Sunday, July 05, 2020

Quora: Why did Navarro say that the trade deal with China is "over"?

Charles Lee replied:
Actually, when Navarro said that the trade deal with China is “over”, this is what he meant:
  1. The United States had imposed 25% tariffs on Chinese goods, it did not impact Chinese exports at all as Chinese goods was re-routed to other countries for re-shipment to the United States and the extra-cost is borne by Americans;
  2. When United States imposed tariffs, the Chinese stopped buying many American products, especially farm products leading many American farmers to go bankrupt or lose their long established market permanently and never going to replace it;
  3. When the United States banned American companies from selling high tech products to the Chinese companies, the Chinese bought from European, Japanese, and Korean companies AND also manufactured those products themselves. Many American semi-conductor companies will go bankrupt as a result;
  4. Whereas Alphabet (Google) used to dominate the mobile operating system as a result of Trump’s ban, the Chinese, Russians, and (even) the Europeans are now in the process of introducing their own operating system.
The trade deal is “over” because Trump had lost. There is talk of de-coupling. There will NOT be one unless the United States wishes to go the North Korean way. The American economic base is too small for it to succeed in de-coupling. No other country will join it.
So the trade deal, no matter how Trump or Navarro spins it, is “OVER”. Trump had lost and, in fact, never had a chance in the first place: they never had a chance against the depth and scale of China’s industrial base, the size of it internal market, and its Belt and Road infrastructure….
So what can Trump do next? Increased tariffs…it will make no difference to Chinese exports BUT they will stopped buying what little they currently purchase from the United States. There are no good options left for Trump. The only possibility left is to further weaponized the US dollar……but he will also destroy the American economy at the same time. BUT, as everyone knows, he is impulsive. AND, from all accounts the Chinese is already even prepared for this worst case scenario and have already begun preparing their people for this possibility… doubt coordinated with the Europeans.
The Chinese always knew that they will win because they had carefully gamed it out from Day 1 and they were supported by the Europeans who knew they will be the next target - Trump never had a chance in this trade war for he had waged war with the world AND that the world is far bigger and GREATer than the United States.

Starhub bonds and shares

My friend invested in Starhub bonds. He asked if if the bonds are safe. (He had invested in Hyflux preference shares and lost nearly all of his invested sum). I look at the financials in Yahoo Finance. 
Here is my analysis of the bonds and the shares.

Some foreigners had a hard time in Singapore

Mr. H was in his fifties. He sold his house in Germany and migrated to Singapore under the investor scheme. He was given a 5 year residence, subject to renewal.
He bought a property and started a business. The business was not successful.
On expiry, the residency was not renewed. He had to leave Singapore.
He tried to sell his residential property, but the market is bad. He had to suffer a capital loss. He rented out the property and obtained a miserable return.
He invested in the Hyflux preference shares. He thought that it was safe, as it was approved for sale to retail investors and could be bought from the bank's ATM machine.
His investment in the preferential shares is almost gone.
He still holds some bonds from StarHub. He asked me if this bond is as risky as Hyflux. I told him that I would study the financials and give him my views.
Shhh, I did not tell him that I would consulting my crystal ball.
Mr. H is one of the foreigners who did not do well by migrating to Singapore. He would have been better off if he had migrated to some other country.
I like to share this sad story with my sinkie friends. We should not be xenophobia towards foreigners. Some of them also had a bad time.
I met Mr. H when he consulted me about the Hyflux preference shares. We became good friends.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Which party gave convincing messages during the e-broadcast?
2. What vote share do you expect the PAP to get?
3. Which non PAP party will win the most seats?
4. How do you find the PAP candidates?

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WOTC - $95 billion was largely wasted

Wisdom of the Crowd: 70% of the respondents said that the $95 billion spent on the circuit breaker was largely wasted. 30% think that it was well spent.

WOTC - Corona virus is still a threat

Wisdom of the Crowd: 72% of the respondents said that the corona virus is still a big threat around the world. 28% think that the threat is subsiding.

NS can be reduced to 6 months

The Reform Party wants National Service to be reduced to 6 months. I agree with their policy. Some people said that it is not possible to train a NS men within 6 months. They pointed out the training time needed for the various vocational skills that are needed to run an army. These people are looking at this issue from a narrow perspective - namely, the approach that was adopted five decades ago, and continued until today.  They need to see this issue from a different perspective. Many countries are able to train their citizens in a shorter time, but they adopt a different approach.  A successful example is Switzerland, which is able to train their citizens in less than 6 months. Their approach has served them well over the decades. Under our approach, the NS men are expected to be operationally ready, just like full time soldiers. I find this approach to be wasteful. We are spending billions of dollars to train NS reservists. Being part-time, they cannot acquire the competence that is expected of full time professionals. I prefer a different approach. I prefer to have a smaller but highly competent full time professional army. They are the people who can be relied on to fly the fighter planes, man the artillery guns and tanks and run the military operations. The professional army will be backed by a large force of NS reservists. These reservists have received 6 months of full time training on combat skills. During times of hostility, the reservists can be called back for retraining. As they already have the basic skills, the retraining can be completed within a short time. As there is a real emergency, they will have the motivation to do their best for the country. At that time, we will need a large force of soldiers in the front lines and to protect the homeland. This is the role of the NS reservist army.  The NS reservist army is NOT to be the core of the highly sophisticated military force. That should be the role of the professional soldiers. We need a new strategy for our National Service.

PAP no longer offer a safe option

In the past, people vote for the PAP to get a team of experienced and competent leaders.

PAP does not offer this choice any more.

Instead, they offer a relatively inexperienced team. Look at the potential ministers that are being helicoptered into parliament.

The current ministers are found to be incompetent. They wasted $95 billion on the circuit breaker and did not solve the underlying problem. We still stand a high risk of a second wave of covid infection.

The $95 billion could have been used to waive GST for 8 years and reduce the cost of living for the people.

The ministers refused to consider this option, but instead spent it wastefully on the circuit breaker.

The $95 billion could have been used to give a monthly pension of $800 for those above 70, payable for their lifetime.

The ministers refused to consider this option, but instead wasted the money on the circuit breaker.

A small part of he $95 billion could be used as a wage subsidy to ensure that locals can have good paying jobs. 

Does the PAP offer competent ministers? No, they did not.

Does the PAP offer leaders who can make the right judgement? No, they did not.

Do you still want to vote for PAP, when they no longer offer experienced and competent ministers?

Voters of Singapore, it is time to vote for a change. We cannot continue to give a strong and unquestioning mandate to people who have failed us.

We start by voting into parliament, people who have the a different set of ideas and more importantly, people with the passion to serve the people.

We need enough alternative voices in parliament to force the PAP govt to be transparent and to work harder and find better solutions. They cannot continue to be complacent.

Even if the PAP were to be replaced as the government, a new government can tap competent and passionate people to be advisers to help them to run the country. This will still be a better option that a PAP govt that continues to stubbornly follow failed policies.

Vote for change.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Difficult to file an annual return with ACRA

It is extremely difficult for me to file an annual return to ACRA as a private company. I faced difficulty every year for the past ten years. The problem arise from a complicated website and often a non-responsive website. This year, I decided to take a video showing the user experience.  I upload this video to show the confusing journey that I have to go through, and still failed to submit the annual return. ACRA charges me $60 for the privilege of submitting a return, after they made my life very difficult and troublesome. I am submitting this feedback to ACRA and also to the Smart Nation Office. When will our minister and civil service recognize that they have to change their approach and avoid giving a heavy burden to the business community?

Landlords may also be struggling

The finance minister expect the landlord to help their tenants by waiving rental for 2 to 4 months. The government will only compensate the landlord for half of the cost. The landlord has to bear the other half. This directive is wrong. It assumed that the landlords have been enjoying a good yield on their property and can afford to bear part of the loss. It is a wrong assumption. Read my view here:

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Why burden business with troublesome administrative work?

The government loves to calibrate their regulations to fine detail. In the process, they cause a big headache and administrative burden to businesses. Businesses are already struggling. They can do without the additional burden. I recall reading a report that a landlord has to give rental relief to their tenants to help them to overcome the economic crisis.  I have to search the internet for the kind of relief to be provided and how it can be recovered from the government.  I found this webpage. It seems that I have to waive the rental from my tenant for two months and to seek a recovery of 0.68 months from the government. I was given 0.32 months in property tax relief. I have to bear the loss of one month rental. Never mind the additional work. This government loves to calibrate and add the cost of calibration to the business community.

Bureaucratic burden on small business

I receive this email from the PDP Commission to appoint a Data Protection Officer.
I gave this reply:
Dear Administrator
My company now has 1 employee and recently just recruited 2 more.
Do you need a Data Protection Officer for such a small company.
Don't you distinguish between big and small companies.
Do you realize that small companies have to take care of many activities just to survive.
Is it possible to relieve small companies of costly bureaucratic requirements?

Who Dares Win - Looking beyond the Reign of the Men in White

By Chung Sing Yee, retired corporate executive Among members of a number of chat groups in which I participate, there appears to be a consensus that the PAP will win the coming GE hands down, with quite a few postulating a clean sweep for the PAP.  A clean sweep for the PAP means they win every seat in Parliament, from single seat constituencies to group representation constituencies. It means that the Workers Party will be unceremoniously booted out. These clean sweep proponents, however, lament that such an outcome is far from ideal because they would prefer to see at least 20% of seats going to the Opposition, so that they can  serve as a Check and Balance to the PAP. They are therefore resigned to virtual PAP absolutism because the Opposition has offered no credible platform  other than negativity towards the PAP, which in turn means that they are far from offering any semblance of an agenda to steer Singapore forwards and onwards to a viable future. Read the full essay here

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Invest based on long term value

I saw a comment - Mr. Tan, you gave talks on investing. Some people followed you. When you sell, you have to tell them - so they can run.
I deleted that comments. It is obviously from someone who does not know what is happening.
In my talk on investing, I emphasized the following:
a) Pick your shares for long term value
b) Even if the market goes down, you do not need to panic. You can hold them for the dividend yield and for the eventual recovery.
c) You do not buy or sell based on what other people do. You make your own judgment. Preferably, you invest for the long term.
d) If you wish to take a short term trading view, you have to make your own judgment. Do not follow other people blindly and expect them to make money for you.
Actually, if you want a professional to manage your money for you, you have to pay them an annual fee of 1% to 3%. After paying the fee, you may still get poor results.
You can attend my talk here.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Give preference to locals for jobs

Over a period of 35 years, several manpower ministers failed to find a solution to the challenge of getting employers to give preference to locals for jobs. They kept to the same strategy - getting employer to pay a levy to employ foreigners and set limits on the proportion of foreign workforce.  The strategy did not work. Foreigners and employers were able to get round the loopholes.  Many jobs went to foreigners, leaving many locals unable to find good jobs.  How can this problem be solved?
Here is my suggestion.

Australia allows the residents to withdraw from their superannuation schemes

Australia has a sensible approach towards providing financial relief.

They allow people to withdraw their savings from their superannuation fund.

This is similar to the Central Provident Fund in Singapore.

This is a better approach compared to the arbitrary rules that are applied in Singapore for people to qualify for the self employed income relief.

These rules result in some people being cut off and they have to appeal and fight to get the relief.

Arbitrary rules for self employed income relief

My friend is a used car dealer. His business has been bad last year. It became worse this year.
He applied for the self employed relief (I think it is call SIRS).
He was rejected.
He appealed and fought hard. He spent some time to fight his case. Finally, his appeal was successful.
He received $9,000 for 9 months. It was helpful.
Question - does it mean that those who do not know how to fight their case will lose out?
Why does PAP introduce this kind of scheme that is quite arbitrary and unfair to those who are not able to fight their case?
Is there an alternative?
Sure, there is.
I prefer that the government allows people in financial need to withdraw their CPF savings, or to take a loan from the government that needs to be paid back.
There is no need to create arbitrary rules and require people to fight their case according to these rules and to have administrator send a lot of time dealing with tens of thousand cases.
Do you agree?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Crystal ball gives a warning

My crystal ball (CB) whispered to me - Boss, better sell away all your shares.
TKL - Why?
CB - Second wave of corona. Big.
TKL - Where? America or Singapore?
CB - Both
TKL - But we already spent $95 billion on our circuit breaker.
CB - Sorry to say, boss. The money is wasted. It does not solve the underlying problem. So, you expect a big second wave.
TKL - But LHL already called GE2020
CB - Yeah. The PAP will report low numbers by doing fewer testing. But after GE, it will be a different story.
TKL - Another circuit breaker? Another $95 billion?
CB - Boss, you stupid or what? After GE, you think the PAP will be so generous? I think they will raise GST to 9%, or higher, quite soon.
TKL - Alamak. This is serious! What about America? Another $3 trillion?
CB - Boss, they got no more money.
TKL - After the unemployment benefit run out in July, and another lockdown, there will be trouble.
CB - Boss, you can expect riots and looting again. More serious than George Floyd riots.
TKL - Wah, really serious.
CB - Yeah. That's why I tell you to sell all your shares!
Hello, you think the CB is a scare monger or not?

Many manpower ministers - no solution

Many ministers were appointed to be in charge of the manpower ministry over the past four decades - Lee Boon Yang, Ng Eng Hen, Gan Kim Yong, Lim Swee Say, Tan Chuan Jin and Josephine Teo. They were not able to solve the problem of finding jobs for our local professionals, managers, executives and technical (PMETs). They do not understand the root of the problem. They continued to applied the same approach - which failed for the past decades. As our cost of doing business continued to escalate over the years, many manufacturing and service businesses went offshore. Those that remain needed to have low cost labor to continue their operations. The PMETs bore the brunt of this structural change. They lost their jobs and had to take low paying jobs to continue their livelihoods. They became taxi drivers and "business and marketing consultants". They engaged in new business ventures. Many of the new ventures did not succeed. The displaced PMETs accepted their fate. They were fortunate to be cushioned off by the rising values of their HDB flats and private properties. They were able to cope financially, in spite of a drastic drop in income. The financial cushion will not be available for the next generation of PMETs and also the new graduates who will find it difficult to get low paying jobs. All this while, the structural problems were not solved by the many changes in manpower ministers. Maybe, the government was blinded by the revenue of $4 billion to $5 billion a year that is collected on foreign worker levies. It was a good source of income. Sadly, pay-back time had arrived. The spread of covid infections in the foreign worker dormitories caused the government to call for a circuit breaker to deal with the problem. A total of $95 billion was spent during three months to deal with this problem. It probably took away 20 years of the foreign worker levies. The revenue that was earned from the foreign worker strategy was totally spent. We are still left with the problem of displaced PMETs and growing numbers of new graduates who cannot get enough jobs. The future is bleak for the local workers.

Managing the foreign workforce

The ministry of manpower has to manage the local and foreign workforce to meet the goals of ensuring that locals have jobs and that the business has access to the foreign workforce to meet their needs (where the locals are not available). They tried different methods in the past years and have not found a good solution. They tried the "Fair employment Framework" which requires the employer to look for locals first, before asking for approval from MOM to employ foreign workers. They created two portals for the employers to look for locals. Both portals do not appear to provide the solution. I like to suggest a new approach to achieve these two goals. a) MOM should provide in its portal, the types of job, the required qualifications and the minimum salary. b) Interested local and foreign workers can submit their interest in this portal. They have to provide evidence that they have the suitable qualifications. MOM should be satisfied that the qualifications are genuine. The workers can pay the employment agents to make the submission. c) The employer can view the available workers in the portal and invite them for an interview and hire the suitable workers. d) The employer has to pay a levy to recruit a foreign worker. This system can continue. It should be extended to cover employment pass holders as well. e) The govt can provide a wage subsidy to the employer to employ a local worker. It can be 20% to 30% of the wages for one year. This will cover the employer CPF contribution. The above measures will give the employers a financial incentive to employ local workers. There is still the risk that the foreign worker may be willing to accept a lower salary than specified or allow the employer to recoup the levy from the wages. This risk can be managed separately, if it is serious. However, this risk is not likely to be serious, as the employers have the financial incentive to employ locals. The new approach also reduces the incidence of false declaration on qualification and experience, as the checking will be done by MOM or its appointed agency. I hope that the above approach will make an impact and give better job opportunities for locals, and still allow access to a foreign workforce to supplement the local supply.​​​​​​​

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. What do you expect will be the result of GE2020?
2. What outcome do you prefer for GE2020?
3. Should the circuit breaker be continued in July?

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WOTC - Early general election

Wisdom of the Crowd: 61% of the respondents expected the people to call for a general election, but mostly for a selfish and bad reason.

WOTC - Should the circuit breaker be relaxed in June?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 55% of the respondents said that it was not safe to relax the circuit breaker completely in June.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Is it difficult to submit transactions with govt websites?
2. Are badly designed govt websites costly to the nation?
3. Your reaction to the news that Goh CT is retiring from politics.
4. Why does Khaw BW decide to retire from politics?

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WOTC - National security law in Hong Kong

Wisdom of the Crowd: 24% of the respondents said that the people will accept the national security law that is passed by China. The other 76% expect unhappiness, protest and violence over this new law.

WOTC - Increase in US employment in May

Wisdom of the Crowd: 95 of the respondents are skeptical of the increase in employment in America in May 2020.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Is it difficult to submit transactions with govt websites?
2. Are badly designed govt websites costly to the nation?

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Difficulty faced by public over a simple transaction

Dear Ms Huang

I share with you my recent experience in applying for a Letter of Consent to employ a Dependent Pass holder. 
Up to now, I am still unable to download the approval for the LOC.

Please read the several posts that I made giving my experience. 

Feedback 1

Feedback 2

Feedback 3

Feedback 4

Feedback 5

Up to today, I am still unable to retrieve the approval for the LOC.

I experienced similar problems with the MOM website many years ago. 
Subsequently, I did not make any application to MOM.
The problem that I encountered many years ago continued until today.

 I must state that I faced similar problems with the website of ACRA, SAF and IRAS.

The problem is caused by the "standard design" of the website - which is inconsiderate of the public.
It is made worse by the website being buggy and non-responsive quite often.

I hope that Smart Nation really look into this matter. The loss of productivity to the business sector over
the years must be horrendous.

I invite you again to call me at (number). I am happy to relate my experience and to cry in frustration of 
a public service that does not listen, and do not care. It applies to the ministers as well.

Bad design of govt agencies websites

The websites of many govt agencies are badly designed. They include MOM, ICA, IRAS and ACRA. It is troublesome to login to the website. After that, it is troublesome to search for the form that is required to be completed. The search is done through layers of links. These agencies provide a detailed FAQ on how to navigate the website. Reading the FAQ could take maybe half or one hour, and the public will still be confused. Searching for the outcome of a transaction can also be a hassle. The public has to provide NRIC/FIN or sometimes an application number that is not readily available. Why can't the website allow search by partial name? Even downloading a PDF reply can be a big hassle due to the need to use a specific outdated browser. In past years, the govt agency provides a well manned hotline to guide the public through a tedious and complicated process. This hotline is no longer available. To reach a person for help, it may take half an hour on the hotline. I suspect that the hotline has been overwhelmed by the large number of inquiries from the public. The underlying problem is the bad design of the websites. This problem has persisted over many years. I raised this feedback on several occasions with several agencies over a period of ten years. Nothing was done. The problem persisted till today. The bad websites must have resulted in a horrendous cost to the country in the time that the public and business has to spend on submitting transactions with the govt agencies.  It is not difficult to design a website that is easy to use and does not take so much trouble for the public. There are millions of websites that achieve this standard.  It is shocking that the websites of our govt agencies continue to be so painful to use. I will be happy to elaborate more on my terrible experience over the past years and to suggest areas for improvement.

Quora: Is the United States’ disastrous trade war with China the reason we don’t have Covid-19 test kits by the millions like most other countries seem to have?

Ridzwan Abdul Rahman replied
The shortage of test kits in the US has nothing to do with the trade war. In fact, despite the trade war and despite the US not helping China when China was fighting the virus, Jack Ma of Alibaba, China, has donated 500,000 test kits to the US.
The reason for the shortage is Trump’s insistence that US should develop its own test kit. CDC did develop the test kits but the first batch turned out to be faulty. Then, further production was delayed by a shortage of some reagents that need to be imported from Europe.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Another ridiculous website of a govt agency

I sent this email to ICA.

I logged into MyICA using SingPass to ask about how to collect my passport.
I gave my NRIC as requested.
I was asked to give the APPLICATION NUMBER.
Hello, how can I remember my application number?
Surely, the NRIC is sufficient?
How many passports can I person apply?
Your process is ridiculous.
Please be considerate to the public.

WOTC - Trust in the government in Singapore

Wisdom of the Crowd: 33% of the respondents said that there is a high trust in the government in Singapore. 67% disagree.

WOTC - Ministerial task force handled the corona crisis poorly

Wisdom of the Crowd: 83% of the respondents said that the ministerial task force has handled the corona crisis poorly. 17% said they handled it well.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. If you get a new flat, are you willing to engage a surveyor to check on defects?
2. Is the Safe Entry exercise useful?
3. Are you worried about corona infection due to the general election
4. Will Lee Hsien Yang make a big impact in the general election

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Make Safe Entry more efficient

The ministerial task force require all businesses to implement Safe Entry protocols.

These include workplaces with a small number of workers and retail outlets.

It involves a large use of manpower. In some cases, the existing workers can take time off to do the Safe Entry recording, but it still takes their time and involve some cost. 

Large retail outlets and supermarkets have to employ several part time workers to manage the queues, take temperatures and record the Safe Entry.

The public has to record Safe Entry several times in the course of the day. 

I suspect that the data can hardly be used. If this is the case, we are spending several tens of million dollars each month in manpower cost that do not produce any useful result.

If, indeed, the data collected is useful, we should at least streamline the work to reduce the cost to businesses and inconvenience to the public and still get data that are useful.

It is better for the Safe Entry recording to be coordinated centrally. The central body should decide on the locations that need the Safe Entry to be captured and arrange with the workplace or business outlet to do the work.

It may be feasible to replace some of the manual work by self service stations for the Safe Entry to be recorded by scanning the identification card.

This will reduce duplication of effort. The central body can monitor the cost and benefits of the entire effort. It should replace the current arrangement where a large part of the cost, which is incurred by the businesses, is not recognized.

I hope the ministerial task force will consider this suggestion.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Large increase in premium for Incomeshield Rider Plus

Dear Mr Tan
Please see attached table of premium rates from NTUC Income for its IncomeShield Rider Plus 2017, 2018, 2019.
I would like to draw your attention to the age group from 51-55.
The premium in 2017 was $608. In 2018,this went up to $956 (57% increase). For 2019,the premium increased to $1587(66%).
How is this justified?
I am reaching out to you on this matter to raise awareness to the public on the big increments that a normal working class citizen like me have been bearing quietly.
The insurance plan is not portable, unlike the telcos.
Would really appreciate if this email finds your attention.
The Rider Plus covers the co-payment under the IncomeShield integrated plan.
The premium is indeed very costly and has been increasing sharply in recent years.
It can be more costly that the integrated plan itself.
I have advised consumers to avoid buying the Rider Plus as the premium is high and the coverage is modest. It is better for you to pay the co-payment (which can come out of your Medisave account), rather than buy insurance to cover it.
The amount of co-payment in most cases should be quite affordable. There is no need to buy insurance to cover it.
NTUC Income must have seen large increase in claims under the Plus Rider cover in recent years. They have to increase the premium to match the claims.
As you have not made a claim, you are paying for the other policyholders who are hospitalized. The hospitals probably charge high fees and this has to be borne by every insured person.
Actually, the insurance plan is portable. You can downgrade to Medisheld Life regardless of your health condition.
If you wish to transfer to another private plan, you have to meet their underwriting requirements.

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