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Singtel and charity donations come under scrutiny. By Leong Sze Hian.

Calls are a-ringing?

Leong Sze Hian / Columnist

Charity calls ringing?

I refer to the President’s Star Charity Show on 12 October.

When the show was nearing its end, just minutes before 10 p.m., the amount of donations from calls from the public shown on the screen was about $ 478,000.

After adding a few large corporate donations, the total amount donated announced at the end of the show was $ 5,041.833.

This means that the few corporate donations was about $ 4.6 million, or about 90 per cent of the total.

This year's public calls donations were also less than last year's.

I understand that for last year’s show the difference between the amount collected and donated was about $ 850,000. Was this amount paid to the television station for staging the show ? How much, if any, will the television station be paid for this year’s show ?

As I believe that the few corporate donors may have donated regardless of whether there was a television show, perhaps we could re-consider the need for all the effort and paying a few hundred thousand dollars more to run the show, than the amount donated by the public.

By the way, it was disclosed in media reports in November 2005, that the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) paid $ 2.5 million to produce the NKF Cancer Show.

In this regard, I wrote a letter published in the Business Times on 22 November, 2005, asking how much was paid in total for the approximately 10 charity shows in a year. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there was any reply to my question.

Ringing in my ears and pockets

I refer to the article “SingTel fixed-line rates go up” (ST, Oct 7).

SingTel has said that it would provide $ 1 million worth of $ 10 credit  vouchers to help households that need financial assistance. This means that there will be 100,000 vouchers.

Since media reports have said that all the 130,000 transport vouchers have already been snapped up, and that many other needy families can tap on the CCC and Comcare funds. So, will the 100,000 telephone credit vouchers be enough? Will CCC and Comcare funds be made available again ?

Won’t usage of such funds reduce the assistance that these funds were meant for in the first place ?

Since SingTel is increasing its local fixed line subscription by $ 10 a year, and most customers (a total of 60 per cent of residential customers, and 75 per cent of business owners) will pay up to an additional $ 1.50 a month ($ 18 a year) with the new 14 per cent increase in rates for call charges, wouldn’t the $ 10 credit voucher be enough to offset the subscription increase only ?

Does this also mean that about 40 per cent will pay much more ?

As SingTel’s fixed telephone lines is a monopoly (excluding high-end bundled services) for an essential service, does it have to get approval for the increase, like that for transport and electricity ?

What is the justification for the increase, when SingTel’s Net Profit (underlying) increased by 46 per cent (10 per cent per annum), from $ 2.517 billion in FY 2004 to $ 3.681 billion in FY 2008 ?

This is more than 10 times the profits of the transport operators, and more than 150 per cent that of the power companies.

Citing the Ministry of Manpower statistic that the annual average wage rose 52 per cent between 1997 and last year, may not be very appropriate, as the median wage change for the same period was only about 1.66 per cent per annum.
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