I refer to the 1 Mar 2017 Channel News Asia article “water must be priced in full to reflect its true scarcity, says Masagos”.
Mr Masagos was reported to have said that water must be fully priced. Except for the last few years, the government has been making money selling water to the people since day one. In that sense water has not only been fully priced all this while, it has been overpriced.
Mr Masagos claims that we subsidise housing. But a brand new ‘subsidised’ HDB flat can cost half a million dollars, a price that can buy you a condominium in many Western cities. The same can be said of healthcare and tertiary education. The government’s concept of subsidy means handsome profits for themselves.
How can Mr Masagos claim that water is of strategic and national security importance but not housing, healthcare or education? Without an educated workforce, can Singapore achieve the high income and prosperity it enjoys today? Without housing, can a slum filled Singapore be as safe and secure as it is today?
Mr Masagos claims that consumers must feel the price of water the moment he or she turns on the tap. Then by all means, penalise households or companies with high water usage. Don’t punish everyone with a 30% increase that affects even those who are thrifty with water.
Mr Masagos claims that water should be priced at the long run marginal cost. But the long run marginal cost is the cost in the future, not the cost now. If we expect HDB flats to cost $1 million each in the long run, do we price them at $1 million each today?
Mr Masagos says that costs have gone up. But so too have revenues, which Mr Masagos conveniently omits saying.
The three desalination plants that will be built in the next three years are meant to serve population growth. Excessive population growth is the mother of all problems. It shouldn’t just be the people who must feel the pinch of water price to cut down water usage. The government should also feel the pinch of the people’s reactions to population growth problems to cut down on population growth.
Mr Masagos gives no details about the $0.78 per m3 desalination price in 2005 and the $1.08 per m3 desalination price at Marina East. For all we know, the difference could be due to higher land costs that are factored into the desalination price.
Mr Masagos says we are a water-stressed nation. But water stress is not merely a function of water scarcity; it is also a function of overpopulation. The more we overpopulate tiny Singapore with limited water resources, the more we stress ourselves with water.