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NCMP Daniel Goh: Lots of questions and confusion from HDB’s carpark fee hike

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The following is a Facebook post by NCMP Daniel Goh.


I’ve filed my five questions for the sitting of Parliament on 15th August. One question for oral answer concerns the HDB/URA parking fee hike announced earlier in July.

The Government justified the HDB fee hike on projected annual operating deficits of $100 million in the coming years. But it was widely reported that annual income from car parks came to $595 million for HDB, and this has caused some unhappiness. Some are mistaken about the $595m: income/revenue is not profit/surplus, as expenditure has not been accounted for.

But then the questions arise. Operating costs have gone up by 40% since 2002, but the Government is only raising the parking fee by 20% — does this mean that the Government ran healthy surpluses in the earlier years and is only experiencing operating deficits more recently? And costs for private car park operators have gone up by only 20-30%, why the premium for public car parks?

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HDB operates some 602,000 car park lots and annual expenditure has ballooned to $700 million. The supposedly cost-saving Electronic Parking System was progressively implemented in this period. According to the recently published AGO report (para 70), HDB outsources the operation of nearly 1,000 EPS car parks to commercial operators at a cost of around $78.4 million a year. Why has expenditure ballooned despite the expansion of EPS?

Then there is some confusion. HDB fee hike seems to be pegged to operating costs, while URA fee hike seems to be pegged to private car park fees and therefore supply and demand for parking spaces in the city centre. If this is true, then shouldn’t HDB and URA fees be delinked — short term rate for URA is double that of HDB — so that escalating parking fees in the city centre won’t affect heartland parking?

And then the news that private operators are thinking of raising fees because of the HDB/URA move (http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/malls-office-buildings-set-to-charge-higher-parking-fees), really calls to questions who is pegging to who, and what “right-pricing” is truly based on.

Intuitively, and we just bought a family car to move the two boys around more easily, the fee hike seems fair since it is the first hike in 14 years. But the questions and confusion colour the intuition. If the fee hike is indeed fair, then more clarity for the reasons and numbers behind it will help the public sense the fairness.

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To ask the Minister for National Development (a) what is the breakdown of revenue and expenditure annually for operating HDB residential car parks since 2002; (b) what is the estimated cost savings in outsourcing the operation of Electronic Parking System residential car parks to commercial operators; (c) whether the “right-pricing” of HDB car park fees is based on operating costs and that of URA is based on private car park fees; and (d) whether HDB and URA fees should be delinked.

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