Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why Socialism

by Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service

Thursday, October 23, 2008

DBS May Compensate Some High Notes 5 Investor

This is a written response to Straits Times Article Help for Minibond Investors. Hong Leong Finance, Maybank and DBS may offer full compensation for vulnerable customers. This is first posted here by Daniel Tan on Facebook.

Dear DBS High Notes 5 Investor,

Beware! This sounds too good to be true. Could banks be attempting to destroy our will to fight and break down our unity? Remember it is unity that brought us together so far. It is unity that gives us strength. Without unity, we are nothing.

The vulnerable group (aged 55 and above, non-English educated) is the leading pack for compensation claims. This has 2 effects:

Firstly, this is a psychological attack on our compassion. The very same compassion that have driven us onward and together for fair compensation. We are in this together to push the financial institutions to provide a decent compensation for our losses, that was resulted from their alleged mis-representation. It is an attack to make us loose our will to fight.

Remember that if mis-representation is proved in court, the contract which you have signed is voided. Consequently, the financial instistution is not only required to pay you 100% of your compensation, but also the interest (most probably at the fixed deposit rate) that represents the opportunity cost you had lost. If banks take the position that they wish to compensate the group of vulnerable investors because of mis-selling, then mis-selling must have occurred to the general population who bought these investment products as well.

To date, no numbers and timelines have been released. DBS claims it will compensate, but it has not released any figure publicly that it will compensate 10%, 30%, 50% or 70% of your losses. It has also not said that if DBS will compensate immediately or via a small installment over a fixed period starting in 1 year´s time. How can any of us here reasonably judge that DBS has indeed given a compensation deal that is fair and rightful in our hearts in face of such opaque dealing?

Secondly, those outside the favoured category may get a lower percentage of compensation than the vulnerable pack, resulting in double injustice for the unfavoured people. Everybody is equally affected by the alleged mis-representation. A younger person who speaks English and is highly-educated is not necessary financially-sophisticated to handle investment schemes.

Would you expect a medical doctor to understand the same investment prospectus that have confused so many people? Do you think doctors study investment analysis and finance theories at medical school? Don´t let the fight for rightful compensation become a class struggle between the educated and the less educated. Such class struggle is counter-productive to our objectives! A 65-year-old lowly educated old lady is just as susceptible as the doctor.

Confidentiality may be used as a tool to continue the divide-and-conquer strategy to quell our fighting spirit and enhance the sense of helplessness among DBS High Notes 5 investors. By only giving in to the demands of the vulnerable group, this may lead to division of our group unity. DBS had said that it expected compensation to be in the range of S$70-80M, yet it has not actually hand out the compensation monies or release details of the compensation payment schemes.Confidentiality is barrier to verify DBS´ promise.

Moreover, the S$70-80M pay-out is not necessary limited to DBS High Notes 5 Investors from Singapore. This includes compensation for DBS High Notes 5 Investors from Hongkong too. Singapore and Hongkong investors had bought a total of S$360M of DBS High Notes 5. This represents an average of 25% compensation per investor, which suggests that most investors are entitled to much less than 25% of their original capital.

Banks have so far left many investors unhappy with the complaint process. The responsiveness of each bank and the independence of the complaint process still remains questionable. It is only after many weeks of immerse public pressure on MAS and DBS, then DBS has given in and is now considering compensation. However, It is not possible that while the banks have changed their mind on compensation policies, the bankers would have changed their heart for the better too. A leopard does not change its spots overnight.

An insider claimed that many relationship managers have been told to stop force-selling investment products. Even if the relationship managers hit their monthly quota, they will not get their due bonus too. I sincerely believe this is the result of the investigation petition that had been submitted to MAS. I also believe the same petition is responsible for reversal in position on compensation to DBS High Notes 5 Investors. But more must be done.

Hence, I stress collective group unity must be maintained until all pay-out schemes for each DBS High Notes 5 Investor have been finalised. I hope many of the High Notes 5 Investors, through this crisis, have discovered many good people and many good friends. In times of hardship, it is only such ties that we can truly depend on. A friend in need is a friend indeed. We must remain united till DBS has provided us a solution that satisfy all of us.

Unity is strength. Without unity, we are nothing.

Best regards
Daniel Tan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Foreign Workers in Singapore: Integrating or Segregating Them

THE RECENT saga over the housing of foreign workers in land-scarce Singapore has forced its citizens to take stock of what it means to live in multicultural harmony. Singaporeans generally appreciate the economic contribution of this transient workforce who are a cheap, but critical source of odd job labour that most Singaporeans themselves shun. Moreover, with a current 577,000 foreign workers – mainly in the construction and manufacturing sectors – and 180,000 foreign domestic maids, there can be no doubt that Singaporeans have to learn to live with these guest workers in their midst.

As such, the question is not over whether to tighten the control over the number entering Singapore but how best to manage their presence in the already densely-populated city-state. In this respect, the discussion has polarized Singaporeans into two camps – those calling for integration and those for segregation.

Although integration – giving them access to common spaces in Singapore – is possibly the more morally defensible doctrine of the two, it is segregation – the situation in which interaction between the host population and guest workers is kept to the minimal – that is the more likely option to prevail.

The Integration Arguments

Aside from the obvious fact that the notion of segregation is anathema to Singapore’s multicultural policy, the case for Singaporeans to be more accommodating to foreign workers has by and large been anchored by the economic logic. Singaporeans are repeatedly reminded of their critical contribution to the good life in Singapore – not only do they perform the 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and difficult) that most Singaporeans shirk from, they do so at very low wages that keeps Singapore’s economy flexible and competitive, attracting business investments that in turn keeps Singapore’s unemployment rate in check.

Appeals on humanitarian grounds have also highlighted the invaluable contributions of foreign workers to Singapore’s thriving economy despite remaining marginalized and vulnerable to exploitation. In this respect, as beneficiaries of the fruits of their labour and sacrifice, Singaporeans have an ethical obligation to share their common spaces with foreign workers.

Moreover, many others also point to the irony that Singapore’s meteoric rise from a sleepy fishing village to a thriving port city was built on the blood, sweat and tears of our immigrant forefathers, a significant number of whom came as penniless labourers with hopes of a better life for their dependents and themselves. They eventually sank their roots in Singapore soil and their descendents now form the core of the Singapore heartbeat. Hence Singaporeans intolerant of the foreign workers’ presence have obviously forgotten their migrant roots, the argument goes.

The Segregation Reality

While the integration rhetoric makes for stirring speeches and inspiring national narratives, it is not likely to win over many from the segregation camp. This is because it does not address the deeper issue at hand – the good life enjoyed by Singaporeans is premised to a large degree on the unequal treatment of the foreign worker community.

An obstacle to the genuine integration of foreign workers lies in Singapore’s utilitarian immigration policy that evaluates a foreigner’s worth based on his usefulness for business. Consequently, foreign workers satisfy this criterion by accepting low wages and skeletal rights to keep business operation costs competitive. They are thus allowed to enter the country to work.

However, this also means that from the get-go, they do not enter on an equal footing. This is because the very provisions that qualify them in the first place are the very same ones that undermine their odds for sustaining the level of affluence that will allow them to interact with the majority of Singaporeans as equals. As a result, policy dictates that their presence be regarded as temporary in anticipation of the challenges to integrating them fully into Singapore society.

Following from this, it is arguably a tall order to expect the relationship between Singaporeans and the foreign worker community to be anything deeper than that between a consumer and service provider respectively, to be terminated once the business transaction is completed. To alter this relationship will in turn undermine the very economic grounds on which they are allowed to enter our shores to begin with. Hence, from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint, it does not make sense for both parties to invest in forging any enduring and meaningful relationships.

Shared values and economic policy

In sum, the integrationists cannot depend on humanitarian rhetoric alone to win over those who advocate segregation. This is because the problem does not lie in the lack of compassion among Singaporeans for the underprivileged – the consistently generous donations of Singaporeans to various charities bear testament to this.

Rather, the deeper issue that needs to be addressed is the grim reality that the affluence Singaporeans enjoy today is to no small degree indebted to the unequal treatment of the low and unskilled temporary workforce. Acknowledging this inequality not only requires Singaporeans to take a long hard look at their shared values, the logical course of action that follows may entail Singaporeans to compromise the material comforts they are already accustomed to.

Put differently, Singaporeans have been handsomely rewarded for closing a blind eye to the inequality built into their country’s policy towards foreign labour. If advocates of integration are serious about advancing their cause in a more convincing manner, they will have to wean the nation’s economy away from this reliance on cheap labour in a manner that will not undermine the good life which is regarded by many Singaporeans as their birthright.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Overseas Singaporean Student Union

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the UK Singapore Students´ Council (UKSSC) took place last Sunday (19 Oct 2008) at the Singapore High Commission in London. The UKSSC is the highest representative body that represents the interests of Singaporean students studying at universities in the UK.

Although the UKSSC was formed under the auspices of Contact Singapore as an information dissemination mechanism to the Singapore Societies at each UK university, it is also a Singaporean student union. It serves as an umbrella organisation that includes 24 Singaporean Student Associations and 16 special interest and alumni groups such as the Temesak Society, the Hwachong Alumni and the Victorian Alumni.

Having been involved in the Imperial College Union and the United Nations Youth and Student Association for the past 3 years, I realised that my interest in campaigning for general student welfare, the Millenium Development Goals and UN Reform have shifted towards defending the interest of fellow Singaporeans over the years.

This was further reinforced by my experience of defending Singapore and ASEAN at various Model United Nations conferences in Europe and Asia. My accumulated experience led to my decision to run for the Treasurer Position of the UKSSC Secretariat.

Although the UKSSC was formed under the auspices of Contact Singapore as an information dissemination mechanism to the Singapore Societies at each UK university, it is also a Singaporean student union. It serves as an umbrella organisation that includes 24 Singaporean Student Associations and 16 other alumni groups such as the Hwachong Alumni and the Victorian Alumni.

Due to manpower constraint and skewed distribution of Singaporean students all over the UK, the UKSSC faces a geographic divide which segregates the UKSSC into 3 regional directorates: London-Oxbridge, the Midlands and Scotland. Each directorate functions independent of each other, but plays an important role in coordinating the various Singapore Student Associations in each region. This was especially emphasised by Nicholas Foo, the outgoing Regional Director for the Midlands.

Nicholas Foo stressed that the UKSSC plays an important role in supporting new university-based Singapore Student Associations and this should not be overlooked. He further added that the efforts of each directorate to facilitate communication and promote interest of the UKSSC and the individual student groups varied, which fails to present a cohesive picture on the relevance of the UKSSC to the general Singaporean student community in the UK.

The UKSSCĹ› top-down approach in communicating to Singaporean student community in the UK faces a substantial challenge. While there has been no competing interest between the UKSSC and the university-based Singapore Student Associations on assisting fellow Singaporean students in seeking jobs in the UK and Singapore, there are competing interests in the arena of social events. While student gatherings, parties and dinners organised by local Singaporean student groups are generally well-publicised and well-attended, the UKSSC found it difficult to get its own plans off the ground because of a lack of support from the local Singaporean student groups.

The type of social events that the UKSSC can organise and promote falls within a very narrow scope, given the dinner parties, dinner-and-dance (eg. Singapore Night organised by the Hwachong Alumni) , ski trips and sporting events (eg. Nottingham Games organised by the Nottingham University Malaysian & Singaporean Society) have already been taken up by the various student interest groups.

Successful UKSSC events so far include the Confluence 2006, Confluence 2007 and the Student Network Forum. These events were held in Singapore and they serve the career interest of the Singaporean student community in the UK, yet they do not have any impact on the Singaporean students´ day-to-day life in the UK.

Clearly, the long-term relevance of the UKSSC to the general Singaporean student community lies in promoting the strategic interest of the Singaporean student community, and not competing with the university-based Singaporean student associations to organise social events in the UK.

Strategic interest is divided into the following categories:
(1) Immigration;
(2) Employment;
(3) Civil Rights;
(4) Welfare

(1) is provided for through the International Student Office of each UK university. While the International Student Office provides an advisory role in applying for UK Student Visa or a UK Work Permit, it does not provide feedback to the UK Home Office on the ease of application and the applicant´s experience.

From 25 November 2008 onwards, the UK Border Agency will require Singaporean students in the UK to have a biometric ID Card. This adds an additional £100 to the visa cost. The International Student Office does not have any vested interest to lobby the UK government to lower the fees, while this will affect new waves of Singaporean students coming to the UK for further studies every year while existing students have to pay £100 for the biometric ID card. The UKSSC is well-positioned to advocate for lower biometric ID card fees via the National Union of Students and the University of London Union.

(2) is well provided for through the Career Advisory Service and the International Student Office of each university. Yet at the same time, Contact Singapore , the Overseas Singaporean Unit and various corporations would advertise recruitment events and workshops with the UKSSC and the individual Singaporean student groups. However, in lesser well-known and smaller univerisites, the Career Advisory Service would be ill-equipped to advise overseas Singaporean students. This is where UKSSC can fill in the stop gap to assist Singaporean students in their career development.

(3) may seem to be an alien concept to Singaporeans. It is hardly surprising since the Singapore government has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, the Singaporean student community is residing in the UK and therefore is entitled to these rights in the UK.

In 2007, the UK Parliament almost passed a terrorism bill that requires all foreign students studying science and engineering to report their daily movements to their individual universities. This is draconian and adds on hassle to our daily lives as a student. If not for the united student opposition from the National Union of Students (NUS), Labour Students and Tories Students, this bill would have been in effect today and affect many Singaporeans studying science and engineering in the UK.

This example highlights the importance of having a student union that represents foreign students´ interests and the UKSSC is in fact such a student union. It is well-positioned to advocate for civil rights of Singaporean students should the need arises. The UKSSC could potentially work with the UK Singapore Student´s Law Society to monitor the UK Parliament should the violation of Singaporean students´ civil rights take place through discriminatory policy-making.

(4) is typically provided through the university student union or NUS. The University of London Union (ULU) provides free legal aid to all University of London students. This service is especially useful if the student would like to understand rental contracts in greater details and negotiate with the landlord on the various terms and conditions. It is also applicable in situations when students may need to go to Small Claims Court to make a case. However, due to the geographic distribution of the UKSSC constitutents, It is not practical to provide free legal aid to Singaporean student community.

Legal aid has demonstrated that empowerment of students is a very pragmatic form of student welfare. Empowerment can also take place through dissemination of essential information with regards to the cost of living. For example, the liberalised electricity market in the UK may have the potential of providing consumers with cheap electricity through competition, yet the downside lies with information asymmetry at the consumer level. Often, the electricity & gas retail vendor provides a series of rate and payment packages but these prices are useless if you cannot tell which numbers are applicable for the type of electricity usage meter you are using. Also, should the prices of electricity & gas goes up, the UKSSC can join in other student unions in condemning the price hikes.

Opportunities for the traditional form of welfare still exists. Typically, the university has a hardship fund that helps to tide a student through difficult times. Being an overseas student, Singaporeans are not entitled to social security benefits in the UK and the hardship fund should the need arises. The UKSSC could be potentially be acting as trustee and administrator of a hardship fund that targets the Singapore student community. The fund could provide a short-term loan with a one-off bursary to tide over a difficult period should the need arises.

Despite my grand vision, I actually did not the win the election. The Treasurer position is still open. People opposed my vision because they felt that I was not of the same ideology with the President. Some mentioned that because of my idealogical difference with the President, I might make things difficult for him given my lobbyist and activist background. I strive to be a world-class leader, and not being able to put aside idealogical differences in the name of the common good is a sign of an inferior leader and third-class politics.

The whole idea of having a single-ideological UKSSC secretariat is irrational because the secretariat is responsible for policy-making affecting Singaporeans. Different idealogies exihibit different sensitivity to different issues and concerns, thus a multi-idealogical secretariat would be able to capture a wide variety of issues that are relevant to overseas Singaporean students.

Overseas Singaporeans studying abroad tend to shun away from lobbyist and parliamentary politics. Some feared that I would turn the UKSSC into a partisan organisation, when all I really want to do is to promote and defend the interest of fellow Singaporeans in the UK. There is no taboo in being non-partisan and political simultaneously.I cannot be partisan because the political parties in the UK represent British interest. I will run for Treasurer again at the next Ordinary General Meeting (OGM). I don´t think overseas Singaporean students still constitute a lost cause.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Economic Case for Promiscuity

It's true: AIDS is nature's awful retribution for our tolerance of immoderate and socially irresponsible sexual behavior. The epidemic is the price of our permissive attitudes toward monogamy, chastity, and other forms of sexual conservatism.

You've read elsewhere about the sin of promiscuity. Let me tell you about the sin of self-restraint.

Suppose you walk into a bar and find four potential sex partners. Two are highly promiscuous; the others venture out only once a year. The promiscuous ones are, of course, more likely to be HIV-positive. That gives you a 50-50 chance of finding a relatively safe match.

But suppose all once-a-year revelers could be transformed into twice-a-year revelers. Then, on any given night, you'd run into twice as many of them. Those two promiscuous bar patrons would be outnumbered by four of their more cautious rivals. Your odds of a relatively safe match just went up from 50-50 to four out of six.

That's why increased activity by sexual conservatives can slow down the rate of infection and reduce the prevalence of AIDS. In fact, according to Professor Michael Kremer of MIT's economics department, the spread of AIDS in England could plausibly be retarded if everyone with fewer than about 2.25 partners per year were to take additional partners more frequently. That covers three-quarters of British heterosexuals between the ages of 18 and 45.

If multiple partnerships save lives, then monogamy can be deadly. Imagine a country where almost all women are monogamous, while all men demand two female partners per year. Under those conditions, a few prostitutes end up servicing all the men. Before long, the prostitutes are infected; they pass the disease to the men; and the men bring it home to their monogamous wives. But if each of those monogamous wives was willing to take on one extramarital partner, the market for prostitution would die out, and the virus, unable to spread fast enough to maintain itself, might die out along with it.

Or consider Joan, who attended a party where she ought to have met the charming and healthy Martin. Unfortunately Fate, through its agents at the Centers for Disease Control, intervened. The morning of the party, Martin ran across one of those CDC-sponsored subway ads touting the virtues of abstinence. Chastened, he decided to stay home. In Martin's absence, Joan hooked up with the equally charming but considerably less prudent Maxwell--and Joan got AIDS. Abstinence can be even deadlier than monogamy.

If those subway ads are more effective against the cautious Martins than against the reckless Maxwells, then they are a threat to the hapless Joans. This is especially so when they displace Calvin Klein ads, which might have put Martin in a more socially beneficent mood.

You might object that even if Martin had dallied with Joan, he would only have freed Maxwell to prey on another equally innocent victim. To this there are two replies. First, we don't know that Maxwell would have found another partner: Without Joan, he might have struck out that night. Second, reducing the rate of HIV transmission is in any event not the only social goal worth pursuing: If it were, we'd outlaw sex entirely. What we really want is to minimize the number of infections resulting from any given number of sexual encounters; the flip side of this observation is that it is desirable to maximize the number of (consensual) sexual encounters leading up to any given number of infections. Even if Martin had failed to deny Maxwell a conquest that evening, and thus failed to slow the epidemic, he could at least have made someone happy.

To an economist, it's clear why people with limited sexual pasts choose to supply too little sex in the present: Their services are underpriced. If sexual conservatives could effectively advertise their histories, HIV-conscious suitors would compete to lavish them with attention. But that doesn't happen, because such conservatives are hard to identify. Insufficiently rewarded for relaxing their standards, they relax their standards insufficiently.

So a socially valuable service is under-rewarded and therefore under-supplied. This is a problem we've experienced before. We face it whenever a producer fails to safeguard the environment.

Extrapolating from their usual response to environmental issues, I assume that liberals will want to attack the problem of excessive sexual restraint through coercive regulation. As a devotee of the price system, I'd prefer to encourage good behavior through an appropriate system of subsidies.

The question is: How do we subsidize Martin's sexual awakening without simultaneously subsidizing Maxwell's ongoing predations? Just paying people to have sex won't work--not with Maxwell around to reap the bulk of the rewards. The key is to subsidize something that is used in conjunction with sex and that Martin values more than Maxwell.

Quite plausibly, that something is condoms. Maxwell knows that he is more likely than Martin to be infected already, and hence probably values condoms less than Martin does. Subsidized condoms could be just the ticket for luring Martin out of his shell without stirring Maxwell to a new frenzy of activity.

As it happens, there is another reason to subsidize condoms: Condom use itself is under-rewarded. When you use one, you are protecting both yourself and your future partners, but you are rewarded (with a lower chance of infection) only for protecting yourself. Your future partners don't know about your past condom use and therefore can't reward it with extravagant courtship. That means you fail to capture the benefits you're conferring, and as a result, condoms are underused.

It is often argued that subsidised (or free) condoms have an upside and a downside: The upside is that they reduce the risk from a given encounter, and the downside is that they encourage more encounters. But it's plausible that in reality, that's not an upside and a downside--it's two upsides. Without the subsidies, people don't use enough condoms, and the sort of people who most value condoms don't have enough sex partners.

All these problems--along with the case for subsidies--would vanish if our sexual pasts could somehow be made visible, so that future partners could reward past prudence and thereby provide appropriate incentives. Perhaps technology can ultimately make that solution feasible. (I envision the pornography of the future: "Her skirt slid to the floor and his gaze came to rest on her thigh, where the imbedded monitor read, 'This site has been accessed 314 times.' ") But until then, the best we can do is to make condoms inexpensive--and get rid of those subway ads.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Reminder from the Great Depression

Reactions of the Wall Street slump

Nov 23rd 1929, Finance & Economics, The Economist

IT'S an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The fall of Bank rate on Thursday by another half per cent is an outward and visible sign that the dramatic and precipitous slump of the last three weeks in Wall Street has definitely relieved the pressure on the world's money markets which the New York situation has been exerting so continuously for the last two years. Very few could have dared to hope, when Bank rate was raised to 6½ per cent on September 26th, that it would be back again at 5½ per cent in less than two months. That advance, indeed, was a by no means negligible factor in turning into the opposite direction the tide of funds which had been flowing so strongly towards New York, and in causing the edifice of American speculation to totter. But that it would collapse so completely was hardly to be expected. In the event the financial strain has been lifted, and money rates have fallen to such an extent that for the last two weeks, Bank rate, which fell to 6 per cent on October 31st, has been ineffective, three months' bills having fallen this week to a bare 5 per cent. In the circumstances the Bank had no alternative but to lower its rate. Indeed, some people had thought that it should be even bolder and reduce the rate to 5 per cent.

This optimistic view, however, did not take sufficient account of the gold situation. Since the end of September the Bank has continued to lose gold to France, and has barely balanced these losses by receipts, its holding today being about the same as when the rate was raised. But there is a vast difference between a situation in which the Bank is fully holding its own and one in which it was losing heavily every week. There is no urgent need for the Bank to embark on a drastic policy for the purpose of rebuilding its reserves. It is clear that we are about to enter on a period of considerably cheaper money, and the rebuilding process can take place steadily when a new world level has been attained.

The slump on the New York Stock Exchange, which has resulted in this great change in the monetary outlook, is one of the spectacular episodes of financial history. A prolonged upward movement, the extent of which is illustrated by some graphs which we print in a later column, has been built up over a series of years on the amazing and unexampled prosperity of America. But some two years ago the speculative movement seemed to lose all touch with reality; and in spite of occasionally vigorous but more often half-hearted, measures by the banking authorities of the United States, speculative fever spread throughout the nation and carried prices, mainly with the aid of borrowed money, to fantastic heights. Writing of the efforts made to check the movement, a high authority observes:

"The market fought its way upward against Reserve banks and member banks, and there was truth in the boast that it defeated them . . . bankers are not the owners of the funds in their custody, and the market defeated them by going round them and inducing depositors to place their funds at the disposal of 'the street.' Democracy triumphed over authority and leadership in the advance, and the orgy at the finish was all its own."

Highly coloured stories of devastating ruin and of paralysis of economic life must, as always in such cases, be heavily discounted; but it is natural that people should be asking themselves how widespread and of what character will be the economic reactions of this slump. The question acquires added importance from the fact that in its later stages the Wall Street movement pervaded the whole world by drawing money, not merely from all corners of America, but from every continent. It resulted in an embargo on the export of gold from Canada and monetary difficulties in the Argentine, while its financial repercussions were painfully felt in every monetary centre. If this was the effect of the boom what will be the effect of the collapse?

Turning first to the direct effects in this country, there are undoubtedly many private investors, as well as trust companies and other financial institutions in London who have suffered substantial losses. But circumstances have somewhat mitigated what might easily have been much more serious effects in Great Britain. There has notoriously been considerable British buying of American securities during the last two years, and the advent of the Labour Government gave an added incentive to those who thought that it was time to escape from the British frying-pan into what, in the event, proved to be a very hot American fire. In September, however, the shock to the London Stock Exchange caused by the Hatry disclosures, together with the growing uneasiness as to the giddy heights to which American securities were soaring, undoubtedly led, in some cases, to forced sales and, in others, to precautionary withdrawals of money invested in the United States. There were signs of a backward movement from the United States even before Bank rate rose in September; but after the rise these withdrawals rapidly increased. London's interest in Wall Street was thus considerably lightened before the slump occurred. After the slump had taken place, large quantities of international securities were offered in the London market at, in some cases, very low prices. These have been absorbed and London has thus done something to stop the rot.

But while the direct effects are not of really serious importance to this country, the influence on the economic situation here depends on more general considerations than the technical position at the time of the slump and, above all, on the answer to the question which everybody is asking but no one is prepared to answer, namely, what will be the economic effect of the slump on business in the United States? It has many times been pointed out that the present slump differs from most of its predecessors in the fact that it has not been accompanied by industrial over-production or rising commodity prices resulting from an expansion of credit. If the industrial situation is unduly expanded, as in 1920, and the whole economic situation is precariously balanced like an inverted pyramid upon its apex, even a moderate shock from the Stock Exchange might produce a general collapse. This is not the situation today. The question presents itself rather in this form: Can a very serious Stock Exchange collapse produce a serious setback to industry when industrial production is for the most part in a healthy and balanced condition?

Optimists say that there is no precedent for such a harmful reaction, and that the worst that need be expected is a slight shock reflecting itself in a short-lived hesitation. Even though some temporary contraction of demand for consumers' goods of the luxury type may be inevitable, it is argued that cheaper money should lead to increased expenditure on capital goods by industrial corporations, and that official encouragement, backed by the steady propaganda of the "sunshine artist," should quickly produce a renewal of the upward trend of industry as a whole. A more serious view is taken by others, who point not only to the heavy "break" in certain commodity prices which has accompanied the slump, but to the danger that Wall Street losses may have gravely shaken the psychological confidence of America in the prospect of unlimited expansion. These observers think that the orgy of speculation in the United States has been so widespread that persons of all classes deceived by, in some cases, real, but in many more cases, purely paper profits from their investments, have been living beyond their means, or, at all events, mortgaging their future by purchasing luxury goods up to, or even beyond, the full limit of their incomes.

It is said that this has resulted in a precarious situation owing to the extensive buying on the instalment plan, and that the slump will lead to widespread defaults and a slowing down of production in the trades chiefly concerned. The ordinary man, however, cannot spend paper profits without realising them, and while it may be true that the confident expectation of large Stock Exchange profits may have encouraged an extravagant scale of living which may have to be reduced, it remains true that the bulk of instalment buying rests upon the income of wage and salary earners which will not be affected by the present slump, unless it extends its ramifications throughout industry and produces unemployment. Indeed, as Professor Seligmann has recently argued, "instalment credit, extended as it is largely to recipients of wages and salaries, is likely to produce less effect on the business cycle than producers' credit, resting upon profits." It may, however, be taken for granted that there will be some curtailment of the consumption of luxury goods, and that this will mean a certain restriction of trade.

How far this will extend must at present be a matter of conjecture. A great deal must in any case depend upon the situation of the banks. The one influence that could throne back the full brunt of the speculative collapse upon industry and produce a real depression throughout the country would be banking trouble. Certain Wall Street banks made some spasmodic efforts to check the slump, but were careful to dispose of their holdings at the first opportunity, and there is no reason to suppose that they have seriously handicapped themselves by efforts which never went the length of attempting to stop the rot by holding large blocks of stock off the market. There are, however, known to be large quantities of securities not yet absorbed by the public which for the time being have to be carried by banks and finance houses. Many banks will, moreover, have made very large bad debts, while others will have to finance customers for a long or short period. Some bank failures, no doubt, are also to be expected. In the circumstances will the banks have any margin left for financing commercial and industrial enterprises or will they not? The position of the banks is without doubt the key to the situation, and what this is going to be cannot be properly assessed until the dust has cleared away. On the whole, the experts are agreed that there mint be some setback, but there is not yet sufficient evidence to prove that it will be long or that it need go to the length of producing a general industrial depression.

It remains to consider what effect a setback, whether great or small, in the United States will have upon other countries. The trade reports contained in our Supplement this month show a not unnatural hesitation as to the effects of the American situation. The fear is, however, expressed that if United States producers suffer from a diminution of their home market, it will, on the one hand, strengthen the demand for an increased tariff at Washington, and, on the other, lead to the exporting of the surplus products at low prices abroad. This last event is one which has long been awaited with some misgiving by European producers. But the expectation that there will be a flood of American exports as a result of the tide having turned in the United States overlooks one or two features of recent American development. In the first place, American technique has developed on the lines of very greatly reducing production for stock and it is the practice today to curtail output schedules at the first sign of reduced sales. Secondly, mass production means production at a very narrow margin of profit per unit of output. Thirdly, the apparatus of foreign sales, except in those products which already have a foreign market, cannot immediately be improvised. We need not, therefore, assume either that there already exist in the United States, or that manufacturers will continue producing so as to create, large surplus stocks of manufactured goods; nor can they afford to sell abroad at less than cost, at the expense of the American producer, more than a small proportion of their output. While, therefore, there may be some sales of goods at low prices, which may prove embarrassing for competing producers, it is not to be contemplated that the great stream of American production can suddenly be switched from the home market into export channels.

In any case, against any disadvantage arising from American competition must be set the great advantage which we mentioned at the outset, namely, the return to cheap money conditions. This should assist trade recovery throughout the world, which has been handicapped for so many months past by the abnormal financial conditions in New York. If we are justified in assuming that the setback in American industry will only be temporary, we may look forward to steady development in 1930, free from the incubus that has of late been hampering world conditions.

Friday, September 05, 2008

PAP's Growing Irrelevance to Singapore's Economy


Jan 9: Pump prices at all 29 Caltex stations will go up from 11pm on Monday night. Prices will go up by four cents per litre for all three grades. (link)

Feb 13: Polytechnics and ITE increase fees by $50 and $10 respectively (link) (link)

Feb 14: NTU, NUS to raise tuition fees by 3% from next academic year. Tuition fees at both the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University will go up by S$180 for the next academic year. This 3 percent increase comes on the heels of a 5 percent hike just last year. (link)

Mar 6: Expect annual tuition fee increases. Hostel fees will also go up by 10% to 11% from next academic year. (NTU) (link)

Mar 9: Retail pump prices for Synergy petrol and diesel at all Esso and Mobil service stations in Singapore were increased by 6 cents a litre. (link) (link)

June 1: NTUC Car Co-Op raises fuel surcharge: We cannot continue subsidizing the fuel price increase in the long run without compromising the quality of service. Thus, the management has decided to implement a fuel surcharge of $0.30 for every 10km free with effect from 1 June 2006. (link)

June 27: Electricity tariff to go up next quarter. Domestic users, for example, will have to pay 21.15 cents for every kWH of electricity, up from 20.49 cents currently. (link)

July 10: Comfort Delgro raises taxi fares. Besides raising the flag down fare and the peak hour surcharge from $1 to $2, ComfortDelgro is also making distance-related adjustment. (link) (link)

July: Taxi companies raise fares. (link) (link)

July 17: SMRT hikes taxi fares. (link)

Aug: SMRT, SBS apply for fare hike. (link)

Aug: NUS hikes tuition fees by between $180, $220, and $510, depending on faculty. (link)

Aug: ERP rates to go up at six gantries, mainly at CTE. (link)

Oct: Public Transport Council approves 1.7% fare increase for bus and trains. Adult EZ-link fares for buses and trains will increase by 1 to 3 cents, which amounts to an overall fare hike of 1.7 percent. (link)

Nov: SingPost revises postage rate. (link)

Nov 12: Rates for HDB rental flats pegged to income. (link)

Dec: Govt spells out fees to be frozen. (link)

2006: Loan sharks cases rise by 19%, to 10, 221 cases. (link)

2006: A total of 419 people committed suicide in 2006, up from 346 in 2003. The suicide rate per 100,000 residents - a sobering indicator in population statistics - is also on the upswing, growing from 9.3 in 2003 to 10.3 in 2006, figures from the Registry of Births and Deaths reveal. It is the fourth straight rise in as many years. (ST, Aug 13, 2007) (link)

2006: Islandwide, home rentals climbed 10 per cent in 2006. (ST, Aug 6, 2007) (link)

2006: At Alexandra Hospital, A&E charges went up from $55 to $60, as did C-class ward charges — from $21 to $23 — and subsidised specialist outpatient clinic consultation rates, from $18 to $20. (link)


Jan: All diesel-driven vehicles to undergo smoke test. (link)

Jan: NUH’s A&E fee raised from $70 to $80. (link)

Jan: Skilled Foreign workers levy raised by $50, from $100 to $150, for all sectors. (link) (link)

Jan 26: SMU Law Course to cost more, NUS says it may increase fees too. (link)

Feb: KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital hikes ward treatment fees. (link)

Feb 14: Tax penalties from GST audits could increase. With the hike in Goods and Services Tax (GST) by two percentage points, tax analysts said tax penalties arising from businesses making mistakes in GST audits may also increase. (link)

Feb 25: Sunny Cove: Fees to Pulau Hantu Raised - As of 24th February 2007 (Saturday), the operator had increased the price for the chartering of boat to local water. With the price hike, all courses conducted at local water will be subjected to the increase from 25th February 2007 (Sunday) onwards. (link)

Feb 25: Eldershield premiums to go up by year’s end. (link)

April 1: Singapore Medical Association withdraws guidelines on fees. Doctors now have more flexibility to adjust their fees, following a decision by the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) to withdraw its guidelines on fees, as of 1 April. (link)

April 1: URA increase fees for Housing Developers’s Licence – from between $500 to $8,000. (link)

April 2: NUS revise car park charges. (link)

April 8: Means testing for hospital admission to start within a year. Subsidised patients that stay more than five days in a public hospital can expect some questions about their income. (link) (link)

April 11: Ikea to start charging customers for plastic bags. (ST, 11 April, 2007)

April 25: The Singapore American School increased tuition fees by between $425 and $1,000. (link)

April: Within hours of each other, the four petrol companies in Singapore - First Shell, then Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC), ExxonMobil and lastly Chevron - each revised its prices. The retail price of petrol and diesel rose by 10 cents. (Electric New Paper) (link) (link)

May 12: Inflation heads for a higher plane. For now, the major public concern is a rise in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 5% to 7% in July, which is likely to exacerbate the series of worrying price increases over the past year. (Littlespeck)

May 14: NUH increase ward charges for B2 and C-class wards by $2, increases of 4 and 8 per cent. (link)

May 23: DBS raises its e-transaction fee for initial public offering (IPO) applications. Retail investors who applied for IPO shares launched on or after that date, through the local bank’s ATMs and Internet banking, were surprised that they now have to pay $2. (link)

May 29: New fee hikes at public hospitals and polyclinics. A NEW round of fee hikes is underway at most public hospitals and some polyclinics. Subsidised patients at four public hospitals will now pay $24 or $25 for every visit to a specialist clinic, up from about $21. All 18 polyclinics, which used to charge a standard consultation fee of $8 for adults, now charge anything from $8-$8.80. (link) (link) (link)

May: From milk to Milo, cooking oil to coffee, canned foods, processed foods, wheat products and more, prices have been rising recently at supermarkets and hypermarts here. (link) (link) (link)

June 1: Prices of milk go up. The price increase for condensed milk ranged from $0.10 to $0.50, which means the prices for some brands of condensed milk have gone up by nearly 45 per cent. The price increase for evaporated milk ranged from $0.15 to $0.47, marking a percentage increase of between 18 per cent to 48 per cent. (link) (link)

June 4: Online hosiery shop increases price. There will be a overall price increase on 4th June 2007 for all brands due to increased cost of yarns and cost of shipping. (link)

June 6: Even before the Nets fee hike kicks in, a shoe shop in Parkway Parade has already started charging customers extra to cover the increase. (link)

June 7: Wholesale price of ducks goes up. The wholesale price of ducks has increased by 20 cents a kilogram. (link)

June 7: Eggs price increase. Eggs now cost between 17 cents and 18 cents each. (link)

June 29: Rental space rents rise. Islandwide, rents at Grade A malls have moved up by between 5-7 per cent in the first half of this year and could increase by another 5-6 per cent by end-2007, analysts said. (Business Times, June 29, 2007) (link)

June 29: Fees up by 14% on average at NUS. Two days before the higher 7-per-cent GST kicked in on July 1, prospective students of the continuing education arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS) received news that fees for many courses had gone up — by an average 14 per cent. (link)

July 1st: GST increased from 5% to 7%. (link) (link)

July 1st: THE Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC) and market leader ExxonMobil became the first companies to raise pump prices at their petrol stations following the GST hike. The two companies increased prices across the board for their three grades of petrol and diesel by 0.23 cents to 0.33 cents per litre from 7am. Caltex will be increasing its pump prices on Monday. (ST, July 1, 2007) (link) (link)

July 1st: NETS announced a price hike for its Electronic Funds Transfer Point-of-Sale (EFTPOS) and CashCard Services to between 1.5% and 1.8%. (link) (link)

July 1st: Pasir Ris – Punggol Town Council revise penalties for late payment of S&C charges to 2% and absorb 7% GST. (2004 rates) (2007 rates)

July 1st: Cigarette prices up as bar ban kicks in. Tobacco companies raised the prices of popular brands by an average of 40 cents. This brought the price of a 20-stick pack of Marlboro or Dunhill cigarettes, for example, to $11.60. (AsiaOne)

July 3: Resale price index for HDB flats rise 2.9% from 3 months before. (link)

July 4: The Committee Against GST Profiteering (CAP) has found price changes to be generally moderate since the announcement of the GST increase in November 2006. (link)

July 10: Changi General Hospital increases A&E charges. Following in the wake of earlier hikes by the National University Hospital and Alexandra Hospital, CGH this month increased its A&E attendance fee by $10 — or 15 per cent — to $75. For the B2 and C-class wards, the daily treatment fee went up by $1, representing a 6-to-10-per-cent increment. The daily ward charge for B2 wards also rose by $1, or 2 per cent. (link)

July 11: Starhub raise prices for cable tv packages. SCV subscribers pay $4 more across the board. (link) (link) (link)

July 11: The Committee Against GST Profiteering has received 33 complaints in the past six months about price increases, all dealing with food items. About 10 cases involve chain businesses. (ST, July 11, 2007) (link)

July 15: Electricity tariffs to be raised by almost 9% for July to September. (link)

July 18: Govt raises development charge from 50% to 70% for new building projects from 50 per cent to 70 per cent of the increase in value of the land. (link) (link)

July 21: HDB rents at 10-year high. For the first time in recent memory, monthly rents for some HDB flats have pushed northwards of $2,000 in leases signed in the last couple of months. (ST, 21 July 2007) (link)

July 25: Hospital bills up 10% to 30% across all ward classes. (link)

July: July inflation hits 2.6%, highest in over 12 years. (link)

July (CPI): Housing costs increased 4.9 per cent because of higher housing maintenance charges, electricity tariffs and rented accommodation costs. (ST, Aug 23, 2007) (link)

July (CPI): Food prices went up by 1.4 per cent, mainly due to dearer cooked food, fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and milk powder. (link)

July (CPI): Transport and communication prices moved up by 1 per cent, reflecting mainly dearer petrol and higher car prices. (link)

July (CPI): The index for education and stationery rose by 2.1 per cent as a result of higher fees at commercial institutions and universities. (link)

July (CPI): Prices of clothing and footwear increased by 3.9 per cent. (link)

July (CPI): Health care cost rose by 2.2 per cent on account of dearer chinese herbs and higher charges for general medical consultation and dental treatment. (link)

Aug 2: SBS, SMRT seeking bus, train fare increases. If approved, transport fares could rise by up to three cents from October. (link)

Aug 2: Singapore Airlines raises fuel surcharge – from between US$2, US$5 and US$9. (link)

Aug 6: ERP rates at Orchard, YMCA and Fort Canning Tunnel to go up. From August 6, cars passing the Orchard, YMCA and Fort Canning Tunnel gantries will be charged an additional $0.50. That makes it $1 per entry. Rates for motorcycles will also double to $0.50. Goods vehicles and small buses will now be charged $1.50. Heavy goods vehicles and big buses will be charged $2. (link)

Aug 7: Student made to pay adult fare. (link)

Aug 7: Cost of living in S’pore getting higher compared to neighbours. Singapore retains its 9th position out of 41 Asian locations as the most costly city. (CNA)

Aug 7: Car insurance premiums likely to increase. Higher premium rates for car insurance look almost certain, after the motor sector suffered a second consecutive quarter of losses. Rises could be between 5 and 10 per cent, according to one insurer, as the industry battles higher claims. (AsiaOne, ST, Aug 7, 2007)

Aug 8: 17% hike in Delifrance’s tuna croissant sandwich, from $5.05 to $5.90. (link)

Aug 10: Change of supplier sees spike in price of medicine. A 80ml bottle of Minoxi 5 from Trima Pharmaceutical used to cost $38.50. This time round, the price was $45.50 for a 60ml bottle. Going by volume, the price increase was a hefty 57.6 per cent. (ST Forum, Aug 10, 2007) (link)

Aug 13: Up to 30% levy imposed on hotel room revenues during F1 race. The Trade and Industry Ministry (MTI) has decided a levy of 30 per cent for hotels on the trackside, and 20 per cent for others. (link)

Aug 23: More ERP gantries, extended hours. (link) (link)

Aug 24: By Aug 24, the Committee Against GST Profiteering had received 115 complaints on alleged GST profiteering. In the first two weeks of July, after the GST increase came into effect, 49 complaints were received, surpassing the 30 complaints received in May. (ST, Aug 29, 2007)

Aug 27: Singapore raises 2007 inflation forecast to 1-2 per cent. Singapore’s central bank confirmed an apparent off-the-cuff remark by Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang in parliament that inflation would come in at 1-2 percent this year, above the government’s previous forecast of 0.5-1.5 percent. (Reuters)

Aug 29: Middle-aged suicide rate up. In 2003, there were 14 suicides (of men in their 40s and 50s) per 100,000. In 2006, it went up to 19 per 100,000. For women, there were 8 per 100,000. In 2006, it went up to 13 per 100,000. (TODAY, Aug 29, 2007) (link)

Aug 29: Storage boom as rents rise. Companies which provide self-storage facilities are reporting a rise in rentals by foreigners as rising rental prices force more of them to downsize. (The Electric New Paper, Aug 29, 2007) (link)

Aug 31: Government raises property development charges. For non-landed residential use, the charge was raised by an average of 58 percent with prime areas like Cantonment Road seeing the biggest jump of 112 percent. Areas seeing the highest increase (of over 100 percent) include Telok Ayer, Maxwell, Shenton, Anson and South Bridge Road. (CNA)

Sept 1st: New dog licensing rules. To discourage dog owners from keeping unlicensed dogs, allowing their dogs to stray or not muzzling dogs of breeds2 that are required to be muzzled in a public place (eg, the Rottweiller or Mastiff); the maximum fine for such offences has been raised from $500 to $5,000. (link)

Sept 5: Esso won’t go public on fuel price changes. IF YOU are an Esso customer, you will not know if the price of your fuel has changed until you drive right up to a pump. ExxonMobil - the biggest player here with 74 out of the total of about 200 stations - has adopted a new policy against revealing changes in pump prices to the media. Neither does it display prices at station entrances. (Straits Times, Sept 5, 2007)

Sept 11: Adult EZ-link fares for buses upped from October. From 1 October, adult EZ-link fares for buses will increase by between one and two cents. But there will be no increase for train fares. (CNA)

Sept 12: Special needs school raise fees by 100%. I was shocked to receive a letter in July stating that school fees would increase by 100 per cent from this month. No other institution - even private schools - operates in this manner by increasing its fees by 100 per cent. (Letter to ST forum)

Sept 13: Employers to buy medical insurance for foreign workers. From January next year (2008), employers will have to buy and maintain insurance for the medical expenses of all foreign workers on Work Permit or S Pass. (CNA)

Sept 25: Electricity tariffs to go up because of higher oil prices. Barely 2 months after the increase of 9% in July, electricity tariffs will again go up later this year because of higher oil prices. SP Services said electricity tariffs will be raised by an average of 0.86 cent, or 4.29 percent, per kilowatt-hour, for the three months from October to December. (CNA)

Sept 25: Cosmetics costing more? Taking a hit from the Goods and Services Tax hike, prices of consumer products in Singapore grew at a pace not seen since 1994. (TODAY)

Sept 27: Gardenia loaf of bread cost 5% more in three months. “Yesterday we found out that its price has soared to $2. If you work that out against the original $1.90, it means that the total price increased is 5.3 per cent in three months.” (Letter to ST forum page.)

Sept 29: Why higher fees for vacant flat? “MY LATE grandfather, who was the sole owner and occupier of a three-room HDB flat, had been paying $38 a month in conservancy fees to the town council. His estate now has to pay $55 a month (a 45 per cent increase) for the vacant flat, the reason being that the $38 concessionary charge no longer applies as it is now unoccupied.” (Letter to ST Forum Page)(link)

Sept: Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society to increase fees from between $5 to $10 due to the society becoming a GST-registered entity. (link)

Oct: Starhub Cable TV sports channels subscribers pay $10 more. (link)

Oct 1: Public transport fare increase takes effect.

Oct 1: Private home prices in Q3 up by 8%: URA flash estimate. The prices of private residential property in Singapore increased by eight per cent in the third quarter of this year.. (CNA)

Oct 1: HDB resale prices up by 6.5% in Q3: HDB’s flash estimate. Public housing resale prices went up by 6.5 percent in the third quarter of this year, compared to the previous three months. (CNA)

Oct 1: Petrol, diesel price up 3-5 cents. At 10am, Caltex increased its petrol and diesel prices by 3 cents a litre, while Shell upped its rates by 5 cents a litre. By 3pm, Singapore Petroleum Co followed suit by raising its pump rates by 5 cents a litre. The increase is the fifth upward revision since July, as crude oil prices hover at record levels above US$80 a barrel. (AsiaOne)

Oct 1: Hotel room rates expected to go up by 25% in Q4. Hotel room rates in Singapore in the fourth quarter are expected to be 25 per cent higher than that of last year, according to industry players. (CNA)

Oct 3: The price of chickens has risen by 20 to 50 per cent here since last week, caused by the wholesale price hike from Malaysia, among the factors, according to media reports. (Bernama)

Oct 4: Queensway Shopping Centre, Sim Lim Square and sky-high rentals in Singapore. As the leases are expiring about now, get ready for a radical change in Sim Lim Square, the highestrentals for the shops selling the lowest margin products ever. (C Net Asia)

Oct 19: SIA ups fuel surcharge by between $3 and $9. The new charges, which are between $3 and nearly $9 more than the current surcharges, will apply to tickets issued from Oct 24 and to both SIA and SilkAir flights. (TODAY)

Oct 20: Price of flour up 30%. The price of flour has increased again, but this time it has gone up by thirty percent. This is the biggest ever hike, according to industry watchers. From January, it will cost 20 cents more to buy a loaf of bread. (CNA)

Oct 22: Caltex petrol, diesel prices up. AMERICAN oil company Chevron raised pump prices of its Caltex petrol and diesel by five cents a litre on Monday - the sixth increase since July and the second in about a fortnight. The others - Shell, ExxonMobil and Singapore Petroleum - are likely to do likewise in the coming days. Chevron’s move brings its pump prices to record levels. (Straits Times)

Oct 26: Private home prices up 8.3% in Q3. Singapore private home prices rose 8.3 percent between July and September to their highest level in a decade. (Asia One)

Oct 27: Prices of HDB resale flats keep accelerating. ‘As at end-September, the HDB resale price index has increased by about 11 per cent since the start of the year,’ the HDB said. For five-room flats, the median resale price in Queenstown is the highest at $603,000, followed by Marine Parade at $560,000 and Bukit Merah at $530,000. (Straits Times)

Oct 28: Singapore raises noodle prices. Starting Nov. 1, the price of noodles in Singapore will increase 20 percent to 30 per cent, the Singapore Noodles Manufacturers’ Association announced on Sunday. (AHN News)

Oct 30: ERP rates going up again for third time this year. Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates are going up again for the third time this year. There will also be new gantries erected. From November 5, motorists will pay $3.50 from 7:30am to 8:00am. The amount charged goes up to $5.00 between 8:30am and 9:00am. This is a $1.50 increase in the 8:30am to 9:00am period since February this year. (CNA)

Oct 30: 100 bakeries to raise bread prices by up to 20%. OVER 100 bakeries have indicated that they will be raising bread prices by up to 20 per cent, following a jump in flour prices. (Straits Times)

Nov 2: Expect steep hikes in tyre, wheel and battery prices. BESIDES record fuel prices and higher Electronic Road Pricing rates, motorists must prepare to pay more for batteries, tyres and wheels. The Singapore Motor Tyre Dealers Association is preparing to announce sizeable price hikes, with battery prices going up by as much as 50 to 70 per cent. Tyre prices will go up by 20 to 30 per cent, and wheels by 10 to 20 per cent, the association’s assistant secretary, Mr Robert Tng, told The Straits Times. (Straits Times)

Nov 5: A TRIP to the supermarket will cost more now than it did at the beginning of the year. A Straits Times check on a random basket of basic goods sold at supermarkets here revealed price increases in almost every category, from fresh chicken to coffee and milk formula. (Straits Times)

Nov 5: Prices for Singapore Petroleum Company Limited (SPC) motor gasoline across all three grades and diesel will be increased by seven cents per litre. (SPC)

Nov 8: Raffles Place retailers face space crunch, soaring rents. A recent study by property consultant Cushman & Wakefield found rent rises of up to 24 per cent over the past two years in the area. (Straits Times)

Nov 23: Singapore’s October CPI up 3.6% on-year, 1.3% on-month. Singapore’s October consumer prices rose 3.6 percent from a year earlier after an increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), government data showed on Friday. (CNA)

Nov 29: Pump prices increase by 5 cents. All four oil companies — Shell, Caltex, ExxonMobil and Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC) — have increased pump prices for petrol and diesel by five cents. In the past 11 months, the price of petrol has shot up nine times and twice just in this month alone. (CNA)

Nov 29: Second Link toll charges to go up next year. VEHICLES from Singapore crossing into Johor via the Second Link Expressway will have to pay higher tolls from Jan 1, the Malaysian government announced yesterday. Passenger cars using the Second Link route will have to pay RM10.80 (S$4.60) next year, compared with RM8.40 now. (Asia One)

Dec 9: Price of luncheon meat soar, from $1 to as high as $3. Prices of luncheon meat have been on the rise since August when the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) rejected and destroyed a consignment of canned pork products from two food processing plants in China. (New Paper)

Dec 10: ComfortDelgro raises taxi fares. Commuters will pay between 18 per cent and 49 per cent more for a taxi ride home from the city from 5pm to midnight. (Straits Times) (CNA)

Dec 11: SCHOOL bus fares will go up by at least $5 to $10 in January, sparked by the increase in diesel prices in recent months. (Straits Times)

Dec 14: Singapore’s second-largest taxi operator SMRT will be raising its fares from next Friday, December 21. The changes are in line with the adjustments made by market leader ComfortDelGro which will be increasing fares from December 17. (CNA)

Dec 14: Hike in POSB coins charge excessive. “IN THE past, whenever I made a deposit or withdrawal in coins, I paid $5 in service charge for every $500. Now, I have to pay $15 for every $500. So if I changed $1,000 into coins, I would lose $30.” (ST Forum Page)

Dec 14: Adjustment rate for housing loan changed unilaterally. “This unilateral change in adjustment rate is an increase in effective interest on the loan, and it is done without changing the loan interest rates. Is it fair for banks to offer adjustment rates as a ‘feature’ to woo customers but, six months into the loan, unilaterally reduce the benefits of the feature?” (ST Forum Page)

Dec 14: Hike in luggage surcharge wasn’t publicized. “When they were at the check-in counter, they were informed that the overweight charge was $20, not $8, and if they did not pay up they would not get their boarding passes. They had no choice but to pay.” (ST Forum Page)

Dec 20: Potong Pasir to raise S&C charges. THE opposition-held Potong Pasir ward is raising its service and conservancy (S&C) charges for the first time in a decade. Residents there will pay between $2.50 and $8 more a month, depending on the size of their HDB flat. (Straits Times)

Dec 20: Expect to pay more for food from next month. SINGAPOREANS should brace themselves for a sharp hike in food prices starting from New Year’s Day, which could affect anything from curry puffs to ice cream. (Asia One)

Dec 24: Singapore’s Nov consumer prices up 4.2% year-on-year. Singapore’s consumer prices rose faster-than-expected in November. The consumer price index - a non-core measure of costs for goods and services - rose 4.2 percent from a year earlier, after rising 3.6 percent in October. (CNA)

Dec 28: Electricity tariffs to go up. Highest since 2001. From next month (Jan 2008), electricity tariffs will go up nearly 6 per cent, to 22.62 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh). (Straits Times)

2007: HDB ups valuation and administrative fees for valuation report of flats. This is to include the new 7% GST. (link)


Aug 24:

‘With rents rising, and some retailers not passing on the GST hike until later, we expect CPI inflation to continue to climb, probably close to 3 per cent towards year-end,’ said Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin.

“Consumers Association of Singapore president Yeo Guat Kwang, who is also MP for Aljunied GRC, said if prices go up because of supply and demand conditions, that cannot be helped: ‘What we need to ensure is that price adjustments are fair.

‘So far, we haven’t seen a phenomenon of businesses profiteering from the GST rise,’ said Mr Yeo, who is the deputy chairman of the Committee Against GST Profiteering.

‘Most importantly, prices of basic necessities have remained stable.’

(Straits Times, Aug 24, 2007)

Other reports:

A relentless spiral by Littlespeck. (link)

CASE survey. (link)

Govt spells out fees to be frozen. (link) (link)


Jan 3: Second Link tolls to go up from Feb 1. The tolls for all motorists at Tuas Second Link will be raised by between 10 cents and S$4.40 from 1 February. Motorcyclists will need to pay 10 cents more than the current toll of 60 cents. Cars will be tolled S$4.60, while vans and small lorries will be charged S$10.50. The largest jump is for big lorries, which will have to pay S$21 – S$4.40 more than the current S$16.60. (Channel NewsAsia)

Jan 08: Motorists to face five new ERP gantries. MOTORISTS can expect to pay more over the next few months to use the roads when five new ERP gantries are up, many in the heart of residential areas. (Straits Times) (Straits Times)

Jan 14: Prices of CNY goodies to go up. BE PREPARED to spend 10 per cent to 20 per cent more on foodstuffs this Chinese New Year. (Straits Times)

Jan 15: Inflation in S’pore may hit 6.5% this month. CONSUMER prices in Singapore may surge a staggering 6.5 per cent this month, bringing full- year average inflation to an equally eye-popping 5 per cent, according to Citigroup. (Straits Times)

Jan 18: Lunar New Year dinner prices set to rise by at least 10 per cent. Prices for restaurant dinners are set to rise by at least 10 per cent. (CNA)

Jan 23: Prices of suckling pigs double due to supply shortage in China. The prices of suckling pigs have doubled recently due to a drop in supply from China, and a 5kg pig is going for as much as S$180. (CNA)

Jan 24: Singapore’s consumer price index (CPI) … rose 4.4 per cent last month from a year earlier, with transport contributing the most. (TODAY)

Jan 25: Resale HDB flat prices up 30% above valuation in Q4. BUYERS of resale Housing Board flats found themselves paying $22,000 above the valuation from October to December - a whopping 30 per cent increase more than the previous quarter. (Straits Times)

Jan 29: ERP rates to go up by S$0.50 at certain gantries from Feb 4. Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates are set to go up by S$0.50 starting 4 February, according to the Land Transport Authority. (CNA)

Jan 30: ERP rates, more gantries to go up - but road tax cut by 15%. Minister Lim said 16 new gantries will go on between April and November, bringing the total number in operation to 71. This is just the start. The base ERP rate will be upped from $1 to $2, with the increments in $1 instead of the current 50 cents. To make ERP more effective in a rising affluent community, these changes will be made gradually. (Straits Times)

Jan 30: MediShield premiums to go up for better cover. YEARLY premiums for basic MediShield insurance are set to increase - by about $120 for most people - to ensure that subsidised patients saddled with big hospital bills will get better payouts. (Straits Times)

Jan 30: Prime Taxis to raise fares from March. AFTER holding out for over a month, Singapore’s smallest cab operator, Prime Taxis, will raise its fares to come in line with other companies here. (Straits Times)

Jan 30: Prices for tickets for all Cathay cineplexes to go up on Jan 31. Expect to pay up to $10.50 on a weekend. (TODAY)

Feb 02: Prices of vegetables are up between 5 and 10 per cent because higher oil prices. YOUR shopping basket will be a little more expensive this year, no thanks to a rise in vegetable prices. (The New Paper)

Feb 4: Singapore inflation may exceed 5 percent this year - PM Lee. Inflation in the city-state could accelerate to 5 percent this year after rising 2.1 percent in 2007 given rising commodity prices worldwide, the Business Times newspaper quoted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying. (Forbes)

Feb 04: Businesses say new ERP gantries may increase operating costs. The rise in Electronic Road Pricing and increase in the number of ERP gantries is worrying at least one business - the couriers. (CNA)

Feb 14: Varsities up tuition fees by 4% to 20%. TUITION fees at the three local universities will go up by between 4 per cent and 20 per cent for the new batch of undergraduates entering in August. (Straits Times)

Feb 26: INFLATION accelerated last month to a 26-year high of 6.6 per cent with housing, food and transport costs registering steep increases over the past year. (Straits Times)

Mar 3: Caltex increases petrol and diesel pump prices. The company increased all grades of petrol by 4 cents per litre at 11am on Monday. Its Regular 95 petrol is now priced at S$2.046 a litre, Regular 98 at S$2.12 and Premium 98 petrol is S$2.286 per litre before discount. (CNA)

March 10: Park in Orchard area? It’ll cost you even more. Parking fees have gone up at 18 out of 20 malls, in one case by 36 per cent. (Straits Times, AsiaOne)

March 12: Fishball prices increase 20% due to rising cost of raw ingredients. Retailers said the prices of fishballs have risen by 20 per cent since last July due to rising cost of raw ingredients. (CNA)

March 17: Price of Chinese herbs to increase by 10%-20%. The price of Chinese herbs is set to increase by 10-20 percent. (CNA)

March 18: Barely two weeks after an increase in pump prices … all four petrol companies raised prices yesterday. Petrol and diesel prices went up by four cents and five cents per litre respectively, with the exception of Shell’s V-Power, which went up by three cents, and Caltex Platinum Techron, which remained unchanged. Regular 98-octane petrol at all four petrol chains now costs $2.160 a litre, while diesel is $1.613 a litre, before discounts. (TODAY)

March 19: Cost of electricity to go up from April as oil prices rise. Electricity tariffs will go up by an average of 1.26 cents (S$0.0126) per kilowatt starting 1 April. (CNA)

March 25: Singapore’s CPI up 6.5 pct year-on-year in February. Singapore’s consumer price index (CPI) jumped 6.5 percent in February from a year earlier, after gaining a 25-year high of 6.6 percent in January. (Trading Markets)

March 25: Singapore inflation stays at 26-year high. Prices of meat and poultry, cooking oils and dairy products clocked double-digit gains, while rice, cereal and fruit cost almost 10 per cent more than they did last year. High oil prices also made themselves felt in electricity bills and at petrol pumps. Indeed, transport costs jumped 9.6 per cent, boosted also by higher taxi fares and car prices. (Straits Times)

March 25: Prices of coffee, milk, sugar rise. In the past six months, the price of a 40-sachet bag of Nescafe 3-in-1 Regular Coffeemix has risen by 14 to 19 per cent across most major supermarkets. It costs $5.20 at Cold Storage and NTUC FairPrice. Super 3-in-1 Coffeemix is up 5 to 9 per cent, and now costs $4.95 at Cold Storage and $4.80 at NTUC FairPrice. (Straits Times)

March 26: Price of paper up by as much as 40%. The price of paper around the world has gone up by as much as 40 percent over the past year. This has caused the price of recycled paper to increase by 100 percent. (CNA)

March 28: NETS revises pricing for NETS CashCard. Consumers are going to have pay more for their NETS CashCard come May, as it will include the cost of the CashCard as well. (CNA)

March 29: Prices of rice rise. FairPrice raises price of its house brand varieties after Thai rice jumps 30% overnight. A 5kg bag of FairPrice Thai White Fragrant Rice now costs $5.30, up from $4.70, and a 10kg bag of Double FairPrice Thai Hom Mali Rice now goes for $17.90, up from $16.25. (Straits Times)

April 5: FairPrice ups price for one premium rice brand. SINGAPORE‘S biggest supermarket chain, NTUC FairPrice, on Friday hiked the price of one of its in-house brands of premium rice. The rise is NTUC’s second in as many weeks: It hiked prices of three other in-house brands of rice by between 60 cents and $1.65 last week. (Straits Times)

April 23: Singapore’s March inflation rate up 6.7% on-year. The CPI for the first quarter of this year was 6.6 percent higher compared with the same quarter of previous year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the CPI in March was 0.3% higher compared with February. Singapore’s inflation rate has been hovering at its highest level in 26 years. (CNA)

April 23: Pump prices up across all brands. THE OTHER oil companies have all followed Caltex’s move to raise pump prices here. ExxonMobil, Singapore Petroleum Co and Shell on Wednesday upped petrol prices by three cents a litre and diesel by five cents. The latest pump price adjustment is the 10th consecutive increase since July last year - 11th if the GST-triggered increase on July 1, 2007 were to be included. (Straits Times)

April 25: Sharp hike in kindergarten fees. SOME 1,500 students attending the seven PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens in Woodlands will see their fees shoot up by 30 to 100 per cent. (TODAY, April 25.)

May 3: Rice and cooking oil lead price rise. Yes, the price of rice is going up. But so too are the prices of cooking oil and other items such as instant noodles. (Straits Times)

May 3: SIZZLING HOT: Cooking oil prices on the boil. In the last two months, retail prices have jumped between 9per cent and 56 per cent, depending on the brand.. (Straits Times)

May 9: Expect to pay higher electricity bills. Soaring crude oil prices drove the benchmark market price of electricity to a record last month, and there is not much relief in sight. (Straits Times)

May 16: Caltex pump prices up. Prices at Caltex were increased as of 10.00am today. Prices of Silver, Gold and Platinum petrol grades went by $0.02 to $2.136, $2.210 and $2.336 respectively. (AsiaOne) (TODAY)

May 19: Food operators to charge more for home deliveries. A Straits Times check with 25 food-delivery services found that more than half have increased their menu prices by at least a dollar in the last few months. Five have also upped their delivery fees, while three have increased their minimum order amount. (AsiaOne)

May 23: Singapore inflation rate hits new 26-year high of 7.5% in April. Singapore’s annual inflation rate rose to a new 26-year high of 7.5 percent in April as food, housing and transportation costs soared and is now a risk to the economy, the government said on Friday. (CNA)

May 24: Pump prices up for second time in a week. The latest jump - the 12th consecutive increase since last July - was sparked when oil giant Shell upped petrol prices by five cents a litre and diesel by seven cents at 5pm on Thursday. (Straits Times)

June 5: Poultry prices to rise due to higher transportation costs. The cost of every kilogramme of duck to go up by five cents. The price of chicken products is also expected to increase. (CNA)

June 7: Singapore consumers to feel knock-on effects. THE fuel price hike in Malaysia is going to bite Singaporeans soon, and hard. Prices of a range of goods are set to go up as the cost of trucking them in rises, and fresh food tops the list. (Straits Times)

June 7: Singapore’s poor turn to temples to fill bellies. Many Singaporeans increasingly turning to free meals at temples to fill their stomachs, as surging global commodity prices hurt, even in a country that is one of the richest in Asia. (Reuters)

June 7: Coach fares to Malaysia up. The Express Bus Agencies Association (EBAA), which accounts for six in 10 buses heading across the Singapore border, has raised its fuel and insurance surcharges from a previous flat fee of $3, to between $5 and $16 — that’s up to five times more — depending on your destination. (TODAY)

June 11: Up prices of eggs and some vegetables. The prices of eggs and some vegetables have jumped at wet markets across the island, according to a Straits Times check. This comes barely a week after Malaysia - Singapore’s biggest food supplier - trimmed domestic fuel subsidies. (Straits Times)

June 18: ERP rates in CBD to go up, 5 new gantries added. About half of existing ERP gantries islandwide will see their rates increase from July 7. (CNA) (Straits Times)

June 19: Housebrand rice prices up. The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has found that prices for housebrands rose between 14 and58 per cent last month. The most dramatic jump was for Cold Storage’s First Choice Thai Fragrant Rice: :From between $8.75 and $9.10 for a 5kg-pack, to $13.80. (TODAY)

June 25: Pump prices up for 13th time since last July. PUMP prices have risen again, with petrol going up by five cents a litre and diesel, 10 cents.This latest increase, the 13th consecutive rise since last July, started when oil giant Shell raised rates at 4pm yesterday. By evening, Caltex and ExxonMobil had followed suit.(Straits Times) (TODAY)

June 25: Electricity tariffs to rise 4.98% from next quarter. Electricity tariffs will go up by 4.98 per cent or by 1.19 cents per kilo watt per hour (kWh) for all households from the next quarter, beginning July 1. (CNA)

June 28: Premium bus fares to go up. PREMIUM bus fares will soon go up, as operators here feel the pinch from higher fuel prices. SBS Transit, which runs more than half of such services, will raise fares by 30 to 60 cents, up to a maximum of $3.60 per trip. The fare hike will affect all of its 40 premium services. (Straits Times)

July 2: Private bus operators up prices over diesel price hikes. FACED with skyrocketing diesel prices, private bus operators are charging more to transport workers and rent out coaches. Ten bus companies contacted by The Straits Times said they have raised prices by at least 10 per cent in the last few months due to rising rising diesel prices, which have almost doubled in the last year. (Straits Times)

July 6: 5 S’pore River ERP gantries kick in on Monday. The new gantries, which will bring the total number of gantries in Singapore to 65, will charge $2 from 6pm to 7.30pm and $1 from 7.30pm to 8pm. (Straits Times)

July 7: Expect to see more of these gantries in coming months. New KPE will have 16, taking grand total from 60 to more than 80. When it opens fully on Sept 20, it will have the most ERP gantries among all roads here. New KPE will have 16, taking grand total from 60 to more than 80 (Straits Times)

July 12: 30-cent fuel levy for cab rides from Thursday. MOST cab rides will cost 30 cents more from next Thursday, after Singapore’s largest taxi operator ComfortDelGro yesterday announced its decision to levy a fuel surcharge on all trips. (Straits Times)

July 14: School bus fares going up on Aug 1. SCHOOL bus operators, bitten by skyrocketing diesel prices, could soon start charging parents $10 to $15 more a month to ferry schoolchildren. (Straits Times)

July 19: SMRT Taxis to levy 30 cents fuel surcharge. SMRT Taxis will levy a fuel surcharge of 30 cents per trip for all taxi trips from July 26. The fuel surcharge will apply to all flag down trips, as well as call centre and advanced bookings, SMRT said in a press release on Saturday. SMRT’s move came after ComfortDelGro implemented the surcharge on Thursday. (Straits Times)

July 22: High power bills: Record number of cases probed. A RECORD number of complaints about overcharging for electricity were investigated by Singapore Power last month. SP Services, the power company’s customer service arm, said it looked into 1,093 cases where customers had complained that their bills for May were higher than in previous months. (Straits Times)

July 23: S’pore June inflation rises 7.5% on higher food, housing costs. Singapore’s consumer inflation stood at a 26-year high in June, rising 7.5 per cent compared with a year ago, according to latest figures from the Department of Statistics. (CNA)

July 24: Singapore ranked fifth most expensive city in Asia. Singapore is now the fifth most expensive city in Asia, according to Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. In world standings, Singapore is in 13th position, one notch higher than in 2007. (CNA)

July 30: Heartland shoppers hit hardest by Nets fee hike. SOME mom-and-pop stores in the heartland are passing on an increase in Nets fees to consumers, despite being barred from doing so. (Straits Times)

25 August: CPI for households up 7.1% in first six months. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for households increased by 7.1 per cent in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year. (CNA)

Aug 29: More unable to pay electricity bills. 35% of families with power bill woes stay in larger 4- or 5-room flats. As of June this year, about 13,700 households have been put on a pre-paid metering scheme after they had their power supply cut off or were in danger of having the supply disconnected. (Straits Times)

August 30: SINGAPORE‘S public hospitals have raised ward charges in the last two months. The increases at Alexandra Hospital (AH), Changi General Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and SGH took effect at the beginning of July. Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National University Hospital (NUH) raised their fees this month. (Straits Times).

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