Living Hand-To-Mouth? Your Plight Is Not Over
- From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling
To: Singapore Review
Date: 1st April 2004
Living Hand-To-Mouth? Your Plight Is Not Over
Gosh! When the government of Singapore wants your money, it states
its intention through no uncertain terms.
On the touchy issue of public transport fee hikes, Singaporeans are
fast gaining an uncanny portentous hypersensitivity. But of course,
the writings had been on the walls. The latest vision was conjured
when the Transport ministry announced proudly that there would be no
fare increase for the year of 2004, but not beyond. But this coming
from a minister with a predilection for policy "re-thinking" does not
inspire much confidence. Then came the intention of the MRT operator
to par their fares to their more exorbitant NEL cousin, without
seemingly bothering to even furnish a humanly sound logic. Then from
out of the blue, a new emission law was broached, which will lead to
elevated operation cost for public transport providers, that is, if
you can swallow that argument without reservation.
And to be sure their message is not lost to the dull-minded, advanced
surveillance systems, security marshals, and perhaps millimeter
resolution satellite tracking/monitoring system and onboard 5:1 HBO
entertainment system will come your way to "improve service and
security, and enhance the comfort and serenity" of the commuters.
Let's not dismiss the possibility that the controversial EZ-Link card
may even be one day replaced with a biometric system that will
identify each commuter, and then proceed to deduct their fare
automatically from their bank account.
But these don't come cheap.
Commuters will have to share the cost for all the bells and whistles.
Sure, they are all part of the service package, just as you would not
have to pay surcharge each time a new tire is fitted on a bus, or
when the train undergoes maintenance checks. But the creative
minister, quoted as saying "If you look at a factory, there's a guard
at the main gate, it goes into part of the cost of the product", then
you would be inclined to believe that the government of Singapore is
in fact "unable" to provide "minimum essential public service" after
more than 44 years of management, without your extra monetary
contribution. In other words, the nation is broke!
But Singaporeans know better.
The depressing scenery does not end there. The IRAS (tax authority of
Singapore) is fervently proposing a measure that will make employees'
benefits such as food, transport, and a horde of other perks taxable.
So besides taxation on such miniscule "gains" as "free shuttle-bus
ride from the MRT station to your office" and "annual dinner-and-
dance", expect the list to include the "free flow of coffee from your
office pantry", and "overtime taxi fare-claims".
Objectively speaking, if a government of a nation can stoop so low
just to persuade the people to abandon their "misdirected" dream of
Swiss standard first-world living, and rediscover the virtues of
third-world poverty, then the effectiveness and credibility of the
government had evidently been washed out.
Perhaps all these are just mere delusive political decoys which may
not see the light of day under the administration of the new soon-to-
be inaugurated Prime Minister. Or perhaps these are part of his grand
vision to propel Singapore beyond the economic gloom, and beyond the
orbit of sanity and reasonability.
(Mr) Law Sin Ling
APRIL 1, 2004
Commuters to share train security costs
COMMUTERS will have to bear part of the costs of the increased security on the trains.
Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong did not say how much the price of a ride would rise, but indicated that the bill for the extra measures will not be 'unreasonable'.
The measures should cost no more than 10 per cent of what the public transport operators incur overall in running their business, he said in a TV news broadcast yesterday.
'If you look at a factory, there's a guard at the main gate, it goes into part of the cost of the product,' he said.
'The challenge is to make sure the security systems are reasonable and don't impose an unreasonable cost on the operator.'
One of the measures is to have marshals ride the rails here.
The United States screens the luggage and carry-on bags of subway commuters during high-risk periods, among other precautions.
Singapore will not carry out '100 per cent' checks on all commuters, because these would be expensive and unrealistic.
The authorities are still discussing how the security costs will be shared, the minister said.
Currently, the cost of putting marshals on Singapore Airlines flights is borne by the Government and the airline.
However, passengers departing Singapore have to pay a $6 fee because of the new security systems at the airport, more stringent baggage checks and other measures.
SMRT and ComfortDelgro, which operate the trains and buses here, said yesterday they are working very closely with the authorities to determine the security measures to be implemented. Cost is one key issue.
SMRT said: 'We'll do whatever is most effective within a reasonable cost.'
ComfortDelgro said: 'We are satisfied the cost of these added measures is likely to be manageable.'
An MP for Hong Kah GRC, Mr Ang Mong Seng, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said the entire cost of the added security should not be automatically passed on to commuters.
Any change in fares, he added, should be based on the whole operating cost of running the business.
'If the management can cut down expenditure in other areas, commuters may not need to pay the full cost of the security measures.'
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