Friday, March 01, 2013

Population Panic

Here is an excellent article, printed in the Guardian newspaper, about the misplaced fear of a shrinking population. I agree with the views expressed. Generally, I like articles written in the Guardian, which tends to project the view of the ordinary people.

Can SMEs survive in Singapore?

SMEs face the following challenges:
- high rental of premises
- high wages and turnover of local workers
- local workers prefer to work for big companies
- supply of foreign workers has been cut sharply

The Government tries to help with the following:
- 40% wage subsidy based on increase in wages given to local workers
- cash grant of $5,000 (last year)
- productivity and innovation credits

Self employed workers are able to cope quite well, e.g
- taxi drivers
- food stalls

But, running a company to employ local workers is challenging.

What can be done to help small businesses, which has not been tried successfully yet?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Photos of Hong Kong

I took the photos of Hong Kong with the app called Moby Pal. It is available in iPhone/iPad.
You can take one or a few photos and send it by e-mail to a preset address with just a few button press. It is quick and easy.

There is also a "security feature". You take a photo and send it by email with the time and location stamp. If anything happens to you, there is a record of the taxi or location where you took the photo. All this in just a few touches.

A great tool, for travelers and for ladies.

Holiday camps during March school holidays

Here are the holiday camps for your children to learn some thinking skills during the March school holidays.


Puzzles on iOS

Monday, February 25, 2013

Holiday camp - Puzzles

A holiday camp for your children (age 8 to 16) to develop their thinking and problem solving skills and have great fun.

Book here

Workfare and its impact on business

Hi Mr Tan,
I would like to share with the impact on workfare in my company. Being a public listed company, the company was expecting 30% year on year growth from their subsidiaries, and KPI and variable pay structure was set based on these expectations.

Of course, the staff complained that the global and local economies are having difficulties and the growth targets were not in line with what is happening outside.

With workfare, it was hoped that the targets can be lowered and staff have a better chance to achieve their variable pay components by hitting a lower target. 

However the company while accepted workfare as a reduction of overall cost of doing business, did not translate this back to a lowering of performance targets for the staff. Targets remained as per 30% year on year. So, with or without workfare, it meant little to the individuals working in the company.

Credit card debts

Someone asked:
Are many Singaporeans living off credit cards?

I do not have the exact figures, but I have been approached by many people who are not able to manage their credit card debts.

It is easy to get into debt from:
a) medical bills
b) unemployment
c) gambling
d) over-spending on luxury goods or entertainment

It is also easy to charge to the card. Then the interest rolls up. And the problem becomes more difficult each month.

Some people borrow from a new card to repay off the old card. The problem gets bigger. Besides the high rate of interest, they have to pay late payment charges ($50 each time) and legal fees (when the lawyer writes a letter of demand for the bank).

For people who get into trouble, they can consult Credit Counselling Singapore,

This is set up by the Government. Their people are specially trained and well connected with the banks. They can help you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Be sensible in covering your personal risks

Some insurance agents show statistics of the number of people dying through critical illness to scare you into spending a lot of money on critical illness insurance.

Consider the following points:

1. Everybody will eventually die from a illness in their old age (if they do not die earlier by accident).

2. Even after spending more than $100,000 on treatment, the chance of success is slim for an elderly person. Insurance is not intended to cover this type of costly futile treatment.

3. Insurance is to protect families when the dependents are young. After 25 years, the children have grown up and the breadwinner has accumulated sufficient savings.

4. If they do not spend $500 a month on a bad insurance product, they would have accumulated $500,000 at the end of 35 years by investing in the right product. They do not need insurance to pay their medical bills - they can use their savings.

5. Insurance agents are taught to tell lies and misleading statements to take away too much from consumers. The critical illness scare is just one more gimmick.

6. If you are afraid of critical illness when you are young, pay $120 a year to get $100,000 of critical illness cover. The chance of it happening is less than the chance of an accident. (The real cost is much less, but the insurance company wants to make a profit).

7. Here is how you can buy a good insurance package, covering death, accident an critical illness to cover a more adequate amount

Vegetarian stalls

Hi Sir,
I’m a vegetarian. Most of the time, I find it difficult to find vegetarian stalls whenever I need a meal. Be it at coffee shops, food courts, etc..
Sometimes when I pass by a place, and I know of a vegetarian stall nearby, I will walk over.
To my disappointment, there are many vegetarian stalls being closed down at various places and I got to find non-vegetarian food stalls with vegetarian food.
It is more disappointing when you see a big food court with so many stalls and can’t find a single vegetarian choice.
When there is no choice, I got to go elsewhere and search which is inconvenient especially with non-vegetarian accompanies (since they already have choices and not nice for them to keep following me for the search) or when I’m quite tired and just want a meal or it’s raining heavily etc..
Usually if there is no vegetarian food stall in a particular food place, the highly possible chance to have a vegetarian meal is from the mixed vegetable rice (饭菜) stall which has meat, vegetables with rice. But commonly, the choices are very little. If they have no potatoes, bean curd, non leafy type etc., the person probably can/will only buy 2 green vegetables with rice. If the person somewhat can only eat at the same place everyday due to time wise, and meet such situation, it will be quite depressing due to very little choice of food and bringing own food may not be convenient.
I hope maybe something can be done to help improve such situations especially for those vegetarians who need to travel different places for work often. When they have a short lunch break, and the nearest vegetarian place is very far, it will be a problem.
I have some humble suggestions:
1. Not all food places have vegetarian food stalls. Those which have closed down may find it difficult to maintain the rental fees especially vegetarians are the minority. Maybe the vegetarian stall owners could have lower rate rental fees or subsidiaries to help them. Maintaining current vegetarian stalls in Singapore may not be enough to cater to most vegetarians, such idea may also attract people to do such business if they already have in mind but afraid of low number of customers. If budget wise, maybe only those owners who can’t hit a certain income, will be able to get such subsidiaries.
2. There are some places where there are quite a number of vegetarian stalls beside each other.Maybe some allocation can be done to allow only a certain number of such stalls to operate within a certain zone.Thus, hopefully, vegetarian stalls can be spread evenly in Singapore in the future which is more accessible.
3. Most of the stalls like the beef noodles, fried kway tiao, western food stalls are commonly seen in the food places and hardly have any vegetarian choice. If they could come out with some vegetarian food, example vegetarian noodles with mushroom, fried beehoon with vegetarian popiah, vegetarian spaghetti respectively, will be good. If each stall could have at least one vegetarian food, even without a pure vegetarian stall there, at least the vegetarians who visit there would have some choices. Such stall owners may be entitled a small encouraging subsidiaries or so.
By “promoting” vegetarian eating may not only for the vegetarians. There are some people who will eat vegetarian meals during the 1st and 15th day of the lunar month. It will also be convenient for them. Even omnivores could be having meal at those stalls. Hopefully the government could think of ideas and help promoting of vegetarian food stalls opening. After all, it is about solving the basic necessity of some human needs with ease. (“Go Green Campaign”).

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