Letters to TOC (Jan 05)

Where does the sizeable income generated from the ERP currently go to?

I have several questions on the current state of the public transport system in Singapore that I have struggled to find answers for.
The Government, in one of its justifications for the increase in Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries, cites the need to ease congestion on our roads and encourage the use of public transport.
At the same time, the cost of public transport was increased last year as a response to the then increasing crude oil prices. Both private and public transport have become more expensive.
I wonder why the extra income made from the ERP cannot be used to subsidise public transport, following the examples of many other countries. 
Since we want to avoid the potential inefficiency of a nationalised public transport system that runs on normal profits, we need strict scrutiny by the authorities over the profits made by private companies entrusted to run the system, as it is an essential part to the workings of our society. If the rising cost claims by private operators are indeed true, we can surely use the revenue generated from ERP and other forms of traffic fines to subsidise the public transport system.
Where does the sizeable income generated from the ERP currently go to? I am sure that our Government has invested the money wisely for Singapore’s sustained success in the future. Nevertheless, it might be of greater utility to be short-sighted for once and use the ERP as a redistribution tool, by taxing private transport and subsidising public transport. In this case, those who can afford to drive will continue to drive, and those who cannot will not be overburdened by a daily necessity that should always remain cheap and affordable.
I know personally of an elderly lady who works double shifts to support her disabled son. After ending her day shift, she loiters in the streets for five to six hours before her night shift begins as the cost of travelling is significant for her.
Meanwhile, the quality of public transport has not improved a great deal to justify the increase in prices, except the increased crude prices. There have been numerous complaints on the over-crowding in trains. On this aspect, I think citizens should respect the public transport companies’ desire to run the business as efficiently as possible. Just because we are used to having seats available on the train doesn’t mean it is a right. We might well have become too spoilt in the past to demand comfort travel on a peak-hour train. Nonetheless, the public transport system still needs to fulfill its basic duty: to transport people at an affordable, minimum cost.
On a side note, maybe there should be greater transparency in the financial status of GICs, especially in such difficult times, to assure any skeptics that the rise in ERP isn’t used to bail out any failing GIC. 
I appreciate your kind consideration and I wish you best of luck in being the voice of the people.
Thank you and regards,
David Wu


Renewing COEs – be flexible

Given the depressed economic climate going ahead, the government can certainly fine tune their policies to help Singaporeans reduce their cost of living.

Some policies by the LTA have increased the cost of living of Singaporeans unnecessarily.

It has always been a puzzle to me why the LTA does not allow those who have to renew their COE for five years to continue renewing them but does allow those who have to renew their COE for ten years to continue to do so.

It smacks of discrimination against those who may not have the cash to renew for a ten year period at the point of renewal.

Owners who have renewed their COE for five years are also more unlikely to maintain their vehicle in tip top condition, knowing that they are not able to keep the vehicle once the five year period is up, especially for major engine maintainence. This works counter to the policy of minimising congestion from vehicle breakdown.

Under the current economic conditions, it will go a long way to reduce the economic burden and business cost of vehicle owners to allow renewal of five-year COEs.

Many Malaysian work permit holders are allowed to buy Singapore registered motorcycles. The LTA has acknowledged this when I wrote to them. Their reply was, “They are also users of Singapore roads since they work here.” Has it ever occured to them that in so doing they are driving up the COE prices for motorcycles in Singapore.

The COE for motorcycle has gone up nearly five times from $218 in January to over $1059 in 2008. It is the poorer Singaporeans who depend on this mode of transport and this policy unnecessarily increases the costs of living for the lower income.

There have been rumours that Malaysian registered motorcycles will not be allowed into Singapore. If this is a way of controlling the huge amount of Malaysian motorcycles that are on Singapore roads, it certainly does not work. The number of Malaysian workers coming into Singapore far out-number the available motorcycle COEs.

Foong SK


Don’t put employees at mercy of employers

Dear People at TOC,

First of all, thank you for being such a fabulous site!! 🙂

Currently, there is a situation that I feel needs to be promptly addressed or looked into, at this present moment of economic crisis/financial turmoil.

Apart from people (especially citizens) losing jobs, getting retrenched, becoming unemployed, which is one problem, the other is that those same people ARE NOT getting back the same level of pay/salary even when they are REHIRED. The excuse (real or imagined) the employers will give now are usually, “Oh times are bad, we can only afford to pay you this little… etc etc….  we have a certain budget…. etc

(I don’t have exact statistics or figures but from ground sentiments and observations I believe the trend is on-going, and it greatly affects middle and lower level workers, more so than top level workers.)

The impact is that, with the reduced income, a lot of people are NOT going to cope with their bills, commitments, lifestyles, expenses that they once were able to afford with their previous pay. While it’s easy to tell them to readjust their spending and expenses, some things are just not so “adjustible”. For example, if a family has 3 children, can you simply tell them to live on the budget of 2 children just to make ends meet, while at the same time trying to convince the sole bread winner of the family who has just got retrenched to accept a rehired pay which is 2/3 (or even less) of what he used to be getting?  To a foreign worker who is single and not staying around long, it may not matter. But for people (locals especially), who have dependents or even housing/car/insurance/bills commitments, it becomes a BIG issue. You cannot just simply tell people to adjust by giving up/downgrading ALL or SO MANY of these things overnight. It’s easier to say than to practise it.

So to summarise, what I want to put across is this. Don’t just undercut our pay while all other things are rising and increasing (fares, inflation) and just blame it on the recession. I believe more analysis (with regards to maybe even really looking into accounts) by some official govenrment body is needed than to just simply accept what employers dish out these days.

We employees cannot just be at the mercy of employers just because of desperation to make ends meet. There should be some form of control in check, to prevent abusive, unethical practice. The question is who shall enforce the checks?

Well, I have to end here. The debate on a minimum wage has been going on for too long (or has it been brushed aside? hmmm.. ). There is definitely a need to implement this at some point in time because, as far as I can see it, the effects of undercutting workers’ salary perpetually will not come to any good (not for
the general population) in time to come.

Thanks for your time.

Best Regards,


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