Saturday, April 07, 2012

Look for what is right, and not what is wrong

This was written on 4 April and scheduled to appear when I am in China.

I have seen many instances of Singapore employers who are unhappy with their foreign maids. The employers shout at the maids for being stupid and not obeying instructions. These employers did not realize that the maids are not as smart as them -otherwise, why should they be maids?. Furthermore, the maids have a language problem and are not used to our culture.

I want to encourage Singaporean employers to look at the positive side. Look for what the maid can do for your family, e.g. keep the house clean, watch the house when you are away, act honestly and diligently and do the simple things that make life comfortable for you and your family.

We do not need to focus on what they cannot do - for example, they may not be good cooks or do not have initiative or may not react in the same manner as the employer. 

If we accept the maids for what they can do, we will find that they are indeed helpful to have around. Life will then be more pleasant for everyone - the family and for the maid.
Tan Kin Lian

Encourage renting to reduce commuting

Sent to Straits Times Forum Page on 2 April 2012 

The recent large increase in our population has put a strain on our roads and
public transport infrastructure.

While the Government is increasing the capacity of our infrastructure, we should
consider ways to reduce the need to commute to and from work.  We can
encourage more people to live near their place of work, including renting a home nearby.

While the government policy on home ownership has its positive impacts, it
also has the unintended consequence of increasing the demand for
commuting. As people stay rooted in their own homes, they often had to
commute long distances.

We should now review this policy and consider some possible measures to encourage
people live close to their place of work:

- allow the owner to rent out a HDB flat and live in a rented home near the workplace.

- allow the owner to buy a new home to replace an existing home, and apply for waiver
of the stamp duty.

- allow the owner to claim the concessionary property tax rate on one property, even
if it is not owner occupied, so that the owner can choose to live in a rented home
near the workplace.

Tan Kin Lian

Friday, April 06, 2012

Differentiation taken to another degree

This was written on 4 April and scheduled to appear when I am in China.

There is a letter in Today paper that suggests that foreigners should be required to pay higher fares than citizens. This is taking "differentiation" or "discrimination" to an extreme.

The person who made the suggestion thought that it is possible to impose this differentiation using the transit card, but he probably forgot that it was difficult to make the differentiation when the commuter opts to pay by cash, and many poorer and older citizens opt to pay cash.

I have been against unnecessary differentiation in our daily lives. Let the higher income people pay higher taxes and let foreigners pay a levy. After that is done, it is better to better to levy the same charges for transport, health care, education and other basic services needed by the people.

I have also read about the differentiation of GST vouchers according to the type of housing of the citizens. This has turned out to be a source of disputes. Some elderly people live in landed properties, which they bought at a low price several decades ago. They do not have any income and find GST to be a burden.They asked to be eligible for higher GST vouchers,  but the request was repeatedly turned down by the Government. I am saddened by this type of differentiation of GST vouchers.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Showing respect and courtesy

This was written on 4 April and scheduled to appear when I am in China.

There is a tendency for some people to be quite disrespectful when they post comments in the Internet. They make insults and personal attacks and interpret other people's views in a manner that is not logical or reasonable.

Sometimes, I wonder if these comments are from younger people who has not learned how to respect other people's views. Often, they pass judgment about other people that are unwarranted. I worry that this type of behavior could be due to our environment, which promotes the concept of "excellence", "me first" and a self-centered outlook.

But, I have also seen this type of behavior in older people, so it is not a reflection of the behavior of younger people. More likely, it is a reflection of our environment or, what I describe as "our culture".

I do not wish to be critical about our culture, and only wish to point it out, so that people realize that there is a need to show respect for the views of other people, and to avoid insults and personal attacks of a direct nature.  I hope that my views are taken in a positive light.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Make it easy for customers to use internet banking

I hope that our banks make it easier for their customers
to make payments using internet banking.

DBS Bank requires me, as a customer, to register a payee and to 
authenticate the payee with my mobile phone. This is on
top of logging in to the account with my login name, PIN and
the token (2FA authentication).

As I have reached the limit of the number of my registered payees
I have to find one payee to delete, so that the new payee can be

When creating the payee, I must make sure that I have entered the 
bank account correctly, as the system does not show me the name 
of the payee. After going through so much hassle, it is easy to make 
a mistake at this juncture.

Previously, I have asked DBS Bank to provide an option for the customer 
to make small payments, say less than $500, without the need to go 
through the complicated process of registering, authenticating and 
deleting a payee. The customer will probably choose this option for a 
once-off payment. 

It would also be useful for the name of the payee to be displayed (after 
the bank account has been entered). This is more important than the
requirement to create a payee record.

DBS Bank was not able to accede to my request. I suspect that the 
current practice must be mandated by the regulator, i.e. Monetary Authority of 
Singapore. I hope that the regulator can give their comment on this issue.

Tan Kin Lian

No blogger in China

I will be in China for the next five days. I remembered that China does not provide access to Blog, so you will not bear from me for a while. However, I am scheduling some blog posts to appear over the next few days.

Honest and dishonest behavior

I have been invited on a few occasions to speak to university undergraduates about the relationship between business and society. I asked this question - "Do you know what is honest and dishonest behavior? Will you make a profit by making another person poorer?"

This question always stunned the students. They take it for granted that to make a profit is the right thing to do, and do not realize that there is a line beyond which they are acting dishonestly and cheating another party.

The penal code defines "cheating" as misleading another person or telling untruths knowingly and money or other property has passed. This type of behavior seems to be quite common, under the pretext of "caveat emptor" or "let the buyer beware". It is an excuse for dishonest behavior and worse, it is sanctioned by the state that promotes this concept.

The phrase "property has passed' makes the dishonest behavior a crime that will be prosecuted by the state. If there is no passing of property, i.e. lies told between people, it does not become a crime punishable by the state, but is nevertheless a dishonest behavior.

It is all right to make a reasonable profit for one's efforts and risk. There is a market rate for services and products. It is dishonest to misrepresent the product in a dishonest way, e.g. to state what it is not, and to sell it at an inflated price. This is "cheating" and is punishable by the state.

Our society has become quite dishonest in recent years. It is time to realize the difference between honest and dishonest behavior and to encourage people to be honest. Business corporations and the Government must set a good example for ordinary citizens to follow.

Tan Kin Lian

Easy way to make online payment

I wrote this letter to the Pro-Enterprise Panel. I suggested an easy way for the public to make online payment. I hope that the Panel will encourage government agencies to adopt this suggestion.

Paying road tax online

A simple matter of paying road tax online turns out to be a nightmare. Here is my story.

As instructed by the LTA renewal notice, I went to I recalled that most government agencies required to use Internet Explorer, so I remembered to use it - although my default browser is Chrome.

I login to my Singpass and got nowhere, so wasted some time. I had to search the complicated website and after some time, managed to find the link to pay road tax. (I wonder why the notice did not ask me to go to the correct webpage and save me this search!)

I entered the vehicle number, owner NRIC number (got it wrong as I did not include the S earlier) and managed to go to the payment page. There was a message from Microsoft that a pop-up was blocked and it disappeared. As I am not familiar with IE, I had to search through the IE website to find out how to unblock this pop-up - and it took me some time.

I went back to re-enter the transaction and was told that it was blocked by another transaction and I had to wait for it to be completed.

I had past experience dealing with online websites of government agencies, and yet I still faced this type of difficulty, all the time. Now I remember, I forgot to bring my mobile phone to authenticate the credit card payment.

Our government agencies design complicated online processes that waste a lot of time on simple matters. I have given many feedback, but nobody bothers to fix it.

Trickle down economics

Singapore adopts the concept of "trickle down economics" which has lead to wide disparity in income distribution. President Obama explains why this type of economics has failed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012

Spirit and letter of the law

The law has to be enforced with discretion, so as to avoid damaging the lives of people who were not aware that they were breaking the law.

Subscribing to the K-REIT rights issue

I wish to share my personal experience of subscribing to the K REITS rights issue and the approach taken to analyze the share. This may be helpful when you have to consider other rights issue in the future. Go to

Google Self Driving Cars

Use Excel to calculate the yield

This article explains how to use Excel to calculate the yield on a life insurance policy - with examples for annual and single premium policy. See

One stop service for police licence

By-election in Myanmar

My Myanmar friend explained the background for the by-election that was just recently held in Myanmar

Under the constitution, the ministers are selected from the people elected into Parliament. To avoid conflict of interest, they have to vacate their seat in Parliament and work on their government jobs on a full time basis. This is why there is a need to have a by-election to find replacement in Parliament for these appointed ministers.

I find this arrangement to be a good arrangement - and hope that, one day, Singapore will adopt this practice. There is one positive aspect that we can be learned about democracy in Myanmar.

Missing people

Some people went missing because they want to leave their family intentionally. Some died and are not found. Some (especially toddlers) may be abducted and do not know how to trace their parents. Read this report:

We need to use technology to find those that are abducted, especially the toddlers.

New ways to work in the future

This article explains several new ways to work in the future. I am already using some of these technology.

Low take-up rate for fibre optic network

I have installed the fibre optic network in my home, but continued to use the cable network. Read this report,,,

To move to fibre optic, I have to make a further installation within my home, but I do not know the contractor that should be used and the cost of the work.  I did faced so much trouble with the connection to my home, that I am reluctant to take this final step.

I believe that more home owners may be willing to switch to the fibre optic network, if this final few meters could be resolved.

This is an example of a weakness in Singapore - where most parties focus on their "turf" and nobody takes a holistic look at the entire chain.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Size of home and productivity

Lucky Tan discuss the size of a home in Singapore and our productivity

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