Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Free Public Transport System ?

I don't know about a pro-bicycle policy but to consider a subsidized (and even perhaps free though I am not pushing for it) public transport system is not all incredulous as was made out by our dear minister. I mean, I may not be a government expert monitoring the national budget and etc, but surely there are more than a dualistic variable involved as quoted (ie. taxpayer or public transport users). If the government is really keen to bring down the cost of the public transport system, surely there are more avenue or streams of resources that could be obtain - perhaps even from profits of whatever investments that is being done up with the public's money that we don't know (remember the mini-bond issue?).

So, the simplistic manner in putting the matter by the minister is simply childish and unsophisticated. Perhaps he was considering the fact that he was facing an audience that would not be able to understand the dynamics of public administration but the rest of Singapore watching it on the news must have been aghast by not only the talking down manner and tone of his explanation but the overly simplistic logic put into "educating" the matter.

For the sake of discussion, assuming if the public transport system are actually free, I am sure that the majority of Singaporeans would be more than keen for that additional levy (if we are accepting the schoolboy dualistic logic) since that would mean reducing on other costs (ie. cars, COEs, taxis, etc.). In fact, that would be the best idea to reduce congestion in certain areas and hence needing less ERPs which seems to be the only solution that the expensively-paid officers in the LTA could come out with (congestion?! more ERP loh!).

To put the facts straight, public transport operators, for the past two years, have very consistently linked reasons for hike in prices at intermittent periods as a result of increases in operational cost and increases in fuel costs.

In fact, not long ago as September, the Public Transport Council (PTC) mentioned the following in a press release: "The fare adjustment, which will yield $5.9 million for a full year, will only provide partial relief for the increased cost pressures the Company faces. Fuel and electricity costs rose by 64%, or $36.0 million, to $92.5 million in the first six months of this year." ( SBS Transit Increases Transfer Rebate; Receives Net Fare Increase of Less Than 1%, September '08:)

Maybe I am misinformed but could someone double check if my knowledge serves me accurately that the buses we ride everyday run on diesel-oil?

Even a twelve year old knows that the fuel costs are closely tied with crude oil and natural gas, and thus their prices.

And when the Minister said "not directly linked" - what that's suppose to mean. It's a semantical game puzzle really.

Furthermore, in an article from " The Straits Time" dated March 2007: 1.8% cap on any bus, train fare hike this year cites the following glaringly: "In the past two years, the operators cited higher oil prices as the main justification for a fare rise. A senior transport analyst said GST had never been fully passed on to commuters, but added that ‘the formula will prevail because we are not in a deflationary economy".

Now, if the public transport operators mentioned that higher oil prices are the “main justification” for fare hikes, how could it then not linked?

And this is not a matter of politicizing the issue, but we do hope that Ministers could double check and be careful of any such slip ups when in public. Already, we are paying so much for buses that most often already need refurbishment and touch ups (have you ever tried sitting on any of the feeder buses from Boon Lay?) or MRTs that are always crowded - so what we would really need are less reminders of why price hikes should be tolerated or how the government subsidy is supposedly not the solution or that the "public that ends up paying" (and the government ends up with all the profit).


1 comment:

fpteditors said...

You have done a good job catching them in their duplicity about linkage to fuel costs. Why should fares go up with fuel costs, don't more people ride and pay fare when fuel goes up and the marginal cost of an additional rider is almost zero. Also, a bus is more fuel efficient than an auto, so free transport should bring down the demand for fuel and thus the price. But what is not even being discussed: what about the oil wars and the pipeline wars. They are occurring mainly to support the wasteful auto system. Free transport would mitigate that considerably. Actually all people who opposed the attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc... should be advocates for free public transport.
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