Monday, November 20, 2017

Trans Pacific Partnership without America

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - What are your views about the Transpacific Partnership without America?

41% of the people who voted said that it is time for the world to learn how to live without America. I take it to mean that they are in favor of the revised TPP involving 11 countries.

However, 34% said that the agreement is still not good for ordinary people and another 18% said that a TPP without America will not work. That made a total of 52%.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Design of the Thale system

When one train collides into another train at Joo Koon station, the statement attributed it to a bug in the software where one essential element was removed.

This raised a bigger issue of concern.

It meant that the train did not have a local sensor to know that there is another large object ahead. It depend entirely on the software to control its movement.

Surely, this is a dangerous way to design the system?

The central control system should be responsible for setting the key parameters, e.g. maximum speed of the train, diversion to another track and other high level decisions.

The train should have its own sensor to avoid colliding with another large object ahead, which could be another train or a large foreign object that fell on the track.

The local sensors should also be responsible to stop the train at the exact spot on the platform and open the platform doors.

I do not know what are the benefits of using a central system to control the detailed aspect of the train, but I would consider the design to be unsatisfactory.

Why did we spend $195 million on the Thale system? What are the real benefits? They seem to create big safety concerns.

Do you agree?

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Increase in GST

When do you expect the government to increase GST?

Give your vote in

Prices at supermarkets

What is the difference in prices between Fairprice and Cold Storage supermarkets?

Give your vote in

Platform doors cannot open

There was an occasion where a SMRT train was delayed as the platform door cannot open. It was described as a "signal problem". This occured with the Downtown line, which was a new line.

We do not know if all the doors cannot open, or it only affects some doors.

If all the doors cannot open, the proper procedure is to proceed to the next station. It does inconvenience the passengers who wish to alight or board at the "faulty station" but it should not cause the whole line to be held up.

A better design is to have each door open individually, if the cabin is at the door. This is a local sensor. It is similar to the door of an elevator.

If some doors cannot open due to a faulty sensor, it should not affect the other doors of the train. The passengers can move to the doors that are operating properly.

It would be a bad design if the opening of the platform and train doors are controlled centrally. It is better for it to be controlled by local sensors.

I do not have information about the actual situation. Can someone enlighten me?

Tan Kin Lian

Cable problems in SMRT

I saw several postings about the problem faced by SMRT that cables are not labelled properly.

I searched Google and found that there are two types of cables - data cable and power cable.

I suspect that the problem probably lies with the data cable. Let me deal with it first.

I understand that there are equipment that allows two technicians to test the cables. One technican sends a signal down a cable and the other technician see which cable has the signal. The contact each other by mobile phone to coordinate their work.

It can be quite troublesome, if there are a few dozen cables to test, but it should be possible. The data cables in my home are tested by the technicians in this manner.

If there is a problem, it should be possible to identify the cable that is faulty. For example, we expect a signal to be received, but it was not. The signal is required to be sent from one end and to be received by at the other end. This can be traced and rectified. It is hard work but it can be done.

We still have the problem of the low quality of the cables. The longer term solution is to replace all the cables. In the contract to install the new cables, we should specify high quality cables and have a quality control inspection.

We probably do not need to have several hundred cables running all over the place. All the cables at each station should send their signals to a local server who can then communicate with the central system. Using this approach, we can handle tens of thousand of signals without using many cables.

Suppose there are 10,000 devices to be monitored in each station. All these devices send their signals to a server in the station. If any device is not working, i.e. no signal received or the wrong signal is received, the local technician can inspect the problem and fix it.

For example, if a local sensor is not working, it can be identified and fixed locally.

Take the case of the pumps that were not working in the flooded Bishan tunnel.

There must be some local sensor to detect the height of the water in the tunnel. If the water level is too high, an alert can be sent to the local server and the central server.

The central control room can check the monitor of the local station to make sure that the station staff is monitoring the signals.

The data that needs to be shared centrally can be send from the local server to the central server. These data are most likely to concern the trains passing through and also sensors on "foreign objects" that are found on the tracks.

I consider myself to be an expert in data base processing and storage. I understand what is needed to carry out the sensing and to send the data to a database for processing and for alerts to be sent out.

I wonder if SMRT and LTA have people who are able to use the data in a "common sense" way to handle the maintenance and inspection. Based on the problems that have occured recently, I think they do not have the experts who can take charge.

Maybe SMRT or LTA should contact me? I know that the new chairman of SMRT, Seah Moon Meng, is an expert in this area as well. I hope that he can address the issue. But he can also contact me to share ideas.

Tan Kin Lian

How to overcome problems with the MRT signal system

SMRT faced a lot of problems in introducing a new signalling system. It has led to many breakdowns and one serious collision due to "signal problems".

I asked the question - what are the signal problems. A few people explained that SMRT is trying to run two signal systems. The train has to change from one signal system to another system on the journey.

This is a bad way to implement the change. If I were consulted, I would never recommend this approach. It is based on my "common sense".

The experts may give some "technical reasons" for adopting their approach. They will find it very hard to convince me.

What is my approach?

Take a look at Google trying to implement a driverless car on the road. The technical problems that Google has to overcome is porbably ten times more complex that a driverless train running on a track.

How does Google approach it?

They develop a driverless car using sensors. The sensor will look for other driverless car on the road, but will also allow for manually driven cars and pedestrians and even dogs running on the road.

The driverless cars detect these objects and other driverless cars on the road.

If one lane contains only driverless cars, it can give the instruction for all the cars to travel at higher speed. If any driverless car has to slow down to change lane or avoid a "foreign object", the other cars get the signal and will slow down together.

The same approach can be used for the train system. It should cater for driverless train and mannually driven trains. It should also cater for people or dogs falling on to the track.

If all the trains are driverless, it is possible to get them to travel at higher speed. If some trains are manually driven, they will be travelling at a slower speed. The other trains will adjust their speed accordingly.

All the trains need to have sensors to detech "foreign objects" and to transmit their speed to the control room. The control room can then set the maximum speed that the train can travel.

If there is a stationary object ahead, the train has to stop. The speed of braking depends on the distance.

Under this concept, there is no need for any train to "change from one signal system to another system".

The AI in each train will take the data from its sensors, e.g. to look at "foreign objects" and use it to slow down when necessary. The speed of the train is sent to the control room.

The control room knows the speed of all the trains on the tracks and can indicate the speed that the train can travel. This speed has to be reduced, if necessary, based on any obstructions that the actual train may sense on the road.

Under my system, I would also expert some other sensors at the station and on the tracks to send signals of foreign objects on the track and whether these objects are stationary or moving. These signals can be processed in the control algorithm.

The ideal operating condition is that all the trains on the line are driverless and there is no foreign object. The trains can all travel fast and achieve the goal of 1 train arriving every 2 minutes at the station. We will reach this stage eventually when all the trains have been converted to the driverless system.

I may not be an expert in train control systems, but I have some "common sense". If any experts wishes to add their views to help the discussion, they are welcomed to do so.

Tan Kin Lian

Higher prices for HDB resale flats

Prices of HDB resale flats have increased. Is this good or bad for the public at large.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Are you worried about the increase in prices of HDB resale flats?

84% of the people who voted said that the trend is worrisome. The government will use the higher prices to increase the price of new flats.

16% voted for three other options.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

How to deal with crowded food courts

The Japanese has a system where customers stand and eat at food outlets. This takes less space. Customers also finish their meals quickly.

I offered this as an option to deal in a question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - how can we deal with crowded food courts?

Only 12.5% of the people who voted chose this option.

52% said that we should encourage customers to share tables at the food court.

Click here to view the breakdown of the votes.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New algorithm to show the next bus stop

I am developing a mobile app. It allows me to pick my bus service, e.g. 163 toward Toa Payoh and to pick the alighting point, e.g. stop 38, Opposite Thomson Plaza.

The app tells me which stop I am at now, e,g. Stop 23 ST Electronics. It updates the Stop No as the bus approachs each stop. When it reaches my destination, an alarm will sound.

I have also found an algorithm to tell me the next bus stop when I pass 10 meters from the current bus stop.

My method has the advantage of telling the commuter the number of stops before arriving at the destination.

It will be useful for a commuter who is visiting an unfamiliar place, or when he cannot see the landmarks at night, or on rainy day, or in a crowded bus.

The alarm is also useful as some commuters are too engrossed with their mobile device that they overlook to get off the bus at the destination.

The current algorithm used in the fare meter will only show the next bus stop when it approaches that bus stop. This change usually comes too late.

Some buses already have a digital display showing the next stop. However, it uses the same algorithm as the fare meter and the change of the next stop usually comes rather late.

Furthermore, this display shows only the description of the bus stop but not the sequence number. It is not as useful as the display on my mobile app, which shows both the sequence number and the description of the bus stop.

I am using GPS to detect the next bus stop. Someone said that it will drain my battery. I do not think it is a problem. I have been keeping my GPS "on" all the time anyway.

Another person told me that the bus does not use GPS to find the next bus stop. It uses a beacon at each bus stop that can be received by the bus to identify that stop. I wonder if that is a fact or just a speculation.

Anyway, when my mobile app is ready, I will be able to test the proof of concept.

Tan Kin Lian

Integrity and non-corruptibility

Is Singapore maintaining a high standard of integrity and non-corruptibility?

Give your vote in

Vigilance against corruption

I am really worried about the billions of dollars that are being spent on our public works and military hardware.

In many countries, these large expenditures, usually done in secrecy, have given oopporutnities for corruption, bribery and kickbacks.

During the time of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, we know that the CPIB is active in investigating and prosecuting public officers who acted corruptly. LKY himself would not tolerate any corrupt practice, even among his ministers, and for small amounts.

But I worry that we do not have the same standard of vigilence and integrity today.

I want to share this story.

The chief of public works of country X met the minister of public works of country Y at a 4 weeks management training program. They become good friends.

A year later, the minister visited the chief in country X. He was surprised to be hosted in the luxurious home of the chief as his official salary is quite modest. The minister asked - how are you able to afford this expensive home?

The chief said - can you see the highway a few miles in that distance? Well, 10% of the cost of the highway pays for this luxurious home.

The following year, he visited the minister in country Y. The chief was surprised that the minister had an even more grandious palace.

He asked the minister - how are you able to afford his grandious palace?

The minister said - can you see the highway in the distance? The chief replied - I can't see any highway. The minister said - well, the money for the highway goes to build this grandious palace.

Tan Kin Lian

A straight bridge for the Woodlands-JB Rail Link

The original design of the JB-Woodlands Rail Link specifies a height of 30 meters for ships to pass under. This require a crooked bridget to get the length for this clearance.

The Johor Sultan objected to the crooked design.

The new design requires a straight bridge. But the clearance is only 25 meter. The sultan approved this design. Click here.

I agree with the sultan. The straight bridge looks better and is cheaper to construct.

The question is - why do we need a 30 meter clearance. The Tuas 2nd Link has a clearance of only 25 meter. If the Woodlands JB link is increased to 30 meter, it would required the Tuas 2nd Link to be raised to 30 meter. This would be very expensive and disruptive.

Do we really need to raise the clearance to 30 meter? Are we expected bigger ships go go under the bridge? How much is the additional cost and how much is being borne by Singapore?

We are not getting answers to important questions involved billions of dollars. It is very sad for Singapore to have our government run the country in this non-transparent and non-accountable manner.

Tan Kin Lian

Steps to popularise cashless payments

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - What is the best way to promote cashless payments?

42% of the people who voted wanted to use Ez Link and to encourage hawkers to install readers.
31% wanted to introduce a clearing house for wallet payments on different platforms to be processed.
25% wanted a the government to introduce a new platform as a common standard.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Friday, November 17, 2017

Carry out full maintenace of NS and EW line by sections

I have a solution on how to fix the problems in the NS and EW line.

This is what I would do, if I were the transport minister or CEO of SMRT.

I would close one section of the line acomprising of about 4 km at a time. This will comprise of 3 stations, say A, B and C.

I would provide bus service to take passengers from A to B to C and from C to B to A.

This will allow the 4 km of rail to be inspected, checked and tested. As the section is closed, the technical staff can check the rail, sensors, cables and other devices thoroughly and replace the faulty items. After that, the entire system for this stretch is fully tested.

I would not move to the next section, comparising of three stations, say C, D and E.

I expect that each section will take 1 week to complete.

There are a total of 51 stations in both line. This will take 26 weeks or half a year to complete.

If it requires 2 weeks to carry out the work for 1 section, it would take 1 year to complete.

It may be inconvenient for the passengers to transfer from the train to a bus and to transfer back to the train, after bypassing the section under maintenace. But this inconvenience can be tolerated.

Some passengers may change to other lines and connections, instead of taking the shuttle bus. It is an option for them.

I expect 100 buses to be sufficient to provide the shuttle service to carry passengers to bypass the section under maintenance.

I think that this method may work. If I were the transport minister or the CEO of SMRT, I will try this approach.

Do you agree with me?

Tan Kin Lian

A different approach to award work to contractors

For the past two decades, I have taken a view that the competitive tender system is a bad system. The principal may get a lower price but the contractor may cut corners and provide inferior material and workmanship to keep a profit.

It is difficult for the principal to monitor the work closely. It also leads to conflicts, and request by the contractor for additional payment due to variation orders. It is a game. One party tries to "cheat" the other party.

What is an alternative system?

This is my suggestion. The principal will ask two quantity surveyors to estimate the cost of the project. If the price differs, in the case of two estimates, the principal will ask the quantity surveyors to explain the difference, and will select the more realistic estimate.

In asking for tender, the principal will disclose the estimate made by the quantity surveyor. This will help the bidders to prepare their bids.

When the bids are received, the principal should select a bid that is close to the estimate and award the contract to the bidder that has the best resources including the quality of the manpower and their availability.

The principal should give preference to the contractor that has fewer projects on hand, as they can focus on the new project.

The aim of this system is to give a fair price to the contractor for the project, so that they can focus on doing a good job, rather than worry about cutting cost. If they have a good profit margin, they will not have to cut corners on the quality of materials or workmanship.

If a contractor cuts corners to make a bigger profit, they should be barred from future projects.

This system of awarding a fair price will encourage contractors to build up a pool of permanent workers who can develop their skills. They are assured of a continuing flow of work.

I suggest that the public sector adopt this new system of awarding projects based on "a fair price". The private sector will be encouraged to follow this practice.

Suppose the fair price for a contract is $200 million. Under the current competitive system, a contractor may bid $180 million to get the job. They may look for ways to reduce their cost, such as using cheaper materials (i.e. lower quality) or cheaper workers (i.e lower skill). This will have serious impact in the years ahead.

Alternatively, the contractor will find ways to ask for additional payments through variation orders to get the additional $20 million. This can lead to disputes. The principal may end up paying the same cost.

The most important benefit of a "fair price" system is that it allows contractors to build up a pool of permanent workers who can develop their skills over time. They will be confident that they have a job that for many years. The contractor will also be confident of providing this assurance to their workers.

The system of getting the principal to disclose its estimate also helps the contractors to prepare their bids at a lower cost. They do not need to carry out the entire work as they can use the principal's estimate as the basis to make adjustments to their final bid. It will remove most of the uncertainty and allow the contractor to focus on where they can add their value.

We have seen the harm that comes from our competitive tender system, as reflected by the continuing problems in our MRT system and also the poor quality of many new property projects.

It is time to consider a better system to award projects to contractors, based on a "fair price" system.

Tan Kin Lian

Fix problems in NS and EW lines

What is the best way to fix the problems with the NS and EW lines

Give your vote in

Minister for transport

Should Khaw BW continue as minister of transport?

Give your vote in


With so much problem occuring in SMRT, I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should Desmond Kuek continue as CEO of SMRT?

Should be be fired, allowed to resign, volunteer to take a pay cut or be excused?

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

National Electronic Health Record

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should private clinics be required by law to submit patient records to a national database?

36% of those who voted said yes, as it would create a complete patient record and would be useful for the treatment of patients.

The remaining 64% said no, based on three reasons.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Make better use of email

I took a full bood test last week. My doctor scanned the medical report and sent them to me by email.

We know that email is not secure and that a medical report is private and sensitive, right?

Was it correct for my doctor to send this sensitive personal information by email, which is not secure?

Well, I thank my doctor for using this form of communication. If any hacker wants to hack my email and read my medical report, they are welcomed to it.

If they are caught, I will lodge a police report to charge them for invasion of privacy. If they are not caught, it does not bother me.

For those who are interested, the report showed that I have high cholesterol but I am otherwise in good health. But my HDL reading is good and the ratio of total/HDL is acceptable.

Still I will take the doctor's advice and watch my diet. Maybe, I will take some medication to reduce the cholesterol level as well.

Isn't it boring? There must be a few hundred thousand people in Singapore with high cholesterol, right?

I hope that the Singapore government will address their paranoia about the "insecurity of email" and encourage the use of email for communication, especially if the receiver has agreed to accept the risk of the email being hacked.

I would like all my bills and routine communication to reach me by email. I am tired of getting physical mail, which I often do not read.

Tan Kin Lian

Weakness of the tender system

I met an engineer who has been in the contracting business for two decades. He also provide cable testing services.

I asked him about his view on the frequent MRT breakdowns and if his business involve the testing of cables in the MRT system.

He was very convinced in his reply, He said: The problem is with our tender system. We get various contractors to tender different parts of the MRT system. All the systems need to interact with each other.

Under the tender system, the award is usually given to the lowest tender. Although the government has introduced the two envelop system, it does not work.

He explained that the two envelop system requires the award committee to evaluate the tenders based on quality before they consider the price. He said that in practice, it is difficult for the award committee to award the work to a bidder quoting a higher price.

The winning contractor may be squeezed as their bid has a low margin. They may resort to buying lower quality materials or using unskilled workers. This has led to quality issues.

I agree with his view. Another engineer, who worked in the marine industry, said that it is important to have a quality audit plan that is carried out rigorously. He suspected that this was not done with SMRT.

For many years, I have seen the weakness of the tender system. I believe that there is a better way to award the project to the contractor that does not involve competitive tendering. I will write about it in a separate article.

We are now seeing the outcome of the weakness of the tender system. The cost of this bad practice is much higher than most people had anticipated.

Tan Kin Lian

Train accident at Joo Koon station

ask this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - What is your view about the train accident in Joo Koon MRT station?

Give your vote in

Revert to the old signal system?

It seems that the new signal system is giving a lot of trouble. Should SMRT revert back to the old signal system?

Give your vote in

Can we revert to the old signal system?

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems to be quite clear now that it was a bad decision to introduce a new signalling system.

It seemed to be an important contributor to the frequent breakdowns of the trains.

Although we have other contributors, such as train fault and track fault, it seems that the signal fault is the biggest contributor.

There is nothing much that we do to prevent train fault and track fault, which most probably arise due to age.

But the signal fault was caused by a decision to change to a new signal system.

The old signal system served us for three decades. Why change the signal system?

My guess is that they want to introduce driverless operations, similar to the new lines. This may seemed a good idea at the time that the decision was taken.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seemed to be a bad idea. It has caused far too many problems. And the problems seemed endless.

The question is - can we revert back to the old signal system?

My guess is that the old system requires drivers to operate the trains. It does not rely on the signal system to the same extent.

Maybe we are short of train drivers? Maybe many of them have been retrenched or resigned?

In the absence of reliable information, it is not possible for any outsider to give any sensible assessment. I will not want to pass any judgment under these circumstances.

I only want to say that this kind of massive problem require people with the skill of problem solving. They need to get the reliable information and solve the problem using an interactive, learning approach.

I am sure that our scholars have passed top marks with their problem solving skills in class. Here is a real life challenge for them to deal with.

Tan Kin Lian

Performance bonus in the public sector

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - is it good to have performance bonus in the public sector?

If I am not mistaken, the public sector pays a performance bonus that depends on achieving the KPIs. This goes all the way up to the prime minister.

91% of the people who voted said that it is bad to have a performance bonus for two reasons:

a) It will breed a wrong culture where the bonus is more important than duty to the job.
b) Public sector employees should focus on the duty to the job rather than achieve a higher performance bonus.

9% said that a performance bonus create a positive work attitude and motivate the employees to reduce cost and achieve the KPI

See a breakdown of the votes in

Independent inquiry into the flooding of MRT tunnes

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Do we need to call an independent inquiry into the flooded tunnel?

The minister for transport had said earlier that there is no need for an independent enquiry as the cause of the flooding was quite clear.

91% of the people who voted said that an independent inquiry is needed for two reasons. 9% agreed with the minister that the inquiry is not needed.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pay attention to this warning

When you meet with a motor accident and the repairer offers to handle the claim for you, the repairer will ask you to sign a letter of authorisation for them to submit the claim on your behalf.

Be careful! You may be heading for big trouble.

Some motorists have got into trouble before and have sought my help.

Here is a message from a senior person in the commercial affairs department giving a warning that requires your attention.

Avoid getting involved in motor insurance fraud

SINGAPORE: Amid increasing reports of fraudulent traffic accidents, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has warned that cases of motor insurance fraud are usually linked to large-scale crime syndicates.

Head of the insurance and specialised fraud branch, Superintendent of Police Abdul Rani Abdul Sani, said many are lured into getting involved without knowing the “severe” consequences they face.

The syndicates stage accidents and trick individuals into submitting fraudulent claims using their name. Ultimately, the costs of such claims will be borne by motorists in the form of higher insurance premiums.

“The public should know what’s happening so they don’t easily get conned into joining such activities,” Supt Rani added.

Enbloc fever will lead to higher property prices

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Do you agree with the minister for national development that the enbloc fever may not lead to higher property prices?

91% of the people who voted disagreed with the minister for two reasons. 9% agreed with him.

View the reasons and the breakdown of the votes in

Lapses from LTA and MOT staff

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - do you agree with the minister of transport that there is no lapses from MOT and LTA staff?

This question was related to the flooding of the MRT taunnel and the frequent breakdowns.

96% of those who voted disagreed with the minister for two reasons.

View the breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Phantom of Oxley Castle

There is some mystery over the events that led to the cancellation of the book launch of "The Phantom of Oxley Castle".

This is just my guess. It is pure speculation.

Someone from the "government" probably called the staff at the Art House and told him that the book is defamatory and that the they would be receiving a lawyer's letter on Monday.

The staff probably called the publisher and said that the prime minister will be suing the publisher over this book. This was probably what he interpreted about "they would be receiving a letter". He probably advised the pubisher that it would be best to cancel the book launch. The publisher agreed.

Later, everyone denied that they made they made the statement that the prime minister will sue the publisher. The Online Citizen had to issue an unreserved apology over the earlier report on this matter.

Now, there is some confusion over who was the party that decided to call off the book launch. Anyway, does not really matter?

This episode showed how that many Singaporeans are cowards and are easily frightened over this small matter. Their focus seems to be how to avoid responsibility for the mistake, how to cover up the mistake or push the blame to the other party.

Anyway, the letter from the prime minister never arrived. It could be just a bluff.

I wonder if the prime minister is proud of the character of many Singaporeans, as reflected by this incident?

Tan Kin Lian

Should bus operators recruit only locals to be bus drivers?

Here is a question for The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should the bus operators recruit only locals to be bus drivers?

Give your vote in

Recruit locals to be bus drivers

In many cities the bus drivers are locals. These drivers are familiar with the roads, and know the languages and culture of the local people.

In Singapore, a high proportion of bus drivers are foreigners.

It is better to have local drivers for the benefits shown above. Furthermore, we need to create more job opportunities for locals to become bus drivers.

To encourage locals to take up bus driving, we need to increase the wages and to provide greater flexibility in their work schedules.

We can use technology to provide the flexibility. The drivers can choose the slots that they wish to work.

If many people are willing to be Uber or Grab drivers, they should also be willing to work as bus drivers, if they can enjoy better wages and have the flexibility.

It is important for Singapore to find the solution and encourage more locals to be bus drivers.

I suggest that all future jobs as bus drivers be reserved for locals, to force the bus operators to adjust the wages to an acceptable level and provide the flexibility to bus drivers, using technology.

This may increase the cost of public transport. However, the increase may not be that significant, as the bus operators do not have to pay a levy for local workers.

Do you agree?

Increased flooding caused by climate change?

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Is the increased flooding in many countries due to climate change?

57% of those who voted said that climate change is definitely the main cause of the severe weather experienced in recent years.

The remaining 43% chose other options.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Texas church shooting

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - How do you react to the Texas church shooting where 20 people are killed?

58% of the people who voted said that America is getting more violent and that this incident reflects the problem in the broader society.

The remaining 42% voted on four other options.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Monday, November 13, 2017

Spread specialised facilities across Singapore

The government build many of the specialised facilities in the compound of the Singapore General Hospital.

This is a bad arrangement. It is quite difficult for patients to visit the eye center, cancer center, heart center, dental center and other specialised facilities.

They should have spread them all over the island and put them close to MRT stations or bus stops.

Why do these specialised facilities need to be in the same compound? The only benefit is probably that the doctors can meet each other for lunch.

For the patients, it is a long walk from the Outram MRT stations or the bus stops to the specialised facilities.

Although they have a shuttle service, the shuttle bus has to visit the various specialised service before arriving at the MRT station. The signs to the shuttle bus stops are not prominent.

CPF is NOT a ponzi scheme

Some people describe CPF as a ponzi scheme. This is not correct.

Under a ponzi scheme, the promoter offers an attractive return on an investment, say 2% per month.annum. He cooks up a story that he is very smart in investing the money to earn a good return. The investors believe the story.

The promoter is not able to earn this kind of return. He takes the money invested by the current investors to pay the return to the earlier investors.

He has no problem with the cash flow. More people are putting in money for this great scheme, compared with the amount that is being withdrawn.

The earlier investors like the gain, so they put up reinvest and put in more money. They tell their friends about the great schem and more people come in to invest as well.

So, the scheme continues to grow very fast. The growth can be astronomical.

At any point of time, the cash available is much less than the amount invested. The difference goes to pay the attractive gain enjoyed by the earlier investors. The promoter also takes out a lot of money for marketing and for their own use.

This is a ponzi scheme.

Now, let us look at the CPF. It pays an interest rate of only 2.5% or 4% per annum. It is able to earn this return from government bonds.

As more savings goes into the CPF, the board buys more government bonds to earn the interest that is paid to the CPF members.

At any point of time, the total savings in the CPF is matched by the total amount of government bonds. The Singapore govenrment bonds are rated AAA. The government could issue the same bonds to foreign investors who will buy these bonds at the prevailing coupon rate.

CPF is not a ponzi scheme. It is a growing fund with assets in the form of government bonds that match its liabilitiies, i.e. the total savings of CPF members.

Tan Kin Lian

PM Lee: ASEAN should stay united on issues of concern

At the ASEAN summit in Manila, PM Lee said that the ASEAN countries should stand united on issues of concern. What are your views abou this statement.

Give your vote in

Should SMRT re-employ the maintenance staff that it retrenched previously?

SMRT had retrenched a large number of maintenance staff that earned high salaries and were in excess of requirements.

SMRT is now short of maintenance workers. Should SMRT re-employ the staff that it retrenced earlier?

Give your vote in

Amos Yee ask for donations to make videos

Amos Yee has been granted asylum in America. He now has to make a living.

He is asking for donations to meet his living expenses while he makes videos, mostly to share his views about Singapore.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Will you support Amos Yee in his pursuit of video making?

The answers are quite mixed. You can see the summary of the votes in

Best person to lead the Workers' Party

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Who is the best person to take over as leader of Worker Party?

I will not tell you the answer. You can view the answer for yourself. I wa quite surprised with the votes.

Why does Low Thia Khiang plan to step down from the top position of the Workers' Party?

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Why does Low Thia Khiang plan to step down from Workers' Party?

62% of the people who voted said that he wanted to give a chance for younger leaders to come forward.

The other 38% held other views.

Generally, the crowd looks at this event quite favorably for Low Thia Khiang.

See a breakdown of the votes in

69% want a formal inquiry to look into lapses at SMRT

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should a formal inquiry be called to look into the lapses at SMRT?

69% of the people who voted said that an independent inquiry, comprising of members from the outside, is necessary.

The other 31% said that there are better ways to deal with this issuer.

The minister for transport had since said in Parliament that an independent inquiry is not necessary as the causes are "quite clear".

The minister has a view that is quite different from "the wisdom of the crowd".

See a breakdown of the votes in

Unable to claim for cataract operations under Medisheld

I went for my cataract operation. The operation on each eye cost me about $5,000. I was not able to claim on Medisheld. Why?

The actual cost for the cataract operation was about $3,000 as a private patient. Medishield applies a proration of 50%, so the claimable amount was $1,500. This fell completely within the annual deductible of $1,500. So, Medishield paid $0.

The other expenses are for pre and post-operation consultations, etc. They are not covered by Medishield.

My two cataract was done in different years. So, the annual deductible applies to each operation. If I had them done in the same year, I could claim $1,500 on the second operation.

I paid cash for my treatment. I could use Medisave, but I prefer to keep my money in Medisave to earn 4% interest. My cash in the bank earns 0.1% or less.

What is my point?

Our Medishield and health care system are quite complicated. Even I could get confused.

I hope that one day, a new government would simplify the financing system for the good of ordinary people.

Daniel Yong's Article #3 - Work Style

Hi Kin Lian,

Just this week, our work team wrapped up a major series of events as part of on-going engagement with a foreign government at a high level. The work had been weeks in the planning and on the final days everyone in our small team got involved. It was all hands on deck.

Later that day, we celebrated the successful conclusion with drinks at the local pub. Our executive director came by and joined in. He was relaxed and shared with us what happened on the side lines which not everyone knew. Conversation also drifted to a bit to our private lives and family and such. My point in saying all this is that we take time to celebrate our successes. We drink, talk, relax, and unwind. In that process, we also debrief a little and "share notes" on what happened during the day.

The mood is open. Essentially this is how it works: you work hard, relax well, and sometimes also play hard (if you have time). This is part of work life balance and is a major part of working well in a team at work. This relieves stress and sets us up for the next working week.

How does this differ from work life in Singapore? How often does something like this happen in Singapore generally? Do you trust your colleagues enough to share what when well and what didn't? Do people even take time outside of work to do so? Or do most people "keep their cards close to their chest?"

I know there must be some very good work teams even in Singapore but I think generally people do not take time out in Singapore and even if they do, it's company sponsored and just an event people have to go. Or perhaps in Singapore many work teams are too busy "fighting fires" or playing office politics. Something to think about. But I must say I'm really fortunate to have such a good team.

Daniel Yong

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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Duty of government

We have a bad government. They allowed doctors and lawyers to charge very high fees that goes to hundreds of thousand dollars. How can the ordinary people afford these fees?

The government does not act to stop the high fees. They allowed ordinary people to suffer from these unreasonably high fees.

They also do not take strong action against potential scams. They took the easy way of just putting up the names of the parties in the MAS Alert List. The ordinary people are not aware of this list.

This approach have allowed many scams to grow to be very big, involving many investors who put in many tens of millions dollars only to see the money disappear.

At the next general election, we should vote in a new government that understands its duty towards ordinary people and take appropriate actions against these abuses.

Should MAS take stronger action against suspected scams?

We read about many scams and ponzi schemes. MAS knew about these activities and put the schemes in the Alert List. Should MAS take stronger action against these schemes so that they do not grow to be so large and involve so many ordinary people.

Give your vote in

Can the Transpacific Partnership work without America?

Eleven countries have agreed to continue with the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) without America. They also agreed to remove some clauses on IP rights.

What are your views about the revised agreement?

Give your vote in

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Predicament of Six Capital clients

Hello Mr Tan

Are you acquainted with this organization called Six Capital. They are presently in a fix and have failed to honor their obligations to the aggrieved clients of their B'Data and Tagg programs.

Not only are they in breach of their end of the agreement but they have yet to put forth any concrete plans to address the repayment issue. In fact they have ceased considering all requests for the hard-earned money of regular folks to be returned , when they are at fault.

Needless to say I am one of the unfortunate victim. The only formal correspondence I managed to obtain is a letter supposedly addressed to all affected clients. In fact I did not even receive this correspondence. Only managed to obtain it from other sources after much painstaking probing and inquires.

Just am interested if you have heard of this firm from possibly others who have fallen victim or other sources.

Below are two links to articles written about their present predicament. They appear to be biased in favor of the view of Patrick Teng (owner of Six Capital) without any due consideration nor mention accorded to the aggrieved parties' side of the story.…/six-capital-responds-to-complaints-o……/a-peek-inside-sixcap-a-firm-o…

I have not heard about Six Capital. I hope you did not put in too much money because the chance of getting it back is very bad.

Too many people pursue a university degree

I made a statement that we have too many people spending too much time getting a paper degree.

My friend disagreed with me. He said that he qualified as an engineer and the training was important for him. Without the degree, he would not know how to do his work as an engineer.

Many people react like my friend did. They do not listen to my statement. They do not understand my view. They are too quick to express their disagreement.

I said that "too many people" are pursuing a paper degree. We do not need too many engineers. We need people to be skilled at various levels. Some can be engineers. But we also need many people who are good technicians and draftsmen to support the enginers.

I agree that we need engineers with the broad based knowledge that comes with a university degree. But do we need so many enginners?

When my friend qualified as an engineer 40 years ago, he had the support of skilled technicians, skilled artisans and skilled draftsmen. These people were good at their work. He was able to do his work effectively as an engineer and a manager.

We have a different situation today. We have too many people with a paper degree. But we do not have enough people with working experience or technical skills to support them.

When we face problems like the frequent train breakdowns, we do not have people with the experience and technical skills to fix these problems.

The past government policy caused this problem. By giving high salaries to graduates and low salaries to non-graduates, they encouraged too many people to pursue a paper qualification at the expense of working experience and technical skills.

The government has realized the mistake and is trying to correct the situation. But they probably have no clue how to solve this problem. It is a huge challenge. It may take several decades to undo the harm and damage that had already occured.

Tan Kin Lian

SMRT needs a qluality audit plan and rigorous implementation

My friend worked 40 years in Keppel shipyard and has recently retired. I asked him, "Does Keppel have the engineering expertise to help SMRT to fix their problem?"

He replied -

It is not an engineering problem. It is a quality audit issue. I am shocked that they can allow the poor quality control to continue for so long. It is a cultural issue and a management issue.

In the shipyard, we have to build and repair many ships and oil drilling platforms. Each ship or platform contains many systems that have to work together.

We have a detailed quality audit plan. We have to make sure that the quality is maintained on every aspect of the work. We carry out sample audits and if it disclose a serious issue, we take the next step to inspect all the affected parts in detail.

If we do not maintain the quality, how can the ships or platforms take the harsh weather conditions and still work well? If you consider the thousands of ships and platforms that are out there in the ocean, how many of them break down?

They don't break down because we have a quality audit plan and we carry out the audit seriously.

It is likely that the team from Taipei will focus on the quality audit. I am sure that they know what needs to be done.

My comment -

His observation sounds quite credible. SMRT needs to pay attention to their quality audit and have to carry it out professionally and competently.
Our challenge is that the people in SMRT have been allowed to slacken for a long time. Maybe they spent their time playing politics rather than carry out the work that they are expected to do.
I can't blame them. They are learning from the bad example set at the very top of the political leadership.

If the PM and the ministers spend their time making life difficult for the opposition MPs, they are not addressing the real issues that face the people. 

If this is the leadership style, SMRT will probably be the same.

Be prepared for higher premiums under Integrated Plans

People insured under private plans (i.e. Integrated Shield plans) should be prepared for large increase in premium in the coming years.

The increase will be very steep for elderly people, above 60 years.

They will have to pay these large increases in premium, even if they do not make any claim.

Here are two main causes for the expected inceases:

a) Private hospital charges are very expensive. The large claims paid by the insurance companies will have to be borne by all the policyholders through higher premiums.

b) Private hospitals are charging high fees even for simple tests and treatments. These fees are paid by the insurance companies under the Integrated Shield plans. They will be reflected in the future premiums.

Be prepared to see the large increase in premium. If yo cannot afford the high premiums, you can revert to Medishield Life.

By that time, I hope that you still have enough savings in your Medisave account. Do not let it be wiped out through the high premiums that you have paid for the Integrated plans.

Peace of mind can turn to nightmares

Most people have the false impression that they can feel safe with peace of mind. They have already bought the most expensive and comprehensive Integrated Shield plan from a large insurance company.

What can do wrong?

For some of them, their nightmare may come when they have to go for treatment in a private hospital. Yes. they are covered by their Integrated Shield plan, but they are still hurdles to cross.

Read these examples of what these hurdles are. When you have to be hospitalised, pray that you are not caught in these hurdles.


Non Disclosure

I hope that these problems will not hit you. But you can never be sure. Do not just assume that things will be all right. It can go very badly wrong. Your peace of mind can become a nightmare.

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The wepage and videos are very popular, especially for young people searching for some simple guides on how to handle their savings and investments.
This webpage is available for free access for free access for the time being.
I may restrict it to paid members of FISCA at a later date.

Click here to view the videos now, while it is still available for free acess.

Some HDB resale flats are sold for over $1 million

According to a news report, some HDB flats have been sold for over $1 million in the resale market.

I pose this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Are you worried about the increase in prices of HDB resale flats?

Give your vote in

How to deal with crowded food courts?

Many food courts are crowded and customers have to find ways to "chope" a table.

I pose this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - How can we deal with crowded food courts?

Give your vote in

Better way is for prices of utilities to be regulated

Straits Times Forum Page, 11 Nov 2017

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore recently announced that from the second half of next year, all remaining 1.3 million accounts, mainly households, will be able to enjoy choice and flexibility in their electricity purchases.

They will be allowed to choose their electricity supplier (New online platform to help decide on electricity purchases; Oct 28).

My recent experience made me wonder if the EMA is making the right move.

Two marketeers visited me to get me to sign up with their company for my electricity supply. They offered a discount of 20 per cent on the price charged by Singapore Power.

I agreed, mainly to help the two of them even though I felt that this kind of price cutting, without any improvement in efficiency, is not sustainable in the long run.

The paperwork to make the switch was quite tedious and the two marketeers spent an hour in my office to complete it.

With the switch, I now have to pay two bills every month - one to Singapore Power, for the water; and the other to the power supplier.

The EMA may think that this improves efficiency and reduces cost for businesses and households. It may have the opposite effect of increasing cost, instead.

How so? We would eventually have to bear the cost of the many marketeers, like the two who visited me. We would also have to incur the paperwork and expenses of changing the supplier.

The consumers will have to manage two bills each month, instead of one.

A better way is to regulate the prices of utilities. They can be made market-sensitive, but the profit and expense margins can be regulated.

Alternatively, we can divide Singapore into zones and tender out the operations in each zone to an operator, similar to the bus-contracting model.

Tan Kin Lian

Was the amnesty given by SMRT a good approach?

A few weeks ago, SMRT found that its maintenance staff has been falsifying records to show that they did their maintenance work when it was not done.

SMRT had to do a full audit of all the maintenance work. There was a risk that the bad practice was widespread.

SMRT announced an amnesty for their staff to come forward and confess their lapses, to avoid punishment.

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Was it a good approach for SMRT to allow its staff to confess any past wrong doings?

38% of the people who voted in The Wisdom of the Crowd said that it is a bad approach as it would encourage people to break rules thinking that they would have a chance to confess.

The remaining 62% were more understanding of this approach for three reasons.

You can view the reasons and the breakdown of the votes in

Should Apple use an online queuing system for the launch of its iPhone X?

When Apple announced the sale of its iPhoneX in Singapore, there was a long queue of several hundred people who waited hours to buy the new phone.

I asked this question - Should Apple arrange an online queuing system for its customers to buy the new iPhone X?

49% of the people who voted said that a physical queue has greater impact.
44% said that an online queuing system is more sensible.

I hope that as time goes by, more organizations will opt for the online queuing system.

You can see the breakdown of the votes in

Friday, November 10, 2017

Large hospital bill rejected due to exclusion

I have often advised elderly people to stay with Medishield Life and avoid upgrading to a private shield plan. Recently, I was approached to assist the family on this case.

Mdm X was an elderly lady. She was not literate in English. She received a letter from an insurance company to upgrade her shield plan to a higher plan covering private hospital.

She was asked to go for a medical examination for the upgrading. She did. The insurance company found some medical problems and offered her an upgraded plan with many exclusions. She was not aware about the significance of the exclusion. She signed her acceptance.

Find out what happed to Mdm X when she went to a private hospital for treatment. The claim was rejected because it came under the exclusion. She did not understand what the exclusion meant.

Email to CEO of SP Group

Dear CEO of SP Group

I received this letter from SP Group.
I have no idea what you mean by "application for contestability status".
I did apply for a transfer of my electricity supply from SP Group to Keppel Electric.
Do you have to send such a confusing letter to the consumer?
Can you send out a simpler letter?

I also object to your statement about the AMI meter.
Surely you know from your record if my premises have an AMI meter?
Do you expect the consumer to know your technical gibberish?

Just check if I have an AMI meter and inform me what is the status of my application.

I expect a reply. Thank you.

A confusing letter from SPGroup

Two marketeers visited my office to inform me that I could switch my power supply from SP group to Keppel Electric. I agreed and completed the tedious paperwork for the transfer.

I have now received a strange letter from SPGroup referring to "Application for Contestability Status".

The letter said, "Electricty used by contestable consumers is measured every half an hour using an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) meter, which stores consumption data. The half hourly consumption data stored in the AMI meter is remotely read daily for settlement purpose:

We would like to share that AMI meters will need to be installed first. After which, we will arrange for the testing of remote downloading of the electrictiy consumption data before you can become contestable. No AMI meter installation is required if there is already an existing AMI meter at the premises".

What nonsense!

I have no clue what "contestability" is about.

SPGroup does not know whether an AMI meter is stored in my premises. Surely, they can check and inform me the actual status. Instead, I sent me a confusing letter.

This is the standard of service that comes with LHL's government. It is ridiculous.

You can change your dreams

Young people have their dreams - to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a banker.

Many parents made a big financial sacrifice to help their children to achieve their dreams. Some sold their houses to get the money to send their children overseas to achieve their dreams.

Some children may not fully realize the sacrifice that their parents made for them.

Are the sacrifices really necessary? Can the young people's dreams be modified by reality?

When I was in secondary school, I wanted to be an engineer. The brighter students in my class chose medicine and aimed to be a doctor. I thought differently. I wanted to be an engineer.

My father was unemployed. My mother struggled to run a business to earn some income for the family.

I threw away my dream. I left school after secondary education to work as a clerk in an insurance company. The starting pay was $180 a month. It was a decent pay at that time.

My principal called me to his office. He asked me to stay in school. He said that I could apply for a bursary to meet my school fees.

I told him that the bursary was not enough to support my family financially.

Anyway, it was easy for me to change my dream. Instead of being an engineer, I continued self study to become an actuary. I qualified after ten years. For me, it was better than being an engineer.

Dreams can be changed.

When I told a friend about it, he said that my message should be targeted at parents, rather than their children. I agree with him.

I hope that this message is read by both parents and their children.

Tan Kin Lian

What is the best way to promote cashless payments?

PM Lee has suggested that the country should move to cashless payments, like in China.

What is the best way to achieve this goal?

Give your vote in

Promote a common platform to link merchants and consumers

Following the call by PM Lee to promote cashless payments, there is now a strong interest in this goal.

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Many companies are now launching their cashless payments. Is it a good idea?

65% of the people who voted said that we need a common platform to link merchants and consumers.

Another 15% said that the proliferation of platforms is difficult for merchants and consumers.

This makes a total of 80%.

You can view a breakdown of the votes in

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Costly for Grab and Comfort

This is a serious challenge for Comfort Taxis. They are losing drivers by the thousands. Many taxis are unrented.

A former Comfort taxi driver told me that he accepted the Grab offer and pays only $25 a day for the rental of a car to be used under the Grab platform. The rental is actually $85 a day but Grab subsidises $60 for a period of six months.

Previously, he had to pay $125 daily rental to Comfort Taxis.

He said that Grab made this offer because they are short of drivers who now have to get a vocational licence from LTA. It takes a few months for a new driver to get the licence. So Grab made an attractive offer to entice Comfort taxi drivers to move to their platform.

It must be very expensive for Grab to subsidise $60 a day for 6 months. The total cost is $10,000 per taxi driver. If 1,000 taxi drivers move over, the cost to Grab would be $10 million. Can they earn it back?

Parliamentary sessions

Should Parliamentary sessions be streamed live?
Give your vote in

Desmond Kuek

SMRT has faced many problems recently. Should the CEO be held accountable for the failures and lapses?

I have created this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should Desmond Kuek continue as CEO of SMRT?

Give your vote in

NEHR has to deal with large volumes of data

Here are some issues involved in implementing patient records in a national database.…/national-patient-database-not…

Making it compulsory by law is not a good idea. It will add further to the cost of medical care.

The government should consider a different approach. They should only received certain types of useful information to be provided. They should not ask every doctor to record every visit.

The hospitals can update the national database because each patient is treated in a hospital once in 10 years, on average. It is a different matter for a private clinic because each patient sees the doctor on average 5 times a year.

We have to deal with 50 times of the volume. Is the NEHR database able to handle such a volume? Will the retrieval time be long?

National Electronic Health Record

The government wants to make it compulsory by law for private clinics to submit data of patient visits to the National Electronic Health Records database.

I created this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should private clinics be required by law to submit patient records to a national database?

Give your vote in

Set up clearing house to process e-payments


In his National Day Rally speech in August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a call to popularise cashless payments in Singapore.

Many organisations have since announced the launch of their cashless payment platforms. The new players include Nets Pay, Grab Pay and AliPay. Each new player has been enrolling merchants into its platform.

These new platforms add to the existing ones, including those offered by the banks and the telephone companies.

The proliferation of platforms will not lead to greater adoption of cashless payments in Singapore. We cannot expect the merchants to sign up with several platforms to receive their cashless payments.

I suggest that the Monetary Authority of Singapore take the lead to introduce a clearing house for e-wallet payments. This is similar to the clearing house for payment by cheques.

With a clearing house in operation, merchants can open an e-wallet with only one platform and receive e-payments from the e-wallets of other platforms that conform to the technical standards specified by the clearing house.

This clearing house or portal can also provide the linkage to the banks for transfers using PayNow.

It will allow consumers to transfer money into their e-wallets, and merchants to transfer their collections into their bank accounts at a lower charge than what they now have to incur.

I believe that the clearing house will be an important step in the adoption of cashless payments on a wide scale.

Tan Kin Lian

Childish quarrel

The US and South Korea said that they need joint military exercise to tell North Korea that they are ready to counter any threat from the North.

North Korea said that they have to develop nuclear weapons to counter the threat from the US and South Korea.

This childish quarrel can never stop. Right?


Bitcoin is now at US7,500. When it was at $6000, many experts said that it was too high. The investors don't believe the experts and pushed it up by another 25% in a few days.

When it crashed, like the Tulips bubble, it would be worth $300, maybe less. Right?

Helping retail and food outlets

Many retail and food outlets find it difficult to survive due to high rentals.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - How can the government help the retail and F&B sector to cope with high rentals?

41% of the people who voted said - Do nothing. Let the businesses fail. The landlords will be forced to reduce their rental.

Another 12% said - Do nothing. Let the business upgrade and look for new businesses to survive.

This makes a total of 53%.

The remaining 47% like the government to step in and provide a rental subsidy or remove the property tax.

It is a difficult question for the government and for the public opinion. It will be tough and painful for the businesses and economy.

See the breakdown of the votes here:

Starting time for schools

Many schools start at an early hour. The children have to leave home early for school. They do not have enough sleep.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should our schools start at a later hour?

81% of the people who voted prefer the school to start at a later hour for two reasons. The remaining 19% prefer the current starting time.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in
I hope that the government and the ministry of education respond to this feedback. Do you agree?

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Design of MRT system

I don't understand why the transport minister has to blame the design of the MRT lines for the frequent breakdown.

We did not have any problem for 25 years until the recent few years.

We are supposed to do our best with whatever we get, including the old design. We cannot fail to do a proper job and then blame the design.

It is a bad excuse.

A bad worksman blames his tools.

Wasteful activities

I share this example of wasteful and unnecessary work that is carried out routinely each day in Singapore.

It adds to the cost of doing business and the price that consumers have to pay.

This is just one example of many similar situations. It seems that wasteful activities is quite common in Singapore.

I have also been horrified by the forms that need to be completed when I wish to put a fixed deposit with a bank, other than the bank that I have a current relationship.

The new bank requires me to go through a complicated "Know Your Client" process.

Perhaps they should carry out the tedious paperwork only for transactions above a certain amount, say $100,000?

Maybe, this is a way for the banks to lock in their existing customers and discourage them from placing deposits with another bank?

Performance bonus for public sector

Is it good for the public sector to pay a performance bonus to their employees based on meeting the KPIs?

There are negative and positive aspects to this approach.

Give your vote in

Audit of SMRT operating asset

In his statement, the transport minister said:

Payment to SMRT is contingent on the requirement that the condition of the operating assets should befit their age. This process takes several years to complete. You can appreciate the extent of the assets that we are taking over. This is not a simple operation and we are not even halfway there.

Do we really need a detailed audit to determine the payment to SMRT?

SMRT is now wholly owned by Temasek Holdings and TH is wholly owned by the government. I suggest that a simple depreciation formula can be applied to the assets.

The formula can be negotiated at a high level. After all, it is from the right pocket to the left pocket, right?

We should not be spending time on unnecessary activities, right?

Perhaps, this has some impact on the performance bonus of senior people. It is this culture of "performance bonus" that is quite bad. We should review this practice.

Performance bonus

Here is a report of the discussion in Parliament about the flooded MRT Tunnel.

I have a few concerns after reading this report.

The minister said that the bonuses of senior supervisors will be tied to the performance of their teams.

Why is the minister making this statement? Surely it is the job of the CEO of SMRT to handle this matter?

I do not like the concept of giving bonus based on performance. Surely, the job of the maintenance teams and supervisors is to carry out their work as required. Do they need to have a bonus to carry out their duty?

We are taking the concept of performance bonus too far. It will breed the wrong kind of culture. No wonder we have a culture issue in SMRT.

I fear that the culture issue is prevalent in many organizations in Singapore. People forget about their duty. They look towards performance bonus.

Tan Kin Lian

Independent inquiry into flooded tunnel

The minister of transport said in Parliament that there is no need for an independent inquiry as the cause of the flooded tunnel is quite clear.

Do you agree with the minister?

Give your vote in

Limited stop bus services

At present, the bus services stop every 400 meter (on average) and takes a long travelling time.

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Do you like the bus services to stop every 2 km and for the intermediate stops to be served by a feeder bus?

67% of those who voted support this concept for two reasons.

See a breakdown of the votes in

Marine Bay Floating Platform

The government plans to develop the Marine Bay floating platform for future National Day parades.They will probably not use the Sports Hub.

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Do you like the Marina Bay floating platform to be used for future National Day Parades?

12% of those who voted said that it is a suitable place. the remaining 88% find it to be a bad idea for various reasons.

See a breakdown of the votes in

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Outlets cannot support high rental

The price for private residential property is now $1,700 psf. It is extremely high. A 800 sf apartment will cost $1.36 million.

A young family can afford it only after getting financial help from their parents to pay the down payment and take a 30 year loan, at the current low interest rate, to pay off the balance.

When the interest rate increases or they lose their job, they will face great financial difficulty.

But the buyers are willing to pay this high price because they think that property is a good investment and the prices will continue to rise, due to shortage of land.

This kind of thinking can also be applied at any price, regardless of high ridiculously high, right?

Developers consider that retail space should be two times of the shop space. They try to sell retail space at $3,000 psf or higher.

They try to rent the space at $10 psf (for a 4% yield). The rental for a 300 sf space would be $3,000. There are additional costs that need to be covered, i.e. wages, utilities, etc.

Many retailers or food outlets cannot survive at these high rentals. So, the outlet space becomes vacant. There is a high vacancy rate.

Residential property can continue to be high, due to the expectation that the prices will keep increasing. But the retail and outlet space tells a different story - the rentals and prices cannot be supported by the business.

Tan Kin Lian

Enbloc fever

The minister of national development said that the enbloc fever may not lead to higher property prices. He was giving a reply to a question in Parliament.

Do you agree with the minister? Give your vote in

No lapses by MOT and LTA

Do you agree with the minister that there is no lapse on the part of the staff of the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority regarding the failure of SMRT to carry out its maintenance properly?

Give your vote in

Food security

There is some concern about the possibility of food shortage in the world due to climate change and other disasters.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Will Singapore face the challenge of food security in the future?

45% of the people who voted said that we must build our own sources of supply that are under our control. (However, this may be very expensive or impossible).

10% said that we must enter into strategic partnership with neighboring countries and pay a higher price for a guaranteed source of supply.

19% said that the supplying countries will look after their own interest in the event of a shortage.

26% said that our solution is to diversify our sources of supply from many countries. (This is our current strategy).

You can see the breakdown of the votes in

Independent news website

A professionally managed news website called "The Middle Ground" had to cease operations after a year due to lack of funding.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - How can readers help the independent news websites to be viable?

55% of the people who voted said that the news website has to get its revenue from its advertisements.

The remaining 45% said that the readers should pay a monthly subscription (27%) or a charge per article read (18%).

None said that the there is no need for an alternative news website.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Cut down unnecessary work

I feel very sad whenever I encounter incidents of wasteful practices in Singapore.

The people in charge may not realize that their SOP creates a lot of wasteful work that can be avoided. It adds to the cost of doing business significantly.

I share this recent example.

Two marketeers from Keppel Electric came to my office to convince me to switch my electric supply from Singapore Power to Keppel Electric. They offered a discount of 20% on the rate charged by Singapore Power.

I am not attracted by the discount, but I wanted to help the two marketeers to achieve their target. I agreed to make the switch.

The paperwork horrified me. I have to give them a copy of my SP bill, my ACRA return, my NRIC and to sign the application form and the GIRO form.

I almost decided to cancel the transfer. But I did not want to disappoint the two marketeers who had put in so much work.

I continued with the painful paperwork.

This is what my common sense tells me.

This is an existing customer with a SP bill showing the electricity supply to the premises. The customer must be a legitimate business, as SP has been supplying utilities to the premises.

There is no need to ask for the ACRA form and the NRIC of the applicant.

A signed application, with the company stamp, and a copy of the SP bill should be sufficient for the new supplier to take over.

Why does Keppel Electric have a cumbersome process? It is dictated by their SOP. The SOP probably did not distinguish between a new application and a transfer for an existing user.

In practice, most of their activities involve a transfer from an existing user. Surely, they can save a lot of work and business cost by adopting a common sense approach?

Tan Kin Lian

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