Price up, up, up

Is there any reason why nobody is feeling they have gained anything from the so called economic growth?

Just today, ComfortDelgro announced a ridiculous increase in taxi fares to ‘cater to higher demand’, just weeks after a price revision by SMRT and a report stating that transportation and accommodation are the two main drivers of inflation in Singapore. While I am not against price increase, the magnitude of increase this time round is jaw dropping.

As a summary, most prices (per unit, whether in minutes or meters) increased from almost 4% to 22%. Current booking of Limousine increased from $8 to $10 while advanced booking of limousine increased from $16 to $18.

While peak hour surcharge decreased from 35% to 25%, the hours extended from 7am-9am from Mon-Fri and 5pm-8pm from Mon-Sat to a ridiculous 6am-9am (excluding public holidays) and 6pm to MIDNIGHT Mon-Sun including public holidays. How on earth is 6am considered peak period baffles me. On the other hand, we have ministers asking the citizens to travel to work earlier (and gave some cents off your transport cost). If 6am is considered peak, I don’t know what is non-peak. It’s totally ridiculous.

Do you know what that means? It means you’ll forever be paying ‘premium prices’ from 6pm to 9am the following day. From 6pm to midnight, you have to pay 25% more. From midnight to 5:59am, you have to pay midnight surcharge of 50%. From 6am to 9am, you have to pay 25% more again. So according to ComfortDelgro, peak hours (including midnight demand) forms 15 hours a day.

The removal of holiday surcharge of the pathetic $1 is a joke.

The ComfortDelgro group is taking advantage of their monopolistic position to push prices up, and given their close connection to the government, we have the ‘National Taxi Association’ URGING other taxi companies to follow suit. Well, given that the big boy is taking the lead, other smaller taxi companies would just have to follow suit. The last thing I want to know is ComfortDelgro is increasing their rent to the taxi drivers (and probably quote the increasingly expensive COE and oil price (like when is oil price not a reason right?) as a reason).

The often used excuse is diesel oil price is increasing and the taxi group is ‘doing their part’ to ‘help’ the taxi drivers cope with the rising cost. While it’s true that diesel oil price is increasing, crude oil (the main factor affecting diesel) is no where near the price levels back in 2007 (the so called last price adjustment). The economic outlook is pretty dim given all the US and Europe financial problems. And the company has strategically opted to increase prices before you feel your wallet shrinking. If the company is sincere in helping the taxi drivers, why don’t they lower their obscene rental rates?

Who are the losers? Consumers of course. With local transportation fully monopolized by government linked companies, consumers don’t have much of a choice. What is made even worse is the sub-par trains and bus services we have that is overwhelmed by the increasing population. While SBS and SMRT loves to self-praise themselves as world class, they are not comparable to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. Even the taxi drivers might end up losing as the higher price will kill off more demand which might leads to lower pick up rates.

Every price is going up, up, up in Singapore. Officials say inflation is 5%. Do you feel it’s 5%? Property tax just went up because housing valuation is increasing. What causes housing valuation to shoot over the roof? Poor housing policy handling by the PAP government, and opening the flood gates to foreigners into the country and allowing them to enter the HDB market; subsidized housing originally planned for Singaporeans. So now Singaporeans are paying the price for such failed policy (admitted by the PAP themselves that they have failed in this area) while paying the ministers such high salaries?

While the government claims that a higher population will make Singapore better off, what we see is an entirely different picture. We see tonnes of problems caused mainly by increased demand for goods and increased land demand thanks to the liberal population policy. We only see increased cost of living especially in housing and transportation, deteriorating infrastructure as the increasing population continues to overwhelm, marginal increase in salary that ends up mostly eaten away by inflation, decreased quality of life due to alarmingly shrinking flats (while some lame academic high post officer from HDB claims that personal space is larger due to smaller household size, it doesn’t make any sense since a larger household can simply buy 5-rooms flats instead of 4-rooms. Personal space and utility of a larger living space is not correlated), suppressed salary for the unskilled and uneducated due to cheaper labor from poorer countries made worse by the lack of minimum wage laws and uncontrolled population policy, distortion of the social fabric…..I can go on and on.

What one obvious benefit of a liberal population policy is: more tax money being collected by the government. However, I have yet to see any being used significantly in pressing problems such as the poor, disabled and elderly. All these, while hearing billions of losses from Temasek and GIC.

To the authorities if you ever read this post, are you ever ashamed of yourselves? How the heck did you manage to sleep soundly at night? Oh, I forgot, you are too busy counting your money in the bank to take notice. And when is the Salary Review Committee announcing the ministers’ salary review again? The last time I heard the committee’s second meeting is scheduled in year 2016.

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  1. Sheena
    December 5, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    So many people, including foreigners have said this so many times.
    Just go to hkg and see how their taxis, buses and entire transport are so affordable and efficient that will put Singapore to utter shame. you pay so much and you still get shit service. They deserve to be on the 38th list ranking. Everyone in LTA /SMRT/ SBS /COmfortdelgro deserves to be fired!

    • December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      I happen to know some people from LTA and SBS. Many times, it’s not because there is a lack of ideas, but because the ‘heads’, usually close to the PAP, are forever not moving, and the ‘little soldiers’ can’t do much. And guess what, their suggested solutions is always about ways to divert demand, to smooth demand, instead of increasing capacity (citing constrain of space and too expensive) or simply cut down away with population growth. On the overall, I actually felt that the local transportation is pretty ok. Not extremely poor, but not fantastic as well. What is getting on my nerves is the overcrowding no thanks to the liberal open doors policy, and at the same time they love to proclaim how good they are so as to justify their talents and their ‘deserving’ high pay.

      So here we have it, the toxic concoction:

      Allow more foreigners >> increased demand for road usage and transportation needs >> Roads getting more crowded >> Billions of tax money spent on build new expressway causing 10 years of inconvenience to those affected so that the privileged few who can drive can save 15 minutes >> Cut down COE supply >> COE prices went up >> Less people can afford cars >> Demand for public transport increase >> excuse to increase taxi, train and bus fares >> Increase salary for the upper echelons of management and increase revenue for the government >> Government sees it as increase in GDP (since local spending spurs the economy) >> PAP is convinced allowing more foreigners into Singapore is good for the country

      The model above can be applied to housing as well.

  2. Daft Singaporean
    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    The key issue now is not that not to raise prices or even lower prices (fat hope, of course). the key issue is that we have an unaccountable and opaque government. The only solution is to change it in GE2016. Do not compromise with the scenario that the same MIWs in power and checked by oppositions. This will not work and the prices rise pattern after Ge will continue. The only key solution is to vote out MIWs. If they can transform to the right party, like KMT in Taiwan, they can always come back to win the parliament. This old party is out of date now. Politics and nation building need diversity – a key for future survival. Only diversity will bring new ideas and solutions. Only diversity can ensure future survival of this country.

    • December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      I wouldn’t suggest a lowering of price. A deflationary economy is the last thing I wish to happen. Hmmm on another note, maybe an extreme scenario of a deflationary economy might be good over the ‘long run’ (a term the PAP loves to use) since it’ll show which new citizen/ PR would be willing to continue to help stay in Singapore and continue to contribute to the country.

      The main problem is privatization of the transportation (and any other government linked) companies that at the same time enjoy a large monopolistic power and close links with the government. You end up with a company that can do whatever it wants simply because it can. Private companies are profits driven. Profits that goes back to the government since they are the largest shareholders. No matter whether you take the train, cabs or car, you are paying back to the government in every sense. Given such privileged advantages, companies like ComfortDelgro, SBS Transit, SMRT etc has zero incentive to improve their service and cost since they are only motivated in extracting the maximum surplus they can get.

      Saying that, voting out the PAP is insufficient. We need a to untangle all the political links within the civil service and government linked companies, which is a behemoth task.

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