Wednesday, November 20, 2019

US is asking for an excessive sum for their troops in South Korea

The US has 24,500 troops in South Korea. SK now pay US$ 1 billion to the US for the protection offered by these troops. Donald Trump want to ask a few times more.

What is a fair sum? I think it should be $100,000 for each troop. So SK should pay $2.5 billion - if they have to pay the full cost.

But the troops also serve US interest. So, perhaps, it should be shared equally, say $1.25 billion for each side. The current sum of $1 billion that SK pays is reasonable. The sum asked by Donald Trump is excessive.

What a mercenary!

Stop these "rubbish promotions"

I was outside the Fairprice supermarket in Toa Payoh. A customer was talking to the OCBC staff who was registering new customers for the OCBC Plus credit card. This card allows the customers to enjoy rebates for purchases at Fairprice.

Customer - I want to ask about the 300 Link points that I am entitled when I join as a member. Where is the 300 points?
OCBC - You have to ask Fairprice.
Customer - are you from Fairprice?
OCBC - No, I am from OCBC.
Customer - I have been receiving SMS from Fairprice about this promotion. I asked the staff in the supermarket, and they asked me to ask you about it. Now, you asked me to ask them. I have been experiencing this problem several times on my purchases.
OCBC - But there are terms and conditions. You have to make a purchase of $40 to qualify for the bonus.
Customer - I have receipt to show that I quality.
OCBC - From my laptop, I see that there is no such promotion.
Customer - Here is the SMS message on my mobile phone about this promotion. I keep receiving it.

The customer was obviously angry about this matter. He asked his wife to come and show the receipt.

Here is my take. We waste a lot of time on these "nonsense promotions". It creates a lot of problem for the front line staff. The "terms and conditions" do not help. They are usually quite confusing. They describe what can and cannot be counted to qualify. It is not worth while for the customer to waste this time. How much is 300 Link points worth? I don't know if it is 3 cents or 30 cents or $3.

I get all of these "rubbish promotions". I ignore the points given by the Telcos, and by the credit cards. When I enquire about what they are worth, they are usually useless, just a few cents of dollar. I will not describe them as "peanuts" which are actually worth $600,000.

Over the past 40 years, I hardly use the points from my airline travel or credit card. I have redeem them a few times, but found that they are really not worth the time.

I hope that our businesses stop these "rubbish promotions" and offer a 1% or 2% cash discount. They should save the money in engaging the promotion manager and having staff to manage an expense "rewards program".

Speed up the processing at immigration counter

Dear Mr. Tan

Last year, I went paris. As we hold a biometric passport, the immigration officer only need to swipe the passport over the reader to get all information. It went well. They do not need to scan the image of the passport.

The immigration officer Singapore scan the passport for outgoing and incoming citizens. I believe that my passport is issued by ICA. They do not need to keep scanning the passport. They could have just swipe the passport to get the data from the magnetic strip. It will take less time compared to the scanning process.

in an event of deface of passport, I believe that the officer would have seen it.

I do not understand why our immigration officer need to waste time in scanning the passport when swiping it to get the magnetic data would be sufficient.


I agree with your view. I have observed that our Immigration counter takes a long time to process each traveler, compared to overseas. Once, I had to go through the immigration counter, instead of the automated games, and I observed that it was quite slow.

I also observed that it took a longer time to clear the immigration at Woodlands compared to Johor Bahru for people travelling by car. I think that it is due to the time taken to scan the passport.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. How will the ban on PMD using walkways affect the votes for PAP?
2. Will you support a relaxation of ban on PMD using walkways
Vote in

WOTC - Use of taxpayer's money to compensate PMD riders

Wisdom of the Crowd: 92% of the participants disagree with the use of $7 million in tax payer money to compensate the PMD riders who are affected by the ban.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Why people vote PAP in spite of bad policies

Wisdom of the Crowd: The participants gave the following reasons why people vote for PAP in spite of the bad policies - afraid of change (37%), not personally affected (31%), opposition candidates are worse (20%), they do not think of the future for their children (12%).

See the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. How should the Hong Kong govt deal with the latest student unrest?
2. Do you agree with a Singaporean First policy?
Vote in

Why a Singaporean First policy is beneficial

I read a statement from a PAP minister reported in the Straits Times five years back. The minister stated that a "Singaporean First" policy is bad for the economy.

I disagree.

WOTC - Vote against PAP

Wisdom of the Crowd: 85% of the respondents said that the PAP will still retain power, although with a loss of seats, even if every thinking person vote against the PAP. The other 15% said that the PAP will fall.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Respond to LHL's call

Wisdom of the Crowd: 64% of the respondents said that the voters will not heed the call by LHL to give a strong mandate to the PAP to meet the challenges posed by the global environment. 36% said that the voters will.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Unable to retrieve my past filings

I went to the IRAS website to retrieve my past income tax filings. It was not available.

I did not keep a copy as the submission was done online.

I wonder why IRAS refused to let a tax payer access his own past filings. It was most inconsiderate of them.

IRAS asked for feedback about their website. I gave them a poor score on all of the categories. They have to be more friendly to the taxpayer. They should not create unnecessary stress and trouble to the taxpayer.

A badly designed and confusing website

ACRA has a badly designed and confusing website.

They have hundreds of forms which are organized in a hierarchy. To get the right form, the user needs to know the hierarchy and to navigate through many layers of the form.

ACRA probably thinks that this is a good method of organization. They are mistaken.

Monday, November 18, 2019

WOTC - Ban on PMD

Wisdom of the Crowd: 84% of the participants in this survey preferred the govt to adopt measures to lessen the impact of PMD ban on the livelihood of the food delivery workers. 16% preferred the govt to continue the ban.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Singapore brand hotels operating overseas

Wisdom of the Crowd: 58% of the participants in this survey liked Singapore brand hotels to employ Singaporeans for their hotels overseas. 42% disagreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. What is your opinion of Donald Trump?
2. Should the People Liberation Army be used to clean up the debris in Hong Kong?
Vote in

Quora: Will China collapse if the US completely decouples all trade from them?

Paul Clifford answered.

Last I heard, the USA currently makes up less than 11% of China’s global exports. Over time, it can make that up simply by expanding its domestic economy. And there lies the problem! China has been growing its domestic economy (establishing an affluent middle class) in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, and it has done so by expanding its foreign markets, which provides the revenue for China’s rapid internal growth. As is to be expected when an economy approaches maturity, that growth is slowing, but economically China is growing far more rapidly than most economies (especially the USA which is contracting).

A 11% reduction in trade would slow China’s plans for redevelopment, but it won’t crash its economy.

The USA is in dire straits! As President Jimmy Carter recently articulated: Because the USA has been spending trillions of US$ pursuing the instigation of regional conflict around the world, to make the rich richer, essential trade infrastructure in the USA is falling apart, ditto the USA education system which is biased against the talented kids among the growing poor of the USA. As President Jimmy Carter declared: China has done the opposite, and that is why China is succeeding!

Quora: What is Donald Trump trying to hide?

Judy Rofe, Controversial Aussie. answered.

The intelligence official who documented the whistleblower complaint has experienced trump's conduct before. This time, however, the official figured it was way clear of pale that the time had come to make a move.

Exceptionally rare is the whistleblower process but the informant passed a formal complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson on August 12. Atkinson, designated by trump, audited the grievance and found it met the legal threshold to consider it an "urgent concern," an even more significantly uncommon event.

By law, that can mean, in addition to other things, "a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters." The "urgent concern" is not about bad policy or legislative issues; it's potentially about a violation of the law.

trump accomplished something that was regarded so shameful, so disturbing, that an intelligence official felt he needed to act. An "urgent concern" by the intelligence community inspector general is entirely another matter.

Americans have experienced just one more mystery in an administration that has been characterised by chaos and deceptions. They don’t need another of trump's litany of anger fuelled shocks.

The fact that trump won't follow the lead of other candidates and presidents by discharging his tax returns forms, is unmistakably loud. He has something to cover up. Perhaps it’s that he's not as affluent, or isn’t as philanthropic as he boasts himself to be, or didn't pay his share of taxes. Whatever it is, it's not good news for him, which is the main motivation behind why trump needs to stay quiet about it.

The now-standard reaction: As much as he’d like to, he can’t release his tax returns because he’s under audit; and this is all a political trick to embarrass the president. Neither holds water. trump's profits are under review, so he says. There is no proof of it, other than trump's word which, as we've learned, isn't worth a lot.

The law couldn't be clearer. Section 6103(f) of the IRS Code says that the Treasury secretary, through the IRS chief, “shall furnish” not “may” furnish, but “shall” furnish any individual’s tax return to the chairs of three congressional committees “upon written request.” There is no special case considered for any chosen authority, not even the president, nor for anyone under audit.

WOTC - A better way to handle public procurement

WOTC - 81% of the respondents in this survey prefer the govt to look for a better way to handle public procurement. 19% prefer the govt to keep the present system of getting three quotations.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Review the ban on PMDs using walkways

WOTC - 84% of the respondents in this survey prefer the govt to look for another solution to ensure safety of pedestrians on the walkway, without affecting the livelihood of the food delivery people. 16% prefer the govt to proceed with the ban.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Should the AHTC MPs recuse themselves from the financial affairs of the council?
2. Is there a future for Hong Kong?
Vote in

WOTC - Ban on PMDs using walkways

Wisdom of the Crowd: 47% of the participants agreed with the ban on PMDs using the walkways. 53% disagreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Motion in Parliament against the MPs involved in AHTC case

Wisdom of the Crowd: 98% of the participants disagreed with the motion by Heng SK in Parliament against the MPs involved in the AHTC case. 2% agreed with the motion.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Friday, November 15, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Singapore has a bleak future. Agree?
2. Singapore has a good future. Agree?

Vote in

We need to think of the social good

The future for Singapore is bleak.

Why? Read this

WOTC - Kickback from employment agency

Wisdom of the Crowd: 84% of the respondents said that it is likely that employment agents give a kickback to the employer or HR manager to recruit a foreigner. 16% think that this is rare.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Outcome for Ramesh

Wisdom of the Crowd: 74% of the respondents want Ramesh to be expelled from Singapore or sacked from his job at JPM. 26% accept his apology.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Thursday, November 14, 2019

WOTC - Strong dislike of these policies

Wisdom of the Crowd: The respondents dislike the following policies most - high cost of HDB flats (29%), increase in GST (27%), not allowed to take back CPF savings (24%), national service (15%).

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Reason to vote against PAP

Wisdom of the Crowd - the respondents gave the following reasons for voting against the PAP - betray Singaporeans (41%), arrogant and incompetent (24%), take care of themselves (19%), increase cost of living (15%).

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Should the govt implement the ban on PMDs on pavements immediately?
2. Was it proper for the food delivery people to meet the MPs at the Meet the People sessions?
Vote in

Is there a need to ban PMDs on pavements?

I wish to give my views on the decision to ban PMDs from using the pavements.

I think it is a wrong decision. We can find a better solution to meet the need for safety for pedestrians and the need for riders to use PMDs for mobility or to make a living.

This is how it can be done.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Does Singapore need to maintain a high level of defense spending?
2. Should the govt relax the ban on the use of PMDs on walkways?

Vote in

WOTC - Reasons to support PAP

Wisdom of the Crowd: 93% of the respondents could not find any reason to support the PAP. 7% could.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - National service policy of PAP

Wisdom of the Crowd: 91% of the respondents do not support the current national service policy of the PAP. 9% support.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Should the govt use tax payer's money to compensate the PMD riders?
2. Should the govt have disallowed the use of PMDs in the first place?
Vote in

A platform for official messages

We need a platform for official messages from govt agencies and businesses. It has to be a separate platform from the social media.

Working in Canada, compared to Singapore

My friend worked in Singapore as a permanent resident for 10 years. He decided to migrate to Canada. He found a job as a software developer.

He made this comparison between working in Canada and in Singapore.

I will probably say it is still comparable even after tax. (Tax rate in Canada is quite high.)
However, I do not have to worry much about my health care or my wife's at all.
When we have children, their basic education is free. (Nursery and tertiary are not.)
More, even if I lose job for non-cause (i.e. no fault of my own), there is employment insurance.
Here, governments are eager to spend money on people to help them with their lives.
In general, social welfare is much better here with slower pace compared to Singapore.
On the other hand, Singapore has stronger job market with truly cosmopolitan nature.

WOTC - PAP had betrayed the people of Singapore

Wisdom of the Crowd: 83% of the respondents to this survey said that the PAP had betrayed the people of Singapore. 17% disagreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Security arrangement in condominiums

Wisdom of the Crowd: 86% of the respondents said that the security arrangement in condominiums are not useful. 14% think they are.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Monday, November 11, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Will voters heed LHL's call to give a strong mandate to PAP to face the future challenges?
2. If every thinking person vote against PAP, will the PAP fall?
3. Why do some people still vote PAP in spite of its bad policies?

Vote in

WOTC - Donald Trump has built a strong economy

Wisdom of the Crowd: 69% of the respondents to this survey disagreed with Donald Trump that he has built a strong economy for America. 31% agreed with his statement.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Quora: Is Trump's trade war with China working?

Roland Temmerman, masters Social Sciences & Political Science (1990) answered.

Not really, to put it mildly. Apparently Trump is incensed with China. So this is what happens when you make a septic spleen president of the United States…

Donald Trump was reportedly so enraged at China after the country announced $75 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods back in August that he wanted to double existing tariffs on the country.

He also appears to have been surprised by China’s move, despite having personally precipitated the perpetual pud-punching contest that has seen China respond in kind every damn time.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer then enlisted multiple CEOs to call the president and warn him about the impact such a move would have on the stock market and the economy.

He settled on a 5% hike in tariff rates on about $550 billion in Chinese products, which he announced in an Aug. 23 tweet after the market close.

Needless to say, the trade war isn’t working out as planned. And that might be because Trump still seems shocked every time China raises tariffs in response to our pointless tariffs. I mean, who could have ever anticipated that? I thought we’d just hold China down while we gave them a vigorous pink belly. That’s how it works in our most prestigious frat houses.

But, no. Trump appears to have singlehandedly stalled the global economy because — and I can’t stress this enough — HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK HE’S DOING.

And will he see the devastation he’s wrought and relent, knowing that further escalation of our trade war will only make things worse for our economy and everyone else’s?

If you believe that, you don’t know Donald Trump.

Adoptive a supportive mindset

When someone takes the trouble to analyze a problem and to offer a solution, it is useful to adopt a supportive mindset. What is this mindset?

Hotel should improve their feedback system

Most hotels leave a feedback form for their guests to complete and give feedback about their stay.

Here are some suggestions on how to improve the feedback forms.

WOTC - Testing of autonomous vehicles

Wisdom of the Crowd: 49% of the respondents agreed to allow the western part of Singapore to be used for testing of autonomous vehicles. Another 16% like to see other areas being used for the testing. The other 35% prefer to learn from the experience of other countries in their testing.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC: Are Singaporeans a gracious people?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 71% of the respondents said that Singaporeans have become ungracious due to the difficult living environment and competition for jobs against foreigners. 23% said that it is not different from people in other countries.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Japanese have a different way to manage their hotels

I am now staying at the Royal Nikko Hotel in Taipei. It is a Japanese brand hotel and runs along Japanese way.

I share these interesting experiences.

Japanese brand hotels operating overseas employ Japanese housekeeping workers

I am staying at the Royal Nikko Hotel in Taipei. I had a pleasant surprise about how this hotel operates.

It involves work for their own people.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Should Singapore modify the system of getting three quotes for procurement?
2. Should Singapore brand hotels operating overseas employ more workers from Singapore?
Vote in

WOTC - Strong reaction against Ramesh's behavior

Wisdom of the Crowd: 89% of the respondents to this survey said that the strong reaction of the netizen to Ramesh's behavior is appropriate. 11% think that it is excessive.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Will Heng SK lose votes due to CECA

Wisdom of the Crowd: 69% of the respondents to this survey said that the CECA agreement will cause Heng SK to lose votes at the next general election. The other 31% does not think it will.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Prompt response but bad communication

My Starhub app has three mobile numbers My main number was shown in the app as #2. The default number, on loading the app, was another number. I had to change to the main number each time that I need to check on my data plans. It was troublesome but I tolerated it for a year.

Friday, November 08, 2019

WOTC - Biggest loss of votes to PAP

Wisdom of the Crowd: According to the participants in this survey, the biggest issue that will cause most loss of votes in PAP are - CECA 31%, loss of jobs 24%, loss of value of HDB flats 19%, impending GST increase 17%, delay in CPF payout 10%.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - When will Anwar Ibrahim become prime minister?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 31% of the participants in this survey expect Anwar Ibrahim to be prime minister by 2020, as promised by Dr. Mahathir. The other 69% expect a delay or that he may never be prime minister.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Should the WP MPs respect the motion passed by Parliament?

Parliament has passed a motion to ask the 2 WP MPs to recuse themselves from the financial affairs of the Aljunied Hougang Town Council.

Should the WP MPs ignore or respect the motion? I give my views here.

Section 73 policy

Dear Mr. Tan
My hushand has multiple policies taken out under section 73. The beneficiary is his ex wife. She has since refused to take out her name under the policies. What can we do?

Read my reply here

Parliament has passed a motion on the AHTC case

Parliament has passed a motion to ask the 2 WP MPs to recuse themselves from the financial affairs of the Aljunied Hougang Town Council.

What effect does this motion really have?

It is not a law. It is just a motion of Parliament. The two WP MPs may agree to abide by the motion. But they may also decide to ignore the motion.

Apparently, they have decided to ignore it, as they wanted to wait for the outcome of the appeal..

If they had committed a criminal offense, e.g. pocketed money, they would have been charged under the penal code. But they did not.

They did waive the requirement under the Act to call for a tender and appeared to have awarded the contract at a higher price than the market, but this does not seem to be a criminal offense.

The deputy PM, who moved the motion, did ask these two MPs to uphold the integrity expected of MPs, but they appeared to have disagreed, as they consider the action to be unfair.

It is a mess! But I guess this kind of problem happens in other countries as well.

Quora: Why is president trump trying to take on China in this "Trade War"? What will happen if we lose?

Bob MacKenzie, former Business Owner and Manager. at Private Business Self Employed Thinker (1973-2019) answered

China is out preforming the US at various levels. China’s GDP ppp is better than the US by at least 20%. China is also very independent minded and not subservient to US demands like many other countries are.

The US has enjoyed control of world affairs now for about 75 years and they can feel it slipping away to a successful communist government.

For economic and political reasons the US has become desperate to put China down so US hegemony will continue to reign over the world.

The excuses the US is using of trade imbalance, IP theft and forced technology transfer as reasons for the trade war are all lies.

There is no IP theft where no agreement to protect IP has been made. China did not agree to any rules the US has made about IP protection. I think there is an understanding in place now because China is producing more IP that needs protection than the US is, but it may still be at the negotiation stage.

There was no forced technology transfer, if the company wanting to enter the dynamic Chinese market place did not want to abide by Chinese rules they did not have to enter China.

There is a trade imbalance with almost every country the US deals with because the USD is the world’s most used reserve currency. The US buys goods and services from other countries to keep their USD in high circulation and allows the US consumer to enjoy lower prices of imported goods.

The goods China sells to the US are sold mostly at wholesale. The goods China buys from the US are retail. China buys about 200 billion retail priced goods and materials and the US buys about 459 billion in wholesale priced goods. The US companies mark the Chinese made goods up by more than 100% in most cases. So that becomes one trillion dollars of retail goods at least.

To give you an example that I experienced myself and maybe you have to. I bought a really good package of shaving razors made in China from a store here in Canada. There were three in a package for $1.25. They were exceptionally good so I went back to get more, there were none left. I kept looking for them. The next time I saw the same razors in the same package with a US name on it, was in the local drug store. The same three razors were now selling for $9.95 about a 900% mark up. I have seen the same thing with similar mark ups I have bought directly from China. Tools I bought from China for $9.95 each with free shipping I saw for sale here and in the US for $85.95 plus shipping.

Even with this kind of economic imbalance in favour of the US, China is still building a bigger GDP and the US can not allow that to happen, as far as they are concerned.

One of the main reasons the US GDP is holding up is because of the advantage China gives them on wholesale prices, now Trump has added to that by putting tariffs on Chinese goods making US consumers pay more so the US treasury can pocket 100 billion dollars, according to Trump.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Is it proper for Heng SK to move a motion against the MPs involved in the AHTC case?
2. Do you agree with the ban on PMDs from using the pavements?
Vote in

WOTC - Voting in the general election

Wisdom of the Crowd: 49% of the participants in this survey preferred to see the PAP lose at least one third of the seats in Parliament. 48% prefer to see the downfall of the PAP and the alternative parties form the government.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - America send in troops to protect the Syrian oil

Wisdom of the Crowd: 80% of the participants in this survey said that America does NOT have the right to send in troops to "protect" the Syrian oil. 20% think they have the right.

See the breakdown of the votes in

China will find it easier to deal with a Democratic President

An analyst expressed the view that it is better for China to settle the trade dispute with President Trump as they will find it more difficult to deal with a new Democratic president. I remembered that this view was expressed in CNBC or Bloomberg.

I disagree with this view.

President Trump has been erratic and unreliable and goes for a lose-lose situation. Even if there is an agreement, he will likely change his mind on any new development.

Any other president, even from the Democratic side, will act more sensibly and look for a win-win situation. They will help to bring jobs back to America without causing disruption to the global supply chain. It can be done, and China will probably agree to a reasonable arrangement.

Trump is desperate for a trade deal

President Trump is desperate to desperate to complete a trade deal with China. He needs it for his re-election campaign.

Sensing his desperation and weakness, China has hardened its position and made demands that are painful for Trump.

This can be dangerous. An angry and frustrated Trump can create problems elsewhere, including the possibility of a military conflict in the South China Sea or elsewhere.

We are in dangerous and uncertain times.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Allow income tax returns to be submitted for a family unit

The IRAS is breaking up the family unit. It is causing problems to some families.

Let me explain what has happened.

WOTC - Should Ramesh be expelled?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 24% of the participants in this survey said that Ramesh should be expelled from Singapore. The other 76% chose other options.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - US kill the leader of ISIS

Wisdom of the Crowd: 83% of the participants in this survey said that it is acceptable for the US to kill the leader of ISIS. 17% disagreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. What makes you support PAP?
2. What makes you vote against PAP?
3. Which PAP policy do you dislike most?
4. What is an appropriate outcome for Ramesh?
5. Do employment agents give kick back to HR managers to employ foreigners?

Vote in

WOTC - Property as an investment

Wisdom of the Crowd - here are the choices of participants in property as an investment - freehold landed (49%), none (18%), overseas property (16%), leasehold property (13%), HDB (2%).

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Carrie Lam as chief executive of Hong Kong

Wisdom of the Crowd: 69% of the participants expect Carrie Lam to resign or be replaced as chief executive of Hong Kong. the other 31% expect her to continue to the end of her term.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Monday, November 04, 2019

How to travel the last mile

Someone said that PMDs and bicycles are needed for the last mile.

I like to share my views and solution.

Add a 6 digit PIN to a credit card

For a long time, I have been worried about the use of credit card. It seemed that any body can quote the credit card number, expiry date and CVV to get a transaction through. All the information, including the CVV, appears on the card.

I asked why does the bank not ask the customer to provide a 6 digit PIN for the credit card, just like it is used for the ATM card?

Here is the answer.

How @realDonaldTrump reshaped the presidency

New York Times (they don't like Donald Trump):

Since taking office, President Trump has turned Twitter into a means of communication as vital as an official statement from the White House press secretary, connecting the ultimate seat of power to the darkest corners of the web.

He uses his account to announce policies, attack rivals and amplify a stream of disinformation, retweeting suspect accounts and lending credibility to white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots and otherwise obscure conspiracy theorists.

The Times investigation:
Our reporters reviewed Mr. Trump’s 11,000-plus tweets as president, his retweets and his followers. They also interviewed nearly 50 current and former administration officials, lawmakers, and Twitter executives and employees.

By the numbers:
■ 47 accounts, in total, that the president follows are mostly those of his family, celebrities, Fox News hosts and Republican politicians. Some of those accounts follow and channel conspiracy theories and anti-Islamic ideas or white nationalist ideas.
■ 5,889 of the president’s tweets — more than half — have attacked someone or something.
■ 1,710 of his tweets have promoted conspiracies.

Plucked from obscurity: Mr. Trump’s occasional retweets of low-profile supporters can stun them with new prominence.

Quora: Is China correct when they're calling Donald Trump's trade war escalation a strategic mistake?

Andres Garcia (I have lived and studied in several American countries) answered.

Yes. But before answering that question in detail, let’s be clear: this trade war has been a grave error from the very beginning. There are many reasons to say that, but the main one is a deep ignorance by the current U.S. administration of how the global economy actually works, which led to choices so absurd as the selection of tariffs as main “weapons.” In fact, though some of the U.S. demands are part of the normal differences that can be expected between trade partners, and therefore should be discussed in a professional and calm environment, most of the demands are literally impossible demands that cannot be solved by China, especially those related to the so called “trade deficit,” which is mostly due to U.S. domestic macroeconomic unbalances and the role of the U.S. dollar as international reserve currency for 75 years, by U.S. choice. So, even if it wanted, China cannot solve the U.S. trade deficit with the world. China is only the best provider the U.S. has found.

If the trade war was absurd, escalating is simply insane. For some prestigious economists, it is the economic equivalent of the path that lead to the Vietnam war. For other analysts, it reminds a more recent debacle. Patrick W. Watson describes this very vividly, while using the Pottery Barn rule (“You break it, you own it”,) in an article appropriately titled “Trump's Trade War Is Over And Nobody Won”.

“President Trump’s trade war looks more like the Iraq fiasco every day. Some of the China-related problems are real. The US is right to demand changes. But Trump’s tariff strategy is…
hurting American businesses, farmers, and consumers; not solving the China problems; and
possibly making them even worse.

When you can’t possibly win, the wisest choice is to disengage and try again later. Beijing appears to be doing exactly that.

Conversely, Trump is breaking valuable merchandise and still not achieving any of his trade goals.

That may be entertaining, but it’s not ‘winning.’”

For Watson, like it was also for me, the moment when the current U.S. administration lost this trade war (in the sense that they are not going to get what they want, even if the trade conflict is prolonged years, because China decided to resist no matter the cost) was the moment when China let the yuan slide four days after the U.S. president promised new tariffs on August 1. Watson says the following about this:

“China could have done this long ago, but Xi Jinping kept it as his ace card. It’s a risky move with enormous symbolic value.

Using the yuan in this way means (loosely translated from the original Mandarin): ‘We’re done, Trump. Call us when you want to actually negotiate.’

That won’t happen, of course, because Trump can’t admit failure or show weakness. He is more likely to crank up the pressure even more. Chinese leadership knows this and is ready for it.”

So, yes, the new tariffs were nothing short of a deep strategic mistake that cut any realistic path to get anything close to what the current U.S. president promised to his supporters. But that does not mean he is done with this trade war. He can still do much more damage to both countries and the global economy. However, China at least have a competent government that has also the tools to prevent and minimize a lot of that damage. It is a different case in the U.S.

Nothing good can come of escalating a conflict where you have no realistic path to victory. Right now, it is not possible to know what is the worst possible outcome for this trade war, while the best possible outcome for the U.S. is to have, while it still can, an exchange of minor concessions with China (not from China) that can be sold as a “cardboard victory” (of the “mission accomplished” type) to the president’s supporters. If there is a sensible adult in the current administration that still has enough power, which is doubtful, we might see that outcome in the next couple of months. But even if that “best” outcome is fulfilled, it will not solve the damage already done, or the damage that will come afterwards.

The last one is the most concerning for the U.S. So far the U.S. has occupied a privileged position in all global matters. But anyone older than a 3-years old kid knows that after most things break they will never be as good as the original, no matter how much glue you add. The world’s trust in the idea that the U.S. will have always a leadership that will be at least minimally competent has been broken permanently by this administration. So, the leading role of the U.S. in the international system, both politically and economically, is going to change faster than expected after this moment, and the photo at the end of this answer might become prophetic, because many things will need to change inside the U.S. itself before it can regain global trust regarding any issue important for the world itself. This time several Obamas (this is, several well-prepared and informed leaders that can differentiate between a fact, a wish and an opinion, no matter if one agrees with their policies or not) will be needed before the world can see the U.S. government again as a reliable partner for any ambitious plan, or any long term strategies and negotiations.

Security of credit card transactions

I pose this question for our security and tech experts to give their views.

The credit card now has a CVV, but it is printed on the card. A thief could use the credit card and the CVV. So, as a security the bank send a SMS and the owner has to enter the PIN to authenticate the transaction.

I have built an app to generate a OTP that the bank can use, instead of SMS. The OTP changes every minute.

An alternative is for the bank to ask the owner to enter a 6 digit PIN. This PIN does not change and does not need a mobile app to generate.If a fixed PIN is used, the POS device will ask the customer to enter the fixed PIN for authentication.
For e-commerce, the website will ask the customer to enter the fixed PIN (using SSL) for authentication.

Is the fixed PIN as good as a OTP that changes every minute, from the security angle?

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Are the security in condominiums run well generally?
2. Did the PAP betray the people of Singapore in recent years?
3. Do you support the current national service policy of the PAP?

Vote in

Say NO to CECA and 6.8 million population

I gave a speech at Hong Lim Park on 3 November 2019. Here is the text of my speech.

WOTC - Closer to ordinary Singaporeans

Wisdom of the Crowd: 25% were offended by the statement that Raffles Girls School will move its premises to be closer to ordinary Singaporeans. The other 75% were not offended.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Crowd funding for MPs involved in AHTC case

Wisdom of the Crowd: 82% of the participants said they will contribute towards the crowd funding to pay the damages for the MPs involved in the AHTC case. The other 18% would not.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Quora: What will be the consequences of the U.S.'s trade war with China?

Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate economist, NYT op-ed columnist, & author answered.

Trade policy is a funny area: I think people tend to overstate its importance, partly because it sounds important, partly because free trade plays such an important role in the history of economic thought.

So, some perspective: America and China are both very big economies, and trade between them isn’t that big as a share of GDP. So you don’t want to get apocalyptic about the trade war.

Still, it’s disruptive. A lot of businesses have made investments, hired people, based on the expectation of stable trading relationships. When you shake those up, some bad things happen – like farmers sitting on piles of rotting soybeans because China has stopped buying. Most people will barely notice the effects of the trade war, but a few people will be hard hit.

WOTC - Which party do you prefer to see in Parliament?

Wisdom of the Crowd - the participants in this survey chose the parties that they prefered to see in Parliament in the following order - PSP (34%), WP (32%), coalition of other parties (20%), SDP (14%).

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Who do you prefer to see in Parliament?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 53% of the participants in this survey prefered to see Tan Cheng Bock in Parliament. 29% prefered Chee Soon Juan, 12% prefered Pritam Singh.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Quora: Why does China seem so confident in the Trade War?

Jonathan Tan, was an avid reader of science magazines answered.

Because while the US is spending 680 billion every year (that’s closing in on a trillion) on their military, China is spending 150 billion for their military and 150+ billion every year on their one road, one belt project.

The US military budget is a hole. It goes out but nothing comes back in (this is why the US is always looking to fight a war where it can benefit resource wise and where the opponent isn’t too tough)

China’s military budge is a hole too but its 20% of the US and their road/belt is very smart as it is simply loaning money which mostly goes to Chinese construction companies (remember both are year by year). This brings several benefits

i) Employment. The number of Chinese is huge. Finding suitable employment for all is difficult. This allows them to maintain a lid on low skilled workers while letting them do on the job training for higher skills, for a double win

ii) Loans. The loans can either be low interest or interest free but the money comes back (in the form of leased assets or actual returns)

iii) Improvement in logistics. This is massively important because this allows China to access primary resources found in hard to reach areas in reasonable time and a reliable manner.

iv) New markets. Any trader wants a new market for their goods, even if the trader is the size of a nation. By improving economic conditions in the country hosting the road/belt, they create more able consumers who can spend more.

The money the Chinese are spending improves their own economic conditions. As long as the road/belt continues in a timely manner, the impact of losing the US export market is reduced.

Off tangent:

Why would the host countries want to be involved in the road/belt when all these western news are shouting “Its a debt trap!!!” (which is true when the host country has terrible planners). I suspect China’s view is that its a bank/business, so you default, you lose your collateral

The reasons differ from each country but some are common.

i) The infrastructure built allows you to move goods and people around much easier. This allows the exploitation of resources in areas that may have been hard to travel to and from.

For example, farmers in villages where the road is a mud track won’t be able to transport their goods far before it rots and weather can strand them as the road

Quora: Why do some people not admit that China is in the weaker side in the trade war against the US?

Andres Garcia, I have lived and studied in several American countries answered.

Because for many people China is not on the weaker side.
Because some people know that strength in a globalized economy cannot be measured by that outdated term known as “trade deficit”.
Because some people know that many times it can be worse for a country to lose its imports than reducing its exports, especially for a 21st century consumer-based economy.
Because some people read more than one source to get their news, and don't call any information they don't like as “fake news”
Because for some people facts still have more weight than wishes.
How is that good-and-easy-to-win trade war going, by the way? Last time that I checked, by mere curiosity, the TV channel preferred by the president, they claimed about a thousand times that China was going to surrender very soon. This happened around a year and a half ago.

Doctor too busy to give proper advice

A patent paid $1,100 to a health screening package (platinum male) with SATA in Potong Pasir.

WOTC - Opinion of female ministers

Wisdom of the Crowd: 86% of the participants in this survey did not like any of the female ministers. Among the remaining 14%, the highest vote goes to Indriani Rajah.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Opinion of speaker Tan Chuan Jin

Wisdom of the Crowd: 77% of the participants in this survey had a negative opinion of speaker Tan Chuan Jin. 23% had a positive opinion.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Should the western part of Singapore used used to test autonomous cars?
2. Donald Trump said he built the greatest economy in the history of America
Vote in

Friday, November 01, 2019

Quora: Trump is bringing back manufacturing to the USA and rejecting other countries' markets. Will the USA fare better with the anti-globalism policies?

Jon Mixon, worked at Manufacturing answered

First things first: Donald Trump has nothing to do with some aspects of minor manufacturing returning to the United States.

Major corporations make their decisions years or even decades in advance. They certainly don’t wait for the minor input of a man whose business acumen is known to be laughable at best. And since many are multinationals, they really don’t care who makes their products, or where, so long as they can profit from them.

Trump’s trade plans are a hodgepodge of items that he thinks will sell his candidacy in 2020 to the few voters who don’t understand trade policies and who think that he still has the capability of running this country successfully. They aren’t based on sound logic, they are provoking our own allies to reject our input, and they are simply making the nations which he’s trying to combat seek out other markets for their imports. None of what he’s doing is helping the US in the long run.

Trade doesn’t need to be a zero sum game. Everybody can, and should, “win” as it benefits no one to have high tariffs and closed markets. Trump has been told that by his economic advisers; however since that doesn’t align with his thinking or the policies that he believes will garner him the rural and red state votes he needs to win, he’s rejecting it. Frankly, since he gets paid regardless of what happens and his acolytes have proven that they don’t believe that he can make a wrong decision, there’s no reason for him to bother creating or maintaining coherent policies.

Trump is not “bringing manufacturing back”.

He’s taking credit for decisions which were made for a host of reasons, the majority of which have nothing to do with him or his failing policies.

WOTC - Was it wise for Jokowi to appoint Subianto into his cabinet?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 74% of the participants in this survey said that it is a good idea for Jokowi to appoint his opponent in the presidential election to hold a key position in his cabinet. 26% disagreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Does the economy needs a stimulus package now?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 89% of the participants in this survey disagreed with finance minister Heng that the economy does not need a stimulus package yet. The other 11% agreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Move to Electronic Mail

Sing Post is increasing its rates for mails and parcels. This is unavoidable, as their operating cost has increased. There is an increased volume of mail and parcels to be delivered. Their existing rates are not adequate to meet the operating cost.

It is time for us to move to more efficient ways of communication.

What can be done?

Financial Planning Tip #1 - Save Regularly

I will be writing 10 separate articles on financial planning.

Here is Tip #1 - Save Regularly.

It will be restricted for FISCA members in the future, but for the time being, it is open to the public.

Read about it now.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Is the behavior of the netizens towards Ramesh of JP Morgan appropriate?
2. Is the general behavior of Singaporeans gracious?

Vote in

WOTC - Will Anwar Ibrahim be a good prime minister for Malaysia

Wisdom of the Crowd: 69% of the participants in this survey has a positive view of Anwar Ibrahim as the next prime minister of Malaysia. 31% has a negative view.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - What will happen to Hong Kong

Wisdom of the Crowd: 60% of the participants in this survey expect that the police will continue to deal with the situation in Hong Kong and China will not act to stop the rioting. The other 40% expect other outcomes.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

AIA continues to charge high rates for unsuspecting customer

Dear Mr Tan,
I am writing to you to seek your opinion as a veteran in the insurance industry. My wife "KMM" bought an AIA life insurance with a 5-yr Term rider back in 1995 when she was 25. The 5-year Term rider started with a S$176/year premium for S$100,000 coverage. However, after 25 years, I found out that the premium has ballooned to S$630/year for the same 5-year Term.

Provide fire extinguishers at public places

I suggest that the ministry require all buildings to have fire extinguishes at public places, e.g. on every level of an apartment or office block and for long corridors, to have a fire extinguisher for every five units.

This will ensure that the fire extinguishes are easily accessible for every household. As this is a public property, the building manager can ensure that the fire extinguishers are checked and replaced regularly.

Quora: Why does Trump's trade war with China actually hurt Beijing less?

Richard Seeto, because of my interest in its history and the way it has been exploited & rubbis

The reason Trump’s trade war with China actually hurt Beijing less is because of many factors.

Firstly, China has been hardened by decades past of the US perfidy in its diplomatic and commercial dealings with the country which uses sanctions in all sort of ways as its first resort in dealing with any problems of its own short-sighted making.

Secondly, unlike Trump who is making conflict by reneging on decades old traditional dealings with the world and alienating every country it feels like, China is making friends with others and promoting trade so that where her exports to the world hegemon diminishes, she is making up for the slack with her other export destinations.

Thirdly, with Trump’s logic, the imposition of his tariffs on China was claimed by him that it is China who is paying for the extra imposts fully realizing that the importer, in this case, the US which is footing the bill but those of his supporters are so blinded by his lies, swallow his every word, hook, line and sinker would accept his words without question.

Security in a condo

What is the purpose of employing security guards in a condo?

Paul Krugman - People still don’t understand debt

New York Times
Author Headshot
Opinion Columnist
Today’s column is about our trillion dollar deficit, which nobody seems to care about. The thing is, this lack of concern is justified: There’s no good reason to believe that the current budget deficit is doing significant harm.
What did do a lot of harm was the deficit hysteria that dominated establishment discourse the last time we had a deficit this big, which also happened to be a period during which the economy was deeply depressed, and the stimulus from deficit spending was actually a good thing. It should have been obvious that obsessing about deficits in 2012 was a huge mistake. What’s relatively new — and something I couldn’t get into at length in the column — is the realization that government debt isn’t much of a problem even at full employment.
One reason people find this hard to understand is that they make an analogy between the nation as a whole and an individual family. This leads to sober-sounding warnings that budget deficits amount to stealing from our children, in the same way that spendthrift parents are squandering their heirs’ inheritance.
This analogy, however, is all wrong. Debt is money we owe to ourselves — that is, for the most part it obliges one group of Americans, taxpayers, to make payments to another group of Americans, bondholders. It doesn’t directly make the nation poorer, at all. (O.K., there’s a small caveat: some debt is held by foreigners. But it’s not quantitatively important.)
Now, there might be indirect ways in which debt makes us poorer. To pay interest, the government might have to spend less or collect more taxes than it would have otherwise. And this could hurt growth — for example, high taxes could reduce incentives to produce and invest.
What economists have come to realize, however, is that even these indirect costs of debt may be negligible.
Why, after all, must a government raise taxes to deal with a higher level of debt? The usual answer is that if it doesn’t, the debt will snowball: the government will have to pay more in interest, which will cause the debt to rise further, leading to even more interest payments, and so on.
But nobody cares about the absolute value of debt; what matters is the ratio of debt to the tax base, which for the federal government is basically the whole economy, i.e., G.D.P. And a rise in the debt/G.D.P. ratio doesn’t snowball — it melts! Why? Because the interest rate on federal debt is normally lower than the economy’s growth rate.
Right now, in particular, U.S. 10-year bonds are paying less than 2 percent, while G.D.P. normally grows around 4 percent a year — half real, half rising prices. So even if the government only raised enough money to pay noninterest expenses, totally ignoring interest, debt would grow more slowly than the economy, and the ratio to G.D.P. would shrink over time. So the government does need, more or less, to pay for what it spends, but taking on more debt now won’t make that task any harder in the future.
I don’t want to say that debt never does any harm. And if you’re going to run up debt, it should be for a good purpose, like rebuilding infrastructure, not to give rich people even more money to spend on luxuries. But debt isn’t a huge evil, and bringing it down shouldn’t be anyone’s priority.

Quick Hits

The debt crisis in Europe motivated a lot of the hysteria here. But that crisis vanished for everyone but Greece when Mario Draghi, the outgoing president of the European Central Bank, said three words — “whatever it takes” — which markets saw as a pledge to provide cash if needed. And now even Greece has interest rates below 2 percent.
Olivier Blanchard, the immensely respected former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, on why debt isn’t as scary as you think.
The very establishment Larry Summers and Jason Furman make a similar argument.

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