Saturday, November 03, 2018

Different systems on different MRT lines

I am surprised that the govt has allowed different systems to operate on different lines. This is clearly bad management. No wonder we had so much problems!

WOTC - Parliament should approve large expenditure

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should large expenditures be submitted for approval by Parliament?

Here are the responses: (59 Votes)
61 % - Yes. It will ensure transparency and reduce the opportunity for corrupt practices.
36 % - Yes. It allows the project to be discussed and better options to be discovered.
3 % - No. We can trust the govt to be honest and work in the best interest of the people.
0 % - No. It will cause delay and hamper the work of the govt.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Donation to Aljunied MPs

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How was the Aljunied MPs able to raise $100,000 in 6 hours?

Here are the responses: (59 Votes)
53 % - They are widely supported by the public. The support will grow.
41 % - The donors are fed up with the current govt.
5 % - Some of the large amounts are donated by their contractors 
2 % - This is only the initial start. It will fizzle out.

See the pie chart at:

Friday, November 02, 2018

WOTC - Meritocracy in Singapore

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is meritocracy practiced successfully in Singapore?

Here are the responses: (69 Votes)
59 % - it tends to favor the people with good connections.
29 % - It tends to favor the people from rich families.
9 % - Children from poor families are likely to remain poor.
3 % - It has helped many people from poor family to be successful in life.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Donate to meet legal expenses of Aljunied MPs

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will you support the appeal to meet the legal expenses of the MPs from Aljunied?

Here are the responses: (70 Votes)
53 % - Yes. I will support generously.
34 % - Yes. I will support moderately.
10 % - No, I have no money.
3 % - No. I will not support.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Market competition in electricity

I cannot understand the decision of the govt to open up the electricity market for competition.

They probably thinks that market competition can bring down prices.

Market competition can add to the total cost for the following reasons:

a) The operators have to engage marketing staff and advertise to get customers and to take customers away from competitors.

b) There is higher cost moving customers to a new operator, e.g. set up the account, arrange the banking payments, etc.

c) Some operators may offer attractive promotions but this can only last for a short period and has to be recovered through other means, such as hidden charges.

Is there a better way to bring down prices?


If the govt provider makes its costs transparent, it will help to reduce the excessive profits and wastefulness.

An independent auditor will also play an important role. The independent auditor should NOT be a private firm appointed by the utility company.

It should preferably be the auditor general's office, which is overseen by parliament. The AGO has demonstrated the value that can be provided by a truly independent audit.

We should get away from the mistaken notion that market competition can bring down the cost of utilities. It is better for the utility providers to be state owned with independent audit of their costs and transparency.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Express and feeder services

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should we change our bus system to the feeder and express buses?

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
37 % - The feeder and express services will cut down travel time.
32 % - The feeder and express services will be easier to understand.
21 % - I prefer to keep to the current system.
10 % - I do not like to change from one service to another.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Reduce class size

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the class size be reduced to 25 students?

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
56 % - It allows the teacher to give more attention to the students.
28 % - We have to follow the best practice in more advanced countries.
13 % - Parents do not have to spend too much money on private tuition.
3 % - This will cost too much for the govt.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Searching for Black Society Restaurant at Vivocity

Vivocity is a large mall. I had to find the Black Society Restaurant for a dinner event. It is located at #02-156.

It was quite difficult to locate this restaurant. The footprint of the mall is very big. There was no floor plan to show where the unit is located.

I finally found it after walking the entire floor of level 2.

My only guide was to look at the unit numbers displayed on each shop. I hoped that the unit numbers are arranged sequentially. Fortunately, it was. But I cannot assume that it would be.

Many of the shop do not show the unit number. Some show them at the non standard locations. This adds to the difficulty.

The malls should follow the best practice adopted by the hotels. From the lift lobby, there will be signs indicating the direction to take for each range of unit numbers.

I wonder why the malls do not follow this good practice?

It is also useful to have "landmarks" in the mall. For example, the main pillars can have different colors. It will be easy to give this direction - go to the red pillar and move 5 shops to its right.

Many large malls have several entrances. In most cases, the entrances are not named. I have visited the large malls in Jakarta and they are named - West Entrance, East Entrance, etc. It is easy for shoppers to arrange to meet people at the right entrance.

The bad signs and inconsiderate attitude is quite common in Singapore. It is like our national culture.

We need to have planners exercise common sense and think about their customers.

Tan Kin Lian

Looking for NUSS Guild House in Suntec City

I arranged to meet a friend for lunch at NUSS Guild house at level 2, tower 5 of Suntec City.

Suntec City is very big. The signs are not helpful. But I finally managed to reach tower 5, with some difficulty.

I reached the escalator to level 2. I decided to look at the directory before the escalator to see if I was at the right place.

To my surprise, NUSS Guild House was not listed. I checked again. No listing.

I wanted to look for someone for help. Then I saw NUSS Guild written in big words on a big pillar.

Why can't the management show NUSS Guild House on the directory AND on the pillar? Most people would expect to see it on the directory. Some may have noticed the pillar, but others (like me) might have missed it.

I am baffled at this logic, which sadly is quite common in Singapore.

The Future Economy of Indonesia

I attended a talk by Pak Sandiaga S Uno, the vice presidential candidate contesting on the same ticket as Pak Prabowo Sandiaga.

The title of his talk was "The Future Economy of Indonesia".

Pak Santiaga spent several years working in Singapore. He was a permanent resident. His lost his PR status when the company that he worked for closed its operation in Singapore.

He has fond memories of Singapore.

He wanted to introduce reforms on tax and labor regulations in Indonesia if he was elected. He is in favor of private public partnership for infrastructure projects, so as to reduce the burden on govt finances.

He quoted an interesting example of the disagreement between the agriculture and the trade ministries under the current govt of Jokowi. The agriculture ministry said that there was sufficient production of rice, but the trade ministry said that it was insufficient and more rice had to be imported to keep the price low.

Pak Santiaga said that the solution was to get the correct data for decision making. This will apply to all sectors of govt decision making. "

I find his views to be refreshing.

I wish him all the best.

Tan Kin Lian

Future of shared bike

I expect the bike sharing operators to cease their business within a year or two. They are not likely to get enough revenue to sustain their operating cost. The govt is not helping to make the business viable by charging them a fee for each bike.

Most passengers will not pay $1 or more for a ride, when they can get a feeder bus at a much lower cost, due to the integrated fare structure.

It is useful for shared bikes to be provided by the govt as part of an integrated system. The govt should pay for the bike and also provide the parking space.

The user should pay a modest fare, say $0.20 per ride of up to 1/2 hour. Better, this can be provided free.

The govt can tender to a private company to manage the operations, in return for a monthly fee per bicycle. This will include retrieving the bicycles, repairing them and keeping them from being stolen.

Users have to pay a fine for not returning the shared bike to the approved locations or for causing the bike to be missing. It can be tracked by technology.

The number of bikes needed for each district can be determined by analyzing the data of usage.

Tan Kin Lian

Give back to society

Minister Chan CS urge the elite to give back to society.


The "urging" is just another pretense.

It is better to get the elite to pay more income tax, and abolish GST.  And, the minister can still urge the elite to give back more to society voluntarily.

Some people say that higher income tax will chase the elites away to another country. It will not happen. Most of the elites earn their salary and profits by operating in Singapore. If they move away, they will lose a big source of their income.

What about the multi-millionaires from overseas who are attracted to come to live in Singapore? They will still come because their overseas income are exempt from income tax anyway. They are attractive by other reasons to live in Singapore, and not low income tax.

Let us get away from the urging and the false reasons. Let us address the inequality and reduce the burden of high cost of living from the working people.

Tan Kin Lian

Something for you to do

Here are the most recent feedback given to govt agencies and commercial organizations and on govt policies.

Read the feedback and vote (agree, disagree) on each feedback. Play an active part as a citizen. Give your view.

Do not fall into the trap and lock up your savings in a life insurance policy that gives you a poor return over many years in the future. If you want to quit, you will lose a lot of money. So, you are stuck.

Here are some tips on how to avoid this costly mistake.

3 financial books $15 (discount of 58%)

6 puzzle books $18 (discount of 59%)

Click on these links to see how ordinary people voted on various issues concerning life in Singapore.

Click here to give your votes on the current issues:

You will win a prize for participating.

Click here to find out how the ordinary people assess the performance of our govt agencies and ministers.

Click on the link to submit your vote and win a prize.

Improve efficiency and reduce cost of operation of public transport

Public transport fares will increase by 6 cents in December. This will represent an increase of 4% for a typical fare of $1.50. It is a large increase.

One reason put forward is the increase in capacity. This means more trains and buses are put into operations.

It is time for the Land Transport Authority to study the data and publish the average occupancy rate for each service and time period of the day.

Are we running too many buses and trains that are relatively empty. Are there services that are too packed?

Can the frequency be changed to improve the efficiency?

This website shows an example of how the data can be analyzed. I am using simulated data to generate the report. The real data can be obtained from the database of the Land Transport Authority.

I developed this website to show to the LTA and also visited their office. However, they do not seem to be interested.

I suspect that we are building too many MRT lines and that some of the lines will not be adequately used. Each MRT line cost several tens of billions dollars. Are we spending too much? Is the public being asked to pay for the costly operations through fare increases?

I support the development of a more complete network of trains, but I urge that the spending should be better controlled. We should not be spending too much money to build the lines.

There is another area for optimization. Currently, we operate 350 bus services connecting various parts of Singapore.

This network of services is quite complicated. Some commuters will know how to use a mobile app to take advantage of the services. But many commuters do not know how this can be done.

I believe that the bus services can be improved by reorganizing them to have express services that run on the expressways and connect one town to another. Feeder services can bring the commuters within the town and the nearby areas.

Under this structure, we only need 40 to 60 express services and maybe 100 to 150 feeder services. This new structure will reduce the travel time by 30% (my estimate) and also makes it easier to increase the occupancy of the buses. It will result in lower cost of operations.

We can improve our public transport system and reduce the cost of operations.

Tan Kin Lian

Price increase and vouchers

My comment: Increase price then give vouchers. This seem to be the expected mode of operation. It is better to keep cost low, so that everyone can afford it.

It is costly and wasteful to set up the system and manpower to distribute the vouchers.


Public transport fare hike: S$9 million in vouchers to support 300,000 needy households

The lower-income households will get Public Transport Vouchers worth S$30 each, which can be used to purchase or top up fare cards or buy monthly concession passes, said the Ministry of Transport and People’s Association. This is the largest such exercise to date since 2010, and needy households can apply for the vouchers at community centres and clubs from Nov 12 this year to Oct 31 next year.

Read this article

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Getting SingPass Mobile to work

A helpful staff from the CorpPass help desk called me. He helped me to set up my mobile phone to receive the CorpPass notification.

It was very difficult. He had to guide me for more than ten minutes. It seemed that different phone had different configurations, so it was difficult to get the right setting for the notification to pop up.

We managed to get the setting to work.

Still the popup does not appear. I have to log into the app to see the notification.

I imagine they will have to guide many users on this complicated setting.

I told the staff that there is a simpler way. They can get the app to generate a OTP (which replaces the need to send a SMS). The user will be happy to get the OTP and enter it into the CorpPass website.

My solution would have probably cost less than 10% of the cost that they had incurred to set up the complicated notification system.

And they will have to incur horrendous cost in providing the support to guide several hundred thousand users.

Tan Kin Lian

Minimum wage or progressive wage?

I wish to share my views on the debate between minimum wage, adopted in most countries, and the progressive wage system, favored by the govt in Singapore.

According to the International Labour Organisation, more than 170 countries in the world have a minimum wage, or 92 per cent of its 186 member states.

If the progressive wage system is better, why do other countries not adopt it?

The progressive wage system was introduced in Singapore in 2012. It covers the cleaning, security and landscaping industries.

While it has made some progress, it does not help much to raise the overall level of wages and the inequality in wages.

My view is that it will take a long time for the progressive wage system to have an impact. We have a habit of finding convoluted approaches to solve our problems. Many people are confused with these approaches.

What's the problem with implementing a minimum wage. There is a fear that it can cause small employers to reduce the workers that they employ.

Why not, for a start, implement a minimum wage in the public sector and for large companies? We can exclude small businesses initially.

The public sector should set an example and pay an adequate wage to all its workers. It is egregious for the National Library Board to pay a wage of $5.50 an hour for its part time workers.

The same observation can be made about the wages for workers in Changi Airport. If the work is outsourced to sub-contractors by the public sector or the large companies, the minimum wage should also apply to the contracted workers.

It is better for the public sector to stop the practice of outsourcing of their work to reduce the cost of labor.

We can find a way to get small businesses to implement the minimum wage. The govt can give the a subsidy to cover the wages of a limited number of workers in each small business.

The proponents of the progressive wage system pointed out that the wages will be higher for workers with more skills.

We can leave it to the employer to pay higher wages to better skilled workers. There is no need to give this excuse to avoid the minimum wage.

The high inequality in Singapore has to be dealt with. We have to implement a more effective system to raise the wages of low income workers. Most countries decided that the minimum wage system is the way to go. They are not stupid.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Allowance for each child

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How much should be the allowance for each child?

Here are the responses: (69 Votes)
49 % - $500 a month until the child reaches age 16, limited to 3 children per family
22 % - $800 a month until the child reaches age 12, limited to 3 children per family.
19 % - $300 a month until the child reaches age 16, limited to 3 children per family.
10 % - The baby bonus package is better.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Provide an allowance for each child

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the govt provide an adequate allowance for each child?

Here are the responses: (71 Votes)
56 % - It will help to increase our birth rate.
21 % - It will encourage some mothers to stay at home and raise a few children.
13 % - It will be too costly. 
10 % - It will encourage families to have many children.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Difficult to cross a road

I was walking along Orchard Road towards Orchard Hotel. At the Paterson Road junction, the crossing was blocked. The sign indicated to use the underpass at Ion. it was not a straight forward underpass. I had to go down 2 levels and passed through dozens of shops. I almost got lost.
I was most annoyed at how inconsiderate were the road planners. They are not concerned about the difficulty and confusion given to ordinary people. They only wanted to give more business to the shops.

Shared bike operators likely to close shop

I expect some of the shared bike operators to close shop within the next six months and the fleet size to drop further. If this happens, it will be another example of the inexperience of our regulators. Their regulations make business not sustainable.


Shared bike fleet slashed by over 50 per cent to 40,500, as Ofo cuts numbers from Nov 1

The shared bicycle population in Singapore will be cut by more than half next month, dipping from 100,000 in September to 40,500 as operators downsize their fleets to meet a Nov 1 deadline imposed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Ofo, which had originally applied for and was granted a licence for 25,000 bicycles, subsequently requested a reduction to a maximum fleet of 10,000 due to difficulties meeting financial obligations under the licensing scheme for 25,000 bikes, the LTA said on Monday.

Responsible competition

I support Grab's approach towards the arrival of Go-Jek. We should avoid unhealthy and wasteful competition.

It should actually be the duty of the regulator, i.e. the Land Transport Authority, to set the parameters for a competitive market.

It should not be uncontrolled competition where the party with more money use their power to kill off a weaker competitor.

There are unsustainable practices that should be disallowed.

I wish all the best to Grab and Go-Jek.



Banking on good service

Grab looks to avoid a price war with ride-hailing rival Go-Jek as it focuses on safe, reliable services

Grab plans to take a cautious approach and push to further improve its services, rather than drive up subsidies, as competition with Go-Jek intensifies in its home market and across South-east Asia, company president Ming Maa said in an interview at the China Conference organised by the South China Morning Post in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. "We do not believe that winning customer heartshare and mindshare is driven by subsidies," he said. "It's driven by providing them good service and a good product."

Read this article

Reduce the congestion at the checkpoints

I give my views about the third link to Johor Bahru.

It is good to build a third link, but it is costly and will take many years to be ready.

We should act now to improve the traffic flow in the existing two links.

The clearance on the Singapore side is too slow. Often, it takes a longer time to clear the Singapore side than the Johor side. Do not blame the traffic. Both sides have to deal with the same traffic.

Last week, I returned to Singapore through the second link. It took less than 5 minutes to clear the Johor side by car. It took 45 minutes on the Singapore side.

I found that 2 booths were not manned. Only 4 were manned at that section.

if all 6 booths were manned, the clearance would have been much faster.

It is deplorable that the Singapore side was not able to get all the booths manned, leading to a long wait for the travelers.

It is inefficiency and wasteful.

For bus travelers, both authorities can talk to each other and locate the clearance in the same building at the point of departure.

The traveler from Singapore can clear through the Singapore checkpoint and proceed to clear through the Malaysian checkpoint at the Woodlands side.

A similar arrangement can be made at the Johor side. The traveller from Johore can clear through the Malaysian checkpoint and then the Singapore checkpoint in the same building.

This is the arrangement at the train checkpoint for the KTM shuttle. It works well. It is considerate to the people.

We can also increase the number of train departures for the KTM shuttle. Currently, there are about 15 departures a day. It can be increased to 60 departures. It is possible to have a train depart every 15 minutes.

The actual journey takes 5 minutes. As there is one track, it should be possible to have the train goes up and down in 10 minutes and allow 5 minutes for boarding and alighting.

Earlier this year, the Malaysian side had asked the Singapore side to allow more departures. Why is the Singapore side not giving an answer after so many months?

There is unfairness in the fares being charged. The traveler pays $5 to leave Singapore and RM 5 to leave Johore. The fare from Singapore can be reduced to $2.

We can have the third link in a few years time. Meanwhile, there is much that can be done to improve the efficiency of the existing two links.

I urge the Singapore govt to consider the welfare of the people who have to travel regularly. Most of them are workers who come to work in Singapore.

Work with Malaysia to increase the train service and to reduce the time for clearing both checkpoints. Reduce the congestion on the two links.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - A strong Singapore dollar

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do you like a high Singapore dollar?

Here are the responses: (70 Votes)
36 % - No. It increases our cost of doing business and reduces jobs.
34 % - No. It allows foreigners to make a large profit on investing in properties and take the profit out of Singapore.
17 % - Yes. It gives better spending power when we travel to other countries.
13 % - Yes. It reduces the cost of imports.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Taxation system

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Which taxation system do you prefer?

Here are the responses: (75 Votes)
79 % - Progressive income tax - high earners pay a higher rate of tax.
12 % - Smaller govt, less tax and less social benefits.
8 % - Tax on big ticket items, such as car and houses.
1 % - GST

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Performance of ministers and agencies

I wish to ask you to vote for the performance of the agencies and ministers by clicking this link.
This will take you less than 5 minutes.

If you voted recently, please re-submit your votes, as the data table has been reorganized.

After you submit your vote, you can download a prize - Continue my Life Insurance Policy?

Thank you.

Order safely through online platforms

Some people have bad experience buying things online.

They ordered some products that were not delivered.

Some of the sellers used online platforms to scam the buyers. They did not intend to deliver the products. Some recent cases involve highly priced concert tickets.

Not all of these cases are scammed. Sometimes, there was failure in the delivery, e.g. delivered to the wrong address.

The honest sellers will provide a contact and will respond to complaints.

How can you tell between the honest and the dishonest sellers?

A safe way is to use a well established platform like Amazon, Ali Baba or Lazada.

My experience with these platforms have been satisfactory. I have ordered several dozen products and they were all delivered. If the product was out of stock, I received a refund.

Most of these platforms actually had many independent sellers. How do the platforms ensure that all the sellers delivered their products.

They adopt a good method. They control the transfer of the funds until after the delivery is completed and confirmed.

They require their sellers to despatch their products through the approved delivery providers.

All the deliveries are tracked through the tracking system provided by the platforms.

To avoid being scammed, you should buy through the established platforms.

What about products that cannot be bought through the established platforms, such as concert tickets?

Try to establish contact to the seller by email or WhatsApp first. If the seller replies, he is likely to be an honest seller.

Pay through PayPal. They provide insurance against non-delivery or complaints. You can get a refund.

We are moving to the online world. Get used to it, and enjoy its benefits.

Tan Kin Lian

Act now to avoid costly mistakes

I have often received requests from consumers who bought a life insurance policy and later had second doubts.

They asked me - is the policy good?

I asked them to send the benefit illustration to me.

My usual conclusion is - it gives a poor return, but it is too late to correct the mistake.

Too late?

Yes. If you stop the policy now, you would have lost a large part of your savings.

Is there a way to avoid this mistake?

Yes. Here is a simple step, and it is free.

Watch the videos on financial planning contained in this page.

These videos are prepared especially for young people, but older people will also benefit from them.

WOTC - Free trade agreements

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Are free trade agreements good for Singapore?

Here are the responses: (72 Votes)
64 % - Some of the FTAs are bad for Singapore, such as the CECA - as it allows the inflow of foreign workers to compete for jobs with locals.
29 % - The FTAs generally benefit the businesses but do not help the workers.
7 % - They are generally good for Singapore, as it promotes trade and brings economic growth to Singapore.
0 % - Many workers have benefited from the FTAs through good paying jobs.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Was NEA negligent?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Has the NEA been negligent over the social enterprise hawker centers?

Here are the responses: (76 Votes)
58 % - The social enterprises abused the system to make profits for certain parties.
24 % - The NEA failed to carry out its duty properly.
11 % - The blame goes to the minister for the environment.
8 % - They are operating under the guidelines set by the govt.

See the pie chart at:

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