Welcome to “THINGS THAT MATTER” – 1 July 2016

Posted on July 1st, 2016 in Seminar


Date 1 July 2016 (Friday)


6pm   Registration

630pm Being Successful in Employment (What it takes) + Q n A

730pm Sponsored Dinner. Yay!

8pm   How to make CPF work for you + Q n A

9pm   Lucky Draw


Shaw Foundation Alumni House.

2nd Floor

Basil Seminar Room (50 px max)

Link to MAP 


1) Public transport

Free shuttle bus A1 from Kent Ridge MRT Station

Free shuttle A2, B,D1, BTC1 from within NUS Campus

2) By car/taxi

Via Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE):

  • Take exit 9 to Clementi Road · Turn left into Kent Ridge Crescent from Entrance B · Turn right into Kent Ridge Drive at traffic junction · Drive past Shaw Foundation Building AS7 (not the same as Shaw Foundation Alumni House) · At junction of Computing Drive, turn right into Carpark 15 · If you’re coming by taxi, continue straight on until you see the Alumni House; alight at the driveway

Via Pasir Panjang Road:

  • Turn in at Heng Mui Keng Terrace · Turn left into Kent Ridge Drive; you will drive pass the Alumni House on the right · Turn right into the driveway and alight at the Alumni House or continue on and turn left into Carpark 15 to park


SMS/WHATSAPP JOVI at 9151 5901 to indicate your attendance

The untold story behind Empower Dating – 9 Feb 2016

Posted on February 8th, 2016 in Empower Coaching

Empower Dating Origin

Empower Dating was an idea that was mulled over for a long time, way before Empower Advisory Pte Ltd was set up to fight scams through the offerings of investment bootcamps, realtor services, advisory and coaching.

10 years ago, I was curious to understand how dating operators worked. So I went with a friend to a “dating trip” to Malaysia where the highlight was a go-kart trip.

A 40 seater tour bus pulled up outside Novena MRT station at 7 in the morning and a good mix of males and females hopped on, led by the organizer, X.

Once on the bus, X made some small talk and introduced the itinerary. The males and females were then asked to pair themselves voluntarily in their seats. X instructed the females to sit next to the windows and the males to sit flanking the bus isle. This is because the males would have to circulate clockwise around the seats to make small talk to every female on the moving bus. Every female would stay put at their seat

It was definitely an awkward session for many. The conversation was predictable. What are you working as? How old are you? Is this your first dating excursion? For some, small talk turned to no talk. For others, recognizing friends on the same bus was a mini embarrassment. After a while, some seek refuge at the back of the bus and continued their banter with friends that they had tagged along with.

The first stop was a bak ku teh meal at a coffee-shop in Johor. It became apparent that the younger looking females were attracting more males to their table. It was yet another chance for a stab at conversation at a zoomed-in target after the earlier warm-up exercise. Some males however at this point had half given up, preferring to bond with their fellow males over soccer and work-talk.

The next stop was to a shopping centre where we could have a game or two of indoor archery. Everyone was left pretty much to mingle. X noticed a bunch of males pulling away from the herd and tried to get them back to participate in the friendly competition. They did, but their slouched shoulders betrayed how bored they were. The females were having more fun, probably because archery was new to them. Banter between the two sexes picked up. At this point, you can observe that the clique that formed at the coffee shop tables were consolidating at the archery session.

The final stop was at the go- kart track carved right into a palm plantation. The females graciously accepted the assistance of the males to slip on their safety helmet. Certainly the highlight of the whole trip, those males and females who had by now given up on finding a potential partner on this trip, took to the wheels, grinning with relish. I observed that it had been largely a futile trip for those who were there to seek a partner.

On the way back to Singapore, I managed to have a chat with X.

This was what he shared with me.

1) There are some repeat faces and they tend to be older. They come repeatedly for the same trip, hoping to find that special someone.

2) Those who are shy and awkward, continue to be shy and awkward

3) The females commonly feedback to him that the males generally appear aloof and pay more attention to the younger females

That made me think. How could it be done better? Was there something else that had been neglected for a quick buck.

Over the years, I have had first hand experience of the different dating platforms (online/offline) and counseled/coached many in the area of relationships. I have also flagged out many dating scams and often report against prostitution syndicates that have flooded online dating platforms.

I don’t agree with the rampant cross selling approach of some entities. Oh you need a make-over package. $1,000. Oh you probably need a session on etiquette. Another $500 please.  And that’s on top of paying for dating our fabulous disappointing members from our extensive  limited database.

Truth be told. You can find your own dates. You don’t need to sit through disappointing speed datings and approach dating like it’s a transaction.

You are seeking a meaningful relationship, aren’t you? Cause if you’re not, then Empower Dating is not for you. We don’t train you to be pick-up artistes or one-night-swingers.

We want you to be able to take rejections. We want you to be able to form respectful, meaningful friendships first. We want you to be the best version of yourself that you can give away. You deserve only to take as much as you give.

Ever since Empower Advisory started free life coaching, more rhan half of the requests are relationship related. This is not surprising since human connection gives meaning to what we do.

Empower Dating is thus an inevitable outcome.  The coaching is a fee based service but there is no manipulation, no cross selling, no nonsense, no opium laced hope. Being the best version of yourself as a gift to that special someone, is without doubt, the most priceless gift you can develop.

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You’re invited ! Empower Advisory HQ Xmas Tea Buffet 3 pm (26 Dec 2015)

Posted on December 9th, 2015 in Seminar

Celebrate Xmas with EA 26 Dec 2015

1) Christmas is the time of the year where we gather to celebrate the good around us and look forward to a brand new year of more goodness. If you missed Empower Advisory’s HQ soft launch on the 21 November, fret not. We want to share our joy and good deeds with you!


2) You are welcomed to our Christmas tea buffet (26 Dec 2015 – 3pm ) where you can reconnect with Coach Douglas and learn how to protect yourself from investment scams for the year 2016. You will also learn about the best ethical distribution system in Singapore to earn a good side income. Everything that Empower Advisory does is to steer the public away from scams and lousy, dodgy investments. As usual, our Buffet events are child friendly and there will be minders to look after your kids if you bring thm along.


3) Spearheaded by Douglas Chow since 2013, Empower Advisory is proudly the only anti-scam not profit driven organisation in Singapore that takes a public stand against scams of all sorts. Empower Advisory provides solid investment bootcamps, free life coaching, business advisory and lots more.


4) Empower Advisory strives to be the platform where good people meet, connect and do more good.


5) As usual, do not bring Christmas gifts. You are invited to contribute directly to any of the 3 charity causes that Empower Advisory endorses and supports.


6) Malays, non-Christians, Christians, Indians, Chinese, Westerner, it doesn’t matter. All are welcomed. Buffet is halal. Doing good comes from the heart, not from your religion, race or social status! At Empower Advisory, doing good is our religion!


7) RSVP below so the team can prepare the neccessary logistic! See ya!

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Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Contact Number(required)

How many adults are you bringing (excluding yourself)?

How many children (12 yrs old and below) are you bringing?


VENUE: Empower Advisory HQ. OXLEY BIZHUB, 61 Ubi Road 1, (LOBBY 3) #04-10 S(408727)


DATE & TIME: 26 Dec 2015, 3 pm sharp. (Tea Buffet will be served first)

Oxley Bizhub

Direction to Oxley Bizhub

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Do you know these big hair grown ups with crazy hairspray? – 8 Dec 2015

Posted on December 8th, 2015 in Food for thought

If you grew up in the 90s and dig rock music, you would be familiar with rock stars who screamed like they wanna be girls, grew big scary hair, used more hairspray than your mother and wore pants that are way too tight. They all act macho, expose a lot of chest and for some, profanity was part of their live performances.

Yet their thumping music spoke to me. Powerful guitar rifts, bass lines, powerful vocals and melody notwithstanding, there was a certain honesty in their lyrics and the music. These rock performers gave stunning live performance without modern sound engineering aid that modern pop stars rely heavily on (auto tune). There was no need for these rockers to dance. They just sang and played instruments like they were extension of their souls.

Without a need for a backing track to mask imperfections, these rock stars of yesteryears gave it their all. Not all became wildly successful though. Some fell prey to substance abuse or suffered serious accidents during live shows.

Way less manufactured than today’s pop act, they struggled, practiced hard and performed. I was always impressed how the guitar gods played with such finesse and ease while the frontmen could sing in such sandpaper voices in crazy high keys. Undaunted, I would try to imitate how they sang. Many times, I ended up with a sore throat. Eventually I picked up the guitar and harmonica as I wanted to be more than just a vocalist. So motivated I was that my mother became concerned that I would quit my studies and join a rock and roll band!

I would always laugh at her unfounded fear. Much as music was and still is, a big part of my life, I was realistic about the music business in Singapore then. It was not easy to make a decent living as a music performer, let alone an english singing one. One would have a better shot singing and performing chinese pop!

Just to scare my mom, I would sometimes tell her I wanted to be a rock star. Her face would recoil in horror before I laughed and reassure her I was just jesting.

I’m delighted to share some songs that were a big part of my formative growing up years. Those were the years  where one grapple with newly-discovered emotions and become more aware of society issues and the challenges people face. I’ve realized that parents are not always the best people to turn to when you want to make sense of what you feel and what you see around you. Sometimes the lyrics in songs explain what parents cannot.

I would like to share the live performances (old and new) of some of these rockers so you can see how much passion and effort they put into their polished craft. Amazing indeed. Tattoos then were not quite the rage unlike today, where even boyband members still in their teens wear them for street creed.  The pop stars today can barely match up against the rocksters of yesteryear who had it tough, often having to ply the club circuit to hone their craft before hitting the big time. Enjoy these few selection I have picked. Maybe some would resonate with you!

Kix – Don’t close your eyes

Whatcha doing out in the night time
Why’d ya’ call me on the phone
Your mama can’t solve your problems
When’s daddy ever gonna get home
So you did your little move and cried
In the middle of a suicide

Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t sing your last lullaby”

White snake – Is this love?

Is this love that I’m feeling,
Is this the love, that I’ve been searching for
Is this love or am I dreaming,
This must be love,
‘Cos it’s really got a hold on me,
A hold on me…

White snake – Here I go again

I’m just another heart in need of rescue,
Waiting on love’s sweet charity
An’ I’m gonna hold on
For the rest of my days,
‘Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams

An’ here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
An’ I’ve made up my mind
I ain’t wasting no more time

Damn Yankees – Where you’re going now?

There’s a face in the mirror
And you close your eyes
Much easier to turn away
Than to take a look inside
So you’re thinking it’s over
Walking away
Let your little world crash and burn
Oh, what a price to pay

Skid Row – I remember you

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain
The wind would whisper and I’d think of you
And all the tears you cried – they called my name
And when you needed me I came through

Paint a picture of the days gone by
When love went blind and you would make me see
I’d stare a lifetime into your eyes
So that I knew that you were there for me
Time after time you were there for me

Kix – Tear down the Walls

Standing in the dark
Closin’ in, I think I’m going under
Fell down so fast
From the words I heard a crash like thunder

Never thought I’d feel the final blow
Like a shot it turned my heart to stone, we were
Livin’ in a dream, now it seems so far away

Why’d you tear down the walls
Tear down the walls
All the pieces were all in place
Why was it love you had to break

Steelheart – I’ll never let you go

Angel eyes, you have angel eyes, such a smile that lights up my life
You’re a dream come true, now I’m holding you
And I’ll never, never let you go, I will never let you go

Styx – All in a day’s work

She wakes up from a dream, checks the mirror for reality
She says “Come on girl, it’s all in a day’s work”
Gets herself dressed just in time, disappears on the 8:05
Oh the whistle blows and it’s all in a day’s work
‘Til she calls it a day

Oh she smiles as he glances up from the swimsuit issue
Oh she sighs as he walks away into the downtown day

Day after day night after night
Loneliness creeps in her window
She locks the door, turns off the light
Rehearsing a kiss on her pillow, she cries
It’s all in a day’s work

Steelheart – She’s gone

Lady, oh, lady.
My heart belongs to you.

At the coming Empower Advisory Xmas tea buffet where you’re invited, I will perform one or two songs for ya. See ya! 


Coach Douglas

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Join the Most Rewarding Ethical and Value Driven Network Distribution System!

Posted on October 15th, 2015 in Seminar

ELM 20151015

Many years ago, I tried to steer folks away from joining rampant rah rah feel-good expensive investment seminars/courses that over promise and shortchange their participants. I was very concerned because these seminars/courses in many instances are just conduits to sell people dodgy investment products (property etc) and upsell/cross sell add-on packages. Despite my good intentions, I failed. Because I had no alternative to offer.

That realization gave birth to Empower Advisory Pte. Ltd. Today we are a beacon for folks who are sick of  smoke and mirrors and want to learn real investment skills without paying thousands and taken for a ride to nowhere. They need business advisory and life coaching. These I provide for free. They want realtor service they can trust. I obtained my realtor licence as a result.

Today, Empower Advisory has come to a new crossroad. We have a new target in our crosshair. Unethical MLMs that shortchange distributors and customers. Again I realized that no matter how hard I try to steer some folks away from joining the elusive dream sold by unethical MLMs, I fail. They just do not want to learn any investment skills that Empower Advisory offers. So what do I have to do?


I have to give them an alternative MLM. I don’t even want to call it a MLM. Because MLMs these days have deviated from the good that was supposed to be the DNA of MLM. An MLM was supposed to be an alternative to selling in departmental stores so that the mark up insisted by the retailer chains could be shared with the sales force in terms of better remuneration for their effort and to customers in terms of lower cost.

This is what has gone all WRONG with MLMs these days. The below are feedback that people have given to us.

1) Selling highly marked up products that are way more expensive than equivalents out there sold in retail chains or shops. Worse still, some of the products are downright dodgy with unproven scientific evidence and lab results. Customers are cheated and get a raw deal.

2) Selling motivational sales videos, courses and talks to distributors to continue to “motivate” them to sell. Distributors are milked like cash cows.

3) Promise big money with little work. MLMs show you staged videos and testimonials of fake successful people enjoying lifestyles you can only dream of, to induce you that it takes minimal effort to make money. That if you can’t sell, just recruit (They tell you that a sucker is always around the corner.) Distributors are sold a dream.

4) Make you pay membership fee just to retain your position in the company. Distributors are milked once again like cash cows.

5) Delay payment to distributors. Distributors wait for weeks and months to get their remuneration for all their hard work.


Here is the ALTERNATIVE. Welcome to END (Ethical Network Distribution)

1) Imagine distributing a product that is known to all, sold in Singapore for years with no problem and consumed for thousands of years by man. You won’t be selling anything dodgy. No magnetic mattresses. No vacuum cleaners that can suck away the haze. No lotion that will reverse your DNA 10 years. I’m sorry. These things don’t work. Period.

2) Imagine distributing a premium health product that cost less than $15 to your customers and last them a month. Your customers benefit and is easy for you to sell.

3) Imagine building a real sideline business for sustainable income. Fair to you.

4) Imagine having to pay $0 for training as all training is conducted by me. Fair to you.

5) Imagine being part of an organization that gives away money to charity, transparent and documented. Take pride in your effort.

6) Imagine being part of an organization that pays you promptly on time.

No need to imagine. All the above will be a reality.

Welcome to the future of MLM. The way all MLMs should be. Do join us as as your support will change direct marketing for the better. I welcome you on-board as partners!

Just fill in your particulars below and an Empower Advisory coordinator will get back to you. I’ll need a whole army of you to right the wrongs.

Together we can be the game changer. Together, you and me.

See ya!

Douglas Chow

CEO, Empower Advisory Pte Ltd

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My recent encounter with 2 amatuer con-artistes – 29 Sep 2015

Posted on September 29th, 2015 in Caution Ahead

2 con artistes

1) I would like to share my experience yesterday as I accompanied a friend to a one to one sales pitch by a dodgy investment company. I went with him as I was concerned he would get duped. I had seen the materials he emailed me and knew it was an investment scam. But I had time and I wanted to check out how convincing these con-artistes can be.

2) We met at Big Mac Centre at Ang Mo Kio in mid-afternoon. Let’s call these 2 dodgy clowns A and B.

3) I had expected to meet the director of this company as arranged by my friend. Instead I found myself face to face with A and B. Both looked like they were in their 40s. A and B started their sales pitch to us by saying that they were not representing the company. The director who was supposed to come, was not available. In my mind, I went WTF. Why on earth are you even talking to me in the first place if you don’t represent the company? But I kept my cool and let them continue.

4) A allowed B to do the talking.

5) B showed me the BizFile profile of the company and pointed out that it has a business code related to fund management. It showed a paid up of $200,000. I was not impressed. I could also incorporate a company with the same business code and reflect a $2,000,000 paid up if I wanted to without putting a single cent in the company (You just have to know how to). I asked if it had a fund management license approved by MAS. He shook his head.

6) B showed me that the projected returns per month is 5 to 12% and that he had invested a small amount. I asked him to show me his so-called account and he declined, saying it’s so small it’s insignificant. I pointed out to him that what he showed me are just excel projections. Where is the evidence? He kept quiet. I mentioned Singliforex which closed shop (in Singapore) recently, leaving their misled flock in the lurch. I wanted to test their reaction. A suddenly looked perturbed. He distanced himself from Singliforex rightaway.

7) I next asked B what the company invested in to generate such attractive monthly returns so I can verify them independently. The cheesy looking brochure, with “SwissQuote” splashed across it just mentioned that the investment company invested in commodities, forex and stocks. I asked him for the details of the investments and he said he did not know. I asked him if he was comfortable investing in a black box and he mumbled an almost inaudible yes. He mentioned that “SwissQuote” paid the investment company a commission for using its trading platform and that the commission is passed on to clients. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous?  He showed me the forex rate spread should I cash out my investment and the spread was more than 10% to my disadvantage. He must have thought that I was very, very drunk or clouded from the haze.

8) Meanwhile A kept referring to the investment company’s originator, a Malaysian as per the BizFile profile of this investment company, as the Leader. Geez, this is what happens when a cult leader starts an investment company scam. He takes on the moniker as Leader. He might as well call himself the Creator.

9) He then showed me the DBS bank account number and swift code of the investment company. I smiled to myself. Am I supposed to be impressed?

10) B sensed I was clearly not convinced enough to invest in this nonsense and began to change tack. He showed me the incentive scheme of referring customers to this scheme. There was a whole lot of mumbo jumbo. Loyalty bonus. Retention bonus.

11) A sensed my restlessness and told B to cut short the presentation.

12) He then accused my friend of misleading me. “Over email and whatsapp, you said you and your friend (me) are interested. Why do you seem uninterested now and ask all these questions. You have wasted your friend’s time.”

13) It was too much. I replied. “My friend did not mislead me. He said you were bringing the director to meet us. Instead you brought B who’s a sales rep and obvious clueless. We need to understand more how it works.

14) We left. And went to Big Bern’s for a late lunch.

15) I’m glad my friend was not duped and even though I wasted half an hour of my life with these amateur con-artistes, I now know of yet another vile scheme.

16) Don’t be a victim.

My Best Always,

Douglas Chow (Principal Coach)

Formerly served at the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Empower Advisory


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A note to Singapore’s future Transport Minister about in-vehicle cameras – 27 Sep 2015

Posted on September 27th, 2015 in Food for thought

erp and road tax 20150927

SGD1.5 billion was collected in 2014 from ERP and Motor Vehicle taxes.

Singapore has approximately 978,000 vehicles (including motorcycles, taxis, rental cars and scooters). Going by this number, an average of $1,543 is collected per vehicle per year. It is not mentioned where this money goes to but it is logical to expect that this revenue goes towards motoring.

It’s timely to consider using some of this revenue to provide in-vehicle video cameras to make our roads safer. The cost of such cameras have gone down tremendously and for below $100, one can get a very decent unit. Having such a camera increases the chance of having video footages to resolve accident disputes and help in investigations. On 21 Sep 2015, a lorry driver was wrongly arrested for the death of a motorcycle on the Pan-Island Expressway. It was only by a stroke of luck, a video footage by a car motorist showed that the motorcyclist was bumped into the path of the lorry by an adjacent SUV. What if the video had not emerged? The lorry driver would have had a hard time proving his innocence.

Having such in-vehicle cameras will also help a motorist personally involved in a traffic accident to file a proper accident claim. Some motor insurance companies see the benefit of it and give a small premium discount to motorists who install an in-vehicle camera.

The challenge will be to ringfence profiteering so the government could consider providing a standardized in-vehicle camera. Motorists can choose to buy and install their preferred own in-vehicle cameras but no full or partial rebates should be given as it will only encourage mark ups by the sellers.

To sweeten such a mandatory requirement to have an in-vehicle camera, offer a reward to motorists who volunteer video information vital to aid in traffic accident investigations. Perhaps consider a goodwill partial rebate of road tax. The government will not go broke with such a gesture. Neither will GST have to be raised.

To Singapore’s future Transport Minister, Yay or Nay?

Update 29 Sep 2015: We got news that Minister Khaw is our new Transport Minister. Congratulations Minister Khaw and we believe you will do what is necessary no matter how inconvenient!

Transport Minister

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My Best Always,

Douglas Chow (Principal Coach)

Formerly served at the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Empower Advisory

How the PAP could have played it differently in Aljunied – 5 Sep 2015

Posted on September 5th, 2015 in Food for thought

WP in aljunied

1) In 2011, WP MP Low left his stronghold SMC in Hougang, putting his secure parliament seat on the line to run for Aljunied GRC with his team. People identify with such an act of conviction. That you were prepared to sacrifice for your cause and ideals. That year, the PAP lost Aljunied GRC with a voting support of 45.3% despite its entrenched grassroot network and greater resources.

2) In 2015, the PAP has decided to play safe. No ministers are fielded to wrest back Aljunied GRC from the Workers’ Party. It is no surprise then that the 45.3% who voted for PAP in 2011 would feel a sense of abandonment. The slogan that “No Singaporean will be left behind” rings hollow as they do not see in the PAP, the same conviction in MP Low, 4 years ago that compelled him to go for broke and assemble the best possible team.

3) How would the PAP have given serious competition to the WP to wrest back Aljunied by winning the hearts of the people? Simple. By fielding ministers but not just any minister. He or she has to be one who is well recognized and respected. Very few ministers of such standing come to mind rightaway. But one does. And he is DPM Tharman.

4) Fielding DPM Tharman in Aljunied would be in the same vein as what WP MP Low did 4 years ago. To show voters that you are prepared to go the distance and offer the best you can offer. What will people think when DPM Tharman is fielded in Aljunied GRC, away from his stronghold at Jurong GRC? That the PAP and its minsters take Aljunied seriously, not just in words, but in deed.  And this would be the crucial turning point.

5) Here comes the risk. What if the PAP loses? DPM Tharman loses his seat and hence his ministerial post? Should DPM Tharman want to continue to serve Singapore, leadership positions in the civil service and global institutions would be rolling out red carpets for him. Think MAS. Think IMF. For someone as brilliant as DPM Tharman, opportunities will be chasing after him. The civil service has capable leaders who can step into his shoes.

6) This is the worse case scenario. However, by fielding DPM Tharman as the anchor, the PAP will have a very high chance of winning back Aljunied, even if only by a slim margin. Because voters will see the conviction of the PAP, the very same that once poured out of the PAP old guards when they were not a major political party.

7) Today what is termed a kamikaze team has been assembled to try to take Aljunied GRC back from the WP. But dischanted PAP voters in Aljunied want to see a real effort. Not a safe play. Not a hologram extension of the real deal.

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My Best Always,

Douglas Chow (Principal Coach)

Formerly served at the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Empower Advisory

A Caring Singapore Government without Bankrupting the Nation – 5 Sep 2015

Posted on September 4th, 2015 in Food for thought

Prudent throne of empower advisory Singapore Inc


There’s a flurry of discussion on the internet on how the opposition will cripple Singapore by turning it into a welfare state and how it’s ultimately bad for Singapore and that the ruling government is compelled to go that way too, albeit reluctantly and unwisely so.

Where do you draw the middle line, some may ask.

Do Singaporeans really want to go that extreme way. No, not from my conversations with folks on the ground.

Singaporeans just want a more caring government. Let me explain through a few scenarios and take away the scary doomsday scenario that Singapore will become bankrupt this way. Very few people know the actual reserves of Singapore. I don’t. Official numbers don’t tell the whole figure just like how some spouse don’t tell their partner of their “secret” stash. So we cannot conclude if the “welfare” proposed by the opposition will bankrupt the nation.

Let there be a fictional government called Empower Advisory Singapore Inc ruled by that grinning chap up there and his band of merry people.  Let’s illustrate how this government can be caring without bankrupting  the country. There are many scenarios but I’ll just elaborate on 3 to drive home the point.

Scenario 1 – Mr Tan (Singaporean): I have just been retrenched! Here is my retrenchment letter.

Caring Government: Don’t worry Mr Tan, you can go for any of our free skill upgrading programme to retrain yourself to have more options.  In addition this period must be a very stressful time for you and your family. Do take care of your health. For the next 6 mths, or until you find a new job, whichever is earlier, you will get free medical attention at any of our polyclinics should you fall ill. You will also have free access to all public gyms and recreational facilities to keep fit and be in good mental health while looking for your next job.

By the way you will be going for many interviews. Here is a special biometric ezlink card that can only be activated with your fingerprint. You have up to 4 free trips a day for up to 6 mths , or until you find a new job, whichever comes first.

Extension will be considered on a case by case basis.

All the best in your job search, Mr Tan!

BIG HAIRY QUESTION: Will this bankrupt Singapore? Do people purposely fall sick to take advantage of free medical attention? Do people want to be retrenched just to get free public transport trips?

Scenario 2 – Ms Lee (Singaporean): I’m concerned about the cost of raising children in Singapore

Caring Government: Don’t worry Ms Lee, your children are the future of Singapore and will form the new core. We understand that your main concerns are the cost of education and healthcare for your children.

The first three children of yours will get heavily subsidised nursery childcare at our public facilities. They will be well run and be of a good standard.  Free education will be provided up till secondary level at any public school that he/she qualifies for. We hope that this will help you to save up for their tertiary education.

As for health care, we agree that your child’s health is of utmost importance. All basic medical attention will be provided free (up to 12 appointments per year) at all our public hospitals and polyclinics till your child is of the age of 12 when his/her immune system is stronger.

If surgery and hospital stay is required, your children will get heavily subsidized rates up to the age of 16. We hope this peace of mind will reassure you. Meanwhile do keep them fit and stay clear of avoidable accidents.

Delivery cost and regular gynealogical check ups for your first 3 births at our public hospitals will be heavily subsidized.

If your children do not use any of the free medical services, your family will be rewarded as a token of appreciation for your efforts to keep them healthy.

BIG HAIRY QUESTION: Will parents wish that their children be born with poor health just to take advantage of free basic medical treatment? Will parents wish that their children get into serious accidents just to enjoy surgery subsidies?  Will this bankrupt Singapore?

Subsidised nursery childcare will cost quite a bit but is this not worth government expenditure? Isn’t encouraging a sustainable core of Singaporean as important as military defence? When broad based services are operated on a common platform, cost savings can be achieved by economies of scale and standardisd procurement. We won’t be spending like there’s no tomorrow.

Mr Chan (Singaporean): I’m single and cannot get a flat bigger than a 2 room flat direct from HDB. It’s so unfair. 

Caring Government:  Mr Chan, this will change. We recognize that singles are no different from married couples who choose to be childless yet can buy bigger flats because the ultimate goal of having children is not met. Yes, you will now be allowed to buy bigger flats direct from HDB now as long as you don’t compete head-on with married couples. All unsold balanced flats leftover will be available for you to choose. Of course, we do hope that the bigger flat will help you start a family (with children) should you meet your life partner, saving the hassle to move to a bigger place.


And there you go. Scary “Singapore will go bankrupt fears” deflated. We need smarter regulations and policies that ringfence against abuse. We need to spend on what’s important wihout being wantonly wasteful. You can be a caring government without squandering your reserves. That’s what the chap smiling on his humble armrest will strive for.

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My Best Always,

Douglas Chow (Principal Coach)

Formerly served at the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Empower Advisory

Singaporeans, for GE2015, WHAT are you voting for ? – 8 Aug 2015

Posted on August 8th, 2015 in Food for thought

What are you voting for

Humans are creatures of habit. Designed this way, it takes something extraordinary to take a normal person out of his comfort zone. Here’s an analogy. If you have a good, cushy job, would you just jump to a competitor company with no track record for an extra $500? What if you join the company, and 6 months after a glitzy welcome party for you, the company folds?

The answer is almost always no.

When people vote against a government, aren’t they going against their comfort level? What then is that extraordinary motivation behind that?   Since the 2001 general election, votes for the ruling party, PAP has fallen from 75.3% to 60.1% over 3 elections. The 15.2% drop in support could be due to more voters going against their comfort level.

Whatever your choice, voting for different political parties is not voting for Singapore’s destruction. On the internet, spats have turned nasty with name calling traded among the different camps of supporters. Some facebookers have struck off friends from their list for disagreeing with their choice of political support. I do hope the spats stay and end online and not manifest as physical violence.

This is not a battle of me against you. All of us voters are Singaporeans.

If there were no government, no ruling political party, would Singapore still function? What will happen the very next day?  The civil service will run as usual. The traffic lights will still work. The ERP will continue to deduct from your cash cards.

The civil service and the rules of governance and legislation, structured by the British, and further entrenched by our pioneer leaders are the true backbone of Singapore.  The pioneer leaders understood early on that the durability of a country depends on the civil service and the rules of governance. You need intelligent people to run the civil service and so by convenience, grades and competence are the usual criteria of admission to top posts in the civil service. Ministers set strategic directions for Singapore after consulting with the leaders in civil service. It is not however necessary that Ministers take every suggestion from the civil service leaders. The Ministers ultimately decides after consulting among themselves and the Prime Minister.

Not everyone has the same vision for Singapore. Some want Singapore to be a tough warship that can sail through any waters. If some of the crew get sea-sick, they will be given some attention but the ship will not stop at its next port of call for fear a competitor overtakes it. Others want Singapore to be a cruise ship that will give all sea-sick crew full attention and to put anchor for a few days until everyone is good to sail again. There are merits to both visions. Rational folks want to see a balance. The majority of heartlanders want to see that balance.

Should the warship or cruise ship that is Singapore capsize, the wealthy will be affected too. But they can get a lifeboat, more easily than most. And they will be picked up with open arms by passing liners. What about the other passengers?

The government is not scaring us when they say that Singapore can become irrelevant. Singapore is enjoying a decent standard of living only because she is relevant to other countries and their people, both politically and economically. What happens when there is no more compelling reasons for companies to use our ports? What happens when tourists skip Singapore? What happens when companies see no good incentives to set up HQs or factories here?

But these doomsday scenarios won’t take place overnight. It will take a long period of negligence before it happens. Ultimately foreign countries and companies have no loyalty to Singapore when it comes to the crunch. If there is a competent industrial park that springs up in Iskandar with the same quality of workers and infrastructure as Singapore, yet cheaper, foreign MNCs will be tempted to relocate from Singapore for good. It will take many years of negligence by our economic agencies before this happens. But it won’t. Because our Civil Service which overlook our economic agencies won’t let it happen.  That’s why our Ministers do lots of PR work with their overseas counterparts to make sure that personal and nation level ties remain current and relevant. That is also why foreign workers are allowed into Singapore for strategic, besides economic reasons.

So what are we voting for if we can’t vote the civil service that is already doing the bulk of the work?

1) Singaporeans are voting for good policies, that are better implemented and better enforced by the agencies

2) Singaporeans are voting for unreasonable, unfair policies to be removed or recalibrated

3) Singaporeans are voting for less top down “trade off” and more scrutiny of current “trade offs”

4) Singaporeans are voting for a more level playing field especially for the disadvantaged

5) Singaporeans are voting that each and everyone is not regarded as a mere economic digit

6) Singaporeans recognize that individual success and happiness is ultimately our responsibility. But Singaporeans prefer to see themselves collectively competing against the world rather than each other. How’s that for unity?

7) Singaporeans are voting that their reasonable, well substantiated suggestions and counter-proposal matter

No matter, which party they vote for this coming election, Singaporeans are not voting against Singapore.

I have a real life case study

The Build-To-Order (BTO) system is lauded as a responsive system offering flexibility in location and timing for flat buyers. Tender for construction will be called only when most of the apartments in a specific contract have been booked. In reality, it led to a shortage of new flats and genuine couples can miss several chances due to the overwhelming response. Typically, such a couple had to wait a few years (up to 5 years in some cases), hence postponing other plans in life. This was because the government had overbuilt in advance under the previous Registration of Flat System (RFS). After the Asian financial crisis in 2001, HDB was left with about 20,000 unsold flats as buyer dropped out of the queue.

Instead of relooking critically how it could offload the 20,000 unsold flats, HDB decided on a new approach of selling and that is to build new flats under the BTO system only when a good majority of flats in a project are booked. On paper, it was sound. The BTO system would allow HDB to ramp up new flat supply quickly when demand is high. Conversely, when demand is low, HDB will scale back to avoid oversupply.  But it also meant that this system was slow to respond to demand. In reality, you can’t just ramp up and down your supply so smoothly. Singaporeans my age know what happened. HDB flats were underprovided for. Finally, after the unhappiness expressed at GE2011, HDB decided to ramp up new flat supply.

Why did it have to take a decade to realize that the BTO system was not the best way to go about it? Why the knee jerk panic when there were 20,000 orphaned flats? The 20,000 flats that were left unwanted could have been easily opened up to singles to buy. No one would have complained since the singles would not be depriving of a deserving family nucleus of a flat. At that time, singles were not allowed to buy a flat directly from the HDB at all. Did anyone in the Civil Service float this idea? I was still in NUS then and did not have the chance and influence to debate this to the policy decision makers.

A controversial policy maintained then was that singles cannot buy a flat directly from HDB and enjoy the subsidy. Why? Supposedly for not fulfilling the nation’s interest of marrying and starting families. If that is the case, shouldn’t couples who marry, get their subsidized HDB flat but don’t have children to repopulate Singapore return their unit? It is this kind of unchallenged policy that perplex many Singaporeans. Why is it implied that a single Singaporean who buys a flat directly from HDB stays single? Why is allowing such a single to buy a flat direct from HDB not seen as helping him/her to set up a family easily if he/she finds that match?

Trade-offs are done when you have limited supply to distribute. In that fateful year of 2001, supply was not an issue. It could have been a golden opportunity to revise certain policies. Not for the convenience of disposing 20,000 flats of course. But to comprehensively relook at policies in totality. Not in silos.

Few of us will know the debate behind closed doors regarding the 20,000 flats. But we all know how the BTO system failed to adequately provide enough housing for Singaporeans at a reasonable waiting time.

What would I have done if I were the Housing Minister? Tweak the singles polices to clear excess inventory first. Convince my minister colleagues that unfairly treating singles will not solve our baby woes anyway. If my minister colleagues are not happy that there is no differentiation between singles and non-singles, I’ll propose perhaps a longer Minimum Occupation Period. Don’t simply slap a higher price on them. People get sick treated like that.

Start the BTO system but have the RFS in the background at a reduced scale to cater to unexpected spike in demand. If the BTO is eventually working fabulous, then scrap the RFS or vice versa.  Is it so difficult to think of this and implement it?

Whoever is running Singapore cannot take voters’ understanding for granted. It’s not about pandering to their every wants. People generally have unlimited wants but limited needs.

In my ideal world, there would be no incumbent political party and opposition party. There would be just ONE Singapore party drawing the best ideas regardless of race, language, religion and party affiliation for the best of Singapore.  No one party has the best solution to every problem. Every party has a blindside. Every politician will be selected for integrity, purpose, competence and commitment to Singapore. Compensate them reasonably and give them their due privacy.

But yeah, it only exists in a fantasy world, so let the royal rumble begin!

Want to win the coming election? Read point (1) to (7) again.

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My Best Always,

Douglas Chow (Principal Coach)

Formerly served at the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Empower Advisory

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