Saturday, January 14, 2017

Why does China have to bully Singapore?

China acts like a big bully in dealing with Singapore on the detention of the Terrex vehicles in Hong Kong. They behave in this manner because Singapore is a small country. What a big bully!

When China detained the underwater drone from the USA, they released it within a few days. The USA did not need to issue any demand. We know that USA is a big and powerful country.

The behavior of China is clearly sad. They are damaging their own international reputation by behaving in this manner. Small and medium size countries will worry about having to deal with China in the future.

China has forgotten that when they were a poor and backward country thirty years ago, it was Singapore and Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, who gave full assistance to assist China, economically and diplomatically, to move to the modern era.

Is China so ungrateful? Is China so arrogant? Do they have to act in this manner?

Let me say that the leaders of China are not stupid. They are willing to take harsh measures and risk their international reputation because the leaders of Singapore went "too far". They need to pass a strong message to Singapore.

What did Singapore do wrong that angered the leaders of China so much? We should not speculate. We should go and ask them. Let them spell out their views in a private meeting.

What can be done to patch up the rebuild the friendship and trust that existing between our two countries for two over decades but were sadly lost in recent years?

This is a test of the skill and competence of our leaders in Singapore. So far, the actions that they have taken did not help. What did they do?

a) The foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that Singapore should not allow this incident to hijack our relationship. I was shocked to hear him speak like this. This is how a big country speak to a small country. It is not the manner in which a small country talk to a big country. Even if both countries are equal in stature, he should avoid making such a statement, because it does sound arrogant.

b) Defence minister Ng Eng Hen said that the Terrex vehicles are protected under sovereign immunity. I cannot accept this statement. Does it mean that someone can bring arms from another country into Singapore and said that the arms are protected under "sovereign immunity". I wonder how he can accept this kind of legal advice.

c) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote a letter to the chief executive of Hong Kong demanding the immediate return of the vehicles. I do not know if he received any reply. Someone told me that the reply came from a junior custom officer who said that they need some time to investigate.

Sadly, these actions will not help to resolve the matter. It shows that our top leaders do not possess the required skills of diplomacy. Their actions get us into a bigger rut.

If Mr Lee Kuan Yew was still around, I guess this is what he would have done. He would have asked our ambassador to China to talk to a senior Chinese leader and ask if it was possible for a senior person in Singapore to visit China and talk to a senior leader to resolve the misunderstanding.

This has to be a person that the Chinese leaders could trust. It could be former prime minister Goh Chok Tong or the current president Dr Tony Tan. It could even be our prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, whom many people considered to be the source of this misunderstanding.

If we adopt this "diplomatic" approach and China still continue to behave in a bullying manner, there is nothing that we can do. At least we have tried and cannot be faulted for taking the wrong approach.

Have joint immigration checks

Each day, about 300,000 people cross the Causeway and Second Link between Singapore and Malaysia. And each time, they have to go through two checkpoints controlled by the respective countries.
During peak hours and the holiday season, the queuing and processing times at both checkpoints get quite long.
The roads leading to the checkpoints are also congested.
The waiting time can be reduced by adopting a joint immigration check, where the traveller will be required to pass through just one checkpoint serving both countries, rather than two separate checkpoints.
A traveller from Singapore to Malaysia will be checked by the Malaysian authorities.
 Their computer system will be linked to the Singapore system to identify the travellers who are not permitted to leave the country.
A reciprocal arrangement will be made for travellers entering Singapore from Malaysia.
There will be no need to change the existing physical infrastructure, though there will be a need for the respective computer systems to access the system of the other country to track those who are leaving.
The country of departure can update its system to indicate that the person has left the country.
This joint arrangement will reduce the time taken by the travellers to pass through the Causeway and the Second Link.
It will also reduce the manpower required by the two countries to manage the movement of the travellers.
In addition, it will promote travel and tourism between both countries and improve the quality of life for the people living in both countries.
Tan Kin Lian
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'Have joint immigration checks'. 

Develop the skill of problem solving

I am giving a 1 hour free tutorial on "Develop the skill of problem solving". You can view the available slots and register here:

This is targeted at adults. After learning the skill, you can teach your children. It is an important life skill.

Wisdom of the Crowd - results for two issues now available

The voting on these two issues have now closed. The results are available for viewing. The voting for the both issues is as expected. Take a look at the final result.

a) Ng Eng Hen had handled the Terrex issue well
b) The friendship between America and Russia under the new Trump administration will be good for the world.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Detention of the Terrex - the real issue

To solve a problem, we need to understand what is the problem. And if the problem involves several parties, we need all the parties to agree on what that problem is.

Hong Kong has detained the Terrex - the military vehicles owned by the SAF. The vehicles were transhipped through Hong Kong port and were not properly declared according to Hong Kong law.

This may appear to be the issue. But it is not the real issue.

The real issue is the bad relationship between Singapore and China. To solve this problem, the Singapore leaders should address the root of the problem. What made China so angry with Singapore that they instructed Hong Kong to detained the Terrex on this reason?

China has stated that Singapore must abide by the "One China" policy and stop using Taiwan as the training ground. They even offered land in China for Singapore to carry out the training of its soldiers and NS men.

There are two other issues that has not come out in the open. China is annoyed at the stand taken by Singapore on the Trans Pacific Partnership and on the South China Sea dispute.

The approach taken by the Singapore leaders of resolving the matter through the Hong Kong court or international law is not likely to work. It will sour up the relationship further. There will be other issues that will cause disputes in the future.

After recognizing the problem, the next step is to know what we can do. We need to send someone to talk to the officials in China. That person cannot be PM Lee or foreign minister Balakrishnan or defence minister Ng. The three ministers will be unable to talk to the China leaders. They have already caused a lot of distrust.

Could that person be former PM Goh Chok Tong? Quite likely! Or could he be the former foreign minister George Yeo?

We should try it.

Let me take this opportunity to bring out the principles of problem solving:

a) We have to identify the right problem
b) We need to understand the key elements of the problem
c) We have to start with what we know and see if it works.

This principle is illustrated in this video. I encourage people to learn the skill of problem solving. Our PM, foreign minister and defense minister should register for my 1 hour tutorial!

One year after the passing of Mr Lee KY

One year after the passing of Mr. Lee KY, Singapore has got into so much trouble. It is unimaginable. Perhaps he had expected it, or had feared that hit might happen.

We now have:

a) A gloomy economy
b) The terrible quarrel with China
c) Flooding and MRT breakdowns
d) Internal disunity

The weaknesses of our governance system are now showing:

a) Inexperienced scholars in our civil service and polticial leadership
b) Arrogant attitude
c) Lack of honest discussion on issues in our media and pubic platforms

When Mr. Lee KY was around, he could manage the situation and still keep the ship on an even keel. Now that he is gone, the ship is sinking.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tutorial on problem solving

I am conducting a 1 hour tutorial to teach the approach towards problem solving. It is explained in this video. If you are interested to attend this tutorial (fee $0), you can register at

It is a useful skill for you to learn and to teach your children. Give them the confidence in solving problems.

This important skill can be learned

When you meet with a problem, you need to know what the problem is, and the knowledge that you have that can meet the problem. Surprise! You do not need to solve the entire problem immediately. If you can solve part of the problem, it will be a good start.

These principles will be illustrated with this puzzle. It trains you to know what to look out for.

Register now for this free 1 hour tutorial. It will start you in your journey to develop this skill.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fight for money, not honorable goals

For many decades, the people of the world looked at the United States as the protector of freedom and democracy. This is the impression given by their leaders and supported by the powerful and convincing media.

In recent years, it became quite clear that the motive of the United States is not as honorable as it was mde out to be. They were fighting for the control of oil and global economy. They were fighting to get a global advantage for their corporations. They were fighting for money. And they were using dishonest means to hide their real intentions.

The United States has lost its credibility. Singapore cannot continue to rely on the United States.

Reduce the checks at Causeway and Tuas

Each day, more than 300,000 people cross the border between Singapore and Malaysia at the causeway and at Tuas. Link

They are checked at both checkpoints manned by Singapore and Malaysia. Each checkpoint could take up to 15 minutes during busy period.

Is there a need for the travellers to be checked at two checkpoints? It should be possible for them to be checked on one side only without losing control over the data and without any loss of security.

My proposed approach is for them to be checked at the point of entry and for the data on the departure to be provided to the other side. A traveller to Malaysia will be checked at the Malaysia side and the data will be given to Singapore that the traveller has left Singapore.

If there is any reason why Singapore does not want any person to leave the country (and I am not aware of any such reason, perhaps except for NS men), the data can be provided to Malaysia and Malaysia can refuse entry to these people.

Similarly, a traveller from Malaysia wil be checked at the Singapore side and the data can be given to the Malaysian side that the traveller has left Malaysia. Malaysia can also provide a list of people that they do not allow to leave the country.

This arrangement will apply only to the Causeway and the Tuas checkpoints. It will not apply to travellers travelling by air or by sea.

The arrangement will create a lot of benefit to the authorities and the people of both countries, such as:

a) Reduce the time taken for the travel
b) Reduce the manpower required to man the checkpoints by half

It will provide the same control and security as the current arrangement. I am not aware of any reason why this arrangement cannot work. I wonder why the authorities from both Malaysia and Singapore cannot sit down together and work out this arrangement?

Learn the skill of problem solving

Many people just follow orders. When confronted with a problem that requires them to use their initiative, they don't know what to do.

The skill of problem solving can be learnt. Through practice, a person can be confident about dealing with any kind of problem.

The steps in problem solving are to recognize the problem, to know what the solution is, and to recognize the steps that can be taken to solve the problem.

This skill can be learnt through a simple game which illustrates the key steps.

Register now to attend a 1 hour tutorial that will take you on the journey towards facing problems with confidence.

After you have acquired the skill, you can pass them to your children. It will be important for their future.

Three mega ports in Malaysia

Dear Mr. Tan

China is helping Malaysia to build three mega ports in Kuantan, Penang and Malacca. This seems to pose a big economic threat to Singapore. We do not seem to have much discussion over this matter in our media.

Here is a media report from Malaysia.

What are your views?


I am concerned about the long term impact on Singapore. I am also worried about the ability of our leaders to overcome this threat. With our high cost of doing business and our inefficiency, this threat will certainly be serious.

It is imperative for our leaders to cut down the wastage, inefficiency and reduce the cost of doing business in Singapore. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sovereign immunity

Do you agree with the statement by the defence minister that the SAF military vehicle are protected by sovereign immunity and that Hong Kong does not have the legal right to retain the vehicles?
Give your vote in the Crowd website:

Flooding in Singapore

Is the flooding in Singapore caused by the Marina Barrage? The voting has now closed. The result is surprising. You can view the result here:

Resolve through the legal process

The foreign minister said that Singapore will resolve the detention of the SAF military through the court in Hong Kong. Do you agree with this approach? Give your vote in the Crowd website:

Monday, January 09, 2017

Difficult to read HDB financial report using online flip book

I get very angry when I see how inconsiderate people can be, especially people running large organizations.

I checked online for the Financial Report of HDB. I got this "high tech" flip book. It is supposed to be state of the art.

I looked through the flip book to see the financial statement for HDB. Some of the pages are presented in landscape format.

I am not able to turn my monitor around to view the landscape format. I looked for the tools to rotate the flip book, but could not find it.

So, I am forced to view it with my iPad. But it does not help. I still can't view the landscape page because the viewer keeps rotating it.

I wonder why people want to make life difficult for the public using their wonderful toy.

Choosing the right Shield plan

Dear Mr. Tan
The life insurance companies offer different private shield plans. The coverage provided is different from one plan to another. How do I decide on which plan is most suitable for me?

This is very difficult to answer. You have to look beyond the benefit that is provided under the plan. You should consider if the insurance company is charging a fair premium rate for the cover and has a good reputation for payment of claims.

You want to avoid an insurer that overcharge the premium and acts unfairly in rejecting claims.

There is a way to find out which insurer offers a good deal. It is explained here:

Balanced financial health

Do you have a balanced financial health? Do you have adequate savings for retirement and for emergency use, such as loss of employment? Are you investing your savings correctly?

Watch this video

Strengthen ties with Cambodia

It is a nice gesture for President Tony Tan to visit Cambodia and strengthen relations between our two countries.

Recently, Cambodia was unhappy that sand was being sold to Singapore through non-official sources. I hope that this misunderstanding can be resolved.…/singapore-ke…/3422680.html

Bendy SMRT buses should be removed from the roads

I dislike the use of the "bendy" SMRT buses. They occupy the space of two buses and take up too much space at the bus stop.

They are also a traffic hazard. We now have an accident involving this bus.  I am not sure if there were other accidents previously. I like to see these buses replace early. We can use double decker buses for more capacity.

If there is heavy demand for the service and double decker buses cannot be used, the bus operator can use more buses and run them at more frequent intervals. This creates employment for bus drivers and shorter waiting time for commuters.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

800,000 houshold to get utility rebate

I am surprised that over 800,000 households are receiving the utiliies rebate. That seems to be more than 50% of all households in Singapore.

Why are we increasing the cost of living to a high level that a large percentage of households need to get the rebate?

This reminds me of an old scout song, "They say in the army, the pay is mighty fine. Give your $100, take back $99".

In our case, the government increases the cost of living to a high level, by imposing 7% GST, and then give rebates. This is opposite to the scout song. LOL.

Technology disruption in insurance

Will technology disruption in insurance lead to lower prices for consumers? Will it reduce earnings of agents?

Slow clearance at immigration counters

Many years ago, most people observed that the jam in the causeway was caused by the delay in immigration clearance at the Johor side.

The situation has now changed. Many people observed that it now takes much longer to clear immigration at the Singapore side.

Instead of asking the immigration to improve their efficiency, some people attribute the delay to a deliberate attempt by the government to discourage people from shopping in Johor.

I do not think so. I believe that it is due to inefficiency on the Singapore side.

Twenty years ago, I had to report a change of address at a police station. The computer system was so slow. It hang most of the time. The system and process was badly designed.

I believed that the computer system in the immigration department is also poorly designed. It probably could not cope with the heavy traffic.

I observed the slow response with the computer system at the counter during a recent trip to Johor.

The clearance at the Johor side was faster. It must be due to a better design of their computer system.

It is a sad reflection of what is happening in Singapore today. The slow clearance has been around for some time. Instead of fixing the problem, the ordinary people have to speculate whether it was deliberately done to achieve another goal.

Where is the transparency in our system? Can inefficiency (if this was indeed the cause) be swept aside and ignored with some ridiculous excuse?

Are we to keep quiet and let the situation get worse and worse?

Improve customer service at call center

Many customers are quite fed up with the "press here", "press there" messages when they call a call center. They are also given unnecessary messages. It takes 1 or 2 minutes just to get through the barriers. After that, they have to wait 10 to 20 minutes for a person to answer the call. By that time, the customer has lost his patience.

Here are some simple suggestions to improve the experience for the customer. If the people in charge use their common sense, they can improve customer service by a lot!

Poor service from a magician

Hi Mr Tan,

I am an avid follower of your blog and I know you always publish issues where customer services could have been much better.

I have this bad experience to share with your readers and would like to warn them.

Recently, I hired a magician for my kid's birthday party and invited his friends as well. The experience was nothing short of great disappointment and failed to entertain the kids.

The magic show was supposed to last for an hour and ends with a cake cutting ceremony.

Not only did the magician came in 20 mins late, he only performed for half an hour. Halfway through the show, he told the children that he need to go to his car to retrieve some props, without informing us. Without the magician around, the children began to ran around and wreck havock. When he returned some 20 mins later, he began to tinder with his hp.

By then it was already very late and I had to remind him to proceed with the cake cutting ceremony. Well he was fast to ask for payment after the ceremony. Not wanting to spoil my kid's party, I paid him and told him I will be following up with a complaint email.

I followed up with an email on the same night. However, the company defended his staff and insisted there was nothing they could do. I felt angry and helpless
that our service morals have deterioriated to such standards.

(name removed)

Moving on, I think some questions posted (that I found out later) are quite valid

Do share with your followers if you deem useful.

Singapore Taxis United!

From: Cabby Sg

When they first comes, they took the low income job and you thinks its does not affect you!
Some old folks affected!
Then they took the drivers job, again you thinks it wont matters.
Some less educated folks affected!
Again they proceed to service line,
Once again, you claims local too proud and lazy to work.
You wanted someone to serve you while you sit and relax!
More folks affected!
Now they taking over office jobs, you feel pressure rising while big boss claims you not hardworking enough and demand too high salaries!
Moving on they taking taxi jobs, save a few penny on your pockets and you hurray on it!
Many folks income affected and you thinks it does not matter you!
Think hard again!
So many job replaced by ftrash and they too take a cut on everything on the markets!
Taxi industry belongs to locals as you too will grow old!
Try drive 10hours and see you take home 30$ profit and see your family suffer with you while the rest of the local standby and hurray on their pocket saving!
Old and health not able to permit you to drive longer hours, this is the time where you regrets that you should have stood together and unite with others when they calls for action!
Looking at current situation, how long do you think you can hold on to your job before you get replaced by ftrash and join the taxi which is the last resort for local?
Bus getting hit too? Good, as you stood by and ignored the rest!

Whos next??

Share and ask more local to join group

"Singapore Taxi United"

Lets gather more and do something about this using this platform!
Union and pap not willing to do anything as they are blind by greed!
We need to stand and help ourselves!
Hope all local can help share and stand together!!

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