Home > Problems caused by PAP's policy > Drive towards Satellite ERP system: Might as well solve the root of the problem

Drive towards Satellite ERP system: Might as well solve the root of the problem

It is not new news about a satellite ERP system in Singapore. The main reason for having a satellite ERP system is it save cost for the government since setting up one gantry cost about S$1 million. Moreover, it allows real time tracking and charging of fees that is fully flexible. The tax department must be salivating with delight at such convenience in charging people more moolas and attempt to solve the increasingly crowded roads.

Then you think again. In order to implement this new system, all the current ERP gantries should be demolished instead of being left there as white elephants. Waste of money, isn’t it? Considering how many millions have been spent on the ERP system already.  How will the new system offer better benefits? The government could jolly well consult the public and explain how they derive their cost and benefit analysis. In case you wish to know how this policy came about, it’s suggested by some team in LTA and were presented to a couple of Perm Secs in a big table in the Treasury Building. Some Q&A thrown around and tadah, it’s back to more refining before being implemented.

The question I want to pose is: Will this solve the problem? Having such fees, while admittedly does the job in forcing demand to fall, is in my opinion, an unfair one. People who drive to work in the city are penalized, simply because their office is there. By charging a fee, you

  1. Force some drivers to divert to other probably longer distance roads, which is entirely not economical. Not only do these drivers have to avoid peak hour, such as going to work much earlier (and work more hours?? or rot at the office till official starting time/ knock off time?), they waste more gasoline and pump out more carbon dioxide into the air while driving a longer distance.
  2. Force some drivers to take public transport instead. This sounds like the dream solution. But not when the public transportation system is also under strain. Just ask anyone taking a train and bus in peak hours. Ask how many trains and bus they have to miss and how uncomfortable it is squeezing under the dreamy hot sun. Moreover, given how expensive cars are in Singapore, why would you waste your car away in the car park? Possessing a car provides convenience and to some, prestige. So you see, there is much push and pull factors in owning a car and not taking public transport. Public transport converts are rare in my opinion as demand remains high. Why else are our COEs so damn expensive?
  3. Driving a car becomes a luxury, an activity that only the well off can afford. A simple thing like driving becomes one of the dividing force behind the stratification of society.
  4. And the worse is when people get used to the cost and internalize them. Disposable income drops. Spending drops. Quality of life drops. What doesn’t drop is the desire to own a car. Tell an American that you are paying S$135,000 on a Toyota Camry and they’ll say you’re nuts.

Imposing penalty to force divert traffic is anything but a permanent solution. What is the real reason, the real culprit behind all that demand to certain parts of Singapore? What else? POPULATION!!! Once again, the arrow points towards the influx of foreigners. You want more companies, more workers in land scarce and low birth rate Singapore in order to push GDP. Something has to give. Comfort has to be traded off in public transport. Cost of driving and transportation will inevitably rise in tandem with rising demand. It cannot be helped. There is bound to be trade offs.

A longer view solution would be to build more economic clusters in other parts of the country. We see industrial and economic activity concentrated on far ends of the island like the Jurong Industrial Park and Changi Business Park, and to a smaller extent, the Tampines region where some companies have offices there. Will it probably be helpful if economic zones can be set up in other parts  other than the city and the far ends of the island to divert traffic? Or create an alternative shopping and entertainment belt. Singaporeans go to one and only one place for shopping and other urban leisure. How many times is it not Orchard road? Ultimately, it’s simply about numbers. What is the optimal number of people the country can hold? No matter what you do, if population continues to increase at the current rate, whatever solutions proposed will not work and will only degrade the quality of life.

Will the government stop being so myopic and look closer at the root reasons for problems, instead of simply looking for solutions to solve the issues at hand? It’s like trying to bring down a magical monster with multiple tentacles that could regenerate. You may upgrade your sword to swing at the monster and cut down the tentacles but the monster will always be there.

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