Saturday, October 05, 2019

"Affordable" is a dirty word

A friend told me at the cricket club - the government leaders should not say that public transport fares are affordable or that medical care is affordable.

"Affordable" is a dirty word. It should not be used.

Why? It may be affordable to people who earn a high salary, but for people who earn a low wage, it is not affordable.

When a govt leader says that it is "affordable" they should think of the people who earn low wages, and understand that every dollar of increase is painful to them.

I agree with this point of view. I prefer a strategy where the cost of living is kept low, so that most people, including those at low wages, can afford to get by with what they earn. They can work harder to earn more, but they should not have to work hard just to "afford" the high cost of living.

I respect the first generation of PAP leaders, who kept the cost of living low. Remember the cost of HDB flats in the old days, and the rental of HDB shops?

When the cost of living increases due to property prices, GST and wasteful spending, it hits the ordinary wage earners very hard.

Bad PAP.

Why do locals have to earn a living as a taxi driver?

At the cricket club, I had a conversation with an old friend. He expressed concern about what is happening in Singapore.

He made an interesting remark - in other countries, such as Australia, UK and America, the immigrants have to make a living as a taxi driver because they are not able to get other more suitable jobs.

In Singapore, it is the locals who are not able to get other suitable jobs and have to make a living as a taxi driver. Why is this the case?

I said that it is caused by the dysfunctional policies of the PAP. We have serious problems, and the leaders do not seem to realize it.

We have to vote to change the govt at the next general election.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Did the HK Police use excessive force against the protesters?
2. Is it appropriate for the HK govt to call for a ban on the use of face masks?

Vote in

Friday, October 04, 2019

Be responsive to the wishes of the people

I asked the question - should a govt be responsive to the wishes of the people?

The initial response - 83% certainly, 17% impossible.

Surely 100% should agree with this motherhood statement? Why did 17% said that it is impossible?

Well, the 17% probably realize that it is difficult to determine the wishes of the people. In any issue, there will be some people who are in favor of one option, while others prefer another option.

Here is how we can find out the wishes of the people in a reliable way.

No need for PSLE exams to be so tough

Education minister Ong wanted to change the education system to reduce the stress for students.

I followed his changes and declared that they do not address the root of the problem. I was proved right.

What happened?

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Do you prefer to keep the current wide network of bus services?
2. How would you describe the performance of President Trump?
3. Should the protester who was shot be charged for rioting?
4. How long should a pedestrian wait for the green man to appear?

Vote in

Quora: Donald Trump is considering delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges. What effect will this have on the U.S., China, and stock holders?

Robin Daverman, World traveler answered.

It’s a bit strange. Chinese companies listing in the US is a rather recent phenomenon. There was absolutely NO Chinese companies listed in the US until 1994, when a Shangdong power company get a historic first listing on NYSE. Nowadays, most of the Chinese companies listed in the US have a US connection - American VCs made investment in them, or American funds made investment in them, or there is some kind of partnership agreement with major US companies.\\

These companies have their revenue and customer base in China. Listing in the US stock exchanges is to allow their US investors to get their investment back, with profit. So - do US investors not want their money and profit back anymore?

Also, it turned out that it’s MUCH HARDER to get listed in China’s stock market than in the US stock market. China doesn’t allow any company to go IPO unless it has been significantly profitable for 3 years prior. In the US, you just need a banker who likes your story. So in the past decade, the US investment banks have been VERY AGGRESSIVE in trying to get Chinese companies to go IPO in the US. It basically means that US investors are willing to take more risks on earlier-staged companies, in order to get higher returns if their growth strategy pans out.

Which is why this approach is rather bizarre, because the only reason these US investors invested in Chinese companies is to get higher returns, and this measure is going to depress the prices and essentially force these investors to sell at a loss. So not allowing people to make more money is good? This makes no sense - or is there a severe liquidity problem in the market (rumor)? Because if there is, then selling at a loss to gain some liquidity is better than being stuck.

But then, it’s reasonable to ask the follow-up question: with all those QEs and flooding the system with cash, where did all the cash gone, and why are (some) people hoarding cash?

Trump asks China to investigate his opponent

New York Times:

President Trump on Thursday openly called on China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, an extraordinary request that mirrored the one he made privately to the Ukrainian president, which is at the center of his impeachment inquiry.
Critics argue that these requests, which seek foreign assistance in discrediting a potential opponent in the 2020 election, are an abuse of presidential power. By asking so publicly, Mr. Trump seems determined to push back against those charges.
Details: Mr. Trump was specifically referring to a business deal between Mr. Biden’s son Hunter and a fund that involved the state-owned Bank of China. The fund was announced in 2013, days after Hunter Biden had flown to China with his father, who as vice president was in the midst of a diplomatic mission.
A lawyer for Hunter Biden has said that he did not conduct any business related to the investment fund on that trip, and that he was not an equity owner in the fund while his father was vice president.
The inquiry process: House investigators on Thursday interviewed their first witness in the growing impeachment inquiry: Kurt Volker, the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine, who was named in the whistle-blower’s complaint.

Reduce the waiting time at controlled crossings

A law was passed a few decades ago to make it an offense to jaywalk. All pedestrians have to go to a controlled crossing and wait for the green man to appear before crossing the road.

This law was implemented badly.


Letters published in mainstream newspapers

Here are some letters published in the mainstream newspapers over the past three days.

Do you agree with the suggestions? Give each your vote.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Do you prefer to keep the current wide network of bus services?

2. How would you describe the performance of President Trump?

Vote in

WOTC - High fare for short distance travel

Wisdom of the Crowd: 86% of the participants disagreed with the current fare structure which gave a higher fare to the first operator for short distance travel.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Proposed increase in public transport fares

Wisdom of the Crowd: 97% of the participants disagreed with the proposed increase in public transport fares citing three reasons. Only 3% agreed that the proposed increase is necessary.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Quora: Will the US regain its dominance over China?

Lance Chambers
Lance Chambers, Been involved in US politics since Kennedy assassination.

It’s no longer about China and the USA. It’s now about an age-old situation where nations grow, become dominant, and then fade. It seems like an inevitable ending of great nations and today it appears that the US is going through exactly the same phase.
It has nothing to do with China it has to do with the American people and how they have evolved over the last century or so.
Nations start off hungry to move beyond what they have been and had in the past. They grow, some become very powerful while others fade. Then progress reaches a point where they seem to believe they are the best, the greatest, the most important, the smartest, the leaders of the free world, etc. You get the idea!
However, all this hubris leads to pride, complacency, feelings of greatness, of being unassailable and this leads to a situation where the nation seems to believe it is invulnerable. Today China is proving the fact that political and national evolution occurs and America is feeling that pain and the horror of the reality of its growing fall into obscurity and derision from nations that used to hold it in high esteem.
China will take over of that there is no doubt, but, even China will be surpassed, in the future by another nation that can offer something better to its people and maybe the world and then the cycle starts again.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Shooting of the young protester in Hong Kong
2. What happened to the United Nations?
3. The behavior of Singaporeans need to improve.
4. How do you describe the 4G leaders?

Vote in

WOTC - Boris Johnson and Brexit

Wisdom of the Crowd: 32% of the participants in this survey said that Boris Johnson will lead Britain through Brexit, with or without a deal. The other 68% expect him to resign as prime minister or be voted out before that event.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Re-election of Donald Trump

Wisdom of the Crowd: 30% of the participations in this survey said that Donald Trump will be re-elected for a second term. The other 70% expected a different outcome.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Shooting of the young protester in Hong Kong

2. What happened to the United Nations?

Vote in

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Will there be a decision on the RTS rail link within the one month extension?

I was delighted to read an online summary a few days ago - both countries agreed to an extension of the RTS rail link, without penalty.

Wow! This is a change in attitude. Maybe it will lead to a climate of cooperation and friendship between the Singapore and Malaysia.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Why was the United Nations General Assembly rather empty when PM Lee spoke?
2. Will Boris Johnson lose his premiership soon?

Vote in

WOTC - World Statesman Award

Wisdom of the Crowd: 77% of the participants did not feel proud that PM Lee received the World Statesman Award for two reasons. The other 23% was proud of the award.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Renewal of strategic partnership with USA

Wisdom of the Crowd: 63% of the participants said that it was wise to renew the strategic partnership with USA on the use of our military bases for three reasons. 37% said that it was unwise as it will upset China.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Beware of deliberate falsehood

Someone shared a graphic stating that Singapore had external debt of $2.5 trillion and the CPF savings is insufficient to repay this debt. It quoted the source as a journalist from the Straits Times.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Should LTA issue license for sharing of PMDs?
2. The competition watchdog has issued guidelines for online travel websites.

Vote in

WOTC - Brexit deal?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 41% of the respondents expect Britain to leave the European Union without a deal (i.e. hard Brexit). The other 59% expect other outcomes.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Brexit mess

Wisdom of the Crowd: 42% of the participants said that the British Parliament is responsible for the Brexit mess because they refuse to approve the deals that were negotiated. The other 58% chose other options.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Monday, September 30, 2019

Transparency of online booking prices

At long last, the relevant govt agency, is taking action to improve the transparency of online booking prices.

Although the report of the Competition Commission (CCCS) refers to travel booking, the worst case of abuse is by budget airlines.

The prices that they show are misleading. For example, they do not show the mandatory airport tax and fuel surcharge.

Australia has already mandated, for a long time, that the all-in pricing should be shown. Perhaps now, several years later, Singapore will follow.

I generally do not find any problem with booking of hotel rooms.

What do you think?

PRC Turns 70: Five Elements of its Grand Strategy

Rajaratnam School of International Studies

No. 192/2019 dated 30 September 2019
PRC Turns 70:
Five Elements of its Grand Strategy

By Benjamin Tze Ern Ho

As the People’s Republic of China prepares for its 70th birthday on 1 October, the issue of its grand strategy will be closely watched by political observers. To this end, both domestic and international objectives must be taken into account if we are to obtain a better understanding of what Beijing’s strategic intentions might be.
ON 1 OCTOBER 2019, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will celebrate its 70th birthday, thus marking another important landmark of modern China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). While much of recent international interest in China has focused on its trade war with the United States and ongoing social protests in Hong Kong, the issue of what the PRC’s long-term intentions, and elements of its grand strategy, are equally important if we are not to miss the forest for the trees. 
Indeed, if the previous five years under the leadership of President Xi Jinping are any indication, we are able to adduce certain broad trends that have emerged in the making of Chinese grand strategy.
Ensuring CCP Legitimacy
The first, and possibly the most crucial, is the need to ensure the legitimacy of the CCP to rule China. Given Chinese leaders criticism of Western democratic systems and the problems they generate, it is incumbent upon Beijing to demonstrate that its single party, authoritarian approach to governance is superior to the West. 
This can only be so if Chinese leaders are able to evince that its social policies and governance have the support of the majority of the Chinese people. Due to the absence of parliamentary style elections in China, this is difficult to ascertain; hence, material prosperity and economic growth remains central to legitimising the CCP’s political rule. To this end, any slowdown of the Chinese economy would pose a challenge to the mandate of the CCP.
Widening International Support Base
Under President Xi, the Belt and Road (BRI) initiative has been one central feature of Beijing’s foreign policy. While a number of elements regarding the BRI remain unclear, particularly the economic viability and sustainability of BRI projects with other countries, one objective is certain: the BRI is conceived with the intention of widening China’s international support base through economic statecraft. 
In this respect some modest progress has been made. The first BRI forum in May 2017 saw 29 foreign heads of state and representatives from 130 countries while the second BRI forum in April 2019 saw an increase to 37 foreign heads of state and participation from more than 150 countries. 
This suggests that China would likely expend further efforts in the coming years to obtain greater international support for its global initiatives, especially among Western countries that possess strong relations with the United States such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Increase International Isolation of Taiwan
The issue of Taiwan remains a core national interest and one which all Chinese leaders cannot be seen to make any compromise over. To this end, China – under President Xi – has been highly successful in the past few years. In 2013, Taiwan had official diplomatic relations with 22 UN member states, this number has now dwindled to 14 UN member states, with five of them coming in the past year, and two within a week in September (Solomon Islands and Kirbati). 
While most of these recent countries are small Pacific and Oceanic states and are not considered major political players internationally, their strategic locations in key maritime waters proffer Beijing with increased opportunities to project international visibility while further eroding Taipei’s international presence and voice. 
In the coming years, it is likely that China would further intensify international pressure on Taiwan, including attempts to shift the position of the Vatican (whose representation of an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide) presents a goldmine for Beijing’s leaders in terms of effecting strategic political and diplomatic presence.

Negate US influence in East Asia
In the minds of many Chinese leaders and political observers, the presence of the US in East Asia remains the biggest obstacle to China’s future prosperity and ability to project power regionally and internationally. Indeed, the Trump’s administration trade war is seen by many in Beijing as reflecting a more fundamental strategic decision by Washington policy-makers to constraint China’s rise in order to preserve US international primacy and leadership. 
Major U.S. policies such as the “pivot to Asia” and the “free-and-open Indo-Pacific” in the eyes of China is conceived with one objective in mind: to keep China down and maintain American political influence in East Asia
Notwithstanding the possibility of a change in administration come the next US elections in 2020, the perception from Beijing is that the US would continue to constrain China and hence the need for Beijing to find ways to negate American influence in the region. To this end, East Asia and Southeast Asia are seen as crucial theatres for Beijing to reduce American influence. 
Global Rules and International Order
It is generally perceived by Chinese leaders and political observers that the rules of the international order were made so as to preserve the interests of the West. As such the problems faced by Western countries over the last decade or so were seen to be reflective of a historical trend whereby the influence of the West would be inevitably reduced. In contrast Asia and countries in the global South would assume greater say and share to the making of global order. 
From this vantage point, China is seen as being the flag-bearer of such a new system and one which possesses the deepest resources with which to challenge American dominance. Indeed China’s presence is ubiquitous in most if not all major global institutions and forums and Chinese representatives are now far more vocal in stating and arguing Chinese demands and interests where they arise. 
In 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed that the Chinese people have stood up, thus consigning the trauma and tragedy of its past to history. Today, China’s political worldview is far different from that of its early years as a far more confident China takes its place on the global stage. Where Beijing will go and how many will follow will be the test of its global influence and the persuasiveness of its grand strategy.

Benjamin Tze Ern Ho is a Research Fellow with the China Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Do not force companies to join the Singapore Business Federation

A few years ago, I increased the share capital of my company to $500,000. That was a mistake. I did not need to have such a large share capital.

The following year, I was told that it was compulsory, by law, for me to join the Singapore Business Federation. It applied to any locally registered company with a capital of $500,000.

The annual fee is $300 plus GST. I have been paying this fee for several years. It adds to my cost of doing business.

The Federation has several activities, but they were not suitable or useful to me. The membership fee was largely wasted.

Make the ACRA website more user friendly

Earlier, I reported that I was not able to login to the ACRA website. I was asked to return after half an hour.

I did. I managed to login to the ACRA website. The bug that caused the failure to login earlier had been resolved.

This was quite frustrating as I have many other matters to attend to. I cannot afford to waste time on a buggy website.

I met with the following issues.

The SingPass Mobile app did not work. I have to use the OTP SMS to login. It went through.

I received a confusing page. I was asked to confirm that I am logging in as an individual. I do not understand what this is for. I am also not clear if I am logging in as an individual or a presenting of my company.

That confirmation page did not have any button to respond. It hang.

After trying several times, it mysteriously went through. I was reminded that I was submitted the entry as an individually - but I do not understand what it meant.

I had a difficult time to search for the page to submit a change of share capital. It is hidden under a set of links. I went to the wrong link and had to return on a few occasions.

I finally managed to find the link.

The submission of the form was quite confusing. I submitted the change, and thought that it was completed. I came to another page that required more entries to be done. I almost missed it.

The buggy nature of the website added to my problem. Sometimes, it takes a long time to respond to my submission. I was not sure if it was accepted or not.

I wished ACRA build a more user friendly website.

ACRA - are you listening?

Tan Kin Lian

Give views in a constructive way

I wish to talk about how to give views in a constructive way.

I welcome views in my Facebook page, including views that are different from my views.

Here is how to give the views in a constructive way - state your views and the reasons for your views.

Difficult to login to ACRA website

I have to submit a return to ACRA. I logged into their Bizfile website. The login page hang. I tried several times and it hanged.

I changed from Chrome browser to Internet Explorer. I faced the same issue.

I wasted 15 minutes and could not log into the portal.

That is not all. The login process requires me to enter the company ID, user ID, password and later to go through a 2FA process.

I cannot remember my password because ACRA requires it to be in certain format and does not allow a previous password to be used. I do not use this password often, so it is easy to forget. Fortunately, I recorded it online (which creates another risk - but I could not avoid it).

After I got into the portal, I will need to search for the page to file my return - which involves a change of share capital. It is not easy to find.

If I do not submit my return on time, ACRA will impose a heavy fine on me.

Why does our govt agency impose this kind of burden to the business community?

LHL - are you listening?

Quora: Will Trump end the tariffs on China?

Robert Walker answered

Did Trump outsmart China by unexpectedly doubling down on tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the USA? Are we seeing the beginning of the end of China’s economic and geopolitical rise?

The answer to both questions is NO.

All of Trump's tariffs so far have done very little to slow down the flow of Chinese goods to the US, it just means American consumers are going to pay more for the things they buy. The tariffs were expected to cost the average American family about $1,000. By doubling down Trump has just raised their costs even more. The current reality is that China is the only supplier of many goods to the US. For any Chinese goods that can be replaced by others it will take a long time to re-jigger all the supply lines.

Even if Trump’s tariffs caused all of the demand for Chinese goods to disappear, it wouldn’t hurt China all that much. Trade with the US accounts for about 10% of China’s exports, which sounds like a lot of business to lose, but in the big picture China’s business with the US accounts for less than 3% of China’s GDP, which is an amount China can live without if it had to hunker down for a while.

On the other hand, there is very little China buys from the US that they can’t get elsewhere. Look at soy and pork as good examples so far. Therefore Chinese tariffs on incoming American goods could hurt the US a great deal. In any case, Chinese tariffs on incoming American goods are just window dressing anyways. The Chinese government DOES have the power to order Chinese companies to stop buying American goods, and have already used that power very effectively.

If Trump had left the rest of the world alone and focused ONLY on China he might have had some real leverage and a whole world of allies because many other countries have the same beefs with China that the US has, including technology transfer, intellectual property rights and trade deficits. Instead, Trump has started trade wars with almost each and every one of America’s long-term friends and allies, including Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Most of them have already signed new trade agreements with each other and with other countries to bypass Trump’s adversarial USA. America will have no support against China from its traditional allies. Not only that, these trade wars are sending China lots of extra business, more than making up for any lost trade with the US.

China is an ancient society that thinks and plans for the long term, not just the next quarter’s results or the next election. They have long term plans to become the preeminent country on earth, including being the #1 economic power. At the beginning of this trade war they were willing to make a deal to get it over with, but Trump’s flip-flops and volatility have made them dig in their heels. They may still be willing to make a deal because they realize that Trump is under incredible pressure from within the US and from the rest of the world to end this trade war before he causes a worldwide recession, and China can take advantage of this. Like everyone else, China doesn’t want a worldwide recession because it would hurt them more than any loss of US trade.

In terms of China’s economic and geopolitical rise, China and the European Union (EU) have been working to come up with alternatives to the US dominated SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system that controls most of the world’s major financial transactions. Through SWIFT the US has been able to monitor, block and impound international transactions it doesn’t like. The rest of the world is tired of America’s bullying unilateral actions in defiance of other countries wishes, but Trump’s unilateral sanctions of Iran and any country that trades with Iran (which includes the entire European Union, China and Russia, all signatories to the Iran Nuclear Deal that Trump pulled the US out of) has supercharged efforts to come up with an alternative to SWIFT. 

This alternative will likely be in place before year end. At first it will only be handling a very limited number of transactions such as those with Iran, but over time it will likely be used globally for most major financial transactions that don’t directly involve the US. This will greatly benefit China and Europe, but will result in the US losing control of the world’s finances. The Chinese yuan and the Euro will become alternate world currencies to the US dollar. And the more Trump and the US fight against a replacement to SWIFT, the faster it is likely to be in place.

WOTC - F1 racing in Singapore

Wisdom of the Crowd: 79% of the participants said that they will not watch the F1 broadcast over TV. 20% said that they would. None will buy a ticket.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Biggest failure of LHL

Wisdom of the Crowd: 41% of the participants said that the biggest failure of LHL was that he appointed incompetent people into the government. The other 59% chose other options.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Sunday, September 29, 2019

WOTC - Swiss standard of living

Wisdom of the Crowd: 86% of the respondents have a negative view of Goh CT due to his failure to deliver the promised Swiss standard of living. The other 14% had a positive view.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - US system of government

Wisdom of the Crowd: 14% of the respondents think that the US has a good system of government. The other 86% find their system to be in gridlock and dysfunctional.

See the breakdown of the votes in

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