Friday, November 08, 2013

A ransom price on top of market rentals

Some people argue that it is best to leave matters to the free market. This is the PAP approach that has been prevailing for the past 30 years, ever since LHL was active in the Government.
While the free market has its merits, it also has it serious flaws. It does not recognize the rights of the tenant. On renewal, the landlord can impose a ransom on the renewal terms. The tenant had already invested in the renovation of the shop or stall and had spent time to build a business. The tenant had to pay a price that is higher than the true market.
Sometimes, another tenant may offer a higher rental rate, with the purpose of "killing off a competitor".
This situation leads to rental being higher than the true market, and over time, leads to escalation. When a tenant moves to a new location, there is additional cost in rebuilding the business. This is what I called "wastefulness".
Wastefulness has been a part of the Singapore system for several decades. It has lead to high cost of doing business and high cost of living. We are now no longer competitive globally.
We are misled by the statistics of multinational companies setting up operation in Singapore. In many cases, there are given tax incentive, land at special rates and government grants. These are not publicized. They show good figures, but hide the fact that our costs have gone out of hand.
If we do not recognize the real problems in Singapore, and continue to delude ourselves, things will continue to get worse.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Will we face the same problems as the Obamacare Exchange?

The insurance exchange that was launched on 1 October under the Affordable Care Act in America encountered technical problems and was not able to cope with the heavy traffic of 8 million visitors. The cost of the system ballooned three times from $100 to $300 million in US dollars.

While the problem seemed to be quite irrelevant to us, we should not be complacent. We will be introducing two similar initiatives in Singapore over the next 12 months.

We will have to register large number of applicants under the proposed Medishield Life scheme and also provide a website for employers to post their job vacancies before they are allowed to apply for a work pass for foreigners.

These registrations are likely to face issues similar to those that bogged down the insurance exchange in America. 

We also have to be careful about adopting the same approach, i.e. relying on vendors and consultants who face a conflict of interest and are likely to recommend costly solutions that have a tendency to overrun in budget.

Let us be aware now of the issues and not repeat the problems that are now experienced in America. 

Delay in implementing national IT projects

here were much publicity a few years ago about the OneInbox project and the National Authentication Framework.

OneInbox was intended to allow the public to receive their mails from all government agencies at a common inbox, instead of logging in to separate websites to retrieve the replies from these agencies.

The National Authentication Framework was intended to allow each person to hold a single token which can be used as an additional verification of the person for  financial and other sensitive transaction.

I am quite tired of logging in to the websites of separate government agencies to retrieve my mails and being asked to change my passwords frequently and to create strong passwords which differ from one website to another.

I also do not like the bulky security tokens that are being issued separately by different banks and securities firms.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Pay a fee to the financial adviser

The information given in the EIP website are FREE for members of the website. 
If you still need advice on any of the product or alternative products, contact a financial adviser and pay a modest consulting fee. It is worth spending this money. The adviser can guide you on what is a better choice and can save you tens of thousand dollars. Pay them a fee, as they have to make a living. Otherwise, they will spend their time to sell you products that can earn them a few thousand dollars, at your expense. Do you want that to happen?

Naming of roads

In the old days, we have a simpler way to name our roads, e.g. in Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh. The major roads are called Avenue or Lorong and the smaller roads are called Street. They are numbered.

Later, for Sengkang and Punggol, somebody decided to give different names to the roads. This naming structure is confusing to people who visit the estate from outside. I suspect that the residents will also find it confusing.

To make matters worse, the roads are described as avenue, road, street, lane, way without regard to size. Usually, one expects the roads to be name according to size - starting from avenue, road, street, lane.

For example, Sin Ming Lane is of the same size as Sin Ming Avenue. This is only possible using Singapore logic!

I don't know why some smart fellow was allowed to change the naming structure to be so confusing, and why they were allowed to do so.

My grand children love the Magic Box

Whenever my grand daughters visit me, the first thing they ask is to look into the Magic Box. It will stay in their childhood memory. What is the Magic Box? Every parent or grandparent should have one.

Meet the People session

Desumondo Deseumondeu asked:
Mr Tan,
Some thing happen to me quite recently and i just wanted to share my views.

I approached 3 different PAP MPs during their Meet The People sessions on different days regarding the same matter and asked exactly the same question.
However NONE of them actually got back to me with an answer, and worse yet send me a letter which is not the answer but a totally different opinion which does not in anyway relate to the question i asked them !!

When the govt are not able to help us citizens, what other channels are we able to turn to for assistance and squeeze an answer out of them ??

The MPs are also in a jam. They receive all kinds of people and problems in their Meet the People session. There is also difficulty in communicating with some residents - due to language or lack of education. (I am not referring to you).

It is quite easy for them to get mixed up, or to get confused over the issue.

If you have a problem, it will be helpful if you can write it down clearly (or get some help to write it down). It will be easier for your MP to understand the issue and to help find an answer (if at all possible).

Be fair to the MPs. Do not approach three of them over the same issue.

Frankly, I think the "Meet the People" session is out-of-date, but the PAP dare not abandon it.

A more open and transparent approach

Dear Mr. Tan,
You said that our government leaders are arrogant and don't want to listen to the views of concerned citizens. I find your views to make a lot of sense, but they seem to be ignoring them. So, I agree that they are not only arrogant but out of touch with what is happening on the ground. 

I believe that it is not difficult to be a leader. There are many wise people around, and if the leader is willing to listen to them, they should be able to come out with better policies.

My point is, if there is a change of government in 2016, Singaporeans do not need to be worried. If another party comes into power, and the leaders know that they are not the elites, they will be able to listen to more wise people and get better policies. Singapore will be governed better.

Do you agree?

Generally, I agree that the government can come out with better policies if they are more willing to listen to people who have wider and more diverse experience and knowledge.

But, we still need leaders to make the final judgment - and that is not easy. If the leaders are incapable, they may make a bad judgment (even after getting the inputs of the advisers). And different advisers may have different opinion.

But, I must say that the current system - where decisions are made from the ivory tower, is probably among the worst. There is now suspicion that these decisions are made to benefit certain quarters, which makes things more difficult.

It is better to have a more open and transparent way to make important policy decisions affecting the people at large. .

My attitude towards government policies

Someone observed that I don't like the policies of the Government. It is true that I don't like many of the social and economic polices, especially those that lead to high income gap, high cost of housing, high cost of living, wastefulness and unfairness. 

But, I know that the Government leaders are doing their best to solve these issues. I do not like their approach, which is not addressing the roots of the problems, but it is a matter of opinion. They think that their policies are right, and they are ultimately responsible for the outcome.

By adopting their aloof approach, they are cutting themselves from alternative views of concerned citizens - many of whom have practical experiences. I hope that they will be truly willing to listen to alternative approaches, rather than continue their "arrogant" attitude.

Unfair treatment of Singaporeans

Mr. Tan,
I was at a gala dinner last night where the guest of honor was a minister. At my table were a few foreigners. One of them, who has lived a few years in Singapore said, "Singapore is a wonderful place. Most of the locals don't understand why." He said it in a mocking way. What does he mean?

I suspect that he must be very rich and probably make most of his income overseas. When he live in Singapore, he does not have to pay any tax on his overseas income. They also save on the big income tax that they have to pay in their home country. That is why Singapore is a wonderful place for people like him.

The locals earn their salaries in Singapore and have to pay tax and the high cost of living. The males even have to serve National Service and reservist training at regular intervals.

It is quite unfair for the Singapore government to give so favorable living conditions to rich foreigners and do not require them to pay any tax on their income.

It is quite bad for him to mock the locals who are already suffering under an unfair system .This will lead to unrest one day.

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