Low Thia Khiang: It should not be all about economic benefit

We should guard against looking at all available resources from the economic benefit perspective. We must not forget the ultimate aim of any economic benefit derived from our policies will only be meaningful if the outcome is a better society with happier citizens.

This was a cut delivered in Parliament on 5 March 2010 by Workers’ Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang during the Committee of Supply debate, on the budget for the Ministry for National Development (MND).

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The Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) called for “bold steps to enhance land activity, so as to gain the greatest economic benefits from land”, but in land scarce Singapore, we cannot treat land solely for economic benefits.

We should guard against looking at all available resources from the economic benefit perspective. We must not forget the ultimate aim of any economic benefit derived from our policies will only be meaningful if the outcome is a better society with happier citizens.

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$1 billion profit, so electricity tariffs raised 22%

SP Services has announced that it has raised electricity tariffs 21.89% from 1 Oct to 31 Dec 2008. The Online Citizen’s Leong Sze Hian has pointed out that SP Services’ parent company, Singapore Power Ltd, made a profit of $1.086 billion in 2007. I checked out their website and indeed this is true.

They made over $1 billion in PROFITS and they are increasing tariffs by 22%! And all this when oil prices are actually decreasing.

Of course, since it is not useful for our power companies to use the current oil prices to justify the increase, they are using the “forward fuel oil price”. This is the price agreed between the buyer and the seller for delivery of the oil at a specified future date, in this case 3 months.

As with the Public Transport Council (PTC) and ministerial salaries, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is using this ridiculous formula to justify price increases.

It’s really shocking how the EMA has gone to the hilt to defend the price increases of the company they are supposed to regulate. But on closer examination, it’s not all that surprising:

– Singapore Power made $1 billion in 2007, much of it from Singaporeans’ electricity fees.

– SP is in turn 100% owned by Temasek Holdings (as are the two other power companies, PowerSeraya and Senoko Power).

– Temasek Holdings is owned by the Ministry of Finance.

– EMA, the energy market regulator, is a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry (as is the Competition Commission of Singapore, which is supposed to prevent cartel-like behaviour).

I think everyone is having a jolly good back scratch, except us ordinary citizens.

Something is seriously amiss when a power company can make $1 billion in profits and still raise charges by 22%. It is a classic example of the profit-driven culture that our government is run on. I really don’t know how much longer Singaporeans are going to stand for this kind of nonsense.
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