Saturday, January 05, 2019

Big and small economies need different approaches

There are big countries and small countries. There are big economies and small economies.

In a big country with a big economy, it make sense to open up the market for competition. The electricity market can have many producers and distributors, each operating their own facilities and network.

This does not apply to a small country. In a small country, there is insufficient scale to have many producers and many distribution networks.

To open up the energy and telecommunication markets in Singapore for competition does not lead to lower prices. Indeed, it will lead to higher prices, as the cost of competition will add to the final price paid by consumers.

A monopoly in the energy and telecommunication markets will also increase profits due to the excessive profit margin of the provider. However, the provider can be state owned and given the mandate to operate efficiently to bring down the cost to consumers.

It is not difficult to manage a monopoly with the non-profit mandate. There are ways to compare the efficiency of non-profit operations by looking at the indicators, e.g. unit cost of production.

There is also a need to measure the quality of service, but this is not difficult.

For example, immigration checkpoint is run as a monopoly. The service standard can be compared. If it takes twice the time to clear vehicles at the Singapore checkpoint compared to the Malaysian checkpoint, something must be wrong with our efficiency.

Of course, the authority can cook up some excuse, such as the need to be more stringent in checking, but this can also be verified.

Singapore used to be quite efficient in our public service and state owned enterprises, in telecommunication and utilities. The performance has deteriorated in recent decades. The cost has skyrocketed.

Opening up the market for competition is not the solution; indeed, it is the cause of the problem.

Tan Kin Lian

Climb over a high fence

I switched to Ohms Energy and gets 25% discount from the tariff rate charged by Singapore Power. Will Ohms be viable offering this discount?

If they can, does it mean that SP has been earning a fat margin of more than 25%?

Why does the govt not control the margin charged by SP? Why go about the troublesome way of opening up the energy market? What value does the market offer, other than complicated choices and additional cost to the economy?

I was able to get this benefit because I could spend the time to read the complicated website and go through the process of transferring supplier.

I am sure that the poorer people, who have to work 12 hours a day to make a living, does not have the luxury of time to make the transfer to enjoy the reduction of 25% in the price.

The govt could say - it is their fault. They did not take the trouble to do it.

We may have the situation where the more affluent enjoy a lower price for electricity and the poorer people pay the higher price. It is another regressive measure.

I prefer the govt to get SP to lower their margin, so that every consumer can benefit, without giving them a high fence to climb over.

Tan Kin Lian

Switching electricity supplier

I just applied to transfer my electricity supply to Ohms Energy. I chose the price of 25% below the tariff rate.

Ohms also used SP Service to bill their charges, so I do not have to pay two bills each month.

Some of the providers, e.g. Keppel Electric, have direct billing. They send their own bill for electricity and SP will send the bill for water. I find this to be wasteful.

I do not understand the rationale for Ohms to charge 25% below SP. Does SP have such a high margin? Should the govt force them to reduce their margin?

I found the Ohms website to be quite complicated. They have many pricing plans and they ask for a lot of details to be provided (which I need to search).

They even ask for my NRIC, when it is already with SP Services. I do not understand why every company need the customer to go through this hassle.

There is another matter that is troubling. I search for information about Ohms - who are the shareholders, etc. I found none. (Maybe, I searched the wrong place).

Surely, the Energy Market Authority should provide this information on their website? After all, they are advising consumers to choose one of the "approved" providers.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Legal suit against Leong SH

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will the legal suit taken by PM Lee against Leong SH affect his votes?

Here are the responses: (41 Votes)
49 % - How can a PM sue his citizens for sharing a post on Facebook?
22 % - PM Lee will lose votes as his reputation is affected by the legal suit.
22 % - It will encourage more people to contribute to the legal defense fund of Leong SH. 
7 % - PM Lee will continue to get the support of the voters.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - increase manpower at checkpoints

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How can ICA increase its manpower for the checkpoints?

Here are the responses: (46 Votes)
52 % - Recruit more officers to reduce the workload on existing officers.
30 % - Simplify the procedures, e.g. get rid of immigration card.
15 % - Pay higher salaries.
2 % - Recruit more foreigners.

See the pie chart at:

Friday, January 04, 2019

How to eradicate unsolicited calls

I have registered my mobile phone under the Do Not Call Register.

I receive a phone call from a Singapore mobile No. It is for a telemarketer calling about a financial market product.

I decided to take the trouble to lodge a complaint with PDPA.

I went to

I got a warning from it is an "unsafe" site. What? The PDPA site is "unsafe"?

Yes - they do not use https:// A govt agency? What a shame.

I went through their complicated website (which is typical of govt agencies) and, after some trouble, found a link to report an unsolicited message:

Unsolicited SMSes or calls from unknown sources that are related to loans, financial assistance or online gambling are likely to be associated with unlicensed moneylending and illegal gambling activities. The PDPC investigates all complaints regarding unsolicited telemarketing SMSes or calls seriously. However, unlicensed moneylending and illegal gambling are serious criminal offences in Singapore where the Police are the relevant authority to investigate such offences. If you receive such SMSes or calls, please notify the Police directly by:

(a) lodging a Police Report;
(b) calling the National Crime Prevention Council's 'X Ah Long' Hotline at 1800-924-5664 (1800-X-AH-LONG); or
(c) providing information via I-Witness.

Complaints received by the PDPC relating to such activities will be referred to the Police.

It is a shameful practice by PDPA. They expect me to lodge a police report? This is the poor standard of our govt agency.

What is is a better approach?

a) They should allow me to register the calling number, time of call and my mobile No into the website.
b) They can call or send a SMS to warn that No about the infringement of PDPA. This call from PDPA should be effective in eradicating the problem.
c) If the same telemarketer continue to make unsolicited calls, PDPA can lodge the police report.

Most of the telemarketers are just trying to make a living. They do not want to break the law.

I know that it is difficult to catch the telemarketers calling from overseas, but what about dealing with the local calls?

If our govt agency continues to take the easy way out, and push the problem to somebody else, in this case the Police, the problem can never be solved.

Tan Kin Lian

Stop wasteful and unnecessary spending

I have, on many occasions, raised the observation the govt and its agencies are spending too much on unnecessary spending.

I wish to quote one of them here. There will be more examples that I will raise later.

Take the case of the recent exercise to open up the electricity market for consumers to pick their suppliers. This is supposed to help reduce prices for consumers through competitive pricing by the market.

This is probably true. But we should also realize the added cost to the economy through this practice. Here are the added cost:

a) The suppliers have to spend money on advertising and marketing to get consumers to shift from one supplier to another.

b) When a consumer changes suppliers, a lot of work has to be done to create a record with the new supplier, close the account with the old supplier, and change the banking arrangements.

c) The consumer has to receive bills from different suppliers for different services and make separate payment.

Is there a better way to reduce prices to consumers, rather than adopt a wasteful and costly practice?

My preferred approach is one publicly owned supplier, like in the past. There is a need to check that this supplier, which is operating a monopoly, prices the services at actual cost, rather than to make a profit.

It is not easy to ensure that the monopoly runs efficiently, but it is not difficult either. It can be done through transparency and effective management.

We were able to achieve these goals in the past under the first generation leaders (politicians and civil servants). I do not believe that the market can provide a better solution.

However, if we have to open up the market for consumers to choose their suppliers, can we reduce the wasteful practices?

We can allow SP Services to continue to handle the central billing for all providers. There is no need for each electricity supplier to set up a billing process.

I remembered that SP Services spent more than $40 million for their billing system. (This large sum shocked me). I do not know how much each electricity supplier will be spending on their separate billing systems. This cost could be avoided.

I lament that we are spending money wastefully. It seemed that the people in charge take the attitude of "not my money". Maybe, they think that if they spend more, the vendors that provide these services, e.g. billing systems, will reward them back in some way in the future. Is this not another form of corruption?

If Singapore is to survive and prosper in the future, we have to stop the wasteful spending. We need to be prudent and frugal. We should spend on the necessary things to improves lives for the people. We should not spend on expensive computer and other systems, just to make some people rich or some people look important.

Tan Kin Lian

Shared bikes as a public service

Ofo is providing fewer bikes. This is unfair to customers who have paid a weekly or monthly fee.

See article in CNA

This is an example of what happens in a "free market".

I prefer public services to be provided by a public agency. Share bikes should be a public service, and made part of the integrated transport system.

I have written about this concept here:

WOTC - Block article on crowd funding for Leong SH

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

The suspected blocking of the link to the article on crowd funding for Leong SH.

Here are the responses: (43 Votes)
49 % - It is a despicable and shameful act of the "authority".
28 % - It amounts to "abuse of power" and "state terrorism"
14 % - It was probably caused by a technical issue involving the Independent website.
9 % - We should trust the authority until proven otherwise.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Donate to Leong Sze Hian defence fund

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will you donate to the Leong Sze Hian defence fund?

Here are the responses: (43 Votes)
77 % - I will donate a small sum to show my support of Leong.
14 % - I will donate generously.
7 % - I do not trust the crowd funding method for the defence fund
2 % - I support PM Lee's legal suit against Leong for defamation.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Remove the root cause of a stressful education

I support the move to reduce the examinations and the stress, but I do not see the connection with "leveling the playing field", unless it is a govt propaganda.  See this article

I am also worried that we are not solving the root of the problem. Although there are less examinations in some years, there is still the need to do well at PSLE level and GCE O level.

Some parents may send their children to tuition classes or enrichment classes to make up for the lower study load in some years.

I prefer the overseas scholarship for top students be discontinued. They tend to favor the children from the wealthy families.

The funds can be used to lower the cost of education for all students.

Well off parents can still send their children to overseas universities but at their own expenses.

I am aware that this may cut off the children of poor families from the chance of an overseas education. We have to accept this consequence. If not, there will still be the competition for these places.

The children from poor families who did well can still go to our local universities. They are supposed to be of high standard anyway.

Maybe, if more of the good students go to our local universities, the standard will improve. We should not allow our local universities to take in "second class" students.

I do not have the perfect solution, but I prefer to go for the option of "no overseas scholarships" for all.

Tan Kin Lian

Office politics involving foreigners

A middle aged man joined a large company. After working for a few weeks, he was affected by the "office politics".

The foreigners working in the office was unhappy with him. They felt that they should be paid more than him as they are more capable than he is.

I advised the local to ignore the office politics. The company had to employ a certain proportion of locals to allow the foreigners to be recruited.

The employer also has to pay a levy for each foreign worker. So, the lower salary received by the foreign worker is taken by the govt through the levy.

I understand that this kind of office politics happen in many workplaces. It is not healthy.

WOTC - Security of food supplies

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How can we ensure security of food supplies?

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
36 % - Increase our sources of supply.
33 % - Use high technology to introduce high rise farming and reduce the use of land.
22 % - Have long term arrangements with neighbors to provide supplies at agreed prices.
9 % - Increase the land for farming and provide them at low prices.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Relations with Malaysia

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is the best strategy to manage our relations with Malaysia.

Here are the responses: (42 Votes)
79 % - Work in cooperation with them for win-win arrangements.
12 % - We cannot trust them, as they do not like Singapore to succeed.
5 % - Have a strong defense.
5 % - Wait for a change in the Malaysian government.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Will the govt review the PDPA?

I received a call on my mobile phone from an unknown Singapore number. I answered it.

There was no answer for a while. Later, a person with a foreign accent spoke. After speaking a while, she said "How are you today".

It is the SOP script for a telemarketing.

I leave the phone on hold. She said, "Hello " a few times before signing off. This will be my future response to telemarketing calls.

Clearly, the call is an infringement of the Privacy and Data Protection Act. I have registered my mobile phone under the "Do Not Call" register under PDPA.

I know that the register is useless. That is why I do not wish to make any report.

The PDPA adds to the cost of doing business and does not really serve any useful purpose.

Will the govt review the PDPA?

Tan Kin Lian

How to fix Medisave and Medishield

Medishield started in 1990 to provide insurance for catastrophic medical expenses. The co-payments was supposed to be covered by money in the CPF Medisave account.

The problem is that the medical expenses were too high. There were caps placed on the use of Medisave, to prevent too much money being siphoned out.

This result in the patient having to pay a large sum of money out of pocket.

In a recent case, a senior who opted for subsidised treatment for a cataract operation was able to claim for only $4.50 from Medishield.

He had to pay the balance of the post-subsidy bill of $4,477 out of Medisave and from his pocket. Medisave only paid $3,000, so the remaining sum of over $1,400 was paid out of pocket.

This is a complicated arrangement. l call it the "bits and pieces" payment system - some part paid here, some paid there. No wonder the people are confused with this system.

The govt thinks that this is necessary to make the patients responsible to help to control the medical expenses. In reality, most patients are so confused that they are not able to play a part to "control" the expenses. The actual expenses are outside their control.

The only control that they have is to choose the medical facility to go to. After that, they have to face the add-ons for various kinds of treatment.

In the example of the cataract operation, the patient went to a govt facility to enjoy the subsidy.

The minister should, by now, realize the problem. Medisave and Medishield has been going on for almost four decades. He is not a new minister, as he has been in office since 2011.

Anyway, it was a bad practice to appoint him as the minister for health when he had no prior experience in this complicated ministry (pardon me, if I am wrong on this matter).

So, what is the solution?

The govt should take the responsibility to set the charges for various types of treatment, if Medisave and Medishield are to be used.

The public hospitals and clinics, which also have access to the subsidy, should be the expected to take the lead to provide services based on these approved rates. These rates will still yield profit to the restructured hospitals, but not the big margins that they enjoy now. 

The approved rates should be an all-in rate for the treatment. The hospitals should be expected to absorb any variation in the treatment, and not allowed to charge for every item of service.

The restructured hospitals that are not profitable should look into the control of their expenses. We are currently spending too much for infrastructure, management salaries and expensive systems.

With proper rates in place, many private hospitals will probably join the scheme. They should be able to operate profitably on these approved rates.

If the rates are too low, the public and private hospitals will not provide the service. This will give the signal for the govt to revise the rates.

The deductible under Medishield scheme is too high. It should be reduced to $500 or even lower.

All the caps on Medisave should be removed. After all, the patient is going to an approved hospital for an approved treatment.

In Japan, they carry out the negotiations every year. It seemed to work well generally.

It is naive for the govt to think that the patients can control the expenses. They are leaving the patients to the mercy of the mercenary medical system.

Hospitals can be allowed to charge higher rates to local or foreign patients who do not wish to have access to Medisave or Medishield.

My suggestion is to set the approved charges for various types of treatments. I do not claim that this will solve all the problems. I am sure that other problems have to be dealt with prior to the launch or within a few years after that. But I am sure that it will be a better basis to deal with the problem than the current confusing and messy system.

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Lack of details from COI on the SingHealth cyber attack.

The long awaited report on the SingHealth cyber-attack was released today. The full report went to some big shot and a brief report was submitted to the public.

The committee of inquiry spent five months on public hearings.

I was interested to learn what caused the cyber attack.

I was disappointed that the public version of the report did not give any answer. It only said, "as the attack is state sponsored, the whole matter is high security. Details cannot be released".

I do not understand why details could not be released. There are code words to hide the identity of the "state sponsor" such as "state sponsor #1" etc.

I think there is an attempt to hide the facts from the public. Maybe, the flaw in the system is so glaring that it would be a major embarrassment, if the facts are known to the public.

Anyway, if we keep hiding the truth, we can never learn from our mistakes.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - 4G Leaders and votes for PAP

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will the move to the 4G leaders bring more votes for the PAP?

Here are the responses: (35 Votes)
66 % - No. The 4G leaders are inexperienced.
23 % - No. The change mean a loss of experienced ministers and will lead to a loss of votes.
6 % - Yes. The new leaders are more in touch with the voters.
6 % - Yes. The older ministers are out of date and complacent.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Make shared bike sustainable

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How can we make shared bike sustainable?

Here are the responses: (36 Votes)
42 % - All shared bikes should be designated as public property to prevent vandalism.
42 % - Let the market sort it out.
11 % - The govt should provide a subsidy to the operator based on the licenced bikes that are put into operation.
6 % - The govt should set up a new operator that is publicly funded.

See the pie chart at:

A crazy password to encrypt an email

Standard chartered bank sent to me an email encrypted with the password below.

I sent this reply to SCB.
What kind of rubbish password are you creating?
Why make it so difficult?
I tried two times and got it wrong.
Can you make it simpler?
What is the first character of my name?

Monday, December 31, 2018

Some aspects of the Singapore system

Rachel Ash said.
Mr Tan It gets harder by the day when our decision making positions are replaced by Military Man. I wondered what goes through the mind of successful businessman who gets lectured and given paternalistic advice on how to do business by our Military Man who had never had a registered business company in his life except taking commands from the top and barking commands to the bottom.

These Military Men are shortsighted because they are too busy with fulfilling their KPIs that long term is hugely secondary or often neglected. When we "cross-sword" with our neighbors we were ask to stand united and if needed be sacrifice our sons' lives BUT yet a minister did say his saving babies was good enough equivalent of serving NS.

Then we have minister boasting to the world just how affordable our healthcare system is to the world by declaring he paid on SG$8 for his heart surgery BUT this same minister asked citizens to send their old folks to JB, buy medicine and seek medical treatment in Malaysia because it is cheaper and more affordable.

We are struggling with available land that the dead had to make way for roads. Our current infra-structure barely cope with our current population and yet our minister wants to increase our population to 10 million plus. If minister claims we don't really need big houses and cars to live happily in Singapore, please tell us why all of our ministers are staying in big homes and drive expensive cars.

Even our "elected by parliament" president had moved out from her jumbo HDB to a big bungalow. Perverted and some consider obscene messages made eg GST (including increasing GST) helps the poor. Even when we have lost of lives along our train line during maintenance, it was an honest mistake and let move on. A top management in a train company was convicted of drink driving twice and still working in same train company. Seriously many don't welcome 2019 because it would likely to mean more pain are installed.

My comment.
I agree with you. Happy New Year.

Impact of high airport tax

Dear Tan,

in 1998, Hong Kong opens it’s new airport after 6 years in construction.

The size of the airport is comparable to ours. Unfortunately, Changi T5 will take more than a decade to build and with only an additional runway to the current.

When we decided to rise the airport tax, many airlines have rise their fares. Given that the oil price is now at a higher level and the factor of poor economic factor, many airlines would have chosen to fly elsewhere.

We have always view Bangkok as a main competitive airport, but Bangkok is of a cheaper city and of richer culture to visit than of ours.

Even if the authorities impose a tourist tax. It would not affect their tourism industry as badly as ours.

Hong Kong international airport is now doing expansion, however it serve a different region as ours. This might change when smaller and fuel efficient twin engine plane could now travel a longer range.

We might have thought that we are a premium brand and therefore deserve to charge a higher price.

Over the years, we have always maintain a good relationship with airlines which flies here. I am afraid that if Singapore does not maintain this relationship with their client, we might end up having a huge airport but too few airlines.

I believe that some airlines has reduce their frequency and one has withdrawn the Singapore route. It is time that we get this straight, it is easier to lose a client than to get a new one.


My comment. I have compared airport tax charged by various cities. We are among the highest. A few cities charge airport tax similar to ours, but most cities charges much lower tax.

I share the same concern as Fong.

Reduce the fare for short trips

I am familiar with the integrated fare structure for public transport. It is displayed at the bus stops. I have seen the fare table many times. I have been taking public transport for over two years.

I am also familiar with the concept of transfer from one service to another. The passenger pays the difference in fare.

I do not agree with the steep fare charged for short distances. I share the fare table below.

My complaint is the steep charge for short distance. An adult has to pay 83 cents just to ride for one stop. Yes, this fare applies for 3.2 km (about 8 stops) but why charge so much for just 1, 2 or 3 stops?

I like to see the fares being "fairer", i.e. lower, for short trips.

The steep fare for short trips work to the disadvantage of MRT services. Many people take a bus to the nearby train station. They fare for the first leg is quite high, i.e. 83 cents.

The fare for the second leg is penalized. So, the MRT gets less revenue, because the bulk of the fare is taken by the first leg. No wonder, our MRT services are operating at a loss.

I do not understand the rationale for this fare structure. I accept that the fare for short trips should be steeper (per km) that for long trips, but it does not have to be so steep.

I know that eventually, all the fares will go to the govt agency and that the bus or train operators will get the awarded charges that they tendered for the operation. This will take some time to come into operation. But it still does not justify the steep fare for short trips.

Some people think that I am not familiar with the fare structure or the transfer system. They even criticized me for being ignorant.

These people should be more circumspect. They should show respect for other people. By being rude, it only shows their own shallowness and arrogance.

They know the fare structure, but do they apply critical thinking and question the structure? Is it correct to have such a steep structure? Should the short trip passengers pay a larger share of the cost to subsidize the long trip passengers?

I have a senior citizen card which allows me to travel at a discount. The figures that I quoted in previous postings are for senior citizens. The same feature still applies to adult travelers who pay the full fare.

In case some people, who likes to support the current structure, want me to justify a lower fare for short trips, I like to ask them to justify the current fare for short trips first. I do not think that the actual cost justify such a steep fare structure.

I like to see the fare structure being changed to give lower fares for short trips, while maintaining the same fare for long trips. It will not affect the fares payable for long trips.

Tan Kin Lian

Tariffs should replace GST

Many people do not like to see the re-introduction of tariffs. They are afraid that it will lead to consumers paying higher prices.

They forgot that they are already paying higher prices through the goods and services tax (GST).

If the government can collect revenue from tariffs, they can abolish GST.

GST is a very bad tax. It is regressive (i.e. hit the low income people hardest) and the administration of GST is costly to the economy. I call it the "bits and pieces" tax.

Many countries can introduce tariffs to replace GST. Their tariffs can be on selected products. Food and medical supplies can be exempted. Higher taxes can be levied on cars, properties and luxury goods.

The tariffs also help to protect local industries and local jobs. The local manufacturers cannot run away from paying tax on their profits, unlike the multi-national corporations.

More importantly, the government will be able to collect enough revenue to pay for the public services, infrastructure and social welfare. They do not have to fund these expenses through debt.

The new world order, with lower inequality, will be safer and better.

What I have said does not apply to small economies, like Singapore. We need to join a larger economic community to survive in a new "tariff" environment.

Tan Kin Lian

A new era after globalization

The world order over the past three decades is based on globalisation and free trade.

It has created growth and development in many countries.

It has also created gross inequality. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown wider than ever. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2018, the top 1% of adults account for more than 47% of household wealth globally.

Many countries are in debt, including the super power America. This is an unstable situation.

Globalization allows the super rich to transfer their earnings and wealth to tax havens, making it difficult for governments to levy the tax that is necessary for them to provide the public services for their citizens. It gets worse every year.

America is finally reacting to this situation in a dangerous manner. It is imposing arbitrary trade tariffs. It is withdrawing from multi-national agreements. It has started a trade war with China.

The American reaction does not address the root problem. It will make the unstable situation worse by adding the risk of armed conflict.

What is the solution?

We have to return to the system before globalization. Each country should introduce tariff to generate revenue for the government and to protect its local industries and jobs.

This system worked well for three decades prior to the era of globalisation. It has generated wealth and development as well. America build its great society and infrastructure during this period.

I know that we are now in a different world with global supply chains. The global supply chains can continue. The introduction of tariffs mean that the multi-national corporations will have less opportunity to take advantage of the loopholes in the taxation system to generate huge profits at low taxes.

After paying their share of taxes and tariffs, they will still remain profitable. The global supply chain will still make business sense. The operations will continue as before. The MNCs will know how to make the appropriate adjustments.

Government with a more stable source of revenue can play their part to build the infrastructure and housing for the people and provide the necessary public services, such as health, education, safety and social welfare.

Countries will also have to make their adjustments. The bigger countries, with a population of more than 50 million are viable to be on their own. Other countries with smaller populations have to join an economic bloc, similar to the European Union. The smaller countries of ASEAN will have to form an economic bloc.

For a start, Singapore has to work more closely with Malaysia. We may have to consider re-merger some time in the future.

If we divide the 70 years after World War 2 into two eras of 35 years, we may be approaching the end of the era of globalisation. We may have to consider another economic arrangement where tariffs will play a bigger role. It will be better.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Funding the US govt

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How can America solve its problem of funding govt services?

Here are the responses: (33 Votes)
52 % - Increase tax on the super rich and corporations
27 % - Reduce spending on the military.
12 % - Introduce tariffs on important goods as a revenue measure, i.e. apply to all countries.
6 % - Continue to rely on borrowing.
3 % - Cut spending on social welfare and health services.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Secure our food supply

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How should we secure our food supply in the future?

Here are the responses: (38 Votes)
58 % - Increase the sources of supplies to include more countries in the region.
21 % - Put aside more land in Singapore for farming.
18 % - Improve our relations with neighboring countries, so that this disruption can be avoided.
3 % - Arrange contracts for long term supply at agreed prices, which may be higher than the current market prices.

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, December 30, 2018

WOTC - Is Singapore fair to Malaysia

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is Singapore fair to Malaysia?

Here are the responses: (36 Votes)
31 % - We are acting according to our rights in international and contractual law
28 % - We should pay more for our water which is now at a very low price.
28 % - We should recognize that the Malaysia vessels are in disputed waters.
14 % - We should show Malaysia that we cannot be bullied.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Criminal and civil defamation

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How do you see recent action taken for criminal and civil defamation?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
59 % - They are attempts to suppress the alternative views and freedom of expression.
23 % - They are attempts to stop non PAP candidates from contesting the next general election.
15 % - These moves are unjustified and excessive.
3 % - These moves are justified.

See the pie chart at:

Improve the standard of spoken English

There was some discussion about the proficiency of English in this page.

My view is that our standard of English has declined over the past decades. Perhaps it is due to the focus on many subjects, such as science, mathematics, history, etc. If the student spends more time on these subjects, they have less time to learn the English language.

I am particularly concerned about the standard of spoken English. Many of our people pronounced poorly. You can hardly hear what they say.

Some countries give more emphasis on pronunciation. They are particularly in pronouncing the words clearly.

I like to give tips to people who speaks the language:

a) Pronounce the words clearly.
b) Speak more loudly, so that you can be heard.

Many people have the habit of mumbling their words.

On my recent cruises, I met many passengers from India. They speak loudly, to the extent of being annoying to some people. I accept it as their culture. They do speak loudly but I can hear their words clearly (although I do not understand the words).

In many languages, the people pronounce the words clearly as similar sounding words have different meanings. They pronounce every letter of the word.

We need to improve the standard of the spoken language. It creates a positive impression.

Tan Kin Lian

A health financial services industry

Many people work hard. They spend wisely and are able to set aside some savings each month.

They need advice on how to invest their savings to get a modest return. They do not want to take risk and are not greedy for a high return.

Sadly, most of them end up with a bad investment. The people that approached them to give investment advice gave bad advise to them, and give them either a risky investment or a very poor return.

This happens in many countries, including Singapore. It is sad to see ordinary people being taken from a ride by the "financial industry". The financial industry produces many super rich people, and many, many more poor customers.

In many cases, the poor return is due to the high charges that are taken away by the financial industry to pay high commission to the seller and produce high profits to the financial institutions.

A word to describe this situation is that the customers are being "ripped off".

Who do most govts allow their ordinary citizens to be ripped off from their hard earned savings. Here are the reasons:

a) The govt officials are brainwashed by the concept that a free market in financial services help the consumers in the long run.

b) The politicians are funded by the financial industry and they allow their benefactors to have freedom to run their business to generate profits.

c) Some govt officials or politicians look forward for cushy jobs in the finance industry a few years down the road.

Suppose there is a govt that truly look after the interest of ordinary people. What can the govt do? Here are some possible ways.

a) Offer a well diversified fund of safe bonds, including government securities. The investor can get a modest return that is safe.

b) Offer a well diversified fund of blue chip equities. These equities offer a good long term return, but may be risky in the short term. They are suitable for investors who understand that they have to invest for the long term and should not worry about short term investments.

Both funds should be large funds, well diversified and have a low management fee, less than 0.3% per annum.

This approach will still provide room for the financial services industry to offer alternative funds. But there is a benchmark of the fund that is provided by the govt. These funds should operate transparently, and be managed on a cost recovery basis. It should not have the goal of making a profit.

When govts recognize their duty to offer the suitable investment instruments on a non-profit basis to its citizens, the citizens will have an option to avoid being "ripped off" by the greedy operators in the financial industry. It will set the benchmark for a healthy industry to flourish.

Tan Kin Lian

Willing to make painful changes

The new govt in Malaysia face big challenges. They are:

a) The weak financial situation in the country, with its large debt and insufficient govt revenue.

b) A civil service that is, to a large extent, partisan, corrupt and beholden to the previous govt. The new govt could not rely on these civil servants to help them to run the country.

c) They have to deal with many outstanding issues with Singapore.

They are trying to implement new policies to deal with these challenges. The changes are difficult and painful.

They make mistakes in some of these changes. They are partly caused by the uncooperative civil service.

But the govt is willing to recognize their mistakes and change their policies. They are brave in telling the truth to their people. In addressing these policy u-turns, Dr. M said that "even angels make mistakes".

I wish all the best to Malaysia in overcoming these problems.

Economic and social policies in Turkey

My friend visited Turkey recently and came back with the following observations.

The tour guide told him that the current president, Erdogan, is quite popular with the people. He has reduced the retirement age for citizens and gave them a modest pension.

This has allowed young people to take over the jobs from the retired older people. it helped to reduce youth unemployment.

My friend wondered how Turkey could afford this measure. Does it lead to a loss of competitiveness? Is their currency strong?

I have not followed the economic and govt policies in Turkey. Here are my views:

a) It make sense for older people to retire and the jobs to be done by younger people. It should lead to greater productivity.

b) If the older people can live on the modest pension, they should be happier with their spare time. Maybe they can look after the family and grand children.

c) Most important, is Turkey able to keep the cost of living low?

Turkey face the problem of the civil war in Syria, which must affect their economy negatively. They also suffered from the trade sanctions imposed by America. So, they economic problems and weak currency could be due to other factors, rather than their social policies.

Any views from people who knows the situation in Turkey?

WOTC - Reduce minister's salary to $500,000

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the average minister's salary be reduced to $500,000?

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
56 % - It is adequate to get capable people to take this post, as their motivation is to serve the country.
38 % - The salary of $500,000 is still too high.
4 % - It will not attract capable people to serve the country.
2 % - It will encourage the ministers to be corrupt.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - KPI and civil servant's bonus

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the public sector adopt KPIs to pay bonus to civil servants?

Here are the responses: (43 Votes)
35 % - It encourages the civil servants to focus on their KPI and bonus, rather than improve service to the public.
33 % - It damages teamwork as civil servants compete with each other to score higher on their KPIs.
26 % - It will motivate the civil servants to perform better.
7 % - It makes the supervisors lazy in monitoring the work of the civil servants as the performance is largely measured by "objective" KPIs. 

See the pie chart at:

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