Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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Electrical prices and ministerial salaries-Two unrelated problems with the same rationale

Errors occur and mistakes happen – fair enough. That said, are blackouts that affect a large area of Singapore acceptable so shortly after the price of electricity has been put up? Surely if you want to increase the prices, you will have to provide a better service? It is, therefore, concerning that within months of putting prices up, one of the worst blackouts in recent times occurred.

To be fair to the energy suppliers, Singapore’s services have been largely efficient and effective. They have also rectified the problem in a relatively short space of time. That said, the timing of a severe blackout hot on the heels of a controversial price increment is curious. To what extent will this blackout be accounted for? Will a detailed explanation of how and why the blackout occurred be provided? Further, will any explanation also address how the energy suppliers can still justify their price hikes?

I have no issue with prices having to increase if that is also accompanied by higher levels of service. However, if price hikes are introduced in conjunction with colossal mistakes, then Houston (or rather, PUB), we have a problem.

Perhaps this is the way things have always been done in Singapore. Big corporations and those in power wield the cards. They decide and we accept. However, is that the way it should be?

Take a look at the recent outcries against high ministerial salaries. These outcries have been so persistent that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong decided to release the methodology of how remuneration is calculated to set the story straight. While I am heartened that in this case, he chose engagement rather than suing the pants off anyone who made a mistake on salary numbers, the fact that salaries are extremely high remains. Just because they are not as high as some may think does not mean that it is not high.

PM Lee sought to explain how salaries are calculated. He has still not justified how and why the salaries are so high in the first place. A bit like the price hikes in utilities no?

Capitalism dictates that a better product fetches a higher price. With the occurrence of the power outage, the levels of service and the price hikes are incongruous. How will this be explained?

Re the ministerial salaries, do the performance of the ministers justify their high salaries? Have the ministers done enough to explain why they deserve the salaries?

Two unrelated problems perhaps – but the rationale is the same.

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