Saturday, February 26, 2011

Family Life Challenge

The Family Life Challenge starts at 10 am and will complete before midnight on the same day. Each virtual year will take 20 minutes.  A new game is created each day.

Login to  Register your Email address and start paying the game. You can join at any time of the day, even after the game has started.  If you reach the top 5 positions, you will win the 3-book prize. You also learn the skill of how to be successful in life - career, marriage and children. Read the Guide in Family Life game.

Excessive behavior and profit

Does this comment also apply to Singapore?

To the Editor (NYT):
Bob Herbert’s Feb. 22 column, “At Grave Risk,” was the most insightful and courageous article I have read in a long while.
I, too, am one of the millions who have suffered in this continuous economic downturn. I have gotten myself and my family back on solid ground in spite of the predatory, unscrupulous dealings of banks, mortgage companies, the government and every other concern that is interested only in its own excessive behavior and profit.
There is no American dream. We are just a country of pawns who are at the mercy of a ruling elite. If things don’t change quickly, America will become no better than a third-world country.
Rich Becker
East Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 23, 201

Risk Management for Young People

Young people are misled by insurance agents to invest their savings in a life insurance policy. The policy is inflexible and gives a poor yield. Here is a better approach for young people to manage their personal risk:

Expensive medical bill

Many people are worried that they have to incur big medical expenses, especially when they grow old. They are afraid that their savings will not be enough to pay the medical bills.

Here are some points for you to consider:
  • No matter how much money you have, it will not be enough for your medical bills. Remember, a wealthy family spent $26 million for cancer treatment. It did not help - the patient died.
  • You only need $30,000 for your medical bill after retirement, provided that you are willing to be treated in a subsidized ward and you have Medishield. This is sufficient for Medishield and the co-payments.
  • You should not waste you money on expensive treatment that is likely to be unsuccessful. You have to let nature take its course.
  • If you are very rich, it is all right to spend a lot of money on medical bills. If you are not very rich, there is no need to spend the money wastefully.
Tan Kin Lian

Stay with Medishield

Dear Mr Tan, 
I would like your advise on the health insurance for obese people. I was rejected by NTUC health insurance because I have a high BMI of 33. I do not have any health problem. A few years ago, I was hospitalized and experienced a high hospital bill.. 

I applied for Aviva Mysheild as I can be  insured with any question on medical history under their moratorium clause. When I received the policy, I learned that the moratorium does not apply if I have been rejected by another insurance company previously. What can I do now?


In my view, it is better to stick to Medishield. If you need medical attention, you can go to B2 or C ward, as the cost is affordable. If you buy Private Shield, you pay a higher premium and also a higher co-payment when you are hospitalsed. Read the following FAQs:

How to develop a good customer support system

It is easy to develop a good customer support system. Just avoid the convoluted approach and management consultants who provide the convoluted system for an astronomical fee. Follow this example of a good customer support system - and it is free.
TKL website - latest

Customer Support - how to develop a good system

Most large organisations and government agencies have a convoluted way of dealing with customer inquiries, involving some or all of the following hassles:

  • They make it difficult for the customer to locate their contact center or even to send in an e-mail inquiry.
  •  Their feedback form ask for many unnecessary information which failed to pass their through validation checks (aka roadblocks). 
  • When they reply (and it can take days), they send you a webpage of irrelevant information for the customer to search through their maze. Often, the customer has to go through a few mazes to get the answer (and don't be suprised that they get the wrong answer). 
  • The customers are often confused and need to get to the call center for guidance
  • If the customer manage to get to their call center (which is clearly discouraged), the customer has to go through a maze of irrelevant messages (press 1 for this and 2 for that).
Recently, I experienced the customer support provided by Dropbox ( They are excellent. They are an example of what customer service should be. They managed to handle a complicated issue with less time (for their support staff and the customer). It was a pleasant experience.

I recommend all large organisations and government agencies in Singapore to study the customer support system adopted by Dropbox. Read here.

Tan Kin Lian

Excellent customer support - Dropbox

I use Dropbox ( to synchronize my folders and files between my laptop (used  in the office) and my desktop at home and also to collaborate with my colleagues in the office and my clients. It is an excellent software.

Recently, I had some difficulty in synchronizing my files, due to some unknown reason. I sent an e-mail to their support desk. The support desk (signed off by a person called "Will") responded promptly. This was followed by a few exchange of e-mails (all of which were replied promptly). The instructions and questions in the e-mails were clear and to the point. They were helpful. I managed to follow the steps to un-link and re-link the Dropbox in my laptop and desktop. It solved the problem. All the folders are now synchronized.

I commend Dropbox and their Support Desk for their excellent service - prompt, easy for customer and most helpful. They are an example of an excellent way to respond to customer queries - which is quite rare in most large organisations.

Tan Kin Lian

Arab unrest: 5 eyewitnesses to history (from CNN)

Election secrecy

Hi Mr Tan,
Saw this webpage which I believe will help to clear a lot of doubts for all voters. Just to share this in your blog. Thanks. Regards

Friday, February 25, 2011

Life in Singapore - Utopia or Dystopia

A comparison of the health and welfare system of Singapore and Canada.

Logic Box

This puzzle is based on Einstein's logic quiz, but has been adapted to show boxes and shapes in different colors. Is is challenging and fund. The game is now available on Windows Phone 7 but will be available on other mobile apps later [Video]

Chee Soon Juan speaks on the Reform Party issue

This election, your life, your promise

Read Lucky Tan

Financial Planning Talk by Tan Kin Lian

I am conducting the talk tomorrow (Feb 26) at SMU School of Economics Room 2.2 from 2 to 5 pm. You can register on the spot.

SDP Anniversary Dinner, 2011

The Singapore Democratic Party is quite well organised, with a strong membership. They are able to attract many young members. Here is a video of their anniversary dinner, produced by Dr. Wong Wee Nam

In recent months, the SDP has been focused on preparing for the general election. They have managed to attract many credible candidates. The court case against Dr. Chee Soon Juan was for an event that occurred several years ago, and was for the offence of selling the newsletter without a licence or speaking without a permit. Many people could be charged for committing a similar offense, if they have been targeted.

New FISCA website

FISCA will be launching its new website in March. You can have a preview of this website here:

Click on "Information" to see the information that is available for the public. Members can login to see the evaluation of the insurance and investment products. About 20 evaluations have been created, covering the popular products in the market.

We will send an e-mail to existing members to notify them of their new login ID (using their e-mail address) and allow them to create their new password. They can login to see the evaluation of products. We will be adding to the evaluation of products quite frequently. It will be useful to join as a FISCA members.

Tan Kin Lian

Consumer financial issues

I need a volunteer to check the local media daily for letters on consumer and financial issues. Your tasks are:

  • Make a summary of the issue
  • Post the summary in the FISCA website with access to the original letter 
This task is for a  undergraduate who is able to spend about two hours a week. If you are interested to volunteer for this task, send an e-mail to

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Policy of give and take

An excellent article by Dr. Wong Wee Nam
Also read SGEP

The government has collected a lot of money from the people. It is about time it provides for the poor, the indigent, the sick and the aged and other services that would not draw complaints from the general population. We want long term measures and not “goodies” that could be eaten away in matter of months by rising costs.

Higher rentals for food stalls

Dear Mr. Tan,
I have come across two incidents of high rentals for food stalls. Apparently, this is rampant and nothing was done about it.

Case 1. My friend rented a stall in a primary school, but later found out the stall was actually sub-let from the main stall holder who knows nothing about food business. This person bid for stalls island-wide and sub-let them to the genuine hawkers. How can the hawker sell quality cheap food to students if there is a middle man profiteering from this system? The school administration should ensure the authencity of the bidder and ensure integrity in their business administration? Eventually my friend decided to give up the stall.

Case 2. Another 
 stall holder told me that the rent from the middle man was so high, after a change of landlord, that he had to give up the stall.

It seems that the Jurong Town Corporation is giving up its industrial estates to private developers and landlords. The privatised developers are increasing their rental and the stall holders are being squeezed by the rising food prices and rising rental. 
The hawkers, who have low education, cannot forsee the privatisation changes coming, and will lose out to public listed food courts like Kopitiam and Banquet. In time, there will be no more sole proprietorships or enterprising business, but everyone has to work for big enterprise. This is totally suppressing small enterprises in Singapore.

I agree with your views. We have a bad system in Singapore.

Poor feeder service

I took a bus from Midview City to Ang Mo Kio MRT. It was a bad connection. The bus stop was 7 mins away from the MRT station. It was a long walk.  On my return, I walked from Bishan MRT station to the bus stop to take the bus to Midview City. It was another 5 minutes.

No wonder, people pay the moon to get a car. Our connection between the bus to the MRT station is quite bad, judging from the long distance in both examples above.

We have an unsatisfactory system where the bus services have poor connection to the MRT system. It is better to have small buses running a local service to bring commuters right to the MRT station. This is probably the system in Hong Kong.

It is time for our Land Transport Authority to pay attention to this important matter. There is no point to spend some time time and cost in changing to a distance based fare, when the basic system has a lot of flaws.

Tan Kin Lian

Donation to FISCA

I helped a consumer to prepare a complaint against an insurance agent who cheated her. The agent convinced her to invest $50,000 and instead of putting it into a single premium policy, the agent changed the application, without her knowledge, to an annual premium policy. After a lengthy investigation, which was quite stressful to the consumer, the insurance company finally agreed to refund the full payment of $50,000. She was grateful for my help.

I asked her to make a donation of $200 to $1,000 to FISCA. She sent in a cheque for a larger sum. I appreciate her generosity. I hope that other consumers, who has got my free time and assistance, will also make a donation to FISCA.

Tan Kin Lian

HK Government issues inflation linked bonds

Hi Mr. Tan,
Just to share this news with you, in case you missed this,
This would be good if government has excessive income, and redistribute back to citizen.

My comments
A government that takes care of its citizens will be thinking along the same lines and find this type of solution. The government should not expect the citizens, especially the lower educated or elderly, to be able to be financial wizards in finding their own solutions. These poor citizens will be at the mercy of the vultures!

What values characterize Singapore?

View posted in my blog

In our PAP-led government's drive for economic growth at all costs, they have practically destroyed Singapore as a nation. We associate US with the land of the free, of democracy... What comes to mind when we think of Singapore? What values, characteristics then do we associate with Singapore? A little red dot, insecure, hard driving, kiasu, relentless growth,... little that engenders a sense of belonging and pride... What pride we had - clean and green garden city, world class efficiency and service standards - have been eroded and lost... 

This is Singapore Inc, truly, a place to make hay while the sun shines, monetize our "homes", "upgrade" and pocket the money... No one owes anyone else a living. What did Singapore Inc achieve in the past decade?

1.In our drive to be an education hub, we reduce the subsidy for our own Singaporean tertiary students; education fees increase practically every year, the industry carved a bad name among international students.

2. In our drive to be a medical hub, we now tell our citizens that they had an additional option of going over to Malaysia for affordable medical care.

3. In our drive to be a financial hub, we created the exact monsters described by the financial adviser in th blog post. People were sold minibombs and dud products like wine and land. Caveat emptor we were told while the regulatory bodies took a soft or non-existent touch.

4. In our drive to be a tourism and MICE hub, we build not one but two casinos, proudly termed international resorts, one of which is aptly designed like ancestral tablets overlooking our financial district. 

5. In our drive to achieve all the above and to make up for the loss of our own people who are driven to leave Singapore, we "attract" "foreign talents" by the hundreds of thousands, so much so that we rub shoulders with strangers every day. We are indeed strangers in our land, for we do not recognize the values, the people, the facade of a place we were once proud or at least not deigned to call our home. 

I yearn for day, soon, to shout Merdeka!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Perspective of a financial adviser in Europe

Read this perspective of a financial adviser in Europe. The Dutch market had the same problem of mis-selling due to high commission rates.

A simple will

Hi Mr Tan, I wonder do I really need a lawyer to draft a simple will for me? I am not wealthy, but just want to make sure my wife, children and my parents are adequately taken care of when I depart. I have quite a number of insurance and investments. Or do you sell any book about writing simple DIY will that is legally enforceable in Singapore?

You can find some sample wills in the internet or in some books written by other people. I do not know the titles. I hope that some readers of my blog will be able to give their suggestions.

Bus lanes pose accident hazard

I support bus lanes to improve public transport. However, the design of the bus lanes pose an accident hazard. Here are two problems faced by motorists:

  • A motorist move from a side road to a main road that has a bus lane. They have to filter into the second or third lanes, but these lanes are already congested with slow crawling traffic. If they stay in the stretch before the bus lane, they will obstruct the bus lane.
  • A motorist has to enter the bus lane to drop a passenger and to move out. If they do not enter the bus lane, they may have to travel a long distance to drop a passenger. The moving in and out of bus lane can cause accidents.
Do you share this view, that the bus lanes pose an accident hazard?

Finding a lawyer

Many people need legal advice on a business or personal issue, but they are afraid to see a lawyer as the fees may be high. They should try the approach suggested here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Talk on Financial Planning

I am giving a talk on financial planning on Saturday 26 February. Here is the description of the talk. Some people have sent an enquiry to me about their insurance policies. I advised them to read my book on financial planning and to attend this talk. The book will be given free to attendees.

This talk is specially suited for young people who have just started work - as they can earn  much more by investing in the right product. If they buy a bad life insurance policy, they can lose $150,000 or more over a lifetime.

This talk is held once in two months - so you should not miss it. You can register for the talk at

Family Life Challenge

7 people took part in the Family Life challenge today. 1 person is likely to reach the top 5 position and win the bundle of 3 book prize.

A new game is created each day at 10 am. You are allowed 30 minutes to enter your input for each year, so it is quite relaxing. Even if you do not enter the input, e.g. when you are asleep, the avatar will apply artificial intelligence and decide for you. The AI decisions are quite sensible.

Take part in the game tomorrow.

Excellent signage

I found a building that has excellent signs (which are quite unusual in Singapore). It is the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun.

The basement car park is clearly marked to show tower A, B and C. The pillars are numbered in a sensible manner. The LCD screens in the lift lobby show information that is useful to the visitor and is not cluttered with distracting advertisements.

I was able to find my way to the ward and patient room easily - without any hassle. This is a most pleasant experience.

I give credit to the architect and the management of the hospital. I hope that their approach, i.e. simple attention to detail from the public perspective, can be followed by other organisations.

Tan Kin Lian

Traffic Congestion

We are paying high cost (ERP and COE) and getting slow moving traffic. It is the worst of both worlds. Read this article.

Locate your car

Many people find trouble in locating their car in a large car park. I faced this problem often – due to lack of attention and poor memory. In the past, I tried to invent a solution, but failed. Now, I have now found a practical, high tech solution that does not cost any money. Here it is! 

Travel by bus or MRT

Many people use the MRT because they are not familiar with the bus service. Sometimes, it may be better to use the bus as the journey time is shorter and it is less crowded and comfortable. Google Map allows you to search for the right bus service. Read the experience of a person who found it better to use the bus service.

Highway construction and corruption

Hi Mr. Tan
I saw your story about highway construction and the European and African country. Are you suggesting that the corruption also exist in Singapore?

Highway construction involves large sums of money. It is important for the government to ensure that the money is well spent and does not leak out in one form of corruption or another. Many countries found it difficult to prevent corruption, as it can take many forms - not just direct payment of bribes but various types of favors and benefit in kind. It is important to be vigilant. More importantly, we should not spend money wastefully and needlessly.

$8 heart bypass surgery

Update: I am revising this blog to show the accurate figures are presented in the comments.

Many people got the wrong impression that the Minister for Health paid only $8 for the heart bypass surgery. I recalled reading a news report that the $8 was the amount paid in cash. The minister paid  $5,000 from his Medisave account and claimed $20,000 from this Private Shield plan. The message in blogs that he paid only $8 is not correct and needs to be corrected.

Sorry tale of local professors in Singapore

Survey - do you agree with the views expressed below? Give your views here

Dear Mr. Tan

For those who are academically inclined, one common dream is to become a university professor. For many countries in the world, this is a position worth aspiring to as professorship carries prestige and comfortable income. For Singaporeans who aspire to become professors in Singapore, it is sad to say that based on the happenings in a local university over the last few years, they found it a nightmare. 

In this university, many Singaporean professors have been fired when they reach the age of around 55 (much lower than the national retirement age). Many of these professors have contributed to the development of the university for more than 20 years. And to add insult to injury, many of the university management who decided to fire them are actually foreigners. 

When the university recruit new professors, many of them are also foreigners and some of them are in their 60s or even late 60s. As the university is heavily subsidised with Singapore money, is it not more logical to hire Singaporeans so that the money is invested back to Singaporeans? Instead, the money is now used by foreigners for their career advancement or retirement outside Singapore. 

This situation is particularly sad as Singaporeans have worked very hard to accumulate this wealth. So why let foreigners enjoy the fruits of Singaporean labour? And to add to the irony, many of the Singaporean ex-professors do not have enough savings for their retirement. They have to make a career switch at the age of 55 – is this not a nightmare?  Even though this situation has been going for quite some time, it is not a lost cause. The Singapore government can reverse the situation to demonstrate that they truly place Singaporeans first.

Local professor

More money than your neighbours

Hi Mr. Tan,
Thought you might be interested to read this article:


"Making everybody in society richer will not necessarily increase overall happiness because it is only having a higher income than other people that matters," he said.......
Dr Boyce said the study raises questions about whether the relentless pursuit of economic growth was a good thing for the nation.
But he cautioned that economic growth did provide jobs which were an important requirement for happiness not just for the income they provided but for the sense of purpose they gave people.

I agree with the view.
There is no point in pursuing economic growth relentlessly.
The Singapore approach is not good, as it results in a low birth rate, high immigration and will make Singaporeans lose our identity.
It is important to provide jobs for everybody and it can be best achieved by regulating the maximum hours of work, so that the available work can be spread to all those who are willing to work and each person will have more free time for families and hobbies.

How to get a higher yield

Dear Mr. Tan
I have carried out the Financial Plan in your website based on my personal situation. I now understand how the difference in yield of 2% can make a lot of difference to my retirement income. I never realized it before - did not even check the yield.
May I ask a question. How can I get a higher yield? Where can I find the right insurance policy?

You can buy my book "Get Value from your Life Insurance". It shows the yield earned by the life insurance policies in the market. In most cases, the yield is 2% or less. This is quite unsatisfactory.

If you wish to earn a higher yield, you have to invest in an indexed fund. This is explained in my talk "Financial Planning - A Practical Guide" organised by FISCA. You can join the talk on this Saturday. You will also get a free copy of my book "Practical Guide on Financial Planning".

Revolution in the Middle East

** The man who wrote the revolution rulebook **
Dr Gene Sharp is the man credited with the strategy behind the toppling of governments from Serbia to Egypt.

Will it spread to China and other countries?

Financial Plan - revised format

A revised format has been implemented for the Financial Plan. Here is a sample of the new format.

Click here to generate a new financial plan for your own situation.

Wine Investment - complaint about cheating

Posted in my blog
The company is ISO certified and has won business performance award from Australia.  The local and expatriate executives had high turn over. It started with a nice approach and promised the investment will give a profitable return, once the wine was auctioned at China. The investors hoped that their money can grow somewhere or in good use. The promoters came into the market with a difference objective that get rich by telling one lie after another.

I hope that the Singapore Govt. will investigate into this investment scheme immediately, otherwise it will be another Lehman saga. On the blogs, I asked for assistance on which government department to report to?

You should get a few other co-investors and lodge a report to the Police (who will refer it to the commercial affairs department. If you come to my office, I will help you to prepare the document to file the complaint of cheating. Send e-mail to

Monday, February 21, 2011

Family Life Challenge (win book prizes worth $20)

A Family Life Challenge will be created every day starting at 10 am (from 22 February). Each virtual year will take 1/2 hour and the game can be completed by 6 am of the following day. A bundle of 3 books (Sudoku, Tangram and Shape Quiz) worth $20 will be given as the prize to the top 5 winners in each game.

Each player is entitled to win the prize only once. To claim your prize, you have  to take a screen shot of the final year, showing the results of your avatar and its place within the top 5 positions for the year. Include your name, address and a brief comment about the game. This is to be sent to An example of the screen shot is found here. In this example, the avatar #1 (current player) has achieved the 3rd position and is entitled to a prize. 

This prize will be awarded until further notice.

You can practice with the Practice (1 min) game at 8 pm and the Practice (3 min) game at 9 pm. There will be no prize for these fast games. Players can try this game to practice for the Family Life Challenge. 

Tan Kin Lian

Traditional Chinese Medicine - reply to Dr. Colin Ng

Printed in St Times Online Forum

I refer to the letter from Dr. Colin Lim, entitled “SMA’s confusing suggestion (ST 17 Feb 2011).

I agree with the approach taken by the council of the Singapore Medical Association to allow the use of alternative medicine.

My family have enjoyed the use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for three generations. It has been effective in overcoming some health problems that can be corrected by restoring the balance in the body. We seek western medicine only for the more serious conditions. This has helped us to reduce the cost of medical care.

Singapore does not have sufficient doctors who are trained in western medicine to take care of our large population, including the growing number of elderly people. We need all the available resources. The TCM practitioners can play a role in the areas that they are good in.

I agree with Dr. Ng on the value of getting evidence on the effectiveness of the TCM practices. While there is a lack of data of the effective of TCM, based on the approach of data collation used in western medicine, we must not overlook the fact that TCM has been used by many generations and have been found to be useful. If TCM was not useful, it would have been abandoned long ago.

Tan Kin Lian

Use Google Map to get directions

This example shows how you can use Google Map to get direction to TKL office in Sin Ming. You can buy the books at a discount of up to 50% this week (5 pm to 6.30 pm).

Budget 2011 - 73% are disappointed

A Straits Times poll said that 73% of citizens are disappointed with the budget. This is unexpected. A citizen give a reason why he belonged to the 73%. Read SGEP or click here.

Soft launch of "Get Value from your Life Insurance"

The soft launch was made on Saturday 19 February 2010. A few readers of my blog told me that they were not able to come due to the budget and other activities. I have now extended the sale of the books for this week from 5 to 6.30 pm. Please come during this time, to avoid disruption to my office, but you can also come at other time during the day. See here for details.You can get directions to my office from the map shown in

If you wish to come to my office by bus, you can go to Google Maps, enter the location "Singapore 573970" to find my office, right click to get "direction to my office" and enter the postal code of your starting point. You will find the options to come by bus.

The future of Singapore - a view from a young Singaporean

Dear Mr Tan
  By chance,  I got to your blog as I was researching on cars.

 I never knew there are people like you, formerly from the government sector, who are willing to speak up on what is not right. I always thought our late President Ong Teng Cheong was the only man who did what was best for the people and for Singapore.

 I am 35 years old. Last year, I spoke to my friends and painted a vivid and shocking picture to my friends on the future of home grown Singaporeans. Most chose not to believe or hear the truth as they just could not cope with it.

 I started to do research on what was happening in Singapore - mainly on why some ministers left their post abruptly, on GIC and on the  real reasons contributing to the rising prices of HDB flats and properties. I learned that I had opened "a can of worms" 
I felt shocked, betrayed and saddened - most importantly, I felt sorry for the common folks that has been left behind during the process of achieving prosperity for the country.

Do you have the same picture as I am having or you have something else? Sigh......

In recent months, I heard a lot of weird comments from MM and his men. Are these done on purpose or is the fox tail showing? 
 It makes me stand firmer on not wanting to have children as I do not want them to carry the burden and losing their sense of identity as a Singaporean.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I really need to hear from a voice like you.

I told my wife, a Malaysian, we need to make our retire plans in her hometown as we can never retire early in Singapore with the inflation and cost of living moving up in this manner. I recalled someone said -  
retirement means death. Maybe this applies to our future Singaporeans?

Thanks for listening and hope to meet you in person soon.

I agree with your observations. I also fear that we are losing the sense of being a Singaporean. I wrote about the Singapore before and after 1985. Do read my blog often to hear my views.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Talk on Sudoku and Puzzles

I am giving a talk on Sudoku and puzzles as follows:

Title: Sudoku Talk
Date: 19 March 2011
Time: 3pm
Venue: Tampines Regional Library, Auditorium (Level 3)

Please register at the library. The Sudoku, tangram and shape quiz books will be sold at a discount of 50%.

Singapore - before and after 1985

Many Singaporeans of my generation were proud of Singapore prior to 1985. We had an excellent economic and social environment - affordable and good quality education, housing and health care and a low cost of living. People do not have to worry about unemployment. They work hard and could look forward to adequate CPF savings on retirement.

The Singapore system started to deteriorate after 1985. The first generation leader (except for LKY) stepped down from office and was replaced by a new generation of elite leaders. This was followed by the introduction of bad policies, such as the graduate mother policy, asset enhancement scheme, increase in health care and transport cost (COE, ERP, privatization of transport companies) and the GRC system of election.

We now have a Singapore that is convoluted and wasteful, with a high cost of living, a high GINI coefficient and the lowest birth rate in the world.

I hope that our leaders realize their mistake and take action to correct the shortcomings. If not, let the people tell them at the next general election.

Tan Kin Lian

Unemployment insurance in Germany

I met a German lady who is married to a Singaporeans and has lived in Singapore for 35 years. We talked about the unemployment insurance system in Germany.

She explained that it is a good system. It helps to take care of most people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. She quoted the example of the loss of manufacturing jobs in her home town due to global competition. The workers did not want to be unemployed, but they were the victims of global forces beyond their control.

She said that the abuses are small, maybe 1% or 2%.  Most of the unemployed people are keen to look for other suitable jobs. They want to work, rather than to live off the system. They have to look for work actively and will be lose their unemployment benefit if they refuse to take up suitable jobs.

The unemployment benefits are funded by the people who have work. If there is higher unemployment, all those who are working have to pay higher premiums for the insurance.  This is an equitable and compassionate system that gives dignity to honest workers who are caught by events beyond their control.

Our Singapore leaders exaggerate the abuse of the welfare system, and develop convoluted systems to deal with them. Look at our convoluted workfare income supplement. Most people cannot understand how it works. They have to refer to a booklet and to ask for explanations to know what they are entitled, and the amount of benefits are so small.

Tan Kin Lian

Canada has a better health care system

Canada has a lower per capital income than Singapore but gives a better quality of life for its citizens. Just ask the Singaporeans who have migrated to Canada and most will confirm this view. Although Canada has the disadvantage of its cold climate, the other advantages outweigh them.

Canada provides good social benefits available to its people, such as affordable health care and a pension for its elderly citizens. Our Singapore leaders consider that the welfare systems can be abused. This is partly true and largely exaggerated. The abuse is small and is largely under control.

The wastage caused by the abuse is more offset by the savings from a more efficient system of delivery of health care. There is no need to spend time on a convoluted system of different charges for different categories of people and deduction from the various sources (i.e. cash and the 3Ms).

There is also less chance for doctors to over-treat and over-charge patients as they can be monitored by the medical experts managing the Canadian system. In Singapore, consumers will not be able to identify these abuses or to take action to seek compensation. The Singapore system allows many medical specialists to earn high incomes, but also results in high cost that is now becoming too expensive for many citizens.

I hope that Singapore can re-look at the lesson from other countries and take steps to address the steep increase in our health care costs, which is frightening many citizens.

Tan Kin Lian

Doctors on house calls

Dear Mr. Tan
My mother had a fall and could not move. We needed a doctor to see her at our home. As we were not able to find a doctor, we had to send her to hospital. It was quite troublesome to move her to the hospital. Do you know of any contacts?

I search the internet and found the following:

House Call GP

1) The HouseCall GP – 6247 9247 $160 onwards
2) Trinity Housecall – 8223 4999 – $250-400 per visit
3) Raffles Medical – 6311 1555
It is better for you to keep the information in your mobile phone, so that you can contact them when needed. You should also try them now and find out what their charges are, so that you can use them in an emergency.
I called HouseCall GP and Raffles Medical. Both quoted $250 for a visit, excluding medicine and treatment. HouseCall was answered by the doctor himself. 

New approach to health care

Survey: Do you agree with this idea? Give your views here.

Singaporeans, especially, the elderly, are worried about the cost of health-care. The government is also worried and tries to push the cost to the public. In most cases, the actual cost may be affordable, but the perception is that the cost is getting out of hand.

To address this issue, we have created a convoluted system of different tiers of charges for different groups of people and a convoluted system of payment through the Medisave, Medishield and Medifund (labelled as the 3Ms). The Government is proud of the 3Ms but there is little enthusiasm for this approach outside Singapore (and, in case I am wrong, I stand corrected).

The system used in the British National Health System is better. The citizens receive free medical consultation with their personal doctor (and referrals to specialists made by these personal doctors) but have to pay for medication, which are prescribed by independent pharmacists. This is a practical system that does not require payment to the doctors. The doctors are paid by the state.

The concept works well and is a practical approach. Patients will see the doctors only it is necessary. Even if they see the doctor more often than necessary, the doctor will be able to handle it. There is little chance of abuse. Medication is charged at the commercial rate (but there may be some system of subsidy). It will prevent the patient from getting medication to sell to other people, e.g. foreigners who are not on the system.

How can we implement some of the concept of the British NHS in Singapore? I suggest that every resident should open an account with MOH. All treatment from the public sector hospitals (and some authorized private sector) should be charged to this account. At the end of each month, the payments are made to the providers and are collected from the respective payment sources (e.g. cash, Medisave or insurance). There is no need to levy charges at the point of use. This will reduce the perception of the high cost of health care.

Most people will be able to pay for the medical charges on the monthly bills, which can be deducted from Medisave. There is the risk of bad debts from people who refuses to pay the cash component. This is a risk that can be managed. The government face a bigger risk of the non-payment of taxes and have ways to prosecute people who do not pay. This can be applied to medical care.

For the elderly and the poor, the government can take care of a portion of the medical bills. This can be easily managed on the monthly statements. They can also deal with the cases of high consumption. In the worst case of abuse, the patients can be cutoff from access to the service.

I believe that the approach that I have described is practiced in Canada. I  like this approach as it will reduce the workload of our medical facilities (who do not have to collect fees at the point of consultation) and also reduce the perception of high cost of medical care. Any extreme cases can be dealt separately, outside of the delivery of the service.

Tan Kin Lian

Treat people equally

Survey: do you agree with my views? Give your answer here.

One reader of my blog suggested that foreigners should pay more for basic services, such as health, school fees, or public transport. I do not like this approach.

I prefer that foreigners should be treated in the same way as locals in most aspects of their daily life. If there is a need to differentiate, it should be done through a different system of taxation or levies for foreigners. After they have paid their levies or tax, they should be treated similarly to citizens in all other aspects.

The Government has set a bad example by requiring foreigners to pay higher fees for medical care and school fees. This causes additional work and confusion at the payment counters. Sometimes, it is difficult to differentiate who is a foreigner or a local, especially if they did not bring their ID card. It is also not clear about how to treat the family members of foreigners or locals in some situations. We have to develop some many complicated rules to deal with the different classes. Singapore has become a convoluted society.

I hope that the Government will set a better example for other people to follow. Stop putting people into different classes according to their residency status, income levels, type of housing, etc. Treat people equally in their daily lives and do not remind them about the differences. Levy the appropriate level of taxation and keep it as a private matter between the government and the individual citizens.

By treating people equally, we strengthen the sense of belonging and community for everyone who lives in Singapore - local and foreigner.

Tan Kin Lian

From Dictatorship to Democracy

From The New York Times:
Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution
For decades, the writings of Gene Sharp have inspired dissidents around the world.

TOTO and GINI coefficient

Singapore has a high GINI coefficient - which reflects unequal distribution of income. The top earners take a disproportionate share of the total earners. It is like the prize given out in TOTO.  Read here:  TKL Website - Latest or here. [Contributed by Heng Chee Meng]

Budget 2011 - some views of the people

Nearly 80% of respondents to my survey were not happy with the budget. Read their views in TKL Website -  Latest or here.

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