Saturday, February 16, 2019

Use regulars to train NS men

A former NS officer, who is now in his fifties, told me that he disagrees with the current approach of getting NS officers and NCOs to train NS recruits.

He observed this training when his son was called up for basic training. He said that it is better to get regulars to do the training for the following reasons:

SMEs should switch to Fast e-payments

The recent spate of cases of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) employees defrauding their employers have invariably involved the use of company cheque books in the custody of rogue employees.

SMEs can reduce the risk of such fraud by switching from cheque to Fast and Secure Transfer (Fast) payments.

Employees now responsible for cheque preparation can be given "preparer" role and their employers, who now sign the cheques, can be the "approver" in a Fast payment.

Time to admit, fix mistake and move on

I cannot help but disagree with Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran's comment that the public sector is subject to the same, if not higher, rigorous standards of data governance as the private sector.

Banks and insurance companies, for example, have strict policies and measures in place to prevent staff from downloading customers' data. Storage devices are tightly controlled and only company-issued devices can be used.

System checks are in place to detect and flag any breaches. Anyone caught breaching it is subject to severe penalties.

Vote (agree, disagree).

Dealing with the economic slowdown

The global economy is expected to go through a bad patch in 2019 and may persist for some time.

The Singapore economy is likely to be badly affected.

Businesses will have to close down. Workers will be retrenched. How are they going to cope with their mortgage payments and living expenses?

Workers who have some savings for emergencies wil be able to cope. What about the others?

This is a problem with the capitalist system. It is a predatory system. When businesses conditions are bad, people have to sell their businesses and homes at a big loss. Those with money will take over these assets at low prices.

Is there an alternative to this predatory system? I like to share some ideas.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Avoid making judgment based on incomplete facts

It is a common habit for people to make judgment and give advice based on wrong facts and wrong understanding.

They often misinterpret my position and then make judgment based on their misunderstanding of the facts.

They are not aware of their ignorance and shortcomings.

I avoid giving advice to other people. I avoid telling them what they should or should not do.

Even if someone approaches me for specific advice, I refuse to make any comment until I am clear about the facts. Often they give incomplete facts to me, and expect me to give them the advice. I avoid it.

But I go give general advice, and each person can take it (if it suits them) and ignore it (if it does not suit them).

How did this retiree lose 95.5% of her investment?

A retiree invested $250,000 with a bank. She lost 95.5% of the investment. The value of her investment is now $11,200. What type of investment is this?

Some people speculated that she bought the Hyflux Perpetual Securities. However, these securities are now not traded. It does not lose 95.5% of the value. There is no market now, as the shares and bonds are suspended. The indicative value of the bonds show a drop of 52%.

She could have invested the $250,000 in dual currency investments. If she did, how could she have lost 95.5%? Even if the reference currency had dropped 20%, she would have lost only 20%. She also had the choice of holding the reference currency and hope that it would rebound some time in the future.

What actually happened?

Buy a property in Johore, including Forest City

Here are two reasons why you should NOT buy a property in Johore, including Forest City.

a) You will find it difficult to flip the property for a profit.
b) You will find it difficult to rent it out.

If you have to take a loan to buy the property, it does not make sense. They are better ways to invest your money.

Here are some reasons why you should consider to buy a property in Johore:

a) As a retirement home
b) As a holiday home
c) As a long term investment

All these reasons require you to have spare cash, e.g. you got a windfall from an enbloc sale. I do have some spare cash (but not from enbloc sale), so I bought an apartment and an office in Forest City.

The harmful financial industry

There are more individuals working in the financial sector than those in the farming industry. Without the latter we all probably be eating grass.

That said, of the thousands of financial companies that purport to have the skills to create wealth or at least preserved wealth for their clients; in reality, I read somewhere, that more than 80% either loose money for their clients or achieve returns that are lower than the stock index.

Either way, whether you loose or make money, the financial houses wins; they have an upfront fee, administrative fee, misc fee, distribution fee, commission fee, performance fee, basic fee and etc. Even before your money gets invested you already in deficit. This also seems to be true for investment link insurance account.

Investing on leverage

Sometimes during 2009, a retired couple approached me. They had invested $200,000 with a local bank and had lost $100,000 during the Global Financial Crisis.

I learned that they were long time customers of that bank and had been advised by the bank's relationship management to invest in dual currency investment.

The bank offered them a loan of 4 times of their invested sum. They were able to invest in dual currency investment for $1 million. This comprised their capital of $200,000 plus $800,000 in borrowed money.

Review the medical record prior to treatment

Dr. Manjiri wrote this letter that was published in the Straits Times:

I agree with Dr. Manjiri that it is useful for the doctor to review the medical records of the patient to prepare for treatment.

However, I wonder if this is being done at present.

FTA between Singapore and European Union

I read a report in the Straits Times on 14 Feb 2019 that the Parliament of the European Union has rectified the free trade agreement between the European Union and Singapore.

I read in this report today that firms are asking for more clarify on potential perks. There is an post in Wikipedia that the text of the agreement has been available for access by the public for the past few years. I am surprised that the business community was not paying attention to it earlier.

I like to make this observation amid the confusion.

WOTC - Second Trump Kim summit in Vietnam

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

The second Trump Kim summit will be held in Vietnam at a much lower budget.

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
67 % - Singapore spends more than necessary and does not control our budget well.
27 % - The global publicity is temporary. The event is soon forgotten.
4 % - We need to spend adequately to achieve a successful outcome.
2 % - It is all right for Singapore to spend $20 million, as it creates global publicity.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - National service and defense strategy

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should National Service be maintained as part of our defense strategy?

Here are the responses: (49 Votes)
49 % - We should reduce the contribution of NS men and build a bigger professional army.
20 % - We should stop national service and rely fully on a professional army.
16 % - We can reduce the contribution of NS men and keep the current professional army.
14 % - Let us keep to the current strategy.

See the pie chart at:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lost 95.5% of investment of $250,000

A retiree invested $250,000 with a bank. She lost 95.5% of the investment. The value of her investment is now $11,200.

What type of investment is this?


Find out the answer here:

Rebutting the allegations of the American

The American who is involved in the HIV data leak has posted several allegations in his Facebook.

The govt agencies, namely the police and prison service, have given a detailed reply to rebut these allegations which are described as baseless and outright lies. The statement described the American as a "pathological liar".

I commend the govt agencies for their response. It is appropriate. (But there is no need to be personal, and describe him as a pathological liar).

However, I am worried that the govt agencies may to respond to each further new allegation that may appear. They have other important matters to attend to.

I wish to suggest this approach.

Free trade agreements may have negative consequences

Each time I read that Singapore has signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), I do not rejoice. I do not automatically accept that it is a good development. I tried to read the details, but they are usually not covered by the newspapers. I harbor my doubts.

The latest is the FTA signed with the European Union.

Let me give my general views about FTA.

Review the approach of NEHR

The govt announced in November 2017 that it will be compulsory for all medical providers, including general practitioners, to submit details of patient treatments in a National Electronic Health Record system (NEHR). Read here.

At that time, I responded with a post to suggest that the exercise should be carried out in phases and, in the first instance, it should only involve the hospitals. Read here.

I have not heard any news of further development on the NEHR system. I guess that the new law has not been passed by parliament.

In the meantime, we have seen two serious data breaches, namely the SingHealth cyber attack and the breach of the HIV patient register.

We should re-think the value of the NEHR system.

Here are my views.

WOTC - Wishes for budget 2019

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What changes do you like to see in Budget 2019?

Here are the responses: (46 Votes)
43 % - Measures to reduce the cost of living and health care
43 % - More responsible spending by the govt to reduce GST and other burdens on the citizens.
13 % - Measures to provide jobs for citizens.
0 % - More benefits and money to be given to citizens.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Benefits for Merdeka Generation

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What type of benefits should be provided for the Merdeka Generation.

Here are the responses: (45 Votes)
67 % - We should give the same benefits to all citizens who reach age 65.
20 % - Same benefits as the Pioneer Generation.
13 % - Higher benefits as the cost of medical care has gone up.
0 % - Lower benefits to lower the cost to the government.

See the pie chart at:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Spike in online talk critical of S'pore during spat with KL

The Minister of State for Law said that the spike in online comments critical of Singapore on the social media showed how foreign actors could interfere in Singapore politics.

I believe that he is stretching his suspicion too far. Here are my views.

MOM should create loan registry for maids

I completely disagree that foreign domestic workers (FDWs) do not need to seek employers' permission before taking loans (Maids may turn to loan sharks if they need boss' nod; Nov 20, 2018).

In the last six months, I have discovered that my maid and my mother's maid took out various loans from authorised moneylenders, as letters demanding payment were sent to our respective home addresses.

We have since terminated the services of my mother's maid but she continues to harass me and my maid, demanding that we help to pay off her loan.

Vote (agree, disagree)

SGX needs to correct failed policies

I have been in the stockbroking industry for nearly 25 years and have not seen such malaise in the Singapore stock market, with so much shattered investor confidence.

Many fraudulent firms were listed and went bust with billions of dollars wiped out from poor, aggrieved investors' pockets.

Our investigations take forever, with not much accountability.

One common refrain is that investigators are not at liberty to disclose the nature of their investigations.

Actions taken over HIV data breach

The HIV data breach occupied a large part of five pages in our mainstream English newspaper. It showed how the minister for health Gan Kim Hong agonized over the need to be transparent with the public and safeguard the interest of the patients affected by the breach.

Let me say a few words to help him to find a solution to avoid a further agony of this nature in the future.

Spite in online talk critical of S'pore during spat with KL

The Minister of State for Law said that the spike in online comments critical of Singapore on the social media showed how foreign actors could interfere in Singapore politics.
I believe that he is stretching his suspicion too far. Here are my views.

WOTC - Take responsibility for big mistakes

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How should leaders take responsibility for big mistakes in their organizations?

Here are the responses: (50 Votes)
54 % - They should resign.
36 % - They should come forward and take charge to handle the problem. 
6 % - They should take a salary cut.
4 % - They should commit harakiri.
0 % - They should leave to their lower level staff to handle the problem. 

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Should ministers continue to be MPs?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should ministers continue to be MPs?

Here are the responses: (47 Votes)
32 % - They should resign as MP and focus on their jobs as ministers. They can appoint another person to be the MP.
28 % - They should continue to be MP to understand the views of the people.
28 % - They should resign as MP and a by-election be held to appoint a replacement.
13 % - Ministers should be appointed from people who are not MPs.

See the pie chart at:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

High risk of investing in Dual Currency Investments

Over the past years, many people have lost a lot of money on dual currency investments.

These are sold by the banks that they trusted.

I suspect that it is still being sold, and that people are still losing large fortunes.

I have written about this type of investments and the high risk over the years.

You can read them here:

Feedback with most view

Here are the feedback that received the most views during the last 3 days and the last 30 days.

You can read the feedback and find out why they are most popular. And remember to vote (agree, disagree) on each feedback.

Price of electricity

Many consumers asked the question - why are the retail electricity suppliers able to offer discounts of up to 25% compared to the rates charged by SP Group when it was the monopoly.

The answer has now been provided here. Basically, the price charged by SP Group was determined by the Energy Market Authority. The authority allowed SP Group to keep a margin of 24 percent.

The next question that arises is - why does the EMA allow the SP Group to have such a large margin? This question was not asked. It was not answered.

I wish to ask a follow up question - what is the fair rate for SP Group to keep?

Here is my answer.

Not possible to outsource all maintenance work

The minister of defense said that it is not possible to outsource all maintenance work. He said that basic maintenance has to be done by NS technicians so that the equipment can function during operations.

I suggest that the basic maintenance work should be done by SAF regulars and not by NS men.

Here are my reasons.

More examinations could go digital in future

Minister of education Ong Ye Kung said that more examinations could go digital in future.

There is positive feedback to the pilot exercise but the ministry needs to consider the readiness of schools and students. He also said that we should not inadvertently disadvantage students who may not be exposed to computers as much as others.

I wish to suggest how these problems could be addressed.

WOTC - Politicans from the PAP

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your views about politicians from the PAP?

Here are the responses: (54 Votes)
48 % - They are generally arrogant and incompetent.
39 % - They are greedy for the money.
7 % - They want to serve the people.
6 % - They are dedicated and competent.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Politicians from the non PAP

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your general views about politicians from the non PAP?

Here are the responses: (55 Votes)
56 % - They are not perfect but they want to do the best for Singaporeans.
31 % - Most of them have put in sacrifice to provide an alternative to the PAP.
7 % - They are a bunch of clowns.
5 % - They are opportunists who only appear during the general election.

See the pie chart at:

Monday, February 11, 2019

Two ministers in one ministry, one minister in two ministries

Singapore has a strange system. PM Lee appoints two minister so run one ministry and one minister to run two ministries.

For example, Josephine Teo is minister for manpower and second minister of home affairs. Lawrence Wong is minister for national development and second minister for finance.

Why is there a need to have this system?

Here are some reasons why this is a bad system.

WOTC - Reliability of postal service

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

How should Sing Post improve its reliability of postal service?

Here are the responses: (51 Votes)
55 % - Employ direct workers, not outsourcing.
20 % - Stop its non-core activities.
20 % - Introduce tracking of delivery workers.
6 % - Employ more delivery workers.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - 200th anniversary of the founding of Singapore

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Should we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Singapore?

Here are the responses: (57 Votes)
49 % - Why should we celebrate the colonization of Singapore?
44 % - We can celebrate in a modest way.
5 % - Yes. The British have left a good legacy for Singapore.
2 % - Yes. It is a start of modern Singapore. 

See the pie chart at:

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Allow private property owner to buy HDB flats

The current government policy allows an eligible person to buy a HDB flat and after occupying the flat for five years, to buy a private property.
The HDB owner can rent out the private property to enjoy a rental income while continuing to live in the HDB flat. He is allowed to own a HDB flat and a private property at the same time.

However, an owner of a private property does not have any opportunity to own an HDB flat.

Taxing citizens upfront - the Singapore way

Many people do not realize that we are a highly taxed country, in spite of advocating free trade. The govt collects large revenue from land sale and taxes on vehicles. These revenue sources tantamount to taxing the citizens upfront for many decades in advance.

The positive aspects of tariff

Most people look at tariffs as something bad. It impedes free trade which helps to bring down the cost of production and the prices of goods.

The advocates of free trade ignore the important aspects of tariffs.

a) It is a way to bring tax revenue to the government to fund its operations. The alternative of relying on income and corporate tax is not reliable due to the ability of the wealthy to hide their profits in tax havens.

b) It helps to retain jobs in a country by reducing the impact of differences in wages and working conditions in various countries.

It is true that tariffs will increase the cost of products in a country. But the revenue collected from tariffs are needed to fund the government. The alternative is to have governments in chronic deficits, as had happened in America and other advanced countries.

More of my views here:

Rethink idea of centralised health record system

I agree with senior health correspondent Salma Khalik that human nature is such that data breaches will happen again (MOH must learn from breaches to build more robust, secure system; Feb 1).

We also cannot expect there to be no errant doctors or medical professionals who try to misuse data or access the system for personal motives.

It may, therefore, be worth rethinking the proposal that requires all healthcare institutions to input the data of their patients electronically so that it can be part of the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) system, given the spate of incidents involving breach or misuse of data.

There has to be a more secure system that achieves the same objectives without having to amass the data on a common platform.

For example, we can explore the idea of having medical data travel with the patient, by making it mandatory for people to carry a medical record card containing their data in a chip.

More details here:

Bad practice to set up many separate funds

I dislike the practice of setting up separate funds for special purposes. The latest is the Merdeka Generation Fund.

I do not know if separate funds were set up in the past for Edusave, Skills Future, Pioneer Generation, etc.

Why do I object to this practice?

WOTC - Lee HY as PM?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

Will you accept Lee Hsien Yang as the next prime minister

Here are the responses: (68 Votes)
43 % - He will make a good prime minister with his experience and his humble character.
25 % - I prefer a leader from another the WP or SDP or other party, but not PAP
19 % - Not another person from the Lee family.
13 % - He is better than Lee Hsien Loong.

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - When should PM Lee step down?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

When should Lee HL step down as prime minister?

Here are the responses: (66 Votes)
82 % - He should step down before the next general election and allow the new leaders to take charge.
17 % - He should step down within one year of the next general election.
2 % - He should continue for another term.
0 % - He should prepare for his son to take over as prime minister

See the pie chart at:

WOTC - Merdeka generation package

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd:

What are your views about the Merdeka Generation package?

Here are the responses: (63 Votes)
52 % - PM Lee and the PAP should stop using the packages to get votes.
30 % - I prefer the govt to reduce the cost of health care, so that there is no need for both packages.
13 % - I prefer that this generation get the same package as the Pioneer Generation.
5 % - I appreciate this package from PM Lee.

See the pie chart at:

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