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The announcement of transport fare increase lays bare the empty rhetoric of the PAP's election promises.
At the lunchtime rally during the 2015 GE, Mr Lee Hsien Loong boldly proclaimed: “The promise is: We will work with you to make Singapore better for you and your children.”
Three years later, he performs yet another about-face by raising public transport fares. The increase is only the latest round of price hikes his administration has piled on Singaporeans since his election pledge.
The other increases include water price by an astounding 30%, carpark fees by 27%, town council S&CC, ERP rates, electricity and gas tariffs, university fees, and kindergarten and childcare centre rates.
Soon to follow will be the introduction of a sugar tax and carbon tax. Not satisfied, the PAP will increase the GST from the current 7% to 9%.
The bus and MRT fares increase defies logic. While the SMRT was unjustifiably generous with its elite employees like Mr Desmond Kuek – it paid the former CEO $1.87 million in 2016 and $2.31 million the year before despite a disastrous tenure – the company sees it fit to stick it to the average commuter with another fare hike.
This is against the backdrop of the government collecting a $10-billion budget surplus in 2017.
Making the hike even more indefensible is DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam's pre-election promise in February 2015 that “the revenue measures the Government had already undertaken would provide sufficiently for the increased spending planned for till the end of the decade.” (emphasis added)
On top of all this is the fact that the PAP government continues to rack up billions of dollars in its coffers by taking the CPF savings of Singaporeans through the charge of the “cost” of land in HDB sales. Experts have estimated that our reserves may amount to as much as $1 trillion.
All this comes at a time when retrenchments have increased and the unemployment rate is going up and when the economic outlook is anything but bright. Mr Chan Chun Sing admits that going forward, our economy has reached a plateau of 2-3% GDP growth. This, he says, is “rather depressing”.
With the younger set of PAP ministers lacking courage and know-how in tackling the foreboding challenges that our country faces – including opening up society to fully tap into Singaporeans' creative potential – this country's future is, indeed, bleak.
The only thing that the PAP is competent in is to continue to extract more taxes and fees from the people. This cannot be the way forward as it is a doomed strategy that brings only diminishing returns.
The SDP will continue to protect Singaporeans from being exploited as well as to push for the alternative ideas in our economic plan that will help Singapore graduate successfully into the next phase of development. (Read our policy A New Economic Vision: Towards Innovation, Equal Opportunity and Compassion here ).
In the meantime, Singaporeans would do well to remember what Mr Lee said when he wanted your votes versus what he did after he got them.