Last month (2 Nov), it was reported that the Government will be giving 300,000 lower-income households transport vouchers worth a total of $9 million, to help them cope with the latest fare increases by the Public Transport Council (PTC). This is the largest number of Public Transport Vouchers provided by the government to the low-income group in a single exercise.
Each Public Transport Voucher to be given out is worth only $30, and may be used to buy or top up fare cards, or buy monthly concession passes. Each eligible household applicant is entitled to only one voucher in general. Those that need more may apply for extra vouchers but subjected to the approvals from the grassroots leaders sitting in the Citizens' Consultative Committees (CCCs).
In 2014, $7.5 million worth of Public Transport Vouchers were made available to 250,000 lower-income families, and again in 2015. In 2011, $4 million worth of vouchers were provided for 200,000 households.
Grateful needy households
Even though the needy households have about a year to apply (12 Nov 2018 to 31 Oct 2019) for these $30 vouchers at their neighbourhood community centres (CCs), the government announced in a statement yesterday (24 Dec) that in fact, more than 150,000 households of the 300,000 estimated lower-income households have already applied as at 12 Dec after the exercise began on 12 Nov.
The government specifically highlighted a Mdm Selina Goh, aged 58, in their press release. Mdm Goh is a part-time childcare relief teacher. She stays with her husband who works odd jobs, and takes trains or buses to her workplace or the wet market about five times a week.
She shared with the government that the vouchers "would be helpful in defraying part of her transportation cost". The government quoted her saying, "I do not enjoy the benefits of the Senior Citizen Concession Card as I am not 60 yet. As such, these vouchers from the government will be useful and help lower the transport cost for me."
The government further said:
"Eligible households who meet the same income criteria as that for the ComCare Fund (i.e. household income of $1,900 or below, or per capital income of not more than $650) may apply for the Public Transport Voucher throughout the exercise, which ends on 31 October 2019. Upon successful application, each household will receive one Public Transport Voucher."
With regard to the $30 Public Transport Voucher, NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser estimated that it can only absorb the fare increase for about eight months.
"While the financial impact is minimal, it may reinforce the perception that the cost of living is on the rise again," he added.
Nearly a quarter of low-income households in Singapore
According to the latest figures from the Dept of Statistics of Singapore, there are about 1,289,900 resident households in Singapore with an average household size of 3.3 persons.
About 79% live in HDB flats with about one third (31.8%) live in 4-room flats.
Hence, out of the total 1,289,900 households, about 23% or 300,000 are now considered by the government to be lower-income households.
In other words, nearly a quarter of households in Singapore have a household income of $1,900 or below, or per capital income of not more than $650, which are deemed by the government to be eligible to receive the $30 Public Transport Vouchers.
Indeed, these households, like in the case of Mdm Selina Goh, would likely be grateful to the PAP government after receiving their $30 Public Transport Vouchers.
What do you think?
Editor's note - On a side note, TOC understands that the upcoming General Election will be held at about end October or early November next year. One has to ask if it is coincidence that the vouchers end in Oct next year. Freebies end once the election is over?