Saturday, February 04, 2012

Tributes to Dr. Toh Chin Chye

Yahoo News is usually a place for angry Singaporeans to vent their anger against the Government. Today, the postings are quite polite, in honor of the late Dr. Toh Chin Chye.

Dr. Toh Chin Chye and CPF withdawal age

Education - equality or excellence?

The schools in Finland value equality more than excellence. This approach has resulted in a better outcome, compared to other countries.

Excellent speech by Dr. Toh Chin Chye

This is an excellent speech by Dr. Toh Chin Chye. He is a leader with conviction and can think on his own. A wonderful person.,

I agree with his views about Medisave. It is a wasteful scheme, and has contributed to depleting the retirement savings of CPF members. Medisave has been mis-used to increase the cost of health care and to enrich the doctors. If people like Dr.Toh had remain in power, Singapore would not have reached this sad state.

Welcome immigrants to Singapore

Several government leaders, include Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, have said, "We must welcome immigrants". I agree with this statement. Most of our forefathers came as immigrants into Singapore during the past 200 years.

Our leaders should realize that the immigrants should be welcomed on terms similar to the local citizens and also make a commitment towards Singapore. The males should serve national service. Those who do not serve national service, including the older males and the females, should make other contribution of similar value, for example, pay an appropriate tax or levy. The females can be exempted from the levy if they marry a male who has served national service.

They should also make a long term commitment to Singapore, and not use Singapore as a stepping stone to another country. If they become citizen of Singapore, they must give up their previous citizenship. If they are eligible for citizen, they must take it up within a certain period.

If the immigrants are not willing to accept these terms, which are similar to terms applicable to Singaporeans, there is something wrong with our national policy that discriminates against Singaporeans.  Our elected leaders should realize this unfair and unjust treatment of Singaporeans.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Japan electronic giants post a loss

I read that Sony and Panasonic have posted a large loss for the past financial year. The tsunami is probably a major factor. Another factor is the global recession and the high rate of the Yen. It is sad that they have to suffer a loss for factors beyond their control.

High respect for Dr. Toh Chin Chye

I have high respect for Dr. Toh Chin Chye, who passed away recently. I met him only once, for an interview. Later, I met him briefly on a few occasions. Dr. Toh is not only an architect for modern Singapore, but he is also a person who has a feel for the ordinary folks in Singapore - and is not a member of the elites. I am sad that he has just passed away, but   he has lived a long and meaningful life. My condolences to his family.

Give better treatment to visitors

I went to DBS Bank in Shenton Way for a meeting. I parked my car in Tower 2 car park. The lower levels were reserved for season parking (i.e. marked in red). As a visitor, I had to go up to the higher levels - passing through a few empty reserved lots.

Why does the bank force visitors to park at the higher levels? It should be better to allow the visitors to park at the lower levels, as they are likely to stay for a shorter time. Most of the people on season parking are likely to park the car for the entire day.

The car park ramps are quite narrow, and it is easy for a visitor to scratch the car if they are not extra careful. By forcing them to move upwards, it enhances the risk of a bad scratch

This type of arrangement, i.e. forcing visitors to use the higher level, defy common sense, and is quite common in Singapore. I see this arrangement in HDB multi-story car parks as well. It reflects disrespect for visitors and for their right to decent treatment. Visitors are not getting the parking space for free. I had to pay $7.70 for 1 1/2 hour of parking.

International Advisory Panel of MAS

Here is a list of the international advisory panel of MAS.

One member of the panel is the Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. This is the bank that created the Pinnacle Notes that are sold to investors in Singapore. Morgan Stanley is now facing a class action taken in the New York courts on behalf of the Singapore investors for fraudulently creating the Notes, which has caused the investors to lose more than $100 million of their savings.

Welcome to the ACRA website

This is a well designed website, - very colorful and neatly arranged.

The only drawback is that you need to be an expert in the structure of the website, before you can find out how to file your annual return. There must be several dozen buttons and links. You need to know all of them to get the right page to make your submission.

After you have overcome this challenge, you still have to submit your annual return on many webpages. Each webpage has to be carefully read, as you are warned about the consequence of making a mistake, and will be punished under Singapore law.

Each webpage has an option to "Save" or "Next" or "Submit" and you need to be an expert to know the difference in all these functions. If you call the helpdesk, the staff can guide you - provided that you can get through to the helpdesk.

ACRA could have simplified the process significantly, if they are willing to talk to me. But they will probably not want to talk to me, although I have given many feedback to them on this matter.

Online process of ACRA

I did an online filing of the annual return to ACRA. It was extremely complicated. The website had so many options for different types of company and different types of filing. I need to know the structure before I can access the right webpage. I had to get the helpdesk just to navigate through this maze.

I was able to login with my SingPass. To those who are not familiar with SingPass, it will be another harrowing journey, but I am now an expert in using SingPass!

Filing the annual return is another major challenge. There are several webpages and a few dozen buttons to read and select. To submit this type of return, the director has to be an expert in the filing structure of ACRA - and not just to know his own business.

Many buttons require me to read the instructions to understand which option to select. Fortunately, I had a printout from a previous submission (which was not completed), so I could refer to it to complete it again. 

After completing the details, I was asked to print out the page of my submission. I thought that this was the end of the process, but it was not so. Fortunately, the helpdesk girl was able to tell me to continue with the "Submit" button.

I still have to complete a few more pages of "Next", "Save" and "Submit". Each page has a lot of details that require me to read. The helpdesk girl said, "Mr. Tan, you can just ignore them and go to 'Next' ". But this is most unfair to me, as I am taking responsibility for any mistake!

Finally, I came to the payment page by eNETS. I have to select from the payment options. The helpdesk girl said, "select eNETS credit card". I found, to my horror, that I could not make any payment. I was using a Chrome browser and eNETS insist on an Internet Explorer. The helpdesk girl said, "Mr. Tan, please log on, and re-enter again after 1/2 hour (security measure) to complete the transaction with Internet Explorer.

I login later and found that the lockout was actually 1 hour (and not 1/2 hour). I do not blame the helpdesk girl for giving me the wrong information. She must also have a difficult time with the complexity.

I am now waiting for the 1 hour to expire. I dare not do other things, as I may forget to complete the transaction and the ACRA enforcement manager warn me that they will not be so lenient the next time. Actually, they are lenient in imposing a fine of only $170 for the last submission.

Just imagine. If I had been allowed to file my full annual return to ACRA in PDF, they have all the information that they need to do the data entry, without imposing a huge burden on the director/secretary of the company. I must have wasted several hours of my time with this filing process.

Online submission of CPF contribution

I just made my first online submission of CPF contribution for my employees. Previously, I send the CPF contribution by cheque.

It is not easy. I have to do the data entry personally, as I have to use my SingPass. My administration staff has to watch an online video to explain the process of making the submission, as it takes many steps and involve many webpages.

She also has to compile the details that need to be entered into the online form - including the company CPF ID, employee NRIC, date of birth, pay details, etc. I had previously registered my bank account (for payment by GIRO), so this tedious step was avoided.

After going through the many steps, with the guidance of my staff who had watched the online video, I managed to complete the submission. When I came to download the PDF, my laptop computer got hang. Fortunately, the submission was completed earlier.

It would have been much easier for me, if I was allowed to submit an Excel spreadsheet or even a signed PDF to CPF for their staff to do the data entry. Why force the director of a small company to spend time to do the data entry and go through the many complicated steps?

It should be easier for me next month, but I will probably forget the steps of the online process and have to refer to detailed operating instructions. This is how the online process makes life difficult for the small business and adds to the cost of doing business.

Regulation of taxi fares - a new approach

The Minister for Transport announced in Parliament that the Government will regulate the standard of service for taxi drivers but will not regulate the fares. The Minister believes that deregulation of fares allows greater flexibility in the supply of taxis. The public finds the deregulated fares and surcharges to be confusing.

I wish to suggest an approach:
  • The Government should regulate the fares for a basic taxi service that picks up passengers on the road or at taxi stands
  • Taxi companies can operate special services for customers that book a taxi at their call centre; they can set their own fares
Some taxi companies may prefer to operate the basic service, as they do not have to incur the high cost of maintaining a taxi booking service. Commuters will also benefit as the fares for the basic taxi service can be used as a benchmark to decide on the taxi company to choose for call a taxi.

I hope that the Land Transport Authority will consider this approach.

Wisdom on how to live life (Book 3)

From the author, Tommy Wong

Would you like to know:

(1) why life is getting harder and harder?
(2) how to make life easier?
(3) why we should take responsibility for our actions?
(4) why we should live our lives according to our wishes?
(5) why it is better to have morality than money?
(6) why somebody who did ten good deeds is better than another who did one hundred good deeds and one bad deed?
(7) what is the negative response we need to prepare for when we do good?
(8) what is the reward for doing good?
(9) how we should choose our belief?

The book can be ordered here.

Login password for websites

Internet websites require the user to register an ID and password to access an user account. To enhance security, they may require a strong password to be used, e.g. to exceed a certain length and to contain a mixture of numbers, small letters and capital letters. Some websites require the password to be changed at certain intervals and disallow the use of passwords that were used previously.

The designers of these security measures forget that most users have to handle several dozen passwords at various websites. If the passwords are changed and different passwords are used, it is difficult for the user to keep track of the passwords. They have to record the passwords somewhere, which actually increases the chance of these passwords being stolen and misused!

Here are some practical measures used by some websites:

  • They remind the user to change the password, but give the option to skip the change or for old password to be used again
  • They do not require the user to change the password, but require a second password for certain sensitive transactions.
The website designer should also consider if the website really needs to have enhanced security measures. If the information is not sensitive, there is no need to introduce complicated password structures. It is best to allow the user to decide on using a simple or strong password, rather than for the website designer to insist on a strong password.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Online processes leads to inefficiency

I have written two letters to the newspapers to point out that the online processes of government agencies can have the unintended consequence of creating more inefficiency. The public has to gather the information that is needed and have to do the data entry on the website.

Due to the complexity of the website, the public has to spend a lot of time to navigate the website and to learn about the data entry process. If the data entry is done by the specialised person employed by the agency, the work can be done quickly. If it is done by the public, the time taken could be many times of the time saved.

My administration staff have spent a few hours on simple data entry of requests on online websites, due to the complexity. Time has to be spent to learn the process and to call the helpline for guidance. Sometimes, the delay is due to the use of the wrong browser, or the slow internet connection or a busy server. The same work can be done in a few minutes by a data entry staff who is familiar with the process.

If the online process has to be done monthly, it may be all right to get the public to learn how to handle it. But if it is done infrequently, it does not make sense to teach the public how to handle the data entry as much time has to be spent on the teaching and learning.

Home address on NRIC card

Someone wrote a letter to the newspaper expressing concern about the home address shown in the NRIC card. There was a reply from the Ministry of Home Affairs stating why this information is necessary.

I believe that the home address of a person should be public information, unless the person has a special reason to keep it private (and that should be an exception). For an orderly society, we need to know the names of our neighbours and their backgrounds. This should not be a secret.

If someone needs the privacy, then he (or she) should find a place outside a city to stay; maybe in a cave.

I am aware that a person may be harassed by loan sharks. If the loan sharks behave illegally, they should be dealt with according to the law - and privacy is not the solution. Similarly, other people should not infringe on privacy - even if they know where a person lives; and if there is infringement, it should also be dealt with according to the law.

We know the residence of the President, Prime Minister and the ministers. So, the residences of citizens should also be public, although we can allow for exceptions (if there are good reasons).

Do you agree with my views?  

Sandwiched middle class

Mitt Romney, the contender for the Republican nomination for US Presidential election, said "I am not concered about the very poor". Read this news.

His reasoning is that the very poor are already taken care by government assistance programs. The middle class are the ones that face the squeeze. This remark also applies to Singapore.

What is the best way to help the people? Where do you draw the line between the assistance to be given to the very poor and those that do not need assistance? What are your views?

I wish to add a personal note. Mitt Romney comes from a wealthy background and was a high income earner from a management consulting firm. He belong to the 1% elite and will not be able to solve the challenges faced by the  USA.  I hope that he is beaten by Barack Obama in the Election.

Exaggerated advertising claim

A consumer watchdog has taken a website to task for its advertising claims. See or

Alert Portal

The Alert Portal is now soft launched. There are real live alerts, taken from the websites of the news media and the service providers. It can be accessed from a browser on the mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer

New features will be added to the alert portal soon, including:

  • Register to be notified of important alerts affecting many people
  • Allow the public to submit alerts for verification.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

National health insurance

Should a country introduce a national health insurance system, and which approach works best?

Buying insurance online

A project team in NUS Business School asked my views about the possibility of buying insurance online and the need for reinsurance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Make a claim on your health insurance

Here are some tips on how you to make a claim on your health insurance policy and avoid the nasty surprise to find that you cannot get reimbursed for a significant part of your hospital bill .

Stock options lead to uncertain economy

For a long time, I disliked stock options for the harm that it can cause to the economy and the bad impact of greed. Now, here is an article that support this view.

Prepare for increase in fees in open car parks

Printed in TODAY paper, 31 January 2012

MR PAUL Chan said in his letter "Park funds in the right car park" (Jan 25) that "residents would prefer to use an open car park, where it is cheaper, more convenient and vehicles are easily accessible".

The Housing and Development Board is able to charge S$65 a month for these lots probably because it does not factor in the full cost of land. Otherwise, the parking fee would probably increase by two to four times.

With limited land, there is no choice but to build multi-storey car parks, including mechanised options. 

We also have to prepare for the day when the fee for open car parks are higher than for multi-storey car parks, due to the convenience for residents.

It would be painful for car owners to pay more for parking, having first incurred a high cost to buy the car.

One approach is for parking to be subsidised in some way (as the Government does have the Certificate of Entitlement revenue) and done holistically across all types of car parks.

A longer-term solution is to improve public transport, especially feeder services to train stations and bus interchanges, and to improve taxi services as an attractive alternative to private cars.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Poor taxi service

Cost of health insurance

Are you aware about the high cost of health insurance? The premium to cover age 1 to 75 years, including interest of 4% on the premium, can accumulate to $280,000. Do you expect your medical bill to cost more than this? Is it prudent to spend so much on your health insurance? This staggering figure does not include the cost beyond age 75 - which will escalate steeply. Most people will live beyond 75 years - make sure you still have Medisave savings to last for many more years.
You can download the article here (but you have to provide your email address).

FISCA members can read this article directly in

How to deal with rising health care cost

Many people have asked for my advice on how to get the appropriate health insurance to cover their medical expenses when the are old.  I wish to set out in these few pages, the advice that I have consistently given to them. Be ready for some surprise! You need to provide your e-mail address to access the tips.

Alternatively you can login to the FISCA website,

How to deal with a scandal

A gloomy forecast for the next decade

Here is a gloomy forecast for the next decade,-says-Dr-Doom

And some words of advice for the future
Calling for a major change in policy priorities, Dr Roubini said: "We have to shift our investment from things that are less productive like the financial sector and housing and real estate to things that are more productive like our people, our human capital, our structure, our technology, our innovation."
I agree that we need to move from the non-productive to the productive sectors of the economy.

Be an entrepreneur

Here is an option for a young person who is starting work, or a mid career person who wish to find new challenges.

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