Saturday, April 28, 2018

Excellent public transport app

I use the app CityMapper regularly.
I enter the location of my home and workplace.

I often ask for directions on how to get from my current location to my home, work or to "an address somewhere". For the last option, the app displayed the locations that I visited recently.

This is an app designed by someone with common sense.

It shows the buses/trains that I have to take and the arrival time of the next bus. It also shows the journey time.

Along the way, it shows me the stops that I have just passed and the remaining stops to the destination.

It is well designed and easy to use.

When I was in Sydney, the app asked me if I wished to change the City. I agred. It then showed me the public transport for Sydney.

It was excellent.

I remembered that the MyTransport app from the Land Transport Authority was voted the best transport app a few years back. I don't know how they got this rating.

Based on my assessment, the voting would be
MyTransport (LTA) - 2 out of 10
Citymapper - 10 out of 10.

What do you think?

Upper house of Parliament

Many countries struggled with getting the right system of governance.

Singapore adopted the "Elected President" approach. It is unique, as no other country followed this system.

America has a senate where the members are directly elected by the people.

The UK has a House of Lords comprising of people appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister or who inherited their seats.

Canada has a Senate that are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.

All systems have their advantages and drawbacks. I prefer the Canada system, although it has its share of controversies.

The reform instituted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is quite good. It will ensure that the Senate play a useful and effective role in commenting on legislation and remove the partisan voting.

This is worth reading.

Should GST be totally abolished?

GST was introduced in Singapore in 1994 at the rate of 3%. Over the years, it has increased to 5% and now 7%. The government announced that it will be increased to 9% in a few years time.

Most people have got used to GST. They asked the government to keep it at 7%.

I disagree. I wanted GST to be totally abolished.

I posted this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should GST be abolished?

58% of the respondents said that GST should be totally abolished as the government had sufficient revenue from other sources. Its abolished will have a major impact in reducing the cost of living.

23% said that we should keep GST but waived it for essential items.

13% said that we should keep GST but reduce the rate to 5% or 3%.

5% said that we should increase GST to 9% to give more money to the goverment to spend on social programs.

See the breakdown of the votes in

What is fake news

I heard a comment that Png EH might not be fielded for the next general election as the candidate for Hougang under the Workers Party. He also said that Png has not been appearing in wakes in the constitutency recently.

I do not believe this "rumor". But I do not consider it as "fake news". The person who told me might have heard it from somebody else, and he did not verify it. I do not think that he "fake" the news out of the blue.

Somebody else could have "fake" the news or made a mistake. Maybe Png was absent from a wake or two due to his schedule.

This is how the rumor mill works. It has been around for decades or centuries. With technology and the use of fake identity, the rumor could travel in the social media quite quickly.

Sometimes, I shared a news that may be untrue. I thought it was true, but did not verify it. It does not cause any problem. Someone will point out the other source and I could delete the post or make a correction.

A few gullible people might have believed it (and I did!). But the "wisdom of the crowd" has a self correcting mechanism.

There is another common incident. I often get an item that appears in my newsfeed. The natural instinct is to believe that this is "current news". Sometimes, it turned out to be old news, so the timing is out of context.

This is easy to correct. Someone would have pointed out that it was "old news". I delete it immediately.

I now pay attention to check the date. But I might still overlook this check.

Sometimes, somone shared an old news without stating that it was dated. Sometimes, the old news appeared automatically by the algorithm of the website, which recycled the old news.

As I considered this context, I think that the effort by the government to legislate against the creation and spread of "deliberate fake news" is difficult.

I also consider that there is value in allowing the free flow of information, including untruths. Let these untruths be sorted out through the process of vetting. The alternative is to allow the rumor mills to continue unabated, even though the social media is silenced.

On balance, it is better to continue with the current situation or status quo, and let the existing laws deal with the matter.

Do you agree?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Allow CPF to be used for shorter HDB leases

Owners of HDB flats with remaining lease less than 60 years find it difficult to sell their flats. The new buyer is not able to get a bank loan or to use CPF to pay for these flats, with a few exceptions.

A possible solution is to allow CPF to be used to pay for HDB flats that are less than 60 years, but longer than 30 years.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should the government allow CPF to be used for leases of at least 30 years?

51% of the respondents supported this move as it would free up the market for old HDB flat. 20% said that all leasehold properties are depleting assets as it is a matter of degree.

A total of 71% support this change in policy.

The remaining 29% are against this change for two reasons - they said that CPF should not be used for a depleting asset and they said that the HDB flat prices should be allowed to drop sharply to attract buyers.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Are most Singaporeans self centered and selfish by nature?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Are most Singaporeans self centered and selfish by nature?

54% of the respondents said that it is difficult to be generous when most Singaporeans have to struggle from day to day.

28% replied that this is definitely the case and it is a bad trait.

16% said that most people are self centered and selfish and that Singaporeans are not worse off.

A total of 98% agreed with this statement but provide some justification for this trait.

Only 2% think that Singaporeans are generous and helpful.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Dilemma of low rental for hawker stalls

During the first 20 years of the PAP government, they provide low rentals for hawker stalls. The stall holders were able to sell their food at low prices and to make a living. It helped to create meaningful employment and lower the cost of living.

Singapore was known to be a place where you could get good and inexpensive food. It was a competitive advantage for Singapore, compared to other countries.

There was a problem. Some stall holders were able to get the stalls at low rentals and they sublet the stalls to the actual operators and kept the profit. The actual operator had to sell the food at a higher price.

Subletting was not allowed under the terms of the rent agreement. The HDB had a difficult time to investigate the illegal subletting and to take back the stalls.

In some cases, the tenant on record claimed that they were employing the people who were running the stall. Sometimes, they said that they were old, and not able to operate the stall successfully.

It was probably this practice of illegal subletting that made the government at that time decide to increase the rentals to the market rate. They did not want the tenant on record to be a middleman and benefit from the cheap rental.

This was a policy mistake. The government should have just allowed the tenant on record to sublet the stall, provided that they make an application and give a valid reason.

Each tenant is allowed to rent only one stall. It is usually given to people who are in financial need, e.g. the elderly poor or families who are not able to get a steady source of income from work.

Many of these tenants will operate the stall on their own. A small percentage will sublet the stall. Let the tenant on record keep the small margin as a source of income that they need.

There is a fear that the practice of subletting, if allowed on a large scale, will lead to high food prices. This is not likely to happen. Subletting is allowed only on application. The number of approvals can be controlled.

The competition in the food center will ensure that the prices remain at a low level. If a stall holder wants to charge a high price, most customers would patronize the other stalls.

When the government decides to open new food centers, they could have adopted the old practice and rent out the stalls to needy operators at low rentals. This would help to moderate prices and provide employment and a source of income to the operators.

Maybe, there is still a chance for the government to take this approach.

What do you think?

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Standard and specially designed insurance products

There are two types of insurance products. I classify them as follows:

a) Standard products offered by many insurance companies and are competitively priced, e.g. personal accident, motor insurance, property insurance, term insurance (covering deaths)

b) Specially designed products which are unique to an insurance company.

Which product should you buy?
Here are my tips.…

The art of listening

Many organizations are afraid to get feedback from their customers or the public.

They do not know how to respond to the feedback, which are usually complaints or requests to change their current practices.

Their front line staff are not well trained in dealing with these feedbacks.

Some of the feedbacks could take more than an hour to resolve and may drag on for several days or weeks.

I have a practical advice on how to deal with these feedback.

The staff should be trained to recognize the difference between :

a) Listening to the feedback; clarify and reconfirm what had happened and
b) Responding to the feedbac.

In many cases, the front line staff respond to the feedback before listening and understanding the issue. This usually leads to a lengthy exhange.

I prefer to have a break between the two parts of the process.

I would listen to the feedback, understand the issue and clarify the concern. If it is straightforward, I would respond to the issue immediately.

If it is complicated or if the first response is not accepted, I would take a break. I would respond to the party that I would seek clarification an give a reply later. 

There is also an art in listening, so that it does not take too much time. If the issue is complicated, I will ask the party to send details by email to me. If they write down the issue, they are more likely to put it in a more concise and clearer manner, compared to talking over the telephone.

By adopting this approach, I keep the conversation short so that I can serve the next customer. 

Most customers are happy with this approach. They will appreciate that the front line staff has taken the trouble to listen.

Tan Kin Lian

How long wil President Xi rule China

China has recently changed its constitution to allow its President to serve more than two terms.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - how long will President Xi rule China?

72% of the respondents said that he will rule for another two terms or longer. That will make him run China for more than 20 years.

The other 28% said that he will rule China for one term or until the completion of the One Belt One Road project.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Will will Desmond Kuek go?

Desmond Kuek has resigned from SMRT after serving over 5 years, amidst problems in the train system.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Where do you expect Desmond Kuek to go after leaving SMRT?

71% of the respondents expect him to run another government linked company.

15% expect him to be the permanent secretary of another ministry or a minister in a few years time.

Only 14% expect him to leave government service.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A look at the performance of Temasek Holdings

Mr Tan
Another big concern I have for Singapore is Temasek seems to be losing alot of money... it will drastically affect our reserves... I am suspecting this is the reason for the tax hikes.

I have not seen evidence that this is the case. Maybe you can read Temasek Holding's annual report and share your findings.

Here is the link to the portfolio performance of Temasek Holdings:

Total Shareholder Return
Total Shareholder Return (TSR) is a compounded and annualised measure, which includes dividends paid to our shareholder and excludes capital injections from our shareholder. Our TSR over short, medium, and long time periods are a snapshot of our performance.

As at 31 March 2017, our Singapore dollar one-year TSR was 13.37%. Our three-year TSR was 7.13% and our 10-year TSR was 4%.

Our 20-year TSR was 6%, versus the Singapore 20-year annualised core inflation of under 2%. Longer term 40-year TSR was 15%.

Our TSR is measured against our risk-adjusted cost of capital, which is derived using a capital asset pricing model. The risk-adjusted cost of capital is built bottom-up, and aggregated over all our investments.

Someone said that the performance of the portfolio is exaggerated by the injection of assets at book value. After these assets are revalued, they showed a large gain, leading to a higher TSR.

I do not know if this is the case. But we have to view the above figures with some sceptism.

Anyway, the 20 year TSR of 6% should be compared with the performance of 9% for the Straits Times Index. In that respect, the performance of TH seems to be lower.

Top funded Startup Tech Companies in Singapore

This is an interesting list of top funded tech companies in Singapore.

Encourage customers to return trays

The National Environment Agency wants to encourage patrons to return their trays. They charge a fee for the tray and refund the fee on the return of the tray. This method is getting a lot of negative feedback.

I have seen a better approach that is adopted in Aperia Mall. They have a tray return counter. Many customers return the tray on their own, without the need for any money charge or refund.

They will still employ a cleaner who goes round the table. But the work of the cleaner is reduced by the effort taken by many customers to return the tray voluntarily.

We should avoid imposing a charge and making a refund. The additional work is also costly. This should be avoided.

I hope that the people in charge use common sense in setting the regulations.

Options for HDB flats at end of lease

There is widespread concern that the HDB flat will have no value at the end of the lease. Many owners find this outcome to be a major disappointment.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - What option should the government allow on the expiry of the lease of HDB flat

45% of those who voted said that the government should pay a compensation to the owner for the value of the building.

31% said that the owner should be allowed to extend the lease for 5 or 10 years by payment of a modest premium.

15% said that the owner should be allowed to rent the flat at a subsided rental.

The remaining 10% said that the government should take back the flat without any compensation.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Depleting value of HDB flats

Will people vote against the PAP due to the depleting value of their HDB flats?

57% of the respondents said that they will vote against the PAP to show their unhappiness. However, of these, 35% said that the loss of votes will not be serious.

The remaining 47% thinks that they will still vote for the PAP due the following reasons:

a) They will vote PAP due to goodies given at the next general election
b) The PAP will change the rules to win their votes
c) They will accept this fact and still vote PAP.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Monday, April 23, 2018

Give your feedback to improve service and working conditions

I am developing a web application called Feedback. I wanted to use the name "Big Ears" but found that it was already used by somebody else.

The Feedback application allows any customer or employee to give feedback to any of 100 organizations in Singapore. These are the organizations that have impact on many people in Singapore e.g. SMRT, Sing Post, hospitals, town councils, government agencies, banks, insurance companies etc.

Any person can view the latest feedbacks submitted by the contributors. They will get a good idea of what is happening in Singapore.

They can see a summary showing the organizations with the most feedbacks and view these feedbacks for the selected organization.

If the specific organization wish to get the contact of the people who submit the feedback, they can request me to create an ID for their staff to login the database. They can contact the contributor to get more information and resolve the issue.

I believe that the feedback will help the organization to improve the service given to its customers.

I also encourage employees to give feedback to the organization on the problems that they face in the daily work. It may be lack of proper tools or difficult work processes. The employees can give the feedback anonymously or give their contacts.

While many organizations have channels for their employees to give feedback, some of these channels may not work well. I hope that this Feedback application can supplement it.

This application will be ready within a week. I hope that you will be able to contribute your feedback.

Any views or suggestions?

Tan Kin Lian

A nasty comment by a nice person

I posted my open letter to the incoming CEO of SMRT in The Independent website. Someone (Mr T). made an unwarranted personal attack on me stating that I lost the Presidential election and my deposit.

I replied that "This is a nasty comment".

Mr. T must have felt hurt. He spend a few exchanges justifying why it was not nasty.

A few of his friends posted that they knew Mr. T and vouched that he was a nice person and was not nasty.

I did not say that Mr. T was nasty. I only said that his comment was nasty.

Many people cannot tell the difference between a nasty comment and a nasty person. Even nice people make nasty comments once in a while.

If Mr. T had made a nasty comment, he should just apologise for being offensive. There is no need to be defensive and justify his "nasty comment". There is no need for his friends to defend him.

I was not able to login to The Independent website to give my replies for a few days. The website owner, whom I knew personallym, said they have technical issues with the website and are trying to fix it.

Unhappy - HDB flats have no value at end of lease

75% of the people who voted in the Wisdom of the Crowd expressed their unhappiness that their HDB flat will have no value at the end of the lease.

Their reasons are:

a) They were misled by the PAP leaders

b) The PAP leaders owe a duty to the HDB owners to preserve the value of their investment

c) They will vote for a new government to find a solution.

Only 25% said that this is what a leasehold is. The HDB owners should accept this legal fact.

See the results here:

To solve this problem, the government should take these steps:

a) Allow CPF to be used for leases shorter than 60 years, so that buyers can get financing to buy the short leases and give liquidity to the existing owners to cash out.

b) Allow owners to extend their lease by 5 or 10 years at the end of the 99 year lease, provided that the buildings are still in good condition and there are no development plans. The owners will have to pay a premium for the extension of lease, but this can be set at an affordable rate.

I hope that the government will take these steps early, as many owners are now panicking and are selling their old HDB flats at depressed prices.

Do you agree?

Tan Kin Lian

Wasteful spending when town council is changed

It is wasteful to have the town council tied to the party that won the constituency.

When the Workers Party won Aljunied, they merged Hougang and Aljunied. When they won Punggol East, the consituency is merged to form Aljunied, Hougang, Punggol East town council.

When they lost Punggol East, the town council is changed back to Aljunied Hougang.

Imagine the cost of changing all the signs and letterheads and printed materials.

This is not only for the constituencies under the Workers Party. There must be changes within the town councils under the People's Action Party as well, e.g. when they won Punggol East.

In most countries, the election of the town council is done at local level. It is not tied to the party where the MP is elected. In fact, the MPs may change, but the local council remains the same.

Can we stop this wasteful spending of money in Singapore?

WTS - Welcome to Singapore.

Leaders who act on real problems facing the people

I posted a question in the Wisdom of the Crowd to select the most respected ASEAN leader.

62% of the respondents select Joko Widodo of Indonesia and 27% selected Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.

Why are they popular with Singaporeans?

I guess that these leaders know the problems faced by the people of their country and take concrete actions to deal with them.

I was suprised that President Duterte had a high score, because he is reported in the media to be using tough and dreadful measures against the drug users and peddlars in the country.

It seemed that people understand that the problems are so large that these dreadful measures are needed.

When I visited Manila two years ago, I spoke to a few Filipinos. This was the opinion that they expressed.

Lee HL scored quite poorly. See

There is a lesson here for our Singapore leaders. The people expect their leaders to know their real problems and to take decision actions to deal with them.

Do you agree?

Open letter in support of Thum Pin Tjin

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Is the open letter in support of historian Tham Pin Tjin an embarrassment for the government?

45% of those who responded said - It does not matter. Our reputation has been quite low anyway.

35% said - This open letter will cause damage to the internatal reputation of Singapore.

The remaining 20% are supportive of the government's action.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Attack on chemical facilities in Syria

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Is America, UK and France justified in attacking the chemical facilities of Syria?

30% of the respondents said - The strikes are measured and are not likely to provoke a retaliation from Russia.

30% said - They do not have any evidence that the Syria government used chemical weapons against its people.

27% said - They have to take action against a horrible regime.

14% said - They are commiting an unjustified attack against a sovereign nation.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Votes for World Leaders

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Which world leader do you respect most?

The votes are:
Xi Jing Ping - 55%
Joko Widodo - 22%
Donald Trump - 10%
Theresa May - 3%
Lee Hsien Loong - 2%

See the breakdown of the votes in

Votes for ASEAN leaders

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Which ASEAN leader do you respect most?

The votes are:
Joko Widodo - 62%
Rodrigo Duterte - 27%
Lee Hsien Loong - 5%
Prayut Chan-ocha - 3%
Hassanah Bolkiah - 2%
Najib Rajak - 0%

See the breakdown of the votes in

Law against "deliberate fake news"

The government wants to pass legislation to stop "deliberate fake news".

I think that the emphasis should be on "deliberate". They want to make it illegal for people to fabricate news that are untrue and spread them to create trouble.

Does this mean that it is not an offence for someone to spread a untrue news if it was not deliberate, i.e. they were not aware that it was untrue? Are they required to verify the truth of the news before they spread it? Are they required to prove that they were not aware that it was untrue?

This can be a tricky question.

What about jokes and satire? Are they considered as "fake news"?

Suppose I said that PM Lee has three legs. I meant it as a joke. How will it be treated?

Sometimes, we spin a story that is not true. But people reading or listening to it will know that it is meant to be a joke or satire. Will the new law make people avoid expressing their view using this means?

Life will be most boring. Already, we are a boring people, who are not willing to voice any opinion. Do we want them to be even totally silent?

I now like to give my views on "news" that I read in the mainstream or social media.

I apply my common sense. Do I believe in what was said? I will usually not trust it entirely, even if it comes from the government. I know that the government has an agenda to slant the news to make them look good.

If it make sense, I trust it. I also rely on the views of other thinking people before I accept it.

Perhaps we should allow people to develop and use their common sense in dealing with "news" rather than pass a law to decide on what is and is not "fake news".

Do you agree?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Send SMS before making a call to an unfamiliar person

This is my advice to marketing people, e.g. property agents, insurance agents and others.

If you are calling a potential customer who do not know you, send an SMS first.

Mr. X. My name is Y from (company). I will call you regarding your (enquiry) at xx pm today. OK?

If the customer is not available at this time, he will reply by SMS and give you an alternative time.

If the customer does not reply, you can call the customer at the stated time. The customer will be expecting your call.

Do not:
Do not call the customer unannoncement. Some will not pick up your call. Others will be annoyed at the unexpected interruption.

HDB flats will have no value at the end of the 99 year lease

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Is it fair for the HDB flats to be worth nothing at the end of the 99 year lease?

30% of those who responded said - the owners have been misled by the PAP leaders into investing a large sum of money in a HDB flat that will have no value eventually.

25% said - this is what a leasehold is. The owner must accept this legal fact.

24% said - we should vote a new government to find a solution.

21% said - the PAP leaders owe a duty to the HDB owners to preserve the value of their investment.

See the breakdown of the votes in

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