Thursday, July 06, 2006

Undercover Shock

Amid the furore of the World Cup, there are several things that has happened that has made Singaporeans literally hot under the collar. Whether intentional or otherwise, the price-jackers in the various industries are covertly taking this World Cup period to jack up prices of goods and services. Thinking that many Singaporeans will be too caught up with the football to care about the rising cost, these price jackers decided that this month is the right time to up the cost of living. But apparently these price jackers' actions have caused so much of a stir that they now look like a deer caught in the headlight.

Well for one, the famous blogging personality, Mr Brown has now been thrown out by the 'serious newspaper', (to quote K Bhavani of MICA), TODAY. His crime? For speaking out against the higher cost of living. His diatribe and cyncism in his weekly column has no doubt left many readers nodding their head in agreement but the government officials are shaking theirs.

So in response, Mr Brown was criticized and reprimanded for his 'views on all these issues distort the truth'. He was also alleged to have 'calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency'. Mr Brown also 'offers no alternatives or solutions'.

Strong words from the government. That is for stepping beyond the OB markers.

No doubt the backlash from the government has left many members of the public furious. In a country that has supposed 'free speech', Mr Brown was denied of this basic human right. What is wrong with bemoaning the fact that prices have increased? Isn't it not true?

Mr Brown did not speculate. Mr Brown did not make wild allegations. And certainly Mr Brown is no liar. He just vented his frustrations on his weekly column, using facts to back up his sacarsm and disappointment.

I wonder who is the one who 'encourage cynicism and despondency' now. The government or Mr Brown? Mr Brown left stinging comments that had many people in Singapore nodding their head in agreement and relishing the prospect of an impending debate about the price increase. The government? Their fierce response, no doubt in tune with PM Lee's 'fix' and 'buy' policy, has left many people realizing that it is futile to argue with the establishment. Once the government says black, it is black and no one can change it to white.

Sometimes, I don't understand. If the people cannot prevent the government from increasing prices in the country, what is wrong with an odd gripe about it? After all, we, the people of Singapore, are paying for it.

Rising taxi fares, higher electricity bills and higher cost for the World Cup are things that affect the consumer. I am sure it is not Mr Brown's intention to distort truth and create cynicism and despondency. He was probably just reflecting the attitude of the people on the ground to these price hikes. Like everyone else, Mr Brown is disappointed. Besides, there is nothing to distort anyway. Prices are increasing and people will already start to be cynical and despondent with or without Mr Brown's column.

If the government are in tune with the ground, as claimed during the elections, they would have understood the fact that Mr Brown's column is the general reaction to these price hikes. Such a reply from MICA serves only to prove that the government still has alot to do before they truly and fully understand the sentiments of Singaporeans.

Increase in prices are always a sensitive issue to deal with. No one likes it and certainly justification for it will be the most difficult part. But if Singaporeans know that the various industries responsible for these hikes are doing their part to suppress it, Singaporeans will gladly pay. After all, in this globalized world, Singapore being a small dot is vulnerable in the world economy.

Yet, we have lame justification arguments like Starhub's 'market in Singapore too small', 'we paid a fortune for the World Cup rights' and taxi companies who claim that 'price of oil increase','Cabbies need more income'. So are these the fault of Singaporeans? What steps are made to ensure that the cost can be kept at the lowest possible cost? And most importantly, ARE THESE COMPANIES ECONOMICALLY EFFICENT???

For example, why does Starhub charge extra for the sports group yet charge again for the World Cup itself? Have they efficently managed the extra that we have paid for the sports group? If it is can we see for ourselves that this extra that Singaporeans already paid are still insufficent for the World Cup?

For the taxi companies, the cabbies are indignant that the rental of cabs are exhorbitantly high and that is why their income are affected due to the increase in oil prices. Are steps being carried out to bring rental cost down so that the increase in oil prices does not need to be passed on to the consumers aka Singaporeans?

These are simple economics that I hope that the relevant industries have considered before pushing the buttong for price increase. After all, price increase is the simplest option. If the industries want to save the effort to do the math, then just pass the cost on to consumers. But then that will be ECONOMICALLY INEFFICENT.

In a capitalist economy, we do not have space for such companies who prefer the short cut of price increase. Furthermore, these inefficencies are never revealed to the public. In the end who are the ones suffering? Singaporeans. There are many more like Mr Brown who are furious over these price increases. Certainly, if there are more senseless price hikes like these, you cannot blame us.

No comments: