Triple whammy – inflation, ERP, credit cards

Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Inflation at highest level” (ST, Oct 25).

It states that “Inflation in Singapore rose to its highest level in 20 months last month as housing, transport and food continued to become more expensive”.

25 October was the day of the “triple whammy” in Singapore, with inflation rising by 3.7 per cent to a 20-month high,  the number of credit card holders who do not pay their bills in full increased (“More credit card holders not paying their bills in full“, Channel News Asia, Oct 25) and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates up at 23 gantries across Singapore (Channel News Asia, Oct 25).

In August, frequent revolvers accounted for more than one quarter of all credit card holders in Singapore. “Frequent revolvers” are those who pay a portion of their bills and roll over the outstanding balance for at least three consecutive months.

As at August, the increase in the number of new revolvers, at 0.43 per cent over December 2009, was about 20,000.

Bad debts written off by banks for credit and charge cards went up from about $115.4 million in 2008 to $183.9 million last year, a rise of nearly 60% in Singapore which has about 1.2 million credit card holders.

Does this mean that about 300,000 (one quarter of 1.2 million) credit card holders were “frequent revolvers”?

If we count the number of credit card holders who roll over their credit card balances by one or two months, instead of  at least three consecutive months, I think we may have achieved another world record – perhaps another world first for Singapore.

As the percentage of delinquents was 4.95 per cent in August, does this mean that about 59,400 credit card holders (4.95% of 1.2 million) did not even pay the minimum monthly payment required on their credit card balances?

With inflation at a 20-month high, it may normally be mitigated by rising wages. But, according to the  Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) latest Labour Market Second Quarter 2010 report, Real Earnings fell by 12 per cent, from the first quarter to the second quarter.

According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study of five selected countries in Asia, Singapore had the lowest Real Wage/Earnings from 2008 to the second quarter of this year.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the number of unemployed residents increased by 33 per cent, from 63,300 in March to 84,400 in June. This is the second consecutive quarterly increase from the last quarter of last year.

Since ERP rates at 11 gantries in the Central Business District (CBD) will also go up by S$1 to S$3 while another nine gantries in the Orchard area will increase by S$1 to S$2, does this mean that the increase in ERP is as much as 300 per cent? Is this a new world record for ERP increase?

With inflation, credit card revolvers, ERP and unemployed residents up, and wages down, what can Singaporeans who may be finding it hard to make ends meet do?

I don’t have the answer, but I would like to help – I have compiled a list of about 100 Free Things in Singapore, such as free food, medical care, haircut, transport, activities, etc. Click here for the listing.

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