SINGAPORE: Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, has recently forewarned the anticipated increase in the cost of water delivery in Singapore would impact the country’s water prices, despite the utilization of innovative technologies to mitigate these expenses.
During her address at the 18th World Water Congress in Beijing on Monday (11 Sep), Dr Khor asserted that the cost of water delivery in Singapore is on the rise and may continue this upward trend, even with the integration of innovative technologies.
She emphasized water’s strategic importance for Singapore; for the last 60 years, Singapore has strived to diversify its water resources using the “four national taps framework” to bolster water security. These taps capture water from local catchment areas, imported sources, Newater, and desalination.
Via a Facebook post updating her address, Dr Khor stressed the critical role of investments in water infrastructure and technologies.
“In Singapore, water has always been a strategic cornerstone. Over six decades, our dedication to expanding our water resources through the 4 National Taps has been unyielding. ”
“Steady investments in infrastructure and technologies have made this possible. By right-pricing water, we’ve managed to sustain these investments financially.”
While outlining Singapore’s rigorous approach to water security, she acknowledged that, like many other countries today, Singapore faces escalating costs in water production and distribution, driven by inflation and construction expenses.
“Innovative technologies can only moderate these costs to a degree. Such costs will inevitably be incorporated into our water prices. Right-pricing, while expanding our water supply and regulating demand, ensures enduring water security for present and future generations.”
Public Utilities Board (PUB) Net Income over the decade
Like many nations, Singapore faces rising costs associated with water production and distribution. Chief among these challenges are mounting inflation and construction expenses.
Singapore’s water pricing underwent its most recent adjustment in 2017, which led to a 30% increase over two years and sparked a protest at Hong Lim Park.
A scrutiny of the PUB’s annual reports reveals a Net Income of $2.4b after Government Grants and Contributions to the Consolidated Fund and Tax over the decade preceding FY2021, according to Singaporean blogger and financial adviser Leong Sze Hian.
This puts Dr Khor’s assertions on financial constraints and potential price increments into question.
Netizens voice scepticism and disappointment over Dr Khor’s stance on water prices
Several netizens took to the Straits Times‘ Facebook post to voice their scepticism and disappointment regarding Dr Khor’s statement, which hints at the likelihood of increased costs being passed on to Singapore’s water consumers rather than exploring avenues to alleviate the financial strain on the populace.
One comment ingeniously employed wordplay, shedding light on how the ruling party, “PAP,” seemingly effortlessly raises prices, leaving ordinary citizens to bear the financial burden by constantly “pay and pay.”
In the midst of the discussion, one netizen drew attention to the frequency of water price increases by the PAP government, often coinciding with GST rises and a 30% surcharge.
The comment argued for a fairer surcharge system based on the average consumption of individual household members rather than the type of housing, citing the unfairness of imposing a surcharge on larger families, such as those residing in 4-room HDB flats with four adults and four kids.
“Cruel and disingenuous” for any government to Inflate the price of public services and basic utilities in the name of “efficiency”
Facebook user Andre Tan made a critical comment, highlighting the contradiction in the notion that increasing water prices somehow incentivizes efficiency.
He expressed scepticism by questioning the government’s rationale of inflating the prices of public services and essential utilities in the name of efficiency, considering it as “cruel and disingenuous”.
“Yes it is profitable just bcoz there are hefty grants to the stat board just like HDB doesn’t mean there are no gains between the cost and how it is priced.”
Moreover, he raised concerns about the government’s approach of increasing tax dollar grants to privatized state enterprises while simultaneously collecting more taxes from taxpayers.
Andre pointed out that these revenues often come from the retirement funds of the very same taxpayers, which are then funnelled back into state-owned “privatized” sectors like healthcare, housing, utilities, and infrastructure.
“All this round tripping with each cycle requiring higher taxes why? Holes in the pockets?”