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A brief incident which says a lot

Andrew Loh

This morning (14 April) I was at the Yio Chu Kang Community Club to apply for my Singpass account. A man, about 60 years old, was at the reception before me. We’ll call him “Ah Kong”.

Ah Kong (to the lady at the reception): Do you have the vouchers?

Lady: What vouchers?

Ah Kong: The vouchers to buy things. Got discount.

Lady: Those are for NTUC members only.

Ah Kong: It’s reported in the newspapers. Vouchers got discount.

Lady: Yes, but they are for NTUC members only.

Ah Kong: So I must join NTUC?

Lady: Yes.

Ah Kong walks out of the reception.

If Ah Kong wants to “enjoy” the “discounts”, he will now have to fork out a further $9 per month for the NTUC membership. On top of that, he will also have to pay “an annual contribution of $9 to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)”.

That is, $117 annually - to get a discount of 50 cents for every $10 that he spends – at NTUC Fairprice, pharmacies or childcare centres.

As stated in the NTUC website:

What is the subscription rate?

Payment of membership is either made through Inter-bank GIRO monthly, at the rate of *$9 per month, plus an annual contribution of $9 to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), or through cheque payment of $117 upfront, which consists of $9 per month for whole year ($9 x 12 months = $108) and an annual contribution of $9 to NTUC.
*Rates may differ for some unions.

Alternatively, Ah Kong will have to wait and hope that his MP is one of those “six of 10 MPs” who “would consider buying the newly introduced ‘U Stretch’ vouchers” – as reported in the Straits Times report, “Union discount vouchers: Residents to get them too”, April 14, Page H2.

Is this another one of those schemes which are rolled out without much thought and knowledge of the ground situation?

If Ah Kong can afford the $9 membership fee plus another $9 annual contribution to the NTUC, would he need to get the vouchers?

Would anyone?

The above is a brief but poignant incident illustrating how difficult – and costly – it is to get help from the government. Even if it's just a 50 cents discount.

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