This morning, I went for a run on the PCN from Punggol Promenade to Tampines Road, a distance of about 5km. As usual, I had to dodge scores of bikes and scooters. I estimated that at least 4 out of 10 of them were motorised bikes and scooters even though there were clear signboards at about 1km interval on the track, stating clearly that no motorised vehicles are allowed on the track on pain of a $5,000 fine. There was even one lady (clearly able-bodied) riding on a motorised wheelchair, sending her toddler to school.
Hey, I thought this should not and ought not happen. But who says Singaporeans aren’t risk-takers? They would gladly risk injuring others and being fined $5,000 for a bit of convenience. I returned home after an exhausting 10km run and after showering and having breakfast, I sat down to read. My eyelids grew heavy as I scanned the pages. Before long, I was in dreamland, clutching bank account balance slips that looked like these:
I went to see my MP and asked her how I would be able to pay my water bills with this kind of money in my bank account. She reassured me and told me that I could use my SkillsFuture credits to pay 30% of my water bills. I was surprised, but she patiently explained things to me. That’s because the 30% increase in water price is supposed to teach me about the importance of water. Equipped with that knowledge, I would be ready for the future. Unfortunately, that was just a dream. Singaporeans are well known for accepting lame excuses from their government. The government is too smart to let it happen the other way round. Anyway, I really think the owner of that account needs help. He ought to be in financial ICU. Sadly, I’m seeing a return of the pathetic ATM slip – a sign of the times. Our financial “hospitals” are going to be filled up pretty soon. But is it our own fault that we’ve ended up in such dire straits?
Like me, many Singaporeans are such an ungrateful bunch. We always take things for granted – good government and potable tap water for instance. We’ve been enjoying a precious commodity, a strategic resource without showing our gratitude by voluntarily loosening our purse strings and making regular donations to poor PUB. Things have changed and we’ve been misers too long. We need to be taught a lesson. We’ve been told that “the consumer must feel the price of water, realise how valuable water is in Singapore, every time he or she turns on the tap, right from the first drop.”
Who can argue with that? But before anyone accuses the consumer of taking things for granted, perhaps it’s only fair that us look at whether the consumer has been taken for granted. I wonder how many of us enjoy turning on our taps, let the water run and not feel any pain when the bill arrives. I wonder how many of us ever wash our hands, take showers or flush our toilets unnecessarily. Why is it assumed that we don’t already feel the price of water? Why is it assumed that we don’t realise how valuable water is? Why is it assumed that increasing the price of water by 30% is even necessary to make us feel and realise the importance, or as one minister put it, the “existential” nature of water? How is Mr Broke above going to live?
Mr Existential further pointed out that a 30% increase in water price over two years is the first in 17 years – which works out to about a 1.6 per cent rise each year. Yao mo gao chor ah? Like that also can meh? As if paying 30% more is not enough, we even have to pay for water we’ve already used and paid for in the last 17 years? Why not I increase my tenant’s rent by 30%. I’ve not increased her rent for the last 5 years, so it’s only 6%?
One question must have crossed every thinking Singaporean’s mind. Is this really about water? Or is water being held at ransom so that some gap can be filled? I asked a dozen Singaporean youths and most of them aren’t even aware that the water price is going to go up by 30%! Only a couple of them are actually paying attention to the debate that has been going on. The rest focus their attention on fashion, games, gadgets and little else. It’s all about me. Can they be made to “feel and realise” how important water is by making their parents pay more? Is it not an irony that these are the apathetic, apolitical folks who are going to “vote from the gut” without being aware of all the lame excuses and hollow (even horrific) advice given by highly paid office holders?
Now, let’s get back on the shared track on the PCN. Let’s say that the cynic’s theory is correct. Let’s say that a fiscal gap needs to be plugged. Let’s say the government has overspent on GE2015 …. oops …. I mean CHAS, PG card and other generous schemes and are too shy to tell us. I have a better solution.
Unlike the folks who waste water, the folks who ignore the rules and feel nothing for the safety of other park users are too easily identified and plentiful even. It’s all about them, their own convenience or even laziness if you will. Why not make the motorised scooter and bike riders prohibited tracks “feel and realise” the importance of considerate use of the park? Why not set traps for them, fine them $5,000 each? Going by the number of offenders I catch in one morning, the authorities will have no trouble collecting millions a month. Isn’t this fairer and even more correct?
© Chan Joon Yee