The PAP announced last week that service and conservancy charges (S&CC) for 8 of the PAP town councils will increase from 1 April onwards. PAP will be increasing charges by between $1 to $15 a month.
Some of you might think that you have been spared the increase if you do not live in the areas managed by these town councils. But the PAP has been very sneaky. They had actually increased the charges for the other town councils two years ago.
You see, there are a total of 16 town councils, one is managed by the Worker’s Party and the rest – 15 of them, by the PAP.
Image source: TownCouncils.sg
It looks like the PAP had wanted to increase the S&CC for all the town councils after the last general election, but if they were to increase the charges for all the town councils at one go, they would have known that Singaporeans would not take it well.
So, this is what they did:
- They had split the announcement for the increase in the S&CC into two.
- So, in 2012, they announced that the charges would be raised for 7 town councils.
- Then, they said that the “increase will be phased over two years”, to psychologically give Singaporeans the impression that the increase is slow.
- After 2 years of that announcement and the two-year phasing in, they then decided to follow-up with this announcement of the increase for charges of the 8 other town councils.
- Again, they said that the “increase will be phased over two years”.
- Smart, right? First, the town councils are merged – there are 27 constituencies but the PAP has merged them into 16 town councils. Next, break the charges increase into two – 7 or 8 town councils sound like a small number, people won’t know. Then say you want to help Singaporeans by phasing in the increase over two years.
(1) PAP Town Councils Earn Surpluses But Still Increase S&CC
But let’s get on to the main issue at hand – why is the PAP increasing S&CC? According to the PAP, the S&CC has “have remained unchanged for the last ten years”. The PAP also claimed that, “the growth in maintenance and operational costs has made it increasingly difficult to continue our operations”.
However, how true is this? In fact, Yahoo! Singapore pointed out that, when “Asked why it is increasing S&CC despite its healthy surpluses, the town council said in a prepared response that “such surpluses have been in the decline over the years”.
Surpluses have been declining over the years? If you look at how much the PAP town councils have in surplus, the PAP town councils have $46.5 million in accumulated surpluses last year (for those which have their annual reports published openly online)!
And surpluses have “declined”? Not really – in fact, the PAP town councils have seen their accumulated surpluses increase from $40.2 million in 2012 to $46.5 million in 2013 – and this is only for town councils which had published their earlier annual reports or financial statements online, some cannot even be located.
(2) PAP Made The Surpluses Disappear
In 2012, there was then a drop in surpluses but do you know why? This is because of a silly rule that the PAP has created. According to Leong Sze Hian, “under section 34 of the Town Council Act, which stipulates that upon the issue of a writ of election, 80% (100% if the party that wins the constituency is a different party) of the accumulated surplus (has to be transferred) to the sinking fund.”
So, why did surpluses decrease? From what the PAP is saying, it sounds like “such surpluses have been in the decline over the years” because of “continuously rising maintenance and operation costs”. But very clearly, the decrease in surpluses is a direct result of the PAP’s manipulation of the law. It has nothing to do with the rising maintenance and operation costs. If the PAP had not created this law, the town councils would still see their accumulated surpluses keep growing very healthily.
To give you an example, you can just look at the Ang Mo Kio Town Council. In 2011, it had $16.7 million in accumulated surplus but in 2012, after the election, this suddenly dropped to $4.4 million.
Or, if you look at the Marine Parade Town Council, in 2010, it had $11.5 million. This increased to $14.2 million in 2011. Then in 2012, after the election, it suddenly dropped to $3.1 million.
And if you look at all the constituencies where reports are available online, the total accumulated surpluses fell from $122 million in 2011 to $38 million in 2012 – or by more than two-thirds!
In fact, this didn’t happen just during the 2011 general election. It also happened during the 2006 general election. If you look at the Sembawang Town Council, in 2012, the accumulated surplus saw a huge drop from $25.7 million in 2011 to only $8.2 million. But back in 2007, it also saw a huge drop from $22.9 million in 2006 to $9 million in 2007. In both periods, the town council saw a vast increase in its accumulated surpluses prior to general elections before seeing their surpluses drop by two-thirds after!
Should Singaporeans be forced to have to deal with the lowered surplus because the PAP created a law to lower the surpluses? Do you think this even makes sense?
If you work backwards, and include the lost surpluses that was taken out of the system, the PAP town councils would have accumulated $400 million, if we just take into account the surpluses that had disappeared over the past 3 general elections!
The question is – why did the PAP do it?
In fact, when we look at how much the sinking funds have accumulated, they have accumulated $1.7 billion in the PAP wards. This means that the the money that we have paid, which is then transferred elsewhere, that has helped to accumulate $1.7 billion, but where is all this money going?
Yet again, why is the money transferred, and why are we then asked to pay more?
(3) The Worker’s Party Can Keep S&CC Down In Spite Of Inflation, So Why Not The PAP?
Now, compare this to what the Worker’s Part did. In 2012, “Chairman Sylvia Lim said in the statement: “We are mindful that in the current inflationary environment, residents are similarly facing cost increases on their own as well.”
Both facing issues of inflation and rising costs, but why such different responses? Why would the PAP want to increase the S&CC even though they had increasing surpluses which they made disappeared by themselves. Yet, the WP would not increase charges, and thus they did not increase the S&CC.
In fact, when you compare how much Singaporeans who live in the Worker’s Party’s constituencies have to pay, they need to pay a much lower amount than Singaporeans who live in PAP’s wards. In fact, Singaporeans who live in the PAP wards have to pay up to 52% more than Singaporeans who live in areas which are governed by the Worker’s Party.
(4) The Worker’s Party Has Low Surpluses And Kept S&CC Down, But The PAP Has High Surpluses Yet Increase S&CC
But actually, what’s more – take a look at the surplus in the Worker’s Party town council! In 2013, the Worker’s Party had only $1.8 million in accumulated surplus.
And when you look at the town councils managed by the PAP of comparative sizes, all of them had higher surpluses than the Worker’s Party, of between $1.8 million to $11.4 million.
So, why is it that for the PAP town councils, they each had more surpluses than the Worker’s Party and the PAP collectively have $46.5 million in surplus already, but they still want to increase the S&CC? Yet, why is it that the Worker’s Party had comparatively a much lower surplus but they were “mindful” enough for their residents and know that their residents “are similarly facing cost increases on their own as well”, and thus have the empathy and compassion to not overburden their residents?
What is wrong with the PAP?
(5) If PAP Is Already Earning Surpluses, Have Singaporeans Been Paying Too Much For The Past 10 Years?
What’s more, the PAP wanted to emphasise on the fact that, “the current S&CC have remained unchanged for the last ten years”, and thus they wanted to make it sound like they had no choice but to increase the S&CC.
But, if indeed the S&CC had been the same for 10 years, but the PAP is already able to earn $46.5 million in accumulated surplus today, and even $122 million in 2011 (before they created the law to make the money disappear), then doesn’t that mean that the PAP has been collecting S&CC which are already too high 10 years ago, and which has already allowed them to make a lot of money off Singaporeans?
Does this mean that 10 years ago, they have already made Singaporeans pay far too much so that they can earn from us?
Not only that, since they are still making $46.5 million in surpluses now, that would also mean that the current increase also has no basis, and this would only mean that the current increase would allow them to earn more and accumulate even more surpluses!
What is the PAP thinking? Why are they forcing Singaporeans to pay higher S&CC, when they already have surpluses, and when the real wages of Singaporeans have remained stagnant, and we are having difficulty even making ends meet?
(6) There Is Aboslutely No Need To Increase The S&CC
It would be clear by now that there is absolutely no need for the PAP to increase the S&CC.
- First, even without increasing the S&CC for 10 years, the PAP has already earned enough off Singaporeans to make $46.5 in surplus.
- Next, the PAP is already earning surpluses. Also, when “Singapore households are among the most indebted in Asia” where “Households had borrowings worth 151 per cent of their annual income last year” and where “Household debt in S’pore now accounts for 75% of gross domestic product, having doubled in the last 13 years“, while the Singapore government is among the world’s richest with one of the highest reserves in the world, has a very healthy $187 billion in surplus over the past few years and where GIC and Temasek Holdings rank as the top 10 richest sovereign wealth funds in the world, it makes very little, in fact, no sense at all, to make Singaporeans pay more on our increasingly diminishing savings, when the government is growing increasingly rich. Just today, it was also revealed that Singapore is now the most expensive place to live in, in the world yet Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among the high-income countries – how can Singaporeans be expected to keep paying and paying on our slashed-down purchasing power?
- In fact, when seen from an overall cash flow perspective, it is the government which should be stepping in to help alleviate the cost for Singaporeans at this point! Which is why it is ridiculous that the government provides a grant of only about 15% for the town councils, while Singaporeans are made to pay for the rest of the 85% by ourselves!
- Why is it that the government is not playing a bigger role in the financing, yet why have they channelled the money away and then ask Singaporeans to pay more?
Meanwhile, if the Worker’s Party government is able to govern their constituency without increasing the financial burden on their citizens, why is it that the PAP government which would have more economies of scale, by virtue of running more town councils, not be able to find any savings, and not be able to be cost effective in their approach? Is the PAP so incapable? Or are they so heartless that they are more interested in earning money of Singaporeans instead of be “mindful” for their residents and care for us? On the contrary, when you look at how the Worker’s Party does it, when a report purposely highlighted that in their town council, “5% of their households had S&CC arrears overdue for 3 months or more”, the Worker’s Party had shown compassion by saying that, “While some residents can settle their arrears within a short period of time, others may need more time to do so and we have assisted them with instalment plans”.
We have had the PAP in government for 50 years now. Is it because they have ruled for so long that they are simply taking us Singaporeans for granted? For many Singaporeans, they would be able to trace the PAP’s taking advantage of Singaporeans to the mid-1990s. In fact, as I had written before, the rich-poor gap in Singapore widened from 1995. The richest in Singapore gained a higher and higher share of the income in Singapore, while the rest of us Singaporeans got lesser. Today, the richest 15% earns as much as the poorest 85%. And the Singapore Prime Minister, ministers and the PAP members of parliament belong to the top 15%. Not coincidentally, 1995 also coincided with when the PAP decided to pay themselves very high salaries.
Some would trace it even further. In fact, in 1983, Dr Toh Chin Chye, one of our respected pioneer PAP first-generation politicians had lambasted then-Minister of Defence and Second Minister for Health Goh Chok Tong for introducing the Medisave Scheme, which he had said is a “is a taxation, and it is a recessive tax for the simple reason that those who are at the lower income level, because their CPF contributions are lower, will have to pay the full amount, whereas those with higher incomes do not pay the full percentage of their income towards the CPF because there is a ceiling.” He had also asked why the government had wanted to collect CPF contributions which are more than “the recurrent expenditure of the Ministry of Health”, and had thus asked, “What are we doing with the revenue collected?”
This is the same question we are asking today – where is our money going?
In fact, we are facing another similar situation here once again. It happened in the 1980s and it is happening again 30 years later (and many times more over this period). The PAP decided to unilaterally increase the charges and fees, without conducting a proper research, or even showing Singaporeans this research (if any was done). Yet, Singaporeans have to continuously put up with such price increases, while the PAP keeps using the premise as “inflation” or “higher costs” as an affront, when Singaporeans know by now that the PAP government is very rich and has refused to acknowledge the increasing poverty that Singaporeans are suffering with. Yet, as the PAP continues to want to earn from Singaporeans, it chooses to justify for itself that it needs our money, while Singaporeans are made to bear the brunt of their wanton wants, and our collective bad decisions for voting them into government over and over again, even when we know they are making our lives worse off. When are we going to take a stand and do what’s right for ourselves.
Of course, what can Singaporeans do when the PAP has almost all the seats in government and gets to decide at their whims and fancies what they want to do, since there is no one to stop them?
Indeed, when Dr Toh Chin Chye had spoken up, he represented the last of the PAP politicians who had in them at least a level of integrity and would speak up for Singaporeans, and speak to protect us. But since the first generation who had toiled with their sweat and blood to strive for Singapore, none of the current PAP politicians have the integrity or righteousness that the previous politicians have. Singaporeans have been bullied and pushed around for a long time now – 30 years, if some remember. And yet, the PAP continues to do so because they believe that Singaporeans won’t speak up. They believe that we have been beaten to defeat.
Well, have you, Singaporeans? Will you allow the PAP to look down on you with disrespect, and continue to make use of you, and look you in the eye and lie right in your face?
Protest Against S&CC Increase This Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 4.00pm
No, I won’t take it sitting down. No, I won’t let them take our lives away as if we are pawns on their chess set. No, we will not let them push us down. We will not let them push us over. Enough is enough!
This Sunday, 9 March, we will be organising a protest against the S&CC increase. It might not be much and the government might not budge. But Singaporeans, it’s no longer about asking the PAP to change, for the PAP will never change. It’s about speaking up, it’s about finding our voice. It’s about learning to regain control over our lives and learning to take back what is ours. We have organised protests to small groups of people and we will not stop, we will not let up. We will keep doing this, and keep speaking up. We will keep giving Singaporeans a voice, so that together, we will find the strength within us, to fight, and to let the PAP know that Singaporeans are the rightful owners of this land – always have and always will. The PAP cannot take over government and rob Singaporeans of our lives.
Some of us might us – why protest? What’s the use since the government won’t listen? It is no longer about wanting the PAP to listen. They won’t, so let’s leave them aside. It’s about speaking up, about creating a space for ourselves where we can keep coming together, where we can keep doing this and make it become regular, so that as the time goes by, more and more of us will learn to see that speaking up is our prerogative, and we will learn to use our voice to rally ourselves together, to give Singaporeans the confidence that we can use our voice to change things for the better.
In 1965, Singaporeans fought for self-rule but we have never gotten them. The PAP took over and lorded themselves over Singaporeans. Today, today we will fight for self-rule once again. Join us this Sunday at the protest, from 4pm to 6pm. Let’s find our voice once again. Let’s keep going on.
You can find out more about the protest at the Facebook event page here.