Monday, December 31, 2018

Some aspects of the Singapore system

Rachel Ash said.
Mr Tan It gets harder by the day when our decision making positions are replaced by Military Man. I wondered what goes through the mind of successful businessman who gets lectured and given paternalistic advice on how to do business by our Military Man who had never had a registered business company in his life except taking commands from the top and barking commands to the bottom.

These Military Men are shortsighted because they are too busy with fulfilling their KPIs that long term is hugely secondary or often neglected. When we "cross-sword" with our neighbors we were ask to stand united and if needed be sacrifice our sons' lives BUT yet a minister did say his saving babies was good enough equivalent of serving NS.

Then we have minister boasting to the world just how affordable our healthcare system is to the world by declaring he paid on SG$8 for his heart surgery BUT this same minister asked citizens to send their old folks to JB, buy medicine and seek medical treatment in Malaysia because it is cheaper and more affordable.

We are struggling with available land that the dead had to make way for roads. Our current infra-structure barely cope with our current population and yet our minister wants to increase our population to 10 million plus. If minister claims we don't really need big houses and cars to live happily in Singapore, please tell us why all of our ministers are staying in big homes and drive expensive cars.

Even our "elected by parliament" president had moved out from her jumbo HDB to a big bungalow. Perverted and some consider obscene messages made eg GST (including increasing GST) helps the poor. Even when we have lost of lives along our train line during maintenance, it was an honest mistake and let move on. A top management in a train company was convicted of drink driving twice and still working in same train company. Seriously many don't welcome 2019 because it would likely to mean more pain are installed.

My comment.
I agree with you. Happy New Year.

Impact of high airport tax

Dear Tan,

in 1998, Hong Kong opens it’s new airport after 6 years in construction.

The size of the airport is comparable to ours. Unfortunately, Changi T5 will take more than a decade to build and with only an additional runway to the current.

When we decided to rise the airport tax, many airlines have rise their fares. Given that the oil price is now at a higher level and the factor of poor economic factor, many airlines would have chosen to fly elsewhere.

We have always view Bangkok as a main competitive airport, but Bangkok is of a cheaper city and of richer culture to visit than of ours.

Even if the authorities impose a tourist tax. It would not affect their tourism industry as badly as ours.

Hong Kong international airport is now doing expansion, however it serve a different region as ours. This might change when smaller and fuel efficient twin engine plane could now travel a longer range.

We might have thought that we are a premium brand and therefore deserve to charge a higher price.

Over the years, we have always maintain a good relationship with airlines which flies here. I am afraid that if Singapore does not maintain this relationship with their client, we might end up having a huge airport but too few airlines.

I believe that some airlines has reduce their frequency and one has withdrawn the Singapore route. It is time that we get this straight, it is easier to lose a client than to get a new one.


My comment. I have compared airport tax charged by various cities. We are among the highest. A few cities charge airport tax similar to ours, but most cities charges much lower tax.

I share the same concern as Fong.

Reduce the fare for short trips

I am familiar with the integrated fare structure for public transport. It is displayed at the bus stops. I have seen the fare table many times. I have been taking public transport for over two years.

I am also familiar with the concept of transfer from one service to another. The passenger pays the difference in fare.

I do not agree with the steep fare charged for short distances. I share the fare table below.

My complaint is the steep charge for short distance. An adult has to pay 83 cents just to ride for one stop. Yes, this fare applies for 3.2 km (about 8 stops) but why charge so much for just 1, 2 or 3 stops?

I like to see the fares being "fairer", i.e. lower, for short trips.

The steep fare for short trips work to the disadvantage of MRT services. Many people take a bus to the nearby train station. They fare for the first leg is quite high, i.e. 83 cents.

The fare for the second leg is penalized. So, the MRT gets less revenue, because the bulk of the fare is taken by the first leg. No wonder, our MRT services are operating at a loss.

I do not understand the rationale for this fare structure. I accept that the fare for short trips should be steeper (per km) that for long trips, but it does not have to be so steep.

I know that eventually, all the fares will go to the govt agency and that the bus or train operators will get the awarded charges that they tendered for the operation. This will take some time to come into operation. But it still does not justify the steep fare for short trips.

Some people think that I am not familiar with the fare structure or the transfer system. They even criticized me for being ignorant.

These people should be more circumspect. They should show respect for other people. By being rude, it only shows their own shallowness and arrogance.

They know the fare structure, but do they apply critical thinking and question the structure? Is it correct to have such a steep structure? Should the short trip passengers pay a larger share of the cost to subsidize the long trip passengers?

I have a senior citizen card which allows me to travel at a discount. The figures that I quoted in previous postings are for senior citizens. The same feature still applies to adult travelers who pay the full fare.

In case some people, who likes to support the current structure, want me to justify a lower fare for short trips, I like to ask them to justify the current fare for short trips first. I do not think that the actual cost justify such a steep fare structure.

I like to see the fare structure being changed to give lower fares for short trips, while maintaining the same fare for long trips. It will not affect the fares payable for long trips.

Tan Kin Lian

Tariffs should replace GST

Many people do not like to see the re-introduction of tariffs. They are afraid that it will lead to consumers paying higher prices.

They forgot that they are already paying higher prices through the goods and services tax (GST).

If the government can collect revenue from tariffs, they can abolish GST.

GST is a very bad tax. It is regressive (i.e. hit the low income people hardest) and the administration of GST is costly to the economy. I call it the "bits and pieces" tax.

Many countries can introduce tariffs to replace GST. Their tariffs can be on selected products. Food and medical supplies can be exempted. Higher taxes can be levied on cars, properties and luxury goods.

The tariffs also help to protect local industries and local jobs. The local manufacturers cannot run away from paying tax on their profits, unlike the multi-national corporations.

More importantly, the government will be able to collect enough revenue to pay for the public services, infrastructure and social welfare. They do not have to fund these expenses through debt.

The new world order, with lower inequality, will be safer and better.

What I have said does not apply to small economies, like Singapore. We need to join a larger economic community to survive in a new "tariff" environment.

Tan Kin Lian

A new era after globalization

The world order over the past three decades is based on globalisation and free trade.

It has created growth and development in many countries.

It has also created gross inequality. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown wider than ever. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2018, the top 1% of adults account for more than 47% of household wealth globally.

Many countries are in debt, including the super power America. This is an unstable situation.

Globalization allows the super rich to transfer their earnings and wealth to tax havens, making it difficult for governments to levy the tax that is necessary for them to provide the public services for their citizens. It gets worse every year.

America is finally reacting to this situation in a dangerous manner. It is imposing arbitrary trade tariffs. It is withdrawing from multi-national agreements. It has started a trade war with China.

The American reaction does not address the root problem. It will make the unstable situation worse by adding the risk of armed conflict.

What is the solution?

We have to return to the system before globalization. Each country should introduce tariff to generate revenue for the government and to protect its local industries and jobs.

This system worked well for three decades prior to the era of globalisation. It has generated wealth and development as well. America build its great society and infrastructure during this period.

I know that we are now in a different world with global supply chains. The global supply chains can continue. The introduction of tariffs mean that the multi-national corporations will have less opportunity to take advantage of the loopholes in the taxation system to generate huge profits at low taxes.

After paying their share of taxes and tariffs, they will still remain profitable. The global supply chain will still make business sense. The operations will continue as before. The MNCs will know how to make the appropriate adjustments.

Government with a more stable source of revenue can play their part to build the infrastructure and housing for the people and provide the necessary public services, such as health, education, safety and social welfare.

Countries will also have to make their adjustments. The bigger countries, with a population of more than 50 million are viable to be on their own. Other countries with smaller populations have to join an economic bloc, similar to the European Union. The smaller countries of ASEAN will have to form an economic bloc.

For a start, Singapore has to work more closely with Malaysia. We may have to consider re-merger some time in the future.

If we divide the 70 years after World War 2 into two eras of 35 years, we may be approaching the end of the era of globalisation. We may have to consider another economic arrangement where tariffs will play a bigger role. It will be better.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Funding the US govt

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How can America solve its problem of funding govt services?

Here are the responses: (33 Votes)
52 % - Increase tax on the super rich and corporations
27 % - Reduce spending on the military.
12 % - Introduce tariffs on important goods as a revenue measure, i.e. apply to all countries.
6 % - Continue to rely on borrowing.
3 % - Cut spending on social welfare and health services.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Secure our food supply

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How should we secure our food supply in the future?

Here are the responses: (38 Votes)
58 % - Increase the sources of supplies to include more countries in the region.
21 % - Put aside more land in Singapore for farming.
18 % - Improve our relations with neighboring countries, so that this disruption can be avoided.
3 % - Arrange contracts for long term supply at agreed prices, which may be higher than the current market prices.

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, December 30, 2018

WOTC - Is Singapore fair to Malaysia

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is Singapore fair to Malaysia?

Here are the responses: (36 Votes)
31 % - We are acting according to our rights in international and contractual law
28 % - We should pay more for our water which is now at a very low price.
28 % - We should recognize that the Malaysia vessels are in disputed waters.
14 % - We should show Malaysia that we cannot be bullied.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Criminal and civil defamation

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How do you see recent action taken for criminal and civil defamation?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
59 % - They are attempts to suppress the alternative views and freedom of expression.
23 % - They are attempts to stop non PAP candidates from contesting the next general election.
15 % - These moves are unjustified and excessive.
3 % - These moves are justified.

See the pie chart at:

Improve the standard of spoken English

There was some discussion about the proficiency of English in this page.

My view is that our standard of English has declined over the past decades. Perhaps it is due to the focus on many subjects, such as science, mathematics, history, etc. If the student spends more time on these subjects, they have less time to learn the English language.

I am particularly concerned about the standard of spoken English. Many of our people pronounced poorly. You can hardly hear what they say.

Some countries give more emphasis on pronunciation. They are particularly in pronouncing the words clearly.

I like to give tips to people who speaks the language:

a) Pronounce the words clearly.
b) Speak more loudly, so that you can be heard.

Many people have the habit of mumbling their words.

On my recent cruises, I met many passengers from India. They speak loudly, to the extent of being annoying to some people. I accept it as their culture. They do speak loudly but I can hear their words clearly (although I do not understand the words).

In many languages, the people pronounce the words clearly as similar sounding words have different meanings. They pronounce every letter of the word.

We need to improve the standard of the spoken language. It creates a positive impression.

Tan Kin Lian

A health financial services industry

Many people work hard. They spend wisely and are able to set aside some savings each month.

They need advice on how to invest their savings to get a modest return. They do not want to take risk and are not greedy for a high return.

Sadly, most of them end up with a bad investment. The people that approached them to give investment advice gave bad advise to them, and give them either a risky investment or a very poor return.

This happens in many countries, including Singapore. It is sad to see ordinary people being taken from a ride by the "financial industry". The financial industry produces many super rich people, and many, many more poor customers.

In many cases, the poor return is due to the high charges that are taken away by the financial industry to pay high commission to the seller and produce high profits to the financial institutions.

A word to describe this situation is that the customers are being "ripped off".

Who do most govts allow their ordinary citizens to be ripped off from their hard earned savings. Here are the reasons:

a) The govt officials are brainwashed by the concept that a free market in financial services help the consumers in the long run.

b) The politicians are funded by the financial industry and they allow their benefactors to have freedom to run their business to generate profits.

c) Some govt officials or politicians look forward for cushy jobs in the finance industry a few years down the road.

Suppose there is a govt that truly look after the interest of ordinary people. What can the govt do? Here are some possible ways.

a) Offer a well diversified fund of safe bonds, including government securities. The investor can get a modest return that is safe.

b) Offer a well diversified fund of blue chip equities. These equities offer a good long term return, but may be risky in the short term. They are suitable for investors who understand that they have to invest for the long term and should not worry about short term investments.

Both funds should be large funds, well diversified and have a low management fee, less than 0.3% per annum.

This approach will still provide room for the financial services industry to offer alternative funds. But there is a benchmark of the fund that is provided by the govt. These funds should operate transparently, and be managed on a cost recovery basis. It should not have the goal of making a profit.

When govts recognize their duty to offer the suitable investment instruments on a non-profit basis to its citizens, the citizens will have an option to avoid being "ripped off" by the greedy operators in the financial industry. It will set the benchmark for a healthy industry to flourish.

Tan Kin Lian

Willing to make painful changes

The new govt in Malaysia face big challenges. They are:

a) The weak financial situation in the country, with its large debt and insufficient govt revenue.

b) A civil service that is, to a large extent, partisan, corrupt and beholden to the previous govt. The new govt could not rely on these civil servants to help them to run the country.

c) They have to deal with many outstanding issues with Singapore.

They are trying to implement new policies to deal with these challenges. The changes are difficult and painful.

They make mistakes in some of these changes. They are partly caused by the uncooperative civil service.

But the govt is willing to recognize their mistakes and change their policies. They are brave in telling the truth to their people. In addressing these policy u-turns, Dr. M said that "even angels make mistakes".

I wish all the best to Malaysia in overcoming these problems.

Economic and social policies in Turkey

My friend visited Turkey recently and came back with the following observations.

The tour guide told him that the current president, Erdogan, is quite popular with the people. He has reduced the retirement age for citizens and gave them a modest pension.

This has allowed young people to take over the jobs from the retired older people. it helped to reduce youth unemployment.

My friend wondered how Turkey could afford this measure. Does it lead to a loss of competitiveness? Is their currency strong?

I have not followed the economic and govt policies in Turkey. Here are my views:

a) It make sense for older people to retire and the jobs to be done by younger people. It should lead to greater productivity.

b) If the older people can live on the modest pension, they should be happier with their spare time. Maybe they can look after the family and grand children.

c) Most important, is Turkey able to keep the cost of living low?

Turkey face the problem of the civil war in Syria, which must affect their economy negatively. They also suffered from the trade sanctions imposed by America. So, they economic problems and weak currency could be due to other factors, rather than their social policies.

Any views from people who knows the situation in Turkey?

WOTC - Reduce minister's salary to $500,000

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the average minister's salary be reduced to $500,000?

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
56 % - It is adequate to get capable people to take this post, as their motivation is to serve the country.
38 % - The salary of $500,000 is still too high.
4 % - It will not attract capable people to serve the country.
2 % - It will encourage the ministers to be corrupt.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - KPI and civil servant's bonus

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the public sector adopt KPIs to pay bonus to civil servants?

Here are the responses: (43 Votes)
35 % - It encourages the civil servants to focus on their KPI and bonus, rather than improve service to the public.
33 % - It damages teamwork as civil servants compete with each other to score higher on their KPIs.
26 % - It will motivate the civil servants to perform better.
7 % - It makes the supervisors lazy in monitoring the work of the civil servants as the performance is largely measured by "objective" KPIs. 

See the pie chart at:

Friday, December 28, 2018

WOTC - Foodfare take over Kopitiam

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should NTUC Foodfare be allowed to take over Kopitiam?

Here are the responses: (35 Votes)
51 % - No. Foodfare is supposed to be a cooperative and not a private profit oriented business.
23 % - No. It will allow them to take over a large market share and dominate the market.
20 % - Yes. It will allow Foodfare to help moderate the price of food in the food courts.
6 % - Yes. There are many other food court operators to provide competition.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Taxis use bus lane

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should taxis be allowed to use bus lanes?

Here are the responses: (37 Votes)
49 % - Bus lanes should be reserved for buses, so that they can travel faster.
24 % - Taxis are public transport vehicles and should be allowed to use bus lanes.
22 % - By allowing taxis, the bus lanes will be put to better use.
5 % - Taxis are allowed to use bus lanes in many cities around the world.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bad for a prime minister to sue his citizens

Someone declared that Lee HL is the only prime minister that sues his citizens.

I am not able to support that statement. I do not know about the actions of the prime ministers of 200 countries around the world, including the prime ministers in the past.

I agree that it is very bad for any prime minister to sue its citizens for defamation or to protect his integrity. It is better for the leader to issue a statement and trust that his people will believe his statement. It is better to be honest and transparent, rather than use the legal suit to silence critics.

OK. I am not aware of any other prime minister, current and past, that sues its citizens. If any of you know about it, please share.

They might be a few that carried out the same act, but it still does not justify the action - which is frankly quite bad.

Tan Kin Lian

Doing what is best for Singaporeans

Tay Albert said:
Kin Lian of late I hv noticed u are beginning to have some good points Hopefully u will continue to champion the course to help reinstate our nation to be what we once were ie a nation that people around the world can respect n trust.
I was one of your critics becoz of yr position at ntuc income and u were notable in creating a monopoly in the insurance industry rather unfairly n has cause many who prior to income 's existence be out of work in order to try to corner the market
And I always believe that a leopard never change its spot We know who you are n perhaps you may know my late father and my uncle Hever seeing now u r in support of Leong n lim I hope you mean well and if that's the case I wish you all the best. Majulah Singapore!

Dear Albert,
NTUC Income was not a monopoly in life insurance, nor in motor insurance, nor in health insurance.
It was a cooperative, with the aim of reducing cost for consumers. We reduced our cost so that consumers paid a lower price.
We did force our competitors to reduce their prices to stay competitive. But we were not a monopoly. Not by any means.
Many people remembered me for the good work that NTUC Income contributed during the time that I was in charge.
Some were unhappy that their claims were not settled according to their expectation. But it was generally due to some misunderstanding. It was never our policy to deny claims to make a bigger profit. We were not profit-driven, unlike most businesses and govt linked companies.
My actions in recent years is a continuation of what I tried to do for the past decades - how to reduce cost for consumers and offer a better value to them. I believe that the citizens of Singapore deserve a better deal compared to what is being given to us by the PAP govt.
I thank you for voicing your views, so that I have a chance to clarify this point.

Misleading statements by Jason Koh

One person called Jason Koh said that Leong Sze Hian stays in a landed house at Serangoon Gardens. He is rich enough to pay for his own legal fees.

I suspect that Jason Koh works for the despised Internet Brigade.

I have fetched Mr Leong to his house a few years ago. His house is old, single storey and unrenovated. I think it was handed down to him by his parents.

I do not think that Mr. Leong is rich, as alleged by Jason Koh. I ask Jason Koh to do his due diligence, before making misleading statements.

Anyway, this is besides the point. I urge all citizens to support the Leong Sze Hian Defence fund generously.

We need to send a strong message to PM Lee that his legal suit for defamation is unacceptable. It amounts to bullying. PM Lee is well off and should not use his wealth to intimidate people. If he is honorable, he should offer to pay the legal expenses of both parties.

Tan Kin Lian

Leong Sze Hian Defense Fund

The Independent website posted an article on crowd funding for Leong Sze Hian's defence fund.

The link to that article was not blocked last night. Several people reported that they were not able to access it.

They suspected that the "authority" had deliberated blocked the link.

If this was the case, it would be a very shameful and despicable act. The "authority" is supposed to uphold the law and to act non-partisan. The act of blocking the article would amount to "abuse of power" or, some might describe it as "state terrorism".

I hope that the "authority" will make a statement to deny this suspicion.

Anyway, the link is available this morning.

It is important for citizens to make a bold statement that they strongly disagree with the action of the PM to file a defamation suit, and also the suspected action of the "authority" to block the link, if only for a short period.

A good way to express your view is to donate generously to the LSH defence fund.

You can donate any sum. I suggest $10 or more. Details are
Mr Leong is hoping to raise at least $10,000 for his defence fund. You may contribute through the following channels:
Leong Sze HianPOSB Savings 064064070Paynow S0009739ZPaypal

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Delay at checkpoints

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the long delays at the checkpoint acceptable?

Here are the responses: (42 Votes)
52 % - No. It is govt's intention to cause the delay.
40 % - No. It is shameful that the govt cannot recruit sufficient people to man the checkpoints.
5 % - Yes, we should avoid going to Malaysia.
2 % - Yes, it is holiday season.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Increase in fish price

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it acceptable for fish price to increase by 30-40%?

Here are the responses: (38 Votes)
42 % - It is a stupid outcome from the dispute with Malaysia.
32 % - It is caused mainly by the ban on export of fish from Malaysia.
21 % - We can eat other meat, rather than fish.
5 % - It is all right. Only during the festive season.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Security of food supplies

In the future, the supply of food will be uncertain. During glut periods, the prices will drop. During shortages, the prices will increase sharply.

Here are the possible ways to deal with the situation:

a) Let the market handle it. If the food prices are too high, the people can look for alternative food.

b) Stockpile the food during glut periods and introduce them during shortages.

c) Introduce govt control to speculating on the food shortage to raise the prices and make excessive profit.

Most countries adopt the approach to leave it to the market. It seemed to work well.

Some countries had adopted stockpiles of food and essential commodities, but most of these measures have been abandoned.

Govt controls did not seem to work in the past. It created a black market.

The challenges in the future, and the imminent shortage in food supply due to increase in world population and climate change require a re-think.

There is an additional risk that we should be aware of. If there is a global shortage, the supplying countries will introduce export controls to protect their people from the shortages. The people in the importing countries, such as Singapore, will have to bear the blunt of these restrictions.

The difficulties in the past of implementing stockpiles and controls may be addressed with modern technology.

If food can be released from govt stockpiles, it will help to moderate the prices. it will increase the supply and the prices will not go too high due to speculation.

It is important that the govt should handle the stockpile as a price moderating measure. The KPI should not be to reduce cost or make profit. The govt should not be a big speculator with the goal to make profit.

If the govt release food from its stockpile and help to moderate prices, will the speculator buy the food at "cheap prices" and export them. This requires govt control over the exports.

The stockpile approach makes it feasible for the govt to have long term agreements with producers in neighboring country to provide food supplies at agreed prices. In normal glut years, these agreed prices are higher than the market. The difference can be borne by the govt, similar to the cost of defence.

It is also possible to allow the local prices to be higher than the world prices, to reduce the burden on the govt. The tradeoff is that the prices will be moderated during shortages.

We are already used to prices of food and many essential items in our cost of living to be higher than other countries, due to our higher cost in Singapore. The higher price to ensure security of food supply will be part of the cost of living in Singapore.

We can look for other ways to reduce the cost of food, but it is better to have measures to provide stability in the food prices, through stockpiles and controls.

Tan Kin Lian

WTOC - Jam at the causeway and second link

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is the cause of the jam in the causeway and second link?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
72 % - It is due to a deliberate attempt by the Singapore authority to slow down the clearance process.
15 % - It is due to tit for tat by both govts.
10 % - It is due mainly to the December crowd going to Malaysia.
3 % - It is a temporary problem and will be solved soon.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Restriction on food export from Malaysia

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will the restriction on food exports from Malaysia have an impact on Singapore?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
64 % - It will cause our food prices to increase
18 % - It will be a temporary measure.
18 % - It will cause a long term change in our food supply.
0 % - It will affect the producers badly as their revenue will drop.

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

WOTC - Quarterly referendum

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singapore introduce quarterly referendums like in Switzerland?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
64 % - It will give the people a chance to express their views on important matters.
28 % - The results of the referendum should guide Parliament in its final decision matter, but should not be mandatory.
5 % - It will be too costly to organize the referendums.
3 % - The referendums will be poorly participated.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Election of town council

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should town council members be voted directly by the residents?

Here are the responses: (40 Votes)
43 % - It is better for the towns to be managed by bureaucrats, i.e. the HDB and civil servants.
28 % - It will make the town council more accountable to the residents.
20 % - It will give more people the opportunity to come forward and serve the people.
10 % - The town councils will be badly managed due to local politics.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, December 24, 2018

Poor service quality

I have observed for several decades that the quality of customer service in Singapore is poor.

I know that the front line staff does their best, but the service is generally bad.

I blame it on the system. It starts with the "terrible" call center system.

This bad system is made worse after the introduction of the privacy and data protection act. Every little information is private and the customers have to climb over tall fences to get service. Nobody seems to apply common sense.

Is Singapore worse than other countries? I think that the customer service is also quite bad in many countries, because they follow the "best practices". These "best practices" are designed by people who do not seem to exercise common sense or do not care about the customer experience.

But I suspect that Singapore is probably worse than most other countries. Why do I say so?

All our males have to serve national service. They spend two years being trained that they have to follow orders, especially SOPs, and that no deviation is allowed.

They carry this mindset when they take leave national service and work in the business world. Our SOP mindset is prevalent.

Five decades of non-thinking mind and strict adherence to SOP can cause a lot of harm. It has.

Tan Kin Lian

A suggestion to create jobs for young people

Someone said that Malaysia faced a big problem of the unemployed graduates. They have to deal with this problem before adopting other economic stimulus measures.

I agree with this view.

However, I must point out that Singapore and many other countries also face this problem. Some countries had tried to solve this problem for more than a decade, but they were not successful.

Let me first give my view of the underlying cause.

It is due primary to the failure of the "free market system". The free market did not identify the problem and could not offer a solution. The situation was allowed to deteriorate for many years and got worse.

The solution is - government intervention.

I know that many people do not agree with me. I still want to say my piece. And I tell these people to give their view, and not to brush me off with "true economics" or other
"conventional wisdom". We had relied on these measure for decades and they did not work, right?

What caused the problems in the first place? Here are my observations:

a) They are many jobs that the young people do not want to do. These jobs pay low wages. Foreigners come in to do these jobs.

b) The young people want to become graduates, hoping to get better paying jobs. But there are too many graduates, relative to the real demand for them.

What government intervention is required? These are the steps that need to be taken:

a) Raise the wages of the low paying jobs, so that the locals are willing to do them. They do not need to pursue a degree at great cost and could not get a job on graduation. It is necessary to set the minimum wage for various kinds of jobs. These minimum wage should be adequate to meet the cost of living. The govt may need to provide wage subsidy for small employers to meet the higher costs.

b) The public sector should set an example to pay proper wages and terms of condition. These jobs should not be outsourced. They should provide the benchmark for jobs in the private sector.

These measures require the government to have adequate revenue to pay the cost. I am in favor of the government collecting more revenue, so that they can take the necessary steps.

I support the following measures to raise the revenue of the government:

a) Introduce a development charge for the develop of properties. This is an efficient form of revenue. It will raise the cost of properties, but the economy can adjust to the higher cost (but it should not be pushed too much).

b) Introduce tariffs on imported goods and levy higher tax on car ownership.

With these revenue measures, the government need to rely less on income tax (which can be avoided) or on GST (which adds cost to business and is regressive).

My suggested measures will increase the cost of living for ordinary people. But the ordinary workers will enjoy higher wages to meet the higher cost, and still have more money to spend.

More importantly, the younger people will be employed, rather then unemployed.

My suggestion is not for Malaysia alone, although it was the start of the conversation.

Many countries, including Singapore, face the challenge of unemployed young people. They also need to find a solution.

Tan Kin Lian

Vandalism of shared bikes

I posted a suggestion to provide shared bike under a public operator.

Some people commented that the problem of vandalism will make it non viable.

I disagree. Here are my reasons:

a) The shared bikes will be declared as public property. Vandalism will be an offence that can be prosecuted by the state.

b) We have existing laws to stop vandalism of public property. It has worked well. We do not see graffiti in public buildings and facilities.

c) The user who last borrowed the shared bike will be responsible to put it back in a designated place. This can be easily tracked.

I cannot understand a negative mindset, that is quite prevalent in Singapore. Some people seem to enjoy looking at the worst case scenario, rather than adopt a positive approach.

I know that it is difficult to change a mindset that has been molded over many years. But I will try.

I am quite confident that the problem of vandalism of shared bikes can be solved.

Suggestion for Malaysia to solve its budget problem

Malaysia is facing financial difficulty. I read a report from an analyst that Malaysia depends a lot on oil revenue and that, without the revenue, Malaysia will be a bankrupt nation.

I wish to give a suggestion to the new finance minister of Malaysia, Mr. Lim Guan Eng, on how he can increase the revenue for the government and also give a lot of spending power for Malaysians.

My suggestion may help to solve the debt problem for the Malaysian govt and also increase the wealth of their citizens.

What is this suggestion?

I will describe it as - follow the successful example adopted by Singapore over the past decades.

I do not want to appear to be arrogant. This approach has also been adopted successfully by many other countries, and in particular, Australia, China, Japan - just to name a few.

My suggestion is - increase the property prices in Malaysia by 20 percent.

How can this help the Malaysian economy?

All existing property owners will feel wealthier through the increased property values of their properties. Just imagine the spending power from the newly created wealth.

How will this increase the revenue of the government?

The government can sell 99 year leasehold land at a high price. It can also levy a development charge of 20% on the value of newly developed property built on privately owned land.

It is similar to the practice in Singapore over the past decades.

The revenue that will accrue to the government will be tremendous. It will provide revenue to the government to meet its budget expenses and also, hopefully, to reduce the debt.

Can buyers afford to pay the higher prices of properties, after the development charge of 20% is applied?

The answer is - yes, look at Singapore. People are paying high prices, even for 99 year leasehold public housing. They can afford to pay the higher prices as they can get bank financing. The banks provide the financing for the higher price of the property

If you look beyond Singapore to many other countries, you will find the same phenomena.

Will this backfire? Maybe it will. Maybe it will not.

This is how I suggest the finance minister approaches the change.

The first step is to announce a policy of imposing a 20% development charge on property development that will be implemented in stages over the next three years. It will start at 5%, and followed by 5% for each following year, until it reaches 20%.

I can imagine a large flood of buyers into the property market, to catch the prices at the lower rates of development charge.

Foreign buyers will also come into the property market in droves. I am sure that the government will want to control the foreign buying in some appropriate way. The foreign buying will strengthen the ringgit currency.

Can Malaysians afford the higher prices of properties? I believe that this should not be an issue, if they can get bank financing.

I repeat - the higher property prices will make existing property owners feel well off. This will unleash a large amount of consumer spending that will be good for the domestic economy.

Will an increase of 20% in property prices be harmful to the economy? I think not. Malaysian properties will still be very inexpensive, compared to properties in Singapore and many other cities.

There will be other ramifications from this policy. I do not have all the answers. I am sure that the finance minister of Malaysia and his economic experts will be able to handle them.

By the way - please give the disputed waters and the air access to Singapore. You do not need it. We do.

And remove the ban on vegetables, fish and eggs. Let your farmers enjoy a higher price for these products during the festive season. Do not force Singapore to look for alternative sources for our food supply.

I wish all the best to the government and people of Malaysia. I hope that you will be able to build a robust economy.

Tan Kin Lian

Make shared bike sustainable

I wish to give my views about shared bikes.

I support shared bikes because it is an important part of an integrated public transport system.

Some commuters need a shared bike to take them from their home to the nearest bus stop or MRT station or for the return journey to their home.

The integrated fare structure for public transport adopted in Singapore made it non-viable for the shared bike operations.

Several operators have ceased operation. I expect the remaining operators to close down soon or later.

We need to find a viable business model for the shared bike operators.

One approach is for a public agency, e.g. a subsidiary of the Land Transport Authority, to set up a shared bike operation as a public service.

It will charge a fee that is sufficient to attract users, but not sufficient to cover the operating cost. It has to be subsidised out, as part of a public transport initiative.

The setting up of this public operator will provide the death blow to the existing operators. This will be unacceptable.

Another approach is for the public operator to buy over the existing operations, but negotiation of the price will be difficult.

A better approach is for the govt to subsidise the private operators. This subsidy can take this form:

a) Waiver of all license fee.

b) A subsidy of x cents for each ride, to reduce the cost to the user.

All registered users should be required to pay a deposit and to top up a wallet to use the shared bike. The deposit and wallet should be held by the public operator, and not the private operators.

The wallet will be used to pay the ride, and any penalty for not observing the rules.

The use of a common wallet means that the user can use the shared bike of any private operator.

All the private operators will use a common app provided by the public operator. The public operator can negotiate to buy over an existing app for an appropriate price.

The private operator will become the sub-contractor of the public operator to provide a fleet of shared bikes, to take care of the maintenance of the bikes, and to manage the operations. They will get a fee for each ride, based on a rate that is set by the public operator.

The fee may be higher than the rate that is charged to the users (who are the commuters). The difference will be the subsidy to be provided by the govt.

We have the opportunity to create a sustainable shared bike operation as part of an integrated public transport system. This can be a showcase to other cities. I hope that the govt will take it up.

Tan Kin Lian

Food outlets are struggling

A friend joined Genki Sushi recently. I asked him about business, as I recalled that Genki Sushi had to close down several outlets recently.

He told me that they reduced their outlets in Singapore.

Their outlets in Malaysia are doing well. The outlets in Indonesia are okay.

But Singapore is struggling. Not only Genki Sushi. Other food outlets are also suffering.

Genki Sushi also had another problem with their loss on commodity trading. But it is a separate matter.

Restaurant is expensive

A friend went for lunch at a Siamese restaurant. The bill was $200 for four people. It was expensive.

Another friend went for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. The bill for 5 adults and 2 children was $300, after Fave discount. It was expensive.

It is very expensive in restaurants in Singapore. They need to charge high prices to meet their operating costs. Still, many could not survive.

It is better to eat at the hawker center at $7 per head.

Good old days

Life was better in the old days - 50 years ago.

Those who were better educated could get a job in an office or with the govt.

Those who were not well educated could get a job as a trader, craftsman, factory worker or shopkeeper.

Most workers earned enough to raise a family and even had many children. The cost of living was low.

We have made a lot of progress in five decades, but the quality of life and the security of the future had deteriorated.

WOTC - Dispute with Malaysia

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Why is PM Lee quiet during the current dispute with Malaysia?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
51 % - He is not exercising proper leadership and taking responsibility.
26 % - It is better for him to keep quiet and avoid making the situation worse.
21 % - He handled the situation poorly, so it is best to let other people solve the problem.
3 % - He prefers to give the younger leaders a chance to deal with this dispute.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Tan Chuan Jin

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Why is Tan Chuan Jin quite popular among the younger leaders?

Here are the responses: (36 Votes)
56 % - He is only better than the other ministers who are disliked by the public.
28 % - He is more approachable and compassionate and in touch with the ground.
11 % - People sympathise with him for losing a ministerial post.
6 % - He does his job as Speaker of Parliament well

See the pie chart at:

A rigid and narrow mindset

A friend told me that he observed a significant change in his son after the son completed National Service.

a) He thinks in terms of SOP (standard operating procedure). When he encounters a problem, he looks for SOP.

b) He has the attitude of "what's in it for me" (WIIFM). In his interactions with his parents and friends, he has the attitude of doing only what is required. To do more, he needs to be clear that there is some benefit that will accrue to him.

He thinks that this attitude was developed during the time that the son spent in NS.

However, be observed that this mindset was not obvious in another son who completed NS. He thinks that this could depend on the division that the conscript was posted to .

I have also observed many people with a rigid and narrow mindset and a selfish attitude. I also suspect that the training in NS contributed to it.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

We need a strong defence

I am in favor of a strong defence. But it has to be "defence". It does not justify overspending on military to be perceived by others as "aggression".

Some people take the current dispute with Malaysia as the justification for the high spending (about $15 billion a year) on defence. This is more than twice the sum that Malaysia spends a year to cover a land area that is 450 times of Singapore.

Do we really need to spend so much for "defence"?

It is clear that we have a superior military capability than Malaysia. That is why are de-escalating the tension over the disputed waters.

But does it really solve the dispute? The follow through is a ban on vegetables, fish and eggs for a few months in a year. It may be increased. But I hope that it will be reduced.

Can a strong military defence ensure the continued supply of these fresh food items?

It is clear that a strong military capability, one that is far stronger than the neighboring countries, does not solve the problem.

The people will have to pay a high price for the excessive military spending in the first place, and for the economic consequences of a strong military posture, i.e. the high prices that follow through other retaliatory measures, such as disruption of food supplies.

I advocate negotiation, backed by an adequate military capability. I do not advocate superior military strength that others may perceive as "aggression".

I speak for the future good of Singapore. This is my view. It does not justify warmongers to label me as being "disloyal" or acting out of self interest.

Tan Kin Lian

Funding of the US govt

The US govt has shut down 25% of its services. About 25% of the employees will stop work temporarily due to lack of govt funding.

This has happened before, and is expected to be temporary. The US Congress and the President will have to agree on some compromise to get the agencies funded for another three months.

This circus will continue every three months.

What is the problem with the US govt? They are not collecting enough taxes to pay for their social welfare, health care, military and other federal govt services.

For several years, they have relied on increase the debt. The US govt is now the biggest debtor in the world.

The solution is - collect more taxes. But they can't. The ordinary people can't afford to pay more taxes. Most of them are struggling to meet the high cost of living with low wages.

The people who can afford to pay more taxes are the super rich, forming the top 1%. These people 27% of the total income in the country. They do not need so much. They can afford to pay more taxes to fund the govt.

Instead of asking the super rich to pay more taxes, President Trump had cut their taxes. This has led to a bigger shortfall of funding for the govt. It is ridiculous. It is madness.

How can America solve this problem? It has to increase tariffs on its imports and raise the taxes for its corporations and the super rich.

The tariffs on imports should be applied to all countries and not on selected countries. It is a revenue raising measure.

I share this article on the role of tariffs in the first half of the twentieth century, prior to the move towards globalization and free trade.

I find it strange that the justification for free trade was made by the economist David Ricardo almost two centuries ago. The world economy had changed beyond recognition, but we are still relying on outdated theories.

The problem faced by America is evidence of the problem of the globalized economy. I am in favor of tariffs and a more protectionist world.

Tan Kin Lian

Security of food supplies

Singapore now has to worry about food security.

Malaysia used to be our main source of supply for chicken, eggs, fish and vegetables.

The supply will be disrupted by an export ban placed by their govt for four months in a year. They gave the reason of local shortages during the monsoon seasons. But it is also partly due to the recent dispute over the water and air access.

Singapore is diversifying its sources of food supply. It is now discussing with the Philippines on increasing imports of these products from that country.

But the cost of the products will be higher, due to distance. There are also health and food safety issues to be dealt with.

Supplies from the Philippines could also be disrupted due to weather and political reasons.

We should also expand our sources to include most Asean countries.

A better solution is an agreement for the long term production and purchase of these food supplies.

The farmers in these countries will benefit from the guaranteed prices that are provided in long term contracts. Their livelihood will not be subject to uncertainties of supply and demand.

In the old days, the buyers benefit by the uncertainty, which could depress prices due to over production by the farmers.

Those days will be gone. The balance of power will go to the producers. In times of shortage, the prices can shoot up many times.

We need to pay more for the assurance of a steady supply.

It is clear that prices of food will now increase, and by a big margin. It will add to the high cost of living in Singapore.

Will our govt be able to find a suitable response? If not, the high cost of living will hit hard on the people.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Protect against retrenchment

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How can employees protect against retrenchment?

Here are the responses: (40 Votes)
38 % - Join a trade union and get the union to bargain collectively for retrenchment benefit.
35 % - Have personal saving to protect against loss of job.
20 % - Be more productive, so that the employer will find it difficult to get a replacement.
8 % - Retain some special knowledge as a bargaining chip.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Retrenchment benefit

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should companies be required to provide retrenchment benefit?

Here are the responses: (42 Votes)
79 % - It should be mandatory after the employee has served at least 5 years of service.
10 % - It should be left to collective bargaining between the employer and the trade union.
7 % - This is not necessary as the employer has contributed to CPF.
5 % - A non-bargainable employee can negotiate for it as a term of employment. 

See the pie chart at:

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Be customer focused

I share this episode as an example of the need for our big organizations to be more customer focused.

I received a card in my letter box from SingPost. They could not deliver a parcel. I have to bring the card to the POP station (1 mile away) to collect the parcel.

I went to the POP station, scanned the bar code on the card and got a message - Status unknown.

What does this mean? I tried it again, and got the same message.

Later in the evening, I called their call center. It was the typical "bad" call center. I was asked to enter my telephone number and put on hold for several minutes. I kept getting the tiring message that my call is important. Hypocrites!

Finally a staff answered. I explained the situation and gave her the delivery note number. It was a complicated number with many digits and letters. Why does the delivery number have to be so complicated? They cannot simplify it?

The staff also asked for my telephone number. I told her that it was already entered earlier by the automated system. Why ask me to enter it, when they do not wish to use it?

The staff checked the system and after a while told me that the parcel was delivered. Apparently, the postman made a re-delivery and was successful.

But no one told me about the re-delivery. I had to make a trip to the POP station needlessly.

The card did not tell which item was contained in the parcel. It only showed the delivery note number, without a description of the content and without the purchase order number.

SingPost only think about themselves, and not the customer experience. Okay, this is typical of the approach used by big organizations in Singapore.

An organization like SingPost handles many deliveries each day for the past few decades. Surely, they would have known that their process is giving problems to customers? No one cares to rectify it?

I received a request to participate in a survey. It was the typical badly designed, inconsiderate survey form. I gave them a 0 score for a few questions.

Tan Kin Lian

Planning a future in Forest City

I have just bought an office unit at the landmark tower in Forest City. It is next to the transport hub and the sales gallery. I have earlier bought a 3 bedroom apartment.

Here are some reasons why people think that this is a mistake.

a) The new PM is against Forest City.
b) The new govt may impose further restrictions and new taxes.
c) Is there a risk that this project will collapse?

Here are the reasons why I decided to make the purchase:

a) I am able to get an attractive price, due to the uncertainty.
b) I have spare cash and does not need to rely on bank financing.
c) I am looking at 20 years ahead. Will Dr. M last 20 years?

What will Singapore be like in 20 years' time? We may be in big economic trouble due to our high cost and a more protectionist world. One of my grand children may wish to live or work in Forest City.

I will probably not be around to find out.

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