Saturday, January 12, 2019

Excellent customer service from OPPO

I find OPPO (mobile phone operator) to operate an excellent customer service. They beat most large organizations in Singapore. They set a benchmark for other companies to follow.

Read my feedback here.

An alternative approach to SkillsFuture

There are a few cases of large scale fraud with SkillsFuture. This is the govt program that pays a large part of the course fee and a daily allowance for the unemployed attendees.

There are good and bad aspects of this scheme. Some of the attendees found the courses to be useful for their careers. The quality of training provided by the institutions are good.

There are also bad cases. Some participants attended courses that are not really relevant to their needs. They went to the courses mainly to get the allowance.

Some of the training providers do not offer quality courses. The trainers are demotivated when a large part of the class comprise of disinterested attendees.

There are also a few cases of fraud. Some entrepreneurs set up training facilities primarily to tap the SkillsFuture credit. The enrolled participants who signed up mainly for the allowance.

I do not know the extent of the fraud and the wastefulness, compared to the real and useful skills obtained by the participants.

I suspect that it is difficult to monitor the fraud and the wastefulness.

I would prefer the SkillsFuture program to be scaled down and a large part of the funds used in some other ways to help the unemployed workers.

This is how I would approach it.

a) The unemployed worker should register for a placement program.
b) The program will help to place the unemployed worker with a registered employer. The govt will subsidise 50% of the wages, up to $1,000, for 1 year.
c) If the employer finds that the worker needs certain skills, they can send the worker to be trained during the first year.

This placement program may need more funds that the savings from SkillsFuture. The govt should set aside the additional funds.

This arrangement is likely to work better than current SkillsFuture funding.

What about workers who are still employed but wish to get some skills in case they have to change jobs?

They can skill attend the SkillsFuture courses, which should be largely subsidised directly by the govt. There is no need to set aside a credit in the worker's account for this purpose.

It is a bad idea to set aside the SkillsFuture credit account. It is money that tempts the worker to use it (otherwise it is wasted) and crooks to set up fraudulent schemes to tap these funds (it has happened).

We have many years of experience with the SkillsFuture scheme and its predecessor schemes (sorry, I cannot recall the names). Let us learn from the experience and find a better arrangement and hopefully a better outcome.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Best way to find a maid.

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is the best way to find a maid?

Here are the responses: (32 Votes)
34 % - Ask friend to recommend a reliable agency.
28 % - Rely on the previous maid agency, if the service is good.
22 % - Use a portal where several agencies provide particulars of their maids
16 % - Search the internet and view the websites of maid agencies.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Do you like durian?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Do you like durian?

Here are the responses: (40 Votes)
60 % - I like it but it is too expensive.
28 % - I love it.
8 % - I don't like it.
5 % - I cannot stand its smell

See the pie chart at:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Simulation of GE 2020 (or 2019)

Earlier, I projected the swing against PAP to be 18%. With the recent embarrassing event, i.e. PM Lee suing Leong Sze Hian and asking for the counter suit to be struck off, I have increased the swing to 21%.

This means the popular vote of the PAP to be less than 50%. However, due to the lopsided nature of our constituencies. the PAP will still control the majority of seats in the Parliament.

See the results here. I suggest that you apply the simulation mode. It may take a longer time to show the results but you will remember it better.

If you wish to make your own projection, you can use this webpage.

Annual declaration of assets by top public officials

I give my views on why ministers should declare their assets.

Ministers have a lot of power and discretion to make decisions involving hundred of million dollars. Their decisions are hardly challenged by their subordinates. It is easy for corrupt ministers to collect millions of dollars in bribes to make decisions in favor of certain parties.

The need to make the declaration should also extend to top civil servants.

It does not need to go down to lower levels, because the discretion and spending authority of junior civil servants are limited. Furthermore, the senior civil servants are able to monitor these decisions.

How does the declaration help to reduce corruption?

The declaration requires the minister and top civil servants to explain their assets annually. If the assets have increased significantly, the declarer has to explain the source of the income.

It is possible for the declarer to lie about the assets. They can hide the assets or fail to declare them.

This failure to declare the assets is, by itself, an offence and can cause the declarer to be terminated from service.

Should the declaration be extended to assets owned by family members?

It should include the spouse and those assets owned by children which are purchased from the income of the declarer. It should not include the assets that are acquired by the earnings of the family members.

I have seen declaration forms that require the declarer to state all the assets owned by family members. This requirement is unreasonable. The declarer may not be aware about these assets.

My suggested form of declaration for family members is not water tight. But it is practical and is a reasonable compromise.

In most cases, the assets owned by the declarer will not change much from one year to another. They will increase due to the savings from legitimate and taxed source of income.

The exception is assets obtained from inheritance. This can be explained and is not likely to be frequent.

Should the declaration be made public? I suggest that it should be a public document. This will allow whistle blowers to point out non declaration.

However, if is likely to be detrimental, an alternative approach is for the declaration should be provided to a panel appointed by Parliament or elected by the people. The members is required to observe an oath of secrecy.

This panel should be independent of any minister or the prime minister. After all, the ministers are the subject of the scrutiny.

To make the declaration non-onerous, it should be a simple declaration giving a listing of large assets and a total value of investment portfolios. It should cover local and overseas assets. The assets do not need to be specified in great detail. It is not an audited financial statement.

This declaration should be accompanied by a parallel process of making major decisions public. There is no need to hide the expenditure of military hardware or infrastructure projects, as being state secrets. They are not. The governments of hostile countries will have a way of knowing these secrets. Why should the information by hidden from the people.

I support the requirement for ministers and top civil servants to declare their assets and for major expenditure to be made public.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - Shutdown of US govt

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How long will the partial shutdown of the US govt last?

Here are the responses: (35 Votes)
34 % - It can last for months, as both the Democratic House and the President will not back down.
31 % - It will last a few weeks.
29 % - Both sides will only reach a compromise after a major financial crisis.
6 % - It will be over within a few days.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Climate change

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Is climate change a serious issue for the world?

Here are the responses: (39 Votes)
49 % - It is a serious issue. There are more natural disasters.
26 % - Definitely, the earth is experiencing higher temperatures.
13 % - The natural disasters appears to be more serious mainly because there are more people and property now, compared to past years.
13 % - There are more serious natural disasters in past centuries.

See the pie chart at:

A citizen's initiative to stop unsolicited calls

I registered my mobile phone with the Do Not Call register several years ago. For some time, it helped to stop the unsolicited marketing calls.

During the past two years, I keep getting the unwanted calls. Initially, they came from overseas numbers. Later, I get the calls from local numbers, including personal mobile phones.

Initially, I ignored these calls and terminated them abruptly.

One day, I went to the PDPA website to lodge a complaint. It was difficult for me to navigate through the complicated website. I have to sieve through a lot of irrelevant information.

I finally found the place to lodge a report. I was disappointed. The PDPA expected me to lodge a police report.

It will take me a lot of time and trouble to lodge the report. Worse, the report will probably be filed away. I do not expect the police to follow up.

This is why the callers have been blatant in recent years. They know that they will not be called up by the police or the PDPA.

I decided to create a citizen's initiative to deal with this problem. I created this website to make it easy for the called person to lodge a report.

If you have been disturbed regularly with unsolicited calls, you can lodge a report in this website. It is quite easy. That is all you have to do.

Let us work together in this citizen's initiative to eradicate this social problem.

Tan Kin Lian

Solve the long queues at the Johore checkpoints

Someone suggested that NS men should be assigned to help the officers man the immigration checkpoints. This is unacceptable.

The role of the conscripts is for national defense. They are not to be used to depress the wages of immigration officers.

If the govt is not able to recruit sufficient immigration officers to man the checkpoints, they should increase the wages. If the work conditions are the deterrent, they should improve the work conditions.

The problem is with the immigration checkpoints to Johore. There is no problem with the checkpoints at the airports.

As a first step, the govt should provide a special allowance for work at the Johore checkpoints. This should be accompanied by an effort to improve the work conditions.

We can reduce the workload by eliminating unnecessary work, such as the need to fill up and process the entry card. Many countries have already abolished this card as they have the details in the scanned passport.

If the customs checking is tiring, we should increase the manpower to share the workload. We can also reduce the types of checking required. If a traveler brings in some eggs or meat product in small quantities, it should not cause any harm. There is no need to check them.

It is unproductive for the nation to have so many thousands of people spend hours to clear the checkpoints every day.

It is depressing to think that our highly paid ministers and top civil servants cannot find a solution to this problem.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, January 10, 2019

WOTC - Problems faced by employers with maid agencies

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are the common problems faced by employers with maid agencies?

Here are the responses: (29 Votes)
55 % - They provide inexperienced and not adequately trained maids
34 % - They levy additional charges for services that should be included in the package.
7 % - I have no problem with the maid agencies that I used.
3 % - I have frequent problems with the maid agencies.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Grading of maid agencies

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is the problem with launching the grading of maid agencies?

Here are the responses: (31 Votes)
32 % - The maid agencies do not like the controls by the MOM.
26 % - It is too costly to the maid agencies.
26 % - The consultation process was difficult to handle.
16 % - MOM tries to set a high standard.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Take the right path towards financial planning

Dear Mr Tan,
I intend to help my daughter about insurance and finance planning. She will be graduating this July and start working.

I read about your comment regarding not to spend large part of their savings into long term life insurance. That leaves me with limited options and I seek your advise as to what other alternatives that she should start her savings with.

Thanks you for assisting.

Get your daughter to read the articles here.

She has to join as a member of FISCA. She can also attend the
April talk FREE as a member.

Tan Kin Lian

Investment mistakes that you can avoid

Many people spent a large part of their savings to buy a long term life insurance policy that give them a poor return.

That is a mistake and a bad investment.

I share their experience in the FISCA website. These are people who approached me after they bought the policy. It was too late. They regretted.

Do not make the same mistake as they did.

Read about their experience here. You can see more than one dozen recent cases, for the more popular policy types.

Click here

Unwise spending for Countdown 2019

We organized a 90 min fireworks at Marina Bay for Countdown 2019.

I have not seen any figure about the amount of money spent. It is not just the fireworks. We have to add the cost of the consultant (must be a big sum) and the manpower to organize the seating, etc.

Sure, it is a lot of money. I guess it must be $6.9 million or $10 million.

Someone said that it is $60 million. I don't think so. That is the money spent for a National Day Parade. It should be much lower for the fireworks.

Whatever is the sum, it must be a large sum. Why is the govt not disclosing this figure? Perhaps one MP can wake up and ask this question in Parliament?

I attended the countdown. I manage to get a ticket from a friend who got it from a friend.

It was a great show, but it was quite tiring.

Frankly, I would have preferred a 5 min or 10 min firework that they had in most cities. There is no need to organize the seating. The fireworks can be seen from many places far away and from all the tall buildings.

This short fireworks would probably cost a fraction of the budget spent for Countdown 2019.

We need to spend our money wisely. If we have too much money, we should abolish GST and reduce the cost of living for the people.


Tan Kin Lian

Why record particulars of visitors to commercial buildings?

I share this example of another wasteful activity that has been carried out for years.

A visitor to a commercial building has to register with the security post and collect a pass to enter the building. The visitor has often to deposit the NRIC card with the post and has to collect back the card after the visit.

What is the purpose of this registration?

If it is security to stop terrorism, it is better to get the security guard to check the bags to see if any bombs are being carried.

Why are they wasting their time to scan and record the particulars of the visitors?

I have heard of a ridiculous reason being given - in case of a fire, they will know who are in the building. Really? How stupid can people be? How often do we have a fire? In case of a fire, will the record be of any use?

Another ridiculous reason was that it was necessary during the SARS episode to trace the people who visited a particular building, in case there was an episode of SARS. Are these people aware that SARS has disappeared for more than a decade?

A third ridiculous reason is that the government wants to track the movement of people. I reject this explanation. The government already has a better means of tracking a person's movement using the GPS of his smart phone. They do not need to have this inefficient and costly means.

Why are we spending so much money over a useless activity?

I come back to the threat of terrorism. If this is a real threat, the target is not a commercial building.

A better target for terrorists is the shopping mall or MRT station. There are more people who can be injured or killed at these other places.

Some commercial buildings may need a high level of security, if it houses an important government minister or very rich person. But these are special buildings. They are not commercial buildings that are used by multiple organizations.

It is not only the time wasted for the security guards to record the particulars that cannot be of any use to anybody.

What about the time wasted by the visitors to queue and get their particulars scanned and to retrieve their NRIC cards that were held on hostage?

Let us get rid of this useless activity and save a lot of wasted time and manpower.

More important, let us get rid of the culture of non-thinking acceptance of non-sensensical requirements passed down by non-thinking bureaucrats and ministers who do not care.

Tan Kin Lian

WOTC - COI on Singhealth cyberattack

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should the full report of the COI on the Singhealth Cyber-attack be released?

Here are the responses: (46 Votes)
41 % - It is a waste of public funds to spend so many manpower on the COI only to have the results filed away.
30 % - Only the sensitive portion can be kept confidential; the rest of the report should be released.
28 % - It is important to understand the root cause so that other organizations can learn from the shortcomings.
0 % - It should be kept confidential, as it involve national security.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Fireworks at Countdown to 2019

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Was it a good idea to organize the fireworks at the Countdown to 2019?

Here are the responses: (51 Votes)
45 % - It is better to use the money to give more assistance to the poor
33 % - A lot of money was spent and wasted.
18 % - It is better to to reduce the tax burden.
4 % - It is good to spend money to celebrate a new year.

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Excellent service from Ohm Energy

I congratulate Ohm Energy for providing excellent service. My feedback to Ohm was answered promptly and politely by their customer service staff. Congratulations.

I asked the staff to send my feedback to their CEO and they did. The CEO Jomar Eldoy, who is the founder of Ohm Energy, replied personally, within two days, to address my feedback. It is rare to see this kind of response among big companies in Singapore.

WOTC - Will China continue to develop rapidly?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will China continue to develop rapidly?

Here are the responses: (44 Votes)
66 % - It will continue to develop rapidly in many fields.
27 % - It will develop its domestic economy to replace exports.
5 % - It will crumble due to unsustainable debts at home.
2 % - It will be badly affected by the trade wars.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Will America remain a vibrant economy

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will America remaining a vibrant economy?

Here are the responses: (41 Votes)
66 % - It will be overtaken by China in the near future.
15 % - It will be the leading economy for many more years.
10 % - It will go down rapidly fast.
10 % - It will transform its economy and regain its vigor.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, January 07, 2019

WOTC - Top wish for 2019

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What is your top wish for 2019?

Here are the responses: (44 Votes)
66 % - A new govt in Singapore.
25 % - Recovery of the global economy; end to trade wars
9 % - Settlement of outstanding disputes with Malaysia; greater cooperation.
0 % - Continued leadership by the current govt.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Impression of Lee HY

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your impression of Lee HY?

Here are the responses: (41 Votes)
46 % - He has different values from his elder brother.
37 % - He is humble and more in touch with ordinary people.
12 % - He has received special treatment because of his father.
5 % - He is from the Lee family. I dislike him.

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, January 06, 2019

On line voting system

The Democracy website shows an example of an online voting system.

It allows the voter to vote online not just for one ballot (e.g. the MP for your constituency) but also for other ballots (e.g. referendum issues and town council representative).

The votes are stored in two databases. The [Audit] function compares the results of the two databases and report any mismatch (e.g. some votes have been fraudulently altered or hacked).

Try it.
Give your votes to the issues.
After voting, you can see the results (in real life, the results appear at the end of the voting day.

Click on [Audit] to compared the results in the two database.

You will also notice that the online voting is secured by encryption using https:// This stops hackers from intercepting the votes.

Try it.

Tan Kin Lian

Market based central planning

Under a "new" economic system, it is possible to assure every young person that he or she can get a job that pays enough to meet the cost of living and to raise a family.

What is this "new" system?

It is not really "new". It is "central planning".

I am not talking about bureaucratic central planning that failed in the past in many countries.

I am referring to a market based central planning that works, somewhat along the lines adopted in China.

How can this "new" central planning achieve this laudable goal?

We are now in a different era from the past. With the internet and social media, we can achieve transparency, fairness and efficiency.

The "new" central planning takes into account the projected population in 5 and 10 years ahead, and the age profile of the population.

It will determine the appropriate number of people needed for each occupation.

It allows the young people to opt ahead, with guidance from their parents and teachers, for their preferred types of occupation.

If there is lower demand for certain kinds of jobs, the salary and working condition will be improved to attract more people.

Conversely, if there are more demand for other jobs, the salary will be reduced.

In this way, we will get enough people to take up the different kinds of jobs needed in the economy.

The young people can then take up the education and training needed for their preferred jobs. Indeed, they are given a "licence" for that job. The number of licences will be controlled to ensure that each holder is assured of a job.

However, the holder will have to pass the qualification to get that licence. If they failed to qualify, they should continue to try.

The number of licences can be changed to reflect economic situations, i.e. growth or slowdown. This will affect the new applicants for the licences, so that the old licence holders are given security.

If there is a protracted economic slowdown and the demand is less than the supply, based on the number of licence holders, the working hours can be reduced, so that everyone has work, rather than be unemployed. It is a fair system.

If they work less, they will earn proportionately lower. The lower earnings is likely to be compensated by a lower cost of living in an economic slowdown. They have more time for leisure, hobby, self improvement and social activities.

There is room in this system for entrepreneurs. These are people who come from more wealthy families and can afford to take the risk. They can start their businesses and employ the workers, i.e. the licence holders.

This is a more efficient system as it will train people for the jobs that they wish to do in the future. They can become more productive.

We will not bear the wastefulness of "educating" people for several years on knowledge that they cannot use in their jobs or their lives.

Most people will be able to opt for jobs that meet their personal passion. But this may not be possible for all cases. In some cases, they may have to opt for other jobs, but they will learn to like them.

I will refer to this system as "market based central planning" or to coin an acronym MBCP.

There is scope for some people to work outside of the system. They may not wish to be trained for a "licensed job". Or they might be trained for a certain job and wish to do something else.

This option is possible, but it cannot be made at the expense of the other licensed holders. If these people wish to take the risk of being an entrepreneur or doing a job that is not licensed, they have the choice.

Under MBCP, the salaries for certain licensed jobs may be adjusted yearly to reflect the supply and demand. Eventually, the difference in salary should reflect the level of skills and the effort needed to get the required skills.

Under this new system, there will be greater equality. Most people can earn an income that is adequate to meet the cost of living and to set aside savings for their future needs, and for retirement.

Most people have the choice of earning more through overtime or a second job. They can do it out of personal choice or passion. They do not need a second job because their first job does not pay enough.

Many countries face the big problem of youth unemployment. Many young people cannot find jobs. They have to take up jobs that pay poor wages.

We need to find a solution for youth unemployment. Central planning can provide this solution. It will give a better future for young people.

The free market has its good and bad points. The market based central planning promotes the positive aspects of the free market. The current capitalist free market reflects the negative aspect.

When you hear about "central planning", do not think about the bad experiences of the past. The needs of the future require a new form of central planning to give everybody the assurance of a job that pays adequately.

Tan Kin Lian

Make things simple for customers

I had an interesting exchange with the Customer Care of Ohms Energy.

I found it difficult to use their temporary password and change to my password. I could not find the link. They had actually provided it, but it was lost in a very long email.

Here is the reply from customer care:

We would like to explain that the temporary password is in such combination of letters and numbers so as to make it secure and deter unauthorised login.
The aim is to secure your account information.

I gave them this response:

I know that people like you do not listen.
There is no need to secure the account as there is nothing that the customer can do.
I used websites from Google etc. and they just give a simple 4 digit PIN for me to enter my preferred password.
Anyway, you can check from your record how many customers go through the secure password (which you expire anyway) to change their password.

I followed up with this longer suggestion:

This is another suggestion.
You send to me a very long email containing important things that I have to do, such as updating my password, and passing my referral code to friends, and also attaching the documents on the contract.
Most people just ignore long emails.
I suggest that you should send out 3 separate short emails for:
a) change the password
b) refer your friends
c) here are the contracts for your reference.
Emails cost you nothing to send.
The short emails will catch your customer's attention and get them to do the things that need to be done.
If I get a short email containing my referral code, I can forward it to my families and friends.

I am sharing this exchange because the approach adopted by Ohms Energy is typical of the "Singapore" approach - too much focus on "security" (even when unnecessary) and making things difficult for customers.

Tan Kin Lian

Develop character and values

PM Lee said:

SINGAPORE - Calling on parents to support the recent changes to the education system, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Jan 5) said students in Singapore schools are being equipped with not just the skills to earn a living, but also those that help develop character and values.

This is because for the Republic to succeed, Singaporeans must not only be well-educated citizens and well-trained workers, they need to have "intangible but essential values", he added.

I agree with the thrust of his speech.

I suspect that the suggestion to "develop character and values" came from me.
I do not mind that he takes my ideas, but it would be nice for him to tell me about it.

What is a character, if a leader does not show a good example? (Pardon me, if I am rude or wrong).…/singapore-needs-more-than-ju…

By the way, the biggest obstacle is the full time National Service. It teaches people to be obedient and non-questioning. How can the character be built from robots?

Tan Kin Lian

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