Roadshows had been going on feverishly for the last weekend and it will probably continue to be so. For those who have not renewed their plans, this is probably the best time to get a good bargain. Of course, before heading down to your friendly roadshow, do give your operator a call for that extra $50 or $100 voucher for being such a loyal customer *and* at the same time, enjoy the great discounts that the telcos are giving.

I am not sure about you, but looking at this is making me salivate.

Now that I am done with the tenderizing, let’s get down to the economics of things. So, what happens if your contract hasn’t expired and you want to get your hands on that Diamond (HTC Diamond, I mean) or that Prada (LG Prada, that is)? There’s always the same old trade of paying for someone to renew their contracts plus tips. Yes, tips. Anything else would make it sound almost illegal.

Of course, in situations like this, the happier people will be the owners-to-be. The not-so-happy ones will be the current owners, where their resale value of their phone dropped almost by 50% overnight. But trust me, this probably won’t last long as long as you (the current owners who are dying to get rid of their phones) just keep it for a while longer before putting it up on HWZ or eBay – long enough such that the offers are no longer there, but not so long until it’s no longer desirable to own it.

Anyway, what’s in a phone? Isn’t it just to make phone calls, take pictures, play MP3s, play 3gps, act as a GPS, pretend to be an organizer…

Telcos slash prices for even the hottest cellphones

By Alfred Siew, Technology Correspondent

TWO weeks into the latest round of competition in the cellphone market and already customers are turning out to be the big winners.

All three telcos here are slashing prices for even the latest and most-wanted cellphones by as much as $600, in a bid to woo and retain customers.

Usually, telcos offer customers subsidies of about $300-$400 for mobile phones, but now, such subsidies have almost doubled in some cases.

SingTel, for example, priced the HTC Touch Diamond at $498 with a two-year plan – less than half its retail price of $1,098 – when the phone first launched about two weeks ago. At that time, StarHub’s price for the phone, the hot gizmo of the moment, was $598 while MobileOne sold it for $698.

The following week, both StarHub and M1 slashed their prices to match SingTel’s rate.

The HTC phone, which lets users navigate menus by sliding their fingers along the screen a la the Apple iPhone, has sold out at many cellphone stores in the past two weeks.

The ‘street battles’ between the three telcos started building up right before full number portability kicked in on June 13.

Though users have not been rushing to switch telcos at the get-go, the fact that the new rules allow them to do so and still keep their numbers means telcos are being forced to work harder to retain subscribers.

Experts say the competition will intensify when other popular phones are launched here, such as Samsung’s Omnia, which hit the shelves last week.

This much-awaited iPhone alternative usually costs just over $1,000 but telcos were offering it for $500 to $600 last week, if bundled with a contract.

All three cellphone operators here said they have seen encouraging turnouts at recent roadshows, but declined to reveal sales figures.

All three claimed to have signed up ‘switchers’ and also re-contracted existing users.

Analysts say the number of people switching from one telco to another may be small – 5 per cent to 15 per cent in the first year – but that does not mean consumers are not benefiting from the tougher competition.

Senior analyst Soh Siow Meng from Current Analysis said: ‘The fact that we are seeing new marketing strategies from telcos means they are competing hard for the consumer’s dollar.’

He predicts these price wars will go on for a few months before things start to stabilise once people sign new phone contracts.

One user who is waiting for the price wars to play out is manager Loh Wei Loong, 32, who said: ‘Phones have been way too expensive here, and this price war is surely a boon to consumers.’

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 30th June 2008

While it’s not an easy feat to get a child at the age of 3 to read of the menu, reading this article makes me worry for my kids in the future. I hope to be quite sure that the kid picked up reading gradually on his own and I do agree with his mum that in such a competitive place like Singapore, headstarts in whatever things is an advantage.

What scares me is how parents are hoping to improve their kids’ memory, creativity and mathematics (counting?) at and early age. I don’t really dare to imagine how stressed my kid at Primary 1 will be, coming back and crying that everyone has superb memory and could do calculations in complex numbers. It’s no wonder the GCEs are beginning to be a poor gauge of a student’s academic ability because it will eventually only segregate the smart from the… not-so-smart. Perhaps the Special papers can now be used to pick out the very smart (and beyond) from the just-smart-enough, but at the rate things are going, we probably need a Really-Special paper in the near future.

I also foresee a Pre-primary / Kindergarten Leaving Examination (PPLE/KLE) in the near future to determine whose kids could go to which schools. Well, at least this may help to reduce some bickering from parents about the Primary 1 balloting. 

He can read the menu – and he’s only three

More parents are introducing their kids to reading at an earlier age

By Sumathi V. Selvaretnam

WHEN three-year-old Alastair Shee goes to a restaurant, he has a knack for wowing waiters by ordering off the menu.

The toddler, whose favourite a la carte dish is macaroni soup, can read simple words at an age when most of his peers are still struggling with their ABCs.

‘I started reading to him when he was three months old,’ said Alastair’s mother, Mrs Vanessa Shee, 35.

‘I did it to give him a headstart as it is very competitive in Singapore.’

Like her, more parents are eager to introduce reading to their newborns and interest in baby-specific books, DVDs and flashcards is booming.

Last year, branches of the National Library increased their stock of books for children under three by almost 25 per cent.

They also hand out up to 600 reading kits every month to expecting mothers.

The popularity of pricey infant learning kits is also on the rise, with one $570 package seeing a 50 per cent increase in sales in the last three years, said its distributor.

Parents are also flocking to workshops conducted by infant learning experts.

One held last month by Dr Robert Titzer, an internationally renowned childhood educator, drew 94 parents, double the expected turnout.

According to Dr Titzer, parents can start reading to their babies at two or three months old.

It is an age when, for the first time, newborns are able to follow things with their eyes.

‘The earlier the child reads, the better the child reads and it is more likely that he will enjoy reading,’ he said.

His approach uses flashcards, books and DVDs that stimulate a baby’s senses with simple words, actions and sounds.

Then, there are parents who are opting for the Shichida method, which is popular in Japan.

The classes offer activities that help develop a child’s memory, creativity and the ability to perform quick calculations.

The two centres in Singapore that offer the course have long waiting lists and parents sign up months before their children are born. Twelve lessons lasting about one hour and 15 minutes each cost about $745.

While there is no harm in starting early, parents should be careful not to overburden the child, said Ms Teresa To, a senior speech therapist at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

‘Parents don’t have to be too hung up about reading every single word on a page. Instead, they can look at pictures and describe them or sing songs and rhymes,’ she said.

Mrs Janaki Samikannu, 27, began reading to her 10-month-old daughter, Shria, when she was just two weeks old.

Like other parents, she said the sessions have other non-academic benefits.

She said: ‘I don’t know if she is picking up any words but it is just to get her into the whole feel and habit of reading. It also allows me to bond with her.’

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 30th June 2008

Actually, if I have a passion for something, I may pay to learn so that I can volunteer – you know? First aid, fire safety and other life-long enrichments that can benefit others too. I am bringing this up because NParks has recently decided, or rather, proposed to provide training for nature guides and in the midst of it, charge them for certification.

If they are talking about commercial or private guides that introduce tourists or nature lovers to our green spaces for a fee, I would understand that. However, there are also many guides (and aspiring ones like myself) who do love nature and want to share with others our love for it – and having volunteers pay for training might just turn everything into another profit-raking job.

While I do admit that proper training in some aspects (safety? geology? history?) may be beneficial to both the guides and tourists, but perhaps they should consider some other means of "regulating" this. I may have no qualms about paying for "certification", but it just seem… a little strange – in a manner that I can’t quite describe.

Nature guides may soon need to be certified

Proposed NParks rule designed to raise quality of guides

By Shobana Kesava

BY THE end of next year, all nature guides who show local and foreign tourists around Singapore’s parks and reserves could need a certificate from the Government.

The proposed rule, designed to eliminate the risk of shoddy tours and ill-informed guides, would apply to the roughly 300 green spaces under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Board (NParks).

The list includes some of Singapore’s biggest and most popular parks, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin.

NParks chief operations officer Leong Chee Chiew said: ‘We would like to standardise the quality of information given out to those who are interested in nature.’

NParks said a big reason for its proposal was the rapidly growing number of eco-tourists visiting its parks and reserves. The demand has prompted a need for more people – both volunteers and professionals – to get into the guiding game.

NParks said there are 1,600 registered volunteer guides, but it is unclear how many are active. There could be hundreds of other private volunteers, according to some estimates.

Most guides are nature lovers or members of conservation groups who offer free tours. But there are a handful of professionals who charge about $100 per hour for excursions.

Eventually all those conducting eco-tours will have to go for training, though the details of the programme have not been established, said Dr Leong.

NParks’ director of industry, Mr P. Teva Raj, said this will not apply to teachers and their students, or people who want to share what they know with friends.

‘This is meant to be a comfort to the public who want to engage a service, so they will know that the person doing the guiding has a consistently high level of knowledge,’ he said.

Seven experienced nature guides who spoke with The Straits Times agreed that training would be valuable.

But they were riled by the idea that they might require accreditation. Some see it as an insult after decades of promoting Singapore’s natural heritage, while others think it goes against the spirit of volunteerism.

A guide certified by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Mr Grant Pereira, 59, said: ‘I don’t see a reason for external guidelines. I am a certified guide by the STB, I am extremely good at the few guided tours I specialise in. Why is this necessary?’

It appears that not every eco-tourist needs licensed guides. Nature lover Nassera Guerroumi, 36, who is from France and came to live in Singapore two years ago, does not think certification is necessary beyond training in first aid.

‘Why formalise it? People who do this love nature or they wouldn’t bother sharing their passion. I don’t need Latin names of plants, or someone talking all the time, I just want to be safe and know where to go to have an experience,’ she said.

NParks has not come up with the cost of the proposed training programme, nor has it decided if there will be a difference in what professional guides and volunteers will have to pay for training.

Mr Raj, when pressed, said the fee would be more than $100 but would not be onerous. He said subsidies will be made available to locals.

President of the Nature Society of Singapore, Mr Shawn Lum, 45, said that, in principle, NParks’ idea is excellent.

‘It ensures that NParks, as a custodian of our natural heritage, has an idea of who are leading walks and if they’re being done responsibly. The devil is in the detail which stakeholders would want to help the authorities pin down. But this is worth it,’ he said.

Mr Raj said consultations will be held with eco-guides later this year before its plans are cast in stone.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 30th June 2008

News reports of Malaysia’s de facto opposition Anwar Ibrahim sodomizing one of his aides have hit the stands again. Apparently, an aide of Anwar’s had lodged a police report alleging that he was sodomized by the former. This was similar to the allegations that landed him in jail in 1998. Police investigations are now ongoing.

Could it be that old habits die hard? Or could Anwar be set up by the current government in an attempt to dampen his efforts of over throwing the former? Even if police investigations are being carried out, would there be a chance that the outcome will be in the favour of the current government? Until the whole story is out, it’s really hard to tell.

PUTRAJAYA – MALAYSIA’S opposition Parti Keadilan Raykat has moved its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim into a ‘safe but undisclosed location’ after he had received death threats.

His wife and PKR president Satin Seri Wan Azizah Ismail said this at a press conference on Sunday afternoon, just hours after an aide of Mr Anwar’s had lodged a police report alleging he was sodomised by the one-time deputy prime minister.

Mr Anwar was was sacked by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over similar allegations in 1998.

Federal CID director Comm Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin said the police would conduct a thorough and fair investigation in the sodomy allegations.

They will also investigate the allegations before taking a statement from Mr Anwar, he said.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reiterated that the Barisan Nasional Government was not behind the latest allegation of sodomy against Mr Anwar.

Stating that he was shocked on hearing the police report lodged by an aide of Mr Anwar on Saturday night, Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he would leave the police to conduct investigations on the allegations and to take the necessary action.

He said he or the Government did not instruct the police to take any action. On Anwar’s statement that the allegations were a complete fabrication to kill his political career, as in 1998 when he was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Abdullah said the Government had nothing to do with the police report.

‘We are not involved. Umno and Barisan Nasional did not plan to trouble, disturb or accuse him.

‘I believe even my friends like Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib (Tun Razak) did not have any intention to do such a thing to him,’ he told reporters here on Sunday after launching the Bumi Hijau programme.

Mr Abdullah said the alleged victim has the right to lodge a police report if it had really happened.

When asked if Mr Anwar would be arrested following the latest allegation, Mr Abdullah said he did not want to speculate on the matter and would leave the matter to the police.

Meanwhile the aide, who had started working at PKR about three months ago to help in the 12th general election, had lodged a police report alleging sodomy by the PKR leader at about 5.45pm on Saturday.

The man, in his 20s, is being treated at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Anwar called for an urgent press conference at 1.20am Sunday morning to deny the allegations.

In a statement read out by PKR vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah at a hotel in Shah Alam, he described the allegations as ‘total fabrication’.

The statement, which was also faxed to media offices, said: ‘The police report lodged against me today is a complete fabrication. I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress.’

Sources said police were waiting for the medical report from the hospital before proceeding with investigations.

They also said Mr Anwar was expected to be called up by the police to have his statement recorded.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang posted in his blog early on Sunday morning that he had spoken to Mr Anwar over the phone and ‘he is expecting the worst.’

Mr Anwar and his adopted brother Mr Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja were found guilty by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Aug 8, 2000 on the charge of sodomising Anwar’s former family driver, Mr Azizan Abu Bakar, at Mr Sukma’s apartment in Tivoli Villa, Bangsar, between January and March 1993.

Mr Anwar was sentenced to nine years’ jail while Mr Sukma received six years and ordered to be given four strokes of the rotan. Mr Sukma was also convicted by the High Court on a charge of abetting Mr Anwar in the commission of the offence.

In 2003, the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals.

Mr Anwar was first convicted for corruption on April 14, 1999 and was jailed for six years. He should have been released on April 14, 2003 after a one-third remission but had to start serving his sentence for the sodomy offence, which the court ordered to be served consecutively.

Mr Anwar was freed in 2004 after the Federal Court acquitted him of the charge of sodomising his former family driver. — The Star/SANN

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 29th June 2008

Everything seems to be going up nowadays, but the recent rise in premium bus fares somehow reminds me of the rise in ERP charges. Someone mentioned that "if motorists pay to use the road, they will be assured of a smooth ride". It would have seemed that the public transport companies are taking the same stance, except that they are quoting "raising fuel costs" as the main reason.

As with previous announcements on hikes of whatever nature, it is never complete without an face-palm statement, quoting Mr Ong Kian Ming, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, that "yes, bus operators are running a business, but it’s also a time to attract more people to switch to public transport".


Premium bus fares to go up

By Yeo Ghim Lay

PREMIUM bus fares will soon go up, as operators here feel the pinch from higher fuel prices.

SBS Transit, which runs more than half of such services, will raise fares by 30 to 60 cents, up to a maximum of $3.60 per trip.

The fare hike will affect all of its 40 premium services. Details are being worked out.

Currently, a trip on an SBS Transit premium bus costs between $2.70 and $3.60.

A company spokesman said that its electricity and fuel costs have increased by 52.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year.

Rival SMRT has already increased fares for premium service 531, which travels the Simei to Central Business District route, from $3 to $4. Fares on its remaining premium services remain the same.

Smaller players Bus Hub and the Singapore School Transport Association have also applied to raise their fares by 50 cents to $1.

Bus Hub runs two premium services; the association has five.

The Public Transport Council (PTC), which approves bus-fare increases, said it ‘generally would not object to changes in premium bus services fares as operators make their own commercial assessments and risks to adjust their service pricing’.

Mr Ong Kian Min, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, hopes fares will not go up drastically.

‘Yes, bus operators are running a business, but it’s also a time to attract more people to switch to public transport,’ he said.

Premium services, a key plank of the Government’s push to get more commuters to take public transport, have been gaining in popularity lately: There are now 76 services, up from 42 in January.

This includes six new SBS Transit premium services to be rolled out on Monday.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on on 28th June 2008

Seats near the emergency exits and bulkhead seats have always been popular because of the additional leg room that an air passenger can get; not to mention not having to worry about when the person in front decides to take a "back seat" as and when he fancies – without regards if you are midway savoring whatever that’s edible on your plane diet.

Of course, there are pros and cons of sitting at exit or bulkhead seats. The most obvious advantage is the extra legroom, while the cons – well, you can’t put your laptop bag under the seat in front of you because there’s… no seat? Duh! But seriously, the "extra legroom" that you have is really meant for emergencies (for people to scramble out of a burning plane, for example) besides your legs.

So, with that in mind, perhaps the last row isle seat may be a good choice after all – since you can get to put your laptop bags under the seat in front of you, as well as being able to lean back without worry of smashing the poor fella’s face against his food during meal times. =)

To survive a fire in a plane, sit near exits

Passengers sitting near plane’s emergency exits have the best chance of escaping in a fire

LONDON – FOR the best chance of getting out alive from a burning aircraft, passengers should choose an aisle seat near the front within five rows of an emergency exit, a new study has found.

The study, commissioned by the Civil Aviation Authority and carried out by Greenwich University in London, examined 105 accidents and accounts from 2,000 survivors of how they managed to escape from crash landings and onboard fires, reported the Times of London newspaper yesterday.

It found that the seats with the best survival rate were in the emergency exit row and the row in front or behind it.

Between two and five rows from the exit, passengers still have a better than even chance of escaping in a fire but ‘the difference between surviving and perishing is greatly reduced’, it said.

The most dangerous seats were those six or more rows from an exit where ‘the chances of perishing far outweigh those of surviving’, the study said.

Passengers sitting towards the front of the aircraft had a 65 per cent chance of escaping a fire, while the survival rate for those at the rear was 53 per cent.

And, the survival rate in aisle seats was 64 per cent, compared with 58 per cent for other passengers.

Under international air safety regulations, aircraft must undergo a test to demonstrate that all those on board can escape within 90 seconds when half the exits are blocked.

But the study found that the evacuation test was flawed because it failed to take account of people’s behaviour in an emergency and assumed that no one on board had any ‘social bonds’ with other passengers.

In fact, analysis of behaviour in real emergencies showed that many passengers waited to help their friends or relatives.

Another flaw with the tests, the study found, was that people were much more willing to comply with directions from cabin crew under experimental conditions than in real danger.

‘In real emergency situations, where passengers may have a choice of directions in which to escape, they may ultimately ignore crew commands and attempt to use their nearest exit,’ the study pointed out.

It also said that the test should take into account the survival instinct of passengers, which could result in people climbing over seats to jump the queue for the exit, and delay evacuation.

Mr Robert Gifford, director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said the study ‘shows your choice of seat on a plane really can be a matter of life or death. Your chance of survival should not be based on your ability to pay for an emergency exit seat or to reserve your seat online’.

Mr Gifford said airlines should consider putting families and elderly people near the exits. They might not be allowed to sit in the exit row, however, because regulations require passengers in those seats to be fit enough to help to open the door.

A transport safety group said that the findings called into question the increasing trend among airlines to charge extra for exit seats, which have more legroom, or for passengers to select their seats online.

One of the accidents analysed in the study was the disaster at Manchester airport in 1985, when 55 people died on a British Airtours Boeing 737 after it caught fire.

The majority of those who died were sitting well away from a usable exit.

The fire, caused by an exploding engine that punctured a fuel tank in the wing, engulfed one side of the aircraft and prevented escape from several exits.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 28th June 2008

For many who are contemplating about getting a car, the bad news is that petrol costs has risen so much that it will probably be as much as your installments that you will be paying for your car. The good news is, this may only be true for smaller cars – assuming that the installment is $290 per month and that a 22,000km drive per month costs $236. Of course, if you are driving a bigger car with higher fuel consumption, you may still end up paying just as much as your car installment – but really, the crux of this news is that even small time car owners will be affected by the rise in petrol prices which affects their total cost of ownership of a car.

Will this eventually lead to the reduction of vehicles on the road and hence improve road conditions and reduce ERP charges. If the recent announcement of ERP charges and increase in number of gantries is anything to go by, it’d seem not. If there’s really an increase in public transport ridership, one really wonders where in the world did the additional traffic come from. Or could it be that people are just making more trips? Guess only  the authorities will know.

RECORD pump prices have put the brakes on budget-car sales, as monthly petrol bills begin to match or overtake car-loan instalment payments for some models.

Trade figures for the first five months of the year showed sharp falls of 50 per cent or more in sales of brands like Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia and Ford. Models priced below $60,000 were hardest hit.

The Chinese brands are also reeling.

Mr Paul Ng, general manager of Vertex Automobile, which distributes China’s Chery, said buyers may be able to afford monthly instalments on a car, ‘but what about petrol, electronic road-pricing and parking?’.

‘Budget cars are bought by budget buyers. With inflation so high, these people would want to take care of necessities rather than spend on a big-ticket item,’ said Mr Ng.

A Straits Times estimate shows that some car buyers may have to fork out as much for fuel as their car-loan instalments.

For instance, the monthly payment on a 90 per cent, 10-year loan for a Chinese car like the Chery QQ is $290. Based on an average annual mileage of 22,000km, petrol bills for the car are not much lower at around $236 a month.

Early last year, the monthly instalment and fuel bills were $280 and $173 respectively.

The same monthly payment for an off-peak Geely is $193. Assuming off-peak cars clock 30 per cent less mileage, the monthly fuel bill would be about $215. Last year, the monthly instalment and petrol bills were $174 and $161.

Mr Kevin Kwee, executive director of Geely agent Group Exklusiv, said rising running costs have dampened buying sentiment, especially in the lower end of the market.

‘We are still very clear that Geely is targeted at off-peak car buyers and buyers who want low maintenance and low insurance cost,’ Mr Kwee said.

‘But based on sales results, we’re not yet successful in reaching out to them.’

Mr Albert Pang, managing director of Chevrolet dealer Alpine Motors, attributed the sharp drop in Chevy sales to ‘a lack of new models in the first part of the year’, but said that ‘the price of petrol has a part to play too’.

Besides inflationary pressure, which affects mostly first-time buyers, industry observers also cite the problem of ‘negative equity’ that many car owners face today.

The term refers to the resale value of their existing car being lower than the loan balance owed to the bank. Motorists in this situation find it harder to trade in for a new vehicle.

According to Motor Traders Association data, 23 out of the 33 member brands suffered a drop in sales in the first five months of the year.

And of the 10 which bucked the trend, seven were luxury brands, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Maserati and Ferrari.

Honda and Subaru were two mass-market marques with improved sales.

Mr Ng of Vertex commented: ‘For luxury-car owners, petrol and ERP are not big considerations.’

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 27th June 2008

If you remember reading the post that I wrote about a donor who got a parking summon after parking beyond the time stipulated on his coupons, then you’d remember that he was… well, self-pwned in that URA gave their side of the story on the timing that was stated on the coupon and insinuated that Mr Tan cheated on his coupon.

Reproduced below are comments that were left by Mr Tan Tatt Si on that post. I am reproducing this as a follow up on the original post and also SGH’s response on that matter. I am surprised that SGH bothered to intervene, which brings graciousness to a whole new level.

HI, I’m TattSi, Mr Self-Pwned on Graciousness & Parking.

Trust me when I say I’m not a masochist, while the exchange made me seem so. ST Forum ‘edited out’ my ‘Complacency’ argument when I attacked ‘Official Graciousness’. My letter wasn’t about my parking – Complacency 1st, Graciousness 2nd.

My rebuttal was, of course, not printed, resulting in quite a character assassination on me, and no forum for me to air my subsequent views.

In these days of Mas Selamat’s escape, and ICA letting Mr Ang use the wrong passport, I seriously think civil service has reached a place where efficiency is utmost, but mistakes are acceptable. What can we underlings do ?

Attached is my original rebuttal. I will post a private mail from URA later, in response to this rebuttal.


Topic : Grace Period & Graciousness

I refer to Monday’s letter, “Grace period given, but one hour is too long” by Mr Lim Eng Chong from URA.

  • Let me first rebut a few ‘facts’ Mr Lim had in his letter :
    While the SGH excuse chit noted between 11:15am – 2pm, I parked at 11:20am (attendents in Carpark B at the time), and left at 1:41pm
  • Given that I parked for 2 hr & 21 minutes, factoring 10-minute walk each way and two platelet machines, my routine donation would have been ~1 hr
  • SGH website’s ‘2 – 3 hours’ may cover some overheads to err on the safe side, in case donors need the extra time off from employers, and that different donors need different recovery times
  • I used to park at Carpark H, which may not be URA administered, and I used to get complimentary parking from SGH. Such is the graciousness
    from SGH.

Mr Lim’s letter alluded that :
(a) I cheated 15 minutes on displaying the start time of my parking (calculating backwards from being registered at SGH at 11:15am)
(b) that I have a poor parking violation record, and might have written numerous times to URA for appeals in the past.

Point (a) is an insinuation, based on assumptions and not on factual findings, and is the complete opposite of graciousness or benefit of doubt.
Point (b) is condescending, and also unture. I have my share of parking tickets, and I pay most all of them without a whimper of protest or delay.

Half of these parking violations were my wife’s, but URA was probably quick to assume that they were all mine.

The important points are :

  • SGH needs to inform donors of budgeting more time for donations, in order to mobilise more donors to donate safely
  • Track record is used by Mr Lim superfluously, as is grace period. Mr Lim have no specifics that said what kind of track record disqualifies what kind of appeals, nor what kind of grace period is tied to what special circumstances. I can understand URA for not publishing this, for fear that this may be abused, and for the purpose of maintaining flexibility. It is this flexibility part that I had counted on for this appeal.
  • The linkage of the past to the present is unecessary. The merit of the situation at hand should be measured on its own, and not need the past to help weigh in. e.g. my platelets donation was anonymous – I did no background check on the recipient. He or she deserves it, every time.
  • The $10 fine could have been issued to anyone who exceeded the same amount of time, so some grace period is intrinsic, and not specific to me. On my appeal, nothing additional was given, and so the fact is : when URA was given a chance to be gracious and compassionate, it decided not to take it.
  • URA is an organization. Its visions and culture are of the people who run it. If complacency sets in, people should realize it and overcome it, and not take offence with it

Apology is a form of graciousness, too. The model answer I am looking for, is ” … URA understands the SGH carpark situation, and understands
Mr Tan’s specific circumstances now, and will continue to take extra care when evaluating extraordinary cases in the future.”

What warms my heart, is when after reading my first letter, SGH offered to pay my fine outside of their normal procedure. They were pleased to learn that I was beyond the $10, and that I will stay on the program. Healthcare organisations ought not to be the only ones showing compassion
and graciousness.

Tan Tatt Si

Additionally, Mr Tan received the following from URA:

As promised. Remember : I wasn’t looking for $10 refund.


30 May 08

Mr Tan Tatt Si
Via email : *removed by Simply Jean*

Dear Mr Tan


1 We refer to your email of 21 May 08 addressed to Mr Lim Eng Chong.

2 We have noted your comments. We have disallowed your appeal after having thoroughly assessed your case based on other facts and information
available, besides the reasons, provided by you. However, we are aware that there will always be situations where members of the public and the
regulatory authority may disagree.

3 Nevertheless, we respect your sentiments on the matter. We also thank you for your feedback and views which we will take into consideration in
our regular reviews of our operations and policies.

Yours sincerely

While I am not in any position to comment on URA’s actions, SGH’s intervention on the matter (which I suppose is on their own accord) shows us that organizations do care for their volunteers and donors and are not taking things for granted. Another point that I thought was nicely highlighted was that URA automatically assumes that all violations belong to the owner of the vehicle – which may or may not be fair, but this brings about the importance of accountability of car ownership and that the onus is always on the car owner to ensure that their vehicles are utilized in a responsible manner.

Well, if the reports in the papers were anything to go by, then you should not be paying anything more than S$90 to S$120; and no, I do not encourage the selling or buying of NDP tickets, which is given out free every year. Such touting had been discouraged every year by the organizers, but little is, or can be done to curb this, except for the organizers to liaise with online auction sites to stop the sale and auction of such tickets.

Are you willing to pay for your NDP tickets?

Online touts selling NDP tickets

By Jermyn Chow

WHAT is the price for celebrating Singapore’s 43rd birthday? Around $100, say netizens who are hawking tickets to this year’s National Day Parade (NDP).

Scalpers are offering the highly sought-after tickets – given out for free – at online auction sites like eBay and

Prices have hit $120 for a pair of tickets to the actual show on Aug 9 and the preview on Aug 2, with the average quotes hovering at around $90.

While scalping the tickets is not illegal, it is frowned on by parade organisers, who gave out the 54,000 NDP tickets during an electronic ballot earlier this month. Its spokesman said: ‘We strongly urge Singaporeans not to buy or sell the tickets.’

eBay’s vice-president (emerging markets) Dan Neary said: ‘We will be glad to work with the NDP organisers or the authorities to resolve the matter of NDP tickets being resold.’ The Straits Times understands that some online auctions of NDP tickets were stopped last year.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 25th June 2008

Petrol prices have risen again, apparently without any rhyme or reason. Industry observers were also perplexed by the latest hike, who also commented that there is no logic to the increase. In fact, "wholesale prices of refined products have actually fallen in recent weeks".

In addition, it is rumured that petrol kiosks are discouraging payments by credit cards because this incurs an additional cost on them by the credit card companies. However, credit card payment usually brings along additional rebates and discounts, which makes payment by credit cards more attractive in Singapore. UOB cards had been the choice of credit cards at Shell petrol stations because it was switched to OCBC. At SPC, the POSB Everyday card is the choice of card, while at ExxonMobil, the DBS-Esso card is preferred – each offering up to 15% on rebates or discounts.

Pump prices up for 13th time since last July

Petrol now costs 5 cents more a litre, diesel up by 10 cents; analysts are puzzled by latest hikes

By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

PUMP prices have risen again, with petrol going up by five cents a litre and diesel, 10 cents.

This latest increase, the 13th consecutive rise since last July, started when oil giant Shell raised rates at 4pm yesterday. By evening, Caltex and ExxonMobil had followed suit.

Industry observers were perplexed by the latest hike. Oil consultant Ong Eng Tong said: ‘There is no logic to the increase. Wholesale prices of refined products have actually fallen in recent weeks.’

There have also been reports that fuel usage in the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, had dipped. The recent removal of fuel subsidies in countries such as China and Malaysia is expected to dampen demand, if it has not already done so.

Ironically, in a time of record prices, oil companies say that profit margins in fuel retailing are thin.

In Singapore and Malaysia, British Petroleum has quit the fuel-retailing scene. In the US, ExxonMobil is selling off 2,000 stations to put its money in businesses with higher yields, such as exploration and refining.

With the latest adjustments here, a litre of 92-octane petrol costs $2.203 before discount. The 95 grade is now $2.236, while 98-octane is $2.31.

The so-called ultra-premium fuels cost more. Shell’s V-Power climbed five cents to $2.429, while Caltex’s Platinum rose by four cents to $2.426.

Diesel, which is used by taxis, buses and trucks, is retailing at $1.933. This fuel of commerce has nearly doubled in price from a year ago.

In effect, motorists are paying over 50 per cent more for fuel. This means a car owner who spent $200 a month on fuel this time last year will now have to fork out over $300 a month.

As fuel prices rise, more people worldwide are filling up on credit, a practice oil firms have started to discourage as they have to pay a service charge to credit card companies.

The Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia has asked its 3,500 members to accept only cash. Stations in Dubai stopped taking credit cards last year.

An industry source said this was unlikely to happen in Singapore for the time being.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 25th June 2008