When finance minister Mr Heng Swee Kiat went to deliver the budget speech in Parliament, many people were relieved to know that the minister has finally recovered from his horrible stroke and ready to serve the country again.
But the welcoming relief soon turned to shock as the minister drops a bombshell by announcing a 30% price hike in our water pricing.
Though the hike will be spread over two years – one in July this year and the other in the same month next year with the assurance that Singaporeans will enjoy rebate subsidies to cushion the hike, nobody is smiling especially when the hike is carried out during the current economic crisis.
Moreover, we realised that PUB has being enjoying profits from its operation and over the past 7 years, it has generated a massive S1.1 billion in profit. For FY 2015, it has generated $166.8 million profits – an increase of 77.3 per cent compared to FY2010’s profit of $94.1 million.
The government has also tried to increase train fare few years ago when the transport operators are still reaping handsome profits triggering off a protest in January 2014. Protesters were unhappy with the fact that the two major transport companies, SMRT and SBS Transit, are making $120 million and $18 million in net profits respectively and this is set to increase rapidly with the rise in train ridership as well.
For the latest 30% increase in water cost, the government has quoted the higher operating cost of treating water and that the reservoir in Malaysia is also drying up as mitigating reasons – factors which do not hold up well as all along PUB is still doing well in the black. The 30% increase in water pricing will probably add billions into the coffers of PUB but will certainly deepen the hardship of our poor and vulnerable who are already struggling with the country’s high cost of living.
We have the unenviable record of being the world’s costliest city for the third time in a row this year. More shockingly, the water price hike also came on top of a slew of other recent price increases eg town council fee, ERP, electricity among others.
Many have suggested that instead of increasing water pricing, why not ration water as during LKY’s time water rationing was very popular as it fosters community togetherness and people still value water as a precious commodity instead of having to pay dearly for it to be appreciated.
The environment minister Mr Masagos did himself no favour by saying that:”The consumer must feel the price of water and realise how valuable water is in Singapore, every time he or she turns on the tap, right from the first drop.”
It is as if Singaporeans need to be financially punished so we can better treasure our water supply. I am sure that we can look at other cheaper feasible alternatives to better appreciate water.
It is unknown why the government could not use part of the tens of billions it has collected annually from GST, COE, taxes, ERP, land sales and other tariffs to offset the water hike but prefers to pass the pain directly to the people.
The timing of the price hike is also damaging as many PMETs are still jobless or under-employed during this economic downturn. There is no social safety net for those who are jobless and such price hike only adds on to their growing frustration as a local Singaporean.
All these recent utilities’ price hikes reveals a heartless merciless government bent on squeezing every drop of revenue from a struggling populace tired from paying all kinds of bills amidst stagnanting income growth.
We call on all Singaporeans who are against this unjustified water price hike to turn up for our protest in a defiance show of unity.
Though we may not be able to change the government’s stance but at least we will show them that we are unhappy and won’t take it laying down!
Prepared by: Gilbert Goh
3 March 2017