Monday, October 29, 2007

Govt to ease Traffic Jams!!!!

Yes, there has been many complaints about congested roads, frustrating traffic jams and the govt is very concerned with the whole situation. The govt has heard your feedback and feels strongly it needs to respond to your concern. ...and the solution to the traffic jam is..... Higher ERP charges! While the govt of other countries have to solve their traffic jams by spending money to build highways & widen roads to increase road capacity, the Singapore govt solves traffic jams by asking Singaporeans to pay more for using roads.

.....Those who want to avoid paying $5 should wake up earlier. The charge for going through this gantry between 7.30am and 8am is $3.50 (also up 50 cents)......

Those who want to avoid paying for ERP have to do with less sleep and get to work earlier....and if you want to save even more money, you leave your workplace later and avoid the evening peak hour.

Those who have been complaining, you can stop now, the solution is for you to pay more and the traffic jams will will the complaints. You should be glad that the govt has made you part of the solution. For those of you who take public transport and are not part of the problem, you get to be part of the solution too, you also get to pay more as bus & taxi fares go up. See we are an inclusive society so nobody should feel left out when it comes to price increases.
Oct 29, 2007
Maximum ERP charge goes up to $5 from Nov 5
Third round of increases - by 50 cents - this year comes on the back of higher fuel charges.

By Christopher Tan

CAR prices may be at their lowest in over a decade, but it is getting costly to drive. The Land Transport Authority on Monday announced that the Electronic Road-Pricing (ERP) rates will go up by 50 cents from Nov 5 - the third big-scale increase this year.

The latest adjustment brings the cost of entering the Central Expressway via the Pan-Island Expressway between 8.30am and 9am to a stiff $5. This route made news early this year when its ERP charge went up to $4. It was then raised to $4.50 in the middle of the year, before the latest record price.

Those who want to avoid paying $5 should wake up earlier. The charge for going through this gantry between 7.30am and 8am is $3.50 (also up 50 cents).

Central Expressway users once again bear the brunt of charges. Those passing the gantry north
of Braddell Road between 7.30am and 8am will pay $2.50 from Nov 5; and those passing the gantry south of Braddell Road between 8.30am and 9am will pay $4 from that day. The $4 charge also applies to those joining the CTE from Serangoon and from Balestier.
Next, the Bendemeer Road rate will rise to $1.50, while the Thomson Road rate will go to $2 from Nov 5.

Motorists will have to contend with these higher usage charges on the back of higher fuel bills. Since June, there has been no fewer than six rounds of pump price increase, bringing the cost of two petrol grades past the $2 level.

Motorists who have been bracing themselves for the set of new gantries coming on on Nov 1 will now have temporary respite. The LTA has decided to postpone the starting day to Nov 5, to align with the new ERP rates.

The next ERP rate revision will be in November, when prices are expected to fall in line with lighter traffic because of the year-end school holidays.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful... we can now spend more time at work and less time at home with the family.

Capt_Canuck said...

Truly an enlightened and forward moving society. Though, in the gov'ts defence, exactly where should these 'new roads' being built be put?

'The Matrix' movie made a great analogy of human life being that of a virus. The British used most of their resources and then went looking to 'infect' another host which became colonies for them to transfer to (Canada/USA, Singapore, India). Singapore, on the other hand, has no place for the virus to spread since it is locked in as a solid petri dish and doesn't have the military strength to infect another host to spread.

So, I guess, simply put, the only possible way for the PAP to help ease congestion is either do one of the two things that they do best: either ban personal cars completely (no cars, no traffic congestion) OR make the citizens pay higher prices for it and hope that the budget aspect in Singaporean minds (either read 'cheap' or 'low income', whichever is most pleasing to the palate) will space out the usage and ease congestion.

Not like the gov't has any extra money floating around. What with spending all that money on universal health care, pension plans, organizations to help the poor and needy. The PAP already spends so little on minister salaries and investing in oppressive gov't regimes. You can not ask the world from such selfless individuals.

Guess this just means I get to look forward to more chances to impersonate a sardine in the MRT lines during peak hours to and from work.

impressed said...

Wonderfully surprised that the government is able to come up with such an innovative idea to ease traffic congestion. Don't think anyone else could have come up with such a great idea !

Anonymous said...

With all the price increases coming up I just wonder what the 'more good years' slogan is going to mean to poor Singaporeans. 'More good years' for whom? Is the 'city of possibilities' slogan going to mean the 'possibility' of Singaporeans having to pay more and more for everything under the sun? God help us!

LuckySingaporean said...


:::in the gov'ts defence, exactly where should these 'new roads' being built be put?::;

Of course there are places to put these new roads just like there are places to put the several hundred people the govt brought in to fuel the economic boom.

::::Wonderfully surprised that the government is able to come up with such an innovative idea :::

Why do you think we pay them million$ salaries for?


::::Is the 'city of possibilities' slogan going to mean the 'possibility' of Singaporeans having to pay more and more for everything :::

City of possibilities means anything is possible $5 to go through a gantry is possible. million$ public housing is possible. "City of possibilities" is one big understatement. It should be "city of impossibilities"...In singapore we do what is impossible in other countries - like having the most expensive cars in the world and traffic jams at the same time, highest price of public housing, and of course million$ ministers...all impossible in other countries.

Alan Wong said...

Many a times I have been wondering whether the PAP GAHMEN is the devil itself in causing any traffic jams in Singapore.

If I remember correctly, prior to the last elections, the PAP GAHMEN increased the COE quota by leaps and bounds. The official reason given was that many owners had scrapped their cars. But if one is really that concerned about traffic jams, common sense should prevail that one should not increase the COE quota by leaps and bounds.

Then is it a coincidence that after having won the election, additional 'measures' are now being implemented for the need to curb traffic jams. Isn't the PAP GAHMEN 'too much'?

Does the PAP GAHMEN ever realised that many vehicle owners ACTUALLY DEPEND on their vehicles to make a honest living and a majority of them do not have a MILLION-DOLLARS-A-YEAR-SALARY like what PAP MINISTERS unashamedly pay themselves ?

Robert HO nric S0197974D said...

Government by Taxation

The acronymic joke on our political parties goes: the Peoples' Action Party or PAP stands for Pay And Pay; the Workers' Party or WP stands for Why Pay? and the Singapore Democratic Party or SDP stands for So Don't Pay!

Like many jokes, there is a germ of truth in it. But before we discuss why the PAP has rightly earned its epithet, can any reader or Lee Kuan Yew himself or any of his 10,000 [now 15,00 last count] party members and their even larger families and relatives tell us what the Action in the PAP's name means? It's really a dumb word for a political party. You would have imagined that there were lots of worthy words way back then in the 1950s when the party was formed, such as Independence, or Democratic or Socialist (now a little off-colour due to the advance of capitalist thought and practice, more practice than thought, actually), or Workers, etc.

It is perhaps instructive that Lee Kuan Yew himself has never explained what the Action stands for. Action as opposed to Inaction? Dumb! It is also perhaps indicative that the founder of the party saw for himself a vehicle for pursuing his political ambitions rather than any nobler goal of securing Independence from the British, advancing the Workers' cause or championing Democracy -- this last is now very evident, and the chilling point to note is that Democracy was never in the party's beginnings or its founder's mind.

So the PAP means Pay And Pay. Just how do we count the ways?

Like every government, the PAP collects monies from various taxes, such as corporate tax, income tax, consumption tax like our GST, levies on foreign workers, stamp duties, taxes on imports of a wide range of goods, etc. This is of course, normal and to be expected. One of the two certainties. But the PAP goes a great deal farther. It is highly creative when it comes to collecting monies from the people. Even ingenious.

How so? It is not the ambit of this little article to study the whole panoply of taxes but suffices to just point out some of the clever ways the PAP extorts from us, in the most important areas of our lives.

Take the basic fundamental right of shelter, or our flat. I have always wondered how prices of our flats are derived, why it can be so high in some countries and so low in others. For example, in Hongkong, a 1,000 sq ft flat would cost you nearly half a million Singapore dollars (of course, there is a great deal of variation due to location and other factors, so I'm just using very broad figures). A flat of the same size costs about >S$300,000 in Singapore and (with very wide variations) about S$50,000 just a few miles across the Causeway in the town of Johor Bahru (even much lower for a low-cost public housing flat).

This would seem to suggest that the price of a flat has little to do with the actual costs of labour and materials that go into making it. I have deliberately chosen Malaysia and Hongkong because they are most similar to Singapore, in many ways. If I had chosen Indonesia, the price of a 1,000 sq ft flat there, in most areas, would be a mere pittance. True, land costs are higher in Hongkong and Singapore and lower in Malaysia. True, labour is cheaper in Malaysia but don't forget that most of our construction workers are foreign cheap labour who probably get less than S$1,000 a month. So the argument is valid that labour and material costs are not high enough to make the vast difference in prices of flats.

What about land prices? Again, it is true that land is pricier in Singapore than Malaysia, but it can be pointed out that flats in Singapore are much higher-rise than in Malaysia so if land prices are higher, they are divided among more flats in a high-rise and therefore cost less per flat, than say, in the low-rises in Malaysia. So land prices are not terribly influential. Also, remember that the PAP has state land for free or pays only a pittance for acquiring private land (thanks to state laws). It has free land to even give away, as announced days ago [when this article was written] when it granted 64 hectares of land for the army reservists to build an 18-hole golf course one-fifth the size of Sentosa Island. So if labour and materials are not that important in dictating the price of a flat, and neither are land prices, so why does a 4-Room Flat cost >S$300,000 and not say, S$100,000 or even S$75,000?

The reason seems to be more of a captive market phenomenon. We have to live close to our important activities, such as work, family, relatives, friends, schools, food, leisure, recreation, etc. We have no choice. Also, the relative affluence of our people seems to allow flats to be marketed, not on a cost-recovery basis, but on what the market will bear.

Which is probably why it is higher in Hongkong and lower in Malaysia. Except that, in Singapore, the HDB houses 88% of us and thereby controls practically all of the market for housing. It is a market monopoly in the absolute sense of the word. And because it sets the level of prices for 88% of the housing, it thereby influences the prices of the small percentage of private housing as well. In other words, if the HDB were to halve its prices overnight, prices of all housing in Singapore will drop overnight. Conversely, if the HDB's policy is to inflate its prices gradually every year, prices will steadily rise, both private as well as public housing. And this is what it has been doing. No other country in the world has that much control over its housing prices than the PAP in Singapore, not even in Hongkong, which has a large private housing sector.

In fact, if my memory serves me right, Mr Low Thia Khiang of the WP asked in Parliament decades ago if the PAP were not profiteering from its HDB flats. He mentioned that a quantity surveyor would probably assess the cost of a typical flat at no more than about S$30,000 when it was priced by the HDB at many, many times that.

It is probably because the PAP is so confident of its policy of inflating prices every year (with minor hiccups due to the economy) that it has this outrageous policy of demanding a 20% cut or tax or whatever you call it of the resale price of a flat when a flatowner sells it on the open market. Which is another example of the Pay And Pay principle.

If we next consider the car, the PAP principle becomes even more evident. [When this article was written] -- To be entitled to own a car, you fork out about S$30,000 for the privilege, less during recessions when less people bid high. This Certificate Of Entitlement, or COE, is also poorly named because it does not go with the owner who bid for it but instead, goes with the car when you sell it. So it is not so much an entitlement as another tax on the car, in addition to the other taxes, which are: a customs duty of 41 per cent ad valorem; a Registration Fee of S$1,000 for private vehicles and $5,000 for company vehicles; and an Additional Registration Fee (ARF) of 150 per cent of the car's Open Market Value. PAP again.

Decades ago, one letter to the Straits Times Forum grumbled about all this profiteering and wondered if COEs could not be distributed without costly bidding, which invariably drives prices up. The obvious alternative is, of course, a lottery for citizens only or some kind of a socialistic on-a-need basis. But again, with the PAP principle of Nothing Is For Free, nothing came of it.

We have discussed the two big areas of our lives, the house and the car. Next should be our money.I do not intend to venture into income tax because that's for accountants and specialists and involves state spending and funding of state activities. However, a few basic observations of the Central Provident Fund or CPF are in order. For decades now, all who earn a salary in Singapore, have to give up no less than 40% [when this article was written] of their salary into their own Central Provident Fund account (up to the first S$6,000 of salary). This is a whopping, mind-boggling percentage of forced savings probably unseen in any other part of the world. This 40% comprises 20% from the employers and 20% from the employees (currently at 16% awaiting restoration to full 40% when the economy recovers).

Thus, the State, every single month, gets 40% of all the workers' salary to play with, and play with, it does, because its track record of keeping our CPF monies safe and invested has been poor (do a Google Search for Mukul Asher's reports on the CPF Board's performance) and because the interest given by the Board is very low, unlike a real pension fund, members get almost no returns and sometimes negative returns on their money -- an 'implicit tax' as Mukul Asher described it.

So, in the 3 big areas of our lives, namely our flat, our car and our salary, the PAP has found ways to take big chunks of our money. It is totally in accordance with Machiavelli's teachings of "The State must be kept rich and the people kept poor." And Machiavelli is no stranger to the leaders of the PAP because no less than S. Rajaratnam quoted him.

This genius for spotting opportunities to levy another tax or levy on any activity needed or desired by the people is carried in all other areas of public policy. For example, to reduce road congestion, you pay to get into the Central Business District or crowded roads (initially by buying a coupon but now by electronic deduction of a cash card when you pass under a toll gantry). If you want to hire a domestic maid, you pay a Maid Levy of S$345 [when this article was written], and most maids don't even get paid that much. Similarly for other foreign workers.

In other words, charges and fees for government services are not on a cost-recovery basis, much less a subsidised basis ("subsidy" is a dirty word in the PAP lexicon) but on a cost plus basis, with a nice, sometimes huge, profit thrown in. Health care costs are a particularly cruel area to indulge in this kind of policy approach because with few exceptions, nobody wants to be sick or deliberately court illnesses and diseases. The PAP does not seem to understand that we cannot help falling sick. This is because most of the PAP, especially people like LIE Kuan Yew and his Son exercise, eat and live such medically perfect lives, with regular checkups and screenings, that falling ill does not happen, or so it seems.

To conclude, the PAP has slipped, deliberately or unknowingly, into an unthinking mindset that automatically employs money as the main solution to all problems they encounter. If car ownership is too high, tax car ownership. It roads are too crowded, tax road use. If flat-building is limited, make flats expensive. If too many people want maids, tax them. If too many people smoke, tax cigarettes. If too many patients cancel their appointments at government hospitals, penalise them monetarily.

It has become government by taxation. The immediate response to any social or infrastructural problem. The only way to govern. Other ways demand thinking and our PAP leaders have never been particularly strong in that area. Government by taxation is a quick palliative that obviates thinking. It is a fix-all that can be applied quickly and easily. No need to be creative or to consider the human costs. We are all digits that can be manipulated infinitely by money incentives (like the Baby Bonus) or better still, disincentives since that swell the State coffers.

Ironically, government by taxation is very efficient since there are no human considerations to ponder, no social costs to agonise over, and no need to recognise that the policies can be very unfair to those who do not fit neatly into the tidy little categories that these policies are designed for. The larger purpose is often served, but at the expense of the minority who cannot be allowed to be the exceptions to the rule.

Government by taxation may well be very effective and it also gives the PAP control over vast sums of our money. It also explains the paradox of why so many Singaporeans cannot make ends meet while the statistics show that they have one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia. The State must be rich while the people must be poor. There is no such thing as a free lunch, let alone breakfast or dinner. Nothing is for free.

So, dear reader, if you are happy with this big aspect of your life and government, continue to vote for the PAP. It you are one of those overlooked by this 'government by taxation' approach, and want the PAP to begin recognising that there are other, fairer, more humanly acceptable approaches to public policy, send them a clear signal in the coming General Election and vote Opposition. If not, you will surely pay for it.

Posted by Robert HO nric S0197974D at 3:38 PM Links to this post

Labels: Government by taxation





See said...

My dear Singaporeans, you have a great country. It is not all crowded. So, all you people out there enjoy what you have (while it lasts) and STOP complaining.

Anonymous said...

Time for Mr Brown to do another song:

National Go Up YEAR!!!

Anonymous said...

don't increase ERP then who going to pay for the makeover of Orchard Road ($40M) and the organising of the Youth Olympic Game ($80M - $100M)......

Anonymous said...

I remembered a few years back when I had to undergo an operation to remove the gall bladder at NUH.

It was something like almost 2 months after I was detected with with stones in the gall bladder but I was still on a waiting list. I was told to return for another check in another 1 months time.

Then I told the doctor I can't wait any more and I was told the only way was to pay as a private patient. And the next thing u know, I had the operation carried out within a week after agreeing to pay as a private patient.

And this is still happening right to this very day. I can't imagine what is in store for the poorer patients - die first if you can't afford to be sick.

No wonder now they want to introduce means testing - but it doesn't mean that the poor don't have to wait - unless of course if you are come Li-regime family - the whole SIA plane will be waiting just for you.

This is our so-called first world country with 'integrity' leaders.

Capt_Canuck said...

Ahhh, so that is where these roads are going to go. The mythical place where you are housing all your foreigner workers. No wonder the gov't keeps pushing the 'live with your family and take care of your parents' So that foreign workers can take the flats to work.

Was thinking about the solution and the problem and something really doesnt sit right. I mean, you increase fees because of traffic congestion, so if people wake up earlier to go to work to beat the fares, all that happens is you move the congestion from 8am to 7:30am and the gov't is just fining the late sleepers. Sounds more like a 'fines for being late for work' than a 'congestion' problem solution.

What doesnt sit right is that the solution might not solve the problem. With the gov't filled with highly skilled and intelligent people earning their million dollar salaries a year, arent they supposed to actually 'fix' a problem instead of just moving it to another spot? Isnt this like solving the problem of a sore foot by hitting your thumb with a hammer so that you forget the pain in your foot?

Anonymous said...

to add on to Anon 7.09am's comment...

This ERP increase solves 2 issues. First - easing traffic. Second - getting people to work harder by being in office earlier and leaving that they have more money for retirement, and thus solve the CPF issue as well. maybe more people can opt out of the annuities?

well done, LTA.

Capt Canuck - that indeed is a astute observation. Yes, the congestion now starts earlier, coz people who drive, NEED to drive. it wont lead to less cars on the road.

sigh...indeed it was such an enlightened solution to the problem.

i say bring back the "4 people in a car during rush hour" rule. then, at least, with so many people in the car, then the cost of travelling into town per head makes a lot more sense.


KIN said...

Dear Singaporeans Drivers

Would we have the balls to stop driving for a week and watch how ERP makes it's million? I think it's going to be fun.

Anonymous said...

ERP is like a gold-mine now. It will turn into a diamond mine when the population hits 6 million. You can imagine how high ERP rates will go, and if that is not enough they may extend the hours of operation. The sky is the limit. Good luck Singaporean drivers! Singapore is a 'city of possibilities'

Kin said...

Dear Drivers
How can we stop this? Is there a way to appeal this? Robert Ho and Capt_Canuck are correct in many ways. They make sense. Didn't our esteemed ministers just got their pay raise? I mean, of course, they can afford the new ERP (maybe they didn't even have to pay), what about us? I think our PAP has already made enough $$$ from other avenues.

Is there a way to appeal to that LTA chap? Is it because he didn't get a raise and he's trying for a performance bonus by implementi? Could we even request for our COE to be refunded back to us?

Man, I have so many questions just because of that lousy 50cents more. Please suggest if they is anything we could do as drivers with a cause.

If not, LTA and PAP be happy to know that I'll give up driving for that lousy 50cents increment.

Capt_Canuck said...

One possible solution. Go to the police, or where ever you go to file a request to have an opinion in public, ask them if it is alright if you and a few people stage a protest in front of the PM/MMs house/place of work and see if they will listen. I am sure for a worth while cause such as this, you will get your request to have an opinion in public granted and you can then speak your mind and let it be known to the PAP that you are not happy with this plan and ask them if they can possible answer your questions about how moving the congestion from 8 to 7:30 stops the congestion. Being a caring gov't like they are, I am sure they will answer your questions perfectly and openly.

Oscar Bean said...

What is ERP?