Money is Singapore’s Water-ing Hole

Water has always been a sticky issue for Singapore from the time of independence to today. In the past, the government had successfully conducted water rationing exercises which all Singaporeans were happy to partake in.

I remember my own experience in the 90s where my family kept enough water for our daily necessities. Unfortunately, the government of today is different from the government of yesterday. In the recent budget sitting, it was announced that the government will be raising water prices by 30%.

There wasn’t any lead up to it, no public education or campaign on water conservation (if there was, it certainly wasn’t successful) and then suddenly, Singaporeans are given the news that you are going to ‘need to bite the bullet’ and ‘bring up awareness of the importance of water’ by raising water prices.

This is of course, in contrary to a statement made by the previous Environment and Water Resources Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan who said, “I told them that I would consider it (water rationing), but at this point of time, fortunately, we don’t need to do it (water rationing). Our backs are not against the wall and we are not going to rush into a thing like that. Let’s focus on education, on passing the message (on conservation) and all of us doing our own part. That would be sufficient for now. I can give an assurance to Singaporeans that no matter how long this goes on, whether in the next few weeks or next few months, we’ll be all right.”

Of course, that was in 2014.

But here’s a statement from the current Environment and Water Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli in May 2016, ‘It is not necessary to conduct water rationing exercises for households at the moment, as there are already other outreach programmes to educate the public on water conservation’.

In the timespan of less than a year, Singaporeans are suddenly given the shocker. There was no water rationing exercises conducted nor was there any proper public education/campaign conducted and now, Singaporeans are told to feed the bill.

Lee Bee Wah also made to mention after the budget speech, “… but I am sure there will be families who need help so it is a good gesture to help” but I guess the Environment and Water Resources Minister had something else to say about it because according to him, ‘Handing out rebates to people who save water would be “counter-intuitive” to ensuring they pay for the cost of producing water’

If it is counter-intuitive to give rebates for saving water, it is similarly counter-intuitive to raise water prices if the reservoirs are not meeting our current demands. Because our money cannot raise water levels.

The government of yesteryears conducted water rationing exercises, which was extremely successful. (Because when you ration water, you store more water, isn’t that the primary objective?)

If your reason to raise water prices is to build future desalination plants or water treatment facilities, then Singaporeans would like to see the papers and the timeline in place. (If you want to borrow money from banks, they’d like to see your credit rating too right?)

At the moment, there is none and there is therefore no justification for an increase to raise water prices.

Several reasons have been given by PAP MPs but they have all been nothing but rhetorical, without any proper justification in place.

PUB needs to present concrete evidence of current levels of water consumption by homes and businesses separately, and the income generated from these as well as the expenses involved in maintaining the facilities including the salaries paid to the staffs.

And, what happened to ‘study the data collected to explore the potential for water efficiency benchmarks and good practice guidelines for the different sectors’ mentioned in 2016? Where is the data? Why wasn’t this data made public?

Public services, and its books, needs to be made transparent because the public have a vested interest.

“All of us have to do our part to conserve water. This way, our water resources can last longer. Every effort counts, and collectively, the amount of water saved will be significant.” – Minister Masagos, 9 May 2016

I guess it should be, ‘All of us have to do our part to pay for water. This way, we can buy more water and build more water desalination plants that currently we have no immediate plans for. Every effort counts, and collectively, the amount of money collected will be significant to pay …. ?

But you know what’s the easiest way to reduce water consumption. Immigration. Higher immigration = higher water consumption. So, slow down on immigration and we slow down our use of water. Move towards less labour/water intensive economies/industries. But that’s for another time to discuss.

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