focus on what each side could gain from the cooperation.

I sense that one side felt that the Points of Agreement was not fair to them (for whatever reasons) and although it was agreed, they would find other ways to get out of the deal. The other side insisted that "a deal is a deal" and should be honored. This explains the impasse that lasted for 20 years.   Both sides need the courage to recognise that the earlier deal would not work, and that a new approach had to be taken (without waiting for 20 years).

As this is a hypothethical case, no one know whether it would have worked. I invite other people, wishing to give their views, to give their name and to refrain from passing judgement in this hypothetical case, or to make personal attacks.

Tan Kin Lian

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dr. Goh and frugality

Hi Mr Tan,

The said insurance company, published in full page in 4 languages in the national newspapers (on 29 May), including TODAY paper today (31 May).  It pays tribute to the great founding father, the late Dr Goh who inspired the setting up of the first insurance co-operative - 40 years ago.  

Dr Goh was the Chairman for the first ten years. He leads a frugal life and does not waste money and resources. I am sure that if Dr Goh is still alive, he will not approve such wasteful and unnecessary spending of policyholders' money. There are other frugal and economical ways of paying tribute to the late Dr Goh
It said that it celebrates it 40th birthday as a co-operative.

How sad that all the efforts started by the late Dr Goh in pioneering the co-operative movement has been eroded by the new management team. It is no longer a simple co-operative, but a 'commercialised co-operative' with many benefits taken away

We need leaders like you to highlight through the forum, the wasteful spending of policyholders money in such unnecessary publication of the tribute to the late Dr Goh.


My comment
Dr. Goh Keng Swee's contribution to the welfare of 2 million families in Singapore who has benefitted from NTUC Income is immense and immeasurable. The money spent on recognising this contribution is small and, although it comes from the policyholder's funds, is worth spending. Many young people may not be aware about the part that Dr. Goh has made in this important aspect of the lives of Singaporeans. It is just as important as the building of the economy to create jobs for Singaporeans, which was well covered in the media.

I hope that NTUC Income will recognise the value of frugality that Dr. Goh has lived his life, and money should be spent wisely so that the policyholders can continue to enjoy a good return on their savings.

Tan Kin Lian

Relevance of Tommy Wong's book

Tommy Wong's book, Wisdom to Live your Life, is relevant to the people who have lost money on the mini-bonds and other credit-linked notes.

Tommy talked about the greed in the materialistic world where the following people make a lot of money (and in the process made other people poorer):

a) politicians
b) top CEOs
c) bankers

He also talked about how to find happiness in the spiritual world by living on certain principles. This came give some comfort to those who have been made poorer by the greedy financial institutions.

His book has relevance to the situation in Singapore. It is easy to read. You can buy his book online here.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Low cost investment funds

Dear Mr Tan,

I've read your blog regularly and you're an advocate of low cost index fund as the primary tool for investments. While the idea it's great in principle, I find the lack of index fund products in Singapore to be somewhat inconvenient. Based on my analysis, we only have the following products locally, either through unit trust or traded at SGX:

Singapore Stock
There is only StreetTracks STI ETF and DBS STI ETF. Both track the same index. In my opinion the STI Index is not that well diversified, it only has 30 companies (compare it to S&P 500) and it comprises only of large cap stocks. There is no index fund or ETF that tracks a Singapore small cap index, or even an index that has more companies making up the index (e.g. a Singapore total market index that has small + large cap companies).

Singapore Bond
There is only the ABF Singapore Bond ETF, which is to my knowledge the only passively-managed bond fund in this country. However, the ETF suffers from problems like liquidity, large bid-ask spread and trading prices not tracking its NAV properly. It behaves more like a stock than a bond index fund at times. Considering that it invests only in SGD-denominated government bonds, that shouldn't be the case. As for bond unit trust, most do not invest in local bonds and is subjected to currency risk. Bond unit trust also have expense ratios like ~1% which makes extremely unattractive. The last way is to invest in SGS bonds direct, but regularly saving into SGS bonds is difficult as they have fixed issuance dates. To complicate the matter, SGS bonds cannot be bought online (unless you consider FSM secondary SGS bond market).

International Stock
Many of the Lyxor series of ETF which do cover international stocks are usually single country fund and are not a good form of diversification. There are some regional/global ETFs, but the whole range of Lyxor ETFs suffer from liquidity problems too. There is only 3 unit trust that are passively managed, and those are the Lion Capital Infinity series that are feeder funds into Vanguard index funds. However, Lion Capital slaps a 1% management fee just for feeding money into Vanguard index funds... real easy money for Lion Capital for just doing almost zero work!

I was hoping if you could comment on this in your blog one day. It certainly would help if we had more good index fund based products in Singapore.

My comment
Read my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning available at

Some people commented about the lack of liquidity of the STI ETF. This should not be of concern to the long term investor. The ETF manager will create more units to meet demand. The ETF is not suitable for short term trading, but is suitable for long term investing. Just place your order at the price indicated by the index and wait for someone to sell the units to you. Be patient.

Survey on Orphaned Policies

Dear Mr Tan,

Thank you for referring your readers to my "Orphaned Insurance Policy" poll. The 2-minute-only poll is still open and they can help out if they haven't. The updated results, charts, and comments are available at:

Below is my take on results from the first 40 respondents.
(1) Respondents are mostly over 35 years old with 3-8 policies.
(2) More than 4 out of 5 Singaporeans have at least 1-2 orphaned policies.
(3) Most orphaned policies came from AIA, Prudential, and NTUC Income - the most established insurance companies in Singapore.
(4) Original financial advisor usually left without giving reason, joined another insurance company, changed career or retired - fair enough, this happens in any company and industry.
(5) Out of those Singaporeans with orphaned policies, only about 1 out of 4 of their new financial advisors have contacted them. 1 out of 8 have assisted them before and to very little satisfaction. In my opinion, this is an unacceptable service level. Policy holders don't seem to care… only until something rare but dramatic happens…
(6) Usefulness of financial advisors is questionable
"It's good to know about what you bought. I've no problem living without an adviser as I have find out more than enough information / procedures should I need any form of service or claims. It makes no difference with or without an insurance adviser."
"This is to be expected. No stepmother will treat you better than your real mother. It is wishful thinking that the orphaned policies will get better treatment from the new agent since the bulk of the commission is already given to the original agent. It is time that a separate channel be made available for people to buy policies without going through agents since they do not add value anyway nowadays."
(7) Commission-only incentives for financial advisors are evil
"It is a shield (medical) plan, the company could have assigned a new advisor but didn't. probably because the premium is small and the new advisor will not get renewal commission."
"The new financial advisor is only interested to generate new sales for herself."
"Commission-based selling is the culprit!"
Clifton Phua

Ranking of cities by Quality of Life

Here is another ranking by Mercer

My comments (revised):
Each survey uses its own criteria, as explained in the report.

The top 5 cities are:

1 Vienna
2. Zurich
3. Geneva
4. Vancouver
4. Auckland

Singapore ranked 28 but is highest in Asia.

Investing savings for a debt free family

Dear Mr Tan
We wish to seek your opinion on what we should do with our savings. Currently, we have paid off our HDB loan, car loan, and we are practically debt free. We are in our 30s and we have 2 sons from age 5 to 10. We have some investments and they are doing well fetching us dividend yields of 5 to 9% per annum. We have sufficient insurance coverage should we report early to heaven and have also been buying education plans for our children since they were 1. We have learnt to live beneath our means and have saved a bit of money through the years.

You see, we have some savings and we would like to accumulate our wealth but we do not know what to do now. In addition, we did think about investing in a private property but prices are rocket high now. In your opinion do you think it is right to purchase a private property for investment purposes in Singapore? Do you think properties prices will go down soon?


Invest in a low cost investment fund as suggested in my book, Practical Guide on financial planning. It can be bought online. Visit

Land banking - in the news

Hi Mr. Tan
Here are two newspaper reports on land banking:,4136,241645,00.html?


What is the "worth" of anything in life?

Horror gripped the heart of a World War-I soldier, as he saw his lifelong friend fall in battle. The soldier asked his Lieutenant if he could go out to bring his fallen comrade back.
"You can go," said the Lieutenant," but don't think it will be worth it.Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away."
"The Lieutenant's words didn't matter, and the soldier went anyway. Miraculously, he managed to reach his friend, hoisted him onto his shoulder and brought him back to their company's trench.
The officer checked the wounded soldier, then looked kindly at his friend. "I told you it wouldn't be worth it," he said. "Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded."
"It was worth it, Sir," said the soldier.
"What do you mean by worth it?" responded the Lieutenant. "Your friend is dead."
"Yes Sir," the soldier answered,"but it was worth it because when I got to him, he was still alive and I had the satisfaction of hearing him say.... "Jim...I knew you'd come."

Many times in life, whether a thing is worth doing or not, really depends on how you look at it. Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.  Fhe way to love anything is to realise its worth and that it might be lost. Also, relationships are like crystals, you dont realize how much it's worth until it breaks.

Take up all your courage and do something your heart tells you to do,  so that you may not regret not doing it later in your life!!

Land banking

Hello Mr Tan

See this report from the UK on the site at Cherry Tree grove.

While it may have seemed that they were actively chasing this the reality is that the planning and appeals process is just filling in a few forms and paying small fees. So they have kept this site alive for three years with a very small investment while telling investors they are actively getting planning permission. Anyway this is the last round of appeal so now they have to tell investors it has failed. If you look on their website they are still talking about getting planning approval for this site.

Here is a report on the commotion at the office of a land banking company:


Foreign language and culture

There are some words or expressions in foreign languages that have a deep meaning or philosophy. I wish to introduce some of these expressions to you. I hope that you can contribute other expressions:

Schadenfreude (German): pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others
Savoir-faire (French): the ability to say or do the right or graceful thing.

There are many examples from the Chinese, Japanese language and other languages. These words convey special meaning that shapes the behavior and culture of a people.

We have our own Singapore examples, such as "kaisu" and "kiasi".

Remembering Dr. Goh Keng Swee

How should Singapore remember Dr Goh Keng Swee, a founding father and one of the most brilliant architects of our nation? Appreciate your vote in this survey:

Terence Chua

Rules of the game

It is interesting to watch how the rules of a game influence the behavior of the participants.

There is a popular game called Hearts. It is available as a standard game with Microsoft Windows. Here are the rules of the game:

a) The game involves exactly four players. At the end of the game, when one player accumulates at leat 100 penalty points, the player with the lowest point is declared as the winner. The other three players are considered as having lost the game.

b) The game comprises many rounds (or "hands"). 26 penalty points are awarded to the players on each roudn.

c) There is a special feature that if one player accumulates all the 26 penalty points during a hand, the player is considered as having "shot the moon". In that case, the 26 penalty points is awarded to the other three players.

The rules of this game influence the behavior of the players as follows:

a) As the game progresses, all the three losing players (i.e with the higher points) cooperate among themselves to prevent the leading player (with the lowest point) from widening the lead.

b) In each hand, the players cooperate among themselves to prevent one player from "shooting the moon". They will keep a strong card to prevent this situation and will be willing to take one or more penalty points to prevent this outcome. This is for the benefit of the other players.

The behavior of Singaporeans is also shaped by our economic environment and our education system. We were told to be "excellent" and be better than our classmates and get to the "top of the class", When we start work, we were told to "look after ourselves" as "nobody owes us a living".

This environment develops Singaporeans to be competitive, selfish and incompassionate. Generally, we consider the unemployed or unsuccessful people as being "lazy" or have "bad attitude".

When we become victirms of these circumstances, we begin to realise that it could be due to bad luck or unfairness. By that time, we lament that other people do not step forward to help us as they are only looking after themselves.

There are Signaporeans who are exceptions to this observation. But, I do believe that many Singaporeans show the behavior that I have described.

Tan Kin Lian

New railway in Malaysia

I am delighted that, after twenty years, Singapore and Malaysia has resolved their differences on the railway station in Tanjong Pagar. The new railway station will move initially to Woodlands. We can look forward to a new railway system being developed in Malaysia over the next few years.

Many advanced countries have a high speed railway system to connect its citiies. For example, the progress in China and Taiwan is amazing. Malaysia can catch up for lost time. Many Singaporeans would love to have the chance to travel to Kuala Lumpur and Penang by train, rather than by plane. This will also benefit many Malaysians who work in Singapore.

Some people wonder why it took twenty years for the leaders of the two countries to resolve the differences. This shows that high salaries of leaders do not lead to better performance. However, as the saying goes, "Better late than never!"

Tan Kin Lian

Quarrel on the MRT train

Two persons were quarrelling on the MRT train. A young girl, while seated and talking in the mobile phone, carelessly knoced against a young man seated next to him. The young man complained, as he was listening to his music. The lady complained loudly about the remarks and abused the man continuously for scolding her for an unintended act. She called her friend on the mobile phone to tell loudly about this incident. She also challenged him to get down at the next stop for a fight.. From the accent, both of these persons were foreigners who have lived in Singapore for some time.

This is an unntended consequences of allowing many foreigners to live in Singapore in a short time. The culture and social behavior of the people livng in Singapore has changed consideraly.

Tan Kin Lian

Life is more difficult

I met a few relatives at a wedding reception.

One drives a bus. The insurance premium has increased sharply. He now has to drive longer hours and get his grown up son to take the third shift to make ends meet.

Another runs a mini-mart. He complains about the regulations on placing goods outside his shop and the summon that he received from the town council. After seeing his MP, he was issued with a courts summons.

Another runs a catering business. He is worried about the competitive environment, low margin and high operating cost.

All of them said that life is more difficult today, compared to the past. They face stress due to the high cost of living, rules and regulations and competition.

Tan Kin Lian

Blog Archive