Saturday, February 11, 2017

Singaporean fascinated with Iran

Hi Mr. Tan

I just returned from Iran and were taken surprise by the country, which is vilified by the Western Press and fed to the Singapore readers.

Iran turns out to be safest country in the Middle East. No military or Police personnel at Tehran Khomeni International Airport, named after the Imam who abolished the Iranian Monarchy in the 1979 revolution. No soldiers either at MRT stations, cinemas and shopping areas also.

The Iranian Govt pay particular attention to safety of air passengers by insisting passengers and luggage to go thru security twice before boarding. Female passengers are subjected thru bodily checks by female Immigration officials. And foreign tourists are free to roam the country without obstruction.

But getting visa approval took us about a month online, Singaporeans are among select countries to collect visas upon arrival.
The only sign of security are soldiers and police guarding Govt Admin buildings and the Jewellery Museum showcasing the Crown jewels of various Persian Kings and the last Iranian Monarch, with Crown Rubies and emeralds weighing 180 carats.

Every tourist is dazzled by the extravagant glitter on display. The luxurious Palaces of various Kings are just as magnificent and dazzling.

The various mosques in the various cities among the best, if not the best in the world in architecture and decoration. Almost every Iranian could understand English, as Parsi language, and a small section of Arabic, and English are taught in schools. With 60% female enrolment, women are treated with respect, as stated in the Koranic teachings of Prophet Mohamed. Women work as guides, university lecturers, bus drivers, and almost all professions. And only the very wealthy could afford more than one wife.

The Shiite Sect of Islam is the original religion as set by Prophet Mohamed and his nephew Ali, and very liberal in outlook and treatment of women, as long as women cover their head, arms and legs, with scarves hiding only half their hair is acceptable, after which the women are allowed to live as they like, even cohabiting with their men is quietly permitted.

And surprisingly even, the 4 religions of Zoroastrism, Islam, Judaism and Armenian Christianity coexist together in whole districts, with the people entering each other's mosques, temples and churches of worship freely, with great respect towards all religions.

You do not see Muslims entering churches in Singapore, as they follow the strict Sunni sect, a break away sect by Ali's descendants. As surprise, surprise, only less than 20% of Iranian Muslims in Tehran go to the moques, buy they pray at home maybe once a day.

And surprise of all surprises, Iran is much colder than many European countries, just imagine heavy snowing in the deserts.

Many foreign tourists, including from Europe fell sick touring Iran, or on the plane journey back home, with one woman being offloaded the plane before take off. Lucky for us DIY tourists, we brought 3 sets of thermal wear, wollen sweaters and socks, thick boots and waterproof long winter jackets.

And another surprise, the toilets are the squat type, so practise half squatting first for women folks.

Another surprise, the Iranians groom and dress themselves well, with women having perfect make up all day. So women folks, make up and dress well if you dun want to look like scarecrows in comparison.

Another surprise, we met many China tour groups from China, Hongkong and Taiwan, so fellow Singaporeans, be more adventurous, do not be frogs in a well, sticking to developed countries. The ancient Persian monuments of Persepolis and Minneapolis built by Persian Kings would take your breathe away. All UNESCO rated.

For all the animosity between USA and Iran, the Iranians still receive American tourists, still worship the US$. And when Trump signed on prohibiting entry into US for some Muslims, including Iranians, there was a big American flag at the airport entry, for every one to step on. But we stepped on the side, out of respect for any country's flag, not love for the Yankies.

Of course, the shopping at the bazaars for local handcrafts is mind boggling.

And last but not least, NS for every young male is obligatory, but you can abstain but the punishment is not jail term, you can't apply for a passport to travel abroad and you can't apply a driving licence, so almost 100% of males do NS, but if you are wealthy, you could buy yourself out by paying only equivalent of 5,000 Euros, or a male can be let off if he has to support his divorced mother, so the Prophet's teaching of "Heaven lies under the feet of mothers" holds true here.

A conclusion - Iran is fascinating, a tolerant, liberal Society, also pragmatic and flexible country, when a long queue forms at the ladies, the men would invite all female tourists to enter the Gents, imagine both men and women queuing together to pee. And Iran is an Islamic country. This is the best time to visit Iran, before it becomes commercialized and touristy.

Take not the hotels could be 5 star type, about US 180 per night, as luxurious as those in developed countries. Try the desert hotels right in the middle of the desert, ranging between 4 and 5 star type. Cuisine is European and Middle eastern and North Indian type, very healthy with raw salads for all 3 meals, not oily and spicy type, quite bland, but very sour, esp the salads, so we sprinkle on sugar and home brought Chilly sauce.

Try Iran at least once in your lifetime, best season to visit is Spring, we went in January to participate in a World Convention.

We now learn to take the Western MSM prejudiced reports on any country with a pinch of salt, with family members brainwashed by the West, pouring scorn on paying Iran a visit, we shrugged and said "Why Not".

By the way, Iran is promoting Tourism, the slogan is "Friendly Faces, Open Arms, Ancient Culture, Timeless Charms", all summed up aptly with no exaggeration.

Singapore Airlines is losing ground?

I received this message from a Singaporean.

Dear Mr. Tan, 

I have been been wondering why Emirates able to overtake SIA so shortly a time in premium air travel. The Iran trip to attend a world Convention gave us the perfect opportunity to try out Emirates, which is not the cheapest airline to fly, compared to Turkish Airlines and Qatar Air.

The winning formula below which SIA should watch out for: 
1)  The win win collaboration between Quantas, the safest Airline in the world with no air accident to date, and Emirates.   You could fly from Brisbane to London direct, transitting through Singapore, Dubai and Tehran, then straight to London, a 22 hrs journey.
2)  Ease of booking seats on Emirates Website. You could choose the good seats during booking with a $30 extra fee.
3)  Emirates really know how to please their customers, we booked 3 months ahead, and some days before we fly, they emailed us to offer business class seats in exchange for our economy seats, paying only S$220 more from Singapore to Tehran, a journey about 12 hours with transit time. We grabbed the chance, then 2 days  before departure, they emailed us to offer S$211 more for the return journey back to Singapore, again we grabbed the seats, with seats that reclined to 45 degrees to have a good overnight sleep. Before disembarking whether at transit at Dubai or arrival at Tehran, the air stewards formed 2 lines and greeted all  First and Business Class passengers, making you feel like Royalty.
4) The food  was good, and you could have wines if you like.

I have attended annual SIA shareholders' meeting. I can see the Chairman and Board of Directors are far too old and not savvy to handle international competition from newcomers Middle eastern airlines, very difficult to teach old  dogs new tricks.

Upon my return,  I decided to sell off our SIA share holdings. Just like SPH, the GLCs are slowly losing the competition.  There is no new blood from the commercial sector to head them.

SIA should watch out for before Temasek would sell out our National Airline like NOL.

Budget 2017 - what are the sacred cows?

I am presenting a paper at the Maruah forum on Budget 2016. I will talk about GST, CPF, HDB, Health care and Tax rate. I will look at the broad issues before dealing with specific changes in Budget 2017.

My talk will deal with the problems with these sacred cows, and how they have led to a high cost of living and the bad state of affairs in Singapore today.

I will not talk about the small tweaks that the finance minister will be making to a flawed system.
Do attend the talk by registering here:

Maruah Forum on Budget 2017

I am giving a presentation at this forum on my views on Budget 1027.  I have to cancel a trip to Muah, Johor, to be at this forum. 

I hope to see many of you at the Forum on Saturday 25 February. 2 to 5 pm.  The event will be streamed live for those who cannot attend. But attending at the forum is more fun.


Bad practice of Standard Chartered Bank

My fixed deposit with Standard Chartered Bank was due for renewal. I wanted to renew it online or through the telephone.

The relationship manager (RM) told me that there is a complicated process to fill up an renewal form and submitted documents for identification. It was supposed to meet some MAS regulation (I don't know if this was true). She said that it would be easier if I visited the branch.

I know what they wanted to do. They wanted the customer to visit them so they can sell some financial product to the customer.

This is the state of affairs in our banks. This is how many customers were unsuspecting sold the bad products.

My fixed deposit is now sitting in the current account earning 0% interest rate, waiting for me to visit the bank.

I wonder if MAS is aware about this practice, and if they feel it to be their duty to prevent this kind of bad practice?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Donald Trump speaks to Xi Jinping

President Donald Trump (of USA) has spoken to President Xi (of China) by telephone.

It is time for PM Lee to speak to President Donald Trump, in view of the close relations between Singapore and US.


President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke by phone, according to the White House.

In the call, the first since Trump took office, the two leaders discussed "numerous topics," and Trump committed to honoring the "One China" policy at Xi's request.

The call was described as "extremely cordial," and the readout released by the White House said "representatives of the United States and China will engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest."

The two leaders also extended invitations to meet in their respective countries.

GST is inefficient and wasteful

My Starhub bill has the following legend at the bottom:

GE - Exclusive of GST
GI - Inclusive of GST
GZ - GST Zero rated

I do not know what they mean, and do not pay any attention to them.

There are many items in the bill, and each item has to be coded with.

GST has become a MONSTER. It is so complicated. Just imagine the millions of transactions that have to be coded each day and to be accounted.

It is an accounting and administrative nightmare. It is so wasteful. It adds to the cost of doing business.

The consumers are confused. They don't know what these items mean. Anyway, they don't pay attention.

There are better ways for the government to collect revenue. GST is an inefficient and costly method.

Zero productivity growth for 5 years

Here is a comment about the growth target set in the Committee for the Future Economy (CFE) report:

UOB’s senior economist, Alvin Liew, noted that the target of 2 to 3 per cent growth is a “significant markdown” from the 3 to 5 per cent target set previously in the ESC.

“In the past, the 3 to 5 per cent was to be supported by 1 to 2 per cent labour supply growth and 2 to 3 per cent labour productivity growth. Although we managed the former, our labour productivity grew an average of zero per cent since the 2011 General Election.

"The CFE's GDP target thus lowers public expectations and implies 1 per cent labour supply growth with a 1 to 2 per cent labour productivity growth, which is much more manageable,” he said.

Question: Why did our productivity growth averaged 0% for the past five years? Is it due mainly to the influx of low wage workers from other countries? Does it reflect that our business processes are inefficient, leading to unproductive work?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Government takes the lead

I respect the UK government for taking a lead in addressing this tricky issue.

Britain plans to introduce new insurance rules to ensure victims of accidents involving self-driving cars are compensated quickly in a bid to remove a major obstacle for the nascent industry. The introduction of self-driving cars has been hampered by legal hurdles in several countries as insurers and legislators try to establish who would ultimately be responsible in the event of an accident. The British government wants to encourage the development and testing of autonomous driving technology to build an industry to serve a market it reckons could be worth about 900 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) worldwide by 2025.

Our government officers should also have the courage to address this issue.

Nice letter to President Xi

It's nice and constructive for President Trump to send this letter.

U.S. President Donald Trump sent a letter to China's President Xi Jinping on Wednesday saying he looked forward to working with him "to develop a constructive relationship" that benefits both countries, the White House said in a statement. The letter also thanked Xi for his congratulatory note on Trump's inauguration and wished the Chinese people a prosperous Year of the Rooster, the statement said. China's Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

I wonder why PM Lee did not send a letter to President Xi on the detention of the Terrexes?

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Allow members to withdraw all their CPF at 55

Many people want to get their CPF money back at 55. The government wants to delay their withdraw to 65 and also to force them to invest in CPF Life.

I support those who want back their CPF at 55 should be allowed to take out their CPF.

Here are my reasons, and a word of caution.…/CPF-members-should-be-allowed-to-take…

Thomson View apartmemnt for rental

Thomson View apartment for rental. High floor. 2 bedroom, $2,300 p month. Full condo facilities. Available now. Details here.

Weekly bus occupancy numbers will help LTA and public

Published in Straits Times Forum Page, 4 February 2017

The business model where the Government takes care of the financial responsibilities of operating the public transport services is one that I support.

This allows the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to run the train and bus services without having to worry about the bottom line for each individual service.

However, it will have to face the challenge of managing public expectations and perceptions.

If the services are crowded, the public will expect more trains and buses to run. If the services are not well-utilised, the LTA might be tempted to reduce the frequency, but the public might complain about longer waiting times.

The LTA could help the public and itself by monitoring and publishing the weekly occupancy of each bus service.

If the public is aware of the actual occupancy numbers, they will better understand the need to increase or reduce the capacity for each service.

This data will also be useful for the LTA to change the capacity to meet the changing demand.

I hope that the LTA will consider doing this.

Tan Kin Lian

Sell repossessed goods at big discount

My friend, who owns a warehouse that is rented to small business owners, told me that business is very bad but this warehouse is full.

Many tenants placed their goods in the warehouse, but they went bankrupt. They do not bother to claim back the goods. He has to take a court order and wait for a few months before be could take over and sell the goods.

He has a container of 1,000 shoes imported from China. He does not know how to get rid of these shoes. Nobody is interested in them.

I suggested that he should sell them online at a big discount from their normal selling price.

His predicament solved a mystery that baffled me for a long time. I have seen HDB shops that are not renovated but are used to sell items at big discounts. These items must have come repossessed by the warehouse owner or the bank, and have to be disposed at heavily discounted prices.

Invest in property

If you are considering to invest in a property for rental, watch this short video:

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