Saturday, February 16, 2013

My suggestion to improve the birth rate

Someone asked for my views on how to improve the birth rate of Singapore.

I have given my views before. They are:

a) Make rental flats available to newly married couples, while they wait for the new HDB flats
b) Provide a monthly allowance of $500 a month for each child (up to 3 in a family) until age 12
c) Provide subsidized education and health care for children and increase the child care facilities
d) Reduce full time national service to 1 year.

Some newly married have rich parents who can help them to buy a private condo; others can stay with their parents who have a large home. But, there must be a large number of people who need a place to stay, before they can get married. By making a rental flat available to them, they can get married first and wait 3 to 5 years for their new HDB flats to be available.

The rental flat can be a basic 2 room flat, but they should be available in all parts of Singapore, so that the newly married can choose a location close to their parent or place of work. The rental can be subsidized for 3 years, but will revert to market rate after this period. It is intended to be a temporary arrangement.

The monthly allowance is intended to replace the complicated marriage and parenthood package, which has failed to achieve the results over the past 25 over years.

The cost of the monthly allowance of 600 a month $72,000 per child over 12 years. Based on 40,000 births in a year, the cost is $3 billion. The tax revenue of the government each year is $50 billion plus another $20 billion (my estimate) for COE, land sale and investment income. The $3 billion represents less than 5% of the total revenue.

If the monthly allowance is available, young couples may be encouraged to marry earlier and have children immediately .The mother can stay at home to look after the child and get to work when they go to school.

The need for adequate care care, school and health care faciltiies is obvious and does not need elaboration.

I like to see full time National Service reduce to 1 year. This is more than adequate to raise to train a solder in basic military skills. Most countries have reduced it to 1 year or less.

For officers, commandos and training of other skills, the period can be extended voluntarily and they should be paid an adequate  salary for the extended period. If there are insufficient volunteers, these positions can be held by full time soldiers.

The GRC system has damaged Singapore

The Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system came into effect on 1 June 1988. Prior to that date, each constituency elects its Member of Parliament based on the "first past the post" system. The candidate who has the most votes is elected, even if the share of votes is less than 50%, where there are more than two candidates.

The GRC started with 3 candidates but was later expanded to 6 candidates in some GRCs. The actual number depends on each GRC and is decided by the Elections Commission prior to each election. The boundary for each voting district can be changed at that time, to reflect changes in population.

At least a member of the slates of candidates in the GRC must be certified to be from a minority community, i.e. non-Chinese.

The purpose of the GRC system, according to the PAP Government, was to ensure minority representation in Parliament. The opposition parties saw it as a device to give advantage to the ruling party, as the GRC is usually "hemmed" by an experienced and well known minister, who is expected to be re-elected. New candidates can be placed in the GRC and elected on the "tailcoats" of the minister.

Since the implementation of the GRC system, the connection between the voters and the elected MP had weakened, and support for the once popular PAP had eroded gradually. Although the GRC was once thought to be the stronghold of the PAP, the first GRC (Aljunied) was lost to the opposition Workers Party in the 2011 election.

In the next general election in 2016, observers expect several GRCs to fall to the opposition parties - unless the PAP is able to reverse the trend of its unpopularity.

I consider the GRC system to be bad for Singapore, and is responsible for the damage that has been caused to our society over the past 25 years.

I do not accept the rationale that it is needed to ensure minority representation, as Singaporeans had always accepted our multi-racial composition. This is proven when non-Chinese have been elected in single member constituencies in the past.

A better way to ensure minority representation is nominate a few nominated MPs from the leadership of the respected non-government organisations represented these communities.

It is better for Singapore to revert to the traditional single member constituencies that is practiced in UK, Canada and Australia and was also practiced in Singapore prior to 1988.

It is also better for the sitting MPs to remain in the same constituency for several terms, as the familiarity with the residents is an asset in nation building and trust building.

The PAP should get away from the image of acting unfairly and abusing its powers. It is better to give a free choice to the voters to elect the MP to represent them.

By being more gentlemanly, the PAP will, with time, be able to rebuild the trust that has been eroded after the introduction of the GRC system.

Financial planning for your child

Here are some tips for parents to carry out financial planning for their children and to prepare them to face the challenges in a competitive world.

How a white paper is handled in Sweden

My Swedish friend told me that a white paper in Sweden is handled in the following way:

1. They government sets the terms of reference and get a committee of experts (technocrats) to carry out research and prepare a "yellow paper"
2. The yellow paper is released for public comments. Individuals, businesses and organizations can submit their views. it could attract 50 to 100 views.
3. The committee summarizes the views and present them to the government.
4. The government decides on the law to be passed, after studying the comments, and submit them to Parliament to debate and pass approve the proposed laws.
5. This process is well received, as the public has the chance to give their views, which are considered by the Government and Parliament.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Successful Work-Life Balance

More and more women, in trying to better manage their roles as career women and mothers, are seeking work opportunities that allow them a balance between earning a suitable income and having more time with their children. Enters 'Successful Work-Life Balance', a unique two-in-one book that examines the two main options women would consider in their journey towards better work-life balance: flexi-work and starting a business. The book aims to offer readers insights to the "flexi-work way" and "mumpreneur's way" as they contemplate their options and define what work for them.

The book focuses on practical tips and inspiring, real-life stories of mothers who have successfully found their work-life balance through either the flexi- work or the mumpreneur paths.

To purchase, click here

I am helping the author to promote the book. My daughter Su Ling is featured in the book as a mumpreneur.

Financial planning for children

Here are some tips for parents to carry out financial planning for their children and to prepare them to face the challenges in a competitive world.

Why employers turn to foreigners

Here is an excellent article from a former journalist

Mathematics challenge

Try this mathematic challenge on how to improve the deployment of buses. and win three book prizes.

Why employers shun local graduates

A Singaporean friend of mine,
who was then a director in a European multinational corporation located here,
told me a few years ago that he specifically directed his human resource department
not to hire any graduate from our local universities unless absolutely necessary.
His view was that local graduates lacked
the necessary mindset and attitude to do a job well.
In contrast,
graduates of foreign universities, Singaporean or otherwise,
tended to be more independent, streetwise, resilient and self-driven.
According to him, the only positive thing about local graduates
was that they were book-smart.
Alex Yeo

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Banners for Hong Lim Event on 16 Feb 2013

Here are banners that you can use at the Hong Lim event on 16 February. You can open it with the File app in your iPad and select any banner to be displayed. There are several banners.
Bring your iPad and hold it up to show the banner.

Re-nationalization of public transport

The Government is taking steps to re-nationalize the public transport, although so far, they do now wish to acknowledge this intent.

Here are the indicators:

1. They set the fares, based on the distance-based fares. Although the fares are approved by the Public Transport Council, the Land Transport Authority probably provide the guidance.
2. They have taken over the route planning of the bus services for some time
3. They provide funding for additional buses and new services, i.e. the $1.1 billion budget allocated in 2011
4.  They have started to tender out the Jurong- CBD express service based on the cost of operations, while the Land Transport Authority takes the revenue and the business operations.

In due course, I expect more of the bus services to be transferred to the "operate only" model. I read that this was the model adopted in London, which make more sense. It is time for us to move away from the   convoluted private-public model adopted in Singapore (which can be described as an oxymoron).

It will take some time to unravel the complex financial arrangement involving the MRT and bus services. For a start, it would be nice for the Government to declare the big game plan and acknowledge that we are moving towards re-nationalization, rather than to leave the public in the dark.

Roadmap to an unwanted destination

Unethical profiteering

Is there unethical profiteering in the life insurance industry?

$3 for unwanted SMS

The IDA is probing into the operation of a firm that charges $3 per SMS to subscribers who had inadvertently signed up for the service, after responding to a contest to win an iPad. A subscriber was billed $669 for this service. 

Instead of the IDA making the probe, the IDA should work with the Police. Cheating is a crime that can be prosecuted under the Penal Code. It is the duty of the Police to be involved.

Cheating is defined in the Penal Code as using deceptive ways to get money from the public. The Government only needs to bring a charge in court. Let the SMS company prove to the court that they are not "cheating" the public.

I hope that the IDA and the Police will take the appropriate action to get rid of this type of operations.

Risk of buying property at inflated prices

While there has been a large spurt in home prices over the past two years, due to low interest rate and higher demand, buyers should be prepared for the risk that the bubble will burst in the near future.

Already, the government has introduced measures to restrict the amount of loan and to impose additional stamp duties on these transactions.

However, buyers still see the headline news that prices continue to increase. These news are deceiving. Developers are giving discounts to home buyers, but the list prices are still being reported.

New projects are being bought at prices much higher than similar projects sold recently in nearby locations. Someone quoted a inference of 30%.

After paying a hefty price, you have to suffer a large discount when you sell your asset. It will take many years for the price to appreciate enough to cover this over-payment. You will live all your life paying for n over-priced property.

If you lose your job or cannot pay your higher mortgage due to increase in interest rate, be prepared to sell your property at a discount of up to 50 percent. This will happen in a slump.

Do not assume the home prices will continue to increase, and that this is a good investment.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Alzheimer has its advantages

I received this joke in an e-mail.

Roger, 85, married Jenny, a lovely 45 year old.

Since her new husband is so old, Jenny decides that after their wedding she and Roger should have separate bedrooms, because she is concerned that her new but aged husband may over-exert himself if  they spend the entire night together.

After the wedding festivities Jenny prepares herself for bed and the expected knock on the door.
Sure enough the knock comes, the door opens and there is Roger, her 85 year old groom, ready for action. They unite as one.

All goes well, Roger takes leave of his bride, and she prepares to go to sleep.
After a few minutes, Jenny hears another knock on her bedroom door, and it's Roger,
Again he is ready for more 'action'. Somewhat surprised, Jenny consents for more coupling.
When the newlyweds are done, Roger kisses his bride, bids her a fond good night and leaves.
She is  set to go to sleep again, but, aha, you guessed it - Roger is back again, rapping on the door and is as fresh as a 25-year-old, ready for  more 'action'.
And, once more they enjoy each other.
But as Roger gets set to leave again, his young bride says to him, 'I am thoroughly  impressed that at your age you can perform so well and so often. I have been with guys less than a third of your age who were only good once. You are truly a great lover, Roger.'

Roger, somewhat embarrassed, turns to Jenny and says: 'You mean I was here already?'
The moral of the story:

Don't be afraid of getting old, Alzheimer's has its advantages.

Population White Paper - Hitler's view

Is nursing a low skilled job?

The Government described nursing as a low skilled job in the Population White Paper and had to issue an apology to the nursing profession. 

Even so, the manner of their apology was done in a clumsy way, with a statement from the Chief Nursing Officer. Why was she giving the apology on behalf of the Government, when she was probably not responsible for the bad statement?

This is not just a careless mistake, as the problem is more deep rooted. In the mindset of the elitist leaders, there are people who are talents, and others who are non-talents; there are people who are low skilled and others who are high skilled.

When a leader has this kind of mindset, they are bound to offend other people who they deem as non-talents, low-skilled or "lesser mortals".

What kind of leaders do we have, that show bad example for others to follow?

A better approach is to show respect for all types of useful work, including nurses, cleaners, construction workers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, plumbers and others.

We also need to pay people adequately for their work, enough for them to afford the cost of housing and the cost of living, and to raise a family. And they should also enjoy decent terms of employment, without having to work long hours in the fear of losing their jobs.

We need a government comprising of leaders with the decency to treat other people with respect, dignity and fairness.

Population White Paper - Andy Wong's views

This is an excellent analysis of the Population White Paper. I have given the following comment to thee paper:

The Government is blind to their errors made over two decades. By allowing property prices to escalate to ridiculously high levels, they have increased the cost of living and cost of housing to unbearable levels. This is the primary cause of the low fertility rates – most citizens cannot afford to raise children.

The policies that they had adopted for two decades to address the low fertility rate, and the many tweaks to these policies, failed miserably, and yet the persist on the same path of destruction.

We need to think out of the box. I will be giving some unconventional views in

The Government made the wrong assumption in worrying about the old age support ratio. They worry that there are not enough young people to support the old people.

If they “open their eyes”, they will realize that it is the other way round. The parents have to support their children to make the down payments for the ridiculously high property price. The problem is – there are not enough rich parents due to the big income gap.

The problems caused by the bad PAP policies for two decades will take a long time to unravel. It may be best for the PAP to be replaced in 2016.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Educating the public on financial literacy

Hi Mr Tan,
I believe that economic and social problems are to be blamed, not on corporate, government, or the rich, but on people's lack of financial awareness. This problem is not limited to Singapore alone but throughout the entire world. The ignorance allows the well-informed minority to become rich.

Even governments seem to accept and create policies with the attitude that the ignorance cannot be changed, and schools have to start teaching financial education.  

I have a vision of a financially matured society, where people become more aware of the financial system and get out of the economic model we are now trapped in. For that vision, I feel compelled to contribute to that heightening of financial consciousness, in the far or near future. 

I recognize that to go out of our way to improve other people's life takes a lot of determination. Therefore, I want to show my appreciation for what you have done for the society in Singapore. Sometimes, we do not get recognized for what we contribute. I hope to see you continue to push on and do what you do best: educating the public about the concept of money and how to manage them. 

My own personal view is that there is little that people like me can do to educate the public.
This is rightly the responsibility of the Government. So far, they have done a bad job, and that is why things continue to be very bad. They are pursuing the wrong strategy and neglecting their responsibility. Nevertheless, I will continue to do what I can.

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