Saturday, August 29, 2015

Swiss Referendum System

Mr. Tan,
You referred to the Swiss system of referendum. Can you explain how it works?

I asked the same question to a Swiss professor last year. He told me the following:

1. The government organize a referendum every 3 months.
2. Several questions are put to the citizens to vote.
3. The government provides a booklet to explain the issues that they have to vote on.
4. The citizens go to the poll and cast their votes on each issue.
5. The results of the polls are used by the government to decide on their policies and to recommend the laws in the passed in their legislature.
6. The law makers are guided by the views of the citizens.
7. The citizens can also recommend the issues to be put to the referendum, but they need to have a gather a certain number of signatures.

My "Wisdom of the Crowd" website is a small attempt to allow the citizens of Singapore to give their votes on issues affecting our lives. It is similar to the Swiss approach. However, I am using an online platform, and it is conducted the whole year round.

Give your support to this website, Get your friends to vote also. Our views can be credible if we can gather 1,000 votes, or better still 10,000 votes on any of the issues.

Scoot Airlines has a troublesome booking sysetm

I have given my feedback on my experience with booking a ticket with Scoot, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. The experience is bad. They should simplify their website and reduce the number of steps. Here is my fuller comment.

Do you have any feedback to share about any of the service organizations in Singapore .You can give five feedback and win a e-book prize "Financial Planning for Young People".

My top wish for General Election 2015

What is my top wish for the outcome of the general election that will be held on Sep 11, 2015?

Active Parliament

I wish to see an active Parliament. I wish to see people elected into Parliament who can play an active role in

1) Discussing the issues facing the people.
2) Discussing the policies proposed by the government to address these issues
3) Pass laws that will provide the legal force to address these issues.

This requires members who are able to spend full time in this job.

We should not elect part-time MP who are busy in the private sector jobs, such as doctors, lawyers or corporate managers. If they are elected, they should be willing to give up their current jobs to spend full time as a MP.

Perhaps, as a compromise, they can part a part time job that do not occupy more than 50% of their time.

Diverse Parties

It is preferable, but not essential, for Parliament to comprise of members from diverse parties. The most important goal is to elect people who can spend at least half of their time, but preferably all of their time, in their work as MP.

Group Representative Constituency (GRC)

This structure is very bad. It is the source of many of the problems that we face today - the disconnect and the loss of trust between the government leaders and the people. We should remove this structure at any early time in the future.

Government Ministers

 We need to address the issue of getting suitably people to be government ministers. Our current approach is flawed in at least two ways:

1)  To get the "suitable" people to become ministers, the ruling party has to provide a safe way to enter parliament through the GRC.

2)  We still face the risk of losing the "suitable" people in the general election.

We have all along followed the UK system of appointing ministers from the elected members of Parliament. We should, however, recognize that our Parliament has only 89 members, compared to a total of 1,400 members in the UK Parliament, comprising of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The UK has a larger pool of people to select their ministers.

We have to change our constitution or practice to follow the practice in the United States. The President can recommend people from outside of Parliament to be ministers, but the appointment has to be approved by their Congress. In our case, the appointment can be approved by our Parliament.

How to vote

I recommend my fellow citizens to vote for someone who is willing to serve as a full time MP. It does not matter whether they person wear white, blue, red, yellow or any other color. Cast your vote wisely.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Invest in your future for only $6

Many people, especially those who just started work, are likely to buy a bad life insurance policy that will make them poor for a long time.

They can avoid this fate by investing $6 and 2 hours of time to read this book. This book is written in the context of Singapore and gives practical advice on what the young person should do, and should avoid.

Act now, and make the right investment for your future.

If you have children who are going to start work soon, you should buy this book for them. It could be the best gift that you can give to them, for only $6.

Request for advice

I receive regular requests to give my views on problems faced by consumers. They usually provide incomplete details and hide their personal identity.

I do not wish to reply to these cases. If they wish to consult me, they have to register here.

They have to provide the actual name and contact and sufficient details. I will not charge any fee for the initial assessment.

I am willing to charge only on success, e.g. if a rejected claim is finally paid, or request for a donation to be made to the Financial Services Consumer Association.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Best wishes to the Reform Party

Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam is providing soft but essential leadership to the alliance of the alternative parties.

His Reform Party was willing to step aside in Jurong and Clementi and give way to the other parties. He took out the challenge of fielding a team for the Ang Mo Kio GRC and did assemble a good team.

He is now willing to step in to contest Pioneer North, at short notice, if the National Solidarity Party intends to give it up.

He has clearly demonstrated the skill of give and talk and is unselfish in his approach.

His father, JBJ, must be smiling from heaven. I wish all the best to Kenneth. He deserves to win a seat in Parliament. That would be good for our Parliament and for Singapore.

Answers given to an international media

Dear Mr Tan, how are you?  Most grateful if you have some time to reply to a few questions given its election season.

1. What do you make of the state of affairs the opposition is in? And what's the impact to the ruling party? Can the opposition mount a convincing challenge? 

TKL: Several of the alternative parties (i.e. other than People's Action Party) are well organized. The Workers' Party is clearly a stronger party. The Singapore Democratic Party has also organized their strategy well and have issued several well written and convincing policy papers during the past two years. The new parties, such as the Reform Party and the Singapore First party look promising.

2. The opposition seems fragmented and the ambition appears not to run the country but to provide an alternative voice in parliament. Why is this so and does the current system of ncmp and nmp work? Is this real democracy?

TKL: It is a good strategy for the alternative parties to aim to provide an alternative voice in Parliament. We need policy issues to be actively debated in Parliament and for diverse points of views to be considered before the laws are passed. We also need the laws to be well thought through and clearly written.

The system of NCMP and NMP is not effective to provide the healthy debate. It is better to have law makers from several political parties that speak with the mandate of the people. I also hope that the ruling party will allow their MPs to speak freely from their own conscience and reflect the majority views of their constituents.

3. With Lee Kuan Yew no longer around, do you think more may be compelled to join the opposition or vote them in and why?

TKL: As Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is no longer around, there will be a small swing towards to alternative parties, but the impact will not be significant. Mr. Lee's influence had diminished somewhat over the years, as he had stepped down from active leadership for more than 20 years.

4. Is this election an opportunity for PM Lee to put in place the next generation of leaders? How crucial is it for the party's succession planning?

TKL: The system of self renewal adopted by the Peoples Action Party is not effective. If we are as the United Kingdom, there will be sufficient numbers of law makers to pick from, to form the next generation of leadership. I prefer the system in the United States where the President can pick his ministers from anywhere in the country, subject to endorsement of the Congress. This will provide a better choice.

5. Significance of this election as the first since the death of LKY? Will the Pap lose more seats or will it win more?

TKL: At the Punggol East by-election, there was a swing of 10% away from the PAP. At this general election, I expect the swing to be smaller, but there will still be a significant swing. The issues affecting the people, such as the high cost of living, the uncertainty over jobs, the over crowding of public transport and other public services, and the stressful life have not gone away.

I expect that the PAP will lose more seats in this general election, but they will be returned to power with a comfortable majority. My guess is that the alternative parties will win 15 to 20 seats.

6. What kind of role does social media play in the current election? In 2011, social media helped fanned tension and raised hot button issues such as immigration and transport congestion. Does legal action against bloggers Amos Yee and Roy Ngerng help the PAP's cause or not?

TKL: The social media continues to play an important role in providing alternative views and sources of information to the general public. However, some of the messages in the social media are extreme, so the public will have to be discerning about interpreting these views. Most of them are mature and know what information are reliable, and what are not.

Video on the Lehman Crisis

A company was engaged to make a video on the Lehman Crisis for a TV station. They must have received a handsome fee for the assignment.

They approached me to speak on the video. They offered a speaker fee of $200. I declined.

Stock broking firm cannot afford to pay a speaker fee

Dear Mr Tan
I read with regular interest your articles via your website.

As we provide our clients with regular investment education talks, UOB Kay Hian Investor Centre will like to invite you to give a special presentation on your views of the current stock market downturn.

We are unable to pay a speaker's fee for your appearance but hope that you will like to educate our clients on your views related to shares investing.

We schedule regular events and promotions for our clients on a weekly (smaller scale events) and monthly basis (larger scale events and seminars).

Sorry, I wish to decline

Our stock broking firms make millions of profits each year. They should be able to afford a speaker's fee. I wonder if they also invite their foreign speakers to speak for free?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stock market rout - impact on the general election

Will the stock market rout help the PAP in the general election? Will the voters vote PAP for an experienced government to steer the economy during the challenging times ahead?

My view. The stock market rout will add to the woes of the ordinary people who are now struggling with uncertain jobs, high cost of living, over crowding and a stressful lives. It will now impact more businesses who will now find it a struggle to stay profitable. There will be more retrenchment. More people will feel the pain.

But voting is on 9 September, before the pain comes in. Will people vote PAP for a steady hand in government? It is still too early for gauge the collapse of the stock market in their voting preference.

On balance, I think that the stock market rout will not have any serious impact on the voting pattern. The negative factors that impact their daily lives will continue to be a prominent factor. It will be bad for the PAP.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Learn to be an entrepreneur with business simulation

It is difficult to run the airline in the business simulation game. The market is more competitive and cut-throat. (Isn't it the same for most businesses?).

If you make a mistake, you can lose a lot of money. Half the airlines are incurring losses. But the red airline (me) is still making a profit.

Why? I learn the pricing and marketing strategy by playing the games many times.

You can also learn the strategy.

A wonderful mother

A woman telephoned my office and ask the difference between the financial planning book that cost $12 and $6. One is a hard copy book and the other is a PDF book. 
She told me that she has stopped working and is buying the book for her daughter who has just started working.
What a wonderful idea. What a wonderful gift for the daughter. What a wonderful mother. 
Her gift may save her daughter $100,000 to $200,000 by making the right investment.
I recommended the $6 Financial Planning for Young People (PDF) which is an updated version.

Use the term 'public' patients

At KTP Hospital, there were many patients waiting in the public waiting area. Round the corridor, there was another large waiting area that was empty.
I guess that the empty waiting area was for private patients.
I wonder if many of the specialists were set aside for private patients (but the demand was low) and the specialists allocated for public patients had to cope with many patients.
I have decided to use the term 'public' patient rather than 'subsidized' patients. I do not like the terminology created by the elites.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Visit to KTP Hospital as subsidized patient

I went to a polyclinic in June to do an Xray and consult the doctor on a growth in my foot. The doctor referred me to KTP Hospital.

I had to wait 2 months to get an appointment in KTP Hospital. I now wish to share my experience for this visit as a subsidized patient.

I spent the time as follows:
a) Wait to be registered - 15 minutes
b)  Wait for the specialist to be ready - 15 minutes
c)  Saw the specialist - 15 minutes. She saw my foot and arranged an appointment for an operation.
d) Wait to make payment - 15 minutes
e) Wait for "financial counselling" for the surgery - 30 minutes

There is something wrong with the workflow. The actual time spent by the doctor was only 15 minutes. The other non-medical work took 75 minutes. I thought that the operation could be carried out today, but it had to be done on another appointment in two weeks time.

I was annoyed with waiting so long for "financial counselling". This was a bad description. Apart from telling me how much the operation  would cost, the main purpose was to explain the preparation for the surgery. A better description is "medical counselling".

I received a bill of $75 for this visit. The government provided a subsidy of 50% and the Pioneer Generation card paid 50% of the balance. Still, I had to pay $17.50 and spent time just for the specialist to see my foot and arrange the date of the operation.

I get the impression that "money" was the main focus, rather than the medical treatment. I hope that a future minister for health will increase the focus towards the medical treatment, rather than worry about collecting money.

We need a new approach to governing Singapore

Should we give the PAP the mandate to take us into the next 10 to 15 years?

My reply is - "No".
We need to send a strong message that the old style of governance, by people in the ivory tower, is not relevant today.
We need change.
We need a more active Parliament, where the law makers spend time to debate the key issues affecting our future.
We need a more diverse Parliament.
We need ministers who have spent many years on the issues affecting ordinary people before they are given the authority and trust to make decisions affecting our future. They cannot be parachuted into the position of important positions using the GRC system.

What is the best way to give this strong message? Vote for the alternative parties!

Use your database effectively

Many companies rely on their database, but they do not realize the following:
a) They are not processing the data efficiently
b) They are not realizing the full value of the data
I provide consultancy to improve your productivity and the value of your data.

Leaders who know how to cooperate, rather than compete

Mr. Tan
In PM Lee's National Day Rally, he talked about the changes in our neighboring countries and how some of their officials expect Singapore to be "sensitive" to their concerns.
We need leaders with the special skills and experience to handle these expectations. Do you agree?

I have heard this message many times over the past years. Our leaders used this message to scare the people into voting for them, based on their "ability" to handle these expectations.

The skills to handle these expectations do not come from people who were raised in the ivory tower, who think that they were "smart" and who treat other people with an arrogant attitude.

We need people who are comfortable in dealing with other people, have the skill to engage in a dialogue among peers and know to work in cooperation to find a "win win" solution.

We need people who know how to cooperate and do not focus only on competition. Sadly, our leaders do not have these skills - as they have done well by being competitive from their first year in school..

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to replace an insurance agent

hi mr tan
Wondering u can advise me on how to deal with my current agent from GE. He is totally not professional in his job and I would like to replace him. How can i proceed and what avenue do I have on agent like this ? Thank you sir.

Please register here

Do not allow an insurance agent to CON or CONfuse you

Many young people were misled into buying the wrong life insurance policy. Their future savings are destroyed by a careless decision. This can be avoided if they only some some time to learn the fundamentals.

You can't have your cake and eat it

The idiom “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” illustrates the concept of making trade-offs and realizing that you can’t have something if you have another.

The phrase is often used when referring to compromises and alludes to making a choice between two options that could never be reconciled. In other words, the two options that are mutually exclusive.

I learned this concept when I was in school. Strangely, our leaders in the PAP did not understand this concept.

Mr LKY proposed the office of the elected President. This person is voted by the people and is given wide power to block the use of past reserves. This power was useful in case an alternative government is elected into office in Singapore. 

He did not anticipate that the first elected President, Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, would carry out his duty diligently as spelled out in the constitution and question how the current PAP government was spending the government funds and reserves.

The problem became more complex because the concept of current and past reserves was not clearly defined. It was a very bad idea to start with. 

After President Ong, the next two presidents were more relaxed about allowing the government to do what it wanted. This did not solve the problem entirely.

Some of their actions taken by the government appeared to contradict what was stated in the constitution, especially in the role of the elected president. One concerned citizen and politician, Mr. Kenneth Jeyaretnam, brought up a case in court that the government was acting against in constitution in granting a loan to the International Monetary Fund without the approval of the President.

I hope that this embarrassing situation will teach our leaders about the concept of "you can't have the cake and eat it". If they want better governance and control over the use of the past reserves, they have to abide by the constraints and allow the elected president to do his duty. If not, it is better to remove the powers and responsibility from the elected president.

They cannot have a president to check an alternative government, and expect the president to close both eyes when the unauthorized spending is carried out by the current PAP government.

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