The Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led Government in Singapore has repeatedly reminded Singaporeans in recent times of how dismal the global economic outlook is. Just recently, Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing had warned Singaporeans that the country’s economy had contracted by 6.7 per cent in the first half of this year and was projected to shrink by between 5 per cent and 7 per cent this year. No one attending the press conference could leave it without the message that we were definitely facing hard times ahead.
Given that the entire world has been plagued with the ravaging economic effects of COVID-19, this comes as no surprise. Yet, the Government was also keen to, (pre election) point out, in the same vein, that Singapore will fare relatively well because of its prudent planning which ensured that Singapore had a healthy national reserve to cushion the blow of the grim economic outlook.
While this would have no doubt, pre election, reassured a worried and beleaguered nation, it has now been announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) that it will increase the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates for three gantries, following the completion of its third review of ERP rates. Why tax a people at a time which you have admitted is a tough time?
The changes will take effect starting next week for the gantry along Southbound Central Expressway (CTE) Auxiliary Lane to the Pan-Island Expressway (Changi) and Serangoon Road, as well as two other gantries along Northbound CTE after Pan-Island Expressway. Why such a short lead time?
Surely if you are increasing fees, you should give people more than one week to prepare? Especially when times are hard?
While these hikes have been justified as efforts to manage congestion during peak periods, one cannot help but wonder if income needs to be generated to pay for the costs of the seemingly generous packages that have been doled out to deal with the effects of COVID-19?
Perhaps not. Perhaps the timing of the ERP hikes is just a coincidence and the hikes are genuinely an attempt to bring down congestion. Yet, suspicion will always abound because we, the stakeholders of the national reserve are none the wiser about what is in there in the first place?
The PAP led Government has remained tight lipped about this issue. Politicians such as Pritam Singh who had raised questions about it in Parliament were berated. So, all we have, is the word of the Government that the reserves are healthy. Yet, the perennial question is — if it is so good, why can’t it be divulged?