Saturday, December 03, 2011

Hard for the PAP to change

Wasteful procedure (2)

This letter was not published by the Straits Times

27 November 2011
Editor, Forum Page
Straits Times

I support the suggestion by Mr. Tan Kin Lian asking to review the outdated procedure for getting the replacement of a lost title deed.

I find that advertising the loss of the title deed is unnecessary and a waste of time and money, as I had a similar experience sometime ago. After all, how many people bother to read the classified advertisements in the papers? 

The reply given by the Director of the Land Title Registry shows that this government is inflexible in their policy, and is still clinging to outdated procedures, or does not care about the unnecessary cost and expenses that they are imposing on the citizens.

William Tay


Wasteful procedure

This letters was not published by the Straits Times.

26 November 2011 

Forum Page
Straits Times

I refer to the reply "Why notice on property cert is crucial" from the Director, Land Titles Registry.

The Director justified the requirement for an advertisement in the Straits Times on the following grounds:
  • to alert the public of the lost certificate and to prevent is improper use
  • a similar requirement applies to Australia and Canada
I wish to ask the Director to clarify the following:
  • how could the certificate be used improperly, when there is a requirement for any interest in the property to be lodged through a caveat with the Registry
  • how many cases of advertisements were made in recent years and how many instances were the public notified through the advertisements 
  • whether Australia and Canada has a system of registry of land titles that is similar to Singapore that could prevent improper use?
  • if other countries, e.g. UK and the USA, have done away with this archaic requirement?
  • if the advertisement in a website could have served the purpose, without the need to advertise in the newspaper?
I wish to encourage our government agencies to update our requirements and procedures to reduce cost to the public, without increasing the risk of fraud and abuse.

Tan Kin Lian

Singapore is quite backward

In spite of our banks spending hundreds of million dollars on their I.T. systems, Singapore is actually quite backward. Many people write checks and mail them to their payees.

I have just written a check to pay my subscription to a professional body in Singapore. I have to mail the check to the organization.

In a more advanced society, I could pay by credit card or by bank transfer. The professional body in Singapore does not allow this form of payment because the process is quite a hassle. It is a hassle to make a one time payment in Singapore and also a hassle for the receiving party to identify who has made the payment.

In other countries, the payer will use internet banking. The receiving party receives receives the payment with the necessary details to handle their processing. It would have been much more convenient for all parties.

I believe that the backward processes in Singapore is probably due to requirements by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Some of these requirements, whether in the name of security or anti-money laundering measures, are implemented mindlessly, making the measures to be quite impractical. But, sadly, this is Singapore. I hope that MAS will get advice from practical people on some of their measures, and can make a judgement on security and practicality.

Read this blog from Mr. Brown. I share the same sentiment.

I made a payment of a subscription to a professional body in the UK. It was quite easy. I paid through my credit card.

My friend from the UK was surprised that people in Singapore are still signing cheques and authorisation to his bank. He said that in the UK, he only needed to give a personal PIN number for all his transaction with the bank, and has never use his signature with any of his transactions with his bank for years!

Middle Class Squeeze

Lucky Tan wrote this interesting article about the Middle Class Squeeze. He said that luzury cars, including Ferraris, now take up nearly 50% of the new car market in Singapore.

A new 1 bed room condo at Lorong Chuan goes for upwards of $538K. A quick calculation shows the cheapest 1 bed room unit in the development is sold at a price that is 17 years of a median income worker's total income. If he uses his income fully to service his condo, he will take 17 years...nothing left for food, clothing, utilities etc. What is prudent for someone earning the median income is a small HDB flat which is shrinking over time[Shrinking HDB flats due to need to maximise land and to adapt] and public transport which is now so crowded it is like a cattle ferry. There is also the problem of healthcare which is rising at double digits and outstripping median income growth. If you look at the Singapore worker in the middle earning the median income wage, his quality of life is not equal to a middle income worker in a developed country. Its gets worse as we go down the wage scale. When we get close to the bottom which is quite far down since there is no minimum wage, we have 350,000 workers who work full time but cannot make ends meet and depend on workfare to survive[Older, low-wage workers get Workfare bonus ] - these workers will never accumulate enough savings to retire and have to work their whole lives.

Excellent app on iPad (Go There)

I downloaded an excellent app on iPad called GoThere. It is easy to use and provide transport options by car, train, bus and driving. The app cost $2.99 and is excellent value. It is especially helpful if I have to take a bus or train, instead of driving. There is another app called "Show Nearby" which is free, and is also very good.

40% discount on 5 book bundle

Enjoy a 40% discount on these 5 book bundle.

Order can be placed here:

New Wisdom Book

New Wisdom Book

Wisdom on How to Live Life (Book 4): Transforming Earth into Heaven

Humans being the most intelligent species and having lived on Earth for thousands of years, we are yet nowhere near to a life of peace, love, joy and harmony. This book contains a hypothetical story of a young man, Tom, who had a fifth conversation with Guru Harry. This is a continuation of their first four conversations which are contained in the books “Wisdom on How to Live Life”, “Wisdom on How to Live Life (Book 2)”, and “Wisdom on How to Live Life (Book 3)”. Guru Harry epitomizes someone from a spiritual society who offers a way of living which can lead to peace, love, joy and harmony.

Through this fifth conversation, Tom learnt that (1) why we should not disrespect those who are at a lower level of development, (2) why we cannot hear things spiritually, (3) what is the pleasure that everybody can afford to enjoy, (4) what is the catch in evolving spiritually, (5) how to practice “To be in the world but not of it”, (6) why life should not be just about making a living, (7) why we should pay people for doing spiritual work, (8) how to become a master of life, (9) why societies set up all kinds of reward systems, and (10) how to create a heavenly society.

The book can be ordered here.

Defending your online reputation

Here is a service that can be used by small businesses:

Stop! Full House

Market for expensive cars

My friend, who is a permanent resident, told me that Singapore is the largest market for expensive cars, such as the Lambourgini and the Ferrari. This is in spite of our small size. I asked me to send me the the statistics, as I do not recall seeing this report. Can anyone help to verify this?

Invest in an indexed fund

One in four active fund managers beat the index. It is better to invest in an indexed fund and pay low fees.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Property bubble in China

Action by Massachusetts Attorney General

I like to share this story about the legal action that is being taken by the Massachusetts attorney general against several large banks for deceptive banking practices. I applaud the action as it shows that there is accountability and that public officials are willing to take action to safeguard the interest of small consumers. Although American is the place where the bad financial practices originated, and spread around the world, there are still people there who have a sense of duty.

Singapore has followed America in adopting some of the bad practices, such as the bad financial products that were created and sold to consumers. It is time for the Singapore authority to realize that they also have a duty to the public and to stop the bad financial products from being marketed to defraud the public.

Challenges from the global economic system

There is a general worry that slow growth in US and Europe will cause problem to Asia, and especially to China being the largest manufacturer in the world. This could lead to unemployment and unrest.

Think again. Why are we having an economic system where people have to work long hours, just to earn enough money to survive, and along the way, other people have to be unemployed? And we need to keep growing faster, so that they is enough work for people to work long hours just to be employed?

The simple answer is "the majority of people have to work long hours, as slaves, just to earn enough to get by, so that the 1% can be super rich. The worst countries are those with the largest disparity of income between the top 1% and the bottom 99%. Sad to say, Singapore fared among the worst in the world in this measure. This is why we have one of the lowest birth rate in the world and a high level of unhappiness among the people".

What is the solution? Minimum wage (to make sure that people can earn enough with 8 hours of work), control over immigration, better planning and allocation of resources. Singapore fared badly on all three measures, but the situation can be managed, if we pay attention to these matters now.

Be educated on financial matters

Hi Mr. Tan,

Its been a pleasure reading your blog this evening. I've been looking for some investment advice and found your explanation on dual currency investment, which I've admire its simplicity and transparency.

I've got some extra cash in US dollar 50K which are kept in a bank for several year with low yield. With the rate of the inflation nowadays, I feel that that value is depreciating and I'd like to invest on some banking products or instruments which will provide good yield with a medium risk to cover the inflation within 3-5 yrs.

Will you be able to advice me and pretend if its you're money. What will you do? What will be the best option of investment right now in Singapore and amidst this EU crisis?

Read this

Lack of consideration for the public

30 years ago, an immigration form was the only way to track and monitor the movement of people into and out of a country. There were fewer people travelling in those days. The traveler does not mind filling up the card - as it was the only inconvenience that they have to go through.

Travelling is different today. The traveler has to complete another form - for customer declaration. There is also security check several times before boarding the plane and after arrival. Laptops and metals have to be removed from the bags and put back. The passport and board pass have to be shown a few times during the journey.

While new requirements and hassles are added, the officials forget to remove the old requirements, that are not needed any more. The passports are now scanned electronically, and make the immigration card unnecessary. I believe that millions of cards are collected each year, but are not being used. But nobody cares.

Recently, I collected the immigration card that is being given to non-residents arriving into Singapore. The card is the same as many cards that I have to fill in when I visit other countries. Although Singapore is a more advanced country in the use of technology, and has spent tens of millions on technology, we are still implementing the backward and wasteful requirements on other people.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Give a reply

I find a common experience of sending an e-mail to a friend or to a business contact, and do not receive a reply. I know that they had received it, because they reply when a send a reminder or a follow up reminder. They do not reply because they do not know how to respond, or the request was not clear, or do not have the complete information. It is almost like talking to someone, who does not talk back - just kept silent. Is this the right way to respond? What is a better way?

Learning to use a tablet

We are accustomed to a keyboard and a mouse. The touchscreen on a tablet replaces both of these accessories. This is why the tablet (such as the iPad) is so popular for people on the move.

I used the iPad during my trip to Sri Lanka and Jakarta. I bought a local data card. I was able to serve the Internet and use Google maps. It is light and convenient. It was able to avoid the use of old accessories - that was troublesome to carry around.

I look forward to a system of wifi connection that allows the tablet to be used in many places, without the troublesome registration, login and payment. It should be as seemless as the use of the data card.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Immigration forms

When I enter most countries, I have to fill up an detailed immigration form. It contains a lot of information that are taken from my passport.

At the immigration counter, I have to submit my passport to be scanned. All the information are now collected through electronic means.

Why is it necessary for me to spend a lot of time to fill up the information into the immigration form?

I also have to fill up a custom declaration form. I suspect that the form is not being used.

These immigration requirements were created over 20 years ago, in the days before the the electronic scanning of passports. After new technology was introduced, they could be discontinued or modified, but this was not done. Why? Nobody cares. After all, the burden is on the public.

There are a few countries that have taken the simple but bold step to stop the use of the immigration form - Dubai and the European unions. Some other countries have simplified the form considerably, e.g. Australia.

Perhaps, it is time for Singapore to take up this issue with the Asean countries? A good step is to simplify the form, by removing the non-essential information.

Supply and demand for property

Many people in Singapore believed that property prices will never fall in Singapore, due to our limited land and strong economy. They should take into account another important factor - demand for the land. Right now, we are enjoying strong demand from foreigners working in Singapore. But this demand can fall, when there is a global recession. At that time, there will be an over-supply of property and prices will fall. When prices fall, it can take a long time to recover.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Student concession fares on public transport

I watched the episode on the student concession fares with much interest. The poly students have asked to be given concession fares, similar to what was granted for junior college students. The disabled have also asked to be given the concessions. Even the Young PAP, which is the activist part of the party that forms the Government, has to speak at Speakers' Corner.

This episode highlights the fallacy of the Government in avoiding responsibility to govern. They prefer to let such matters be decided by the market. After privatizing the public transport, they decided that matters of fares and concessions should be decided by the public transport operators - or maybe the Public Transport Council has some say (I am not sure)!

The transport operators know the answer - maximize the profits, so they avoid having to give concessions, unless they have to. Their argument is that any concessions have to be borne by the full fare paying public, but this is not really true, as it can also be borne by reducing the shareholder's profits. This is really a political question - which cannot be dealt with by the free market. So, it is back to the Government to do the duty that they are elected to do.

I wish to extend this reasoning to many other sectors of our public life. We cannot let matters be left to the market. The Government has to step in and take the political decisions for our society, including setting laws and rules of proper behavior. If they fail in their duty, our society must surely decline.

Tan Kin Lian


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