Fee hikes need to be moderated

30 July 2004

Dear Democrats,

I have written a letter for publication in TODAY on the CPF restoration issue and the increase in fees. The newspaper refused to publish it (see below).

If Ministers’ pay can be restored I dont see why the CPF, which is part of our salary, cannot be restored in tandem. Such a restoration, coupled with a policy change to enable the restored CPF to be cashed out by members, will help to increase spending to stimulate consumption which will be good for local businesses, many of which are folding up.

There is a dire need to look at the more even distribution of wealth lest the local businesses suffer further. By doing so, even foreign investments in Singapore can stand to benefit from increased consumption spending. We cannot just depend on the few top income earners to turn the grave local business situation around. Worse, some of them simply hoard the money.

Something drastic must be done or else more local businesses will go under, affecting foreign investment which will, in turn, dampen the overall business sentiment here.

When the Trade Ministry says that the economy is growing, it is nothing to shout about because the growth is lopsided. What good does it do if our trading activities with other countries increase while our local businesses suffer?

Letter to TODAY: The question before us is: Can the reasons given for the increase of miscellaneous school fees by the MOE stand?

It is always convenient to increase fees and give seemingly cannot-fault-type of reasons like rise in education costs and raise the quality of education in schools, etc to justify the increase. Again we are going to burden the citizens by ailing their pockets when they have to fork out more for their children’s monthly miscellaneous fees next year.

On the one hand we are told to go on “self-help” mode and the next moment we were told to approach the Authority for help if the need arises. It’s indeed perplexing!

Have they considered the overall cost of raising children nowadays? No wonder the fall in the birth rate! Whatever incentives dished out by the Government to induce more births may be dampen by such increase in fees, starting with MOE. Wonder which Ministry is going to increase the fees next?

It is always the case when any Ministry increase fees they will say that “it will remain heavily subsidised.” I wonder who is subsidizing whom? How does it work out in real terms and how is it being derived?

We are continually faced with such dilemma. On the one hand, when we ask for CPF restoration given the good performance of the economy, the idea is shot down. But when the Ministry wants to increase the fees, we have to swallow it. What can be done with such inequality of treatment?

Can we institute a body that will study and manage the various increases in fees and balance these with the financial impact on Singaporeans?


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