Thursday, August 02, 2012

How not to open an accounts with AmBank?

Date - Aug 2, 2012 (Thursday)
Time - about 130pm
Place - Johor Bahru, Jalan Wong Ah Fook Branch
Attended by Shirley (personally) and Mr Tan Hiang Tak (Michael) (by phone) - District Manager, Southern District 4

My intention - to open a savings account to be used to service a housing loan

What did I bring to the bank? I brought myself, Malaysian identity card (I/C), Malaysian passport and money.

After Shirley reviewed my docs, she asked me why I need to open an account in Johor Bahru (JB) when the address on the I/C shows that I am from Kuala Lumpur (KL).

I told her I am working and staying in Singapore and have just entered into an option to buy a property in JB. She then asked me for work permit or Permanent Resident card or any document to prove that my place of residence is in Singapore.

I asked her why the need to show that I am residing in Singapore. She told me that it would not be appropriate for someone with a KL address to open an account in JB. So I ask why not?

I offered some possible resolutions to our impasse. I offered her my lawyer's details for her to confirm my intention. She said no. I asked Shirley whether she could talk to AmBank loan officer who is currently reviewing my loan request. She said no again.

My mind is trying to find a single possible valid reason for someone staying in Jurong being refused to open a bank account in Tampines.

Is it because the Malaysian banks' computer systems are not fully linked? Are they worried that a "naughty" customer would be able to open accounts all over Malaysia and they could not cross check each other branch's database? (By the way, I wish to reiterate that I am trying to open a savings account and not a current account. It is very difficult to cheat someone with a savings account.)

She added that I could come AGAIN on another day with perhaps, my utility bill (for example) showing my name against the address.

I asked to see the Branch Manager. I was told he is not around. I asked to speak to him over the phone. I was duly connected to a Michael Tan. I appealed to him for a waiver. He said he is unable to yield to my request and offered to ask Shirley to send an email to their Head Office for permission. I was asked to wait for the request to go through.

I waited for ONE hour.

At the end of that one hour, Shirley informed me that Head Office has turned down my request.

What am I seeking in this open letter?
a) Please explain the need for proof of residence or some other docs to support why one need to open an account in a certain location.

b) What is your standard response time for Head Office to reply to an email request from a branch?

I am really curious to learn the reason for this requirement. The requirement for proof of residence is so important to the Bank that they could reject your request to open an account. This open letter could also many other prospective customers to understand your policy.

I actually went straight to my lawyer and duly informed him to inform future Malaysians staying in Singapore to bring their respective proof of residence.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mr Koh Yong Guan, may I have your view please?

the innovation after many incidents
Dear Mr Koh,

Good morning to you. As my basic intention is for reliable, safe and affordable public transport system, thus I presented the following for your review and action.

I cite from BT today. "SMRT chairman Koh Yong Guan told shareholders at the group's annual general meeting yesterday: "We do not see running an efficient and reliable MRT system and running SMRT profitably as a public company as contradictory.
"All leading public transport operators in the world strive for the same objectives, even though our market structures and revenue models may differ."

Edgar - May I say that the fact that our market structures and revenue models may differ from others could have contributed to the tension between being a public transport operator and meeting shareholders' aspiration?

I cite again. "We do not see the need to change our dividend policy for now," said Mr Koh.

Edgar - Well you have assured your shareholders who are concerned whether they will get their dividend. Actually as a part-time MRT commuter, I am thinking of whether to become a shareholder and collect the dividend.

I cite again. "Mr Koh committed to doing more in the way of beefing up SMRT's operational and engineering competence in running its rail systems."

"Moreover, two big-ticket capex projects within the $900 million spending programme have been brought forward."

Edgar - Mr Koh, we thank you for the commitment to deliver to your future commuters/"customers".

I cite again. "Already, because of the December disruptions, SMRT has spent $4.4 million on legal and professional fees."

Edgar - May I have more details on the expenses? Should these expenses been incurred before the occurrence of disruptions and the Capex had been done earlier, could the disruptions have been avoided? If so, these additional expenses would have lowered the profit of previous years? Performance review of key officers and the Board could have been different?

I cite again. Mr Koh, on the constitution of the Board, "More (board) members with technical experience will be added to SMRT's Trains Board, he said. It was started within SMRT last October, populated with engineers to scrutinise operational and maintenance issues.

Edgar - Mr Koh, the Board should be applauded for this initiative to bring into Board expertise on operational and maintenance issues. But should we consider "replaced" instead "added"?

I cite again. "SMRT, Singapore's largest rail service operator, committed to the massive renewal programme in the wake of two major train disruptions last Dec 15 and 17, which affected over 220,000 passengers."

Edgar - Mr Koh, can SMRT do something more tangible to the more than 220,000 passengers who were affected by the disruptions? Singtel took away 4 minutes of our joys that built up over 8 months. One month's subscription waiver was granted to those affected. Yes the SMRT Board, LTA and the Minister have apologised and the ex-CEO have resigned. You have addressed the future customers, the shareholders, can SMRT do something for the affected past customers?

Mr Koh, thank you for reading.

Reference - Business Times, July 13, 2012.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Marketing in a Digital & Cross-Cultural World

our dining place
Evolution of communication models started with one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many models. Just when you thought this is as complex as it could be, the customers that these organisations and marketers are only TALKING TO initially, started to TALK BACK even when they are NOT being "talked to". Nowadays organisations have to utilise technologies to crawl all corners of the virtual world for any mention, comments and feedback about your organisation and your products and services. We are now living in a world where your listeners, customers, constituents etc TALK BACK to/at you.

In the discussion of marketing in "Second Life", organisations are using the virtual worlds to perform their study of possible human reactions to simulated situations. The use of Avatars provides some sort of "out of body" experience to some individuals. One study uses a handsome / beautiful avatar to represent a less-than proportionate human to conduct business discussion in the virtual world. These beautifully-avatared-individuals are observed to have done very well in these discussions. The more surprising thing is that the positiveness and confidence developed in virtual world are carried on into their real life. An aspect for further study by psychologists?

Why did Phillips decide to sell the TV business to Chinese? Hypothesis - Selling TV is a sunset biz 'cos people don't want or don't need to watch the same programme at the same time together no more. Entertainment has become very personalised using Tablets, laptops etc. We watch what we want to watch at our own time and convenience.

Consumers are prepared to be "fair" ie. pay $1 to download a song that could be used across a few platforms. But people are not prepared to pay for the whole album. The definition of "fairness" differs across individuals and organisations. People don't want to cheat if they can.

Social media can amplify positives and negatives. But on occassions, malicious videos about your organisations or your product/service could be made and placed on Youtube. But we could also have a real issue between an organisation and a customer which exploded into a major publicity nightmare. David Carroll made a satirical song about United Airlines breaking his guitar while being transported. The video was viewed by 11.9 millions people. (

G1, G2 and G3 population profile in Malaysia
It is observed that the Chinese Newspaper subscriptions are holding steady over the years. These newspapers are mainly read by the first generation of immigrants from China, G1. G2, the children of G1, are mostly educated in the British education system with English being the primary medium of instruction. G3, being the children of G2, are encouraged to rediscover their roots and also to achieve multi-lingual capabilties to ensure releavant in an increasingly gloabalised world.

What have you won?

One friend said democracy and true support won at the end of the day. He posted a picture of the victorious candidate at the back of "winning chariot" lorry, depicting grit, courage and victory in David vs Goliath battle. Another friend is still questioning the integrity of the man who has just been elected.. To my second friend, the victorious one has technically "misled" the electorate when he fumbled over a response on whether he did or did not withdraw his name from the ballot. His supporters labelled it as an attempt at assassinating his character. To his opponents and even the neutrals, such acts are normal projectiles going back and forth between opposing camps. Is it not part of rings of fire that competing candidates must go through for the electorate to know which is the better candidate?

Two men came and asked for your hand. One has a Christian name with the necessary credentials, strong blood line and expensive gifts from his land of plenty, IF you accept his hand of marriage. The other chap, his supporters called "Huat ahhhh", was brought in from the seaside district to woo you. He promised to work hard for you with all his sincerity. The fair maiden gave her heart to the latter despite all his shortcomings. The vanguished called the maiden, "You are special.." When people said you are special, I am not sure whether it is a compliment or otherwise. Is love really blind and blinding? Did the best man win?

A third opinion I read about the election is the most interesting. Whoever win must be good for Singapore, first and foremost.

When the result was announced, majority cheered and the minority licked their wound.

May I ask the majority of the enclave, what exactly have you won?

To intervene or not?

these 3 cars dare to anyhow park with no regard to safety
I spent my Friday with my old friends on a tiny 9-hole golf course in the middle of Johor. During dinner, an interesting series of exchanges ensued when I said US is moving towards more interventionist attitude after the free-market-created property busts crisis in 2007-2009.

My learned friend responded that it was interventionist attitude that had sparked off the crisis. The US government (can't remember led by which  president) came out with ideal cum ideal that encouraging home ownership is good for the country. That ideal led to the creation of Fannie May and Freddie Mac supporting home ownership with liberal home loans. Even people with no income "benefitted" from home ownership. This injection in funds into the property sector led to property price increase, initiating second mortgages and consequently the bubble burst. (Singapore too has a policy to encourage home ownership as part of its plan to encourage Singaporeans taking a stake in the nation's future.) The home ownership ideal may caused the crisis but did anyone count the gains from that same ideal eg. lower crime rate.)

I had not verified this line cause-and-effect proposed by my learned friend but it certainly sounds like something out from Freakonomics' philosophy.

We proceeded to discuss on Obama's victory in Court to ensure every American's right to be insured. I felt that it is good for the country not to saddle the government with more future costs by transferring the costs of servicing 30 millions Americans' healthcare to the collective mass of its citizens. We certainly do not wish US doing ala-IrishGreece.

My learned friend said Obama Care is bad for the economy as this interventionist move to force insurance on every American would raise the costs of hiring and retaining labour. American businesses hesitate in hiring more given the uncertainties.

My learned friend concluded the night's discussion that US would be in their glory if they allow free market to persist as per 1970s to 1990s. ( My quick retort was that US deficits and debt levels shot up higher during those years too. Based on my vague memory of US' statistics on this front.)

My final remark - In everything in life, there would be at least two sides to a story. But we always remember.. Every action, regardless of whether with good or bad intention, has a reaction.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Prof. Lim, have you lost your marbles?

Singapore, as we plan
On April 10, 2012, on the front page of Straits Times, Professor Lim Chong Yah (still proud to say I had the privilege of being your student) presented his "Economic Restructuring II" (ER II) ie. to raise the salary of those $1,500 or less by 50% over 3 years.

With the exception of a single vocal union member (and perhaps thousands of silent members) who called the ER II as a "real morale booster" and "long overdue", every notable senior member of establishment who came forward voiced their objection in various degrees of politeness.

The first off the block was Mr Lim Swee Say when he said on April 14, 2012, "This approach is VERY risky. What is at stake are jobs and structural unemployment." 

Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan warned of the consequences of pushing up wages ahead of productivity by using the analogy of injecting too much hormone into a person. For more examples of words against Prof Lim's proposal, please read 

On May 1, 2012 being May Day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has put in what employers hope will be the final word on Professor Lim's controversial proposal. Mr Lee said while he appreciate his good intentions and share his concern over this group of workers, he clearly and unequivocally said he does not agree with his drastic approach. Again he echoes the need for wages and productivity to go up in tandem.

PM Lee surprisingly questioned the relevance of National Wage Council's (NWC) existence as wages are no longer dictated by the NWC. Wages today are determined by the forces of globalisation and technology, something beyond the control of the tripartite committee. Could the end of NWC be near?

To demonstrate that the low-wage conundrum is NOT simply resolved by unilaterally raising their salaries, PM Lee presented three strategies that Singapore will exercised.

First, Singapore will remain open to the world and to business, by supporting free trade and investments, and striking a balance between foreign and local workers while seeking the "maximum advantage" for Singapore and Singaporeans. The second strategy is to keep growing the economy, restructure it to stay competitive, encourage companies and workers to boost productivity, and share the fruits of growth. Third, growth must be translated to higher wages, with special attention paid to low-wage workers who are most affected by globalisation and inflation. (Unquote)

Just two days after PM Lee's speech to the unions on May Day, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has proposed to the NWC that "workers be given a minimum dollar amount as an increment to their basic pay - instead of getting it as a one-off payment" to beat inflation. A big gasp disbelief when I read that!!! Do they not get it that any pay increase without a corresponding productivity improvement is just a short term solution!!! But then, the proposed increase is definitely smaller than the quantum as proposed by Prof Lim.

My views
Despite the last part of perhaps a bit of shooting themselves in the foot, I am curious as to why Prof. Lim, a man of the establishment himself, would come forward and spark a debate in which he ended up defending singly against the rest of the establishment. I honestly do not think you have "lost your marbles".

Perhaps this is a new strategy of the establishment to bring their thinking/deliberation process in policy formulation into the open for all to see. Perhaps the debate over last few week represents a need to openly demonstrate to certain constituents that their concerns are seriously being considered. But the debate clearly demonstrates that we still have a problem with the low wage workers, inflation, rising costs to SME, etc.

While Prof. Lim may be credited with the "successful" wage restructuring between 1979 and 1981, perhaps he should just be like all heroes, get on the horse and ride towards and fade into the sunset.   

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Open letter to HP Singapore Customer Service

Dear HP Singapore Management Team,

I wish to raise some issues for your response.

Situation - Sent in desktop for repair on Feb 17,2012. Collected on Tuesday (I think). The repair costs about $101.65. I was told I could not pay using Credit Card. I was told that I should have been informed to bring cash. Just when I was about to pay, the customer besides me asked and was told he could pay using credit card. I was puzzled. So I asked why the other customer can pay with credit card and I could not.

You noticed I am being about the details as the service documents have been taken from me when I collected my complimentary car park pass. (I think).

I was told about my desktop being another entity with a very strange sounding name. That entity has not installed the credit card machine yet.

1. Should a customer be informed that the equipment will be serviced by an external party even though it was collected by HP? I thought I was dealing with HP. I found out later that the entity was "Jabil Circuit (Singapore) Pte Ltd.

2. I am concerned as to how I am being charged for service rendered by an external service provider as compared to being serviced by HP. There is a difference in profit motivation and incentive motive here.

3. Is there a recording of the telephone conversation on the repair? I thought I had agreed to a lower service cost when I talked to the engineer.

4. HP has a practice of imprinting the service fees AFTER the customer had signed on the form.

5. Should third party supplier's name appear on HP documentation? Should third party credit card machines appear in HP service centre? Even if it is for accounting convenience, should the customer be inconvenienced?

6. I had wanted to raise my concern with the Service Manager at that point in time. But after waiting for about 10 mins, I was told that the Manager was not available and will contact me later. Till today, I am still waiting for the call.

7. I googled for an email address to privately address with HP on my concerns. But apparently, there is no channel for service quality issues. There are plenty of channels for sales, marketing and repair questions.

And thus this open letter to attempt to solicit a response.

Good day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

DBS Bank, what had happened exactly?

Dear DBS Bank,

I am writing with regard to the fraudulent ATM withdrawals as experienced by some 400 of your DBS/POSB accounts holders.

Between 4-5 Jan, there were postings circulating in Facebook telling us to go check our accounts as some people have found unauthorised withdrawals from their accounts. I usually dismissed such messages with much thought.

But on Jan 6, DBS Bank officially acknowledged the occurrence of such incidents and state that DBS Bank is prepared to make good any money illegally withdrawn from the accounts. The 400 affected customers who lost about $500,000 through unauthorised withdrawals were fully compensated within 24 hours of the incident. My sincere congratulations to this speedy decision and action that could have prevented a massive hysteria leading to a run on the bank. I guess when the decision was made to reimburse any losses suffered, the magnitude of damage may be seen to be limited.

On Jan 11, Piyush Gupta (DBS Bank's CEO) came forward to apologise officially for the inconvenience and anxiety caused. I will congratulate DBS Bank again for successfully managing the post-incident activities with aplomb. But I hope this apology from the top dog, does not signify the winding down and closure of an "unfortunate inconvenience".

I have a couple of concerns for your consideration.

Firstly, does DBS Bank's responsibility to compensate affected account holders limited at the amount illegally withdrawn? I heard, over the radio, of this nurse, in her early twenties, in a hysteria state, as she expressed her emotional stress experienced when she realised that her hard earned money could just disappeared from her account!! We all placed our hard earned money with one bank or another, in good faith. In good faith that a service provider/bank who acts as a custodian of our assets, has put in place sufficient and reasonable level of security measures to protect our assets. This thus lead me to ask the next question - Has DBS Bank put in place sufficient and reasonable level of security measures to prevent occurrence of such illegal withdrawals?

My third question - What has exactly happened? 
On Jan 11, Piyush Gupta reassured us that there was no internal involvement in the incident. While you have confirmed no internal fooling around, I am still pretty hazy as to how a few individuals working from outside the bank applying a relatively low tech/little brain technique of copying data and duplicating cards in a hotel room in Geylang could outwit DBS Bank to the tune of $1million?

Thank you and awaiting your response.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"We have to do better" - not just for SMRT

look to Heaven for answers?
Equipment breaking down and reviewing your maintenance programme is one angle of the whole incident.

But I am more concerned with what you did when an incident happened.
How to manage a crisis when a crisis occurs?

Whoever took charge of that incident and subsequently making those decisions on managing the post-occurrence activities may determine the outcome of an incident with no casualty or catastrophic impact.

Imagine you, in the body of New York Mayor Mr Rudy Giuliani during and after the terrorist attack on Sep 11. Or imagine you are Mr Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. handling the threat of Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown and contaminating half of Japan and its population.

What we had in Singapore recently was 4 trains trapped in the tunnel between Bishan and Marina and another other 100,000 people affected in and around the various stations. We are not in Jakarta managing the disaster in Aceh, thousands of miles away. We are in Singapore managing a situation in the middle of Singapore.

But why does it take more than one hour to get help to those people trapped in the trains? Why do the various stations continue to play only pre-recorded messages? Why are TVs and Radio Stations not helping to alleviate information gap PROMPTLY? Why are our DJs only programmed to entertain? Can our media switch from entertaining mode to crisis management mode? The lack and lag in communication is making nobody wiser but leaving thousands confused and stranded.

Did the station managers and train drivers "froze"? I read about a train commuter talking to the driver. The driver has been trained not to open the train doors with reasons. But is there a point in time at which that instruction should be replaced by another? Apparently no.

After the first 15 minutes of standard off-the-book announcements, do they know what else they can do or should do while waiting for instruction from chain of command? Remember the bus driver who got lost after making a detour and continued to be lost for an hour while being guided by its "Central Command" on the roads of Singapore. He wasn't allowed to take advice from passengers in the bus.

Remember the movie "The Hunt for Red October". The movie demonstrated the tussle to do what is right ie. to sink the Russian submarine which appeared to be threatening US as per Command Centre OR act to treat it as an attempt to defect as per "front liners" in the form of  US CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) and US submarine captain.

I am curious as to the profile of the individual who broke the glass door with a fire extinguisher. Is he a product of Singapore's education system and yet display the guts to do what is right against all fears? Of the 4 trains, only one guy in one cabin took action to get fresh air. He is regarded as a hero now but he could be deemed to be reckless too. I can imagine he would turn green when the train starts to move just moment after he smashed the glass. The bus driver chose to continue to rely on his chain of command for direction for fear of losing his job!

Do we have a fail-safe arrangement? Do we have a Plan B? What if SMRT's command structure  demonstrated paralysis/ineffectiveness in managing the situation? Remember the movie "Armageddon" where Bruce Willis led a group of blue-collar deep-core drillers sent by NASA to install and detonate nuclear bombs to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. While NASA was working on getting the drillers onto the asteroid, the government worked on Plan B ie. the possibility that the bombs could be detonated directly and independently from Earth.

Who determines whether SMRT needs help? Do we have a national crisis management team for civilian/commercial (not military hor) situations? Who can SMRT go to to ask for help from other agencies? In Sep 11 post-crisis review, one of the main fault of not anticipating the crisis was inter-agency turf war.

Yes it is difficult. I have asked a lot of questions. My only simplistic answer - "We have to do better."

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to steal and get caught?

Case 1
Plan - Two young men came up with the idea that they can walk into Corporate HQ, buy $500,000 worth of vouchers, pay for it with a cheque and use the vouchers to buy everything they want for a wonderful Christmas.

What are the things they did not think about?
  1. Whose cheque should they use? Take one from your father's or my father's cheque book?
  2. They will walk into Corporate HQ without any costume/disguise as nobody will remember their faces.
  3. The maximum time window they have to use the $500,000 vouchers would be between 4pm today and 2pm on Wednesday assuming Corporate banks in the cheque on Tuesday and the Bank actually inform Corporate that their cheque has been dishonoured on Wed.
  4. They do not have to plan on what are the things that are the most expensive and most portable to buy and carry to their car.
  5. At $2,000 per laptop, they just need to buy 250 laptops from 10 supermarkets. At $100 per can of abalone, we just need to buy 5,000 cans. They don't care whether they have enough stock.
  6. They also don't care about how to convert the merchandise in cash.
  7. They don't have to worry about security cameras located at shopping malls filming their biggest crime of the month.
  8. They will just wait at Hougang and Bukit Batok conveniently for the police to visit them.
  9. They don't need to plan their escape by driving 250 laptops/5,000 cans across the Causeway or get a boat to ferry to them to don't know where.
Merry Christmas
Case 2
Plan - A serial shoplifter bought and collected two Hermes bags worth $67,500 from an online shop. She managed to convince the seller that she has banked in the money.

What are the things that the serial shoplifter did not consider?
  1. The online shop could trace her from the basic information that she has given eg. email address or handphone number or location of delivery.
  2. She could be traced to her IP address.
  3. She just want to know how $67,500 Hermes bags feel like and did not know it is a crime.
  4. Of course, she wasn't thinking about running anywhere.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Physical office is passe

The new term is "collaborative centre". So say Mr Neil Jackson, the Senior Director for Education of Microsoft Asia Pacific. Many years ago, I remembered IBM used the term "hot desking".

Microsoft is busy nowadays reconfiguring its offices. There will be no room for its senior managers no more. The rooms, if any, are configured for 3 persons or 15 people etc to use working intensively on specific projects. When he was in Sydney for several days recently, he just sat on any available chair then and interacted with people around him. The next day, he sat on another chair and interacted with another group of neighbours of the day.

The dynamic of interaction and possibility of collaboration change every day.

Another change in his office life - Previously he spent 70% of his time having physical face-to-face meeting and 30% on video conferencing. Nowadays it is the other way around.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Steven Levitt of Freakonomics, I hear you

$40 for 1.5 hours of Steven Levitt... definitely worth the money!

I will share a couple of stories he mentioned with such aplomb.

Firstly he discussed about a John Solagi, a tax officer with IRS many years ago. John is responsible for checking on tax relief claims. American taxpayers then only need to fill in the name of their children to get $300 relief for each child. John suggested to his supervisor to include the child's social security number (perhaps something like our I/C no.) when filing the tax return. His supervisor hesitated given the tedious bureaucratic process needed to amend the design of the form. After many years of hesitation, the idea was finally put in place. Almost overnight, 7 millions children somehow mysteriously disappeared from tax claims. Apparently, many American taxpayers have been cheating IRS with claims for non-existent children. At $300 per child, John's idea is valued at $2.1 billions a year!

Secondly, Steven said he idolises Alan Greenspan (the former Federal Reserve chairman) as every economist hopes to be a GREAT economist. An economist that is great is when their mistake would cause the financial crisis just like that of in 2007. (He is obviously taking a dig at Alan Greenspan.)

Thirdly, he was having a bit of fun about our casinos. He was told that Singapore citizens and PRs have to pay $100 to enter the casinos as part of Singapore govt's initiative to discourage gambling. He queried why the $100 when Singapore has been very effective in implementing capital punishments!! When he was told that the annual entry fee to casinos is $2,000/-, he remarked that it is certainly very strange for the govt to give a quantity discount for bulk purchase when the objective is to discourage gambling. He would be very interested to analyse the data on the people who actually put themselves on the "SELF EXCLUSION" scheme!!

Fourth story is on his two daughters playing "scissor, paper, stone". He observed that Amanda wins more than 66% of the duels with Anna. So as a curious economist seeking truth in an observed phenomenon, he went and asked Amanda on her formula for success. Amanda said she observed that Anna never repeat her "scissor/paper/stone". Steven then asked Anna for her side of story. Anna said she didn't know she can repeat.

Key remark - He has built his career as an economist and author of Freakonomics on the fundamental need for one to always think and to think differently. He urged all of us to give ourselves some time to think.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Shell says, "Force majeure". What is that?

There was a Fire at Shell's refinery. Refinery damaged and shut down. Shell thus unable to deliver supplies to its customers as per contract. Shell declares, "Force majeure".

It means "greater power" in French where contracting parties seek to walk away from a contract without liabilities due to the occurrence of an event beyond control of both parties.

Can a party unilaterally declare "force majeure"? When is an event beyond control of both parties?

In this case, Shell's customers obviously could not have started the fire or part of the fire fighting team. Thus beyond the event is beyond Shell's customers control.

Shell, the supplier, is possibly claiming that the fire was started by the "greater power" in a multi-billion complex built by human with the greater power of machinery and equipment on a man-made island. Yes for many hours, the fire was beyond control of the fire fighting team.

In conclusion, the FIRE is thus an event beyond the control of both contracting parties and also everybody else on earth.

While I am at it.. can i continue my blabering..  Did the water used to fight the fire also drained uncontrollably into the ocean surrounding Sentosa Cove etc? Can you also seriously believe that the toxidity level of air remained unchanged? Why didn't BP hide behind the term "force majeure" when its underwater pump leaked in the middle of Gulf of Mexico for days? By declaring force majeure, Shell can't claim from its insurers too, right?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Do the numbers on Spore population figures

Dear friends,

Here are the population numbers published today.

a) Overall population increased from 5.08 million in 2010 to 5.18 million in 2011 ie. about 100,000 more people.

we still got seats here
Ed - Can our infrastructures cope with an increase of 100,000 people every year? Yes, MRT increased capacity by removing seats and increase standing capacity? We rent out our HDB flat (some do it illegally) and bunk in with our in-laws.. Traffic jams on our roads.. making a business out of providing accommodation to foreign workers etc etc (Yes.. they are tongue-in-cheek comments.)

b) No. of citizens increased from 3.23 million to 3.26 million ie. about 30,000 new citizen.

Opening balance - 3.23 million
Add - New births ?
Add - New citizens 17,950
Less - Deaths ?
Less - Ex-citizens ?
Closing balance - 3.26 million

Ed - Assuming new births at 37,000 added to new citizen number, it would account for 55,000 gross inflow. Using 2010's figures from Singstat, with no. of deaths is 17,610, are we saying ex-citizens account for 7,000 outflow? How to explain this?

Ed - Assuming every Citizen is in Singapore right now, 37% of residents are non-Singaporeans.

c) No. of PRs down from 541,000 to 532,000 by 9,000.
National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) attributed the fall due to tightened PR policies. Dr Leong of NPTD also attributed the drop to other reasons eg. re-location of corporates, cancellation of "non-residing" PRs etc etc.

d) No. of foreigners who who are working, studying or living here without PR status increased by a massive 7% from 1.31 million to 1.39 million (ie. increase by 80,000)

Ed - Actually the headline should read "7% increase in non-PR residents!!". But we should NOT be surprised by this given the quarterly MOM figures which constantly report significant no. of new jobs created (far in excess of new births/citizens available).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why is this happening?

super structures with declining human spirits?
Dear friends,

I am just catching up on my last few days' newspapers. I would like to share with you three stories, which in my opinion, share similar traits.

First story is about an incident between Ms Rachel Lim and a Caucasian man on a SBS bus. She made a phone call to her daughter. The Caucasian, who was seated across her, came over, tapped on her shoulder and told her to get lost for being noisy. Expletives are alleged to have been vocalised by Caucasian. She threatened to report to police and he encouraged her. On a double-decker bus, she went down to tell the driver. Driver, as per SBS's instruction, stopped the bus and kept the bus "locked" until police arrived. Caucasian was pissed that the bus has stopped (and perhaps getting anxious he could be in trouble) and started to prise open the door after pressing the bell repeatedly. Ms Lim, upon seeing that, put herself between him and the door, to prevent him from leaving. He SLAMMED his body into her. (I guess it would be like a rugby world cup.)

Second story. Mr Ong Thiam Kwee stopped his car without signalling to let his daughter off. Dr Ho King Peng sounded his horn in response to the sudden stop without warning. Mr Ong got out of his car, walked to Dr Ho, gesticulated vigorously and culminating to Mr Ong smashing Dr Ho's windscreen with his right fist.

Third story. Mr Stefan Masuhr, a high-ranking RBS executive in his Bentley, who was alleged to have smashed the windscreen of a Mercedes-Benz, driven by a Mdm Wang, who was alleged to have cut into his lane suddenly and causing him to brake suddenly. Consequently, his 3 1/2 year-old daughter (apparently not wearing seat belt) hit her head on the seat in front of her.

What are the common traits observed in all these incidents?

  • All incidents involved matured adults.
  • All are relatively educated and feisty in letting the other parties know what each party stands for. (Not sure about Mdm Wang. Not much info on her.)
  • The alleged violent parties have "lost it" at the spark of a moment.
  • They all happened in Singapore (obviously.. given my biased sampling.. haha!), a country now noted to be getting crowded and compressed on buses, MRTs and roads.
  • Each party in each incident has their respective concerns at the respective time of incidents. 
The Caucasian man in the bus maybe really trying to tell an annoying woman to respect other people's right to some peace instead of asking other people to listen to her phone conversation. Rachel was running late and could be trying to tame her children over the phone.

Mr Ong may have stopped suddenly as he could have been too preoccupied with finding a safe place to let her daughter alight and thus did not signalled. Dr Ho was possibly trying to remind Mr Ong to signal first before stopping.

Stefan was just enraged when his children got hurt by the sudden cutting of lane without signalling. Again nothing much about Mdm Wang.

Last words on this
I am just wondering whether the bus driver should have opened the bus doors if he/she could sense the situation boiling over. I am hoping that these incidents do not represent a deeper underlying problem that is waiting to escalate. Let's calm down.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

the power of modern women

While queuing to recontract my mobile line, I overhead the conversation between an elderly couple and possibly their daughter. Old man and old were discussing as to which phone to buy as they joined the queue behind me.

Old man (to wife) - Sony phone not so good. We will consider Samsung or HTC. Anyway when you are not using, I can put in my SIM card and use.

Wife - But I have been using Sony.. I am thus comfortable using the functions on Sony phones

Old man - Sony not so good laa..

Wife - You are buying or I am buying? (pissed and walked away)

As the man of the household, he thought he won on the choice of the phone. A few moments later, the wife came back with their daughter (carrying her own child).

Daughter - Pa, if you put in and take out the SIM card to the phone too often, the phone will spoil la. (trying to be diplomatic by giving an excuse) Let Ma buy the phone that she wants and you buy your own phone.

Old man (trying to protest) - But Sony phone not so good...

Daughter (cutting him off) - It is ok, Pa. Mum is more comfortable with Sony. So let her choose.

Old man kept quiet after that.

I guess women in households of our previous generations are more subservient to men. To the extent that we do see women sticking faithfully to obviously lousy husbands for the sake of keeping the family together.

But the women of today are from a completely different orientation. The family dynamics have changed. Can we handle it?

P/S - I may not remember the exact words exchanged.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tribute to Nurses

I was visiting my mum at Serdang Hospital recently. There was this lady in the next bed who kept wailing and yelling for attention, particularly to anyone walking by her bed. I was told she had an accident. Both her legs were broken or fractured and were thus in cast. We were also told she wants some water but not allowed to as she is under observation for something.

We drew the curtain between my mum's and her bed. But she  continued to create so much ruckus. A few moment later, the Malay lady, sitting opposite to my mum's bed, exclaimed to me to help the wailing lady. Nurses ran to her too. In the chaos, I noticed that half her body was off the bed. Apparently she was trying to get off the bed and stand on her casted legs. The Malay lady asked to help the nurses to move the wailing lady back into bed.

As I was standing at the bedside looking at the half naked woman in adult diaper with bandages here and there, I did not know what to do. I wanted to pull her left hand to drag her heavy frame back into bed but hesitated that I may aggravate her injuries.

After checking with the nurses, I pulled her twice but her heavy frame just won't budge. I gave up helping. Why? I find it so so uncomfortable touching someone who is injured, scantily clad and concerned that I may aggravate her injuries. I walked away and leaving the two nurses to fend for themselves.

A few minutes later, peace reigned as the two nurses walked away. The wailing lady was back in bed and sedated. The two nurses have done her job!

I am thankful that I am not doing their job. But I am more thankful that someone is actually doing the nursing job. We were so impressed with the nursing standard at the Malaysian government hospital that we actually gave them a gift to express our appreciation.

It has been more than 20 years since I was last in a Malaysian government hospital for the last few moments of my father. Thank you for the money well spent on Malaysian healthcare. More importantly, thank you for the human angels working in the hospitals.

Rest in peace, mum.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

How to increase revenue?

Here are my observations on how some clever people in the market are doing it.

1. Starhub - The crude and direct way - Just raise the price for each subscriber by a certain percentage and try to justify it by saying something like the costs of content have increased and btw, the last increase was back in 1965.. (just kidding la.. I can't remember the exact year)

2. Singtel - The so smooth way
Firstly, instead of apologising and cutting prices of its various broadband packages (ie. for not being to deliver upload/download speeds most of the time for the respective speed package we are paying for), they are now marketing "Priority Pass".
Secondly, a telemarketer from Singtel called and asked me to pay $1 more for SMS plus and "dun know wat name" services as I am already paying $5 CallerID.
Thirdly, when you sign for the broadband package, you have to sign up for the telephone line too.

3. SIA - Buy the biggest plane the market can provide and assign them to their busiest routes. The latest announced is SIN-LA routes.

4. Milo - add in "Fuze" and price the new thing higher and remove the old Milo.

5. Any other ways that you have observed or experienced?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thai Teen vs SMRT for $3.4m

let's sit back and await the outcome
Nitcharee came to Singapore for a holiday and to study English (which is which?). She fell onto the MRT track at Ang Mo Kio (AMK) station. She lost both her legs.

SMRT has offered $5,000 as compensation but was rejected. Nitcharee's family has instead sued SMRT for $3.4m. The basis of arriving at that figure is 20 pairs of prosthetic legs @$150,000 per pair (est.)

I wish all of us to consider the following. Please note that we do not have access to the details pertaining to the case. The intention here is to encourage us to open our mind as we speculate to consider all possibilities.

Firstly, let's consider whether SMRT is liable for the compensation.

  • Did the train driver follow all operating procedures as it entered into AMK station? 
  • At the correct speed? 
  • Was the driver paying full attention to the track and passengers loitering along the platform as the train rolled into the station? 
  • Did the driver has sufficient time to react when the Thai teen fell onto the track within reasonable man's assumption? Is there a camera on the driver in the driver's compartment? 
  • Is there a "black box" installed on each train (similar to those installed on planes to record data from critical instruments of the plane)? 
  • The details on the station's cameras would also be useful in determining causation.
  • Was the train's equipment and instruments working as per specification (especially the brake)?
  • What is the train driver's background, training records and performance reports to date?
  • Are there supposed to have doors installed in above-ground MRT stations as per Bishan MRT station?

Next, we consider the Thai teen's position.

  • So does the Thai teen has any right to make the claim from SMRT? 
  • Did she faint and fell onto the MRT track as was initially reported? 
  • If she had not fainted, who offered this "faint story" in the first place?
  • SMRT would ask for her complete medical history. Assuming that she has a pre-existing medical condition that might give her occasional fainting spells, should she be travelling and travelling alone?
  • If she did not faint and fell onto the track, then how and why is she on the track? 
  • Was she accidentally bump onto the track by another passenger in a rush on a crowded platform? 
  • Did she slip given the quality of her shoes?
  • Was she carrying anything heavy? 
  • Did she trip on a crack on the platform?
  • Was she in an emotional stress before the incident? Did she wanted to hurt herself given her emotional state at that point in time?
  • Does she know how to use the MRT? 
  • How long was she in Singapore before the incident happened?
  • Or perhaps, is it just an accident? And thus this is an attempt to look for someone who is a big corporate and can definitely afford to pay for some relief for the pain suffered and to allow the girl to lead as normal a life as possible with prosthetic legs?
  • Or is the legal suit an attempt by the teen's family to find out the truth? The suit would compel SMRT to release all pertinent information.

I could go on and on.. I hope I have demonstrated that one should NOT jump at any conclusion as to who is right or wrong. Let's all await for more information.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I have answered many multiple choice questions as part of my profession in my life. There is one question that have eluded me so far ie. to put a "X" on a piece of paper at an election booth.

I went to visit one this morning. At least I can tell people that I have been to one election centre. Many were queueing up to vote. Even people in wheelchairs turned up for the 3-5 minute experience.

I have witnessed another election campaign. This election has definitely been different based on my living memory. The press has been more than fair in their coverage. Thanks goodness we don't see the scandals, rampant mud slingings, legal threats (for now, someone reminded me) and violence that usually accompany other democracies.

We got all kinds of people trying to convince you that they are worthy to represent you in the democratic process. Some are in their twenties without much significant achievement and experience accumulated yet. Probably trying to make a career in politics instead of trying a make it in the private sector. We heard Xia Xue commenting on her close encounter with a political figure. She gave me the impression that she has fallen head over heels over the political figure. Who said the ruling party cannot relate to Gen Y? But it would certainly take a lot of effort when you need to get a ministerial level political figure to sit down, to listen and to engage with 2 or 3 twenty somethings at a time. But as it shows that it worked with Xia Xue.. Perhaps Xia Xue would consider her candidacy in the next election..

My personal point - we as parents of Gen Z.. have to do the same to maintain a linkage to communicate.

I do so eager to be part of this 9-day of hurly burly with so many words said, so much tears flowed, so much emotions aroused, so much adrenalin generated.... but alas I am only a spectator awaiting for the final chapter to be unfold.