SINGAPORE'S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM : A WORLD-CLASS JOKE
- Latest article by See Leong Kit nicely compliments our previous articles
on "The Great COE Scam" and the "NEL Fiasco".
To: Editor,Singapore Review
From: Mr See Leong Kit
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004 21:59:54 +0800 (CST)
SINGAPORE'S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM : A WORLD-CLASS JOKE
by See Leong Kit
We all need a sense of humour to survive in
stressful Singapore. The woes of North-east MRT/bus
commuters have been publicised. Here is a
half-humorous thesis on the unpublicised woes of
Singapore motorists --- the most persecuted people
since the Holocaust.
For Singaporeans living in the eastern part and
having to work in Jurong, a car is often a necessity
and not a luxury item.
However, under our one-of-a-kind COE system, a
car which cost $15,000 to import ends up costing a
whopping $90,000! It is a money-making machine,
raking in some $200 million every month. What will
they think of next --- tax Singaporeans on the amount
of oxygen they breathe?
No wonder COE sounds aptly like "See Hor Yee"
which is Hokkien for "die standing paying-and-paying
monies to you-know-who". Who is you-know-who, lah?
Our beloved Government, lor!
After the lumpsum COE payment, the motorist next
has to pay recurring ERP charges. Like 3-year old
kids, we were told that ERP is not a tax but a
"traffic management tool". With apologies to
Shakespeare, a skunk by any other name smells just as
bad! With apologies to Jack Neo, We, Singaporeans,
Not Stupid! We all know ERP is Every Road Pay
(polite version) or Everyday Rob People (rude
With apologies to Churchill, never in the
history of mankind has so many motorists been milked
for so much monies over so many years!
Thanks to our "world-class" COE system, we have
to pay "like hell" to own a car. Otherwise, thanks
to our "world-class" public transportation system,
we have to tolerate "like hell" the sardine-packed
buses and MRT trains. The Singlish version is "In
Singapore, got car can die. No car, also die."
So every Sunday, I pray to our Heavenly Father
to forgive our public officials for they know not what
they do. I also pray the day will never come when
Singaporeans are required to "bid" for a certificate
of "entitlement" to speak up, to get married, to have
children, to buy a HDB flat and what-have-you. This
I humbly ask in the acronyms of PAP, PIE and PQP(in
alphabetical order). Now and forever. Amen!
Subject: Comments - The Great COE Scam
Government places upward pressure on COE prices...
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 08:40:25 -0000
Subject: Re: The Great COE Scam
To add oil into the burning fire, there is actually evidence that the
Singapore Government has been under-issuing COE for at least the last
4 years to the tune of 45000 COEs in total!
1. Goto http://www.lta.gov.sg/motoring_matters/motoring_vo_facts.htm
2. Open up the "Quota Allocation" files (all 4 of them).
3. Let's start with the first file "COEc Quota Allocation 2001.PDF"
4. The total vehicle population is 670418 as at 31/12/1999. Net
increase allowed is 3% of that, or 20113. So we should expect to see
670418+20113 = 690631 vehicle at the end of 31/12/2000 right?
5. Take a look at the second file "COE_Quota_Allocation_2002.PDF"
6. Oops! The total vehicle population is only 673851; that is a
shortfall of 16680.
7. Repeat the same process for the rest of the files to convince
yourself that shortfall is repeated year after year.
Projected population vs actual population
Using 31/12/1999 as the baseline, we should have 670418 * 1.03 * 1.03
* 1.03 = 732584 by 31/12/2002
Instead, we have 687648. (From "COE_Quota_Allocation_2004.PDF")
That is a shortfall of 44936 COEs issued over a 3 year period.
Unfortunately, we don't have the figures for vehicle population by
31/12/2003 yet. Else, it will make the gap even bigger!
What the Government said
1) The number of COEs will be increased at the rate of 3% to cater
to the demand by aspiring car owners.
2) The price of COEs will be set duly by the market. The Government
will play no part in it, other than setting the quota for the COE.
I.e. the Government will determine the supply and the market will
determine the price. (Even here, the logic is questionable as price
are inextricably linked)
3) The Government did not create COE for revenue purposes but for
controlling of car population growth.
1) The number of COE has been growing at far less than 3%.
2) Following from (1), the Government has been interfering with the
COE market by reducing the supply of COE deliberately. Contrary to
what it said, the Government has been actively influencing the price
3) I can think of no other reasons for the Government to interfere
in the COE prices, other than to prop up its revenue source. Can you?
Think about it ....
Date: Tue Jan 13, 2004 12:00 am
Subject: The Great COE Scam
We circulate below letter from Concerned Reader.
From: Concerned Reader
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 12:51:06 +0800
You have the knack for stating the obvious. It is no secret that the
official reason used to impose COEs (i.e. to restrict traffic and control
congestion) is bogus. Any person can come up with 10 different schemes of rationing cars on roads without imposing sky-high COEs.
Indeed, the entire world is aware that the ONLY reason for existence
of the COEs is to get revenue from car owners.
What is less obvious is the huge amount of money that goes into the
government coffers every year. Taking the below statistics from the Shitty Times as a rough yardstick, if 82,000 cars per year were prematurely retired,
there will be new replacement COEs of equivalent number.
At an average rate of SGD23,000/- per COE, 82,000 COEs will bring in
an estimated SGD1.886 billion per year. This is in addition to the daily
ERP and road tax rates that the government imposes. Let me put this figure in
proper perspective; SGD1.886 billion is;
1) SGD1,886,000,000; or
2) One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighty-Six Million Sing Dollars.
And no one has a clue what happens to this humongous sum.
Where does it all go?
How is it utilised?
Does the LTA spend SGD2 billion a year upgrading roads?
Please do not tell me that the money went into the half-baked half f%$
%#@ piece of contraption that is the NEL. That's another joke of the year.
Its clears as daylight that Singaporeans are taken for a very
expensive ride. And the even more amusing fact is that no one even raises this as an issue to be addressed. People still flock to buy cars by the hundreds!!! Call it herd mentality (or monkey see monkey do).
Given that a car tops the list (after a house) as the biggest ticket
item on the average Singaporeans lists of expenses, this also says alot about
the apathy permeating Singapore's less then inquiring populace. But then
again, this is Singapore......
Just my two cents worth.
From a "Concerned Reader"
Below are extracts from "Singapore National Education Part 68" which
illuminates the wonderful Singapore COE system in practise.
"9. That because of a freak $101 COE for the month of July, people
are buying COEs to extend their 7 to 10 year old cars for another 10 years.
Based on the three-month moving average of the COE, a person owning an 10 year old car can renew his car for about $18,000, instead of the usual $30,000+.
But because of the present low COE prices compared to say, 2 years
ago, and because of the poor market sentiment post-Sept 11, many Mercedes
Benzes and Lexuses (Lexii?) bought with high COEs of the past are now being
scrapped. This is because these big almost-new cars can fetch better values from
deregistration (thus realising the rebates from the unused portions
of the residual taxes) than from a second-hand sale.
From the BT Motoring section:
"According to the Land Transport Authority, 50,392 vehicles were
deregistered in the first eight months of 2001, of which 32,508 were cars. Of
these, 11,562 were big cars (above 1,600cc). The figures are already higher than several previous full-year numbers. And extrapolated over 12 months,
scrappage is likely to hit 75,588 vehicles or 48,762 cars. Of these, 17,343 would be big cars."
So, as a result of our wonderful COE system, ten-years-or-older cars
with old emission engines are being kept on the road, while high-tech two-year-
old luxury cars are being scrapped.
Renew your old car, scrap your new one. Only in Singapore."
Subject: [Sg_Review] High Obsolesces Rates of Valuable Assets Lead To
Wastage & Costs
70 to 80 per cent of the 82,000 care that were deregistered last year
are less than five years old, and more than 90 per cent are less than 10 years
(Straits Times, 10 Jan 2003)
A home and a car will top the list of big ticket expenses for most
Singaporeans. And these same items have limited life-spans......
Fri Dec 12, 2003 4:28 am
Subject: High Obsolesces Rates of Valuable Assets Lead To Wastage &
The obsolesces rate of valuable assets in Singapore is extremely
high. Whilst it is conceivable that certain products like computers have short
life spans due to rapid technological progress and changing consumer needs, it
is quite another matter to find this unhealthy trend in "longer term" assets
like a house or cars.
A car that usually would cost only SGD30,000/- with an average life-
span of 20-30 years is only given a shelf life of 10 years on paper (COE). In
other developed countries, it is not unusual to see a 1965 Beetle (or cars
older then 15 years of age) rumbling along the roads as these vehicles are still in perfectly good and road worthy condition and are testimony to the
engineering feats of their makers.
But in Singapore, the COE system effectively encourages owners to
discard perfectly functional cars and replace these with newer models. Of
cause the only beneficiaries are the government (who rake in the proceeds from
new COE bids) and also car dealers.
In reality, one never really owns a car in Singapore. One only
acquires the right to lease the vehicle from the government for 10 years. And the icing on the cake is that car prices in Singapore are the highest in the
world. A typical 1.6 liter Japanese car can cost SGD85,000/-. No two guesses
needed on where the proceeds go.
The same applies also to 99 year leasehold property and HDB flats. On
maturity of these periods, "owners" have to fork out additional cash upfront
to retain the right to the asset. This inefficient and highly expensive system
has resulted in tremendous wastage and additional costs for the average
Singaporean especially since housing and cars will be the 2 most expensive items for the average Singaporean.
12 Dec 2003
Looking for a 5-year-old car? It'll be tough
Cars registered during 'high COE' period 3 to 10 years ago are not
economically viable, so they are scrapped or exported
By Christopher Tan
IF YOU are in the market for a used car, chances are that you'll only
be able to find cars less than three years old - or over 10 years old.
All ready for export, these second-hand cars will fetch dealers
better prices abroad where demand is higher.
Everything in between has either gone to the scrap yard or been
A check with The Straits Times Classifieds section found that more
than 70 per cent of used-car advertisements placed were for models
registered between 2000 and this year, the bulk of them in 2001 or
At the other end of the spectrum, there were ads for cars more than
10 years old, but they were far fewer than those for 2000-2003
GETTING YOUNGER EACH YEAR
ABOUT half of all cars here are less than four years old, according
to the Land Transport Authority's vehicle population statistics,
which is reflected in the age profile of used cars on sale.
The data, updated in January every year, may reveal an even younger
population when it is updated with this year's record sales of 80,000
As of Dec 31 last year, 46 per cent of Singapore's 404,274 cars were
less than three years old. Beyond that, the cohort shrinks with each
Of cars less than 10 years old, those bought in 1997 form the
smallest group. There were only 13,305 of them left, or 3.3 per cent
of the entire car population.
Bought with higher taxes and Certificates of Entitlement (COEs), the
older cars were scrapped or exported to countries such as New
Zealand, Cyprus and Thailand, because they could not fetch decent
resale prices locally.
But that's not the only reason for the trend.
Until recent years, the number of COEs available used to be
noticeably smaller. In 1997, for instance, there were only about
2,500 for cars each month. In the current COE quota year, there have
been more than 6,500 a month.
The supply of COEs has increased largely because more vehicles are
being scrapped or exported.
Models in between, cars four to nine years old, were distinctly in
Singapore Secondhand Motor Vehicle Dealers' Association committee
member Jerry Low said the phenomenon has a simple explanation:
Cars registered during years of 'high COE' - generally considered to
be anything above $35,000 - were not economically viable here.
'The simple fact is that if the annual depreciation for a used car is
high, like $6,000 to $7,000, then you might as well buy a new car,'
Mr Low said.
Take the best-selling Toyota Corolla, for instance. A new 1.6-litre
automatic is priced just above $70,000. After deducting its scrap
rebate value in its 10th year, its annual cost - or depreciation -
works out to be $6,000.
A Corolla 1.6 registered in January 2001 and going for about $63,000
will have a depreciation of $7,000.
Certificate of Entitlement premiums have come down from between
$40,000 and $60,000 to about $25,000 now, and new car prices have
also fallen to 13-year lows because vehicular taxes such as the
additional registration fee (ARF) and Customs duty have been cut in
So, a brand new two-litre Nissan Cefiro goes for less than $110,000
today. In 2000, it cost between $130,000 and $150,000.
'The capital outlay for a new car has become lower since the change
in financing rules,' said Mr Low.
Most new cars are now sold with 90 to 95 per cent financing. Some
dealers have also been advertising $1 down payments.
The boon for the new car trade has been a bane to used-car dealers.
Mr Thomas Teo of Valley Trading said monthly sales had fallen to '20-
something' a month, half of the volume a few years ago.
Business is very slow, he said, and he doesn't know when things will
While buyers enjoy low prices for new cars, industry players reckon
that these buyers will also have to wait far longer to sell the cars,
because of the loans they took.
Said one dealer: 'If they try to sell too early, they will not have
enough to repay their outstanding loan.'
Scrapping the car early to recover taxes - a trend in the past four
years - would not be an option either.
Last year, the Government changed the scrap rebate formula to make
refunds less generous.
Instead of 80 to 130 per cent of a car's open-market value, rebates
are now 50 to 75 per cent of its ARF. For a car like the Nissan
Sunny, the difference can be $5,000.
82,000 cars taken off the road last year
10 Jan 2004
By Christopher Tan
AN ALL-TIME high of about 110,000 vehicles were deregistered last
year. The number exceeded the expectations of both the Government and
the motoring industry.
Deregistered cars line Forward Motors' yard at Jalan Lam Huat in
Kranji. Many of the record numbers scrapped are five years or less.
Most of the vehicles taken off the road were cars, and relatively new
ones at that.
According to freshly released Land Transport Authority figures,
82,126 cars were deregistered, up sharply from the previous record of
66,997 in 2002.
More than half the deregistered cars are believed to have been re-
exported as used vehicles to other countries, such as New Zealand,
Cyprus and Thailand. The rest went to the scrapyard.
According to operators of export zones - the yards where deregistered
cars are parked before being shipped out - re-exported cars are
typically five years old or newer.
'They're getting younger and younger,' said Mr Neo Nam Heng, a
partner in leading car exporter Prime Leasing. He added that there
are some 2002 models among the 1,000 or so cars in his yard.
He estimates that '70 to 80 per cent' of his cars are less than five
years old, and more than 90 per cent are less than 10 years old.
Mr Lee Choon Khim, managing director of Forward Motors, which
operates another vehicle-exporting zone, said '99.9 per cent' of the
500 or so cars at his yard are under 10 years old and half are below
Like Mr Neo, he is beginning to see some cars that are barely two
years old coming to his yard.
'It's scary,' he said.
Cars do not have a statutory lifespan in Singapore, although owners
are required to buy a new certificate of entitlement (COE) if they
wish to keep their vehicles beyond 10 years. Most people do not.
Not only that, more and more have been 'scrapping' - an industry term
for deregistering - their vehicles well before 10 years.
This is because falling COE prices, reduced vehicular taxes and
cheaper loans have made it more attractive to buy a new car instead
of holding on to an existing one.
Businessman Paul Ng was among the thousands who deregistered their
vehicles last year. In September, he scrapped his three-litre Hyundai
Grandeur, which he bought for about $160,000 less than four years
ago, to buy a new 2.4-litre Honda Accord for $106,000.
'I got back about $68,000 scrapping the Hyundai, then I paid a bit
more and got a brand new car that will be trouble-free for three
years,' he said. 'It made sense.'
The 110,000 deregistration figure should remain a record for some
time, as motor traders expect the rate of deregistrations to slow
The managing director of Mercedes-Benz dealer Cycle & Carriage, Mr
Cheah Kim Teck, said: 'There should be fewer since the Government
changed the rules in 2002 to make it less attractive for people to
scrap their cars early.'
But Mr Neo of Prime Leasing reckons the deregistration rate will
remain high 'as long as COE prices remain low'.