So, I was greeted this morning with MP Lui Tuck Yew asserting that vehicle population growth will be “halved” to 0.5% from next month, despite COE premiums rising to a new high of $92,100 for small cars on Wednesday. And that’s just for the COE. What a great start to my day.
Certainly, from up high in his pedestal looking down on the roads of Singapore, the given solution is an easy and simple one to make – We don’t have space for roads, so we have to cut the number of cars. And the way to do that is to lower the quota allowed. The resulting price hike is inevitable and desired: More people will be priced out of the market for private-owned cars and vehicle population will be curbed. Problem solved, Mr Lui will pat himself on the back and perhaps treat himself to a new car because, well, why not? It’s not like it’s affordable to the lowly peasants anymore.
Increasingly, cars are becoming the preserve of the rich, simply because they are the ones able to outbid everyone else for a COE. PAP would say that this is simple economics and we can’t help it. Suck it up and take the MRT. But maybe, Mr Lui should seriously take into account what he simply termed as “desires and aspirations to own a car” that he claims to understand, and actually know that it is an aggravating feeling as a young Singaporean to watch my aspiration for my own car before I start my family get further and further away from me. And surely, I’m not the only one who desires the autonomy of owning his/her own vehicle.
I say aggravating because it is difficult to watch the rich in Singapore wantonly purchase cars, bid up the COEs, and simply leave them at home because they have too many, while at the same time middle-class families are increasingly forced to give up owning their own vehicles because the cost of renewing their COEs is too exorbitant. I know of a friend from a well-to-do family who just received for his 18th birthday a BMW X3. I also know of another 19 year old friend who drives his dad’s Mercedes around because he has 3 other cars and leaving them around without driving them spoils the engine. Meanwhile, another friend of mine recently has his whole family taking public transport because they had to give up their family car.
We all know about the more-than-dismal Gini co-efficient in Singapore, with the rich earning a whole lot more than the poor. This is best seen in vehicle ownership in Singapore, and sadly, Mr Lui is apparently only able to stoke this inequality, all the while proclaiming he “understands” the plight of middle-to-lower-class Singaporean families. So here are some ideas, dear Mr Lui, and perhaps it’s time for the Government to think out-of-the-box rather than employ regressive economic policies.
1. Limit the number of cars a household can own to 2.
Seriously, unless you have 10 children, which is highly unlikely in infertile Singapore, you wouldn’t need so many cars. This would really help limit the disparity between the rich and poor in Singapore and allow more households to own vehicles. But as Mr Lui puts it “The Government currently has no plans to review the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system for vehicles”, so apparently they don’t see anything wrong with squeezing ordinary Singaporeans out of owning cars. So unless such an idea gets more support or refinement, it’s highly doubtful that our firmly-in-the-box Government brains will even consider this idea.
2. Resolve all public transport issues and future-proof it
It is highly ironic that Mr Lui raised public transport as a viable alternative to private car ownership the same day that the North-East line broke down for 6.5 hours and affected 53,000 commuters, with 3 other breakdowns since March 2012, while the Circle Line has also suffered from breakdowns. This comes on the back of Mr Lui also mentioning a possible fare hike in the future because there is a need “to improve service levels for commuters while keeping operations commercially viable” (despite record profits of over $200 million for both SBS and SMRT every year). So what we have in an unreliable and increasingly expensive public transport system, and if you couple it with this:
Squeeze squeeze squeeze
There is no way public transport even comes close to being a close substitute for private vehicle ownership. So if you want to reduce demand for cars and COEs using public transport as an alternative, Mr Lui, please improve it and future-proof it for any further disruptions.