Saturday, May 14, 2016

Severe penalty on giving up a property purchase

Michael (not his real name) went to the launch of a new condominium project. The show room was packed with potential buyers. It was chaotic. The buyers were given a queue number and had to wait for some time before being called to pick their unit and sign the option to purchase the flat.

Michael was under great pressure. If he did not take up his preferred unit immediately, it would be offered to the next buyer. To add to the pressure, they were offered a "discount" that would be withdrawn if the contract was not signed immediately.

He selected his unit, paid the option money and signed the contract.

After returning home, he did his budget again and realized that he could not really afford the mortgage on the property. His wife also felt the same. They decided to give up the booking.

The developer forfeited 25% of the deposit, which amount to nearly $20,000. This represents nearly one year of savings for the family. It was a severe penalty. This penalty is stated in the contract and had been explained to the buyer.

Michael learned that the developer was able to sell the same unit to a new buyer at a higher price. But the marketing manager of the developer firm was not prepared to refund the penalty to Michael. It became a part of the developer's total profit.

Michael and his wife had learned a painful lesson. They will not attend any new property launch in the future. It is easy for them to be caught in making a bad decision, as they were under hard pressure selling techniques.

Crony capitalism

Someone said:

The political leaders in Singapore redefined "corruption" to suit their purposes. Their claim that Singapore is low in corruption does not tally with the high score the Economist has given to Singapore on "crony capitalism". 

Many of the things they do in Singapore will be illegal or not politically acceptable in Australia. Like the wife of the PM heading Temasek. Like the wife of the PM running a law firm doing big government businesses. 

When Kevin Rudd became PM of Australia in 2007, his wife has to sell off that portion of her business that has Australian government contracts. Otherwise KR will be plagued by serious conflict of interests and corruption allegations.

Not "free of corruption"

A friend from Myanmar asked me to explain how Singapore achieves a high standard in being "free of corruption".

I said that the practice in Singapore is not "free of corruption".

Temasek Holdings is run by the wife of the Prime Minister. She is the CEO. Some people asked if she is the right person who has the business and management know-how to run such a large group of companies. I do not recall anyone giving a convincing answer.

The directors fees and the remuneration of the CEO of Temasek Holdings are not disclosed. Some people speculated that the CEO could be receiving several tens of millions in remuneration a year. But, the public does not know.

Friend - Is Temasek a public company? Are they required to disclose the remuneration of their top people?

TKL - It is technically a private company and is not required to disclose these information. However, it is wholly owned by the Government and is, in reality, a public company. All the citizens of Singapore should have the right to know how much the directors and CEO of Temasek are being paid.

Friend - I find this very strange. Perhaps it was embarrassing for them to disclose the actual remuneration, which must be extremely high. A better approach is to pay the CEO  a "reasonable salary" and to have it disclosed to the public.

My Myanmar friend was visibly surprised. Coming from a country that had a high level of corruption in the past, he had expected a high standard of transparency and meritocracy to be practiced in Singapore. He did not expect to hear about the practices that I have described.

Friday, May 13, 2016

How to manage stress

Some people do a stressful job with overwhelming responsibilities, but they must learn how to manage the stress.

This applies not only to government ministers, but also to ordinary people who have demanding jobs.

I had a demanding job for most of my working career, but I do not feel stressed. Here are my tips.

a) Set manageable expectations. Distinguish between those that are "must do" and "nice to do".
b) Communicate the expectation and the progress with your boss and with the people who work with you.
c) If you encounter difficulty, share them with your boss and colleagues. You do not have to shoulder the burden on your own.
d) Do what you can. Do not worry about challenges that are too difficult.

Here is the biggest threat that you must avoid.
a) Do not allow your boss to give you unreasonable expectations and demands.
b) Do not over-stretch yourself to achieve what you think your boss expects from you. This over stretch is worse that the demand made by your boss.

All the best in handling your stress! Enjoy life!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Caught by Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act

Doris (not her real name) approached me for advice. She bought a policy from AIA many years ago and named her husband as the beneficiary. The marriage broke down. She subsequently changed the beneficiary to her son.

Recently, AIA told her that the nomination of her son was invalid, as the policy was covered under Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act and the any change of beneficiary required the consent of the original beneficiary.

As Doris had no contact with her ex-husband, she was advised to approach a lawyer to assist on this matter. The lawyer said that the legal fees would be over $3,000 and would include taking a newspaper advertisement to locate the original beneficiary.

Doris asked for my advice.

I looked at the policy document, and there was no mention of Section 73. It was a standard policy which allowed the policyowner to change the beneficiary at any time. The AIA staff must have "imported" the Section 73 into this policy out of his or her own interpretation. It was outside of the provision of the policy and was not the intent of the policyholder.

I remembered a case a long, long time where the judge said that Section 73 would apply in that case. But the circumstances of the case could be different.

Doris said that she had taken a similar policy with another insurance company which had allowed her to change the beneficiary without any problem.

The position taken by AIA seemed to be unnecessary and unfair. It had caused a lot of trouble and stress to Doris. They could have taken the position that Section 73 did not apply to this policy, as there was no intention from Doris to place it under that law. She said that the AIA agent who sold the policy did not explain at that time that the policy would be subject to that law. In fact, it was probably not the intention of any of the parties at that time.

The Section 73 was not even a Singapore law. It was a law passed in England many decades ago. It is an outdated law.

It is sad that there is this uncertainty caused by  a vague and outdated law that was not intended to apply in the first instance.

A convoluted approach towards treating a new journey

On a few occasions, I alighted the bus at the wrong stop. Usually, the stop is an earlier one. It is easy to make this mistake for a passenger who is not familiar with the road, as the bus does not display the name of the bus stop.

When I realized that it was the wrong stop and I boarded the next bus for the remaining 1 or 2 or 3 stops, the next bus will charge me as a new journey if it is the same service number, but as a transfer if it is a different service number.

The elite who designed this system has a convoluted mindset. He thinks that a passenger who gets off the bus and takes the next bus of the same service number must want to make a new journey. He does not realize that the passenger got off the bus at an earlier stop, by mistake.

Bus should display the sequential stop number

For each bus service, there is a guide showing all the stops for that service, starting from the terminus. The stops are numbered sequentially from 1, 2, 3 etc. Some services have 50 or more stops on the journey.

It is useful for the bus to display the sequential stop number when it arrived at each stop. This display should be in the bus and does not need to be shown at the bus stop (as the sequential number is different for each service). This digital display is easy and inexpensive to install.

I visited the eye center yesterday. An app told me to board service 190 at Bras Basah Road and to alight after 9 stops.

I had to count all the stops along the way.

If the bus has the display, I would have noted that I board at stop 15 (say) and should alight at stop 24. Better still, the app would have told me directly to alight at stop 24. I will know where to alight by looking at the display.  If the display shows a number smaller than 24, I know how many more stops to go. If it exceeds 24, I would know that I have already passed my stop.

When I returned home late at night, I was not able to recognize the stops along the way. I had a difficult time to know where to alight from the bus, even though I took the journey every day. It is difficult to see the stops and the houses along the road. A display would be most helpful.

I hope that the Land Transport Authority and the Transport Minister will pay attention to this matter and get the buses to install a display to show the sequential bus stop.

Hillary Clinton will face difficulty in challenging Donald Trump

This is pretty scary, sisters and brothers. A trio of polls released yesterdayshowed Hillary Clinton in a very difficult spot against Donald Trump. She led by one in Florida and Pennsylvania, and actually trailed him by 4 percent in Ohio.
For months, Bernie Sanders has out-polled Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, and often by extraordinarily large margins. Because we must do everything we can to defeat Trump in November, our mission is to win as many pledged delegates as we can between now and June 14.
Then we’re going to have a contested convention where the Democratic Party must decide if they want the candidate with the momentum who is best positioned to beat Trump, or if they are willing to roll the dice and court disaster simply to protect the status quo for the political and financial establishment of this country.
But for our plan to work, we need to keep winning. And that’s why we ask:
Some people say we do better against Trump because we haven’t faced the Republican attack machine yet. But we’ve been told our goals for the future are utopian, and that our plans would raise taxes on middle class families. We just never thought those attacks would come in a Democratic primary. Yet somehow we keep winning.
We are the best chance to defeat Trump because people united can never be defeated. That is why we must keep fighting.
In solidarity,
Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Serious mis-selling of an "investment"

Susan (not her real name) received a call from a marketing person of her bank. He offered her an attractive investment. She went to the bank to buy the investment. She invested a sum of $70,000 for the five year investment.  She signed on a tablet and received the documents a few days later. As she was travelling, she did not read the document.

One year later, she looked at the document and was shocked at what she had bought. She thought it was a 5 year investment. Instead, it was a life insurance policy that required her to pay an annual premium of $70,000 over five years and would receive the maturity proceed at the end of 10 years.

She was misled by the marketing person working for the bank into thinking that it was a single investment of $70,000 that would mature after 5 years. She was horrified that if she did not continue to pay the annual premium for the next four years, the $70,000 that she had paid would be entirely forfeited.

When she lodged a complaint with the bank that sold the investment, the bank denied responsibility. The life insurance company pushed the responsibility to the bank that made the sale.

Susan stand to lose $70,000 of her hard earned money from this costly mistake. She asked:

a) How could MAS and the government allowed the bank to sell this "investment" to her?
b) How could the marketing person get access to her account details with the bank and approached her to buy this "investment"?
c) How can the MAS allow the bank and the insurance company to make a "profit" out of the $70,000 that had been "stolen" from her?

I have heard of many cases similar to Susan's case. It is very bad for the banks to be selling this type of life insurance policies. The risk of mis-selling is high. Many people have made an "investment" not realizing that it is a life insurance policy that has heavy penalty on early termination. Susan's case is more extreme in the mis-representation is so grotesque.

Increase in filing fee for ACRA

Someone sent a complaint to the CEO of ACRA about the increase in filing fee for the annual return to ACRA from $20 to $60. He copied his complaint to me and to many ministers. I followed up with my letter of support of his views.

Dear Mr. Kenneth Yap (CEO of ACRA)

I express my support of the views expressed by Mr. Tun.

I find it quite ridiculous for ACRA to charge an annual filing fee of $60 for a company to file its annual return. After receiving our return, ACRA sells our financial data to other users on a fee.

I recall reading the ACRA annual report some years ago. You showed a big surplus from your operations. Hence, the increase in fees is not justified.

I urge ACRA to reduce the large sums that you spend on I.T development. I am not sure if this is the case, but I suspect it to be so. There is no need for ACRA to develop a costly computer system, just to collect and "sell" company information.

As a SME that is required to submit annual returns to ACRA, I find your input form to be quite time consuming, troublesome and painful to submit. The pain is made more noticeable when we have to pay a fee of $60.

ACRA should not charge any fee for filing of our annual returns. Would it be ridiculous if IRAS also ask tax payers to pay a fee to file their tax returns?

I hope that the ministers who have received this e-mail pay attention to this matter.

Thank you.

Tan Kin Lian

Risk for Hillary Clinton in competing with Donald Trump

The polls shows Hillary Clinton to be marginally ahead of Donald Trump in a general election. But there is a real risk that this may change during the months of the campaign.

Donald Trump may be able to swing the votes against Hillary Clinton. He was able to achieve this task in the primary election against the other contenders in the Republican field.

The Democratic Party should be aware of this risk. They can nominate Bernie Sanders who has a better chance of beating Donald Trump in the general election. This is shown by nearly all of the polls.

Bernie Sanders has won the West Virginia Democratic Primary

Sisters and Brothers -
We just got word that we won our 19th state, taking the majority of the delegates in today's primary in West Virginia.
Every vote we earn and every delegate we secure sends an unmistakable message about the values we share, the country's support for the ideas of our campaign, and a rejection of Donald Trump and his values.
Now we're on to two more primaries next week in Kentucky and Oregon, where we also hope to do very well. So let's keep going.
There is nothing I would like more than to take on and defeat Donald Trump, someone who must never become president of this country. But I believe that it is not enough to just reject Trump – this is an opportunity to define a progressive vision for America. Voters agree: just today, three new polls showed that we are the best campaign to defeat Trump.
We fully acknowledge we have an uphill climb ahead of us, but we’re used to that. We have been fighting uphill from the day this campaign began, and we’re going to stay in the race until the last vote is cast. And with your help, I hope to take on Trump, too. Thank you for standing with me.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Disastrous trade agreements

It is strange, almost bizarre, that the President who did the most harm to the working class and middle income family in the USA is not a Republican President. He is a Democratic President. Who is this president and what harm did he make?

He is Bill Clinton. During his term, he signed the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). It caused many jobs to move from the USA to Mexico and Canada.

This is followed by other trade agreements of the same pattern, e.g. the Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China and other countries. Although the PNTR agreements are made by subsequent presidents, Bill Clinton opened the door for the following disastrous trade agreements. 

Monday, May 09, 2016

Court case is dragging too long

I did not follow closely the trial of the people who were charged for causing a disturbance in Hong Lim Park while making their protest for the return of the CPF.

It seemed to be dragging a very long time - over several months.

This must be causing taxpayers a lot of money, for the salaries of the judges, prosecutors. lawyers (for the prosecution and defense) and court employees.

Do we really need to drag the case for so long? Where there difficult issues that needed to be resolved?

I get the impression that Singapore has become very inefficient and costly in many areas. It seems to include the conduct of court cases.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

PAP has won; Singapore has lost

In the Bukit Batok by-election, Murali Pillai has won. PAP has won. Singapore has lost. Why is this so?

The PAP used town council services and upgrading of infrastructure to "entice" the voters to vote for Murali from their party. They frightened the voters from voting for Dr Chee Soon Juan of the SDP by the subtle threat that this will lead to the loss of the upgrading.

In the process, the voters had voted as the Member of Parliament, a person who has a full time job as a senior lawyer in a private law firm. The elected MP will find it difficult to devote sufficient time to his duty as the MP.

How can be find the time to spend with the constituents and to understand the problem that they face in their daily lives? How can be bring up these concerns and problems to be discussed in Parliament?

Can he spend the time to attend all the sittings in Parliament and to debate the government policies and new laws actively. The experience of other part time MPs from the PAP have been disappointing. Many of them have a high absence rate from Parliament sittings or do not speak regularly in Parliament.

Many Singaporeans face issues that have gone from bad to worse over the past decades - high cost of living, high cost of housing, high cost of medical services, uncertainty of jobs, retrenchments, stagnant incomes, overcrowding, high stress of life and a low birth rate.

Instead of electing political leaders who can afford to spend full time to understand the issues and help to find the solutions to these challenges, the PAP opted to get another busy, part time MP to be elected into Parliament and perpetuate the broken down system.

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