Saturday, December 22, 2018

Be customer focused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tan Kin Lian

Planning a future in Forest City

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will probably not be around to find out.

Independent organs of state

In Singapore, the election department, corrupt practices investigation bureau and attorney general's office report to the prime minister of his minister.

In many countries, these organs are independent of the ruling govt.

We are so used to our structure of control that we overlook that it could be done in some other ways.

I quote some example of the practices in other countries.

In America, the Federal Reserve or the Fed act independently of the government. They decide on monetary policy in the interest of the country, based on their judgment. They do not allow the President or his Treasury Secretary to dictate the monetary policies to them, as these ministers may have political motives, i.e. to win more votes at the next election.

The interest of the country override the interest of politicians.

In the past, Malaysia has many organs of state report to the ruling govt or the prime minister. This practice was similar to the current practice in Singapore.

The new govt in Malaysia has decided that several of these organs of state should be independent of the govt. They should report to Parliament.

The changes involved the Election Department, the corrupt practices bureau and the Attorney General's Office. The appointment of the people to run these organs will be decided by Parliament and not the cabinet.

Malaysia had learned from recent years that the concentration of power in the prime minister or his ministers have led to rampant and serious corrupt practices. They want to change the structure to avoid these risk in the future.

Singapore face similar risk. We should learn from the lesson in Malaysia and other countries and take appropriate measures to mitigate these risks. Indeed, we are far being the best practice as shown from the experience of other countries.

I share my observation about the practice in Indonesia on the appointment of the members of their independent corrupt practice bureau, known as the KPK.

The term of the previous KPK had expired and a new membership of the KPK had to be appointed by Parliament.

The president nominated an independent "selection committee" to recommend the people to be appointed. The selection committee invited the public to make their recommendations.

The non govt organizations (NGOs) had an interest to find the most suitable and "clean" people to serve in the KPK. There were wide discussions in the media about the potential candidates. The final candidates that were submitted to the President comprise of people who were generally well respected and "clean".

The president submitted his final recommendation to Parliament for appointment.

Indonesia had many decades of rampant corruption. They need to have a process to gain the confidence of the public that the govt intends to eradicate the deep rooted corrupt practices.

Through their selection process, they showed that it is possible to gain the confidence of the public by adopting a transparent process. It is also possible to appoint suitable people who are not linked to the ruling govt.

Indonesia has shown that it is possible to have independent bodies that can carry out their job, in spite of daunting challenges.

We need to learn the lesson and good practices from other countries.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Independent election commission

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should we have an independent election commission?

Here are the responses: (40 Votes)
45 % - The election commission should report be elected by the people and should be voted by the people.
23 % - The election commission should report to Parliament.
20 % - It is very difficult to have independent bodies as there are many vested interests.
13 % - The election commission should report to the President.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Manual voting system

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it better to keep to a manual voting system?

Here are the responses: (40 Votes)
50 % - We need a truly independent election commission in the first place.
23 % - The manual voting system has served us well.
20 % - It is possible to build safeguards to ensure the integrity of an online voting system. 
8 % - A manual voting system has many risk of fraud, as shown in other countries.

See the pie chart at:

Avoid costly mistake

Many customers suffered losses when they fail to keep track of the expiry of their telco contract.

Read the feedback in
Avoid this costly mistake.

Provide feedback in #HearMeOut website

Hi Mr Tan

Appreciate you can advise me to seek answer from government on the public hospital operation.

Should we send to moh, pmo or direct to hospital CEO?

We have questions for them to answer regarding my late mother case during her last day in hospital.

Any government agencies reply to you on your past feedback?

You can write to the CEO of the hospital and copy to me.
I will put it in the #HearMeOut website.
So far, the govt agencies do not respond the the feedback in my website.
My aim is to let the general public should know about the feedback.

Tan Kin Lian

Friday, December 21, 2018

Make shared bikes a part of the integrated public transport system

Bike sharing operations are not viable in many cities around the world. Several operators have ceased their business due to large losses.

This will happen in Singapore as well.

The shared use of bikes is a good idea in an integrated transport service. Some commuters need shared bikes for the last mile, to reach their homes, especially in private housing estates.

However, the operations should be runned as a public service. A small charge can be levied but a large part of the operation has to be covered by public funds.

This mode is more important in Singapore because of our integrated fare structure for public transport. The integrated fare covers train and buses. It should now be extended to shared bikes.

As public property, the govt authority can pass regulations to ensure that the users take care of the bikes. The deliberate damage of the bikes should be treated as vandalism of public property. The bikes have to be parked at designated places, similarly to parking of vehicles.

Will the Land Transport Authority rise up to this challenge and take the necessary steps to integrated the shared bikes in the public transport system?

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Charge for criminal defamation

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is it proper for the editor of TOC to be charged for criminal defamation?

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
42 % - He has already taken down the article as requested.
33 % - He is only publishing an article that alleges corruption at the highest level
16 % - This is malicious intent.
9 % - It is fair comment.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Malaysia restrict export of eggs

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Malaysia is restricting the export of eggs.

Here are the responses: (49 Votes)
39 % - It will increase prices in Singapore and affect the cost of living.
35 % - This dispute is unnecessary and harms both sides.
14 % - It will affect their producers in Malaysia more than the consumers in Singapore
12 % - It does not matter to us. We have other sources of supply.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, December 20, 2018

WOTC - Is Malaysia fair to Singapore?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do you trust the Malaysia govt in dealing fairly with Singapore?

Here are the responses: (48 Votes)
35 % - They want to bully Singapore to distract their voters from their own problems.
31 % - They have their own priorities but the have a fair approach towards Singapore.
31 % - Singapore needs to be fair and helpful to them, to get their goodwill.
2 % - They want to see Singapore go down.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Electronic voting

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your views about electronic voting?

Here are the responses: (46 Votes)
52 % - I prefer the traditional old method of manual voting and counting.
35 % - I support it if there are safeguards to ensure that the results reflect the wishes of the voters.
7 % - I like the ability to vote online, instead of spending time at the voting center.
7 % - It will allow referendums to be carried out more easily.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

WOTC - Use force to remove intruding vessels

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singapore use force to remove the Malaysia vessel from "our waters"?

Here are the responses: (48 Votes)
63 % - No. The waters are still under dispute.
15 % - Block the supply boats.
13 % - Wait for them to run out of supplies.
10 % - Yes. Show we mean business.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Win more votes for PAP?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will the standoff with Malaysia win more votes for PAP at next general election?

Here are the responses: (50 Votes)
32 % - No. The dispute could be avoided.
28 % - No. It will cause more hardship.
22 % - Yes. Out of fear.
18 % - Yes. More people will rally behind PAP

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Integrity of the online voting system

A few countries that tried online voting gave up after a while.

They face the challenge of ensuring that the votes recorded in the database are the actual votes submitted by the voters.

There is the risk that the votes could be altered fraudulently by hackers or by the programmers who developed the software.

How can they assure the public that the voting results are valid, when the integrity of the votes cannot be proven?

I have a way of handling this uncertainly.

This is what I would do:

a) All votes will be recorded into two databases - a primary database that is controlled by the election authority and an audit database that is controlled by an independent third party, e.g. the supreme court or an independent auditor.

b) The tables containing the votes in both database are set to "insert mode" only. The "update" mode is disabled. This is the technology to prevent the alteration of the votes. I am not sure how strong is this technology, but it is useful to adopt it.

c) An audit program is run at regular intervals to compare the votes in the primary and the audit database. Any mismatch will be highlighted immediately to the election officials and the relevant independent officials.

If the votes in the primary or audit databases are somehow altered fraudulently, the mismatch will be thrown out by the audit program. It would be quite impossible for the hacker to be able to change the votes in both databases simultaneously.

There are technology to prevent the interception of the data in transit to the databases. This technology is able to prevent fraud for online banking transactions. It can also secure the voting results.

There is still the risk that the programmer of the voting software could acting fraudulently by taking the actual votes by the voter and altering them before updating the two databases.

This risk can be managed by checking the integrity of the software and not allowing any changes after it has been approved.

If necessary, an additional layer of check can be provided. The voter can receive a QR code that identify the ballot number. This QR code allows the voter to access the audit database and see the actual votes recorded for that online ballot.

The voter will remember the persons that he has voted for, and can point out if there were unauthorized changes. Each voter can only view the online ballot that he has submitted.

There is also the need to ensure the secrecy of the votes. Each voter is given a ballot paper that is identified by the ballot number. There is no way of identifying the actual person who has voted from the ballot number.

There is a secret table that link the ballot paper to the voter, but this is under strict control. This table is kept encrypted and secret. It can only be used to verify the authenticity of the ballot paper.
In the event of any mismatch, the vote will be invalidated. If the mismatch is small, the results from the remaining votes can be accepted. If it is extensive, the whole election process can be aborted.

The change of this happening is very slim. The main value of this process is to give confidence in the integrity of the online voting system.

I have developed a prototype of the online voting system that embrace these principles, i.e. the use of two databases and the audit program to highlight any mismatches.

This prototype can be viewed at

Tan Kin Lian

Voter authentication for an online voting system

Some countries found it implement an online voting system due to voter authentication.

They do not know who is an authorized voter.

They do not have a proper register of voters. Some of the citizens have died, but their names still remain on the register. It was possible for another person to vote on behalf of the dead person.

They also face the problem of authenticating the person who turn up to vote. There is no identity card that is issued to identify the person.

In some cases, the person produces a driving licence as proof of identity, but some people do not have a driving licence of the licence could be forged.

They have other means of proving identity but these means are also subject to fraud.

This problem exists with a manual voting system. It is carried forward to an online system.

Ideally, an online voting system allows a person to login at a website, provide proof of his identity and submit his vote. This requires a proper register of voter, which has been updated to remove voters who have died or given up their citizenship, and to have the the user code and password to fully identify that person.

If the online authentication is not available to some voters, the voter can still turn up at the voting station and provide proof of identity. The voter can then submit the vote which is captured in the database.

The online voting will make it easy to count the votes electronically.

There is another concern about online voting, in that the voter may be influenced by another person when submitting the vote, as the voting is carried out in the home or elsewhere, other than a supervised voting center.

This concern also applies to postal voting. If postal voting is allowed, there should be no valid objection to online voting.

If this concern about voter influence is serious, the voting can be arranged at any supervised voting center, including overseas embassies. It should be possible to provide many centers for voting and the voter can vote at any center. There is no need for the voting to appear at a voting center that is designated for the voter.

Singapore has the advantage of a reliable register of voters which has been kept up to date. It has the further advantage of a means of online authentication using SingPass.

It should be possible for Singapore to introduce online voting, without facing the challenges that affect many other countries without a proper register of voters and the means of online authentication.

With our advantage, we should move forward to introduce online voting and provide a positive example to other countries of how such a system can work.

There is a need to make sure that the votes are recorded correctly and that they cannot be altered fraudulently. I will write about this issue in a separate post.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Cashless payments

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should cashless payments be promoted in Singapore?

Here are the responses: (49 Votes)
41 % - Cash is still the most efficient and widely used form of payment.
29 % - Cashless payments is more efficient and reduces cost for all parties.
20 % - I do not trust cashless payments as the govt can track my payments.
10 % - We need to keep up with the times and follow the lead by other countries.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Food poisoning

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is the likely cause of food poisoning in Singapore

Here are the responses: (56 Votes)
75 % - Unclean way of preparing the food.
16 % - Contaminated supply of meat and vegetables.
9 % - Shortage of workers and cooks
0 % - Food eaten after the expiry time.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, December 17, 2018

Estimating the swing against PAP

This webpage shows the swing against the PAP caused by several factors.

If we add up the swing for the top five factors, we will get 25.22%.

The simulation of GE2020 with a swing of 25.22% shows the following results.

Total seats won by each party
PAP - 30 seats
WP - 28 seats
NSP - 11 seats
SDP - 11 seats
SDA - 6 seats
SPP - 3 seats

OK, this may be somewhat extreme. The PAP has dropped to 30 seats in parliament.

If we take only the top 3 factors, the swing is 15.47%.

The simulation with this swing shows the following results.

Total seats won by each party
PAP - 76 seats
WP - 13 seats

The PAP still has a overwhelming control over parliament, which is bad for the people.

If you do not like the simulation, do not argue with me. You can make your own estimate and run your own simulation in this webpage:


Swing against PAP at next general election

Which factors will cause the biggest swing against the PAP at the next general election?

Here are the results of the votes submitted by participants.

The most important factors are:

a) High cost of living
b) High salaries of ministers,
c) No value for HDB flats after 99 years.

You can see the other factors in this webpage:

I also invite you to vote on the likely impact of each issue, i.e. what is your assessment?

After you have submitted your vote, you will get a book prize - on choosing the right life insurance policy.

You can vote at

Getting old

The assistant at the noodle stall in Midview City canteen looked rather elderly.

Me: How old are you?
Him: Old already, I am 65.
Me: You are still young, I am already 70.

He and his boss, the stall owner, could not believe my age. This became the subject of conversation on my next two visits to the stall.

The assistant now feel inspired. He does not consider himself to be old anymore. When I saw him in the bus, he waved at me. When I walked by the stall, he waved at me.

Why vote non PAP

Some people, who are so fed up with the PAP, wants to see the PAP kicked out of office and a new govt take place from the other parties.

They do not even trust the Workers Party which they considered to be "too close" to the PAP.

I like these people to be more realistic.

There was an attempt to form a coalition of non PAP parties with Dr. Tan Cheng Bock appointed as the leader. Nothing materialized over the past many months.

Within the non PAP parties, there is considerable distrust among the leaders. They will be unable to form any credible coalition. This is sad, but it is a fact.

It is easy to find reasons to dislike any particular person or party. It is quite a common characteristics in Singapore.

The alternative approach is to look for what to like about a particular person or party. This is the only way that a coalition can be forged.

Anyway, I do not expect the coalition to materialize. We are likely to go into the next general election with a hodgepodge of non PAP parties contesting against the PAP. It will be like the earlier general elections.

At best, we can see three strong non-PAP parties going into the fray - the Workers Party, the Singapore Democratic Party and a third party, possibly led by Dr. Tan.

Many people will be disappointed at this arrangement, and they may feel that it is useless to vote non PAP.

I disagree with this sentiment.

It is important for voters to vote non PAP so that there will be a more diverse parliament. A parliament comprising mainly of PAP MPs will be a disaster. They have done a lot of harm already.

If the parliament is more diverse, there will be more opportunity for issues to be debated in parliament. It will be good for governance, and for the future of Singapore. It does not matter that the PAP will still form the government. But, they cannot continue the old way that they adopted for the past three decades.

Change will come if we have a more diverse parliament, even if PAP remain in charge. In the case that they do not get a majority, they can still form a coalition govt with another party.

Some voters worry that Singapore will be in trouble if the PAP is not the govt. They should consider the alternative. Singapore WILL be in trouble if the PAP continues to be the govt.

Even if the non PAP parties cannot form a coalition, it is still best for voters to vote non PAP.

Tan Kin Lian

CPF Life payout are not guaranteed

Dear Mr. Tan,
I have read articles in the newspaper and was quite convinced that I could get a "higher" monthly payout if I continue to ensure I have a big sum of money in my Retirement Account.
However, my CPF friends recently told me that the monthly CPF Life payouts are based on estimates/ projections, just like what you see in a Benefit Illustration for an Endowment insurance policy.
These monthly payout values as illustrated in your articles and on CPF website are not guaranteed. I found the following fine print when I use the CPF Life Payout Estimator tool on the CPF website:

WOTC - Maids barred from restaurants in private clubs

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should a country club bar maids from eating in the restaurants? 

Here are the responses: (52 Votes)
37 % - This form of discrimination is unacceptable.
31 % - Leave it to the decision of the members of the club.
31 % - The maid should be allowed at the request of the member.
2 % - A law should be passed to deal with this matter.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Use of force to remove intruding vessels

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singapore use force to remove the vessels that intruded in our waters?

Here are the responses: (50 Votes)
54 % - Use force at the last resort.
24 % - Ignore them and respond when these vessels to cause trouble.
12 % - Keep shouting and the vessels will leave eventually
10 % - Use force if the vessels do not move out within a few days.

See the pie chart at:

Prototype of online voting system

Click on this link and get a feel of how an online voting system look like.

It will simulate a voter who has logged in with the SingPass.

The voter is presented with several ballots - to vote for the MP, the town council rep and two referendum issues.

After you have submitted your vote, you can see the votes submitted by the other participants. (In real life, you have to wait for the polls to close before you see the results).

Click on this link to see the comparison of the votes between the audit database and the primary database. This is my method to ensure that the votes are not fraudulently altered by a hacker. Any mismatch of the votes will be highlighted.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

WOTC - Encroaching on Singapore's territory

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is Malaysia being aggressive in encroaching on the territory of Singapore?

Here are the responses: (55 Votes)
51 % - There is dispute over the boundary that should be resolved through discussion and, if necessary, through arbitration.
22 % - Both countries have been reclaiming land, leading to disputes over the boundary line.
18 % - Malaysia is being aggressive in putting markers on disputed territory.
9 % - The dispute is unnecessary, as there are no natural resources to be tapped and freedom of navigation is respected.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Should Singapore increase defense spending?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should Singapore increase defense spending?

Here are the responses: (58 Votes)
52 % - The current spending is excessive and can be reduced.
29 % - The current spending is adequate.
14 % - A high defense spending can lead to unintended warfare. 
5 % - This is necessary due to our territorial dispute with Malaysia.

See the pie chart at:

Should employers be required by law to provide retrenchment benefits?

Someone asked for my view whether retrenchment benefit should be made compulsory under law, as it the practiced in many other countries.

Here is my reply:

In some countries, employers contribute to a company pension fund. When the service of the employee is terminated, and the employee does not qualify for a pension or deferred pension, the employee loses the contribution for his period of service.

A retrenchment benefit would be fair to offset this loss to the employee.

In Singapore, the employer contribute to the Central Provident Fund, and the contribution vests immediately with the employee.

This is likely to be the reason why the government does not mandate the payment of retrenchment benefits.

The employment law however does provide for the retrenchment benefit to be negotiated individually or bargained collectively under the terms of employment. Most employers are not likely to provide retrenchment benefit as they consider that the cost of the employee is already quite high, considering the salary and the CPF contribution.

I know that many people are struggling due to the high cost of housing and the high cost of living in Singapore. This is a separate issue that I frequently write in the social media. I do not think that this problem can be solved by making retrenchment benefits mandatory under law.

Tan Kin Lian

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