Saturday, October 06, 2012

IBM Global Survey of Commuter Pain

Singapore rank quite poorly compared to most advanced cities - a surprise!

Facecard - name card on the Cloud

I wish to introduce you to Facecard. It allows you to create your 
Name Card in the cloud. 

Here are the advantages of Facecard
  • You can send the Facecard to your contacts by e-mail
  • The link is automatically filed into the Contact Box of the receipient
  • It is easy for your contacts to search for your Facecard online
  • They will be automatically notified about updates to your Facecard
  • You can provide your resume and other information in the Faceard
Here is the link to this web application:

If you like it, you can create your own Facecard and send it to 
your friends.

There will be a mobile app to access Facecard. It is now available on iOS and
will be available on Android at a later date.

I have applied for a Patent in USA for this application. I hope to get your 
support to make it popular.

Tan Kin Lian

Gold trading scheme

Bank Negara assured that
"the relevant enforcement agencies have mobilised the necessary resources to expedite the investigations"
Bank Negara update comes in wake of
investor doubts over any wrongdoing.
Three more gold investment companies in Kuala Lumpur
have been raided for suspected illegal deposit-taking.
More than 100 consultants and customers of Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd here
continue to cry foul over the raid on the company.
Apparently, more than 10,000 customers and 500 consultants in Penang
were affected by the Bank Negara operation.
A scheme that promises 24 per cent a year looks like a free lunch
and should be viewed with the greatest of scepticism.
How exactly is that return generated?
The Genneva saga is yet another hard lesson
for investors that chase returns that are just too good to be true.
By Genevieve Cua

Property in Johore

My friend, who is a Malaysian PR, brought me to see a few condos in Iskandar. Most of them are being sold at M$500 (S$200) psf, are freehold in tenure and come with full facilities.  The roads are not congested, so driving is a pleasure. The residents said that Iskandar is relative safe, in spite of the reports in Singapore media.

We visited Danga Bay, Horizon Hills, Nusajaya, Medini, :Ledang Heights, Puteri Harbor and Gelang Patah.

Most of the 2+1 apartments have an area of 1,000 sf and sells for M$500,000 or S$200,000. This is a 2 bedroom apartment with a small room (+1) that is used as a study.

I am impressed with the 3+1 apartment in Danga Bay, which is on the outskirt of Johor Bahru and is 10 mins drive from the causeway. The size is 1,600 sf and it sells for S$400,000. It has 2 keys. One key leads to a 500 sf studio apartment. The other key leads to a 2+1 apartment of 1,100 sf. Both units are inter-connected.  The owner can live in 1 unit and rent out the other unit or the grandparents can stay in the adjoining studio unit.

I met a Singaporean at the showroom of the Danga Bay condo. He works as a property agent in Singapore but has bought a unit at Danga Bay. He said that the LRT will connect Danga Bay to the MRT station in Johor Bahru.

If you find a 99 year condos selling for $1,200 sf in the outskirts of Singapore to be too expensive, a property at Iskandar may be an attractive option, especially if your work requires you to travel often outside of Singapore.

More pro-active agencies

Dear Mr.Tan

Today's news reported that the regulator is curbing the loan limit to
35 years with some other restrictions in the approval process.  This
action came after our MND Minister Khaw commented the 50-year loan
tenure as a 'gimmick'.

This makes me wonder whether such implementations by Financial
institutions does need any approval from the regulator?   If yes, sad
to say this has short lived.  What can we learn from here?

In our fast moving society and especially in Singapore, companies and
financial institutions are forced to be creative and to come up with
innovative products for consumers, be they good or 'bad'.

Our children who have just graduated with 1st class honors or under
scholarships or with MBA, may be the ones assigned to approve these
products.  Due to their lack of experience and the convincing papers
put up be these financial institutions, they just approved the

In the past we have the Lehman Brothers and Minibonds saga, off late
we saw the Profitable Plots, Genneve Gold and now the 35-year loan.

Singapore is well known for her very regulated financial system and
such processes has resulted in consumers being affected and now
redress need to be action by the the law or legal processes which are
costly for consumers.

What Singapore need is a pool of experts who have retired from the
industry to be in a product approval advisory board.  The authorities
could tap on their views before approving their products.   Like
Warren Buffett, people still sought his advise at his age.  In
Singapore we have a large pool of these experts who through whatever
reasons, their views are not sought.

It is no point approving a product and sales made to consumers, than
curb the product.  In some instances too many agencies involved eg
Police, CPIB, CAD etc before action can be taken.

Moving forward, what Singapore need is pro-active agencies.

David Soh

Friday, October 05, 2012

Defensive Driving

I wish to encourage motorist to adopt defensive driving. This is defined as follows:
The standard Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations, defines defensive driving as "driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others."This definition is taken from the National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course. It is a form of training for motor vehicle drivers that goes beyond mastery of the rules of the road and the basic mechanics of driving. Its aim is to reduce the risk of collision by anticipating dangerous situations, despite adverse conditions or the mistakes of others. This can be achieved through adherence to a variety of general rules, as well as the practice of specific driving techniques.

Electric Vehicles

The progress has been disappointing. Article.

Rejection of insurance claims

Mr. Lee  send an email to ask me why I am speaking against AXA for their handling of the Ferrari claim and why I am supporting the renewal of the motor insurance for Mr. Tan Yaw Cher's car. He said that, as a consumer, he does not want to pay the claims caused by "reckless driving".

It is easy for people like Mr. Lee to hold this view, until they are placed in the shoes of Mr. Tan.  They will then know what it is like to be treated unfairly.

Let me first deal with the Ferrari accident. AXA said that they cover "accident" and do not cover "collision". I am amazed at this explanation. When two cars collide, it is a collision. The collision can be caused by "accident" which is covered or by deliberate intent, which is not covered. I checked AXA's policy and found that they do cover "collision" but they have the right to deny liability if the collision is caused by "willful intent" or "willful negligence".

I do not think that the Ferrari driver had the "willful intent" to cause the collision. It is not clear if the claim could be rejected due to "willful negligence". I did some research on what is "willful negligence" and found some reference about medical malpractice, but could not find any reference to its application on motor insurance.

There is a principle of contract law that if a provision in an insurance contract is unclear, the court will decide against the party that drafted the contract, as it has the duty to make the terms clear. This is called the principle of "contract of adhesion".

I will let the court decide on this matter.

Let me deal with Mr. Tan's case. NTUC Income said that the daughter was driving dangerously. I wondered how they arrive at that conclusion. There was no dispute that she was careless in driving through the red light. but was it just careless, negligence or recklessness?

I had once turn right against a red traffic light. At that time, the light showed green for driving straight but I did not notice the red arrow for turning right. Fortunately, the oncoming traffic stopped in time. While I was careless, I was not reckless.  It is quite easy to be confused with so many traffic lights - some of which are meant for pedestrians, especially when driving along an unfamiliar road or at night.

We have to wait for Mr. Tan or her daughter to reply to the accusation of "dangerous driving".

I am quite worried, on behalf of consumers, that some insurance companies appear to be trigger happy in rejecting claims, in spite of their contractual liability.

ATM Fraud

A member of the syndicate was sent to 6 years jail for ATM fraud

Those taking money using another person's ATM card should be aware about the severe penalty.

US Presidential Debate, 2012

Affordable housing

No reason to fear if property prices fall

Thinks of Singaporeans first

These two letters reflect the conclusion of my small survey carried out a month ago. Most existing HDB owners do not mind a fall in the property prices. They think about the positive impact for their children.

How the future generation can afford homes

Income's rejection draconian,

Denis Distant
MR TAN Yau Cher,
the owner of the car driven by his daughter involved in an accident,
is penalised by NTUC Income
(Income's reply "No insurance renewal for dangerous driving..." on Wednesday
 to Mr Tan's letter "Don't let insurers leave car owners in renewal fix" last Saturday)
when it refused to renew his policy,
notwithstanding the 50 per cent no-claim discount earned after years of accident-free driving.
How about the younger daughter
if she buys a car and asks Income to insure it?
How about Mr Tan,
should he buy another car -
would Income refuse to insure it as well?
And if Mrs Tan or any of her children bought cars,
would they also be denied insurance?
What would Income do
had the daughter been driving a rental car?
Refuse to insure cars owned by the rental agency
because it rented her the car?
The action of Income seems draconian,
not just unfair.

Income defends renewal rejection


Tan Suee Chieh
Chief Executive
NTUC Income
NTUC Income's decision
not to renew the motor insurance policy for Mr Tan Yau Cher's family
("No insurance renewal for dangerous driving..."; Wednesday)
in reply to Mr Tan's letter
("Don't let insurers leave car owners in renewal fix"; last Saturday)
has created much discussion.
First, the facts...
Arising from this,
we will make clearer in our motor insurance contracts
that if you drive recklessly,
you put the renewability of your car insurance at risk.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Action against gold trading firm

Many investors in Malaysia are angry at the action taken by action taken by Bank Negara to close down the operation of a gold trading firm called Geneva. This company also operated in Singapore. Some investors had lodge complaints that the company failed to pay the monthly interest or honor the payback guarantee. One investor filed a suit in court in Singapore and the company did not attend court to respond to the complaint. The Commercial Affairs Department also raided this company.

The investors were promised a monthly payout of 2% of their investment and a full refund at the end of one or three months. How is the company able to earn 24% a year, just to pay the "interest" to the investors? They also have to pay for their marketing and administrative expenses. The investors may think that the money is made from "trading in gold".

Trading is not a safe bet, and any trader can make or lose money on trading. Even investing in gold is not a safe bet, as the price of gold may fluctuate and is volatile. If the company is offering a chance for investors to trade in gold, it is a legitimate business. But the company cannot guarantee the interest payout of 2% a month or a 100% refund of the investment.

When the company makes such a guarantee, it is no longer offering a trading scheme. It is now taking a deposit and paying out a guaranteed rate of interest. This activity becomes "deposit taking". There is a law, in perhaps all countries, that companies that takes deposits should get a licence from the authority. These companies will be closely supervised to ensure that they have sufficient funds to meet their obligations. The law is strict on how the money collected should be invested and be kept accountable.

When a company collects deposits and is not regulated, there is a risk that they can siphon off the money outside of the country and close the company down causing the investors to lose all of their invested sums.

The company will be able to pay the monthly interest and capital refund, if they continue to collect money from new investors to pay off the old investors. So long as the inflow is bigger than the outflow, the operation can continue. But the obligation of the company will continue to grow exponentially. This is, in essence, a Ponzi scheme. See

The authorities in Malaysia and Singapore faced a dilemma. Should they close their eyes and allow the company to expand their operations? Should they step in  and investigate if the company has sufficient funds to meet their obligations? Should they charge the company for collecting deposits without getting a licence?

It is necessary for the authority to act. They should have done so earlier, when the money involved was still quite small. Now, it has grown to be quite a large sum, involving many investors. If nothing is done now, it could become even bigger.

How to avoid investment scams

Apprenticeship system in Germany

I like the apprenticeship system adopted in Germany. It ensures that young workers develop the skills for their job and reduces job hopping.

This system can also be the solution to find a new job for older workers who have been unemployed. They can join an apprenticeship scheme and have part of the training cost and allowance funded by the Government. This is a modification of the current system adopted by the Government.

Here is the article in Wikipedia

Here is an extract on the apprenticeship system adopted in Germany


In Germany, there are 342 recognized trades (Ausbildungsberufe) where an apprenticeship can be completed. They include for example doctor's assistant, banker, dispensing optician, plumber or oven builder. The dual system means that apprentices spend about 50-70% of their time in companies and the rest in formal education. Depending on the profession, they may work for three to four days a week in the company and then spend one or two days at a vocational school (Berufsschule). This is usually the case for trade and craftspeople. For other professions, usually which require more theoretical learning, the working and school times take place blockwise e.g. in a 12–18 weeks interval. These Berufsschulen have been part of the education system since the 19th century.Apprenticeships are part of Germany's dual education system, and as such form an integral part of many people's working life. Finding employment without having completed an apprenticeship is almost impossible. For some particular technical university professions, such as food technology, a completed apprenticeship is often recommended; for some, such as marine engineering it may even be mandatory.
In 2001, two thirds of young people aged under 22 began an apprenticeship, and 78% of them completed it, meaning that approximately 51% of all young people under 22 have completed an apprenticeship. One in three companies offered apprenticeships in 2003,in 2004 the government signed a pledge with industrial unions that all companies except very small ones must take on apprentices.
The latent decrease of the German population due to low birth rates is now causing a lack of young people available to start an apprenticeship.

[edit]Apprenticeship after general education

After graduation from school at the age of fifteen to nineteen (depending on type of school), students start an apprenticeship in their chosen professions. Realschule and Gymnasium graduates usually have better chances for being accepted as an apprentice for sophisticated craft professions or apprenticeships in white-collar jobs in finance or administration. An apprenticeship takes between 2.5 and 3.5 years. Originally, at the beginning of the 20th century, less than 1% of German students attended the Gymnasium (the 8-9 year university-preparatory school) to obtain the Abitur graduation which was the only way to university back then. In the 1950 still only 5% of German youngsters entered university and in 1960 only 6% did. Due to the risen social wealth and the increased demand for academic professionals in Germany, about 24% of the youngsters entered college/university in 2000.Of those, who did not enter university many started an apprenticeship. The apprenticeships usually end a person's education by age 18-20, but also older apprentices are accepted by the employers under certain conditions. This is frequently the case for immigrants from countries without a compatible professional training system

Finding a job

Here are five reasons why an older worker finds it difficult to get a job offer. Young people should be aware of these reasons, and avoid falling into this state. Article

Here is a summary of the reasons:
1. Job hopping
2. Outdated skills
3. Getting fired previously
4. Age (above 40)
5. Unemployed for more than 6 months.

Global Crisis

High dividend stocks

During uncertain times, investors are choosing high dividend stocks.

For a list of high dividend stocks in Singapore, go to (Information) and search for "dividends".

Addressing the key issues

Here are some key issues to be addressed in the National Conversation

Offer fair terms for renewal of motor insurance

30 September 2012 

Forum Page
Straits Times

Many consumers have consulted me on problems similar to those
experienced by Mr. Tan Yaw Cher (ST 29 Sep, "Don't let insurers
leave car owners with renewal fix")

Like Mr. Tan, they had encountered a bad accident after driving 
carefully for many years, and had their renewal premiums jacked up
a few times, or worse, being rejected for renewal. 

Most other insurance companies will also decline to provide the
insurance, and for the few that do, the terms are usually very stiff.

Consumers in this dire straits have no choice but to accept the 
stiff terms, as motor insurance is compulsory. They do not have 
the luxury of time to shop around. It is like being held to a ransom.

I urge the regulator, namely the Monetary Authority of Singapore, 
to get insurance companies to introduce fair terms for renewal of
motor insurance. Here are my suggested guidelines:

1. If the existing policy has a No Claim Discount of 30% or higher, the
renewal must be offered with no loading
2. If the No Claim Discount is less than 30%, the renewal must be offered
at a loading of not more than 30%. 
3. The loading can be increased to 60%, if there are more than one
accident in a year
4. If the insurer wishes to impose a loading, the consumer must be 
given at least three months notice to look for another insurer.

Tan Kin Lian
Financial Services Consumer Association

Letter published in Straits Times:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Interest rate on installment plan

Do you know what is the interest rate charged to you on an installment plan for consumer goods, e.g. a laptop or television? This articles shows how to calculate the effective interest rate, and also indicates the interest rate charged by a large household appliance store.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Invest in STI ETF

I have advised consumers to invest in the STI ETF. This is an index fund that is invested in the top 30 shares in Singapore. It is well diversified and is relatively safe for long term investors. It should give an attractive yield compared to bonds and term deposits.

Currently, MAS regulations do not allow ordinary investors to invest in ETF, as it is classified as a complex products. Investors in this ETF has to be knowledgeable and to pass a test. Most investors find this requirement to be a big hurdle and hassle.

There was an announcement earlier that MAS would reclassify the STI ETF to remove the need to pass the test. There seem to be a delay in this re-classification. Investors have to wait a while longer.

As an alternative, investors can invest in the high yielding blue chip shares, such as Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore Telecoms and Starhub or other blue chips that offer a yield that is better than 3%. Do invest in as many shares as possible, to enjoy the benefit of diversification. More details can be found here:

Motor insurance premium keeps increasing

Have you wondered why motor insurance premiums keep increasing at a high rate each year. Here is one possible reason:

CAD probes troubled gold trader Genneva

Its Orchard Tower offices were raided by CAD yesterday.
A number of employees were taken in for questioning.
The police has confirmed that investigations are ongoing.
BT 20121002 GCGENNEVA2 191131
Police raid:
Genneva lawyer says that the company is conducting its own internal investigation
and has appointed forensic accountants. - PHOTO: ARTHUR LEE

Gold trading firm raided by government agencies

Hi Mr Tan
Think blood will be spilled... families will be destroyed... lives may be lost...
no coverage in spore news though

US Election Campaign

The message from the Republican Party and its candidate are not appealing to voters, according to this Professor.

US Fiscal Cliff

Bleak forecast for ultra books

Right to start a newspaper

The Malaysian court has ruled that an online website should be given a licence to start a newspaper - against the stand of the Malaysian government. 


It is encouraging to see the new CEO of SMRT, Desmond Kuek, take the train to work on his first day. He has also arranged to see the maintenance of the track at night. I wish him all the best.

Monday, October 01, 2012

My experience with Mobile Phones

I have been using the Motorola Android phone for two years. Later, I moved to the Samsung Note for two months. I am now using the Windows Phone 7 from LG. I bought it for development of mobile games two years ago.

I find the Windows Phone to be better than the Motorola in several aspects. It is fast to respond and the software is excellent.  I am surprised that the Windows Phone 7 did not sell well, in spite of its excellent features. I hope that Windows Phone 8 will do much better.

How much should you pay for your home?

Here are the tips given by Mr. Tan in his talk on financial planning.

National Conversation - another angle

Alex Au presents another angle to the National Conversation. His article is worth reading.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Follow orders

A friend asked me, "What are your views about the Ng Boon Gay's case. It is now quite confusing and does not seem to be a corruption case. Why is Ng being charged on this score? The matter is getting to be quite ridiculous."

I replied that this is typical of the Singapore system. No one wants to take the responsibility to make a judgment on the merits of the issue. They just follow orders or interpret the book strictly.

Speak out for consumers

Mr KL Tan, 
Reading your 'Property Preview' in today's TST FORUM, I felt compelled to join your Facebook because I share sentiments akin to yours to highlight any injustices or unfair treatments that are existing & ongoing targeting towards innocent good consumers who don't, can't or unable to rebut the culprits. In fact, frankly speaking, Singapore services in general is getting from worse to worst unless voices like you dare to speak out without fear or favor.

Daniel Oon

High motor insurance premium

I send this e-mail to MAS

Please pass this e-mail to your colleague in charge of the insurance department.

The UK office of fair trading has asked the competition commission to study the issue of 
the charges for motor repairs made by third party insurers.

A similar situation applies in Singapore. The overcharging is quite serious and has caused
the motor insurance premium to be much higher than it should be. 

The difference in Singapore is much larger than reported in the UK.

I will be quite happy to elaborate, if someone in MAS is interested to 
take up this matter. 

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