PTW Week: Time to review performance of millionaire ministers?

TOC welcomes Rachel Chung, our new columnist. She will pen a forthnightly column for us. Rachel also writes at

Rachel Chung / Columnist

If there is one thing I have noticed about the culture of Singapore bureaucrats, the government ministries and government-vested companies, it is that there is a common love. The love of using money to solve every given little problem.

Inflation and fuel hikes? Push for a public transport hike. This is despite SMRT having posted record net profit of S$150 million last year. How much is enough?

Want an Olympic medal? Buy one.

Traffic jams due to poor policies and planning? Increase taxes.

‘When ERP was increased, we also reduced road tax and improved public transport. As a result, many more Singaporeans can now own cars. With more cars on the road, we need to increase ERP to keep traffic flowing.‘ Lee Hsien Loong – Prime Minister of Singapore

This is a parallel argument and I am ashamed it came from our Prime Minister. Can anyone see the flawed logic in this?

Being a small country, car ownership is logically a privilege, and not a right. Instead of legistrating measures to restrict car ownership, likely by per capita in each household, COE was lowered. Whether it is a calculated move to engage more car dealerships as a sweetener deal or as a bait to create higher percentage of car ownership – it remains that the “stop gap solution” of ERP was then offered by the cabinet and ministry in question. This is the ERP that was implemented because of a questionable policy. This is the ERP that has to be increased due to more cars on the road.

This is the ERP that is raking in S$160 million for the government.

After all, there has got to be a stream of income for ministerial salaries, buying medals and the likes.


Inflation has gone up by 6-7%, the highest in 26 years.

Oil prices escalated to a high of US$140 a barrel this year before stabilizing at US$115 a barrel. Compare this with the US$20 a barrel in 2000.

What is the impact?

  • Lower income workers will have problems coping with the public transport hike.
  • Vehicle owners pay more for their fuel usage.
  • Some car owners might sell their cars as a cost saving measure. This in turn will contribute to the congestion ratio in public transport.
  • Some folks might cut down on taxi rides due to the taxi fare hike .


  • Cut down on commuting. Where possible, work near home or from home. This not only cuts down on transport expenses, it also contributes to lesser congestion on public transport.
  • Lower taxi rentals. Comfort Delgro operates a fleet of 15,000 cabs or so under its Comfort and Citycab umbrellas. At a daily rental of S$90.00 (lowest) a day, the turnover for the company is at least S$40 million a month. The raison d’être for the taxi fare hike is because the taxi drivers find it hard to cover their rental daily and make a decent income after deducting rental costs. Again, it is a circular argument to push for taxi fare hike so as to break even with the rental. The solution is to lower the rental and if possible, to cap it at a monthly amount, instead of the current daily amount. This will address the concerns for days when the drivers are not able to drive
  • Carpooling – personally I am a big advocate of this. Being a full time working mother, my pre-schooler goes to day care at about 8am. I have to pick her up after work before 7pm (closing time of day care centre). It does not make sense for us to take the bus or the train because of the time constraint – it would be stressful rushing around everyday. Secondly there is no direct route to our destination via either bus or train. Thirdly, it costs me $15 odd per trip in taxi fares but only S$5 per trip if I car pool – savings of more than S$500 a month.

The benefits of carpooling are as follows:

1. You reduce transport expenses.

2. You save on travelling time (direct route, no stops etc).

3. There is no driving stress or fatigue if you are the passenger.

4. You could read/ check emails/ work etc if you are the passenger.

5. You enjoy co-savings on petrol costs if you are the driver.

6. It is environmentally friendly.

7. It reduces traffic congestion.

8. It reduces parking problems.

My ideas may or may not work, but my point is, one does not require a million dollar salary to be creative and take risks in problem solving.

But if one is drawing a million dollar salary and not coming up with concrete or viable solutions – in the private sector, they say it is time for a review.


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