Singapore — On Wednesday (Feb 24), the first day of the Budget Debate, Workers’ Party chief and Leader of the Opposition (LO) Pritam Singh took issue with the announced increase in petrol duties, calling it an “ill-timed bolt from the blue”.
Mr Singh said that there has been much unhappiness and frustration on the ground concerning the timing of this hike.
He pointed out that using electric vehicles (EVs), while in line with the country’s effort towards sustainability, is not yet a practical option for most Singaporeans as the infrastructure for it is not yet widely available.
Nevertheless, the petrol duty hike was implemented “immediately” on Budget Day (Feb 16), he added.
This has left many Singaporeans wondering why the increase happened all in “one go,” he said, asking if a staggered hike had not been considered.
“Many Singaporeans are asking: Why do petrol duties go up immediately all at one go? Did DPM (Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat ) consider a phased and gradual increase of the petrol duties in step with the availability of EVs as a realistic consumer choice and a rise in their numbers on the roads in the years to come?”
He encouraged the Government to take another look at the petrol duties hike.
“I urge the Government to review this Budget announcement and implement a more thoughtfully phased increase of the petrol duty in proportion to the actual growth of EV usage on the roads.”
At the same time, Mr Singh said the proposed rebates announced by Mr Heng, who is also Singapore’s Finance Minister, could also be administered in a staggered manner.
“Such a move will be fairer for road users as compared to the minister’s current plan, which is also implicitly contingent on a large number of EV charging points becoming available in 12 months’ time, when the subsidies end,” he said.
Mr Singh expressed concern over the financial strain it would put on many Singaporeans, in addition to the coming Goods and Services Tax (GST) increase, which has been delayed but will not be put off forever.
These hikes would affect the cost of living for middle-class Singaporeans in particular.
“For middle-class Singaporeans or the sandwiched class who do not qualify for the full extent of GST subsidies in particular, and for whom EVs may not be a compelling option in the short term, the next few years may well precipitate added cost of living pressures,” he said.
Mr Singh’s speech can be viewed here.
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