tariffs-2.jpgThis article is filed under the new column, Letters to TOC.

 

In a ‘full’ page ad taken out in the TODAY newspaper on 28 Dec 2006, page 7, Singapore Power announced a surprising drop in electricity surcharges. Great news to kick off the new year if any!!

What was more amazing was that the full page ad listed the historical (back to 2001) prices and how they were pegged relative to raw fuel prices.The level of transparency is great. Applause!! Credit given where it is due.Now on to the the tough questions about the graph (the table later on).

So raw fuel prices have shot up tremendously in 2006 and have recently made a retreat, but final end user electricity prices have, relatively, been stable, some 19.87 cents per kWh in 2001 vs 21.64 cents per kWh (Oct 2006) whereas ‘oil’ in the same graph has gone from about USD $40 per barrel to a close of some USD $75 per barrel in October 2006.

Raw fuel prices have gone up 90% relative to end prices for the same period which appear to have risen some 8%? Somehow the math does not look right ……. even to a math idiot like me ….

How is this possible? And SP Services as far as I know will be paying out bonuses next year too! As they have been previous years from 2001.

Have Singaporeans really been complaining too much about the rising costs of living, about every single little price hike – like in the case of electricity when this ‘advertisement’ graph from SP demonstrates that prices have barely risen 8% over the last half decade?

Or has SP been making so much profit off the end consumer that it is still able to absorb the hike in raw fuel prices over the past 5 years, especially the last 2 years when things got really crazy in terms of oil prices? Was not the rise in worldwide oil price a justification used in every aspect of increase in cost of living in Singapore in 2005/6? How then is SP able to sustain itself financially, as an arm of Temasek Holdings no less.

Is Temasek Holdings subsidising Singapore in some way that the public does not know about? To the point of being able to buffer a price hike of 90% of raw fuel price?

Turning to the table in the same ‘advert’ next. This table shows the price decreases for electricity used. I’m no electrical engineer or any such thing so bear with some idiocy here please. What seems apparent is that the more one uses electricity it becomes cheaper? (I’m guessing that the higher the tension the more electricity is used/carried?)

(Revised prices for January 2007)
Extra High Tension 16.34
High Tension Large 19.23
High Tension Small 17.53
Low Tension 20.02 (residential, small business and other)

This query stands to challenge as I’m no electrician. Just an ordinary consumer asking on apparent price differences.I do not claim to have the answers, only questions thus far. But this is what greater transparency does. It opens up more for questioning. What the questioning begets are a multitude of effects, some chilling, others engaging, yet others simply leaves one fuming perhaps at times.

Most importantly, questioning leads to an active citizenry. Not questioning for the sake of questioning but questioning so that Singapore as a society can operate as a unanimous whole in the democratic sense. True participative citizenship as opposed to the ‘apparent prevalence’ of “it doesn’t bother me and I’ve got no say anyway.”

Perry Tong

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