The Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced changes to its public transport payment method on 9th January, transitioning to SimplyGo EZ-Link and contactless payments, and phasing out older EZ-Link and Nets FlashPay cards for a streamlined commuting experience.

While updates usually bring excitement, this wasn’t the case for SimplyGo, as a surge of complaints followed the recent changes.

Due to public discontent, its app received low ratings and negative reviews on the Google and Apple app stores. Yikes!

Netizens pointed out that the app often glitches and crashes upon use, as well as its inability to provide transaction details to commuters on buses or the MRT.

Most questioned why the previous system offered this feature and express concerns about LTA’s lack of initiatives to address and improve the situation before removing the existing system.

If you’re wondering what the LTA has to say about the issue, you can read it here.

One Polish blogger a.k.a Critical Spectator, for instance, remarked that “LTA’s SimplyGo is like a Tesla and it needs fixing to prevent a bigger PR disaster.”

Now, it seems he’s not too far off with his statement, as the post was even backed up by Madam Ho Ching, the former Temasek Holdings CEO and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. She shared the post of the Polish blogger on her Facebook page, addressing the upcoming transition to the new SimplyGo-powered cards.

Interestingly, Bae Yam Keng, then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, stated five years ago that SimplyGo is not meant to replace existing payment methods such as EZ-Link cards.

But the recent changes seem contradictory to what has been said. Thus, it begs the question: Did the Singapore government break its 2019 promise by replacing older payment methods with SimplyGo?

In the realm of politics, former Transport Minister S Iswaran has been charged in the State Courts with 27 offences, including corruption, receiving gratification as a public servant, and obstructing justice, following the completion of an investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) that began in July last year.

However, he pleaded not guilty to all 27 charges linked to his interactions with property tycoon Ong Beng Seng.

On 16th January, Iswaran tendered his resignation from Parliament and the People’s Action Party (PAP), and from the Member of Parliament (MP) for West Coast GRC, pledging to return all salary and allowances received since the start of the CPIB’s investigations.

He is currently released on S$800,000 bail, with the pre-trial conference for his graft case scheduled for 1st March.

Following Iswaran’s resignation, Chee Hong Tat, who previously served as the Acting Transport Minister, will be elevated to full minister. Additionally, he will also assume the role of Second Minister for Finance.

The changes also involve Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Ms Grace Fu, who will now concurrently hold the position of Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, taking over Iswaran’s other portfolio.

Despite Iswaran’s case, the Ministry of Trade and Industry stated that they see no evidence of F1 or other contracts disadvantaging the Government, assuring that all preparations for this year’s Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix are proceeding as planned.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong also spoke about the corruption case and how it affects the People’s Action Party (PAP), emphasizing that the leadership transition within the party will proceed as planned.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) stated on 18th January that they are set to decide on the investigations involving billionaire hotelier Ong Beng Seng once the case against former Transport Minister S Iswaran concludes.

Additionally, Lim Tean, the leader of the alternative party Peoples Voice (PV), has criticized prosecutors, deeming their decision to drop nine charges against Iswaran as “the height of absurdity.” Initially, Iswaran could have faced 36 charges, not 27.

The online community is currently dealing with a decline in trust regarding the perceived integrity of well-compensated Ministers in Singapore—a group conventionally assigned the responsibility of preventing corruption. This sentiment is evident in comments across various Singaporean social media platforms.

Calls for a thorough review of the existing high ministerial salaries have gained traction within these discussions.

Community

About 2 million Singaporeans are set to benefit from the Assurance Package in February. The Ministry of Finance (MOF) announced that around 850,000 Singaporean citizens aged 55 and above, with lower incomes, will receive the Assurance Package Seniors’ Bonus ranging from S$200 to S$300 (approximately US$225).

The bonus will be granted to seniors residing in properties with an annual value of up to S$25,000, a threshold raised from 1st January, 2024. It will be distributed over three years, from 2023 to 2025, offering lower-income seniors cash payments ranging from S$600 to S$900.

Furthermore, Singaporeans aged 20 and below or 55 and above will receive the Assurance Package MediSave bonus of S$150 in their CPF MediSave account. All Singaporean children and seniors will receive the Assurance Package MediSave top-ups totaling S$450 from 2023 to 2025.

In a proud moment for Singapore, LoveAidSingapore with Gilbert Goh, has successfully dispatched their first truck full of aid to Rafah amidst the ongoing war in Gaza.

It was one of the two trucks they had queued up to prepare for the journey to Gaza, delivering much-needed aid to the Palestinians trapped in the war-torn strip.

International

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secures historic third presidential win, easing global market tensions. Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s current vice president, emerged triumphant in the elections, easing worries among international investors who were cautious about his perceived assertive stance and the potential pursuit of formal independence for Taiwan.

Singapore had extended its congratulations to Lai Ching-te.

The DPP’s historic third consecutive win highlights the strength and stability of Taiwan’s democratic system and institutions.

Despite external pressures and warnings from China, Taiwanese voters have expressed confidence in the leadership of the DPP, preferring to maintain the existing state of affairs.

In other news, OpenAI, the US-based AI research and deployment company, addresses concerns about the potential misuse of its technology in elections.

In a blog post released on 15th January, the company aims to reassure the public about the responsible use of its AI products, especially with over a third of the world preparing for polls this year.

The unease revolves around OpenAI’s development of two groundbreaking products, ChatGPT and DALL-E.

 

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Gutzy Weekly Digest 2024: Week 5 Highlights

This week in Singapore: LTA increases COE quota by 2%; ICA plans Woodlands Checkpoint expansion; FAS dismisses football head coach Nishigaya; concerns raised over constitutional amendments; Dr. Tan Cheng Bock may contest in GE; outcry over LTA’s SimplyGo decision; Singapore scores 83 in Corruption Perception Index; MOM reports rise in retrenchments; SPCA sees spike in animal cruelty cases; S$13.3M lost to scams in December; and new rules to curb gambling-like behavior in amusement centers.

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