Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Too much over action by Prime Minister Tour organising committee

See the below list. Now, I am not sure I even want to read it. Forget about going to the event. I am expecting a total chaos at the meeting and venue with the too much over action. Is this happening in Singapore? We have various country leaders meeting people in Singapore, and never see such laundry list. Anyway, no food allowed and expect people to sit for 5 hours inside the expo, or you can't even leave the place. Good luck with that.

Thanks for wasting tax payers money, but no thanks Mr. PM.

  1. Entry Passes/Invitations are NON TRANSFERABLE
  2. Please bring a print out of the Entry Pass bearing your name.
  3. Please bring the identification that you provided upon registration for the event i.e. NRIC/FIN/Passport to the venue. We will require original identification card for verification. Photocopies will not be permitted.
  4. Please note that only individuals with Entry Passes/Invitations and the relevant ID will be permitted to enter the venue. NO ID = NO ENTRY.
  5. There will be airport class security at Singapore EXPO and all the rules that apply for airport security shall apply here as well. 
  6. Please arrive early as the event has free seating and the average screening time could exceed 30 mins.
  7. Please do not bring any of the items listed as “not permitted” on your Entry Passes/Invitation:
  8. a)     No outside food and drinks or water bottles are allowed. Water and snacks will be provided free of charge inside the Halls.
    b)     Umbrellas, sharp objects, cigarette lighters are NOT allowed.
    c)     Still Cameras and Video Cameras will NOT be permitted.
    d)     Mobile phones are allowed. No selfie sticks will be allowed.
    e)     Small ladies’ handbags are allowed.
  9. You will be asked to dispose of any items that are not permitted before being granted access to the Halls.
  10. There is limited food available at the EXPO and as mentioned, food and drink will not be permitted inside the Halls. Water and snacks will be provided free of charge inside the Halls however we advise you to eat and come!
  11. Once you enter the Hall, you will not be able to leave until the end of PM Modi’s speech. Restrooms are accessible from inside the Halls and additional portable toilets will be available towards the rear of the Venue.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Income tax collections: A very good lesson India can learn from Singapore

Source: CNA

Singapore shared that in FY2014/15 the Income tax collections grown by 16% and hit SGD 8.9 Billion. This is close to 2.1% of the nations GDP.

On the other hand, India tax collections for FY13/14 it stood at 242856 crores or SGD 53.9 Billion and budgeted for FY14/15 are at 63.1 Billion. From GDP point of ratio this is approx 3.3% of the GDP.

If we see the maximum income without paying any tax in Singapore is SGD 20,000(after deductions), and in India it is INR 250,000 or SGD 6,000.

However if we take the median income of a person in singapore, the effective tax rate is less than 10%. For the same, in India it is higher than 20%. By the way the common man on street in Singapore get "potable tap water, fresh air (except the few weeks of haze contributed by Indonesia) and never go hungry". On top of it there is heavily subsidised healthcare, education and scholarships. I didn't even have to mention the safety & security in the country.

I can easily say (my deduction could be challenged and I am no way posses any insider knowledge) the problem in India is the tax system itself is designed to be backwardish and not for an asian economy. We have to keep it simple and we have to make it easy, and transparent. Unfortunately the people who are honest and paying income tax will end up paying from their noses while those so called business man, big industrialists, and many other unorganized industries end up paying zero tax.

Finally the IRAS (Tax collection body in Singapore) shared another interesting fact.

" It cost 0.8c to collect $1 in tax revenue and they owe this to using technology and simplifying the process".

That's probably the best every anybody could hope for. But knowing Singapore, they would reduce it next year by few percentage points.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Extremely important day for Singapore and millions of people living, working, visiting the amazing nation.

11th Sep 2001 is an extremely horrible day for the world. But fast forward to fourteen years and today it is crucial for millions of people in this tiny nation Singapore.

It's the elections day. I don't think I can sleep tonight and I am eagerly waiting for the results announcement.

There are plenty of blogs, websites, forums, facebook chats but in a nutshell this is the day when 2.6 millions of voters going to decide whether a pragmatic, future looking and hard working party vs other parties who just behave like the parties in India, Indonesia or any other developing country (i.e. focusing on emotional needs, creating the fear of US vs THEM etc).

Singapore is a miracle nation, and it's success can't be attributed to one person. A minor chunk goes to a handful of visionaries led by Mr.LKY, while the rest which is the major portion to goes to it's people who backed Mr.LKY ideas of hardwork, perseverance and pragmatism. But this time, I am hearing some disturbing comments from highly educated, successful and nice people. Which is "preferential treatment based on birth, and most importantly FREE stuff". Unfortunately no person, family, town, state or nation can rely on FREE distribution. Someone need to pay for it.

So looking forward for the people of Singapore to use brain vs emotional hearts, and decide the future of this miraculous nation. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Goodbye Hello Card: No cheap calling cards from Singtel anymore

Source: Singtel

There goes another product which I loved a lot. This time it's Hello card. Basically it is a prepaid international calling card to make cheap (It's ~1-2c / min to many nations in asia pacific) voice calls. On top of it, the icing is you can let it call you back to minimize your outgoing minutes usage.

This is by far the most popular card for many of my friends who still use this as a backup on top of Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp. As most of us experienced, sometimes the plain old voice call using mobile CS is better than blazing fast LTE or WiFi.

Guess one of the reason is the popular Hi card from Singtel which is the mobile prepaid card which bundles cheap voice calls to specific countries and offer custoimzed top-ups based on subscriber country. e.g. topup a package to get 100 min to philippines or something.

Wish Netflix to come soon (they have announced that it's early 2016) and kill my other hated service which is MIO TV :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Irony. India is the worlds largest beef exporter

Source: Indexmundi

You can see the growth from 1990-2004 and exponential growth from 2009 onwards...

Emotional messages, Whatsapp spam and fooling the youth with inaccurate information

Just received this Whatsapp message from a friend. Full text below and not worth even spending a couple of minutes.

Basically it tells the Indian youth to boycott Chinese good and crush them because they fought with India once, and still supporting Pakistan.. Shame on the people who are sharing this..First of all

  • Devaluation doesnt work as mentioned and by no means RMB is devaluated by 30%. It's around 3-4% (Source: WSJ)
  • Secondly, India is not even close to the claim of biggest market. It's USA and based on 2014 stats, India is not even in the top 10 list(Sources: Wikipedia, Hindu). It's actually less than 1% of China GDP(2013 numbers of 65B bilateral trade vs 6807B GDP). 
  • Finally, if people want to stop using Chinese goods then there won't be any whatsapp users left in India. Essentially all electronic goods, communication stuff used in telcos are from China.
So enjoy the silence guys.

Must read..Must share..
Today China is the under the threat of economical slump. So china has devaluated its currency by 30%. According to the global economists, china will face economical slowdown by decreasing the prices of products by its domestic industries . so Chinese products will be available in very cheaper rate in Indian and other markets.
     But this is time to weaken Chinese economy, which we can do. Coz India is the biggest market for the china across the globe. China is making the business of 6.2 million crore of Indian rupees per annum by Indian market.
       And as we know china is claiming on Indian territory and acquiring border areas,It seems that china is in war stance with India. Also China is supporting Pakistan indirectly to counter India to become a sub-continental leader.
       Hence this is the time to crush Chinese economy, hence I am requesting to each and every Indian that Do not buy any Chinese product for upcoming one month at least. It will be great if you will not buy product ever which is Made in China.Even here to make an appeal to all Indian Merchants and retailers that plz do not make business by Chinese products for upcoming one month as those products are going to be more cheaper.
       This is the time to slap china and to become A Patriotic Indian. Lets do it for Nation.
Guys,India is having 37% of whatsapp users out of its total population ( source: Gadget of telecommunications),out which 92% users are youngsters. We are sharing tonnes of useless messages daily. But as much as you spread this message ,that much will be the useful to your future itself.We should avail each n every chance to counter against the powerful enemy like China.
     As the responsible citizen of The Republic of India, I am requesting you to make this message viral. Do not miss a single contact from your phone book.
      Your deed of not buying Chinese products and to tell the same to others is equally important to the Nation as the service by An Indian Soldier on our boarders!
               || Jay bharat ||

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The new drama about quality in Indian mobile space

Source: multiple (IBN, LR, COAI & TRAI..)

It is a known fact that most of the things in India are about Quantity rather than quality. I wouldn't blame anyone but it is more of cultural thing. People tend to talk 'big' things and 'large' stuff. So same way the telcom industry started to fight for numbers, and what they ignored is the 'quality' aspect. So while I can't tell if India offers the cheapest rates I can certainly tell that India offers the worst quality in emerging markets. Be it the voice quality (half codec), or Data (be it 4G, 3G, 2G or whatever), or consistent experience or billing.

So recently there is a fight between regulatory bodies and operators about Dropped Calls. Based on some surveys the DCR is > 12% vs Allowed rate of <3%. By the way did I mentioned that majority of nations follow a DCR of < 1% ? Singapore operators CDR/DCR is approx 0.3 (Source. IDA). Before one jump on to say that Singapore is a small country, I need to share that Singapore is far more complex than many large nations. The coverage quality, dense urban environment, and volume makes it far more complex.

Having said that, I must say the biggest problem in Indian industry is the basic infra. Be it the continuos power supply, fibre connectivity to the base station, quality labour and management.

  • Power: I better stop talking about as this is pretty common and known to the world. India has been talking about exponential growth in power production for the last twenty years. It will be the same even after 20 years (yeah, am a pessimist when it comes to some topics)
  • Fibre connectivity: Biggest problem with this is the chaotic situation at the ground. Who owns the duct or drainage or street poles in India. Everyone with a mouth and shoulder power. So the TELCO may get permission from the state government, but the local municipal / corporation authorities may well reject and cut the fibre. Or vice versa. Or even worse, the Corporation may approve but another department from the corporation may cut it off. During one of my recent meeting with a large operator, I was told that on average there are  8 intentional fibre cuts in a day in New Delhi alone. That's a huge issues.
  • Lastly the people who became less pragmatic. Very subjective topic to open but as long as the operators/leadership focusses on short term benefits and run the business as a profit generating machine without strong engineering/fundamental skills within, it is going to be a tough ride.
As long as the fundamental problems are not addressed, this issue going to be there for a long time. Hopefully either TRAI or GOV bodies will come up with some guidelines on duct usage (or passive infrastructure provisioning). 

Changi Automated Clearance System: What software it is using..

I am quite impressed with overall infrastructure in Singapore. The Government and some great guys planned it in that way, and the 'first impression' which is Changi Airport counts a lot. Recently I was a bit disappointed with the so called "random security checks(which are not really random in my experience)" and "random return security checks" but overall I am quite happy and I must say this is probably the best airport. Be it the ease of reaching/getting out, immigration/custom clearance, security checks, amenities, food (Ofcourse ,except the horrible, and super expensive indian one), crowd for takeoff/landing and the shopping options.

Out of all, the best part for me is the immigration. After the auto gates / automated clearance /  IACS/ eIACS/  deployed in 2011the whole experience is a breeze. I have never encountered any issues, and it works as it supposed to be.

Yesterday, for the first time I had an issue. After clearing the glass barrier with my passport, the system stuck. It's like you can't go back or forward. The officer came in seconds, and we noticed that the system started rebooting itself. So while waiting there, I saw the system OS. You wouldn't believe... and it's...

Now I seriously admire the developers, system integrators or programmers who executed it. They did an amazing job to go with Windows and the systems are running 24x7 with almost zero down time. I must say they are meeting the telco standard/grade availability as this is the first time in years I saw a system booting/hang. There were plenty of post logon scripts after the booting process and GUI and I guess the front end is a simple VB or HTML code with plenty of back end scripting.
After 3 minutes, the system is back and there goes it. Happy traveller, and a very disappointed looking officer who couldn't believe that Changi made a passenger wait for 3 min. Kudos Officers, you guys are really amazing to take it so personally and apologising as if this is even a 'delay'

Wish our American, Australian, EU friends or neighbours like Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai & Viet friends lean something. I love their job, especially sitting in a comfy chair on a raised platform and looking at the herd who are standing in front of them for hours. Unfortunately I always end up in the herd. Anyways, thanks to Changi once again.. the frustrations from the travel will be gone once you land up in Changi..

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Four of the cheapest travel destinations in South East Asia. Mumbai is a surprise addition in the lsit

Source: Tripadvisor

This is no surprise to see KL, Bangkok, Hanoi in the cheapest or value for money destinations in tripadvisor list. Couple of surprises though. One is missing Jakarta, and other is the Mumbai.

The rates seems not too far from the experienced rates which is quite an issue with the international surveys like cost of living surveys or expensive cities survey.

As you can see KL hotels are the cheapest at 92 per night and I have not found a hotel in Mumbai for 120. I think the tour activity in KL is the reason which is causing the KL rank to go down but if I eliminate I am sure this would be the valuest place in the world. Even the taxi rates are one of the lowest and considering the quality of ride, this would be much better than other places.

Most expensive places have the usual suspects and Singapore is in the bottom list but still the most expensive in south east asia, and second most expensive in Asia.

The problem with Singapore is mainly with hotels and dinner of 150/person is not really something I personally experienced. One could have a better dinner at less than $70 easily. Probably the Wine is the main reason for the price as Dinner includes a bottle of wine to share and if I eliminate that probably SG would go out of top-10.

In any case, I would still prefer south ease asia hotels for service. They are far better than any western hotel in EU/US given the value it offers. Be it the  comfort, room types, amenities and most importantly the service.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Five Star Hotels and cheap tactics to eat money. e.g. Paid Wi-Fi, cheap accessories

I am not sure when does the hotels around the world realized that Wi-Fi is probably the most basic need these days. With exorbitant roaming charges complimented by horrible speeds no wonder the first thing people does is to look for WiFi in any place.

What makes it frustrating is when you are on a business travel, and Hotels provide Wi-Fi for the sake of it but unusable options. i.e. Lack of speed or lack of stability or long user id, password combinations.

Places like Starbucks or Restaurants started to provide Free Wi-Fi and we can see how vastly it improved our experience. For myself, I will look for Starbucks when I need to send some e-mails or do some urgent work. Of course, some parts can be improved (especially in Thailand, where they will force you type 12 digit user id, similarly long but with special character password  to get on) but overall no complaints.

But paying couple of hundred dollars for a night stay, and going through the Bad WiFi experience really makes me annoyed. In the first place, why can't the property give Free Wi-Fi to all. Irrespective of one stays in the hotel or not, people need connectivity and it would be wonderful to have option to use WiFi. I love Shangri-La for that and Hyatt started to follow suit. I seriously hope Sheraton and other major groups start to follow.

Second thing is the 'free tooth brush' or 'coffee' they provide as part of the room. I guess most of the frequent travelers carry their own brush and daily stuff but why can't they spend a dollar to provide some acceptable quality stuff? Anyways, enough of complaining and I will stop here. But still, free Wi-Fi; It's a birth right of every individual :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lack of any insurance provider for iPad, iPhone or Smartphone in Singapore

I have subscribed to Zurich / Mobile cover, and had some sort of peace of mind. Especially with a thousand dollar gadget in my two young kids hands. Unfortunately they stopped renewing the contract, and I couldnt find any similar insurance options for the iPad.

I have tried my best to child proof by getting a survivor case (not exactly same but similar), but today the unfortunate thing happened.

Unfortunately have no choice but through it off. The repair from apple store costs me almost the price of a new ipad 16gb, while the other shops quoted me slightly lower than that. Wish I could have got something like endsleigh in SG.

But this reminds me once again of the dangers with gadgets and kids :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Age limit for a public sector job in India / Telangana state - 54 years for handicapped, and 49 / 45 for rest

Source: Indian Express

Wish this is not true, but seems 54 years is the maximum age a person can get in to a job. I am not sure but the state of affairs is worrying me. Taking the retiring age of 60, they have a maximum service duration of 6 years? Then another recruiting exercise to happen? or extend the retirement age then going to pass the job to their children? Who is going to bear the costs??

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Air India - Wish Mr.Modi make a daring decision to close this loss making, arrogant employee mafia organization and a disgrace to India

I still recall the early days of The Maharaja, and the warmth of traditional indian folks welcoming with a smile & nameste in to the 747. The feeling itself was like you're no longer in USA but in India.

But we all know what is going on with Air India these days. Be it an air-hostess turning off auto-pilot while the pilot dozing off or Pilot with fake papers, or fighting mid-air. All these things are visible in public news, but the most important thing is "experience". If any of you every flew with AI, you know what I mean.

Anyway, after almost a  decade, I took Air India. The new Boeing 787 to SG in dirt & dull color waiting for me on the tarmac in new delhi. The first sight itself was not too good, but I told my inner self not to be cynical and get on. Surprise, no welcome or I couldnt even recognize the crew. They are just like any other passenger. Wearing regular dresses, with unshaven/unkempt hair, and most importantly talking in the mobile phones. Was a bit confused, but managed to find my seat and tried to relax by closing my eyes.

#1st annoyance: Right after the flight started pulling out, there is a hard tap on my shoulder and I opened my eyes. There was this lady who mumbled "you need to listen to the security message". OMG, so I can't even close my eyes (no earset/pods at all)?. I refused and continued in my thoughts while trying to throw my irritation away

#2nd annoyance: Within 30 min, the usual fare of serving drinks, food began. I requested not to disturb as it was well past mid-night. While I almost knocked-off, there is another rude voice and a hard tap on my head rest as if somebody trying to hit me. There is another guy who is concerned that I am skipping my meals and not drinking anything. Irritated quite badly

#3rd annoyance: Did I mentioned that they forgot to switch off the lights?

#4th annoyance: Did I mentioned that the crew just took the last row of seats and started to sleep (as if it's a bed)? Even during when the seat belt sign is on?

#5th annoyance: By the way there is no service at all. Even when you push the button multiple times A passenger who was sitting few seats in-front of me need some hot water / milk. She tried to call the crew at-least 5 times but couldn't see anybody bothered.

#6th annoyance: Did I mentioned that they really know how not to use any equipment? For example the new 787 windows can't be dimmed/opened up with the seat buttons? It's centrally controlled so one would miss the beautiful sunrise totally.

Anyway, the list goes on. Be it the dirty, smelly seats (on the 787 itself) or total lack of empathy from the crew (did they even know the meaning of service) to attend the needy or vomiting passengers (btw, the crew doesnt even bother to clean), or noisy cabin with crew shouting across the flight (????)..

Overall, all I could tell you guys is if you want to feel like you are in the worst place possible on earth, just get on the air india for a long haul flight. IMHO, they quickly need to close this loss making, money sucking machine and disgrace of India from business. Atleast we could save some tax payers money (Billion $ / year atleast).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Uber-X cheaper than Taxi Service - I dont think so

Uber is great and it helped me atleast dozen times in Singapore, few dozen times overseas. I really love the overall experience but recently I started to feel the fees in Singapore are getting a bit expensive. So I put together a quick comparison of taxi bills vs uber and the comparison does shows Uber is cheaper.

When I compare $ / Min or $ / KM, it clearly shows Uber is cheaper than regular taxis. But the weird part is my journey route is almost the same. So when I looked a bit deeper, the evidence started to surface. Some how Uber calculates the "distance" a bit longer compared to other taxi services. May be Uber is more accurate or whatever it is but if you look at the trip on 22-Apr-15 (last row), vs 30-Apr-14 (first row), or 15-Jul-14 (5th Row), the source-destination-route is exactly the same. Barring some deviation due to traffic, the fare should end up cheaper for uber as the claim.

So for me, it's very simple. I am happy with the level of taxi service in Singapore and I would go back to Comfort or other regular taxi service. Ofcourse, I would still need Uber in SFO & SYD. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Telemedicine: The next big thing to drive bandwidth requirements?

Recently there is plenty of noise in the Internet of things, or everything (IoE), connected home, smart nation, or smart cities and smart everyhing ;). During my conversations with service providers in the region, one of the biggest question is how could the SP monetize this new wave. For example, if the money is to be spent on infrastucture or m2m, the SP part is very little. i.e. they would end up providing the SIM cards. If its connected homes, then again SP got little to play. So the question always goes back to enterprise / B2B applications.

One of the most talked, and interest raising domain is healthcare. Given the diversity in Asia, this is believed to make a huge change in the coming future. Almost all major service providers in the region are evaluating Healthcare and how they can be part of the value chain. I saw Telstra made first announcement in this category by acquiring Anywhere Healthcare. I like the way Telstra been transformed from a lethargic incumbent to aggressive player.

Another country with huge potential is Indonesia. The country or the nation of multiple islands is geographically so diverse, and with horrible connectivity. Telemedicine can make a huge difference in the lives of people. Probably my guess is Telstra would focus on australia first then on Indonesia. I can see it happening with telstra global with its cloud offerings, and the same will happen with other services.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HDB Lease buy back extended to Four Rooms

Source: CNA

In a summary, its no longer applicable for 3-Rooms and 3,000 income criteria. Now it's applicable (from tomorrow) for 4-Rooms and 10,000 income.

I seriously wish this should be applicable to all HDB and not 3-room, and 4-rooms. With this approach, elders can have a more stable income during their late years. After all it is the same HDB, and same HDB payments all people paid :)

Singapore Taxi - Standardization some fare components

Source: CNA

As recent as last month, I shared my frustration with the industry/situation, and today I saw the news from CNA. But I am quite disappointed with the details, and approach. Basically it is as it is today, but legalizing the approach. Why can't be there a simple system in place? Lets say two different categories - Budget, Premium ? Why can't we forgo the advance booking charges? or for that matter booking charges? Why can't we remove the credit card surcharge and link with our credit cards so no-show fee can be put in place?

I believe this is the right time we should treat Taxi as an integral part of public transport, and stop the complex charge system. 

Weird, Contradicting Airlines rules

Most of the folks would have faced this situation. Take out the laptop or ipad from the bag, remove belts, remove shoes, and jackets while going through the airport security.

Though I hate this process, initially I was kind of appreciative that it is to 'secure'me but after roaming across 4 different continents over the last decade, my feelings changed dramatically. I couldnt understand the rational, or logic behind these actions when I see it across the journey. Some of my observations goes here, but I would start with the most annoying one which is at Hong Kong airport

* No water in to the flight at all. Not even after security check, and there is a second security check right before you enter your foot in the flight. The officer will stare at you and ask you to drink or throw it off. If its a O&D airport, I could understand but HKG is one of the largest transit / connecting airport between east-west with 10+ hour flights. One may say, simply ask the hostess in the flight, but trust me this will not work with all airplanes, they wont refuse but they wont serve either.
Anyway, the observations below

  1. Why no KINDLE or iPad (flight mode) but news paper allowed during taxi/take-off/landing ?
  2. Why SQ, Asian airlines ask people to up the shades even blinding sun while United or US airlines insist on closing the shades?
  3. Why SQ takes 30 min for landing procedures and with seat belt sign on while United takes last 5-10 min?
  4. Why different rules / processes followed at different airports? i.e. some need to remove shoes, some no need? is it the technology they are using or something else?
  5. Why "highly flammable" Alcohol from Duty Free shops allowed in to the flight but no lighter (India - you to be blamed)? ...No idea, and the list goes on. 
Finally, one last one.

Why can't they normalize the volume for announcements ? Is it to show their sadistic nature to scare the shit out of sleeping people? or hurt the ears so badly, that they will not feel anything in their next flight?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Visible corruption/cheating in Bangkok - Taxi is just tip of the problem

If you happened to read this article about the taxi cheating case in Bangkok and wondering that if this is true given the positive news we always hear about thailand, or thai culture, then let me tell you. 

The cheating or the mindset is pretty common if you happened to be a non-thai or new to the place. Actually the problems starts at the moment you step down at the airport. I mentioned it previously here, and it is still a norm. i.e. as long as you go in to the priority queue with infants or kids, then you are charged 200 baht extra and without any receipt. That's not a small amount and imagine this is practised in the open day light. 

I have been to Bangkok more than 30-35 times in the last 5 years and every time I end up with some negative memory. Overall the trip experience is positive but there will be one or two cases which makes it bad. My biggest complaint is with taxi drivers is they simply refuse to stop, or refuse to go to specific place or bug on going with a fixed rate instead of meter. I face atleast once. I dont remember having a good memory that a driver is courteous or giving the exact change (i.e. meter shows 85, but no  change for 100 baht note)

My recent trip, I had an instance where taxi driver asked me to pass 75 baht for highway charges, and 50 baht for airport tax. When I asked for a receipt, (which nobody cares) his answer is dont have and a nasty look. I wish I had taken the video too. Anyway the authorities are not doing any thing because it doesnt hurt them directly. Be it the corruption at airports, or cheating tourists. 

Seriously hope, they realize that this would hurt the image of nation, and thai culture. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Singapore Budget 2015: Higher tax for top earners, Benefits to lower income groups and CPF enhancements

If you have not seen any of these news about Singapore budget, then you must be living under a rock. Just kidding.. I was told not many are concerned as there will not be massive changes in the budget without prior hints.. So lets look at the budget and the key points captured my eyes were,

  1. CPF Enhancements: Increased the limit from current 5000/m to 6000/month. Which means I am expecting the limit to go 17 months including OW + AW ceiling. So instead of SGD 31,450 per annum, its going to be SGD 37,740. Or additional 6,290. Here 2,890 comes from Employer while the rest is from you. So you got a pay hike of ~250 from next year. 
  2. Income tax: I hate this part to increase the rate and create complexity. Especially when the top bracket is paying 20%. If it goes higher then what exactly is the point of getting top talent here. Anyway to not to offend the 'mass sentiment' and to show robinhood policies I would go with it. If you are making 250,000 the MoF estimated that the difference is 400 (Source: Todayonline). Not sure how they ended up with 50,000 taken for deductions. The CPF is max 20,400, Earned Income - 1,000, Spouse Relief - 2,000 (if your spouse is not working), Kids - 8000 (2x 4000) and this makes it max 32,000. I don't think an average person can claim relief of 50,000 but more in to 30,000 unless max out on SRS, Insurance, Education, etc.. So if I take 30,000 then the difference is 950. Anyway I will wait to see the excel calculators from IRAS as I am not very good with manual calculators. Or I need to use excel to measure
  3. Maid Levy: not a fan as this is not applicable
  4. Others: No comments

Overall, this is a mixed one for me and I tend to feel that this is more towards negative side rather than exited one. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stereo type - Is it true that many things happen based on 'profile' or race?

This is one of the most sensitive topic but I am deeply saddened by an interaction with one my  close friend (who holds masters and Dr from world class schools). We are having a conversation and there are few words came out of his mouth that gave me his views about the social class system in even developed economies.

Believe it or not, or blame it on conspiracy theorists or matrix, the conclusion I ended up is we humans need to evolve lot more. Whatever assumptions we make, and whatever masks we wear, end of the day the real feelings (heart truths ??) can be quite different.

For example, one of the basic assumption in Singapore society I encountered is alcohol and Indians. Similarly laziness and malays, money and chinese. All these are quite funny topics over a meal or bear. But it is not when we see it on a serious note.

Indians are not alchoholics and probably one of the lowest consumers of alcohol in the world barring muslim countries. Per capita consumption of alcohol is quite low and based on the WHO report , the lifetime abstainers are ~82% and including stoppers are ~ 92%. So the 8% are the one who are consuming lot more and probably creating the misconception. Similarly, I have seen dozens of my malay friends who are much more hard working than any other race or nationality. In fact the productivity of the friends is much higher given the balancing act of family and community they do.

Nevertheless, I am not trying to defensive or show some examples and jump to conclusion (or stereo type ;)) but recently I had enough of these things and the horror to me is its happening in Singapore. Not with friends but even at work.. One of the most sickening conversation I ever had is with an executive in an MNC (HQ in USA and Fortune 100 firm). The view shared was it's good to keep a Chinese person to handle local customers. I am flabbergasted by that view, and hearing from a company which talks about equality, and global view. So all the materials and so called CSR topics are just for publishing and the decisions are made based on specific views.

I really wish that we can move on and put these behind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wish there is a mental shift: Entitlement to Pragmatic, and realstic

What makes people from some other countries like Singapore or Korea to Indians. Very simple, I saw majority of these people questioning their government for their rights, and going with the real world. In India, we tend to demand others for our 'stuff'. We pay taxes through our nose, but we do not question the bad quality in public schools, but send our kids to private schools. Then strike for pay hike; same with health care. Thanks to political parties who just treat public money as their own money, the vicious cycle is going on forever.

I saw this news from sakshi, where a school teacher is complaining that the current CM is not doing his job, and not increasing the pay. The expenditure is

  • Rent: 4,500
  • Daily necessities : 4,000
  • Milk: 1,500
  • Rice: 2,000
  • Education: 10,000
  • Medical: 2,000
  • Clothes: 2,000
  • Gas: 400
  • Utilities: 450
  • Travel: 1,000
  • Entertainment: 600
  • Cable: 150
  • Mobile: 500
  • Vegetables: 1,500
  • Others: 3,000
  • Total: 33,600
First of all this is a totally made up story IMHO. Anyway, still one question on why on earth a school teacher who is getting paid by the tax payers want to send his/her kids to private schools and spend 10,000 every month? 

If the justification is that the quality is bad, then why can't we close down all these schools and remove the teachers? That would save pretty good amount for the tax payers. 

The expenditure is equal to $550 per month which makes it on par with many other asian nations monthly expenditure. 

Average Malaysia school teacher makes $ 1,124 month. Are we trying to say that our cost of living, or living standards are higher than Malaysia which warrant such salaries ?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fuel prices dropped by 40+ percent , but Airlines are not cutting down prices.

I am a bit annoyed thought it seems kind of accepted industry practice when any savings due to price reductions are not transferred to customers.

We can see how the price dropped from IATA. Based on a WSJ article Airlines spend 29% on fuel. So if I take a very simple example of $100 cost per person (while airline charging me $120 assuming $20 as margin) the fuel cost itself used to be $29 and its now $24. So the cost to the Airline is now $95 and the ticket should be reduced accordingly (20% margin gives me $114). However I still see the same old rates and not even a single cent reduced. In fact the opposite is correct. i.e. the ticket prices are going up recently.

The explanation given by Airlines doesnt impress me either. From our own ST article here, it appears some are reducing (which I can't see) but our own SQ is not going along the same route.

I don't understand the logic of investing in lounges, upgrading flights or returning to share holders taking priority over business. May be the last one makes sense to me but the savings due to external factors can't be used to fund the capital expenditure activities which are part of day to day business. Unless there is a huge demand for upgrading flights or investing in lounges for airlines regular passengers (which I found quite weird as any flight I take can see less than 10% frequent flyers) so is it the airlines saying the 10% spending more money compared to rest of the 90%?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Taxi Confusion in Singapore - Varying flag down fares, distance charges and models

Probably the most complaining part about taxi is the 'non-availability' when one really needed. For example, during peak hour or when its raining. However I have another issue with taxi which I encountered during my trip from Changi couple of days back. 

The challenge is the different models and the fare difference. I remember Straitimes did a great job trying to put things together in single file (I've uploaded here) and appreciate the effort.

What I did is to do a quick comparison with Excel assuming three different routes. I have taken plenty of assumptions and please don't ask me that how come your fare is much higher :) Reason is I've excluded any ERP charges, late night charges, location based charges, Peak hour charges, booking charges, waiting charges and all other stuff. A very basic and simple calculation for the distance.

As you can see the price difference between the most common taxi (I guess Sonata) vs the most common Merc is huge. It's almost 38% difference.  That's excluding Crowns and the notorious Chryslers. 

The worst thing is the price difference between Sonata and Premier Kia. That's a 5% difference but in my experience taking this last week was a difference of 30%. Normally I pay 21-23 for a trip using Sonata and this time I ended up paying 26 which is quite huge difference. The traffic was smooth and the route is the same. No idea why and that motivated to write this in the first place. 

Even if we take the difference between Sonata - i40 from Comfort (largest operator) that's a difference of 50C but 5-8% higher depending on how long the commute is. No idea why and how the operators decide to charge, rise the fares. I recall LTA controls the fares just like the PTC for public transport but it seems these days the taxi operators have a free hand :|

I wish there is some commonality. Just remove the so many versions and keep two or three versions. 

  1. For regular usage - Sonata, i40, Prius and all can go here
  2. For Exec or Sedan - Merc or likes of it
  3. MPV's - Larger groups .
That would simplify the fare confusion up to some extent. Ofcourse this doesnt answer the "peak hour surcharge, mid night surcharge, and location surcharges.. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Singapore budget airliner Scoot gets its first 787.

Source: CNA

This is good and I must admit, I love the Scoot Biz class any day compared to the cattle class which I am used to travel on official duties. Thanks to 'cost cutting' of enterprises, and 'profit' of airline industry, we end up with comparing 18" vs 18.5" seat width, or 2" difference in pitch. I can see the discussion in lounges, about how Asiana 21" width is great, or SQ 32" pitch.

Scoot is a bit generous and gives 38" pitch and 22" width which is quite comfortable and at the same prices of what other economy fares are at. So for a trip to Perth or Sydney this makes more sense.

With dream liners (I enjoyed my journeys to Japan on ANA few times except their horrible seats) I have to say the overall experience going to be much better.

They are flying to Perth from this thursday and wish to see more 787 in other routes too.. 

FDI Inflows to India increased by 26% in 2014..

But wait, the final position is not even in the top ten nations but far beyond. Here goes the top ten nations which are darlings..
Source: UNCTAD

Interestingly small nations like Singapore & Hongkong received 81 & 111 Billion respectively while India received 36 Billion. 

Tough job ahead Mr.Modi and all other regional leaders. Got to triple the numbers very very soon. If not the situation would be worse when the 'hype' goes off.