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

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