Friday, August 24, 2007

Scheme or Scam?

Annuities scheme begins to take shape

By Lee U-Wen, TODAY Posted: 22 August 2007 1157 hrs

Singapore: If you are a Singaporean aged 50 or younger, you will have a "small portion" of your Central Provident Fund (CPF) minimum sum set aside for compulsory annuities.

This contribution will be pooled with others and once you hit the age of 85 and your minimum sum is exhausted, the annuity payouts will begin - possibly a monthly sum of $250 to $300 - assuring you a financial lifeline until the day you die.

For the first time since Minister Lim Boon Heng hinted that the Government was looking at making annuities compulsory and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confirmed it on 19th August, citizens have been given an idea of what shape the scheme will likely take.

The actual premium amount has yet to be decided. But Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen gave the reassurance that a major portion of the minimum sum will still be meant for CPF members to withdraw when they reach the official draw-down age.

Also not fixed: How the money will be drawn out, whether as a lump sum or monthly premiums.

But the tentative plan is to pay out $250 to $300 a month from the time members hit 85 - when the 20-year payouts from the minimum sum cease - until the day they die, said Dr Ng. "I'm trying to protect you for very long life expectancy," he added.

But should one not live to 85, the premium would be used to support others in the pool still alive. You can have the money transferred to your family members instead, but at the price of a higher premium.

Observers say the Government now has to "sell" the scheme to Singaporeans.

"To my knowledge, no country has ever made it compulsory for such a large chunk of the population to contribute to a pool in this manner. Most of us are waiting to see how much the premium will be," said Mr Leong Sze Hian, president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals.

Minister-in-Charge of ageing issues Lim Boon Heng urged insurance companies to come up with "creative" annuity products.

"They could have variations of life annuities, they could pay the person's estate in case he passes on too quickly after buying a life annuity. If those kinds of products came onto the market, more people would accept the idea of buying an annuity," he said. Said a group manager from Great Eastern Life: "This compulsory scheme is a chance for insurance companies to 'wake up their ideas'. Annuities are big in the west, but have never taken off in Singapore. The returns on annuities are now averaging just 2.3 per cent... The take-up was poor. Companies should now take advantage of the upcoming demand for annuities and come up with good products with better returns, say, 5 per cent."

The Ministry of Manpower is still "consulting widely" on the fine print of the compulsory annuity scheme, such as whether it would be managed by the CPF Board or the private sector. - TODAY/ym


THE BIG QUESTION: is this compulsory annuity scheme justified in any way?

I got the above chart from a research article from the National Institute of Aging. A brief description the NIA is as follows:

"The National Institute on Aging supports 13 research centers
on the demography and economics of aging, based at the
University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago,
Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the National
Bureau of Economic Research, the University of North
Carolina, the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State
University, Princeton University, RAND Corporation, Stanford
University, the University of Southern California/University of
California at Los Angeles, and the University of Wisconsin.
This research brief was produced by the Population Reference
Bureau with funding from the Behavioral and Social Research
(BSR) Program of the National Institute on Aging. The brief
was written by Amanda Sonnega, Ph.D., Associate Director for
External Relations,Michigan Retirement Research Center,
University of Michigan, and edited by staff at the National
Institute on Aging and the Population Reference Bureau."

In the first 50 years of the 20th century, the Average Life Expectancy of the USA increased approximately from 47 to 68, an increase of 21 years. The following 50 years (1951 to 2000), the Average Life Expectancy increased from 69 to 77, an increase of only 8 years.

Clearly, the Average Life Expectancy of humans is not going to increase at a faster rate or even the same rate as the past. The spectacular increase in the longevity of humans is mainly attributed to reduction in infant mortality rates, proper sanitation, success of vaccinations in controlling infectious diseases, discovery of antimicrobial agents and so on.

In developed countries, infant mortality rates are less than 5 deaths per thousand live births. Compare that of a developing country such as Angola, which has an infant mortality rate of 184.44 deaths per thousand live births, according to wikipedia . Clearly, any further reduction in infant mortality rate will have negligible effect on the life expectancy in a country such as Singapore.

The implementation of proper sanitation, the concept of vaccinations, discovery of micro-organisms as the cause of many diseases and the subsequent use of antimicrobial agents against them are all once-off events as well. You can't keep using these same old tactics to prolong the life of a population perpetually.

Human cells, as it turns out to be, have a limited capacity to undergo cell division. This means that the cells in your body cannot keep dividing forever. This implies human cells populations(excluding cancer cells) and humans themselves have a limit on how long they can live. Even if you have the best medical care that will protect you from every single disease that can afflict you, you are still going to croak (the cause of death is called "old age"). You can get a heart transplant, a kidney transplant but can you transplant your brain when it fails?

Given that the higher the life expectancy of a population, the slower it increases, isn't it overly optimistic to expect the average person to live way past 85 years of age even in the next thirty years? Singapore's average life expectancy is about 80 years of age now. Can it hit 90 years in the next 30 years? If not then it's really retarded to pay for an annuity scheme only to meet your maker before you get to benefit from it. I'm not talking about the odd unlucky fellow. I'm talking about the majority.

Without even touching on the miserable "$250-$300" pay-out per month (including the paradox that if one has to depend on that pittance to survive then how can they afford the medical care that is supposedly going to keep everyone living longer) , one can hardly not notice how PAP is acting as if everybody is going to live past 100 years of age soon, judging from how they want Singaporeans to work longer, save more blah blah blah.

Perhaps scrutinising the demography of Singapore may shed some light. I sourced these figures from Statistics Singapore

Number ('000) Age Group

272.2 ~~~~~~ 50-54

219.1 ~~~~~~ 55-59

120.9 ~~~~~~ 60-64

111.5 ~~~~~~ 65-69

80.6 ~~~~~~ 70-74

57.6~~~~~~~ 75-79

32.1~~~~~~~ 80-84

24.6~~~~~~~ 85 & over

Notice the sharp jump in the numbers of Singaporeans from the age group of 60-64 years old to the age group of 55-59 years old. The number of deaths per year in Singapore is about 16 thousand. For arugment's sake, deduct 16,000 from the age group of 55-59. That is to see the effects on the numbers when we assume that all Singaporeans who died or are going to die in year 2007 are from the 55-59 years old group. It doesn't take a mathematican to figure out that the baby boomers are retiring soon.

Now that we know we aren't gonna live past 100 in the near future, that we are strangely forced to buy annuity schemes and that the baby boomers' generation is retiring soon, it is no wonder many jump to the same conclusion: THEY EITHER HAVE GOT NO MONEY TO PAY YOU OR THEY ARE SIMPLY REFUSING TO RETURN YOUR MONEY TO YOU.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another day, another rant

LTA announces new ERP gantries, operational hours
By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 August 2007 2100 hrs

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has decided to extend the coverage of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) at various locations to improve traffic flow.

A slew of changes affecting motorists using the Central Expressway (CTE), Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) and East Coast Parkway (ECP) were disclosed after a visit to the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) tunnel by Transport Minister Raymond Lim on Thursday.

From 1 November, ERP operational hours of south-bound CTE will be extended by 4 hours on weekdays – from 7am to 11am – at the section between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Braddell Road.

A new gantry with evening ERP on the north-bound CTE will also be installed just before the PIE exit. Motorists will be charged from 5.30pm till 10.30pm on weekdays.

Evening ERP is also moving to the east-bound ECP – from the city towards Changi Airport – with a new gantry just before the Rochor Road exit and another at the Ophir Road slip road.

ERP charges will be implemented between 6pm and 8pm during weekdays.

There will also be a new gantry, with operating hours from 7.30am to 9am just after the Dairy Farm Road exit, before BKE joins Pan Island Expressway (PIE).

Explaining the changes, the Transport Minister said if road usage is not priced, roads will be over-used, resulting in widespread congestion.

While there is no silver bullet solution, Mr Lim said ERP is the only one that directly deals with the congestion problem.

He said: "We sometimes hear criticisms of the ERP system. Some have observed that introducing or raising ERP charges relieve congestion temporarily, but after a while, the congestion comes back.

"Others, especially those using the CTE, have complained that the ERP is unfair. They say that depending on where you join the expressway, some motorists add to the congestion without paying for it. This is feedback that we value. It shows that ERP coverage may need to be more extensive or pricing (has to be) fine-tuned."

Besides trying to come up with a more holistic way of dealing with congestion, LTA will also see if optimal speed ranges, which currently should not fall below 45 kph for expressways and 20 kph for other roads, need to be changed.

LTA is also installing ERP gantries at Upper Bukit Timah Road between Hume Avenue and Old Jurong Road, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, Upper Boon Keng Road, Kallang Bahru Road and Geylang Bahru Road, but will only start charging if traffic conditions worsen. - CNA/so

This unexpected increase created a big hoo-ha among Singaporeans but as Singaporeans, there will be the initial outcry and things will die down soon.

With regards to the "if road usage is not priced, roads will be over-used, resulting in widespread congestion", when we pay for road tax and COE's, we have contributed to the construction of roads. Now, in order to use what we paid for with taxes, we have to pay more. Sounds logical?

The views that they cherish are:
1. They need to increase ERP rates more frequently to keep it effective
2. There are people who are not paying to enter the expressway and they are have to prevent them from not paying

What more can i say? Let's move on.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Religious idiocy

IMBS: Do you really believe that god exists?

RI: Yes. How else can you explain the complexities of life, the morality of humans and the existence of matter/universe?

IMBS: Have you got any evidence to suggest that god created the complexities of life, the morality of humans and the existence of matter?

RI: Of course i do. The failure of science to explain those is evidence enough is it? How else can you explain all of these wonders in our world?

IMBS: You can't draw a conclusion from the lack of knowledge. Besides, evolution biology explains the complexities of life and the morality of humans very well and there are mountains of evidence to support those theories, also know as facts in layman's terms. While science currently as no answer yet on the existence of matter, it does not mean that god created matter.

RI: But as you have admitted that science cannot explain the existence of matter, this means that god is the far better explanation. Besides, you can't disprove the existence of god.

IMBS: Remember the time when people did not understand why the sun rose and set everyday? They said that the chariots of the sun god pulled the sun across the skies everyday. I can give you countless of examples of people invoking god's name to explain the unexplained and was subsequently proven to be wrong. As for the part which we cannot disprove the existence of god, it does not mean that god has anywhere near to a 50% chance of existing. You can't disprove that gravity will stop exerting a force that will keep you on the ground tomorrow, in principle. Does that mean you are going to tie you feet with a chain to the ground just in case it ceases to work tomorrow? It cannot be disproved that aliens with far superior technology than our's are currently circling Earth, using cloaking technology so that we cannot detect them, preparing to bomb the hell out of us. Are you going to start building bomb shelters to protect yourself from them?

RI: So what even if we are silly? We have the right to believe in what we want to. It causes no harm to others. You should respect our religion.

IMBS: That is not true. A children told stories about going to hell, suffering all the various forms of torture there, isn't that psychological abuse? Believers taking up arms in the name of god, killing one another, isn't that harm enough for you? How about sucide bombers who bomber others up while believing that by doing so he books a place in heaven for himself? Is it a right to commit such henious crimes against others? Should we respect this? Going by your logic we should also respect the right of a rapist or murder for it is their right to rape and murder.

RI: How could you blame religion for those crimes? Going by your logic, crimes commited by atheists such as Stalin ought to be prove that atheism fundamentalists are just as bad. The point is that fundamentalism leads to atrocities, not the religion.

IMBS: Atheists believe that god does not exists. It does not include beliefs such as killing the religious. On the contrary, some holy books exhort its believers to wipe out non-believers. Your Stalin analogy is flawed. Stalin just happened to be an atheist who kill many, if he really was an atheist. I can cherry-pick examples of black people commiting violent crime, but does that mean that just by being black, it makes u more likely to be a violent criminal? Sucicide bombers on the other hand justify their acts by thinking that they are acting on god's orders. When such a belief is so unshakable and strong, it takes away the normal human instinct to stay alive since they believe that they are going to a better world. The belief of the exisitence of god in this case is directly linked to their sucide bombing.

RI: Don't you know it's seditious to attack religion? I can have you thrown in prison for that!

IMBS: .....................

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

How not to argue against homosexuality part 3

Beware the high-risk 'gay lifestyle'

IN THE article, 'Most with Aids virus don't know they have it' (ST, July 18), Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan announced that a study of 3,000 blood samples in government hospitals showed that 1 in 350 samples was positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes Aids. The male to female ratio of these cases was 15:1.

What conclusions can we draw?

The 15:1 ratio means that the HIV epidemic is still confined mainly to the high-risk groups (concentrated epidemic) and has not spread to the general population (generalised epidemic). If it were already in the general population, the ratio would be much closer to 1:1.
Therefore we still have time to do something before the situation gets worse.
Who constitutes these high-risk groups?

Data released by the Ministry of Health on HIV last year showed two groups of men were responsible for approximately 83 per cent of HIV cases.

53 per cent of the cases were men who contracted HIV via unprotected high-risk heterosexual sex. This group was infected overseas or by local unlicensed prostitutes; our licensed prostitutes are screened for HIV.

30 per cent of the cases comprised men having sex with men (MSM). Based on the prevalence of 2.8 per cent of men being homosexual or bisexual, there are about 67,000 men in Singapore who engage in MSM.

I highlight this second high-risk group as it is a matter of public interest and concern, given the ongoing debate on the review of the Penal Code relating to Section 377A.

Extrapolating from the infection rate of 1 in 350 and 15:1 ratio of males to females, the conclusion is that among men who indulge in MSM, about one in 20 has HIV and does not know it.

This means that someone who indulges in MSM and has 20 sexual partners would have exposed himself to HIV.

A survey conducted in the United States has shown that 75 per cent of homosexual men have more than 100 sexual partners and 28 per cent of them have more than 1,000 partners.
I feel that not enough has been done to warn our youth that leading a 'gay lifestyle' is not cool. On the contrary, it is very unhealthy. There is a very high risk of contracting not only HIV but also a slew of other sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang


This twit of a doctor is at it again!!

If risky sexual behaviour leads to higher rates of HIV infection, then criminalise RISKY SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR. Why single out the homoseuxals?

What conclusions can we draw? (Dr Chin's style)

Is he

a) very stupid


b) homophobic


c) a religious zealot?