22 Jul 2004

A pattern that leads to inevitable hikes ...


By: Lim Boon Hee
19 July 2004

A pattern that leads to inevitable hikes ...
The masses are resigned to this 'natural order of things'

THE same symphonic pattern emerges.

First, the prelude, with the local media heralding a slew of
statistics announcing the arrival of better economic times.

Then, a premature suggestion to restore the ministers' and top civil
servants' pay cuts, which was greeted with unpopular feedback by many
who felt that the economic upturn benefits have yet to filter down
the masses.

The main theme comes into play with miscellaneous school fees and
town councils' service and conservancy charges going up.

This will inevitably lead to more government and quasi-government
bodies following suit.

The crescendo builds up as everybody scrambles to raise charges,
taking the cue and green light from the early birds who first up
their fees.

The finale ends in an anti-climax as the masses resign themselves to
their fate — the swallows have arrived, spring has come, the flowers
are blooming and so prices must go up.

We are led to believe that this is the natural order of things.

Oddly enough, when times were really bad and many retrenched, things
took much longer to come down and the cuts were, if any, merely token
symbolic ones.

What is worse is every price increase is met with the rhetorical
reassurance that nobody would be deprived of basic services despite
the hikes and the social net is always there for those who really
cannot afford the increment.

The other tired argument to justify the hikes is that the charges
have not been increased for so many years and therefore the increase
is way overdue.

This is cold comfort as most Singaporeans would rather tighten their
belts than go through the hassle of applying for poor men's benefits
from the government.

So what is next? University and polytechnic fees, transport hikes,
hospital bills, parking charges, stamps ...

Sigh …

Lim Boon Hee

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