Saturday, June 11, 2016

Need to improve signs in Singapore

We need to improve our signs in Singapore. The signs in many places in Singapore are not helpful and do not address the needs of the public.

I went to Paragon Mall at Orchard Road for a brunch at Imperial Treasures restaurant. On entering the mall from the taxi stand, I looked for signs or an information desk. I could not find any.

I searched Google for the restaurant. It said that the restaurant is at #05-51. I went to the escalator. I do not know which level I was currently at.

I took the escalator up floor by floor. There was no sign to indicate which level I was at. I had to look for the address at a shop. Many shops do not show this address. I was able to find one to tell me the level.

I went up the escalator again and now counted each floor as I went up.

After the brunch, I had to leave the restaurant. There was no sign to the entrance. I walked the wrong way. The waitress had to tell me which is the way to the entrance.

I had a lot of trouble in getting directions from signs all over the place in Singapore. It is our local culture to be unhelpful in providing signs. Sigh!

Online Shopping Experience - Q10, Lazada, Ali Express

I placed one order with Ali Express a long time ago. It did not leave any impression on me at that time. It was not particularly appealing.

Later, I shopped with Q10. I was able to find many products that I needed. I placed many orders. the initial experience was satisfactory.

Later, I found their pricing information to be unsatisfactory. They showed a low price for a product and add the price according to 3 levels of options. The final price was much higher than initially advertised.  I found this method of showing the price to be unsatisfactory. I also disliked their high shipping cost. I decided to abandon it after I learned about Lazada.

I liked the user interface provided by Lazada. The items were easy to search. They showed the price details clearly with the price. They provided an immediate checkout for single item purchase. I found the ordering process to be easy and placed many orders on Lazada.

One day, I had a terrible experiene with Lazada's online process. For a refund of $15 for a badly described and defective product, they made me go through more than 10 emails and hours. The experience was enough for me. No more business for Lazada.

I went back to Ali Express today. I faced a little trouble retrieving my old account, but managed it.

The online shopping experience with Ali Express was excellent. It was as good as the Lazada website. Ali Express also provided free shipping to Singapore. The shipping date was rather long, but it was not an issue for me. I had read a comment in my Facebook page that the refund process for Ali Express was easy.

Both Q10 and Lazada are websites developed and managed in Singapore. I would have liked to support them, but they really made life difficult for me. I shall be trying with Ali Express for a while to test the online shopping experience.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Government plans to block internet access from government systems

The government plans to block internet access from government systems in 1 years' time. This means that civil servants cannot use their desktop computers to serve the Internet.

Many netizens have criticized this move in postings in the Internet.

A practical solution is for the government agencies to set a separate network for their employees to serve the Internet in the course of their work. This separate network is easy to set up and is rather inexpensive. It is similar to a wifi network that is available in most homes.

The capacity of this separate network should be quite low, as it is intended only for the civil servants to serve the Internet in the course of their work.

The civil servants can still use their personal mobile phones or tablets to serve the Internet for personal purposes.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Finally, finally, the waiting time at the pedestrian crossing is shortened

I suspect that the Land Transport Authority had just changed the timing for the green man to appear at the pedestrian crossing in Yio Chu Kang Road, near my house.

Previously, it took more than 2 minutes for the green man to appear. Yesterday, the waiting time was shorter.

I measured the waiting time this monring. I crossed the road and returned back. I had to press the button for the green man a total of 4 times, as the button control only 1 side of the road.

On three occasions, the green man appeared within 30 seconds. On the last occasion, it appeared within 1 minute. I find this to be an acceptable time.

This evening, the waiting time was shorter, less than 10 seconds on both occasions.

What was the convoluted logic that was used? It would be simpler if the green man appear after 30 seconds. If it was pressed recently, then the waiting time could be 1 minute. There is no need to have a waiting time of 10 seconds.

There is one problem. In the past, the traffic stopped for the "ghosts" to cross the road. After this change, the "ghosts" have to cross the road at the same time as the people.

I just received a complaint from the "ghosts". They don't like to cross the road with people. They said that I was responsible for this change. Hahaha.

A big shock - cut of over 50% in surrender value

Mrs Tan bought a life insurance policy and paid premium for 20 years. The projected surrender value was $260,000. She wanted to surrender the policy on the 20th year and was told that the bonus had been reduced and the surrender value was only $120,000. This was a big shock for her.
If you want to learn about a better way to invest your long term savings, you should attend this talk.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Check the value of your policy - if you sell it to an investment company

Give it a try.

If you have a life insurance policy and you are curious about whether the investment company can offer a higher surrender value, try this website.

There is no commitment. It is a good idea to give it a try and see the results.

When the time comes that you need to surrender the policy due to cash flow problems or unemployment, you already had the experience. You will not be disappointed or shocked at that time.

Tower Transit has absorbed the local culture

When Tower Transit started its operations, I sent an email to the communication manager to congratulate them and to make some suggestion on how they can improve their service. I also referred them to my letter that was published on that day in the Straits Times.

I did not get any acknowledgement for three days. I posted a blog to express my disappointment at a lack of response. Link.

I received an reply from the communications manager the same day. I suspect that my blog posting prompted the reply. It is quite common for people to ignore feedback, until the issue gets hot or ugly!

The reply is what was expected - sorry, we have been busy with the launch. Thank you for your suggestion. I will bring it to the attention of the people involved.

Five days have passed.  None of the "people involved" contacted me by email or telephone. They do not even want to talk about how my suggestion could help to improve their service. They are not interested to hear any feedback.

I do not expect an early decision. But I do expect them to contact me and learn more about what I have in mind. If they do not even want to hear the suggestion or to understand the suggestion, how are they ever going to improve?

I am used to this kind of non-response from government agencies and large organizations in Singapore over the past one or two decades.

I had hoped that a company from the United Kingdom could behave differently. I was disappointed. Tower Transit has embraced the local culture within a short time.  I cannot honestly say - wish them all the best.

Bernie Sanders continues to raise funds for progressive candidates

Sisters and Brothers -
You ask anyone running for office what they hate most about it, and I guarantee that virtually every single candidate will say that it's raising money.
The way that you have helped me run for president is absolutely unprecedented. I get to talk to voters, while my opponent has to talk to donors.
The candidates we're endorsing for other races are seeing similar results.We funded state legislative candidates' entire campaigns through one email. We completely transformed several congressional races because of your generosity.
That's why today I'm endorsing 2 new progressives – Eric Kingson in New York, and Paul Clements in Michigan – and asking you to again support Lucy Flores, Zephyr Teachout, Pramila Jayapal, and Tim Canova in their races for Congress.
After 10,000 people contributed to Chris Pearson, who's running for the Vermont State Senate, his entire campaign was funded. For the whole election! Chris said in response, "What it means for me is now I don't have to spend time asking a small number of donors for big checks."
When you helped raise huge sums of money for Zephyr Teachout's campaign in New York, she was able to cancel her fundraising calls and head out on the picket line with striking workers throughout her district.
Lucy Flores' election is in just one week, and your support for her this spring completely upended her primary. Your support for her today could put her close to victory.
I'm endorsing Eric Kingson for Congress in New York because he led the fight to protect Social Security, and I'm endorsing Paul Clements in Michigan because he can help unseat the leading climate change denier in Congress. I know that we can transform their races too, like we did for Chris, Zephyr, and Lucy.
What we are proving – you and me, sisters and brothers – is that it is possible to take back our country from the billionaire class. It is possible to stop millionaires and billionaires from buying our democracy. And we can do it $27 at a time.
Our movement is so powerful that we can change congressional elections overnight. Let's keep going.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The guide at the bus stop can show the Sequential Stop No

At each bus stop, there is a panel showing all the bus services that serve that bus stop. Here is an example of the information on service 857. The image is not clear, so you have to accept my description below.

If the commuter takes this service and wish to alight at Raffles Hotel, the guide indicate that the distance is 13.2 km from the current stop.

It will be useful for the sequential stop number for Raffles Hotel to be shown, e.g. Stop No 34 (according to

When the passenger board the bus at this stop, the sequential stop number displayed in the bus will show Stop No 15.

As the bus moves along the journey, the Stop No will increase by 1 at each stop. The passenger will know when to alight the bus, i.e. when the Stop No is 34. He does not need to know the landmark. He can also alight at the correct stop when it is dark at night or raining.

Do not miss these two talks

Here are two useful talks that consumers should NOT miss.

Talk on Financial Planning
How to avoid investment scams

Many consumers are BLUR about investing. They end up investing in the bad financial products that lock up their savings from many years, and give them a poor return. Worse, they may lose half or more of their savings !

Many investors who were caught had this regret - they wish that they had spent the time to learn about investing, so they would not fall into this mistake.

Why take this risk? Invest 3 hours to educate yourself on how to invest and what to avoid.

NTUC Income reduces its bonus

Dear Mr. Tan
NTUC Income is cutting its bonus. Is it justified?

I received a statement from NTUC Income that showed the performance of the investment fund to be as follows:

Year 2013 2014 2015
Investment Return 1.63% 5.45% 1.79%

The average return for the past 3 years is 2.96%. This is quite low. If NTUC Income were to maintain its current bonus, it needs to earn an investment return close to 5% (my guess). So, if the actual return is below this target rate over a few years, they will have to reduce their bonus.

I suspect that the other life insurance companies face the same problem and will also have to reduce their bonus as well.

However, policyholders may have to look at this issue from another angle.

When an insurance company reduce its bonus due to a difficult investment environment, they should also reduce their operating expenses, especially the top management salaries. It is unfair for the policyholders to suffer a cut in bonus while the top managers continue to enjoy high salaries. 

I do not know if the insurance company is reducing its operating expenses, but I suspect that they are not paying attention to this issue.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Engage a building surveyor to inspect the property

Ten years ago, my friend took over the possession of his executive condo unit. They found many defects in the unit. Many owners of the other units in the condo faced the same issue. They had a difficult time in getting the defects rectified by the developer and the contractor.

The underlying problem is shoddy workmanship, especially with poorly trained workers from third world countries. Sadly, this is the state of the construction industry at that time. It seemed that the situation has not improved.

From the other side, a developer told me that the owners are too demanding. They should not expect the workmanship to be 100% perfect. There will be inherent defects in materials. Where do we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable quality of work?

I can understand why the owners are so demanding. They have paid a large sum of money to buy the condo unit. Naturally, they expect the quality to be better, to reflect the high price that they had paid.

I recall buying my first 5 room HDB flat in 1975. The quality of the workmanship was poor. But I only paid $35,000 for the flat. We did not give any trouble to the HDB over the workmanship. We accept the flat, with its defects, and engage a contractor to rectify them.

Back to the challenge faced by owners, developers and contractors in 2016.

A building surveyor told me that he is offering a service to inspect the property on its handling over. Being a professional in the field, he knows what to look out for, and what are acceptable and unacceptable standards of work. He can help the owner to file a report on the unacceptable defects that have to be rectified.

This approach makes sense. The owner is not an expert in building construction. He does not know what is acceptable and what is not. He does not know what to look out for. The surveyor carries out this work regularly. It will be easy for him.

I do not know how much fee is being charged by the building surveyor. For an apartment, a fee of (say) $300 should be reasonable. The work involved could take up to 2 hours, including the writing of a report.

The developer and contractor may also welcome the work of the building surveyor.  It is better than meeting the demands of the over demanding owners.

Confusing and messy taxi fare system

Conversation with a taxi driver who has been driving for 10 years.

Taxi - The surcharges are causing misunderstanding with the passengers.

TKL - Why? The taxi fare, including the surcharges are shown on the meter and a receipt can be printed for the passenger. The passenger will accept the receipt as official.

Taxi - The CBD surcharge is entered by the taxi driver manually. Some passenger thinks that the taxi driver is trying to add an unauthorized charge to fare. I have encountered some unpleasant disputes.

Taxi - on a few occasions, I picked a passenger outside the CBD without any surcharge. The passenger was angry that several of the taxis earlier refused to stop and pick them. He had to wait for a long time. So, he vent their anger on me. Why don't you scold the taxis who did not pick up. They were the one that kept you waiting. Why scold me?

TKL - What a confusing and messy system. It is time to revamp the taxi fares and follow the practice in most other countries. Why create a unique taxi fare system that does not work well?

Where is the PM's Municipal Services Office?

Mr. Kong (not his real name) bought a strata unit in an industrial complex. The traffic flow was badly designed. The reflecting mirrors that were installed to warn drivers of approaching vehicles were not functioning correctly. It posed a safety hazard. An accident had occurred.

Mr. Kong sent an email to the Singapore Police Force, the Traffic Police, the Ministry of National Development and the Civil Defence Force to raise this issue.

Why did Mr. Kong have to send this matter to several agencies? I recall that PM Lee set up the Municipal Services Office two years ago to coordinate the work of the agencies that were involved. What happened to this Municipal Services Office? Is it still in existence?

Mr. Kong received a polite reply from two agencies - the standard reply that they send out very quickly. The reply basically says, "We are not responsible for regulating this matter. Please refer to (name of another agency)."

Our civil servants are excellent in avoiding responsibility and in achieving their service standard of giving this kind of prompt reply.

The trouble is - this approach does not solve the underlying problem. Nothing has been done for 3 months to address the safety hazard.

The reply from the Building Control Division, under the Ministry of National Development, is along this line, "We regulates the structural safety of buildings but are not responsible the issue that you have raised. Nevertheless, we have assisted to convey your feedback to the building management and we understand they have taken steps to address the safety issue raised for drivers using building premises."

Apparently, the issue was not addressed after several months.

A better reply from the Building Control Division would have been, "We have discussed this issue with the management committee of the building. They agreed to change the mirrors and will get this done by (date)".

If the Building Control Division studies the issue and agrees that there is a safety hazard, they can convey their view to the management committee. Their view will be taken seriously by the management committee and the matter will be resolved quite quickly. BCD could take the position that they are responsible for the "safety of the building" and not just the "structural safety".

We need to change the mindset of our civil servants and the political leaders. If they continue to take the approach of "avoiding responsibility", matters will continue to get worse.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Sell your life insurance policy for a higher surrender value

A policyholder can lose a large sum of money if they have to surrender the policy before the vesting of any additional non-guaranteed value, such as the case of Mrs Tan shown here.…/-Policyholders-faced-a-big-risk-in-non-gu…

However, the policyholder can get a higher surrender value by selling it to an investment company which is able to pay a higher surrender value and wait a few years for the vesting of the additional non-guaranteed value.

See here:

Bernie Sanders continues to raise funds for progressive lawmakers

Sisters and Brothers,
When we started our campaign, we had the support of hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters beginning to build the movement that we know today.And the first member of Congress who saw the potential of our political revolution was Congressman Raúl Grijalva.
Raúl was the very first member of Congress to endorse our campaign, and he did so proudly. He is a progressive leader in Congress who's not afraid to stand up to the political establishment.
And now, as we enter the final primaries of the campaign, I will be campaigning in California with my friend Raúl Grijalva by my side once more. He is the exact kind of progressive hero we need in Congress, and that's why, with the polls so close, I need to ask you to help us win.
When we faced some of the most disingenuous attacks in our primary, it was Raúl who was out in front with the media to defend our campaign. It was Raúl who helped organized young Latinos in states across the country. And it's Raúl's solid progressive vision that we need to continue to have in Congress.
Every single poll in California shows it's going to be extremely close. That's why Raúl is spending the last days before this primary right by my side, earning every vote we can.
We need your help now to win California, and Raúl needs your help to win his re-election to Congress in November.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

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