Saturday, October 27, 2018

What are the key issues in the Aljunied town council law suit?

I was confused with the issues of the Aljunied town council case as reported in the newspapers.

My friend followed the issues closely and summarised them as follows.

a) Aljunied town council appointed FMSS for one year without calling a tender due to urgency.
b) They called a tender on the second year but only FMSS applied. The other managing agents declined to tender.
c) The $33 million is the total managing agent fees for 3 years.

I calculate the monthly fee to be about $1 million, or $12 a unit assuming there are 80,000 units. If this is 20% higher than average, the overcharge could be $6 million. This is just my calculation.

Should the Aljunied office bearers be made accountable for spending more than expected?

Some calculations are based on my assumptions. I will be correcting them when I get the facts.

Another issue. The Aljunied MPs are paying the legal fees personally? Who are paying the legal fees for the plaintiff? If the residents are paying out of the town council funds, should they be asked to approve the appointment of the legal firm and their fees?

Hold a referendum on section 377A

Desmond Lee said, "Our children have to decide what to do with section 377A".

I consider his response to be:

a) Kicking the can down the road
b) Avoiding responsibility.

What can the minister do?

He can hold a referendum. Allow the citizen to vote using SingPass. This referendum is optional. SingPass ensures that each person can vote only once.

I expect that only the people with strong views on this issue will cast their vote. Those who do not vote are probably happy to go with the majority.

I also expect that certain groups, who are strongly for or against the repeal of section 377A will organize their followers to cast their vote. This will be an excellent exercise in direct democracy.

It will be a good example of a govt that listen to the people.

How to keep the vote secret, when the voter has to register with their SingPass. I know a way.

My method will keep the vote secret, and will also ensure integrity of the votes. I do not need to use blockchain.

What is this way? The minister or Gov Tech can contact me for the answer.

So, minister Lee. Take the initiative. You have a chance to prove that you can do something that has a great impact on the future of this country.

Tan Kin Lian

Why did the Singapore Stock Market Fall?

Received email from Motley Fool, Singapore ...

Dear Foolish reader,

No one saw it coming. Without any warning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 1,300 points in two successive days.

Nobody quite knows why.

It rebounded. Then it fell again. Again no one can adequately explain why.

Some say it was because 10-year Treasury yields unexpectedly jumped above 3.2%, which unnerved the market. The yields have come back down. But still the markets have fallen.

Some say it was because of unhelpful White House comments about the Fed’s interest-rate policy. What’s new?

Excuses, excuses

Some say it was because of fears over an escalation of the Sino-US trade spat. Some say it was because of worries over possible contagion from the ongoing emerging-market currency slump.

Some say it was because of concerns that China’s economy could slow down more than expected. Growth was slowing anyway!

Some say it was because of Brexit. Some say it was because Italy could be kicked out of the Eurozone. Really?

Some say it was because US shares are overvalued. That doesn’t explain why Singapore shares have fallen, though.

Some say it was because oil prices climbed above $80 a barrel. Some say investors are doing a bit of tactical rotation. Some say it is because they are doing a bit of strategic allocation.

Do you get the feeling that “some people” are just making it up as they go along?

It’s very simple

The simple fact is that markets dropped because there were more sellers than buyers of shares. There is nothing more to it than that.

When there are more buyers than sellers in any market, then prices can rise. When the opposite happens - as we have just witnessed - prices can fall. The stock market is no different to any other market.

Take durians as an example. Earlier this year when durians were literally falling off the trees, some vendors in Geylang were even giving away the fruit for nothing. But towards the end of the season, when supplies grew scarce, prices skyrocketed.

No prizes for rightly guessing that I ate lots of durians when prices were at rock-bottom and avoided them when prices were high.

Enough about durians. Back to the stock market.

Unfortunately, many investors don’t know themselves why they have unloaded their shares. They dumped them probably because other people were selling theirs. So tragic.


Sadly, there is no shortage of badly-informed people in the market. They buy when others are buying. They sell when others are selling. They know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

They can be the main cause of volatility in the market because they are driven by the fear of missing out, or FOMO. They are driven by emotions.

They don’t want to miss out by not owning shares when stock markets are rising. So, they buy regardless. They also don’t want to get caught out when stock markets are falling because they happen to be holding shares at the time.

If only they knew what a wonderful place the stock market can be to create wealth for the long term.

Money allocation

But we do. For us the stock market is a great allocation centre where money is moved from the uninformed to the informed.

Warren Buffett said: “Don’t gamble but watch for unusual circumstances. Excellent investment opportunities come about when superior businesses experience a one-time event that depresses their stock price in relation to their intrinsic values.”

We are in the midst of one of those unusual events. But our job is not to forecast whether the market will be higher or lower tomorrow. That is called speculation....

.... Our job is to forecast the yield on the assets we want to buy over the lifetime of those assets. That is called investing.

If you'd like to put our research and advice to work for you, I'd encourage you to take advantage of the discounted price while it's available and join us at Stock Advisor Singapore. (And if you decide that it's not for you at any time during your first 30 days, we'll refund your full membership fee. I don't think you'll need it, but that guarantee is there to give you peace of mind.)

Sound fair? Click here to join for 75% off, today.

'Til next time ...

Inpact of recent events on general election

Here is a simulation of the result of the next general election taking into account the recent events, i.e. failure of new hawker center and court case against the Aljunied MPs.

You can create your own simulation here

Elitism and excellence

Minister Chan Chun Sing said that we should be anti-elitism and not anti-excellence. This phrase sounds impressive. But what does it mean? Is it just another way of ignoring the problem of large inequality?

What can be done to correct the grotesque inequality?

The answer is obvious - introduce a minimum wage of $1,500 per month or $10 an hour.

It has been argued that some employers cannot afford this wage. I agree. But what about the other employers?

But can the National Library Board or Changi Airport afford it? 

Why is the National Library Board paying only $5.50 am hour for their part time assistants?

I don't know what Changi Airport pays, but it probably is much lower than $10 an hour. I read a news report that one elderly worker, 65 years old, was so angry with his job that he changed the destination labels on many luggage mischievously and got them sent to the wrong destination.

I know that Changi Airport made a profit of $849 million last year. Can they afford to give better pay to their workers?

Can they also pay more to their check-in staff, so that more locals will take up the jobs? It is rather sad to see many of these jobs being done by foreigners.

If the minister wants to achieve less inequality, words will not do much. He should get the govt to introduce a minimum wage of $10 an hour or $1,500 a month for all jobs in the public sector.

What about the private sector?

All big and profitable companies can afford the minimum wage. It is not that much, compared to many other countries with lower cost of living.

What about the small employers? The govt can provide a wage subsidy of 30% of the wages, capped at $1,000 a month for each employer.

Some small employers will abuse this subsidy, but they can be handled. The govt just need to pay attention and deal with the abuses. It is not that difficult.

Elitism is a bad word for the current practice of this govt. the govt can remove this bad image by paying a minimum wage in the public sector and help small businesses to provide this minimum wage.

When workers find dignity in their job, and the dignity starts with an adequate wage, they will not worry too much about elitism.

Tan Kin Lian

New factors for GE simulation

I have added several new factors for predicting the results of the next general election.

These factors are:

a) court case against the Aljunied MPs.
b) Failure of new hawker centers.

The previous factors are still available for your selection.

Click here to view the results of some recent simulations.

Click here to choose your own factors for the simulation.

Swing against PAP at next general election

Please vote on the impact that each factor will have on the swing against the PAP at the next general election.

Your vote will help to improve the prediction of the result.

You will get a prize when you have submitted your votes.

Thank you.

WOTC - COI to look into social enterprise hawker centers

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should a COI look into the social enterprise running the hawker centers?

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
38 % - We need to know if the NEA had carried out its duty properly.
31 % - We need an independent COI to study the issues.
24 % - We need to know if there is any fraud and cheating.
7 % - This is not necessary. Leave it to NEA to sort out.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Social enterprise hawker centers

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Are the social enterprise acting properly in running the new hawker centers?

Here are the responses: (72 Votes)
68 % - The entire operation is a sham.
24 % - They are overcharging for their services.
8 % - They are passing excessive profits to their contractors.
0 % - They are running the hawker center well.

See the pie chart at:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Buy a new HDB flat?

Hello Mr Tan,
I am currently staying in a 38-yr old HDB flat and is fully paid. I am 44 years old. As you might know, the price of an old HDB will continue to fall. What would you advise?

a) Should I continue to stay in this HDB?
b) Buy a new HDB?

My reply here:…

AIA 25 year participating endowment

A policyholder bought a 25 year participating endowment from AIA. She asked for my view.

Here is my reply

SingPass Mobile is confusing

The SingPass Mobile app is confusing. They put in explanation on many pages.

I do not know which are the pages that are for transacting and which are for explaining. I do not know how to get out of the explaining pages to the transacting pages.

They should just provide a clean app for transacting. If they need to explain, they can do outside of the app. They can put it in the website and provide a link to the app.

Anyway, this is not my view alone. I saw the rating of this app to be 3.0. Most good apps have a rating above 4.0.

Tan Kin Lian

Performance of ministers

I have now received 28 votes on the performance of ministers, compared to 23 votes earlier. So, 5 additional people voted.

Thank you. But I need more support. Please send 5 minutes to give your vote. Let us move to 100 votes.

BTW, you will get a prize (Planning for your Retirement) when you submit your votes.

Go to this webpate and click on the link - Submit Your Vote.

"Big ears" and positive attitude

The general manager of the Grassroots Club called to inform me that they have implemented a simplified system for booking of massage service.

I told him that the new system works well.

We discussed about how the massage service can be expanded. The male masseur is trained in Taiwan and had excellent skills. He operates from home during the weekdays and provide the service to Grassroots Club members on weekends at $8 a session.

I suggested that the club provide space for him to operate every day to serve both members and the public.

I said that the fair value for the service is $30 a session. Members can be give a small discount, say $25.

This will make the service more sustainable for the masseur and will be a good service to members of TGC.

He agreed to consider my suggestion.

I find him to be pro-active and willing to listen to members. With his "big ears" and positive attitude, he will perform well in any organization.

I wish him well.

Tan Kin Lian

Example of an impressive civil service

I wrote to the Malaysian minister of transport through his ministry's website giving suggestions about their KTM train service.

His ministry referred the matter to KTM. I received an acknowledgement from KTM within a few days. It promised a detailed reply soon.

The detailed reply came. It was headed "Without Prejudice". I checked for the meaning of this phrase. It meant that the communication cannot be used in a court of law. The KTM officer does not want to the committed to the reply. That is fair.

The officer really made an attempt to address the issues that I raised. It was helpful. I replied to her that "I am satisfied with her reply".

She replied immediately to thank me, and addressed me as "sir".

I have a positive impression of the Malaysian civil service. They really serve the public with respect.

Our Singapore civil service must emulate their practice. Our ministers should set the example.

Tan Kin Lian

Voting on similar topics

Sometimes, I created the same topic for voting in the Wisdom of the Crowd after a gap of several weeks.

This is the reason.

a) I might have forgotten that I had already created a similar topic.
b) The choices in the new topic are usually worded differently.
c) I expect the answers to the later topic to be quite close to the earlier topic. It helps to validate the results.

Wisdom of the Crowd

Some people said that that they find it difficult to vote on some topics as they agree with more than one choice. They prefer the choices could be mutually exclusive.

I told them to choose any of the choice that they like most. It does not mean that they dislike the other choices.

For example, I may give two reasons why the people like a govt policy and two reasons why they dislike it.

It does not really matter which of the two reasons (like, dislike) that they choose. The total for both scores will be taken as a "like".

This approach allows the strength of the two choices to be measured.

Try it now.

Present big expenditures for approval by Parliament

The govt spends billions of dollars on large projects without disclosing the budget to the public.

Someone said that any MP can raise a question in parliament.

This is the current practice. It is a bad practice.

I expect the reply to be - we do not know the actual cost as it is subject to tender.

The MP can ask ask for the budget but it will be "begging for the answer". The govt can provide only scanty information.

A better approach is for all large ticket items to be presented to Parliament for approval.

This allows the MPs, including the opposite MPs, to study the paper in detail and ask incisive questions. Even if the MPs are too busy, the public can also carry out the detailed analysis.

A friend told me that this is the practice in Hong Kong. I believe that it is also practiced in most democratic countries.

The questioning in Parliament will lead to other alternatives being considered, Some of the alternatives may be less costly and more effective.

For example, the specification for the projects the project may be set too high. It will certainly lead to very high cost. By changing the specification, and still maintain an acceptable standard of safety and quality, the cost can be reduced considerably.

I quote a recent example. The finance minister of Malaysia asked for the specification for several transport projects to be changed. He was able to reduce the budget by a few billion dollars.

I am sure that this kind of cost saving opportunities are available for our projects.

In many countries, corrupt politicians are able to get big brides from suppliers for big infrastructure projects and military purchases.

The corruption is facilitated because these transactions are kept secret, for national security or other reasons. It is an excuse and an avenue for corrupt practices to occur.

We should make it a practice for all big expenditure to be discussed and approved in Parliament.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Develop Sentosa and Brani

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do you support the development of Sentosa and Brani?

Here are the responses: (62 Votes)
53 % - We should control excessive spending on infrastructure and building.
27 % - The budget for the development should be presented for discussion and approval in Parliament.
15 % - This is necessary for the continuing development of Singapore.
5 % - It will bring more tourists into Singapore.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Should MPs run town councils?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should elected MPs be made to run town councils?

Here are the responses: (65 Votes)
46 % - The running of town council services should be left to the govt agency.
34 % - The MPs should be focused on other matters, and not waste time on town council issues.
11 % - It is a good way to make them directly responsible to their voters.
9 % - It is good provided that they are not hampered in their tasks

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Avoid being overcharged by a plumber

Dear Mr. Tan

Please share this information in your website.

Tell your readers to be careful about using plumbers that advertised in the internet with a Google Ad.

I encountered a plumber recently to handle an urgent leaking problem. They replace the water heater and charge me a large sum. I was not aware about the market price at that time. As the water was leaking badly, I agreed to the charge.

Later, I learned that I was overcharged by more than $300.

What happened next?

Invest in Temasek Bonds to earn 2.7% for 5 years?

Hi Tan,
Whats your opinion on Temasek bonds and also about it being oversubscribed ?

Are the locals really buying this bond ?

Many Singaporeans have too much cash. They don't know how to invest. So, the 2.7% is attractive to them.

They can top up their CPF special account, including family members, and get 4% (plus a bonus of 1% on a portion), but they don't trust the CPF. They like the freedom and option to take out their money.

I still think it is better to keep money in CPF and lock it up for a lifetime.

Temasek bonds should be quite safe, but CPF is better.

Another option is to invest in the STI ETF. As the stock market has corrected, it should give an attractive return over the long term.

If you invest in STI ETF, look for the long term. Do not worry if it falls 30% in the near future. It may or may not happen. But over the long term, you should get more than 2.7%.

Collect and refund tray deposits?

The hawker center management want to impose a deposit for each tray. They think that customers may steal the tray?

Really? Why would the customer want to steal the tray? They can also steal the bowls, spoon and chopsticks. Right?

Stealing is a crime. It is not worth it.

I find it ridiculous to collect $0.20 or $1 as deposit for each tray and to refund the money. The cost of employing people or technology to handle the refund is not worth the trouble.

I wonder - what happen to logic and common sense? Is Singapore breeding idiots?

Unauthorised access to "confidential" information

Unauthorized access to data seems to be quite common. It is quite difficult to control.

Cathay Pacific is the latest victim. SingHealth was an earlier victim. This will not be the last. I expect more to follow.

The authorized staff is allowed to access the data to serve the customer. There could be hundreds or thousands of staff who have the right of access.

It may be impossible to ensure that their login credentials are kept secret. It could be hacked. It could also be sold for a fee.

I personally think that the confidential information is not so confidential or important. I don't mind someone knows my birthday. They can send me a gift for my birthday, OK?

I don't mind that they know my bank account No. They see it on the cheque that I write to them.

I am more worried that they know my credit card No. But when I give my credit card to a restaurant, they have a receipt with my credit card No, right? So, it is unavoidable.

Of course, I will check my credit card statement to make sure that all the charges are genuine. I like the banks to introduce a stronger process to handle credit card charges, such as entering a secret PIN. In the meantime, I accept the risk.

I do not mind that other people know my email address and mobile No. I make them available anyway. It is not a secret information.

If I get spam messages, I delete them. I also block the sender. That is enough for me.

There is no need to be paranoid about the access to "confidential" information. Frankly, it is not that confidential.

Tan Kin Lian

Give me a simple webpage

Many websites are badly designed.The designer made a common mistake. They put too much information in the page. They think that they are being helpful. They forget that too much information can be confusing.

They like to put in "help" information in that page. They forget that the user can be easily confused with the "help" information and the actual information that is need for them to handle their transaction.

Most websites of our government agencies have this pitfall. Just take a look at the sign in page for SingPass or IRAS, CPF or ACRA. It is difficult to differentiate between the necessary fields and the "help" information. Actually the "help" information becomes unhelpful.

Take a look at the Google search page. It contains only the search bar. It has since been expanded to include the icons for the pages that were accessed recently, but these icons are not distracting.

If I were to design a webpage, I would follow Google. I keep only the essential information on that page. I will provide a link to the non-essential information, such as "Get help" or "Watch a video". But I would not show these non-essential information on the same page.

The bad design does not apply to government websites only. Many commercial websites also have the same shortcomings. Even some popular apps have this shortcoming.

I realize that I might be an exception - and that most people prefer to have a detailed webpage. But I like the Google approach.

Give me a simple neat webpage anytime. You can have links to the other information.

Tan Kin Lian

An alternative to CorpPass

I wish to share my views about CorpPass.

I find CorpPass to be poorly implemented. It is a project under Gov Tech and is under the Smart Nation.

Prior to CorpPass, I was able to sign in with SingPass to carry out transactions with govt agencies. I am registered as the authorized person for my own company and for an association where I am the president.

Life was relatively easy, after I got used to the system. They introduced 2FA authentication with SMS. It was unnecessary, but I accepted it.

I could use SingPass for my personal business and for non-personal business.

Later, they introduced CorpPass. I have to register a separate CorpPass ID for each entity. So, I have two CorpPass ID. But if I am involved with more organizations, I need additional IDs. It is difficult to handle so many IDs. I have to record them somewhere.

The CorpPass ID requires me to have the business ID (also called the UEN), a user ID and a password. It also requires 2FA authentication that is linked to a personal mobile phone.

Someone justified the use of a separate CorpPass so that it can be de-linked from the person, i.e allow other staff to do the work when the main person is not available.

If this is the case, why link the 2FA to a personal mobile phone? I cannot imagine the authorized person leaving the mobile phone to a staff to handle the transactions.

It is also a bad idea to allow a third party to access your own CorpPass ID. After a while, you do not know who handled the transaction on your behalf.

The risk of fraud becomes much bigger with this process.

We should revert to the use of SingPass and get rid of CorpPass completely. There is no use for this additional feature. It is complicated and unnecessary.

We still need a way for a person to appoint another person to handle transactions on his behalf. This can be done by appointing another person as a delegate.

For example, I am the director of my company. I can appoint my staff, using his SingPass to be my delegate for handling transactions for that company.

That person can act on my authority. However, the transaction is identified to that delegate. I can trace what the delegate has done on my behalf.

Using this delegate method, each person still use his own SingPass. He is allowed to appoint his delegate to handle transactions for a corporation.

There is still time for Gov Tech to rectify the shortcomings of their CorpPass system. They can use this delegate approach.

I hope that GovTech have big ears and will act on this feedback. I wish them all the best.

Tan Kin Lian

KTM Train Service

I received this reply from KTM to my suggestion sent to the Minister for Transport, Malaysia. I am satisfied with this reply.

I wish our government gives similar attention to the suggestions from the public.

Dear Mr Tan Kin Lian,
(Without Prejudice)

First and foremost we would like to thank you on your trustworthy to KTM Berhad and the time you have taken in bringing this issue to our attention. We clearly understand that the efficient service is essential in today’s fast-paced world, especially for our valued guests such as your good self.

For your information, currently Klang Valley Double Track (KVDT) work project is still in progress. The purpose is to provide rail-based public transport facilities to the public from Padang Besar to Johor Bahru in 2020. The government had projected RM15.9 billion for the provision of infrastructure on this project in order to achieve the objectives;

i) Upgrading the rail-based transport infrastructure to meet the demand of passenger and freight transport;

ii) Reduce road congestion by introducing an efficient and modern railway system;

iii) Reduce the travel time and increase to increase the capacity of the track is also added trains.

In order to meet the demands of various parties, there are other factors to consider such as the volume of daily passengers and operational needs. KTMB also need to organize maintenance work on each train are used for safety and comfort purposes. Hence KTMB apologizes for not being able to add train services for now.

Meanwhile the current ticket fare/rate using by KTMB has been approved by the authority parties including the Ministry. Nevertheless, KTMB also offered concession rate to children, senior citizen, government pensioner, disabled people (JKMM), Police/Army and KTMB i-Card Student – subject to Terms & Conditions.

Please be rest assured that your suggestion to improve KTMB website has been forwarded to our Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Department for their concern. At the mean time we would like to share that currently the name of the station is sorted by state along with a route map purposely to help passengers to plan their journey. Whereas, narrowing the search time is actually to facilitate passenger in selecting train service accurately.

While this is by no means an excuse for such consequence to you, we will continuously improve to minimize the passenger inconvenience. Your endless support is highly appreciated to ensure our continuous improvement in providing a better public transport in the area.

Thank you for your trust and support towards our rail service.

Yours faithfully,
Fulfillment & Solutions
KTMB Customer Service.

Confused with mobile SingPass

I logged into the IRAS website to submit my GST returns. It requires me to login with my corporate ID and password.

I have to authenticate my login with a 2FA. It automatically recognized that I had signed in for the mobile SingPass with my personal NRIC.

It asked me to authenticate with my mobile SingPass.

I followed the instruction but it did not work.

I have to select another tab to authenticate my Corp Pass using the SMS. It worked as before.

Why does Gov Tech continue to make things confusing and difficult. We are really in a mess.

I know that it will be sorted out eventually, but can our implementation be made smoother?

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Performance rating of ministers

Do you agree with the performance rating of the ministers as shown in this webpage?

The rating is based on just a small number of scores. I invite you to vote.

Click on "Submit Your Vote" and give your rating. You will receive a prize - Planning for your Retirement when you have submitted the vote.

This should take you only 5 minutes.

Vote now. Thank you for your support.

Dealing with exceptional cases

A former teacher told me about the difficulty that she faced in dealing with a naughty student in the class who refused to listen.

It disrupted her mood and affected her ability to teach the other students.

I gave her my view on this matter.

In all jobs, there will be the exceptions that are difficult to handle. It could be a teacher dealing with a difficult student. It could also be a customer service officer dealing with a demanding and difficult customer.

We need an effective way of dealing with exceptions.

In each school, there will be a discipline master that handles difficult students. The teacher can just ask the discipline master to deal with the difficult student. She can focus on teaching the other students.

In the customer service situation, the officer can ask the supervisor to take care of the customer. It is called "escalation".

I have adopted the escalation approach. It is simple and works effectively.

The problem faced by most workers is that the SOP (standard operating procedure) usually do not provide for escalation. It forces the front line worker (i.e teacher or customer service officer) to deal with the exceptions. This approach does not work. The front line worker should deal with the normal cases.

It is the job of the supervisors or specialists to deal with exceptions.

The former teacher also told me about the difficulty of dealing with demanding parents.  I told her the same approach. The teacher can pass the difficult parents to be dealt by the vice principal. They are trained to handle this task.

When I was running a large insurance company as the CEO, I was at the top of the escalation chain. It works well. It is easy for me to handle the very difficult cases.

When the customer reaches me, the customer is already tired of dealing with three levels below me. They become quite reasonable, when it reached my level.

I recommend this approach of dealing with problems.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Protect interest of consumers

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the govt protecting the interest of consumers?

Here are the responses: (64 Votes)
45 % - They favor businesses and allow them to take advantage of consumers.
44 % - The protection of consumers is rather weak.
9 % - They appoint various agencies to handle this task.
2 % - They are doing a good job.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Protect interest of worker

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is the govt protecting the interest of workers?

Here are the responses: (65 Votes)
57 % - They allow employers to depress salaries by employing foreign workers.
28 % - They neglect the interest of workers.
14 % - The allow employers to bypass the regulations in the Employment Act
2 % - They are doing well in protecting the interest of workers.

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

View feedback by organization

Which agency, ministry or organization received the past feedback during the past 30 days?

These are the badly run organizations. It includes the Prime Minister's Office.

You can see the ranking here. Click on the organization to see the actual feedback.

Use data to better manage the bus services

I have posted several posts about the erratic schedule of the buses, e.g. bunching of buses.

In some cases, they are caused by traffic conditions. But in other cases, they are caused by human behavior.

For example, some drivers do not observe punctuality. They start late and bunch with the following bus.

Technology allows the management to know the underlying cause.

The movement of the buses are captured at the time of leaving the terminal and all along the journey. It is possible to write a script to identify the buses that are "not conforming". The supervisor can explain what happened.

If the supervisor has to explain, you can be sure that they will pay attention to prevent the erratic scheduling due to "driver behavior".

But if the management does not bother, the supervisors and the drivers will not bother.

There is another fault. I have observed that some of the buses do not appear on the "arriving bus" app. I suspect that the tracking device on the bus is not working.

This non-working device must have been happening for several years. I suspect that nobody looks into the data to see the buses with failed tracking devices.

It is rather sad that the technology allows these kinds of problems to be identified and for the supervisor to take remedial action.

But if nobody bothers, then nothing is done.

I have written to the Land Transport Authority and the Ministry of Transport on a few past occasions to tell them about the value of analyzing the data and use the results for better management.

Often, I do not get any acknowledgement. Sometimes, they acknowledge, promise to do something, and nothing gets done.

The indifferent attitude is now quite common in Singapore. Our high standard of the past has now disappeared.

Tan Kin Lian

Update the law on jay walking

I asked the question about the pedestrian crossing. The road is clear. How to cross the road?

About 50% said - press the button and wait for the green man. Why? We have to follow the law of jay waking, right?

The other 50% said - cross the road. I belong to the "risk taker".

I consider the law of jay walking to be a "stupid law". The law is stupid but it also assumes that there are many stupid people who will follow the law blindly.

The law should be changed. There is no point keeping a law that is ridiculous and force many people to disobey it.

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Irony of CHAS

A doctor told me. The govt set up CHAS (community health assist scheme) to relieve the long queues in the polyclinics, which provide subsidized health care.

CHAS is available only to the low income groups. It is not available to citizens who are well off.

However, some of the "well off" retirees prefer to go to polyclinics to enjoy the subsidies. The charges at private clinics can be quite high.

Here is the irony.

The lower income people go to private clinics. After the CHAS subsidy, they pay a net amount that is comparable to the polyclinic charges. The "well off" retirees continue to visit the polyclinics.

That is the irony. Private care for lower income people, and public care for well off people.

Welcome to Singapore.

It is important to follow through effectively

PM Lee makes grandiose statements. But his follow through is terrible.

Look at the project for cashless payments and social enterprise hawker centers. They are just two examples out of many.

To succeed, he needs to address the root of the problem. He should listen to views of other people, including those with different views from his.

I wish him better success the next time.

A new way to operate the social enterprise hawker centers

The social enterprise hawker center model seems to be a mess.

Is there a better way?

The govt agency, i.e. National Environment Agency, should decide on the rent to charge for each stall and the people who are qualified to be allocated the stall. They can also determine the prices allowed to be charged.

Is this difficult? No, it is not. Why do I say so?

If the agency carries out a survey, they will know what are the typical stall rentals in the food courts and hawker centers and the prices that are charged for various food items. This information is readily available.

If the agency is not familiar with this process, they can engage an independent survey firm to carry out the exercise.

After the information is collected, they can determine the stall rentals and the prices for the food items, by providing a suitable discount. They can invite the stall holders to apply.

If the economics does not work right, the stall holders will not apply. Even if the stall holders apply and are allocated, they will give up if the business is not viable. These indicators will allow the agency to change the rental and the prices.

The stall rentals and food prices can be adjusted every two years. This adjustment reflect the market for the "affordable" hawker centers.

An advantage of this system is that the adjusted rentals and prices reflect the market in general, and is not specific to a particular stall.

For example, some stalls may be successful and do a lot of business. A private enterprise owner may increase the stall rental to a high level, knowing that the stall holder has no choice. The owner wants to maximize the rental.

The govt agency should not operate like a private owner. The rental should reflect the general market and is not specific to certain stalls.

The consideration is fairness, and not maximization of profit.

What about the daily operation, including paying the bills for the management and cleaning?

The agency can ask for the operators to tender for the management of these services. They can do their calculation of the cost of employing the cleaners, the number required, etc. This is included in the tender price, together with their profit margin.

The social enterprise model can work, but the framework has to make sense for all the parties. The operator should not be given the freedom to maximize the profits and to pass the profits to related parties through outsourcing of the work.

We need a better approach.

Tan Kin Lian

Industrial robots


In spite of its large supply of human resource, China installed the largest number of industrial robots, followed by Japan, South Korea and the United States.

How can the United States compete globally without investing in robotics to reduce their high labor costs?…/china-2025-roboti…/index.html…

WOTC - Pension at 75

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the govt provide a pension to elderly people?

Here are the responses: (71 Votes)
59 % - Everyone should get a modest pension from 75 years.
31 % - It should be modest and given only to poor people above 75 years.
10 % - They should rely on their CPF and personal savings.
0 % - It will encourage the elderly to be lazy

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Support charity

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singaporeans contribute to charity?

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
32 % - We should support charity within our means.
31 % - I do not trust charity organizations as they are several fake ones going around
26 % - The govt should support charity more actively.
10 % - We do not have any money left, after meeting the high cost of living.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, October 22, 2018

Chasing after KPI for bigger bonus

Rachel Ash said.

Mr Tan
Our policy makers are habitually on the move to chase after new KPIs to ensure a plentiful of bonuses. Despite the fact that existing issues in this country has yet to be resolved such as once in 50 years flooding; over 90% are satisfied with our train services and according to our authorities - "our train services has improved despite the increased in number of breakdowns"; our dependency on our neighbor for fresh water but what do we do with our homegrown Hyflux; etc.

I discovered that they are very good at choosing ambiguous words for their purpose and then their selective meaning of the word which allows them to "lie but NOT lie".

To provide proof:

1. Our authorities created a new problem for the community with PMD which led to accidents and deaths; and have yet to solve the issue of the "last mile" in any meaningful way. Not forgetting failed OFO and etc bikes. Then they are going to trial run air-taxi in the not distant future. Will this solve the transport issues of the masses or provide the "rich" another convenience means not to be "mixed" with the masses.

2. Our authorities claimed, they are trying to narrow the rich and poor gap in Singapore and blasted the Oxfam report. Any reason why estate duty was abolished just before the demise of our former PM?

3. Our authorities claimed, HDB 99 years was good so that they can be re-cycled BUT according to some who had researched all past requisition of HDB properties instead of turning them to newer HDB flats but were instead sold to private developers.

4. Our authorities claimed, to finding ways to increase jobs for the natives BUT has CEPA with India did anything for the general masses or for the big businesses?

5. Our authorities claimed, we need GST and increase GST to help the poor? Yes, very truth because the "rich" in Singapore are considered poor when compared to the developed countries rich.

6. Our authorities claimed, ........

Isn't it time for authorities to start admitting that there were flawed policies in the past and they should be working with every Singaporeans to build our Nation as one united people so as to achieve happiness and prosperity for our people.

Improve the library facilities

Dear sir,

Singapore government was great. In the early days, they sees a library as an essential facilities. They allocate land to build library. Today we sees such libraries at places like Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio.

The library of today is getting smaller. Perhaps times has changed. I however thought that Library could still play an important role. For example, Libraries could in-cooperate a innovation centre where the public could pay an amount to join as members to use some facilities. Such as computer render farms, 3d printers, soldier machine, electrical components etc. it could also setup a metal, wood and plastic workshop. Where a technical instructor could be employed to supervise the usage of machinery and equipment. Members could also do talks and share ideas.

at the same time, more seats could be made available to the public with free drinking water and vending machine. By bringing the people back to the integrated library. I believe we could kick start the innovation progress. I have seen people attending wood working, ceramic course at industrial park. I would believe that with proper insulation, these facilities could be brought into the neighbourhood library.

unfortunately, SLA has not provide land for libraries, most libraries rented expensive spaces in mall. People has to study in restaurant. I am not a financial expert, I do not calculate the cost. Perhaps this is a bad idea and not economical sensible.


Insufficient officers at checkpoint

On returning to Singapore through the 2nd link at 4 pm (before the rush hour) last Friday, I was delayed by 45 minutes at Tuas checkpoint. The clearing time at the JB end was 5 mins.

I found the reason to be lack of manpower. Two out of six counters on my section were closed. If these two counters were manned, the clearing time would have been much faster.

I think that is shortage of manpower. It is probably due to the freeze on manpower in the public sector.

If the ministry wish to recruit more officers, surely it will be taken up? There are many people who can't find jobs and have to be Grab drivers. Some of them would gladly be a immigration officer.

How stupid can the govt be? By stinging on the employment, it caused many people to waste nearly one hour of their time. During the peak period, it could be two or three hours.

We should recruit more people in the public sector to meet with the demand and larger population. The freeze on head count is very bad.

Tan Kin Lian

America is not a good example of a democracy

Many people think that America is a good example of a democratic country.

I used to think so myself.

However, since the last presidential election, I changed my mind.

I watched the speeches by Senator Bernie Sanders, who contested the Democratic primary election.

He explained that America government is controlled by the billionaires. They used their money to "buy elections".

How is this done?

In America, the election results are influenced to a large extent by advertising on television and the media. This cost a lot of money.

The candidates from both parties need the financial support of the big donors, who are usually the billionaires, to finance their campaign. The winners are usually the candidates with the most financial resources.

In return for the financial support, the elected politicians to return the favor. The pass laws that are favorable to the businesses, and bad for working people The give tax breaks to the super rich.

The ordinary people get disillusioned with the political process and reacted by refusing to vote. This worked well for the super rich.

Over the past three decades, the gap between the super rich, the top 0.1% and the ordinary people became wider and wider.

America has very high inequality, probably among the worse in the world, at least among the developed countries. This is hardly democratic.

A lot of ordinary people do not earn enough to meet the cost of living. Their society becomes quite fractious.

The people in power than pass laws and regulations to make it difficult for ordinary people to vote. This can hardly be called "democratic".

To be frank, Singapore is not a good example of democracy either. We have out own set of problems, such as GRCs. We also have high inequality.

In some respects, we are still better off than America, but in other respects, we are worse off. For example, we fared badly on the "freedom of the press".

But the media in America is not a shining example either. It is also "bought" by the super rich. They play a part in promoting the agenda of their owners, who are the super rich.

Maybe it is better to have the system like in China. Forget about flawed democracy. Forget about corrupt democracy.

Maybe not China.

The best example of a working democracy is Switzerland. They have quarterly referendums where they ask the people to vote on government policies.

Tan Kin Lian

Is the Changi Jewel target at passengers or the general public?

Will the Jewel in Changi be targeted at passengers or for the general public.

There is a logistic issue to be addressed.

If it is targeted at passengers, then the potential customers are the transit passengers and the inbound and outbound passengers. In that case, the general public will not be able to visit the Jewel.

It could be a disaster. Many transit passengers do not have much time to visit the Jewel. The outbound passengers are allowed to check-in only two hours before the flight. They will not have much time to shop or to visit the Jewel.

The inbound passengers are likely to be in a hurry to return home or to go to the hotel. They may not be keen to spend time at the Jewel.

If the Jewel is targeted at the general public, it will be placed outside of the immigration checkpoint. This means that the transit passengers have to go through immigration clearance to visit the Jewel and then re-enter through immigration again. Maybe the second process can be streamlined, so that it is not tedious.

For the Jewel to be successful, it has to be targeted at the general public. Incoming passengers can pass through the immigration clearance and visit the Jewel before proceeding home or to the hotel. Outgoing passengers can go to the airport early, spend time at the Jewel and then proceed to the check-in counter.

Which way will it be? Make your guess.

Is there a freeze in the headcount in the public sector?

I suspect that there is a policy to freeze the headcount for most agencies and ministries in the public sector.

This has resulted in outsourcing of work to private contractors.

I believe that this policy (if there is such a policy) is short sighted.

Here are my reasons:

a) The headcount in the public sector should increase with the population. If the population increased by 50%, we will generally need 50% more workers in the public sector. They have to serve the public.

b) The outsourcing of work generally leads to lower quality of service. We have seen it in many parts of the public sector. Some of the recent major problems, such as train breakdown and flooding, could be attributed to the deterioration of standard due to outsourcing.

c) As a major employer, the public sector could play an important role in setting the right level of wages and working conditions for the private sector to follow. If the public sector outsource the work, the workers will be employed by the contractors at depressed wages. We have seen it happen.

I wish to see the public sector change its policy and play an active role in creating well paying jobs for the people.

I am not suggesting that the public sector be overstaffed. But it needs to be adequately staffed. It should not be understaffed. The work should not be outsourced.

There is a challenge in managing the workers in the public sector. This can be handled by competent supervisors and managers, who knows the job. We have to retain these managers and leaders who have worked in the ministry or agencies for many years.

The practice of "helicoptering" scholars with no working experience into these organizations should be stopped, or at least minimized.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, October 21, 2018

WOTC - Education policy

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Which education policy do you prefer?

Here are the responses: (60 Votes)
58 % - Develop character and literacy.
30 % - Develop the other interests besides academic study.
8 % - Keep our current system with high standard 
3 % - Reduce the stress and competition, and moderate the standard.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Is HDB flat a good investment?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is a HDB flat a good investment?

Here are the responses: (62 Votes)
66 % - It is advanced payment of rental and is not an investment.
13 % - It is good only for those who buy with a govt grant.
13 % - It is good only for the first 30 years.
8 % - After 40 years, it is difficult to sell the HDB flat.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Use of town council software

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it correct to disallow Aljunied from using the town council software?

Here are the responses: (72 Votes)
76 % - Aljunied residents contributed to the software and were cheated when it was taken away.
17 % - Aljunied has to spend money to develop an alternative software, which is wasteful.
7 % - This should be decided by the owner of the town council software.
0 % - Each town council should develop its own software to meet its special needs.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Dispute over Oxfam report

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your views about the dispute over the Oxfam report?

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
82 % - I agree with the findings of the Oxfam report that there is high inequality in Singapore.
13 % - I find the outcomes to be quite bad for the ordinary people.
4 % - The Oxfam report is unfair to Singapore.
0 % - I agree with the ministers' views that the actual outcomes are favorable in Singapore.

See the pie chart at:

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