Mahathir’s 3 sen grumblings re-awaken Singaporeans to 30% water price hike

by Augustine Low

Come Sunday, 1 July, the second phase of the 30% water price hike kicks in.

It could have passed without people even noticing. But Singaporeans are suddenly alive to it and there is talk again of WHY we must bear with such exorbitant price hikes – all because of the grumblings of the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that “it is manifestly ridiculous that we should sell water at 3 sen per thousand gallons” to Singapore.

As expected, Singapore points to a legally-binding 1962 Water Agreement that both sides have to adhere to.

Nevertheless, the net effect is that we begin to wonder about a paltry 3 sen (paid by Singapore) versus a hefty 30% price hike (imposed on Singaporeans).

At least the Malaysians had an agreement. What about Singaporeans? Did we sign an agreement for a 30% price hike?

Still, Singaporeans can never win the argument because PM Lee Hsien Loong will turn around and say: You voted for it.

In the first place, the government muddied the waters when they decided to impose a 30% price hike. There was all that talk about the equitable pricing of water according to the complicated Long Run Marginal Cost (LRMC).

When asked to explain further, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said the LRMC computation could not be shared due to “commercial sensitivities.”

How convenient! It’s either due to sensitivity or security reasons, the same rationale why the full size of Singapore’s reserves cannot be revealed.

To add insult to injury, Minister Chan Chun Sing said the 30% water price hike was to “socialise our people to the challenges that we are facing on the water front.” While Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah said the increase “is just to bring up the awareness of the importance of water.”

Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge now. Come 1 July, Singaporeans will just have to dig deeper into their pockets.

One final takeaway on this: There are those who say it doesn’t matter what Dr Mahathir says; after all, he’s just shooting his mouth off and trying to cause a ruckus.

But what he says does have a ripple effect. Let’s take it with a pinch of salt. But let’s also take it as food for thought. There’s really no harm if it has the effect of making Singaporeans think and question a little bit more.