Friday, February 28, 2014

Be true to yourself

I quote from Barbara Marciniak: 
Your perceptions are derived from your feelings and your ability to be yourself, to own and trust yourself, and to say what you feel, even when it may be diametrically opposed to everyone eles's opinion. You may be called the Devil Incarnate. You may feel like cow pies are being thrown at you. Sometimes that is part of being true to yourself. 

You just have to be true to yourself if you really believe what you're doing is what truly the way to go. Follow your heart because passion can do wonders if given a chance.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Neighbour's Sensitivity is Lacking

Seriously, regardless of the upcoming election in our neighbouring country, I feel that it's ridiculous to build statues to honour people who have committed an act of terror in Singapore, particularly when we are one of the biggest investors in the country.

Regardless of the size of Singapore, as neighbours, I believe it is common courtesy to respect each others' history and to refrain from acts that will disrupt the status quo. Just like we know there are certain traditions that prohibits eating of certain food types for example.

I was quite surprised over the lack of respect between countries that are so near each other. Respect is a 2-way street and if it is not given, do not expect to receive it.

In fact, I believe we should push down a mandate that if any country knowingly build something that honours an act of terror that happened here, we should immediately withdraw any kind or any type of funding that the government is providing to that country. We should never spend any taxpayer's money on anyone who does not respect us.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inflation is up 1.4%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2014:
January: 1.4%

Healthcare is once again leading the pack, rising by 3.9% but food inflation has gotten back to the top 2 by rising by 3% respectively year on year. Housing remains stable but the transport inflation again suddenly went down, mostly due to the ever fluctuating COE prices, similar to last year.

As mentioned last month, it's already expected that food inflation will rise due to the increase of price since Lunar New Year. Inflation was also lower as expected due to the high base, which will persist for a few months.

After that it will be anyone's guess.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Direct Benefits for Households in Budget 2014

I am only highlighting some of the more direct benefits (non-business related) to households. Looking at the benefits to businesses, it's similar to last year, where they are providing productivity packages to the companies in order to encourage them to increase their productivity. In addition, they are also encouraging startup enterprises and increasing medisave CPF contributions to fund the Medishield Life that will be introduced soon.

The benefits in this budget again does nothing in enhancing work-life balance for all Singaporeans. All the benefits are mostly in monetary terms. Looking at year 2013, productivity was similar to 2012, which either proves that the productivity drive is working, or the bosses are asking the current staff to take on the extra workload with no extra pay. Maybe there should be some assurance that the productivity drive is not at the expense of current workers.

Anyway, below are some of the more direct benefits to households:
  1. Provide more fee assistance through the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) to lower-income families, and extend support to middle-income families and make available KiFAS to all Anchor Operators and MOE kindergartens.
  2. Significantly increase university, polytechnic and ITE bursaries and raise the per capita monthly household income threshold for bursaries from $1,700 to $1,900 from Academic Year 2014. This will benefit the two-thirds of all Singaporean households.

  3. Provide permanent subsidies for lower- and middle-income groups so that they can fully pay their remaining premiums out of regular Medisave contributions, and also provide subsidies to offset premium increases for the first few years to ease the transition into MediShield Life.

  4. The subsidies for Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOC) services for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans, currently at 50%, will be increased to 70% and 60% respectively. This will be implemented from September 2014.
  5. To help Singaporean workers save for their healthcare needs, the employer CPF contribution rate will be increased by 1 percentage point for all workers. This increase will be channelled into the Medisave Account.

  6. Elderly Singaporeans will be allowed to use a portion of their Medisave more flexibly across a range of outpatient treatment, on top of the existing Medisave withdrawal limits for specific chronic conditions and other treatments.

  7. The Pioneer Generation will receive further subsidies for outpatient care in polyclinics, SOCs and General Practitioner clinics on the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS); A further 50% discount off their subsidised bills at SOCs and polyclinics; All in the Pioneer Generation will be placed on CHAS, regardless of income or housing type;Members of the Pioneer Generation who have moderate to severe functional disabilities will receive cash assistance of $1,200 a year under the Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme.

    The subsidies for SOC and polyclinic services, and Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme, will be implemented in September 2014. The additional CHAS benefits will be implemented in January 2015. More details will be provided at the Ministry of Health’s Committee of Supply. 
  8. The Government will provide annual Medisave Top-Ups of $200 to $800 for all in the Pioneer Generation, with higher amounts for older Pioneer Generation cohorts. It will be paid out from August 2014.

  9. To provide the Pioneer Generation with the assurance that their premiums will be affordable as they grow older, all Pioneer Generation members will enjoy subsidies starting from 40% at age 65, rising to 60% at age 90. This will be implemented at the end of 2015, when MediShield Life is rolled out.

  10. An $8 billion Pioneer Generation Fund will be set up to meet the full estimated cost of the Pioneer Generation Package over time.

  11. Singaporeans who were born on or before 31 Dec 1959 (i.e. aged 55 and above in 2014) and who do not enjoy Pioneer Generation benefits will receive an annual Medisave top-up of $100 to $200 over the next five years. The amount an eligible Singaporean will receive is based on the value of his/her home and will be paid out from August 2014:

  12. To boost the retirement adequacy of older Singaporeans, the Government will raise their CPF contribution rates effective Jan 2015. These are on top of the increase in employer CPF contribution rates for the Medisave Account for all workers. All increases in employer contributions will be allocated to the Special Account. The 0.5 percentage point increase in contribution rate from employees aged 50 to 55 years will go to the Ordinary Account.

  13. To give greater encouragement and recognition to individuals supporting their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents (including in-laws), the Parent Relief and Handicapped Parent Relief will be enhanced as follows:

    The apportionment of the Parent Relief and Handicapped Parent Relief will be effective from Year of Assessment (YA) 2015.

  14. Subsidies for the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) will be enhanced. Raise the universal base subsidy for Singaporean children enrolled in EIPIC from $300 to $500 a month; Extend subsidies to cover 80% of households. Those earning above the median income will benefit from a further 20% to 50% subsidy, in addition to an enhanced $500 base subsidy.
  15. To make transport more affordable for the disabled community, the Government will introduce: Subsidies to cover up to 80% of the cost of dedicated transport to access school and care services. This will apply to the lower two-thirds of households; A new Taxi Subsidy Scheme to subsidise up to 50% of the cost of taxi travel for those who are unable to travel by public transport or tap on dedicated transport. This will apply to the lower half of households.
  16. To provide greater support for individuals with handicapped dependants, the amount of handicapped spouse relief, handicapped sibling relief and handicapped child relief will be increased by $2,000 with effect from YA 2015 as follows:

  17. To help seniors with their cost of living, the Government will provide a one-off GSTV – Cash: Seniors’ Bonus for all eligible Singaporeans aged 55 and above. This means that they will get double the GSTV – Cash payment in 2014. About 675,000 seniors will benefit.

  18. To help households with their cost of living, the Government will provide a one-off GSTV – U-Save Special Payment, with those in smaller flats receiving more. It will be paid out on top of the regular GSTV – U-Save payments. About 800,000 households will benefit.

  19. To help households with their general household expenses, the Government will provide S&CC rebates in 2014. About 800,000 households will benefit.

For more information on the budget 2014, you can visit the budget website here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Keep your eyes open

I quote from Paulo Coelho:
Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed. 

Keep your eyes open so you can see where you're going

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Should property curbs be removed?

Personally, I do not believe that the property curbs should be removed because of a very simple reason. The curbs are finally working.

Previously, no property firms have complained consistently about the property curbs because they did not work. The government enforced rules that somehow can be worked around, and the property prices were still skyrocketing.

Now finally the government has hit the sweet spot that has started moderating the property price. That means that the introduction of new curbs can finally stop because the curbs are finally working.

Maybe the property stamp ruling can be eased a little but the current restrictions should be retained for a very simple reason. Not all the buyers of property can afford the sky high prices that property developers are asking now for the flats.

Is it the buyers' fault that the developers bid up the land prices until the selling price becomes unrealistic to many? No. So why should we want the curbs to be removed now that the property prices are starting to be affordable?

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Problem with meritocracy

The problem I feel with the emphasis on meritocracy is that it focuses on promoting individuals according to merit. I have 2 concerns over 2 words in that sentence. Individuals and Merit.

Let's talk about individuals. Most, if not all bosses, should know that the company success does not lie in individuals. Its the result of group/team effort. No man is an island and everyone in one way or another contributes to the overall result. Therefore, emphasis on an individual I feel is outdated because team work is where 1 + 1 = 11. No matter how good an individual is, that is only 1 person. The collective output will definitely be far greater than an individual output.

The issue I have with merit is that it does not define what is merit. The problem with merit is that it is very subjective. If someone always tend to say yes to the boss but at the operations level, that person is a tyrant causing high turnover but somehow getting things done because of a selected few who can bear that person's nonsense, is that considered as merit?

Next is the process of getting the merit. If there are selected certificates or schools that produces great result or is in high demand, what is stopping from those organisations or schools to pick and choose the individuals that can take part to maintain that exclusivity. Doesn't that restrict people who has "merit" to a selected few, mostly the famous and rich?

I never like the word meritocracy and I think teamwork and overall result should be more of a emphasis than concentrating on an individual. Meritocracy, personally to me, just promotes individualism, which will not lead to greater heights because it just focus on an individual.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Who decides

I quote from Gary Oldman:
It's about asking ourselves questions like: Who is making the decisions? And the danger is to have other people deciding in your place what's best for you. Then there is also the ethical and moral question of where does the technology stop, as things are becoming more and more automated.

Do not let others decide for you and last but not least, do not let technology decide what you can or cannot do.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Foreign levies link to productivity again

Recently I've been reading certain individuals linking foreign levies with productivity and that the increase of foreign levies help decrease productivity.

Yes, productivity is talking about total output / total input. However, input doesn't only look at manpower cost. There are always methods of improving the output without constantly trying to lower the manpower cost.

The foreign levies itself does increase the manpower cost but that's because some companies are still addicted to cheap manpower with no concern on the quality of the product/service. In the long run, over reliance on cheap manpower will affect your business in the long run because of a simple rule, quality costs.

If the quality is high, the cost of producing it is definitely higher, be it due to the machinery invested or the manpower costs used to deliver the product/service.

Cheap cost and good quality doesn't really come together. One should always look at productivity and quality of product/service together. In the end, it affects your profits. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

MacRitchie TreeTop Walk

You should not miss going to the MacRitchie TreeTop Walk if you have a chance to visit MacRitchie Reservoir. You can find more information about the reservoir and how to get there here.

The TreeTop Walk is the highlight of several hiking routes in MacRitchie that brings you through different stages of mature secondary forest. This free-standing suspension bridge connects the two highest points (Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang) in MacRitchie and offers a bird's eye view of the community of plants and animals that live in the forest canopy. The total length of the walkway is about 250m and its height from the forest floor varies, with the highest point at 25m.

It is quite easy to find the TreeTop Walk. If you encounter any crossroads, just look out for the map or the road signs. The signs are everywhere and there are different ways of getting there. Just follow one of the signs but remember that you may need to walk as long as 11km to get to the TreeTop walk. That will take about 4-5 hours. It will be nearer if you walk to the TreeTop walk via the car park at Venus Drive, which will take about an hour. However, you will miss all the nature wildlife you may encounter if you go via the nature trail. Below are some of the wildlife you may encounter if you walk the full 11km to treetop walk. :)

Monitor Lizard walking around the broadwalk



Is this a brown-streaked flycatcher?

Unknown bird with a long unique tail

Big spider on a bigger spider web

Common Sun Skink

When you're near the TreeTop walk, do take note that there is a short distance when you will walk on the road, but you will need to go back to the trail. You won't miss it as there is a big map at the entrance of the trail.

Upon reaching it, you will see the stairs going down towards the treetop walk.

You will see a small station at the end of this walkway, which is the entrance to the treetop walk.

The treetop walk gives you a bird's eye view of all the trees around MacRitchie and even the reservoir. You may also see interesting birds on the tree canopy.

Visit TreeTop walk when you can. It is a nice place to go to but you need to hike for some time though. Be prepared.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Talk about it

I quote from Fred Rogers:
Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.

We should always talk about what's bothering us because once you do, it becomes mentionable and when you can mention it, it becomes manageable.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Seriously disappointed in nuffnang

I have been bearing this for some time but I am seriously disappointed with Nuffnang. Not only it takes ages to earn $50 so that I can cash out, they also charge an admin fee and has a weird policy that they only process the cash out at the end of the month, and you have to wait 30 days for the payment to be made.

To top it all off, they started delaying the 30 days payment. I cash out in mid Nov 2012, and only got my cheque a few days ago. That is almost 3 months after I click on the cash-out.

We bloggers are helping these advertisers make money and yet they take 90 days just to pay a token sum to us. This is the tipping point for me.

I would rather rent out my nuffnang ad space to others who are more willing to pay for it timely.

I will be removing the codes for nuffnang soon when I have time to touch the codes for my blog. Yes, I specially coded the blog so that the ads will appear.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SMRT financial results and why we're not happy

SMRT recently released their financial results for the 3rd quarter and at first glance, the results do not look good. They lost about 8m for the bus operations and obviously, that would be the main area that they will keep emphasising to justify that they are doing their "best".

However, there is something left unspoken.

Regardless of how much they are losing, guess what? They are still making profits. For the 3rd quarter, they had a 20m operating profit. Why is that so?

It's very simple. The other areas of the businesses are making enough profits to make the business a viable one. This is something that has been left unsaid by SMRT. Their rental and advertising businesses made the lion share of all the profits.

What is further left unsaid is that the rental and advertising businesses is as a result of them operating the trains, stations, buses and taxis. If at any point in time SMRT for some reason or another is not chosen as the operator for our trains, buses and taxis, their business will not survive. If the government for some reason or another choose to take back the train/bus stations and the advertising space, SMRT will truly be in the red. In conclusion, all the profits SMRT makes is as a result of them being one of the operators of our trains, buses and taxis.

That is why the citizens are up in arms about SMRT being a profit driven company. You're trying to keep fares affordable, and yet let the company that manages the operations is a publicly listed company where the main aim is to make as much profits as possible.

Does it add up? Of course not. And that is why the citizens are not happy. Just imagine if this is a non-profit organisation, the amount of money that it makes can make the public transport so much more efficient and less error prone.

The quest for more profits, and the quest for affordable charges do not come together, like oil and water. Simple logic.

Monday, February 3, 2014

MacRitchie Reservoir

Recently I finally went down to MacRitchie after more than a decade and my, that place has changed quite a bit. I do not even recall anything about this place other than it is in the middle of all the viaducts and flyovers. :) If you're into looking for green lungs in Singapore though, this is one of the places that you must visit. This place is huge and its part of Singapore's central catchment area.

Getting there however, is much easier than a decade ago. Now, you can get there just by taking our trains (a.k.a MRT). However, you do have to walk about 10mins to reach the reservoir. :) The rough instructions to get there are as follows:
  1. Alight at Marymount MRT (Circle Line)
  2. Take the Exit A
  3. When you leave the station, turn left and walk downhill towards the junction
  4. You will see a big florist called Goodwood florist. Cross the road over to that side and walk towards Upper Thomson road along the pavement to your right.
  5. You will reach a big T junction, with a flyover and a big bus stop. Cross the road towards that big bus stop and take the left.

That's it. You should see a car park to your right, which is the entrance to MacRitchie Reservoir.

The difference between this place and the Punggol Promenade which I frequent is that the wildlife here seems to be lesser. It might be because I was there at about 4+pm. One wildlife that you definitely will not miss is the macaque monkeys. They are just everywhere.

Do remember not to feed them, and gradually back away if they approach you. These monkeys are smart and if they see you carrying any bags, they will approach you and attempt to take your bags. You can admire them, but from a distance.

The highlight of MacRitchie reservoir is actually the HSBC Treetop walk that is located deep within the reservoir. It is a free-standing suspension bridge connects the two highest points (Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang) in MacRitchie and offers a bird's eye view of the community of plants and animals that live in the forest canopy. The total length of the walkway is about 250m and its height from the forest floor varies, with the highest point at 25m.

The catch? On a moderate trail towards the treetop walk, it is a 11km route which is roughly a 4 - 5 hours walk. :) The other catch, the treetop walk is open from 9am-5pm. If you reach the treetop walk after 5pm, the gate will be closed.

So if you hope to visit the area, especially the treetop walk, do factor in the time. As mentioned just now, I was there only at about 4+pm so I didn't get a chance to visit the treetop walk. I will not chance walking along the trails in the dark. Will have to plan my next visit there.

If you're tired after the long walk, you can always walk to the Upper Thomson road eateries that is about 10-15mins walk away from the MacRitchie reservoir. Just exit the main entrance and take the left side. Walk along the pavement all the way and you should see the eateries/shop houses bordering the main road.

Have fun. :)
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