Monday, June 30, 2008

Can't Eat If Car Park Is Full

One of the disadvantages of driving a car to eat at a place frequented by crowds is the difficulty of finding a parking lot.

i went to Downtown East E-Hub yesterday afternoon with my wife and son for lunch. It was not to be as i drove thru the whole multi-storey car park in vain hunting for an empty lot. It was a bright, sunny, hot afternoon at around 1:30pm.

i decided not to park on the shelterless roof-top as i didn't want to come back inside a "burning" car.

The parking charges are: $0.0214/min up to a maximum charge of $6.42 per day from 12.01am to 4.59pm, $3.21/entry from 5pm to 12midnight and rates includes eve of PH and School Holidays.

What's the point of paying the above crappy charges if you can't even park in shade?

These are times when it's better to go to such places without driving a car. Can just go straight to eat where you want to eat without having to look for a parking lot.

Revising The Resale Levy

Currently the HDB requires homeowners who sell their flat and buy another new one, to pay a $40,000 resale levy.

The rationale behind the imposition of such a levy is simple: To prevent 2nd time new flat buyers from benefiting equally with the 1st timers and thereby reducing the chances of 1st timers getting a flat of their choice.

$40,000 is quite a hefty amount and may not be fair for homeowners who buy a new flat from HDB for the second time.

The reason is simple: The amount of cash every homeowner gets to pocket after the sale of his flat can be vastly different. Depending on location and floor, etc. A homeowner who sells his flat can pocket anything from between just $80,000 to $400,000 and beyond after paying back the housing loan.

If the flat, which a homeowner sells is over 30 years old, chances are: The housing loan is likely to have been paid off a long time ago. This is especially so if the flat was bought brand new over 30 years ago at a very low price, directly from HDB. This means the homeowner gets to pocket all of the cash without having to repay any outstanding loan to either CPF, HDB or the bank. Furthermore, if the flat hails from a hot location like Toa Payoh, Bishan or Queenstown, it could possibly have even fetched a very high price between $600,000 to $800,000.

Paying a $40,000 levy in cash only amounts to 6.7% if the sales proceeds is $600,000, provided the homeowner gets to pocket all of the proceeds since his housing loan has already been paid off years ago.

But paying a $40,000 cash levy amounts to a hefty 48% if the net cash proceeds is only a mere $83,000 after another homeowner has paid off the outstanding loan amount to HDB and CPF.

So fixing the cash levy for 2nd time flat buyers, who opt for a new flat, at a flat $40,000 can be rather unfair afterall.

To solve this problem of disparity, fixing the resale levy at a percentage of say 10% of the net cash proceeds from the sale of a homeowner’s flat would be more equitable.

This means that if the sale proceeds of a flat amount to $600,000, the homeowner would have to pay a 10% levy of $60,000 if he chooses to get another new HDB flat for the second time. Of course if the levy is capped at a maximum of $40,000, this homeowner would have saved $20,000.

Similarly, if the net cash proceeds from selling one’s flat amount to just $83,000, having to pay a 10% levy of $8,300 would be more bearable than having to fork out $40,000.

The bottom line is: HDB should revise the levy amount to be imposed, based on the net cash proceeds amount that a homeowner has pocketed after the sale of his flat. If the proceeds are $400,000 or below, fixing the levy at 10% would certainly be more equitable for such homeowners.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Everyday Rob People


Motorists will have to dig deep into those pockets from July 7-2008.

Five new gantries, forming a cordon along the Singapore River Line, will go live to regulate the evening traffic flow from 6 pm to 8 pm, bringing the total number of gantries to 65.

Take taxi into town, can't bear to take it all the way if paying from own pocket.

Monday, June 23, 2008

ERP Talk

Business Times Singapore, Friday, 06th June, 2008

The Chronicles of ERP: the Cashcard, the IU and the Gantry

Even your mechanic won’t be able to fix this

By Jaime Ee

WHICH came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know, but I bet the same logic could be applied to another question: Why wouldn’t the ERP gantry deduct money from your cashcard? Is it because of the cashcard or the in-vehicle unit (IU)?

Since neither the cashcard nor the IU would admit to being the cause of the problem, it was decided that I, your friendly neighbourhood blame specialist, would step in to try and find out why neither side believes that it is in the wrong.

Hence, I carried out several counselling sessions and this is what I found out.

Me: So, how do you feel about the IU claiming that it is your blue butterfly design that keeps it from deducting money when a car goes through the ERP gantry?

Cashcard: Well, that’s just typical of the IU isn’t it. It’s always something else. Never mind that sometimes it just beeps for no reason, and sometimes it just refuses to read my credit balance and flashes ‘Err’ no matter how many times the driver tries to put me into the slot. I think it’s just jealous that it’s stuck to the windscreen all day, rain or shine, and doesn’t get taken out to be topped up once in a while.

IU: Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t even decide what design you want - first you want a blue butterfly, then you decide to go with a solid colour with a few gold highlights, and now you want to be a summery orange - I told you before, I will only deduct cash if you have the word ‘Gemplus’ on you, but no, you decided to take it out because you think it clashes with your other colours!

Cashcard: What? How dare you? What about you? Do you know how many times you’ve embarrassed me at carparks when you refuse to let the exit machine read me, and you force the car to literally kiss the barrier before you finally let the machine deduct the parking fee? You’re just a cheapskate trying to get away from paying, hoping they’ll raise the barrier and let you through because you’ve caused a major traffic jam behind you!’

IU: Look, it’s your fault. You’re just not very well made, you can’t withstand the local weather, you’re poorly designed and made of inferior plastic.

Cashcard: If I’m so poorly made, how come I can be used to buy other stuff at petrol stations or 7-Eleven stores? You’re the one that’s made of inferior quality material - face it, we’re just incompatible.

Me: Okay guys, take it easy. Have you ever considered that maybe both of you are at fault? That maybe each of you has a design flaw that under certain circumstances will cause malfunctions and hence ERP glitches?

IU: Nope.

Cashcard: Hmph.

Me: Look, someone has to take the blame, and it has to be fixed, alright?

IU: Well, you know what they say - 0.003 per cent isn’t a high enough percentage to justify a solution. Besides, it’s not my fault.

Cashcard: Don’t look at me. I’ve only just released my summer orange collection.

Me: So if it’s not your fault, then whose fault is it then?

IU/Cashcard: You know, the ERP gantry itself has been keeping mighty quiet all this while. Do you think…?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To Reduce Time For Constructing Flats

Currently, a typical batch of 600 new BTO flats take around 3 years to construct.

3 years is a very long time to wait.

So how can the construction time be reduced?

By cutting down on the number of units launched for each batch.

If 600 flat units take 3 years to construct, then logically 300 flats should take 1.5 years to construct.

Having to wait for 1.5 years for one’s new flat is more bearable than having to wait for 3 years.

Of course, it offers little or no solace (solution) for anyone with immediate housing needs whose only option left is to buy a resale flat since they can only afford to wait a few months at the most before moving into a flat which they have purchased.

Yes, I’m talking about workers who can’t afford to buy completed condominium apartments that are fully furnished and ready for immediate occupation.

A Policy of Meritocracy

Who does a policy of meritocracy favor?

The academically-inclined, bright and hardworking students, of course.

They are the ones who excel in their studies, get government scholarships and get cushy high-paying jobs in the civil sector after they get their degrees with first class honors.

For those who are not as academically-inclined, chances are: They would have difficulties landing cushy high-paying jobs as civil servants.

Our system works like this: If you have not been performing excellently in terms of academics from primary school to university, it is highly unlikely you would ever get an nice, big iron rice bowl working for the government.

So what does that leave you? You’re likely to join the massive hordes of average-salaried Singapore workers who have to work for peanuts until their dying day.

Only way for you to make big bucks as much as your rich counterparts working in a high-ranking civil post, is to do sales. Be it insurance, property, etc.

Or you can start your own business if you have the initial capital to do so and become a rich towkay, make your 1st million bucks between the age of 30 and 40.

Bottomline is this: For someone whose academic performance has not been outstanding (filled with distinctions) but only average or above average but below superior standards as dictated by the government, he is likely to join the massive majority hordes of average-salaried workers working for peanuts until their dying day with little or no chance of a decently rich retirement.

It’s a very hard uphill task for you to break out of this mould if you have not fit into the original mould and path set for you to take from day one. Like I said, only way for someone who has not shown stellar academic performances from his primary to tertiary education, to be as rich as or richer than a high-ranking civil servant, is to go into sales or start his own business selling stuff in high demand.

This is how our so-called meritocracy policy put us in our places. Those of us who don’t do well in our studies are made to feel like we are local trash. Those who do well are considered as talents, whether they be local or foreign ones.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Have you wondered what is the actual production cost of one HDB flat unit?

I believe it could be way below the actual selling price which HDB charges the buyer.

Notwithstanding the HDB’s claim that the prices of its flats are subsidised.

Can you imagine with economies of scale, the production cost of a single 4-room flat unit is only maybe around $100,000 or lower and HDB is charging at least around $200,000 for it?

Would you consider this a form of oppression?

Even though healthcare is supposedly subsidised, there are still Singaporeans who chalk up huge debts from hospitalisation bills and pass these debts down to their children to pay off after they have passed on.

It’s an extra totally unwanted financial burden especially on an average salaried Singapore worker who already has his own family to feed and support.

Such debts can be crippling. They are capable of driving poor people into depression. Some of these poor people even take their own lives because they are sick and tired of bearing the burden of debt which they can’t see any way of paying off.

Any death by suicide, be it by jumping off a block of flats, or onto an MRT track (causing huge inconvenience to commuters), is one death too many.

To cope with the rising fuel cost, the Malaysian government raised the price of its fuel by over 40% and cut the pay of its civil servants by 10%.

In Singapore, fuel is never subsidised. In fact, petrol tax here stands at a hefty 40%. When times are bad, our ministers who enjoy super-high salaries don’t get pay cut. They only don’t get increment.

What is the only solace that we have? Life on earth is only temporary, so are its troubles, woes and sorrows.

So will the injustices suffered in this life ever be put right?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a believer or not. The answer is: Yes, of course. Even if it takes an eternity before an injustice is put right.

Of course that’s no solace for someone who wants to see justice being served on the evil-doers before he’s dead and gone.

Likewise, regardless of whether one is a believer or not, he has to meet his Maker after he dies.

Everyone is entitled to his beliefs. No one should ever force his belief(s) on anyone around him.

People who feel they have been oppressed vote for the opposition parties during election days. Not because they support the opposition, but because they are opposed to the governing party whom they feel have rip them off.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Why Singapore Wants Pedra Branca

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A "Welfare" Company

How does a company become great? As in, how does it get repeat, loyal customers who keep on coming back to buy the same stuff from the company? Not only that, these loyal customers pass the good word to their friends and loved ones that the company provides good services and products.

By keeping its staff happy and satisfied of course.

A company that keeps its staff happy and satisfied by providing attractive, proper remuneration packages. Of course a conducive working environment, a boss that doesn’t yell, curse and swear obscene profanities at the staff .

The bottomline is: A company that takes good care of its staff will be rewarded with fewer MCs, fewer resignations. Staff that feels happy and satisfied about being well-treated by the company will in turn provide good service to the company’s customers.

Unfortunately, many companies in Singapore especially local SMEs, don’t really give a rat’s ass about keeping its staff happy and satisfied. They want to pay peanut salaries to its staff. They want to put in minimum investment in their staff and extract the maximum return possible from each staff.

It doesn’t work like that, of course. A company that pays its staff peanuts will get monkey business from its staff one way or another.

Disgruntled, disillusioned, disenchanted employees will not bother to provide quality, satisfactory services to the company’s customers. They might even seek to sabotage the company’s operations.

A staff discontented with his sucky company says, “My company is a welfare company. It is only concerned with its own welfare.”

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Sequel Of Recycled and Rehashed Stuff

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (KCS) is a sequel that didn’t really need to be made. I felt it was more contrived than creative. I guess I had expected more from Steven Spielberg. Perhaps Spielberg would be better off sticking to doing dramas like Munich and Schindler’s List rather than another Indiana Jones adventure film. Of course, I think he did a great job with Minority Report too even though that film had tons of dark shades dwelling on depression. Then again, Philip K. Dick’s novels and short stories have always focused on dark stuff like depression and schizophrenia.

KCS is about aliens and Area 51. On a scale of 5 stars, i'll rate it 3 stars. i particularly like the sequence where Ford had to hide inside a refrigerator inside a nuclear testing area. The nuclear blast sent the fridge which he was in far, far away. Ha.

The ending of KCS is very much reminiscent of The Mummy Returns (2001) starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz where there was a violent whirlwind spinning the vegetation surrounding an Aztec Pyramid round and round.

Many sequences look similar to those done in Raiders of the Lost Ark (RLA), The Temple of Doom (TOD) and The Last Crusade.

The chase cum sword fight inside the jungle with Shia LaBeof standing with his legs split between two amphibious vehicles look similar to the mine chase in TOD where Short Round was pulled between the villain’s henchmen and Harrison Ford with Kate Capshaw.

The vehicle chase alongside the cliff of a mountain looked similar to what was done in RLA.

The attack by the swarms of man-eating ants looked similar to what happened in The Mummy.

Kept getting reminded of what i saw in National Treasure: Book of Secrets too.

Sigh. Sometimes after watching a movie like this, it really makes you wonder aloud, "Is there really nothing new under the sun?"

Next, we’ll have another Mummy sequel, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor to be released on August 1, 2008.