Saturday, February 11, 2012

Taxi Automated Booking Service (TABS 5)

This innovative taxi booking service will be launched in early March. The customer book for a taxi using the browser of any smart phone (i.e. iPhone, Android, Windows, Nokia, Blackberry). The customer can choose a booking fee (or tips) or $1, $3 or $5. More details here:

The customer can also use a mobile app from Apple App Store (search for Taxi Booking, TABS 5 or Tan Kin Lian).

When the taxi driver (using a mobile app) accepts the request, a SMS will be sent to notify the customer of the booking. The customer can call the taxi driver or vice versa. The taxi driver has to use a mobile app (available now on iPhone, later on Android). This service is free for the first three months - subsequently, the fee is $15 a month, payable by the taxi driver.

More details here:

Conversion of foreign currency

I expect to receive a large sum of Indonesian rupiah on selling my shares. I asked my bank if I should convert the money into Singapore dollars in Jakarta or in Singapore.
They replied, "you can send the money over and we will convert it for you at the best rate. We cannot tell you the rate".

An Indonesian bank quoted to me the buying and selling rate for the two currencies. The spread was 0.2%. I find this spread to be quite fair and decided to convert my money in Jakarta.

The Singapore bank expects me to give them a blank check, so they can charge whatever they like. The last time that I converted Australian dollars to Singapore dollars, they charge a spread of more than 0.6%
The Singapore bank is greedy to make as much profit as they can, at the expense of the customer.

Tan Kin Lian

FISCA talk on Investing - 25 Feb 2012

Dear Members of FISCA

FISCA will be organising three talks on "Invest in shares, bonds, REITs and ETFs" 
in 2012 - on 25 Feb, 28 April and 24 November. 

These talks are important for consumers to learn about how to invest for the 
long term, manage investment risks and get a better yield. 

More details of the talk can be found here: 

As a special benefit, these talks will be offered free to FISCA members who have
paid their subscription for 2012. If you have not paid the subscription, you can pay 
in cash at the door when you attend the talk.

You can register for the 25 February talk here:

Please register early.

Tan Kin Lian
President, FISCA

DBS could have compensated High Notes investors

Read my view in the FISCA website:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Drawing the line on public accountability

I agree with the view expressed by this writer:. He has argued his point very well.

Worker's Party and Yaw Shin Leong

This letter was published in the Straits Times on 10 February 2012

I agree with the decision taken by MP Yaw Shin Leong to 
resign as treasurer of the Workers Party and the exemplary 
approach taken by the leadership of the Workers Party 
in handling this difficult issue.

I also agree with the stance taken by Mr. Yaw and the 
leaders of the Workers Party in choosing to remain silent 
over the rumors of extra marital affairs.

We have to respect the right as a citizen, including a public
figure, to remain silent on private matters that do not affect the
performance of their public duty.

There is no need to make further disclosures, as 
there is a need to protect the privacy of Mr. Yaw's family.

The voters of Hougang will judge Mr. Yaw at the next
general election. 

I am heartened to read the words of support from many 
residents to Mr. Yaw, who has worked in the grassroots of 
Hougang for many years, even before becoming
their elected Member of Parliament.

The people of Singapore will have to accept that they will not 
be able to find angels to be their leaders, either in the current 
party in power or in an alternative political party. 
I like to express appreciation to Mr. Yaw's wife for her
strong support of her husband in this difficult situation and 
to wish the best for their family.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Be an entrepreneur - Update

Three young people and two mid-career people have expressed interest and are quite excited about this way to become an entrepreneur.

I asked them to find a few friends to work with them. If they are not able to, I will get them to form 1 or 2 teams to work on a specific business project each.

UPDATE: I am looking for more people to come forward. Do not miss this opportunity to get the seed funding from ACE and start a new business.

CPF contribution rate for older workers

The Prime Minister has announced that the CPF contribution rate for older workers will be increased gradually. I suggest that the PM take a bold step and revert to a uniform contribution rate to all workers, regardless of age. Older workers who are not productive (due to age) has already suffered a wage cut, based on market forces. There is no need to further penalize them through a lower rate of CPF contribution, which upset their savings for retirement. Do you agree with this statement?

Selfish reasons

It is sad that our education system has produced people who act in a selfish manner, as explained in this article.

This is the outcome of a competitive model. By stressing "excellence", we encourage our young to compete at an early age, and to develop a selfish character. We need to change our education system to reflect the necessary values in life. We have to follow the approach taken in Finland, where they emphasize "equity" more than "excellence" as explained in this article.

I want to be frank and to state the root of the problem. It is more than just the education system.
When I bought my 5 room flat in Marine Parade in 1975 for $36,000, it was affordable not only to me, but to most of my neighbours. We were able to pay for the flat with 25% of our earnings over 15 years. 
Today, many people are paying sky high prices - stretching to 35% of the combined income for 30 years. When people pay so much for the flat, it is understanding that they are fussy and selfish.
The underlying cause is the high price that have to be paid for the HDB flats. I do not wish to condone selfish behavior but I wish to say a few words of understanding.
Let us address the root cause that ails our society.

Rose tinted glasses

Most of the political leaders and top civil servants in Singapore were scholars. They were brought up in a competitive school environment and did well in their studies to earn scholarships. They were placed into top positions and saw the world from their perspective.

I thought of the word "rose tinted glasses" to reflect this situation. I found this article:

It seemed that the expression "rose tinted glasses" apply not only to the elites but also to many other people who are still comfortable in their financial situation. They will only realize what the world is like, when they become unemployed.

IPO of Facebook

Facebook is worth over USD 100 billion, according to analysts who are forecasting the results of the IPO.

I do not find the business model of Facebook to be sustainable. I expect that their value will fall sharply over the next few years. I do not see how they can find a revenue stream that can sustain the high cost of their operations.

Many Internet stocks have high valuation as their shareholders, who are the venture capital funds, have the skill and financial power to support the share price after the IPO for a certain period of time. If the business model is not sustainable, they have abandon the shares. This has happened to Groupon. It will also happen to Facebook, in my view.

Groupon shares plunge

Groupon shares plunge after posting disappointing financial results

I find that their business model is not sustainable, as they are not offering real value to their merchants based on their current business model. There is the hope that they can find an alternative and better model.

If you were the CEO of Groupon, what will you do?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Work long hours

Workers are afraid to lose their jobs, so they work longer hours. This is a bad system as it leads to a poor quality of life and makes it more difficult for the unemployed to find jobs. Read this report:

The solution is better protection of workers. Laws have to be passed and enforced to regulate the number of working hours, so that more jobs can be created for the unemployed and the new entrants to the job market.

Allow submission of manual forms

In running my small business, I have to use the online process of government agencies, such as ACRA, CPF, MOM and IRAS to submit requests and returns.

I find the process to be quite complicated, as I am forced to go through many webpages, and read a lot of information (that do not apply to me). It usually takes a lot of my time.

It would have been easier for me to fill up a manual form, sign it and fax it to the agency. Their data entry staff will probably take only a few minutes to input the form, compared to the hours that the public has to spend to learn how to handle the online process, to do the task and often, to rectify the mistake or call the helpline of the agency.

Have you experienced similar difficulties?

Climate change?

It is freezing cold in Europe. My friend said that the recent disruption in weather, tsunami, floods and earthquake are caused by climate change. Perhaps so, but they are probably also caused by development of the living environment. What are your views?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Dr. Toh Chin Chye fought against PAP

Lucky Tan writes about Dr. Toh Chin Chye fight against his own party.

Today: Reduce cost of doing business

This letter was sent to Today paper on 1 Feb 2012 (but not published yet)

Reduce cost of doing business

Mr. James Ang (Crutch mentality in businesses, 1 Feb) said that our
business federations should not just lobby for subsidies, grants and 
tax incentives, but get their members to innovate, raise productivity and 
explore new markets overseas.

I also recall similar calls by our government leaders on innovation and 
productivity for as long as I can remember. 

I have run a small business for three years and wish to share my experience 
about some of the mindless regulations and processes that increase 
the cost of doing business in Singapore:

1. Our government agencies require businesses to submit requests and 
compliance returns using their online processes. Their websites are extremely 
complicated and each process can take hours to someone who is not familiar. 
Mistakes are made and have to be rectified. A more sensible alternative is to 
allow the public to make their submission using a manual form, which can be 
faxed to the agency, and for a staff to spend a few minutes to handle the data entry.

2. Many forms from government agencies ask for too much information for relatively 
routine matters. These agencies should realize that the time spent by administrative 
staff is not free.

3. Businesses have to compute and show GST for each invoice
and to account for the input and output GST on their quarterly returns to
the tax authority. The compliance adds to the cost of doing business. It 
can be reduced significantly by some simplification to their processes.

4. Many businesses still have to make payment by cheques, due to our archaic 
payment processes. Many countries have moved to electronic payments long ago.

As long as our government agencies are not mindful of the cost and burden that
they impose on the business sector, there will be the perpetual call 
from the business associations for financial assistance.

Tan Kin Lian

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