Saturday, December 28, 2019

A good system of naming roads

Malaysia has a good system of naming their roads.

I quote this example. The main road is Setia India. The side roads, branching from this road are Setia Indah 1, Setia Indah 2, Setia Indah 3, etc.

The small roads branching from Setia Indah 1 are name as Setia Indah 1/1, Setia Indah 1/2, Setia Indah 1/3 etc.

They do not need to look for so many different names. The numbering system makes it easy to locate the side roads and even the smaller roads.

The names of the side roads and smaller roads are also kept short.

Do you agree?

CPF released complainant's details

The govt said that it was necessary to release the name of the complainant in this matter. See their explanation.

I do not agree. There was no need to release the name, as it was not relevant to the issue. They could have continued to use a pseudonym as the facts of the case were correct.

The fact that the other agencies were "actively assisting" her is irrelevant. She did not receive the timely help that she needed.

The disclosure of the actual name is an unnecessary invasion of privacy and a form of intimidation. It should not be done in this manner by an "official body".

It was also ridiculous for the post to be issued jointly by several agencies. Surely one agency could issue it on behalf of the other agencies? It is this kind of wasteful practice that make it difficult to change bad practices, as so many "cooks" are involved.

Do you agree?

CPF contribution for older workers

CPF contribution for workers above 55 years should be voluntary. This applies to both worker and employer contribution. Why?

I give my reasons here.

Give your vote in that article. OK?

Bus contracting system

Many people are puzzled - why does the govt increase the bus fares when SBS Transit is making a big profit?

Here is the explanation

Urgent action needed to block spam calls and SMS

Most people have received dozens of SMS from unsolicited callers advertising online betting schemes and loans.

See this

It is very easy for the "authority" to stop this calls. But they prefer to do nothing. It is a very sad state of affairs.

How can this be stopped?

In the SMS, there is always a number to call. Someone is holding that number. The police could have contacted that number and talked to the caller. The call can be recorded for evidence.

The caller can be traced and charged for abuse of the Do Not Call register. The first offence can be penalized lightly. Subsequent offenses can be penalized heavily.

Why does the police not adopt this approach? I wonder.

Oversight of condo manager

You can recall that the general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council was found to be corrupt in favoring certain contractors in return for entertainment and other benefits.

How can the town council, which include prominent MPs and the PM, have avoided this risk and taken steps to ensure the integrity of the quotation process?

What has happened in the AMK town council could have happened to other town councils and to the councils of many MCST (i.e. condominiums) in Singapore.

A better way to help retrenched workers get employment

The govt spend $1 billion a year on the SkillsFuture fund to provide training for older workers to get new skills and to help retrenched workers to get re-employment.

So far, the anecdotal evidence is that this training did not help many people to get re-employment. The money goes to provide general training that are "interesting" to the workers, but are not effective in helping them to get a job.

Is there a better way to use the money?

Here is my suggestion.

Is SkillsFuture used effectively?

The govt is wasting a lot of money on SkillsFuture and is also continuing the Skills Development Fund (SDF) that has lost its purpose? Do you agree?

Read this

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. What are your views about economic prospects for 2020?
2. Should Singaporeans stand united with the government?
Vote in

WOTC: Ministers have abused POFMA

WOTC: 100% of the respondents said that the ministers have abused POFMA for their own purpose, rather than to establish truth.

See their reasons in

WOTC: Employment of PMETs have increased?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 97% of the respondents do not trust the figure from MOM that employment of PMETs have increased in 2019.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Friday, December 27, 2019

Policyholder was not told about options other than a policy loan

A woman called me. She wanted to engage me to help her to deal with a problem.

20 years ago, she took a loan on her life insurance policy. The loan carried an interest rate of 5.5%. She did not repay the loan for all of these years and the loan, with interest accumulated to more than $15,000.

She now learned that she had an option of en-cashing the bonus on her policy, instead of taking a loan.

Why didn't the servicing staff of the company told her about this option?

She could also have surrendered her policy at that time, either in part or in full.

Anyway, the value of the bonus would also have accumulated over the past 20 years, although it may not be at the same rate as the interest of 5.5% charged on the loan.

There was no way of finding out if the servicing staff had told her of these options. It would be difficult to argue about what she was told or not told 20 years ago.

She could have also raised this issue at any time during the past 20 years.

I declined to take up her case, because it does not have any merit.

I told her over the phone - sorry, I have to end this call.

A "rip off" investment to catch the penny wise pound foolish

An elderly woman went to a bank. The relationship manager (RM) introduced her to a life insurance policy. He asked her to invest $300,000 into the policy for another 40 years.

The woman approached me for my guidance. I asked her to make a donation of $150 to FISCA. She never came back.

I hope that she did not buy that policy. It gave a yield of 0.2% p.a. for the first 20 years. If she kept the policy for 40 year, the yield would be between 2.6% and 3.9% depending on projected investment return. It is not guaranteed.

The woman is unlikely to keep the policy for 40 years. She would be senile at that time.

It is a bad investment.

If she terminated the policy during the first year, she would suffer a loss of $60,000. The surrender value would be $60,000 less than the invested sum.

The life insurance cover is negligible.

Why should the policy cost so much? It is a "rip off" policy to catch the unsuspecting buyer.

The distribution cost, which is used to pay the RM and the bank, is $30,000. Here is a person who refuses to make a donation of $150 and is not aware that she is paying $30,000 to the RM for selling her this bad investment. 

Penny wise, pound foolish!

Could she invest in other safe investment to earn a better yield. Most certainly she can.

If she invest for 20 years or longer, she should invest in an index fund, such as the STI exchange traded fund. The risk is minimal. The long term yield is likely to be between 4% and 6% p.a. It is not guaranteed, but quite safe for a long term investment.

Read here

Wisdom of the Crowd - prizes to be distributed on 1 January

Vote on these issues and win a prize. Prize to be distributed on 1 January.

WOTC - Change in HDB rules

Wisdom of the Crowd: the participants prefer to see the following changes in HDB rules - Govt to buy back old flats at fair valuation (40%), allow expiring lease to be extended (32%), relax use of CPF savings for old HDB flats (15%), allow citizens to opt out of CPf when they rent flats (12%).

See the details in

WOTC - Negative govt policies

Wisdom of the Crowd: the participants choose the following govt policies as affecting citizens most in a negative way - insecurity of jobs and inadequate pay (57%), inability to withdraw savings at age 55 (26%), HDB lease decay (15%)

See the details in

Story telling about Tesla and other shares

I invested $63,000 in Tesla shares 6 months ago and by now made a gain of $56,000 (89% gain). This is due mainly to good luck.

Want to know how to get good luck? Attend my story telling session here:

You can download the Powerpoint Slides here:

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Grab to apply for digital bank license?

I saw a report that Grab is applying for a digital banking license in Singapore. I am not able to verify the authenticity of this report.

Assuming that it is true, what are the services that Grab intends to provide to their customers?

They have an advantage in that Grab has a large customer base that has deposited money in their e-wallets for Grab rides. If not, they have the credit card numbers of their customers and use it for making payments.

What other services can Grab provide, under the digital bank license?

I believe that they will encourage their customers to deposit a larger sum with them, and earn interest that is higher than that offered by the bank on short term deposits. If the interest rate is 1% p.a., it would be attractive to customers.

Perhaps Grab can also offer consumer loans?

Maybe, with a banking license, Grab can go out and enrol merchants for digital payments, similar to AliPay and WeChat Pay.

Any views?

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. What is your opinion of Lee Hsien Loong?
2. What is your opinion of Boris Johnson?
Vote in

WOTC - Is Brexit positive for the UK?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 94% of the participants said that Brexit will be positive for the UK. 6% said that it will be negative.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Genocide of the Rohingas

Wisdom of the Crowd: 42% of the participants said that Aung San Suu Kyi should take responsibility for the genocide of the Rohingas. The other 58% disagree.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Avoid these dirty words

I consider "tweak" and "calibrate" to be two dirty words, when they are used by ministers.

Why? Read this article.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Is it acceptable to require prisoners to do work that is fit for them?
2. Was the phase one trade deal between USA and China good for these countries?

Vote in

WOTC - Did the CISCO officer acting correctly?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 42% of the respondents said that the CISCO officer was right in kicking the PMD rider to stop him from riding dangerously. 58% disagreed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

WOTC - Should Anwar Ibrahim be the PM of Malaysia?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 60% of the respondents said that Anwar Ibrahim should have a chance to be the PM of Malaysia. 40% disagree.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Spawn more employment opportunities for our Pioneer Generation

Last Friday morning I chanced upon an elderly female on the sidewalk at Victoria Street. She asked me for directions to Coleman Street in order to attend a job interview.

I gestured to her the routes. However she did not appear to fully comprehend my explanations. To assuage her anxiety, I offered to walk her from Victoria Street to her place of interview. I learnt from this 65 years old lady that she was recently retrenched from her company. She was displaced by another new employee of Vietnamese nationality; a 26 years old female for the office cleaning job.

Improve timing at pedestrian crossing

I use the pedestrian crossing at Yio Chu Kang Road, before KLC International, almost daily.

After pressing the button, I often have to wait for 1 or 2 minutes before the green man appears. During this waiting time, the road may be clear of traffic, and yet the green man does not appear.

Improve communication with customers

Many organizations in Singapore have an inefficient way of communicating their customers.

I often get a call on my mobile phone from an "unknown number". It is usually a land line. I do not pick up the call, because it comes an an inconvenient time or it might be a marketing call that I wish to avoid.

Goodbye to Digi

I have been using Digi for my data access in Malaysia for the past two years. I have been an active customer and has bought their data plan on many occasions when I visited Malaysia.

I will now be saying goodbye to Digi. I will not be using their service any longer.

Wisdom of the Crowd

Vote on these issues and win a prize.

Quora: How does the Xi JinPing of China tackle the Trade War? Will Trump win?

Masao Miwa, Always interested, especially Asia Answered Aug 8, 2018

First, Xi Jinping is not a Donald Trump. Xi let’s his trade experts manage the trade situation that has China’s best interest at heart. Xi will be kept informed as conditions progress. China has been meeting and coordinating trade with other Asian countries. Trump has isolated the US. To replace US imports to China, trade representatives are getting new agreements from alternate sources. China is also making changes to her agricultural lands to replace imports from the US.

China’s exports to the US represents 18% of her total world exports, so while important, survivable. It won’t go to zero, but certainly something less than 18%. Much of China’s imports from the US are agricultural products and aircraft. They are replaceable with alternate suppliers.

Part of the equation, intentional or not, the Yuan has dropped in value, so it offsets some of the tariff damage on exports. We’ll see how this plays out as the damage becomes more visible. Right now, China’s focus is on technology and domestic consumption. The trade problem appears to be only with the US. Other countries have no trade disagreements or as in the case of the EU, they are talking about trade concessions and opening the China market wider to them. The world, including China, is moving to accommodate the US trade war.

China reportedly lining up countries against US in pending trade war

Monday, December 23, 2019

A bad idea to buy insurance to cover vet fees

There is a trend towards buying insurance to cover vet fees for treatment of pets.

It is a bad idea.

Prisoners should be required to work to offset the cost of keeping them in jail

Some people argued that prisoners should not be required to work because it is "forced labor".

I disagree.

Quora: Does China’s threats of retaliation contradict the message that China does not need the U.S. as a trading partner? Why or why not?

Masao Miwa, Always interested, especially Asia Answered Dec 13

Currently, US trade represents 18% of China’s exports. However, because of actions by the US to threaten that trade with tariffs, China is moving to reduce the threat to her economy by trade and investments with the other countries. China’s trade as a percent of GDP has been falling since 2006, from a high of 64% to 38% in 2018, which puts China in the bottom quartile of dependence on trade. That trend will continue.

China Trade to GDP Ratio 1960-2019

List of countries by trade-to-GDP ratio - Wikipedia

The issue is not just trade the issue of Huawei and 5G has more to do with China’s technology rise than trade. Huawei’s trade in the US before the ban was small but increasing, especially selling to small rural carriers, its mobile phone business was almost zero. In spite of Huawei’s ban to US markets, Huawei continues to sell well to the rest of the world and domestically. Other Chinese companies are recognizing the dangers in trade with the US and are creating their own backup plans for sourcing and for sales. You see a decoupling going on, one that won’t change overnight, But for sure it is occurring. US tech companies will be the big losers, same as happened to US soybean farmers, the China market lost because of US policies and actions.

Keep in mind there are other sectors that are being affected by the trade war. These are for the US to lose if Trump keeps pushing for demands China will not accept. Foreign affiliate sales are falling, tourism is falling, student enrollment is falling, and FDI dropped off a cliff in 2018. All are inputs of wealth from China that don’t show up in the trade figures. All these sectors are falling because of the trade issue and the general tone of the US against China. From meddling in China’s domestic affairs to bans and sanctions, all create a tone of retaliation and opposition instead of building on working together in peace.

“According to many in the United States, however, these flows are imbalanced to America’s disadvantage. Look no further, they argue, than America’s large trade deficit, which amounted to more than $622 billion in 2018, with China accounting for some $378 billion of it.

But there are serious problems with the simplistic cross-border trade-deficit metric – not least its failure to account for the business conducted within a foreign country’s borders. In 2016, (the latest year for which data are available), US multinationals, including their foreign affiliates, generated $5.8 trillion in sales in foreign countries.

That figure not only dwarfs direct US exports, which amounted to $2.2 trillion in 2016; it exceeds the $4.1 trillion in total sales by all foreign multinationals in the US market. When it comes to sales in foreign markets, therefore, the US had a “surplus” of $1.7 trillion in 2016 – three times larger than the US trade deficit of $502 billion that year. This has meant major profits for US multinationals: the ratio of overseas sales to foreign direct investment (FDI) implies that companies are doubling their initial investments.

Geographically, US multinational sales and FDI are concentrated primarily in Europe. In 2016, European sales by US multinationals reached $2.8 trillion, or just under half the global total. But FDI amounted to $3.3 trillion, meaning that every dollar of FDI produced $0.85 of sales. Europe thus represents a below-average market for US multinationals.

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region – which ranks second for both US trade and sales by US multinationals – is more lucrative. APAC accounted for just over 29% of US exports in 2018, but 39.5% of imports, producing an overall trade deficit of $506.8 billion. But, returning to 2016 figures, US multinationals recorded $1.58 trillion in sales in the APAC region, while delivering $881 billion of FDI. For every dollar of investment in APAC, US multinationals gained $1.80 in sales.

One country is driving up this average: China. In 2016, US multinationals made $345.3 billion in sales, while investing $97.3 billion. That translates to an impressive sales-to-FDI ratio of 355%, up from 267% in 2009. (The much lower European ratio – 85% in 2016 – reflects a downward trend, from 123% in 2009.)

US companies’ sales in China dwarf Chinese firms’ sales in the US, which amounted to just $35 billion in 2016. In fact, by this measure, the US has a “surplus” of $310 billion. That is $2 billion larger than America’s bilateral trade deficit with China, meaning that, considering cross-border trade and overseas sales together, the positions of the US and China are roughly balanced. Meanwhile, US multinationals continue to reap huge profits in China – profits that, barring ill-advised interventions, will continue to grow.”

How will the US-China trade war affect corporate America?

“Chinese travel to the U.S. fell another 2.4% in the first quarter of 2019. The pullback has taken a toll because Chinese tourists stay an average 18 days and spend an average of nearly $7,000 per trip – about 50% more than other international tourists, according to the U.S. Travel Association.Aug 9, 2019”

Slump in overseas travel to US is expected to continue through 2020

“Chinese enrollment in US universities is falling — several schools reported declines of one-fifth or more. Administrators and observers say trade conflicts and US concerns about the security risks posed by visiting Chinese students appear to be accelerating the trend.Sep 24, 2019”

US universities are seeing steep declines in Chinese enrollment amid political tensions, and it's hurting their wallets

“"It dropped from tens of billions of dollars several years ago to virtually zero. It's actually a contraction now. If you include sales of Chinese assets in the United States and add back in the investments, you still don't reach zero, you actually end up still somewhat below zero."”

So where is that wealth going? Europe and Asia are the prime benefactors. Trump’s obsession with the trade deficit is throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. How should pet owners deal with climbing vet fees?
2. Public transport fares are likely to increase due to better service standards
Vote in

Bus contracting model

The bus contracting model has improved services for commuters and allowed the bus companies to make good profits. But the fares has to increase soon.

The fare increase can be avoided, if the Land Transport Authority improve the efficiency of the bus system. Currently, it is operated quite wastefully (this is my opinion).…/the-big-read-bus-contract…?

WOTC - a virtual telco operator has suspended its operation

Wisdom of the Crowd - 78% of the respondents said that the current system of managing the virtual telco market (which has lead to a telco suspending its operation) to be wasteful and unsatisfactory.

See their reasons in

WOTC - Who is negligent in causing the death in the Bukit Batok fire

Wisdom of the Crowd: The respondents voted on the party responsible for the death in the Bukit Batok fire as follows - town council (59%), MP (29%), nobody (7%), SCDF (5%).

See the detailed voting in

Death of victim in Bukit Batok fire

I asked this question in a survey - who is responsible for the death of the victim in the Bukit Batok fire?

Only 5% held the SCDF to be responsible. I disagree. In my view, they should hold the largest share of the blame.

See my reasoning here.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Helpful PRC nationals

Forest City provides a free shuttle from the transportation hub to Bukit Indah mall at scheduled hours. I went to the transportation hub to take the free shuttle.

I could not find a bus marked with Forest City. Instead, I saw a Causeway Link bus. The bus was nearly full, occupied by PRC nationals.

I asked if the bus was going to Bukit Indah Mall. Yes, it was. I asked what was the fare.

Several of the passengers answered in Chinese - it is free.

This was actually the free shuttle arranged by Forest City. They engaged Causeway Link to provide the shuttle service. The bus carried the Causeway Link name and was not repainted with Forest City colors.

After the shopping in Bukit Indah, I had to catch the return shuttle at the scheduled time. I was not sure where the pickup point was.

There were a queue of people down the road. Most of them looked like PRC nationals. I asked them - is this the pickup point for the shuttle bus to Forest City.

The gentleman answered - yes it was. He explained the expected arrival time and departure time.

That was very helpful.

I found the PRC nationals on both occasions to be helpful and alert. They were quick to give helpful answers, and were not shy.

Perhaps they were the more wealthy people, as they must have bought a property in Forest City and are staying there on holiday or more permanently.

I have read about PRC nationals misbehaving badly outside of China. But I have also seen PRC nationals that behaved in a helpful manner.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Who do you prefer as the next president of America.
2. Which characters is positive for the next president of America?
Vote in

Wisdom of the Crowd

Vote on these issues and win a prize.

WOTC - Preferred naming system for HDB estates

Wisdom of the Crowd: The respondents voted the naming system of the roads in the following estates to be the best - Ang Mo Kio (35%), Toa Payoh (32%), Hougang (13%), Sengkang (10%), Punggol (10%).
See the breakdown of the votes i

WOTC - Use numbers for road names in Sengkang and Punggol

Wisdom of the Crowd: 77% of the respondents prefer the names of the roads in Sengkang and Punggol to be renamed to use numbers. 23% prefer to keep the existing names.

See the breakdown of the votes in

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