Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Water Strategy

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told water experts at the Singapore International Water Week event that the main challenges to providing clean water and sanitation to Asia’s cities are not technical or even economic – they are political and social. He revealed the Singapore government’s gradual approach to water pricing, which began 15 years ago with a rate of only 1/3 the targeted cost of water. In other words, our price of water has been hiked three-fold according to some nefarious plan. Probably the same kind of plans that set the jaundiced target of a 6 million people population.

His justification? Good water pricing allows water producers to get a return on their investment and make the finances work. So that's how companies like Hyflux makes its money, and government's coffers are topped up with the tax revenue.

We are told PUB has been charged to introduce measures to reduce daily per capita water demand from its 2010 level of 155 litres to 147 litres by 2020. There's nothing said about efforts to reduce the cost of water passed on to the consumers, and help alleviate the burden of inflation and spiralling cost of living. In the write up about the ceramic membrane demonstration plant at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks, the PUB spokesman said the cost savings will help to maintain the price level, not lower it.

Notice the item "Water Conservation Tax" in your monthly water bill. The 30% levy is applied to the total amount consumed, not the excess over some predetermined minimum quantity. Even if you had been extra wastage conscious in your water utilisation, and consumed only, say 60% of the national average for your type of dwelling, you are still punished by this "Water Conservation Tax". To add insult to injury, GST is applied on top of the tax. That's tax upon tax, double taxation. So how does the government get away with it? Simple, the guy who said “If you make it free nobody will bother to turn off the tap,” also said "People support CPF cuts because there are no protest (sic) outside parliament”.

There's an old folk warning that if you throw a frog in boiling water he will quickly jump out. But if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and raise the temperature ever so slowly, the gradual warming will make the frog doze happily...  in fact, the frog will eventually cook to death, without ever waking up. Like all fables, the "boiled frog" anecdote serves its purpose, whether or not it is based on something that is literally true. But it's mighty useful as a political and social tool.

PM Lee said the government increased the water tariff rate over the course of a few years in combination with subsidies for low-income groups and public education campaigns. “Today we price housing water at what it is worth, which is what it would cost us to build desalinate.”


  1. Thank you for highlighting this double taxation issue. I have voiced out several times exactly the same sentiment in my commentaries to blogs, but since i dont have a blog myself, i have no chance to publicise the issue as you have done so. Thank you!!

    For me it is very serious. How can you double tax a citizen and get away with it!!!!!

    Do we have some way to recover the money? It may seem very small but over 20 years, all the citizens have been double taxed, it is an enormous amount of sinful money!!

    Techncially it is hard to argue about the 30% tax because it is just a tax. But this double taxation issue, i think it is something which has to be highlighted by Workers Party to the government!!.

    I remember, not so long ago, SMRT started a system to refund its customers when there was some wrong charging due to calculation misinterpretation of journeys.

    Likewise, PUB must refund all citizens the money from the double taxation!!!!!!!! Opposition party please help!!

    We have to publicise this, VERY FEW PEOPLE BOTHER because it is just a couple more dollars. But over 20 to 30 years, every citizen should be refunded several hundred dollars surely!! We have to stop this madness and unfairness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. SN

    Good point on the double taxation.
    for the comment on pricing water, frankly, not sure which ideal planet or circle of humanity you live in?


  3. PM Lee said, "utilities subsidies also ensure that low-income households are not deprived of an essential good". While the gesture is noble, the question arises whether and how much profit is actually generated from the distribution of the essential good (to non-low income households). The difficulty here is the definition of the word "subsidy" in the Singapore context vis-a-vis the public housing example. Who knows, maybe air will be taxed next.

  4. "...maybe air will be taxed next."

    No way. Not when they haven't figured out how to tax the worst airpolluters.

  5. Actually it is triple taxation. You are only told of two taxes. The other tax which is more obnoxious and much more than the two taxes combined is water education tax. It is added to educate the people on the value of water, a precious resource. So, instead of charge X + y, it is X + y + another big Y. X be cost, y be profit, big Y be extra profit.

    Then tax on the whole sum, then GST on the tax. Ingenius? No, it gets away because the people are daft to let it get away.

  6. Double taxation has been around for ages
    Just look at the how the excise duty and GST for liquor and tobacco products.
    There is the GST on the duty too.
    They have got away for so long because nobody raise a protest. Or more likely no one has been allowed to gather a protest

  7. to anonymous,
    as for liquor and tobacco products, double tax is not a major issue because the motivation is to discourage consumers from purchasing these harmful/luxury items.

    as for WATER, this is ridiculous, all the ah bengs and ah lians in singapore has been cheated and double taxed for donkey years. I think there is a good legal case, but as usual who will bell the cat, to do the simple job of seeing a lawyer and file a suit against the PUB and claim for $x to be paid back. It is that simple. No one ever thought of it? we prefer to be keyboard warriors? Stupid Singaporeans!! including me!!


  8. A lawyer once argued successfully in court that it was illegal to tax the motorists for entering the CBD, since they already paid taxes for the road usage. Subsequently, they changed the law to make it legal.

  9. Double taxation is nothing. Not even triple taxation. Look at the ownership and use of cars. How many layers of taxes are vehicle owners subjected to? 1) ARF/PARF, Road Tax, COE, ERP, taxes on petrol (excise and GST - about 40% of the cost of an average tank of petrol is due to taxes), etc.

    There are at least 5 layers of taxes burdening Singaporean motorists. (And this does not include car park charges, annual inspection fees, maintenance and repairs, etc.)

  10. Just look at the amount of water they used to clean the corridors, void decks and staircasess of every HDB block, total no. of times x the total number of HDB flats in the whole of Singapore, as if we really need the water to scrub the floor clean ? It is understandable if we are cleaning the wet markets, but for our HDB blocks, isn't dry cleaning adequate ?

    Does it not make a mockery of our Water Conservation Tax ? Again our PAP Govt is not known to be money-faced (lui bin) for no apparent reason.

  11. NEWater is like crowd sourcing. We provide all the contents (shit, urine, rain etc) and our PAP govt in collaboration with Hyflux made money/deals out of it. Somebody ought to write into Forum and call their bluff. Look at the way electricity tariff has gone up! They charged you aplenty with HUGE profit margins, then give a small segment to the poor back and claim they're subsidizing them. Just like the HDB, we will never get to see the bottom truth.

  12. LoL so we can piss at them and shit on them and they'll still tax us & double-tax us! classy ..only in SG INCeption!!

  13. Most brilliant quote "If you make it free, no body will bother to turn on the tap"..Why don't they try that for a day and see how it goes? Are the politicians going to bathe, drink, eat like everybody else?

    Funny thing is, I don't even trust their choice. What if years down the road people start getting shitty cancer due to their desalination method who's responsible for the healthcare cost? These bunch of people are untested. Just look at how many policies have they screwed up after 30yrs being the 1 single party unchallenged & problems are cropping up now. Is like seeing all the cancer rates rising everywhere due to the genetic modified food being infiltrated into the mainstream now and how to sort the wheat from the part, singaporeans still happily pay for these epic shit!!!

    Wake up, your politicians don't give a shit, until you do!

  14. Want PAP to change - so Singaporeans can have better life? Like REALLY affordable HDB flats, etc.? Sure, the day when leeches and mosquitoes stop sucking blood!

  15. That's why I don't "feel like it" to wave the flag and sing to a bag of biscuits, newater and papcandies...any idea how daff that is?! What's next, a song that celebrate bad breadth and loud farts from MIW?