Saturday, May 19, 2018

Why GST does not need GST, unlike other countries

In this extract of a video, I explained why many countries need GST but Singapore does not need GST. We should get rid of GST to reduce the cost of living and the burden faced by ordinary people.

You can watch the full video here:

Review our National Service policy

There were 3 deaths of NS men while under training in recent weeks.

What should be done?

The first step is for the government to pay a compensation of $500,000 for each NS men who dies during training or under full time or reservist service.

In an earlier survey, the majority voted that the compensation should be $1 million. I think that this sum is too high. I would prefer a more modest sum of $200,000. So, $500,000 would be a compromise.

Will this cost a lot of money to the government? No, it will be petty cash (I would not call it "peanuts"), compared to a defence budget of more than $10 billion a year.

I expect the SAF to be more serious about improving the safety protocol for the soldiers. But a higher compensation would help them to work more actively in this direction.

I also like to ask for NS men to be given a higher allowance, perhaps $1,500 a month. I believe that a soldier earns a higher salary. Why should the country continue to exploit the conscripts?

If the cost of keeping the conscripts is higher, I would expect the SAF to be more creative in improving the training for the conscripts. Perhaps they do not need to keep the ordinary soldiers for two years. Maybe, it can be reduced to one year.

Maybe, they find it better to have a bigger professional army and stop the conscription. I understand that Taiwan is adopting this approach.

It is time to review the training method for our conscripts. It is also time to stop the exploitation of the conscripts (i.e. slave labor).

I hope that the recent and unnecessary deaths will make the SAF and the government review the current policy.

I also hope that more people will speak out on this matter. Please share your views.

Tan Kin Lian

Bread and butter issues at next general election

If these bread and butter issues are not solved by the 2020, the PAP will lose their majority in Parliament at the next general election. However, they will still hold the most seats.

See the similation of the results at:

Disclaimer. This is based on the average swing voted by participants in a survey.

Opening of Jewel in Changi

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Will we face a serious traffic congestion at Changi Airport when the Jewel opens?

Here are the replies:

41% - After a while, it will be a white elephant
30% - It will be temporary; the novelty will wear off after a few weeks
19% - We already have too many shopping malls in Singapore
11% - It will be a permanent hit. We need to improve the traffic access.

89% are pessimistic about the future of the Jewel in Changi.

See the breakdown of the votes in

How to get 4G leaders to listen to the people

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - How can we get the 4th generation leaders to listen to the people?

Here are the responses:

63% - We should stop getting them elected through the GRC system.

22% - We should stop getting ex SAF generals to become ministers.

7% - They can't. It will be a waste of time.

7% - They are quite intelligent and will adapt to the new situation.

93% are negative about their ability to listen to the people.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Swing against PAP

What issues will cost the largest impact on the PAP at the next general election?

Here are the results voted by participants. The Swing is the vote against the PAP.

You can see which constituencies will fall to the opposition based on these factors by trying the simulation at

Friday, May 18, 2018

Sale of life insurance products by banks

Mdm T went to a bank to buy Singapore Savers Bond. The bank officer recommended to her a 3 year deposit that gave a guaranteed return of 2% plus an upside that she did not understand .

She signed several documents, including an authorisation to transfer $100,000 from her account. She did not get any of the documents that she signed.

I found out that she had bought a single premium policy from a life insurance policy. She was not fully aware about it at the time of sale. She was not given any benefit illustration of the policy, which was against the regulations.

Mdm T thought that she had made a deposit for 3 years.

It is dangerous for banks to be allowed to sell third party products in this manner. Many consumers have been misled into investing in life insurance products which has penalties and high charges that they were not fully aware of.

It is advisable for the bank to give to the customer a copy of all the documents that they had signed. They should also give the benefit illustration of the life insurance contract that was sold to the customer. This is to avoid misunderstanding and mis-selling.

A better approach is for the Monetary Authority of Singapore to disallow banks from selling life insurance products. Let the products be sold by the appointed agents of the life insurance company.

Tan Kin Lian

Get rid of bad and wasteful practices

There is a bad and wasteful practice that has been carried out in our government departments and agencies for several decades.

Each year, the Ministry of Finance approve a budget for the deparment or agency to spend during the year.

The amount spent is used to determine the budget for the following year.

At the end of the year, if there is any budget that is not spent, the head of the deparment or agency will spend that balance on unnecessary items so that their budget for the following year is protected.

My friend supplies scientific and test equipment for schools and universities. He told me that many of the schools purchased equipments that they do not need and they are kept in the store rooms.

I have heard similar stories from many sources over the years.

Is there a better and more responsible way to spend public money?

The answer is "yes" and money must be spend in a responsible way. They should be spent on items that are "necessary" and can have cost savings that is justified by the expenditure.

The head of the deparment or agency needs to have some guide on what is reasonable and necessary. This can be based on a guideline of $X per head count or per citizen that is served.
The $X depends on the activity of the department or agency.

This $X is based on the amount that is required each year. It is NOT based on the amount that is spent during the previous year.

There is case to argue that if money is not spent last year, it should be allowed to be carried forward to the following year - if the expenditure is still necessary and useful.

What I have said is clearly common sense. Why is the government, and the ministry of finance, adopting practices that are ridiculous and wasteful?

Well, it is time for the minister minister and the government to wake up and look for more "common sense" practices.

Tan Kin Lian

Foolish for PAP government to collect GST

Governments in many countries like GST because the cost of collection is low for the government. They do not care that the burden and cost of collecting this tax is being borne by the business sector and ultimately is paid by the ordinary people.

The cost of collecting GST adds to the burden that is already being suffered by the people at large.

Furthermore, GST is a regressive tax and hurts the low income people much more than the higher income people.

It is extremely foolish for the governments to think in this short sighted way. They should look at the overall cost borne by all parties, rather than the cost to the government.

The govenrment should also be aware and take into account that GST adds to the cost of doing business and make a country uncompetitive in the international market.

It will be wise for a government to avoid GST, if they can raise the revenue from other sources.

The Singapore government already raises revenue from land sale, sale of property, sale of cars and from foreign workers levy. They can afford to abolish GST and reduce the burden for the people.

It is extremely foolish of the PAP government to continue to impose the GST burden on the people.

Do you agree?

Tan Kin Lian

Website for retired journalists

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Which name do you prefer to my website for retired journalists to post their articles?

Here are the votes:
Insights - 40%
MyThoughts - 34%
SaveTheNews - 20%
MyTake - 6%

See the breakdown of the votes in

Swing towards Pakatan Harapan

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Which factor has the most impact on the swing towards Pakatan Harapan?

Here are the responses:

45% - GST and the cost of living
43% - Tun Mahathir entry into Pakatan Harapan
7% - split of the Malay votes
6% - social media.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Extension of lease for old HDB flats

The minister for national development raised two issues concerning the extension of lease for HDB flats:

a) Some flats are in poor condition and the repairs are costly
b) There is insufficient land for redevelopment.

I find both issues to be overstated.

While repairs may be costly, the owner will be able to decide if they wish to meet this cost or to give up the flat. It will be even more costly to buy a new flat.

There will be sufficient land to house the existing population together with natural increase.

The land may be insufficent to house a large influx of immigrants, but it is a separate matter.

I suggest that the government takes this approach: Offer extention of lease for 5 to 10 years provided that the old HDB flats are still in habitable condition and there is no plan for redevelopment.

The prospect of extension of lease will help to preserve some value in the HDB flat and also lessen the trauma faced by the existing tenant to look for a new accommodation at a unknown high cost.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, May 17, 2018

More efficient ways of collecting tax revenue

I prefer a system of import duties and excises imposed on manufacturers to collect revenue for the country. This was used in the past by most governments to raise revenue.

I dislike GST as a way to collect revenue, as it increases the cost of administration.

Let me explain the differences.

Suppose a company imports 1 million packages of snacks. They pay import duty only once on the import.

Under the GST system, the retailers all over the country have to collect GST on every package that is sold to the consumers. It means the GST has to be collected and accounted one million times.

Why do it 1 million times when it can be done once?

It is also easier to decide that items need to attract import duty or can be exempted.

The tax accountants may argue that the retailers are able to reduce the work if they have a computer system to handle the transactions. But some of the retailers are small businesses and it can be costly to buy the computer systems. They have to employ staff to handle these systems.

The same concept can apply to all items that are to be taxed, such as cigarettes, petrol, water, etc. The revenue can be collected at the source, i.e. the import or production of these items, rather than at the point of sale.

Tax on services can be collected at the point of sale. This can apply to restaurants and hotels and professional services, such as lawyers and lawyers.

In the case of Singapore, we do not need most of these revenues because the government already collects them from big ticket items, such as the sae of land, sale of property and sale of cars.

I wish to see most countries abolish their GST and revert tomore efficient ways of collecting their tax revenue.

Do you agree?

Tan Kin Lian

Review of insurance policies

The consumer has bought 6 insurance policies from two companies. He has made a tentative decision on which policies to give up but he wanted to consult me before making his final decision.

The policies are:

Smart Protect (RP) II
Mortgage Care
Early Cancer Care
PA - Sapphire Plan 3
Total Shield
Supreme Health (CPF)
Eldershield Comprehensive (CPF)

Read the results of the review in…

Training of recruits

Recently, a conscript died from heat stroke while under training.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Are you satisifed with the manner in which our conscripts are trained?

61% of the respondents said that the trainer who abused their power should be punished.

20% said conscripts should be treated with respect.

15% said that we should avoid harsh and unncessary punishment.

4% said we need rigorous training to build competent soldiers.

See the pie chart and breakdown of the votes in

Chair of ASEAN

Lee HL as prime minister of Singapore took over as chair of ASEAN in 2018.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Did Lee HL performed well as the chair of ASEAN so far?

74% of the respondents said that he did not accomplish much.

14% said after an active start, he has given up the effort somewhat.

7% said he made a good impact.

5% said he was able to rally the other nations to be more active.

Summary: 12% are positive, 88% are negative.

See the breakdown of the votes and the pie chart in

best way to reduce inequality

The next generation leaders in Singapore said that their focus is to reduce inequality.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - What is the best way to reduce inequality in Singapore

Here are the results from the respondents.

30% - implement a minimum wage.
30% - abolish GST
22% - create public sector jobs reserved for citizens.
18% - give a monthly allowance to retirees and poor families.

See the breakdown of the votes and the pie chart in

Does everyone need to have a degree?

Recently, many graduates from private universities found it difficult to get good paying jobs.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Does everyone need to have a degree?

Here are the replies.

40% - we need to pay higher wages to attract people to non graduate jobs.

27% - it is better for some people to develop their skills and work experience early.

19% - A degree is a good way to ensure their future career progress.

15% - We should avoid having too many graduates who cannot find jobs.

Summary - 81% no, 19% yes

See the breakdown of the votes and the pie chart in

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reduce inequality in Singapore

A few of the 4G leaders are now saying that they wish to tackle the inequality in Singapore.

This inequality means that the gap between the high and low income earners is very wide, and is probably among the worst in the world.

This inequality can be achieved by paying higher wages to those who are earning low incomes and getting the high income earners to pay more tax.

The fear is that the higher tax may lead to the higher income earners moving to other countries. I do not agree with this "fear" because most of the high income earners, such as doctors, lawyers, corporate executives and political leaders earn their high income from Singapore and cannot just "move to other countries".

However, I will just set aside the question of getting the high income earners to pay more tax.

If most poople can earn enough to lead a comfortable life, they do not really care that the rich are much better off then them.

Therefore, it is important to have a strategy that ensures that citizens are able to get jobs that pays wages that are adequate to meet the cost of living in Singapore. 

I suggest the following strategies.

a) We have to pay higher wages to those at the lower income level. This can be done through a minimum wage policy. Most countries have this policy. Singapore should follow them.

b) The public sector jobs should be reserved only for citizens. Citizens are not willing to take up some jobs because the wages are too low, We have to raise the wages to a level that will get citizens to take up these jobs. I am referring to jobs of nurses, transport workers and police officers. The higher wages in the public sector will set the benchmark for the private sector.

c) We also have to make the private sector employers prefer to employ citizens, rather than foreign workers. Right now, most private sector employers, especially the small and medium size enterprises, find the cost of doing business to be too high. They prefer to employ foreign workers who are willing to accept lower wages than citizens. This situation has to be corrected. The government has to impose a levy for employing foreigners and give a subsidy for employing citizens. The levy and subsidy should be high enough to tilt the balance in favor of employing citizens.

d) It is also important to bring down the cost of living, which is too high now. This cost can be reduced by up to 10% by abolishing GST entirely. There is no nee for the government to collect revenue from GST as they already have more than adequate revenue from other sources.

e) The government should also take effective steps to reduce the cost of education (i.e. private tuition) and health care. Currently, these expenses are too high, due to lack of control of the market forces.

The best way to reduce the income gap is to pay higher wages, to ensure that citizens can have jobs, and to reduce the cost of living. If the majority of the citizens can earn enough to meet the cost of living, it does not matter that some people are earning much more than them.

This approach will automatically reduce the gap between the low and high income earners.

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Many high income earners fall for this scam

Over the past 15 years, I have seen several variations of an investment linked policy with high charges that were not disclosed to the consumer and were usually sold fraudulent by the financial adviser.

If you earn a high income and wish to take risk to earn a good return on your savings, you could fall victim to this kind of scam.

Many of the victims are high income, financially savvy and well educated.

Read more about this kind of policy at…

How to cope with the CPF mess

Here are some solutions to solve the CPF mess.

1. Not happy with the low interest rate? Use our ordinary and special account to invest in the STI ETF under the CPF Investment scheme. The long term rate of return was 9% p.a. in the past 20 years. Moving forward, you should be able to earn 6% p.a. (my guess).

2. Cannot buy HDB flat with less than 60 years lease? Wait for the government to change the policy. When they relax the current restriction, you can buy the old HDB flats at a much lower price than new flats (also called BTO). You will also enjoy a grant for buying the old flats (also called resale flat). Just wait, OK?

3. You want to take out cash at 55? Yes, you can provided that you have sufficient money in the special account for CPF Life. When you are young, do not spend too much on your property. This will leave you with cash that you can take out at 55. If you invest your money properly, in the STI ETF that I have recommended, you should be able to get out a good sum.

4. Do not spend too much on health insurance. Just stay with Medishield Life. Avoid the integrated plan, which is too costly. If you need medical treatment, you can go to B2 ward (it's okay) and pay the co-payments using Medisave. Do not take out too much money from Medisave - it is really your own money. If you don't spend it, you can withdraw the excess, above the minimum sum, at 55 or later years.

5. Inadequate savings due to fluctuating contribution rates? Never mind. Just have additional savings on your own and invest them in the STI ETF also.

6. What to do with the confusing CPF insurance scheme - namely, the X, Y and Z Life schemes? Never mind. Just buy them if they are compulsory. Choose the cheapest option. If not, treat it as a tax. One day, maybe, the government will stop these schemes or make them give better value.
I hope that you like my tips.

Tan Kin Lian

CPF is now in a mess

Our CPF system is now in a mess. Here are the problems:

a) The contribution rate is not predictable. It changes with the economic cycle and can be cut severely in a recession.

b) The contribution rate decreases when a person passes age 55.

c) There are too many uses for CPF savings - health, retirement, housing.

d) The interest rate is depressed, relatively to the yield from a diversified portfolio.

e) Foreign workers do not contribute to CPF - making them less costly to employers compared to local workers.

f) New and complicated schemes keep being introduced, causing confusion to the public - Medisheld Life, Eldershield Life, CPF Life.

g) Many people want to withdraw their savings in cash, but are not allowed to.

h) Young people cannot use the CPF savings to pay for property with leases less than 60 years, leading to a low demand for old HDB flats.

i) The savings set aside for health care are used wastefully, leading to inflated cost of health care.

How can the government sort out this mess and give clarity to the people on how they can plan their CPF savings for their financial needs?

Tan Kin Lian

Should PM Najib sue the people who accuse him of stealing money?

During the election campaign, a few candidates accused PM Najib of stealing money.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should PM Najib sue candidates who alleged that he stole money?

39% of the respondents said that he cannot sue them because he did steal the money.

30% said that he will not sue them because it will cause a backlash against him.

20% said that he should sue them to protect his reputation.

11% said that he cannot sue them because the law allows free speech during election rally.

A total of 80% said that he should not sue the accusers.

See the breakdown of the votes and pie chart in

Is PM Najib bribing the voters with goodies?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Is PM Najib bribing the voters by promising goodies if BN wins that constituency?

40% of the respondents said that it is blatant buying of the votes.

32% said that Singapore also follows this practice of promising development works.

18% said that it sets a bad example for the government.

10% said that it is a legitimate action that most political parties do.

See the breakdown of the votes and pie chart in

Monday, May 14, 2018

Is it good for Li Hongyi to enter politics?

There is speculation that LHL's son Li Hongyi will be a future prime minister.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Is it good for Li Hongyi to enter politics?

46% of the respondents said that he is not suitable due to his background and upbringing.

25% said that he should be allowed to enter politics in his own right.

23% said no, the people will consider it as nepotism.

6% said yes, we should use all the talents in Singapore.

Positive 31%, negative 69%.

See the pie chart and breakdown of the votes in

Does LHL share the same values as LKY?

I asked his question in the Wisdom fo the Crowd - Does Lee HL share the same values as his father, Lee KY?

50% said no, even his sister Lee WL said that he has betrayed the values of his father.

31% said that Lee KY is more concerned about the welfare of the people; Lee HL worked for self interest.

10% said yes, both wanted to promote the welfare of the people.

8% said yes, their values are largely similar.

Summary: Yes 18%, No, 81%

See the breakdown of th votes and the pie chart at

Which policy change is best?

asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Which policy change will have the best impact to improve conditions for citizens?

46% of those who voted said - abolish GST

24% said make it cheaper for employers to employ locals by making employers pay a levy on foreign workers and receive a subsidy for employing locals.

17% said, control health care cost.

13% said, reserve public sector jobs for locals.

See the breakdown of the votes and pie chart in

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dealing with corruption in China - the early years

I share this story about Robert Kuok. Twenty years ago, I met his assistant. I asked how does Robert Kuok handle corruption in China, which was quite rampant at that time.

His assistant told me that Robert Kuok was one of the first foreign investor to enter China. He started to develop a golf course in a province in China. The local official asked him how many free golf membership he would get to sign the permit for the land use.

Robert Kuok told him - I can give you as many free membership as you want, but would you dare to accept it?

The official went back and did some checks. He learned that Robert Kuok had close connection with the top people in Beijing. He was afraid that Robert Kuok report report his extortion to the bosses in Beijing.

The official came back with the signed permit and did not dare to ask for free golf membership.

I am telling this story from memory. I might have got the details wrong. But it is not fake news, OK?

Spreading of unverified news

This is my approach towards fake news.

If someone shared an article or video, I said, "Oh, is it?". I do not believe it totally, neither do I reject it. I could be true. It could be fake.

If it is fake, someone will point out that it was fake. And the truth would be revealed.

Sometimes, I was involved in sharing a news or video that turned out to be fake. I did not know that it was fake, and I did not have the information to verify it.

I believe that the sharing helped to reveal the truth.

In the old days, rumors are circulated by word of mouth. There was less opportunity to verify the truth. And many people believed the fake news. It was more harmful.

Today, fake news could be exposed more easily and the truth will be known soon.

Here is an example. Recently, there was a video that was widely circulated. it showed the police investigating bags of currency notes that was alleged to be taken from the house of Najib Razak.

Someone remembered that the video was produced two years earlier and it involved a government official in Sabah. Clearly, the person who used the original video and put it in a different context was producing fake news.

The people who shared it did not realize that it was fake, but the falsehood was discovered quite quickly through the sharing of the video.

We should not have any new law against the sharing of fake news. If there should be a law, it should be targeted against the person who deliberate created it.

We should not stop the sharing of unverified news. Some of them might turn out to be true. This is how malpractice and corruption can be exposed.

If a law is created to stop the spread of unverified news, it would be used by corrupt governments to prevent their corruption from being exposed.

Tan Kin Lian

Funding of political activities

Singapore has regulations to stop foreigners from funding activities that are considered to be "political".

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should foreigners be barred from funding activities deemed to be political?

35% of the respondents said that foreigners should be allowed to fund activities that promote awareness in social and political issues.

27% said that foreigners should not be allowed to interfere in our domestic politics.

24% said that they should only be barred from funding activities that create violence and distrust among the people.

16% said that their funding will create awareness of the rights of citizens.

A total of 76% consider the foreign funding to be useful.

See the breakdown of the votes and pie chart in

Rights and obligations as citizens

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should our people be more aware about their rights and obligations as citizens?

51% of the respondents said that active citizens are good for our society.

45% said that it will make them to be better citizens.

4% said that active citizens will cause disruption in our social order.

A total of 96% prefer the citizens to be more active.

See the breakdown of the votes and pie chart in

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