Saturday, March 25, 2017

Display the Sequential Stop No in the bus

The image below shows the route for bus 163. Suppose you wish to alight at the stop called "Opp Winsor Park". That stop has a sequential no 37.

If the bus display shows "JCU Spore", you do not know if it has passed your destination or not. However, if it shows Stop 32, you know that you have 5 more stops before your destination.

If you missed your stop and the bus display Stop 40, which is Thomson CC, you know that you have passed 3 stops.

The best display is to show both the Stop No and name, e.g. Stop 40: Thomson CC. Alternatively, we should just show Stop 40 to reduce the cost. It is inexpensive to show a display of the Stop No.

If the commuter wish to alight at the stop "Opp Windsor Park", the commuter will take note that it is Stop No 37. This informatiion can be obtained from the bus stop before boarding the bus, or can be obtained from a route guide displayed in the bus.

Fascninated with Intelligence Quiz

A family of 5 attended my tutorials on the Intelligence Quiz and Problem Solving.

The teenage children were fascinated with the Intelligence Quiz. They became addicted to the quiz.

The next tutorial is on 8 April

The books can be purchased from:

Suggesion to improve the public service

Any large organization needs to use SOP (standard operating procedure). A simple change to the SOP can improve the service to the public and customer significantly, while preserving the integrity of the SOP.
I hope that the public service (i.e. the government agencies) will adopt this simple suggesion.…

Improve the design of websites

Many websites of large organizations and government agencies are poorly designed. The public finds them difficult to use, especially when they have to submit transactions. I have bad experience with these websites over the years.

Here are some of the bad features and suggestions on how the websites can be changed to improve the experience of the public and customers.…

Strong opposition to like in water price

Here are the views of the participants who voted in the Wisdom of the Crowd website (56 votes). 87% oppose the hike in water price. 75% oppose it strongly, 12.5% oppose it mildly.

The government sponsored body, REACH, carried out a survey of 1,000 people and said that 43% disagreed with the hike (as opposed to 87% here).…/significant-portion-of-…/

Wisdom of the Crowd website

You can view the results of the voting on several issues at

You can vote on the active issues at

You can win this prize when you submit 4 votes on the active issues.

My journey in developing this website is explained in ths book (you can download it for FREE).

Should the minimum wage apply to foreign maids?

One question affecting the implementation of a minimum wage in Singapore is - should it apply to foreign maids? Here are the views from the participants in the survey. A large majority said that the minimum wage should not apply to foreign maids as their working conditions are vastly different from other workers.

Slightly more negative votes on Groupon

Three quarters of the respondents have not used Groupon. Of the others, there are slightly more negative than positive comments. Groupon has to try harder to get a better perception.

I have used Groupon myself and am quite satisifed with the deals. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

PDPA - an additional harassment

Quite often, the government starts with good intention to solve a problem.
Somehow, they end up making things worse. It must be their approach - impractical and lack of common sense.
One example is the Privacy and Data Protection Act (or PDPA). The original problem was that telemarketeers were calling the public on their mobile phones and it has become a nuisance.
Instead of dealing with this specific problem, the government implemented the PDPA after a long period of discussion.
Instead of helping people the PDPA turns out to be an additional harassment on our lives.
This article explans the problems that many people face after PDPA. It did not make their life better. It made it worse.

Not so simple to provide the Estimate of Chargeable Income

IRAS expects the tax payer to be tax experts. They need to attend a training course just to submit a tax return. They say that it takes only 5 minutes to submit an ECI form. It is not so simple!…

Land Transport Authority should learn from Apple Computers

The Land Transport Authority developed an app called "My Transport". It contained many types of information relating to land transport. In a past year, it received an international award for being the best in its category.

Actually, I find the app to be poorly designed.
Here are my reasons:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening a work pass account with MOM

I wish to share a troublesome process in opening an account to apply for a workpass at the Ministry of Manpower. They recently revamped their micro-site, so it was better than before. It must have cost them many tens of million dollars. Still, it was confusing to me. To make matter worse, they still have the process of sending a confirmation PIN by ordinary mail. I consider it unnecesary and prone to problems

Product analysis - investment and insurance products

The FISCA website has a page showing the insurance and financial products that have been analysed. I give my views on whether they give good value to consumers.

If you have a product that you like me to analyze, you can send the product detail and benefit illustration to

I will analyze the product and give you my findings. I will also post the product detail (but remove your identity) in the website.

These articles are available for reading my FISCA members only.

How do the Crowd view the ministers?

The voting on these three interesting issues are now ready for viewing:

a) Which minister do you LIKE best?
b) Which minister do you DISLIKE the most?
c) How do you rate the performance of PM Lee?

All of these issues have more than 100 votes. Many of them came from the Facebook Ad, which reaches out to an audience outside of the regular visitors to this Page. (But I do not know the breakdown between the "regulars" and the "external" sources.

How do you interpret the results?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Private Shield plan - 5 month delay in settling a claim

A consumer asked for my help.
She is covered under a Private Shield Plan. She suffered some pain in the joint. She went to the general practitioner who tried to treat the pain, but the treatment did not work. The doctor referred her to see a specialist.
She went to the specialist and was hospitalized for observation for two days. The specialist carried out several tests to identify the source of the problem. After discharge, the patient paid a bill of almost $8,000.
She submitted her claim to the insurance company for reimbursement of the hospital bill. The claim was not settled for five months

Countdown timer for green man at pedestrian crossing

Should we have a countdown timer to show when the green man will appear at pedestrian crossings?

The majority of the Crowd says - YES.

You can view the voting on other issues at

Should MAS set a limit on payment in coins?

This is what the Crowd thinks about the proposal by MAS to set a limit on payment in coins.
The majority thinks that the problem is small and could be ignored. The next group thinks that the MAS can set a limit of $20 (instead of 10 coins in each denomination) and the payer has the discretion to accept a larger sum.
You can view the results of the voting on other issues

Listen to the Wisdom of the Crowd

You can now view the results of several issues that have closed recently:

a) Will a minimum wage increaset the cost of employing foreign maids?
b) Should a countdown timer be installed for the green man at pedestrian crossings?
c) Should MAS pass a regulation to impose a limit on payment in coins?
d) Should the 14 days of sick leave in the employment act be changed?

And other issues

A suggestion to improve the public service

President Tony Tan asked the civil service to look for ways to improve the public service, rather than simply follow the existing rules.

I applaud him for this message. The first and most important step to solve a problem is to recognize that we have the problem.

We do have a very serious problem. I described it as a disease. Too many people, not just in the civil service but the business community as well, are just following standard operating procedures (SOP) blindly.

Someone told me that this is the culture drilled in the Singapore Armed Forces. The SOP have to be followed totally, without question. Perhaps this was necessary for military discipline. Any deviation will result in punishment.

Even after leaving military service, the men continued to adopt adopting this practice for years. It has become a habit which will be very difficult to change.

When I was running a large company, I was able to implement the change in mindset quite successfully. In spite of receiving young people drilled in the SOP culture, I was able to get them to change their mindset.

This is what I have done.

a) Every standing instruction (our name for SOP) usually allows the staff to exercise discretion within a specified limit. For example, the staff may waive interest on late payment up to a certain amount. It also has a clause that says, "If this SI results in decisions that are not acceptable to customers, you may refer this matter to your supervisor".

b) The supervisor is empowered to deviate from the SI within a larger band or to refer the matter to the next level.

c) All exercise of discretion will be recorded into an online system. This will be reviewed by the next higher level. If there is no objection within 2 days, the action will be considered as approved. If the discretion is exercised wrongly, the staff will be coached. In practice, there are few instances where the discretion was used wrongly. The impact of the mistake was usually negligible.

The system worked extremely well. It fostered a culture of innovation and the use of common sense. The staffs enjoyed the empowerment given to them.

It also helped to identify the changes that have to be made to the SI to improve the practices.

I hope that the public service will adopt a similar system. Over a year or two, they will see a significant change in the mindset of the civil servants.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Make it possible for people to marry younger

I discussed with an Indonesian couple, who are slightly older than me, about the problems faced by Singapore in raising the birth rate.

Most people are marrying too late. They want to go to university, have to complete National Service (for males) and have to save to buy a HDB flat.

When they get married (and 40% don't get married) they are already passed 30 years. When a woman passes 30 years, they find it more difficult to get a baby. They probably opt for one child, if at all.

If we want to raise the birth rate, we must make it possible for people to marry at a younger age. We have to overcome the financial obstacles.

They agreed with my views. They asked me to write a book to explain my approach.

My book will take 30 years and 1 day to complete. Fortunately, I have already spent 30 years on this issue. So, it will just take 1 day to put my thoughts into the PDF book.

It takes 4 days to make a money transfer electronically

I went to DBS bank branch to transfer $15,000 to a friend in Indonesia.

Staff - Mr. Tan. There is a charge of $20 for telex and another charge of 1/8 % for the handling fee. The total charge is about $40. The agent bank will also impose a charge. Your friend will get less than $15,000.

TKL - That's okay. I understand.

Staff - Mr. Tan. Your friend will get the money in 3 to 4 days' time.

TKL - Why so late? You charge me a telex fee. You also deduct the money from my bank account immediately. Why can't my friend get the money immediately?

Staff - It has to go through the agent bank. This takes time.

TKL - When I send an email (which is free), it has to go through several email servers to reach the other party. It arrives within 1 minute. Why can't the money transfer happen just as quickly? After all, you are getting a total fee of $40 for this transfer?

Staff - Mr. Tan, if you use DBS Remit, the money will arrive immediately.

TKL - But your bank gives a poor exchange rate. You take away almost 2% on the conversion to rupiah. The cost is $300. My friend could get a better exchange rate in Jakarta. The spread is only 0.2%.

Staff - Okay, Mr. Tan. I will feed back your views to my management.

TKL - Thank you for your help.

Monitoring the occupancy of buses

At the bus stop this morning, a woman complained to me.

Woman - I have been waiting for 15 minutes for Bus 163 and it has not arrived. I saw many other passes pass by. Here is Bus 854. This is the fourth bus. Where is 163??

TKL - I am also taking 163. I observed, quite often, that it comes late and is crowded and full. I think the LTA should provide more buses for this service.

I wrote to the Straits Times a month ago and suggested that the LTA should monitor the occupancy of the buses for each service and published the results in a website. This will show the public about the occupancy rate, and help the LTA to identify the services that need more buses and those that can have less buses. Sadly, I do not see the LTA taking up this suggestion.

I had also written to a very senior person in the Ministry of Transport. He had forwarded my suggestion to the LTA. Nobody bothered to contact me about it.

I suspect that the LTA is not monitoring the occupancy for each service. I also suspect that they have some problem in calculating the occupancy rate, as some people use concession cards and do not tap out. If they ask me, I can give them my suggestion on how to deal with this matter. 

Wisdom of the Crowd - results

You can now view the results of the closed issues at the Wisdom of the Crowd website.

Wisdom of the Crowd - results on two issues are available

The results for two issues are available for viewing. Each has 100 or more votes.

1) How much should a cleaner earn in gross monthly pay?
2) Should MAS set a limit on payment in coins?

The results are interesting. The proposal made by MAS got the least vote. It shows that they are not in touch with the crowd.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why are we still using cheques?

A few people have asked - why are we still using cheques which are so inefficient, costly and troublesome? Why can't we move to digital payment?

I agree with them. The infrastructure in Singapore does not allow this mode of payment to companies. There are a few exceptions, but this statement is true for most companies.

I subscribe to the Cloud service of Starhub. Each month, I received an invoice from them. I asked them to allow me to pay through GIRO, just like the utility bill and even thier consumer bills.

They said that they are not able to accept GIRO payment. It does seem ridiculous as they already have their system to handle consumer bills. Three years have passed.

I did some research around 2010. I found that UK and Australia had reduced their per capital use of cheques by 50% during the previous 10 years. Singapore also adopted the same initiative around the same time. The reduction in cheques was only 20%.

I cannot remember the actual figures, so these numbers are from my memory.

I wrote to the Straits Times about the slow progress in moving away from cheques. They published my letter. Nobody from MAS or the Association of Banks bothered to talk to me.

I also met with a senior manager in MAS to discuss this matter. She said, "Wait. we are rolling out FAST payment".

Sadly, the FAST payment does not address the challenge of getting companies to receive electronic payments. So, we continue to use cheques, in spite of the inefficiency.

As we continue down this road, the cost of doing business continue to be high. Our productivity continues to be very bad. We become more and more uncompetitive.

Some thoughts on a rainy day

It was raining moderately this morning before I set out to office.
I waited for the rain to stop. It continued raining.
I called Uber. Got "surge pricing".
I wanted to try GrabTaxi. Forget it. Most probably, no taxi available on rainy days.
I took our my umbrella and walked to the bus stop.
On the way, this thought crossed my mind:

Thank you, Almighty, for the blessing that you have given to the people. And for providing water, which is essential to life, free of charge.

Please tell the PAP to share the water, that you have given to them free, with the people free. They can follow the example of Hong Kong where each household is provided a certain quantity of water free of charge each month.

They can impose the 30% hike on water that they produce through recycling and desalination. The people will understand this hike.

I keep an open mind on each issue

KKoon Wee
Mr Tan, like it or not, you are widely regarded as a PAP critic. That is the reason I became familiar with your facebook ie. my anti PAP friends referenced you. Now if you actually have warm feelings towards some PAP leaders & policies, you should highlight these more often. We're not getting a balanced view of Mr Tan Kin Lian at the moment. I on the other hand am very anti PAP and proud to proclaim it.

Many people in Singapore are short sighted and narrow. They make conclusions based on ignorance. I cannot help it. That is the way that they were educated all their lives.

Based on my interaction with many people, I have a low opinion of their character, which is quite common in Singapore - ignorant, selfish, judgmental.

I cannot join you to proclaim that I am "anti PAP". I keep an open mind and think independently on each issue.

I disagree with many of their practices and say so openly. But I do not adopt any "anti" attitude. I also point out the policies that I agree when the occasion arises.

A cure for the Singapore disease

KKoon Wee said:
The mindset is so set on preventing all errors at all costs! This is even if the error has very minor consequences and only exists as tail risks! This kiasu & kiasi attitude is causing paralysis! In the old days, Dr Goh used to say go ahead and we put out the small fires along the way! If we wait and try and prevent all fires big & small, we'll never get started.

An excellent example. In the old days, we had Dr Goh Keng Swee to handle the Singapore disease (kiasu and kiasi). Now we have no one to handle it. The Singapore is quite widespread. It got worse over the years.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Was the 2015 general election rigged?

Mr Tan Kin Lian, there is strong suspicion among voters, especially when they commented on Facebook that the voting result for the last 2015 General Election was rigged, as the Election Department is under our Prime Minister. It should entirely be independent to be non-partisan, in order to be fair to all the different Opposition Parties. What are your views on this matter???

I believe that the results were fair. The people did vote 70% for the PAP for various reasons. Many of them like the PAP. They also like the goodies (bribes?) given by the PAP. They also felt grateful for Mr. Lee KY.

Sadly, the strong results will entrench the PAP in their bad practices and methods.

The practices of the PAP and their obsession to remain in power, with unfair methods, has been harmful for Singapore in the past and will continue to be harmful in the future. They build a society of people who lack character. It is sad.

Some people think that I am anti-PAP. They are mistaken. I have nothing against the PAP leaders, many of whom are trying to do their best for the country.

I am strongly against bad practices that are harmful for Singapore. I hope that the leaders in the PAP will change and think in the interest of the country and not their power and privileges.

I agree that the Election Commission should be an independent body and should not be under the Prime Ministers' office. Similarly, the civil service and the People's Assocation should be truly impartial.

Provide an "refer to supervisor" clause in each SOP (standard operating procedure)

Many organizations in Singapore operate on SOP (standard operating procedures). Without SOP, the staff don't know what to do.

The trouble is - after the SOP is written, common sense disappear entirely. Many stupid situations occur when the staffs follow the SOP blindly.

There is a solution. Every SOP should have this statement - if you find any of the SOP to be unfair, unnecessary or wasteful, refer the matter to your supervisor. They have the authority to exercise discretion. They are put into supervisory position for this purpose.

In the old days when we were a British colony, the colonial masters do exercise discretion. This was told to me by my uncles and older folks.

This practice of exercising discretion and judgment disappeared over the years, under the rule of the PAP. I think the SAF probably contributes to the new practice of following SOP blindly.

Do you agree?

A wasteful practice - rejecting a cheque due to a insignificant mistake

My staff made a small mistake when she wrote a cheque of $200 to HDB for rental of their room. She wrote the payee as "The Housing and Develoment Board: with a "p" missing.

Guess what? The HDB staff refuse to accept the cheque. She returned the cheque and asked for another cheque to be issued and sent to them before the deadline for payment. They don't realize how costly it is to prepare a new cheque and hand it over personally.

Do you want to know why Singapore is so costly, so wasteful and so inefficient? It is this kind of unnecessary hassle. What's wrong with accepting a cheque with a small error. The SOP said that the cheque cannot be accepted, if it is not "properly written", right?

Okay, we continue our wasteful practices.

UberPool is an excellent concept

Uber has an interesting concept - called UberPool. When you book UberPool, you get a discount of about 20%. The driver can pick up another passenger along the way. Sometimes, the driver goes out of the way to pick the other passenger, so you may waste a little time (but I guess it will be marginal).

I like this concept because it is an efficient way to use our cars. Why have cars running around with one passenger, when the car can take 2 or more passengers?

Well done to Uber.

Grab also introduce a similar concept called Grabshare.

So far, most passengers are still booking for exclusive use. However, with more education and awareness, more people will opt for UberPool and GrabShare.

I also want to congratulate Uber for the excellent design of their platform. They apply a lot of "common sense" and make their platform extremely easy to use. I find it to be better than GrabTaxi that I used previously.

My prference now goes to Uber. I was told that Uber is owned by Google. No wonder! they really know how to make things easy for the ordinary users.

New poll - Performance of PM Lee

Are you happy with the performance of PM Lee Hsien Loong? Are his policies good for Singapore? Do you agree with the way that he is addressing our challenges?
Click here to give your vote.
Click here to download a FREE copy of my PDF book - "Wisdom of the Crowd Website".
It explains about how this online platform works.

A new book - Wisdom of the Crowd Website

I have written a PDF book entitled "Wisdom of the Crowd Website". Click here to view and download a FREE copy.

About ten years ago, a friend told me about a popular bestselling book titled “Wisdom of the Crowd” by James Suroweicki.

It has many case studies and anecdotes to illustrate its argument in several fields in economics and human behavior.

The first anecdote is about how a crowd at a country fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox. Their individual guesses were not accurate, but when the average of their guesses was calculated, it was quite close to the actual weight of the ox.
This is the outcome of independent decisions made by many persons and is not the same as crowd psychology (where all the members of the crowd adopt the same response).
I have not read the actual book. However, I found this concept to be fascinating.
I have a statistical background and I like to test if “the wisdom of the crowd” can produce better public policies. 

Some countries, such as Switzerland, carry out regular referendums to seek the votes of their citizens on public issues. They must have figured out that the collective wisdom of their citizens is better than the decision of their politicians. It also helped to avoid corrupt decisions made by politicians.

There is a general lack of debate and discussion on public issues in the Parliament or the mainstream media in Singapore for the past five decades.
I decided to develop an online platform to allow the public to vote on economic and social issues in Singapore. I hope that this platform will contribute in a small way to get more people to be interested in these issues.

Mr. Tan Kin Lian
March 2017

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