The Ministry of National Development’s confirmation that elected Members of Parliament (MPs) only pay S$365 for an annual permit that allows them to park at HDB carparks and at Parliament House has gripped headlines and sparked outrage among ordinary Singaporeans who expressed astonishment over the low price of the parking permit.
Translating to just $1 per day, the special parking permit for MPs has caused Singaporeans from several quarters to point out how low this parking permit costs in comparison to the high cost of parking permits that are imposed upon members of the public.
As the fierce debate over the special parking permit continues unabated, several prominent figures have voiced out against what they perceive to be the Government’s “double-standards” when it comes to parking costs.
One such voice belongs to veteran opposition politician Goh Meng Seng. Writing on his Facebook page, Goh criticised that the justification for the low cost of the paring permit is “utter rubbish” and drew comparisons to the justification that the Government used when it imposed parking fees for teachers who park in schools.
Last month, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that imposing parking fees on teachers is about the Government’s “system of internal self-discipline”. His remarks came two months after news broke that teachers at all primary schools, secondary schools and junior colleges will have to start paying hundreds of dollars for parking at school premises from 1 Aug this year.
Adding that imposing parking charges at schools is part of the Government’s checks and balances, the Minister argued:
“…we have to respect our internal system of checks and balances. We cannot pick and choose which finding to address or comply with – we take them all seriously. This is about upholding the value of self-discipline.
“Furthermore, the whole public service subscribes to the discipline of having a clean wage, so every public officer knows that his salary is all he gets – there are no hidden benefits. This is one of our core practices to ensure a clean government.”
Pointing out what he perceives to be double-standards in the justifications for the low cost of parking permits for elected MPs and for forcing teachers to pay exorbitant amounts for parking, Goh wrote:
“If MPs can pay $1 a day to park anywhere in their constituency and parliament, which is in prime downtown area just because they are not parking overnight in these places, then can we also pay $1 per day just to do the same in our constituency?
“Utter rubbish of justification! $1 can only allow you to park less than an hour in HDB car parks,( and some charge higher during peak hours)!
“What types of “discipline” is that?
“Well, why not just charge teachers less than $365 per year just to park their car in the schools as they are also doing it for official duties and don’t park overnight!
“PAP Ministers and MPs have no MORAL RIGHTS to lecture others, like teachers, especially when they lack that kind of “discipline” which they preach.”
If MPs can pay $1 a day to park anywhere in their constituency and parliament, which is in prime downtown area just…
Another prominent local, Simon Lim, wrote online that he was “flabbergasted” to read about the low cost of the special parking permit. Citing current season parking rates, Lim postulated that the special permits for elected MPs are in line with the Government’s habit of highly compensating parliamentarians:
“I was flabbergasted again after reading the Ministry of National Development’s statement that elected Members of Parliament pay only S$365/ for an annual parking permit that enables them to park their cars at HDB carparks for their constituency work and at parliament house on official duties.
“Few points. Currently, a covered HDB season parking lot costs S$110/ monthly and an open season parking lot costs S$80/ monthly respectively and these rates are the results of numerous increases over the years. For MPs to park justifiably of under $1/ a day on average at HDB carparks must signal to any keen observers and thinking citizens that his/her Member of Parliament’s presence at his/her constitutency are few and far in between.
“Next, our Parliament is a law making body and a very large majority of our parliamentarians are pap parliamentarians. I have observed that when it comes to paying themselves their own allowances, salaries and bonuses etc, they certainly know how to pay themselves very, very well but when it comes for them to pay for their own consumption or usage, they also know how to make themselves pay the bare minimum and their own annual parking permit charge is a case in point.
“I ask in my straightforward talking way if that is not mercenary sucking of our stupid and pitiful Singaporeans in motion, then what is?”
I was flabbergasted again after reading the Ministry of National Development's statement that elected Members of…
Netizens have also noted instances where elected MPs have parked their vehicles illegally or indiscriminately and gotten away with it.
The Education Minister himself faced widespread flak less than two years ago for parking in a reserved parking lot that was set aside for emergency vehicles at the National Library.
Facebook user Chong Sun snapped a photo of Ong’s car occupying a lot meant for emergency vehicles in September 2016 and asked, “Mr Ong Ye Kung – parked his car in the Fire Engine Access…!!!??? Please explain why our Minister are so Big Shot that they can forget about the safety access of the building..?”
The National Library was quick to jump to Ong’s defense. It claimed,“there are a total of 3 car park lots designated for invited guests. As can be seen from the photo, two of the lots were available for use by emergency vehicles, if necessary.”
A letter writer to The Independent noted: “What NLB did not say was, why the Minister cannot be dropped off at a convenient spot by his bodyguard/driver and be picked up later when the event is over.”
A few months after Ong drew criticism for parking his car in the reserved lot, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu also faced similar backlash after she was caught parking her car illegally in a spot reserved for season parking holders at a busy carpark.
Fu asserted earlier this month that the same principle that requires teachers to pay for parking at schools applies to MPs who pay to park in their constituencies. Not revealing the disparity between what teachers have to pay and what elected MPs have to pay, the leader of the House said:
“Elected MPs who drive pay for an annual permit that allows them to park in Housing Board carparks, in order to do their constituency work…This payment generally covers the occasions when they visit other ministries and agencies on official business; and if they have to pay for public or commercial carparks in the vicinity, they are reimbursed.
“Applying the same principle, teachers now pay to park at their primary places of duty. But no one is suggesting they pay again when they visit other schools to attend meetings.”
A year after Fu was caught parking indiscriminately, just last December, vehicles belonging to President Halimah Yacob’s convoy were flagged for waiting along double yellow lines at Prinsep Street. An LTA enforcement officer was photographed at the scene appearing to investigate a car belonging to the convoy for flouting parking rules.
According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), parking on unbroken double yellow lines is an “illegal parking offence” and offenders can be fined between $70 to $150 depending on the type of vehicle they drove.
Despite this rule, the LTA and the Singapore Police Force later revealed in a joint press statement that no summons were issued for vehicles belonging to President Halimah Yacob’s convoy.