20120312 Government should not sidestep Poly fare concession issue any longer

From: phillip ang
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2012 1:54 AM
To: lui_tuck_yew ; LEE_HSIEN_LOONG
Cc: theonlinecitizen toc ; <a title="sylvia ; stanley93896999 ; ongqyqy ; nicole.rebecca.seah ; news ; Liew Andy ; <a title="lchertan ; ken_dxb ; jayakumar89 ; ignatius ; gerald.giam ; dillonangweijie ; choonhock ; bok koh
Subject: 20120312 Government should not sidestep Poly fare concession issue any longer

Dear Minister Liu

I refer to Minister Liu’s disappointing speech in Parliament on 7 Mar regarding fare concession for the disabled and Polytechnic students.

2 For more than a decade, the government has been sitting on the fence watching public transport operators (PTOs) generate additional income by discriminating Poly students from their JC/ITE counterparts through ‘labelling’.

3 Minister Liu said “not all of these requests [to implement fare
concessions] can be addressed immediately or entirely within a single fare revision exercise”.
I believe you must not have been unaware that this issue did not crop up yesterday. Poly students had been so frustrated by the government’s inaction that they even set up an online petition 5 years ago. There are tens of thousands of supporters for Poly student concessionary fare.
4 PAP MP Cynthia Phua and many others had brought this up in Parliament a number of times and so did Lee Bee Wah and a few other MPs recently. If MPs are indeed the voices of the people, why has the government not been listening? Perhaps our cynicism is justified – PAP MPs are going through the motion in Parliament just to show that our concerns have been highlighted.* For?

5 Minister Liu had earlier said that PTOs stand to lose some $28 million should Poly students be given concessions. How could this be when Poly students should have been given concessions similar to their peers in JCs/ITEs in the first place? Its akin to putting the cart before the horse. Its also like creating an unneccessary problem (a burden for tens of thousands of Singaporeans) and then try to fix it later to make one look good.

6 Monthly concessionary travel for JC/ITE students amounts to $52.5 whereas Poly students have to pay $97. (for hybrid concession pass) For a 3 year diploma course, a Poly student has to pay an additional $1602. ($44.5 X 36 months) Must the government be reminded that public transportation is a basic necessity for average and low income Singaporeans?

7 When PTOs refused to budge on the ‘$28 million question’ for more than a decade (lesser during earlier years), the government allowed market forces to prevail. But when it comes to extending help to PTOs, market forces cease to exist and it took only months for the government to justify using $1.1 billion of taxpayers’ (OUR) money.

8 Through Temasek Holdings, the government owns 54.28% of SMRT. ** As at 2 March 2011, ComfortDelGro Corporation Limited owns 75.11 per cent of SBS. (ComfortDelgro has a major shareholder – the Singapore Labour Foundation) The general perception is there is a serious conflict of interest when the government is in business. It will be detrimental to the image of the government if such a perception is etched too deeply onto Singaporeans’ collective memory.

9 A caring government listens and truly understands the problems of Singaporeans. A government which provides lame excuses year in, year out, as if a spokesperson for PTOs, is anything but caring.

10 I hope you will seriously reconsider this issue.

Thank you.

Regards

Phillip Ang

PS

The transition from secondary school to a Polytechnic is a very costly one for parents ie.

(per year)

school fees – from about $150 to $2200
books and materials – additonal hundreds of dollars
pocket money – additional hundreds of dollars

As you can see, the above already place a huge burden on average and lower income families. There is no need for additonal transportation cost.

Why is the government only concerned for PTO’s ‘$28 million loss’ at the expense of families of Polytechnic students?

*
(New Paper article)

When contacted later, Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), one of the MPs who had asked for the concessions, said: “I am disappointed.

“I hope that when they do the fare revision next year, they will consider giving concessions to the disabled and poly students.

“We can wait for one more year. It’s not satisfactory, but we have no choice but to wait.”

Although Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), was also disappointed, he felt that it may not be too long before poly students and the disabled are also granted concession fares.

Mr Liang said: “(Mr Lui’s) tone is more positive towards it now and his advice to us is to be patient.

What has Lee Bee Wah been doing besides living on hope? And she has the cheek to say “we can wait for one more year” after more than 10 years of waiting! Another PAP MP Liang Eng Wah speaks as if he were a spokesperson for Minister Liu, parroting his advice to be patient.

**SMRT has done very well. From its IPO of 61 cents in 2001, its shares have gained about 300 per cent. An investor would also have recouped his entire investment as the total dividends so far amounted to 61 cents! Its revenue has increased from $412 million to $969 million. It is therefore unjustified for government’s policy to be skewed towards PTOs.

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