Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Bad government policies have led to these serious challenges


PM Lee has identified productivity growth, population and identity as the key challenges facing Singapore over next 50 years. I agree with his view.  Article.

However, he talked as if he was an academic researcher who has just made this discovery. He forgot that he had been in the government for over 30 years and was primarily responsible for the policies that brought Singapore to this difficult situation. 

Where were these policies?

1) He was responsible for several policies that caused Singapore to have low productivity. He introduced measures such as the Goods & Services Tax and the dozens of calibrated measures that was wasteful and unproductive and create expensive administrative work for businesses and the government agencies. Low productivity is caused, to a large extent, by the ecosystem on how business is carried out.

2) The low birth rate that led to a declining local population was caused by the high cost of living, the high cost of housing and by national service. While he was not primarily responsible for these measures, he could have played a major role to identify these problems and found effective measures to combat them. 

3) The lost identity is a result of his policies to increase the population to bring in foreigners and to grant permanent residency and citizenship to them easily. He failed to recognize that this would bring about serious problems, especially as the local population had to make a big sacrifice in serving two years full time in national service, and another ten to 15 years in reservist duty. The local born males have now described that they face a serious disadvantage in competing for jobs in Singapore against the foreigners.

Singapore will continue to face daunting challenges, if the root causes are not identified and the bad policies, that has been a cancer on our social and economic fabric is not eradicated.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Poor claim handling standards in Singapore

I have been consulted on a few occasions about rejected critical illness or medical claims. The policyholder contracts a serious illness and submits a claim. The insurance company checks with the hospital or polyclinic and found record of a previous consultation which was not declared to the insurance company. On some occasions, the consultation was made several years earlier.

The policyholder told me that they did not declare the consultation because they was not aware of its significance. They did consult the doctor who assured them that the medical condition was not serious. It could be a borderline hypertension, but the doctor felt that it was not necessary to go on medication. This non-declaration, even though it was not intended, has often led to a rejection of the claim.

In many cases, the rejection was unjustified. However, it seemed to be a practice for the claim officer to look for a reason to reject a claim, and the alleged non-disclosure was a convenient reason.

Under the life or general insurance policy, there is usually a non-dispute clause. This clause states that the insurance company cannot dispute a claim on grounds of non-disclosure after a lapse of one or two years from the issue of the policy, "except in the case of fraud". Some claim officers argue that non-disclosure is fraudulent. They are mistaken. If challenged in court, they are likely to fail.

In some countries, the insurance company is more careful about disputing claims on such flimsy grounds, as they might be sued for punitive damages for their bad behavior or unreasonable rejection of claims. The actions are usually taken by the authority, acting in the interest of consumers, or by lawyers working on "success fee" basis - i.e. they lawyer do not charge any fee if they failed to get compensation for the victim. Unfortunately, we do not have these practices in Singapore.

Because of the poor claim handling standards in Singapore, I often advise consumers to avoid putting too much trust in insurance companies. It is distressful to be paying a large premium to an insurance company for the "peace of mind" only to find that the insurance company had rejected a claim unfairly.

For critical illness and medical fees, I prefer to rely on personal savings, rather than pay a large premium for an uncertain cover.  I advise buying personal accident insurance to cover accidents - which is usually more certain in settlement, compared to the other classes.


Low ranking of Singapore in happiness index

Alex Au has produced an excellent analysis of a survey called out by Gallops on the happiness level of 145 countries. Singapore stands at a miserable ranking of 97th, in spite of having one of the highest per capita income in the world. Something is seriously wrong with the balance of work and play in Singapore.

Here are the key findings:

Purpose, only 10 – 20% of Singapore respondents were thriving. We were nearly at the bottom compared to other countries, ranking 123 out of 145.  You could say that in general, Singaporeans didn’t like what they had to do each day, and were lacking in motivation.
Social, only 10 – 20 % of Singapore respondents were thriving. We were nearly at the bottom compared to other countries, ranking 123 out of 145. In general, we were reporting rather arid personal lives.
Financial, the picture was vastly different. Over 40% gave responses that Gallup classified as thriving. We ranked 9th out of 145 countries. The average Singaporean was a lot more financially secure than people in most other countries.
Community, we sank again. Only 20 – 30% were thriving, giving us a middling score: 72nd out of 145 countries.
Physical, we sank lowest of all. With only 10 – 20% responses classified as thriving, we ranked near the bottom: 137th out of 145 countries. It could be said that we felt our health was suffering and that we didn’t have the energy to get what we wanted done.
Overall index, Gallup ranked countries by the percentage of responses who were thriving in at least three of the five elements, indicative of a well-balanced life. In Singapore, only 12.7% were. Compared with other countries, this ranked us 97th.

This survey is consistent with what many people here feel: empty, exhausted, alienated. We’re a grumpy, stressed out and dissatisfied society.
You can read a more complete analysis here

Monday, June 29, 2015

Big progress on renewable energy

Here are big news on renewable energy. The key headlines are:
1. The price of solar power will continue to fall, until it becomes the cheapest form of power in a rapidly expanding number of national markets.
2. With solar power so cheap, investments will surge. Expect $3.7 trillion in solar investments between now and 2040, according to Bloomberg
3. The biggest solar revolution will take place on rooftops. High electricity prices and cheap residential battery storage will make small-scale rooftop solar ever more attractive, driving a 17-fold increase in installations.
4. Growth in demand for electricity is slowing. The reason: efficiency. To cram huge amounts of processing power into pocket-sized gadgets, engineers have had to focus on how to keep those gadgets from overheating.
5. Natural gas won't become the oft-idealized "bridge fuel" that transitions the world from coal to renewable energy.
6. The shift to renewables is happening shockingly fast, but not fast enough to prevent perilous levels of global warming.
Without additional policy action by governments, global carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector will continue to rise until 2029 and will remain 13 percent higher than today's pollution levels in 2040.
Read this Bloomberg article

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Phey Yew Kok

Kenneth Jeyaretnam provides an interesting record of the questions raised in Parliament over the past years regarding the disappearance of Phey Yew Kok. Article.

No queue to top up SG50 transport voucher

I was at Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange. I saw the ticket office and asked if they could top up my SG50 transport voucher. They referred me to a nearby counter.
Me: can I top up my Transit Link card with the SG50 voucher?
Young man: yes
Me: do I need to show a letter with my voucher
Young man: no need
He did the top-up. And you now what? There was no queue at all. I was the only person who requested for the top-up.
What happened to all the people that enjoyed queuing for hours to get the top-up? They have gone!!!
Hey! Why do they deny me the fun of queuing up for two hours to get my top-up? I am a Singaporean, and I love long queue! LOL.

What happened to PM Lee's showcase of the popularity of his SG50 package?

Two month's wait to be treated as a subsidized patient

I went to Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic to do an X ray on the growth in my foot and to receive the appropriate treatment. They found that it was an early stage of tophus, which was caused by gout. They referred me to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

KTP Hospital finally contacted me with an appointment. There was a gap of two months. It seemed rather long.

I have the option to be a private patient and be treated immediately. Money talks in Singapore. But, I prefer to wait and see what happens.

I suspect that they purposely lengthen the queue for subsidized patients so that more people would opt to pay and jump queue. I wonder if anyone in the Ministry of Health is looking at how the resources are being allocated between the private and subsidized patients?

Perhaps the Ministry also have a conflict of interest? They prefer more people to be private patients so that the government subsidy is reduced, and they score better in their KPI and get better bonuses?


Time to stop an unnecessary and wasteful practice

My doctor prescribed medication to treat my medical condition. The clinic assistant asked me to pay $30. I said, "charge to my grandfather". She asked, "who is he?". I showed her my Pioneer Generation Card. She had a good laugh - hahaha.

But, I still have to pay $2. The remaining $28 is deducted from "my grandfather".

Why is there a need to pay the $2 and create extra work for the clinic assistant?

Perhaps, it was due to Mr. LKY. He did say that people should pay something, however small, so that they know that "nothing is for free".

But that was perhaps 40 years ago. Times have changed. Are these additional work really necessary? The cost of workers must have gone up 10 times. Why continue with this wasteful practice?

Does our current leaders know that Mr. LKY had since departed from this world? Did they not know that we had one week of national mourning for him? It is time for a change. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Private website overcharges for the visa

I learned that visitors can apply for a tourist visit online to visit Myanmar. I searched for the website and found it. I entered the data needed for the application and was about to submit it. I checked the terms and conditions and learned that I had to pay a visa processing fee of US$120. That looked quite expensive.
I read the website more carefully and found that it was actually a private website and they are providing a service to apply for the visa. I abandoned the application.
My friend later found me the official website of the Myanmar Government. They charge a processing fee of US$50. The information required by the private website is the same as that needed by the official website.
The private website did not provide any value, but only added US$70 to the cost. They probably made their money from the public who were not aware of the over-charging. I nearly fell into their trap.

Complaints on poor quality of DBSS flats

I am surprised about the poor quality of workmanship for the DBSS housing projects. These are more expensive projects on HDB land but built by the private sector. The buyers have to pay a higher price for the flats.

DBSS is an acronym for Design, Build and Sell Scheme. Singaporeans, especially those in our elite political and government service, likes to create acronyms! It makes them feel great.

Are the workmanship really that bad, or is it due to higher expectation of the buyer. When paying a higher price, they will naturally expect better quality.

Perhaps the private developers went too far in trying to squeeze a high price and also to get the maximum sale-able space. In the process, the reduce the width of the corridors and open space. Maybe, they were trying to cut down cost also.

The complaints suggest that the DBSS scheme is a bad idea.

Read this article.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Many candidates for the US Presidential Election

13 high-profile Republicans have officially entered the campaign for the party's 2016 nomination. Only three major prospects remain: Ohio's Kasich, Wisconsin's Walker and New Jersey's Christie, each planning to announce his intentions in the coming weeks.
They are expected to join a field with five sitting or former senators, five current or former governors, two business leaders and a retired neurosurgeon. The "in or out" phase of the Republican presidential race is nearing its end, but with just over seven months until Iowa's leadoff caucuses, no clear leader has emerged in the race for the nomination.
There's so many candidates, it's almost impossible for the average person to keep track," said tea party leader Mark Meckler, who heads up the conservative group Citizens for Self-Governance.

Zurich Vista Plan

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN 2012 (NOW RE-DATED)

Dear Mr. Tan,


As an expat in Singapore I signed up for Zurich's Vista Plan. Life in Singapore was good and I am very grateful for the hospitality and opportunity provided by the Singaporean Government. (My 2 kids are called Lee and Kuan, my wife's last name is Yu. That wasn't done on purpose, but in a way it does reflect our respect for the Minister Mentor.)
While liberal financial regulations have made Singapore what it is today, the top city to do business in, I feel that regulations aren't protecting end consumers as they should. MAS has brought some considerable improvement in this area, but does it go far enough?
As an example, I would like to call on all customers who regretfully have purchased a Zurich Vista investment plan.
I say regretfully, because for me it hasn't worked out. After several years of contribution, this is the score:
- on contributions of about us$ 200,000, Zurich has charged me us$20,000.-
- my gain has been around 4-5% per annum (which is good for Singapore, but standard in Australia)
- that gain is mostly due to the bonus which I was given at the beginning for signing up, this bonus effect will decline over the years
My main regret, besides the high cost, is regarding the terms and conditions that come into play when life changes and contributions to Zurich have to be paused.

Once I stopped making regular contributions, I found out that some of the charges simply continue and that stopping alltogether is costly, due to a steep surrender penalty. I am establishing if I have been mislead or ill-informed, or, whether it has been my own fault to buy into this product. 

My individual opinion - other people may have their own -  is that I bought 'flexibility', and that the fixed fee structure and high surrender penalties haven't been made clear enough. As a part of that process, if there are more customer like me, I am calling on them to see if we can take collective action:
Erik van Vulpen
Australia

A new website for consumers and advisers - consultwho.sg

Ian Lim is a budding entrepreneur. He is setting up a website to help consumers to find answers to questions on insurance. He sends this message:
"Consultwho.sg is a free platform for the public to receive answers to their personal finance questions, read articles, and search for a financial consultant. We are currently in development and will launch in July 2015. If you would like to have your personal finance question answered by a verified professional, please post your question tohttps://www.facebook.com/consultwhosg, or email us at questions@consultwho.sg.
Are you a financial consultant? If you are knowledgeable and passionate about helping people, please email signup@consultwho.sg with your name and a valid RNF number to receive a free listing and start build your online following now."

Google analytics

I need help in installing Google Analytics for my blogspot. Any volunteer? Send email to kinlian@gmail.com

Insurance funds for infrastructure projects


China's State Council, which is the Chinese cabinet, has announced that an insurance investment fund will be set up, with capital mainly from insurance institutions to support strategic or public projects like urban renewal, infrastructure, water conservation, transportation, and international cooperation initiatives.

The decision, made on Wednesday, envisages that the insurance investment fund would total CNY300 billion (US$48.3 billion). It said that the fund would be managed along commercial lines to invest in such projects.

In recent years, the Chinese insurance industry has developed very rapidly. Total premium revenues exceeded CNY2 trillion last year and total assets stood at more than CNY10 trillion.

Read the article here.

MY VIEWS:
This is an excellent approach. It should be used for countries that need to develop their infrastructure, such as India (where PM Modi wants to develop 100 smart cities) and Indonesia (where President Joko Widodo wants to upgrade their infrastructure also).

Australia - proposal to half the upfront commission on life insurance policies

AUSTRALIA: The life insurance industry faces a shake-up -including a halving of commission rates- under proposals submitted by three major financial advisory associations to be implemented over a transitional period of three years. The proposals are welcomed by the government.


The reform package, from the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA), Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) and Financial Services Council (FSC), cuts the upfront commission rate on life insurance policies from 120% of premiums to 60% by 2018. On-going commissions will be limited to 20% of the annual premium from next January.

http://www.asiainsurancereview.com/News/View-NewsLetter-Article/id/33111/Type/eDaily?utm_source/Edaily-News-Letter/utm_medium/Group-Email/utm_campaign/Edaily-NewsLetter

Trading with technical analysis

Hi Mr. Tan
Do you encourage people to trade gold and commodities? Is it risky? I refer to this posting
http://tankinlian.blogspot.sg/…/how-to-trade-on-technical-a…

REPLY
I do not encourage people to trade - as it is similar to betting. In the long run, they will lose their money.
But many people like to take a bet. They call it investing, e.g. in gold or stocks, but in reality they are trading with the aim to make a profit in the short term.They should realize that it is easier to make a loss.
Some of them attend training courses and paid a few thousand dollars to learn the technical analysis, i.e. how to read the charts. It is a waste of time and money to attend these courses, as they will not produce the results that you look for. It takes a lot of practice and skills to be a good technical analyst.
I am suggesting an alternative approach. Let the experts make the technical analysis and follow their recommendations with a demo account. You will learn that apply the recommendations is also not easy. At least, the difficulty is reduced to some extent.
If you make a profit after trading with a demo account for a month, you can venture with real money. But you must remember:
1) Online websites allow you to trade with leverage. You are trading with 10 to 50 times of the money that you put in. At 50 times leverage, a 2% move against you will wipe out your entire capital.
2) Trade with money that you an afford to lose. It is like buying 4D. Do not think that you are investing.

Good luck.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Standard Life to close its Singapore operations



I was not aware that Standard Life has been operating in Singapore. Now they are shutting down their operations and writing off US$71 million in non-operating loss.

quote

Standard Life Plc is shutting its insurance division in Singapore, as the Edinburgh-based company moves its focus toward asset management.

Standard Life will incur a non-operating loss of about 45 million pounds ($71 million) from the closing, the company said in a statement on Thursday. The loss will be reported within half-year results on Aug. 4. along with a gain from the sale of its Canadian unit of about 1.1 billion pounds, it said.

The shutdown is “subject to regulatory approvals, and the business will no longer accept new applications or contributions to existing plans with immediate effect,” Standard Life said.


Scotland’s largest insurer named the head of its fund management unit, Keith Skeoch, chief executive officer last week as the company cuts back operations that require more capital. It sold its Canadian division to Manulife Financial Corp. for 2.2 billion pounds in 2014 and bought Ignis Asset Management Ltd. in March 2014, helping boost assets and fee-based revenue.

unquote

Difficult to train unskilled workers in a short time

Ministry of Manpower is taking action against the Accredited Training Providers for failing to maintain the standard in conducting the training and assessment of the workers that are being trained.

Read this article. 

The comments posted in the website suggest that the problem has been around for a long time, and that the Ministry and its officials have not been doing their job well.

I suspect that the problem is more deep rooted. We are allowing many unskilled workers to work in Singapore at low wages (and high levies paid to the government). Being unskilled, they do not have the language competence and the ability to learn the skills and knowledge.

The providers are probably under pressure to pass a quota of trainees, so they relaxed on their standards. Basically, the root cause is the type of people being allowed to work in the construction industry in Singapore.

It takes years to acquire the skills. It cannot be achieved with a crash course. I suspect that this is the root cause of the problem.

Unfortunately, this is the consequence of the contracting and tendering system that has been adopted for decades in Singapore and the reliance on low cost foreign workers. It does not give the prospects for local construction workers to stay long in the industry to develop the skills.

Take constructive actions against criminal hackers

The IDA has warned the public about the fraudulent phishing emails. These are sent out by criminal hackers to get the user ID and password of their victims. Read this article.

Is this all the IDA can do? It should be possible to trace the database of the hackers and bring criminal charges against them. If the hackers are located overseas, our authority could approach Interpol (the international police organization) to seek the cooperation of the countries where the criminals operate from.

It is important for the authority to take constructive action against these criminals, rather than sit back and "warn the public".

High vacancy rate among condos

According to this survey, most condos are darker at night now compared to a year earlier. This could mean that there is a higher vacancy rate among the condos or that the units are leased to tenants who travel more outside of Singapore.

More units are completed in recent months and the owners have not moved into the condos yet, or have difficulty in leasing out the units. The vacancy rate has increased.

So far, the owners are not under much pressure to dispose or lease their units, as interest rate remains low and they can fund their mortgage payments from past savings. But the situation will get more desperate if the vacancy rate remains high for a year or so.

Read this article.

How to trade on technical analysis

Some people spend a lot of money to attend training courses on technical analysis. They tried to apply the techniques to read the price charts. But it is difficult to read the charts correctly, unless you have many years of practical experience and you do the technically analysis regularly.
I have found a better way to trade on technical analysis. I follow the technical view of a specific analyst regularly and compare them with the actual price performance for the day. You can use a "demo account" to trade and see if you have made the right decisions following the recommendation of the technical analyst. 
The "demo account" is provided by many online stockbrokers. I prefer the one provided by Plus 500 which is available on iPad. 
For the technical analysis, I receive a daily emaily from Philips Securities. Currently, I am following only one trading item - Gold. 
An example of this chart is shown below. It tells me to take a short position in Gold when it is below 1180 and to cover the position when it goes above this level. I have found that the recommendation is reliable on many occasions.

Good luck on your trading. Remember to use the "demo account" to acquire your trading experience.


Benefits to be provided free to citizens

When a person join a club as a member, he or she has to pay a monthly or annual subscription and will be entitled to the benefits provided by the club. They may include free use of certain facilities of the club and to pay a reduced fee for the use of other facilities or to dine at the restaurant.

The same concept can be applied when a person becomes a citizen of Singapore. The citizen and his family is entitled to the use of certain public services free and to other services at a reduced rate or at cost. There is a need to prevent abuse of some free benefits by over consumption of the benefits. To prevent his abuse, a charge may be imposed.

Some services cannot be over consumed, for example, security, basic education or medical consultation. Most people will only use them out of necessity, rather than for "enjoyment". There is no need to charge for the use of these public services.

It does not make sense for the government to charge a fee for basic education. It is costly and unproductive to collect the small amount of fee from the students and to take action against poor students who are not able to pay the fee. The collection of the fees takes the time of the teachers which adds to their stress and work load.

Similarly, it is not necessary to collect fee for essential medical consultation. As the government already pays for a large part of the cost of these services, it is unproductive and wasteful to add to the cost by asking the patient to make a small payment. There are better ways to prevent the abuse, for example, by asking the patient to pay in full for the use of services in excess of a quota. As most people will use the services within the quota, it will reduce the administrative work of collecting the small fee. It also saves time of the patients in queuing to pay the fee.

Beyond the free services, there is a need for the government to charge for the use of other services which are discretionary and considered as non essential. The government can provide these services and give the benefit to the citizens of lower cost through bulk purchase of the services and control on over charging. The services that fall within this category include tertiary education and specialist health care.

The government can provide this services to a certain proportion (for example, 50 percent) of the total demand and allow the private sector to meet the rest of the demand. The citizens are willing to pay a higher price in the private sector to have shorter waiting time or better service. The prices set by the government for similar services will be useful to serve as a benchmark on the prices set in the private sector.

The current system used in Singapore of providing different levels of subsidies for the consumption of health services according to the income level of the family is troublesome and inefficient. A better way is to provide a direct monthly grant to people at the lower income level to be credited into a stored value card or restricted or open bank account.  The holder can use the money from the government to pay for the use of services at the normal charges applicable to citizens.







  

Three wishes to improve our health care system

I asked a friend, who has been a general practitioner for 35 years - if a genie appear and is willing to grant you three wishes to improve the health care system in Singapore for the benefit of the people, what would you wish for?

He thought about this for a minute and replied:

a) The first wish to the government should open pharmacies all over Singapore and provide drugs at the subsidized prices that are now available to patients who visit the government polyclinics and hospitals. This will bring down the cost of drugs significantly and reduce the health care cost for the people.

b) The second wish is to pay the doctors a fixed fee to take care of the patients, e.g. $1,000 a year for each patient who are chronically ill and a lower rate for the younger and healthier patients. (This will not include drugs, which have to be paid separately at the government pharmacies). This is called the "capitation system". The doctors do not make more money by getting the patients to see them many times. As they get the same amount, they will spend time to teach the patient to stay healthy and visit them less often.

c) The third wish is to get rid of the complicated subsidy scheme that is now the practice in Singapore. This is taking too much time for the doctors and their staff in computing what has to be paid by different types of patients and the time spent trying to game the system.

I remark that the first two wishes are what has been the practice in the United Kingdom for several decades. While that system has its faults, it is generally regarded as being good for the people.

On the third wish, it is something that is unique to Singapore. It is wasteful, confusing and add to the cost.

My friend will make a better minister for health than the current minister. He knows what the actual problems are on the ground better than someone who flew in by helicopter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Growth in the foot

This is a famous foot with a growth.  My private doctor said there were two possibilities.
a) It is a tophus and is caused by gout attacks
b) there is a growth in the bone of the foot - but it is benign.

To find out what caused it, I visited the polyclinic for the first time in my life. I had to join 6 queues over 3 hours and only saw the doctor for 10 minutes. I now know why Singaporeans loved the time spent in queues - especially if they can take the time off from their work.

The polyclinic took an X-ray of my foot. The doctor studied the image and reported that is is most likely a tophus. I will be visiting a specialist in the hospital to see if they can remove the projection.

Foreign workers get better health care


The government charges higher rates for permanent residents and foreigners using the public health services. Some of the charges are higher than the charges by private doctors and hospitals. So, the foreigners have to visit the private doctors.

But the foreigners are working in Singapore and their medical bills are paid by their employers directly or through their company insurance.

What is the final result? Foreign workers are attended by private doctors and citizens have to waste a lot of time at the public clinics. This is ironic! But it is what happens in Singapore. What a short sighted government!



Too many queues in polyclinic

I have a growth in my foot. My private doctor said that an X-ray is needed to determine the cause. He suggested that I go to the polyclinic to see if they can do the X-ray and identify the problem, in case surgery is needed,
I visited a polyclinic today for the first time in my life. I searched Google and found their opening time to be 8 am. I arrived at 830 am. The waiting area was more than half occupied. I got a queue number. I asked the staff how long is the waiting time for registration. I got the typical answer -don't know. She follows the usual habit  -how to avoid responsibility.
I observed that it takes 3 minutes to register a patient. There were 15 patients ahead of me. It should take 45 minutes to be registered. What is the point of attending a world class school system when the staff cannot make this estimate?
That was the first queue. I have to wait in a total of 6 queues to complete the visit:
1) To register
2) Wait for the doctor - kept in the dark on how long to wait or which room to enter
3) Wait for the X ray
4) Wait to see the doctor after the X ray
5) To register an appointment to visit the hospital - they still can't give me a date, as the hospital will call me back
6) To pay the bill.
The total visit took 3 hours, with 80% of the time spent in the 6 queues. Now, I now why Singaporeans love to queue!
But, they do provide comfortable seats. I could spend the time reading content from my iPad. And, if I were a worker, the wasted time will be on the employer's account. 
Now you know why it is so costly to run a business in Singapore!




Complicated bill from a polyclinic




This is the bill  that I paid at the polyclinic. It was only $11.15. But I had to spend 3 hours in 6 queues, including a queue to make this small payment.
The bill contain only 2 chargeable items  - consultation and radiology. But it contains 9 items. As the amount is so small, why not deduct it from the Pioneer Generation balance, instead of asking me to pay it?

When are we going to simplify our lives and avoid all the unnecessary work and waste?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Collective buying

My friends wants to set up an online buying club. He will list the popular products and find buyers who are willing to join in for a bulk purchase and get a discount.
I heard that this kind of online website has been quite successful at one time, but there seem to be less news about them today. Are there successful operations still going on?
This is different from an online store, such as eBay, Amazon, Qoo, etc.

Are you a doctor or a data entry clerk?

I visited my doctor (GP). He was busy entering his claim in the online system of the Ministry of Health.

Me - are you a doctor or a data entry clerk?

Dr - what to do? The govt expects me to enter these figures to get my claim under the CHAS scheme. It is too complicated for my clinic asst to enter the figures.

This is how PM Lee waste the time of our doctors. He creates complicated schemes that are "calibrated" to provide assistance to some groups of people, but he ended up wasting the time of doctors. The doctors should be doing their medical practice, instead of entering data.

Apply your knowledge and gain practical experience


I met a young man "George" who had graduated many years ago from our polytechnic with a diploma in mechanical engineering. He had continued part time study and obtained a degree in the same field.

He has been working  in a Swiss company for many years. The company sells fasteners to manufacturing firms to be used in their products.

His job was to understand the requirements of the manufacturers and offer suitable products from his company to meet their needs. He was able to apply what he had learned in his diploma and degree course into his job, such as the physical characteristics of different types of materials and how they are affected by temperature and physical forces. He quoted a few examples of how his solutions were bought by the customers and gained their loyalty and support.

I remarked that he would be very valuable to the company. His job will be secure as the company would find it difficult to get another person to replace him. He agreed with my observation.

He is a rare example of a person who has developed strong technical skills by staying in the job that he had been trained for, and by gaining practical experience from the job. This is a sharp contrast from most other people who moved to a career that is entirely unrelated to their training and who moved from one job to another, without gaining the solid experience.

He told me that many diploma holders, with similar training, had joined his company but left after a year to become property and insurance agents, as they did not like the technical job. I recommend our school leavers to follow the footsteps of "George".







Difficult to file the annual return to ACRA


I have just filed the annual return for my company to ACRA. I had a difficult time and had to call their hotline for help. I could not find the place to file the annual return. They have a tab that is hidden in a drop down list. They expect the public to know how to find it.

After I signed into the website with my SingPass (fortunately, my password was remembered in my browser, otherwise it would be another big hassle), I had to search the entire page to find the link to file an annual return.

I was then confused by a statement that I had to file the return in XBRL format (what is that?). Finally, I decided to ignore this statement and went to fill in the form. It turns out that the XBRL format was the form that was presented to me.

I finally managed to complete the filing. It asked me if I wish to save the page and provided me with the webpage option. That is not suitable. I found that I could print the page into a PDF, which worked well for me.

For a professional accountant or secretary who files ACRA return regularly, the website is easy to use. For a director who files the return once a year, it is a nightmare. This is the 5th year that I am filing it, and it remains a nightmare.

The people who designed the ACRA website do not understand how much unnecessary difficulty they are giving to the general public.

I also recall that ACRA has not been sending me a reminder to file the annual return for some time. Maybe, they are waiting for me to miss the deadline before they impose a fine on me.

No need to buy life insurance for a child

Hi Mr Tan
CompareFirst does not work for baby or kids. Are you aware about this?
REPLY
Buy Medishield Life for your baby and kid. Do not buy any other type of insurance. It is not necessary. They are not earning any income for a long time. There is no need to protect against loss of income which is non-existent.
If you wish to save for your child's future financial needs, make the saving in your own account. Invest in an indexed fund for the long term.
Attend this talk on 25 July.
http://c-onyx.com/page/2274

Off the radar, for the time being

The following key issues were in the headlines in past months:

1) War in Ukraine
2) Greece bailout
3) War against ISIS

The problems are still around, but these issues have since gone out of the radar.

But they could come back and hit the world headlines at any time! Do not be complacent!

United Nations issues a statement on Amos Yee's case

The United Nations Human Righst Office is now getting involved in Amos Yee's case. They have issued a strong statement that the punishment is disproportionate to the offence.

I agree with this view. I am amazed at the thinking of the prosecution in Singapore in going so far. This shows the weakness in our system - where the people yielding power seems to be out of touch with what most people consider to be appropriate.

Read this article.  We should recognize the good work of Kenneth Jeyaretnam in bringing this issue to our attention. 

Online insurance

The online market for insurance is developing well in China.They are ahead of Singapore. While the China regulator complained about lack of variety, they still offer more products than are available online in Singapore.

Look for the nice things about people you know

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.
Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of  their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students  left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of  paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.  

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. 'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!' and, 'I  didn't know others liked me so much,' were  most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with  themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of  the  students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to  bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. 'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked. She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said: 'Mark talked about you a  lot.'
After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went  together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.
'We want to show you  something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.'
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without  looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the  good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

'Thank you so much for doing that,' Mark's mother said. 'As you can see, Mark treasured it.'

All of  Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home.'

Chuck's wife said, 'Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my  diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and  showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. 'I carry this with me at all times,' Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: 'I think we all saved our lists'

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of  people in society is so thick that we forget  hat life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will  be.

So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.

And One Way To Accomplish This Is.... Forward this message on. If you do not send it, you will have, once again passed up the wonderful opportunity to do something nice and beautiful.


If you've received this, it is because someone  cares for you and it means there is probably at  least someone for whom you care.
If you're 'too  busy' to take those few minutes right now to forward this message on, would this be the VERY first time you didn't do that little thing that would  make a difference in your relationships?

The more people that  you send this to, the better you'll be at reaching out to those you care about.
Remember, you reap what you sow. What you put into the lives of others comes back into your own. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to use the information in the CompareFirst website

Hi Mr. Tan
I visited the MAS CompareFirst website. It contained a lot of useful information, but I find it hard to understand how to use the information to make my decision. It looks like I still need to depend on the insurance agent to guide me. Is this the right approach?
REPLY
Yes, it is a right approach to ask the right kind of financial adviser to guide you. It is similar to a person who falls sick and need a doctor to advise them on the right medicine to take. But, you have to pay a fee to the financial adviser for his time, similar to paying a doctor. The financial adviser will then give you the right advice.
If you are keen, you can consult one of the financial advisers listed here
FISCA will also conduct a talk on how to understand the information on the website. The last talk was held in June. The next talk may be held in September. Details of the previous talk can be found here:

The management of a posh restaurant put up this sign. On paying the bill, the customer sees this box at the counter:



The maths behind election results

Here are some interesting statistics from the US Presidential election of 2008 and 2012. The results are broken down by ethnic groups, and are affected by turnout rate and party preference. It makes interesting reading.

It would be interesting to have a similar analysis for Singapore according to income groups, housing types, ethnic groups and age groups. Sadly, the statistics are not available or may only be available to a privileged party.

http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-06-22/the-real-math-behind-hillary-clinton-s-candidacy


Most helpful people in the world

Where do you find the most helpful people in the world? Where does Singapore stand? The results are show in this chart.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to stop ponzi scheme from operating

Here is another Ponzi scheme. The investors get a good return, 8% in 1 week, and put in more money. The Singaporean who promoted the scheme in China could be doing it for the commission, but is now facing the brunt of the anger of the investors. This type of scams will continue from time to time, until the government wakes up and put a stop to it.
The government has to pass a law that require all investment schemes to be licensed. An investment scheme is one that promises a return to the investor. Anyone promoting an unlicensed scheme will be committing a crime. These scams will never be approved or licensed.
When will the government wake up and do its duty?

Bad experience with life insurance policies bought by the parents


This consumer had bad experience with the life insurance policies that were bought by his parents. 

1. What financial product did you buy

My parents bought 2 whole life insurance policies as well as a savings plan from 3 different insurance companies for me. These  policies were cover critical illnesses, hospitalization bills and give small dividends of about $3000 every 6 years.

In the end, we still made a loss of about $12000 from each policy after cashing them out.

2. Was it good or bad for you?

We initially thought the policies were good since it gave plenty of coverage (critical illness, disability, hospitalization) for a premium of about $75 per month, back in 1995. However, the premium of each policy has since increased to be about $200+ per month. When we questioned the insurance company on why the premiums increased when we were promised back in 1993 that we would only pay $35 throughout the life span of the policy, the insurance company cited "market reasons" as the main factor for the increase in monthly premium. 

My family decided to cash out on most of the policies during the 20th year in 2013, when I was 26 years old. We lost about $12000 from each policy. 

The original agent who sold us the policy could no longer be contacted as she was no longer working in the company. Throughout the lifespan of some of the insurance policies, some our insurance agents were replaced several times by another insurance agent, making it very difficult to have a fixed contact person to look up to should we have any issues. Insurance agents in Singapore have no fiduciary requirement to their clients and therefore, can just ignore their clients after selling the policies to them. My mum even met insurance agents who became disinterested in answering my mum's questions after they had sold her the policies.

3. Would you have bought it, if you knew what it really was?

We would not have bought the policies if we knew that the premiums would increase by than nearly 10 times within a span of only 15 years! 

Critical illness coverage is nearly useless for a young person like me because the chances of a young person contracting critical illness is nearly zero. If my mum had knew this, she would NOT have bought the policies!

4. Did you continue or terminate it, and did you make a loss up to now (based on the cash value)?

We terminated most of the policies in the last few years as we did not want to continue paying $200+ per month per policy. This was a very huge strain on our financial resources, especially during the period when both my parents were unemployed. 

At one point in time, we even had to pawn some of our jewelery just to pay for the policies. The people running these insurance companies have no conscience and do not care about the welfare of their customers. They are only interested in getting their monthly premiums from common folk like us in order to fund their lavish lifestyles.

5. Would you like to attend a talk to learn about alternative ways to invest that are good for the buyers?

Yes, I would like to attend more talks to learn about alternative ways to invest. Do not trust anyone to invest for your money for you, especially when you do not know what they actually do with your money. In my opinion, learning about investment is a MUST for everyone.


HZW

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