Friday, July 03, 2015

SAF should apply judgment

Hi Mr Tan,

In the recent SEA Game, we have seen some very promising young Singapore athletes . The swimming team indeed caught my attention. Swimmers Joseph Schooling and even Quah Zheng Wen are potential Olympic medalists in the future. They need time to train and compete at highest level in the world stage to achieve their highest potential. National service seem to come in the way, as in the past. I am aware that Joseph Schooling had recently being deferred. I am also aware that Mindef has always been very supportive and granted time off to such athletes.

I feel that such promising athletes should be exempted from NS and be put to focus on full time training in their field of sport. Of course, there must be strict selection. At the end of the day, if they do win a medal in the world stage or even a gold medal (maybe I am dreaming), they bring honor to Singapore.

If we are reluctant to give exemption, just let them go for a 3 month BMT to learn the basic soldiering or whatever skill and then be released for full time sport training with the national coaches. To me, that is also a form of NS.

What is your opinion on this?

Shofaran from facebook.

I agree with you. Our SAF generals should make judgement rather than apply the "no exception rule" blindly.

Natural aristocracy was first conceived by Thomas Jefferson

PM Lee refers to a "natural aristocracy". I searched Google and found this answer:

Thomas Jefferson on the Natural Aristocracy & Its Role in the Government.

"... I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class.

The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society.

May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendancy.

On the question, What is the best provision, you and I differ.... You think it best to put the Pseudo-aristoi into a separate chamber of legislation where they may be hindered from doing mischief by their coordinate branches, and where also they may be a protection to wealth against the Agrarian and plundering enterprises of the Majority of the people.

I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from doing mischief, is arming them for it, and increasing instead of remedying the evil. For if the coordinate branches can arrest their action, so may they of the coordinates.

Mischief may be done negatively as well as positively. Of this a cabal in the Senate of the United States has furnished many proofs. Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy; because enough of these will find their way into every branch of legislation to protect themselves. From 15 to 20 legislatures of our own, in action for 30 years past, have proved that no fears of an equalization of property are to be apprehended of them.

"I think the best remedy is exactly provided by all our constitutions, to leave the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society."

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams (1813).

Troublesome to get replies from government agencies

I received this email from CPF

Dear Employer
The electronic Record of Payment (eROP) for payment received on 01 Jul 2015 under CPF Submission Number 200700231C-PTE-01 is ready for viewing.
To view your eROP:1) Please login to CPF e-Submission (Employers) Service and click "View Record of Payment".2) Select the Statement No. to view the eROP.
Please check that the details in the Record of Payment are correct and inform us immediately if there are any discrepancies.
Yours faithfully
Electronic Submission Section
Central Provident Fund Board

I sent this reply
Dear CPF
I suggest that you send the eROP to me by email.
It is troublesome for me to login into the CPF website to view this eROP.
Be considerate.

Why do the government continue with a wasteful practice that gives so much trouble to the business sector?

Harmful consequence of National Service

I agreed with a view posted by another person that National Service has been harmful and has led to the low birth rate in Singapore over the decades.

An idiot who attacked me personally and said that without NS, Singapore will be in big trouble. This idiot can only think in "black and white", all or nothing. I have deleted his view and banned him.

Here is my view. We need a strong military service, but that can be achieved by a professional army.

We may need conscription, but it can be done within one year, like in most countries. We should not be wasting two years full time and another 10 years of reservists duty.

We are over doing this NS obligation. Times have changed since 1965.

If that idiot expressed his view without making a personal attack, it is all right. But idiots do not know how to be polite or sensible.

Some people think that National Service has done good for them. I do not dispute their view. It is their view, and they are entitled to it. But they should not impose this view on many other people who feel that NS, full time and reservists, has been harmful to their career and family life. We need to see issues from a wider perspective.

Non life insurers lose 6% of revenue due to fraud

Non life insurers in India lose 6% of their revenue due to fraud. I believe that similar figures can be found in other countries.

This article explains about fraud in health insurance claims. It also apply to motor insurance.

Generally, the insurance companies are quite weak in managing fraud. The tools are available today for them to handle the fraud more effectively. But few insurance companies are up to date in dealing with this issue.

I quote the following examples of effective measures to handle fraud:

1) When a motorist meets with an accident, he will usually call the insurance company immediately. The hotline staff can advice him to take photos of the damaged vehicles and send them by email to the insurer immediately. This should be done before the vehicle goes to the repair shop. The insurer should have a database to store and retrieve thousands of photos efficiently.

2) Insurers struggle with bills sent by hospitals for various procedures and by repair shops for parts. They can collect the data based on past payments and find out the average price for each medical treatment or spare part. The claims staff can be alerted if any bill exceeds the average by a margin.

3) The insurers can be more pro-active in guiding their customers to the honest repair shops and hospitals. The customer can get better service quality and the insurer pay a lower price. The additional cost due to fraud is prevented.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Will the prime minister antagonize more people?

Hi Mr. Tan
PM Lee must know that at least 500 to 1,000 people, ordinary people, have contributed to Roy's legal defense fund. They are people who did not defame the PM and must have felt that Roy was speaking on their behalf.
By asking the court to impose the maximum penalty on Roy, is the PM saying to these people - yes, you can support Roy when the amount is $100k, let's see if you can continue to support him when the damages are 5 to 10 times higher!
Is the PM trying to antagonize these people as well?
If the damages are as high as you suggest, I am sure that the prime minister will be losing more votes at the next general election. He will be making more enemies. Even the neutral bystanders will feel that things have gone too far.
It is unwise for him to ask for "maximum damages". What is he trying to prove?

A bad precedent set by our court

Many decades ago, someone said that Mr. LKY was a gangster. He sued that person and won a large amount of damage.
I felt, at that time, that it was wrong for Mr. LKY to sue his opponent or for the court to award the damages. Any thinking person who know that that statement is so ridiculous as to be ignored. Nobody would believe that Mr. LKY was a gangster.
I still hold the same view today. It is wrong for a government leader to go around suing citizens who made incredible statements  about him, because few people who be so gullible as to believe these statements anyway.

Our court had set a bad precedent by awarding a large damage to Mr. LKY. I hope that the court will reverse this bad precedent in a future case.

A bad idea for PM Lee to sue Roy Ngerng

A few people have asked me what I would do, if I were the prime minister in reacting to the statements made by Roy.
I would give my own statement on the truth of the issue and stopped the matter at that stage. I would not bother to engage in a childish quarrel out of court or in court.
I do not need to sue anybody for making false statements about me. I ignore them. Ordinary thinking people would not believe them anyway.
A reputation is protected by personal character and integrity - not by suing people or bullying people.

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. 

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