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Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: High cost of living creates a dent in dream of pursuing one’s passions​

Oct 23, 2023

In Singapore, prosperity and progress have long been lauded and are key tenets of our society.
Once obsessed with the 5Cs _ cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country club membership _ have we now moved away from the era of unbridled materialism? A growing minority champion a departure from this consumer-driven dream, yet the majority still find themselves tethered to the pursuit of high-paying mainstream careers.
The relentless surge in the cost of living is a key disincentive to Singaporeans exploring their passions and interests outside of convention when deciding on life choices. I’ve seen friends opting for gap years or venturing into entrepreneurship, seeking to fulfil their passions. However, the harsh reality is that these non-mainstream career choices often involve arduous work and may come with lower salaries than those of white-collar professions.
More often than not, reality comes knocking, and the high cost of living in Singapore emerges as a formidable adversary. The dream of pursuing one’s passions frequently loses out to the necessity of securing a stable pay cheque. Singaporeans who choose alternative career paths are justified in harbouring some materialistic aspirations. There should not be a dilemma about making trade-offs between enjoying a comfortable quality of life and pursuing other career paths that may align with their passions and interests. Those opting for alternative careers simply desire to live comfortably, indulge in the occasional treat, and not have to worry about financial stability.
The Government’s emphasis on hard work yielding the fruits of our labour was a truism in past generations. I have older family members who, despite lacking a university degree, were able to purchase a three-bedroom condominium in their early 30s. Can the same be said for non-graduate Singaporeans today? The economic landscape has changed drastically, and even graduates today find themselves grappling with the challenge of acquiring a resale HDB flat.
While it’s true that salaries are on the rise, particularly in high-end jobs, the growth is sluggish for blue-collar workers and non-graduates. The economic pie must be more evenly distributed, allowing every segment of society to enjoy the prosperity that Singapore has worked so hard to achieve.
The Government must take measures to alleviate the burden of the high cost of living, ensuring that the dreams and aspirations of every Singaporean, regardless of their passions, interests or educational background, have room to flourish.

Ryan Ang


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Have scorecard of improvements civil service has made​

Oct 24, 2023

The exhortations by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and the leadership of the public service on the need to serve the population better are not new – there having been similar ones in the past (Public servants must be willing to reimagine govt policies: DPM Heng, Oct 20).
Apart from the need for civil servants to have a good sense of the ground, Mr Heng suggested the need for empathy and a willingness to do things differently.
Civil service head Leo Yip said the civil service must be willing to evolve and stressed the need to “relentlessly improve and transform the way it works”.
Examples were given of how the service has made life better, but I feel that much remains to be done at the grassroots level.
For a start, the service should respond more consistently to public complaints published in the press. Letters are at times ignored. Most of the time, the responses take the template reply of thanking the writer, followed by a reiteration of current policies, why they are good, and ending with an invitation to visit their website for more information. In other words, members of the public are at times given short shrift.
If the civil service is serious about its commitment to serving the public with empathy and wants to sustain and renew trust with citizens, then it has to do better.
Having a scorecard of the improvements it has made over the years and sharing it with the public would be a good start.

Danny Chow


Alfrescian (Inf)
Can't even hire a clerk from so many thousands of diploma, O-Level, and A-Level graduates in Singapore.
Have to hire one from China?

Woman who argued with cops in video allegedly worked as hostess, lied in work permit application​


Han Feizi was at Singapore General Hospital to treat her injured foot and was allegedly shouting and being a public nuisance. PHOTOS: ST FILE, SCREENGRAB FROM DOUYIN

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

Oct 24, 2023

SINGAPORE - A woman who filmed herself arguing with the police at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) allegedly lied in her work permit application by stating she would be employed as a clerk.
Instead, Chinese national Han Feizi, 29, purportedly moonlighted as a freelance hostess at various locations.
On Tuesday, she was handed two charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
According to court documents, on or around Aug 11, Han allegedly declared in her work permit application form that she would be employed as a clerk for a firm called KDL Elements.
It deals with entertainment spots such as nightclubs and karaoke lounges.
Her form was submitted to the Work Pass Division of the Ministry of Manpower.
Han, who is now in remand, allegedly had no intention of working for KDL Elements.

She is also accused of moonlighting as a freelance hostess without a valid work pass from around Aug 1 to Oct 11.
On Oct 13, she was handed six charges, including one count of being a public nuisance and two charges of using abusive language against a public servant.
She was given another two charges of assaulting or using criminal force on a security officer and one charge of intentionally causing harassment on Oct 3 under the Private Security Industry Act.

These were handed to her following a separate incident at The Sail at Marina Bay, a condominium in Marina Boulevard.
In an earlier statement about the SGH incident, the police said they received a call regarding a verbally abusive patient at the hospital at around 2.35am on Oct 10.
Han was at SGH’s accident and emergency department to treat her injured foot and was allegedly shouting and being a public nuisance.
She had purportedly verbally abused a nurse before the police arrived.

When two investigation officers (IOs) interviewed Han at around 3.15am, she was uncooperative and refused to provide her statement.
The police said she allegedly used vulgarities in Mandarin against one of the IOs.
Han recorded segments of her interaction with the officers, which went viral on social media after she posted the 11-minute-long video on Chinese social media platform Douyin on Oct 10.
It was shared multiple times on TikTok and Facebook.
The police added that on Oct 3, Han was allegedly drunk and was escorted by security officers at The Sail to her unit.
She allegedly pushed one of them on his shoulder, verbally abused him, and pulled his tie.
The police had said firm action will be taken against culprits who are abusive towards public servants and public service workers carrying out their duties.
If convicted of using abusive language against a public service worker or public servant, an offender can be jailed for up to a year, fined up to $5,000, or both.
Han is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Keep bus services going till MRT station opens​

Nov 21, 2023

I read with dismay about bus service 167 being ended and bus service 162’s route being changed from Dec 10 (Bus service 167 to cease from Dec 10, Nov 17).
I live along Thomson Road and rely on both these bus services to commute to my office in the Central Business District several days a week, as do many of my neighbours.
While the Land Transport Authority (LTA) cited lower bus ridership along the Thomson East Coast Line (TEL) for the changes, my neighbours and I still rely on the bus services as the opening of the TEL station closest to us, Mount Pleasant, has been delayed indefinitely.
In addition, our stretch of Thomson Road is often congested daily, with heavy traffic and multiple road closures due to the construction of the North-South Corridor, which makes commuting by private car a lengthy and frustrating experience.
I urge LTA to re-evaluate its decision and consider operating bus services to serve the Thomson Road area until the Mount Pleasant station starts operating.

Lin Lizhen


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Removal of parallel bus services sets back car-lite push​

Nov 21, 2023

I read with interest the decision to remove and amend bus services in the most recent route rationalisation exercise (Bus service 167 to cease from Dec 10, Nov 17). Bus route rationalisation exercises reduce or remove bus routes that are already served by new train lines.
However, in the face of the Government’s car-lite efforts, such a move is rather contradictory. One core tenet of a car-lite society is the ease of public transport use, and giving users choices of public transport services is key to achieving that.
This is also crucial in incidents when trains break down and delays occur. Users can cut over smoothly to existing parallel bus routes, rather than scramble and queue for bus bridging services.
Moreover, removal of bus routes will redirect more commuters to take short trips via other existing bus services just to get to the nearest MRT station. This will likely result in more people using these bus services, causing these buses to be sporadically full on routes in between MRT stations. Commuters who use the services to get to their destination rather than an MRT station may then not be able to board the buses.
Such scenarios frustrate existing commuters, and discourage existing car owners from giving up their cars to use public transport, setting back the Government’s car-lite efforts.
The route rationalisation exercise needs to be tweaked, or overhauled altogether, to reflect the Government’s car-life efforts.

Randy Ho


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Provide more bicycle bays at HDB void decks​

NOV 14, 2023

Many bicycle owners have been issued notices from the town councils for parking their bicycles indiscriminately.
There are not enough bicycle bays in HDB void decks as such bays can take a maximum of only 10 bicycles.
Bays are often stretched beyond their maximum capacity, with at least 20 bicycles in a row. This has become a very common sight in many void decks. It is not only unsightly but also poses a safety hazard.
Many HDB residents do not have enough space in their flats to store their bicycles, and putting them in common corridors is not a good option.
They have to resort to parking their bicycles indiscriminately along staircases or any common vacant area, often inconveniencing other residents.
As people are encouraged to exercise, many now have their own bicycles instead of renting them.
The authorities should provide more bicycle bays at void decks, similar to the two-tiered bays at some new estates and MRT stations, to alleviate the space constraints.

Tan Keong Boon


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Ensure proper use of personal mobility aids​

NOV 17, 2023

The proliferation of personal mobility aid (PMA) scooters, accompanied by their increased abuse, has led to public annoyance.
I have seen PMAs on the road, where they are not allowed.
The issue extends further to the haphazard parking of PMAs in public spaces, including shopping malls (Man calls for parking zone for mobility scooters after elderly parents get ‘advisory’ at AMK Hub, Nov 15).
It’s crucial to emphasise that PMAs are for those unable to walk or who have walking difficulties, and they help the elderly and handicapped to achieve independent mobility.
I wonder if their use is being abused by those who don’t need to use them.
The Government was studying the need for PMA users to get a doctor’s certificate to certify that the users are disabled or have a mobility issue (‘Pseudo-motorcycle without COE’: Panel considering new rules for devices like PMAs, cargo bikes, March 15, 2022).
Will these guidelines for PMA usage be implemented?

Chen Wei Yi


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Do more to stop taxi drivers from touting​

Nov 28, 2023

It is infuriating to learn that some taxi drivers are quoting high arbitrary prices for short journeys from Marina Bay Sands to other parts of town.
It was reported that the drivers allegedly wanted to charge a flat fee of about $60 for a journey to Orchard Road, which is less than 5km away.
The refusal to use the meter and especially the targeting of tourists are giving Singapore a bad image.
Many countries are trying their best to attract more tourists to their shores. If such touting persists or worsens, foreigners will avoid travelling to Singapore.
Taxi companies must constantly remind their drivers of the severe penalty if caught touting.
Local residents who witness such touting must step up to assist the tourists. We can perhaps guide them to take other forms of public transport instead of just relying on taxis.

While the touts are a minority among the many taxi drivers who earn an honest living, the bad publicity may mean less business for the drivers as tourists and locals will use other means of transport instead.

It is good that more manpower has been deployed to monitor the situation on the ground, and signboards have been set up to remind passengers to avoid drivers who tout and charge exorbitant fees. Perhaps signboards showing the contact numbers to report such practices should be put up prominently too.
I hope these unfair and disgraceful practices will be stopped completely.

Foo Sing Kheng


Alfrescian (Inf)

Singapore maintains spot as world’s most expensive city, tied with Zurich: EIU​


Vivienne Tay

Thu, Nov 30, 2023

Singapore continues to observe high price levels across several categories, such as transport.

SINGAPORE maintained its spot as the most expensive city in the world, tying with Zurich, an annual survey showed on Thursday (Nov 30).
The pair overtook New York, which tied with Singapore last year for the pole position, based on findings from Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) cost-of-living survey.
The survey, designed to help organisations calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers, showed that the global cost-of-living crisis is not over despite inflation moderating.

On average, prices rose by 7.4 per cent yearly in local currency terms. Although price growth slowed from the 8.1 per cent reported in the same period last year, it remains significantly above the 2017 to 2021 trend.
The Republic continued to observe high price levels across several categories, notably transport due to strict controls on car numbers.
“It is also among the most expensive cities for clothing, groceries and alcohol, due to its success as a premier location for business investment,” EIU noted.

Zurich’s rise, meanwhile, reflects the strength of the Swiss franc. The city also has high prices for groceries, household goods and recreation.
“The supply-side shocks that drove price increases in 2021 to 2022 have reduced since China lifted its Covid-19 restrictions in late 2022, while the spike in energy prices seen after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 has also eased,” said Upasana Dutt, head of worldwide cost of living at EIU.
She noted that Asia continues to have relatively low price increases on average, with four Chinese and two Japanese cities among the biggest movers down the ranking this year.
Despite upside risks, EIU expects inflation to decelerate further in 2024, as the lagged impact of interest-rate rises impacts economic activity and thus, consumer demand.
The 10 most expensive cities are Singapore and Zurich (tie), Geneva and New York (tie), Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Paris, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv and San Francisco.


Alfrescian (Inf)

No help from HDB service line​

Dec 1, 2023

I called the Housing Board’s service line regarding the spalling concrete problem in my flat.

Despite following the instructions provided by the HDB main line, which directed me to contact the service line, my attempts to connect have been disappointing and frustrating. I have made numerous calls on different days and at various times, hoping to speak with an operator but to no avail.

After being put on hold and listening to a recorded message three times, I get a message saying I’ve exceeded the allowed call duration and the call would be abruptly terminated. My experience makes me question whether anyone can receive any help from this service line.

Wendy Lim


Alfrescian (Inf)
Indian Expat itsanopenaccount

Indian Expat From PwC Gives “Advice to People on How Bad Singapore is Overall”​

  • Posted Byby ChinHan
  • November 29, 2023
Indian Expat working at PWC Singapore Digvijay Pandey (@itsanopenaccountedit: he changed his Instagram to @overseasdesiinsg) has been using his Instagram to publish videos criticizing Singapore. He made a series called “de-influencing Singapore” complaining about how everything is too expensive. He also tells his viewers that “Singapore is boring”, “Reasons why you shouldn’t waste money visiting Singapore or it’s tourist spots” and “giving advice to people on how bad Singapore is overall”.

Who is Digvijay Pandey?​


Digvijay Pandey is 28 years old and he is an Indian Hindu based in Singapore. He is currently a Senior Consultant at PwC South East Asia Consulting, and he moved here in June 2022. Before this, he was based in India (Gurugram, Haryana) and worked for Bain & Company and Deloitte. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from St Xavier’s College in India, in 2018.


From his since-deleted Linkedin

We must not let such foreigners come in to sow discord in our society!​

Instead of trying to fit in and appreciate Singapore, he repeatedly uses his race, while complaining that other people are racist. He repeatedly highlights that he “just want(s) my(his) Indian brothers to excel at everything they do”. Only selectively wanting Indians to do well, isn’t that racist in itself?
Moreover, he came here and started an Instagram series just to tell everyone how bad Singapore is. Is this the kind of foreign talent we want?


Alfrescian (Inf)

No concerns detected during weekly check-ins with girl who was sexually abused for nearly 3 months: MSF​

The girl was taken in by a man after she was traumatised by her mother’s death and father’s sexual abuse. But the man sexually assaulted her almost every day for close to three months.
No concerns detected during weekly check-ins with girl who was sexually abused for nearly 3 months: MSF

Photo illustration of a child in distress. (File photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

Michael Yong

04 Dec 2023

Warning: This story contains references to suicide.
SINGAPORE: Authorities did not detect “sexual abuse concerns” during weekly sessions with a girl who was sexually assaulted almost every day for about three months by a man who wanted to adopt her.
In response to queries from CNA, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said on Monday (Dec 4) that the girl did not “disclose the abuse to them” until she told a school teacher.
Last Tuesday, the 39-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and nine strokes of the cane for his crimes.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of exploitative sexual penetration of a minor who is 16 or 17, with another nine charges taken into consideration.
The girl was under the care of MSF and in the process of being adopted when she moved in to stay with the man and his wife full-time.
She was sexually assaulted almost every day during her stay from September 2020 to November 2020, the court heard.
Questions were raised after the court case about why the abuse went undetected for nearly three months. The girl also started to engage in self-harm during the period of abuse.
The ministry told CNA that the girl had been receiving support from a team of professionals, which included psychologists and case workers from a treatment centre, a psychiatrist and a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and a Child Protection Officer.
During her stay with the couple, check-ins and sessions were conducted every week on average by at least one of the professionals, where the girl's well-being, safety and progress were monitored.
The couple also had regular sessions with the professionals and were "observed to be capable of providing supportive care" for her.
"During this period, the professionals did not detect sexual abuse concerns, nor did the young person disclose the abuse to them until she told her school teacher in Nov 2020," said MSF.
"Although the young person had some signs of self-harm, that would not have indicated that she was being sexually abused, as due to her past trauma history, the young person had ongoing self-harm behaviour before she was under the care of the couple."


The girl, who is now 19 years old, was 13 when her mother took her own life in front of her in 2017.
She suffered from adjustment disorder with depressed mood after, but the girl’s father did not let her or her siblings mourn their mother’s death.
The girl was sexually abused by her father in January 2018, several months after her mother died. She overdosed on medication and was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health, where she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She was removed from her father’s care about two months later and placed in the care of a family friend. The teenager stopped engaging in self-harm, but this resumed in June 2018 after the suicide of a close friend.
In September 2018, MSF placed her in a treatment centre aimed at helping girls who have suffered trauma or abuse.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, first met the girl that month when he ran a programme at the treatment centre. He was a manager at a company which conducts camps for children.
He and his wife later agreed to adopt the girl, and they were told of the girl’s traumatic past and her mental health issues.
In December 2019, the victim started home leave with the couple and stayed overnight at their home. She sometimes slept on the bed with the couple when she had trouble sleeping.
Between January 2020 and March 2020, her mental health deteriorated and she was moved back to the treatment centre. The couple visited her regularly as they did not want her to feel abandoned.
After the COVID-19 “circuit breaker” in April and May 2020, her home leave with the couple resumed – mostly for two to three days at a time – from June 2020 to August 2020.
The sexual abuse started in September that year, with the man asking her to remove her clothes to participate in an “activity” using a mirror before he molested her.
He also molested her on multiple occasions in the first half of that month.
Despite the abuse, she started extended home leave with the couple and began staying at their home full-time on Sep 15, 2020.
The man began sexually assaulting the girl on an almost daily basis. The girl would experience panic attacks during the assaults.
On Oct 4, 2020, the man and his wife were formally appointed “kith caregivers” by MSF while the adoption process was ongoing.
Kith caregivers are non-familial adults known to a child through family or community connections, and they are not registered as foster parents, MSF said.
Over the next few months, he continued to sexually assault the girl nearly every day until the middle of November. The crimes were only discovered after the girl told a teacher on Nov 30, 2020.
The girl is currently staying with her relatives. She is receiving support from a Family Service Centre social worker and a hospital psychologist, said MSF.


During her stay at the treatment centre, she had regular check-ins and therapy sessions with the team of professionals.
Before she started going over to stay at the couple’s home, there were “phased contacts” between the couple and her.
These ranged from supervised visits at the treatment centre, to outings, before progressing to home leave and full-time care.
“For this case, there were regular therapy sessions, check-ins and home visits by professionals both prior to and during the young person’s home leave, as well as during her stay with the couple daily from Sep 15, 2020, onwards,” said the ministry.
But the abuse was not detected by the professionals.
MSF said that child abuse is “often hard to detect, particularly when a caregiver actively hides it”.
“This case highlights how detection can be difficult even with close and constant support provided by professionals,” said the ministry.
“It also shows the critical role of having trusted individuals in one’s life. In this case, if not for the teacher whom the young person trusted and confided in, the abuse might have remained hidden much longer.”
When asked why the couple were allowed to take her in, MSF said the man and his wife had “no prior criminal record and adverse history”.
They were volunteers at the treatment centre where the girl was staying.
“No risk factors emerged during the assessment of the couple’s suitability as kith caregivers for the young person in question,” said MSF.
“Trained professionals assessed them as caring and capable of supporting her needs.”
The couple did not follow through with the adoption process, said MSF.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Man who sexually abused teen girl he wanted to adopt had no criminal record: MSF​



Wong Shiying

Dec 4, 2023

SINGAPORE – The man who sexually abused a teenage girl whom he wanted to adopt had no criminal record and adverse history, and professionals did not detect any abuse during regular check-ins with the offender, his wife and the victim.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Dec 4 said the couple were volunteers at the therapeutic group home where the girl was residing.
The teenager, who was under the care of MSF, had moved in with the home after her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately in January 2018.
The girl, who was 16 when she moved in with the couple, was in the process of being adopted when she was sexually assaulted by the man who wanted to take her in.
The 39-year-old man was on Nov 28 sentenced to 10 years’ jail and nine strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to four counts of exploitative sexual penetration of a minor who is 16 or 17.
Another nine charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
MSF said there were phased contacts between the couple and the victim before the girl started living with the man and his wife in their home.

She met them during supervised visitations at the therapeutic group home, as well as at outings, before it progressed to home leave and full-time care.
“From December 2019 to early April 2020 before circuit breaker, she was on home leave with the couple that started from a day to a few days a week.
“Her home leave was suspended during circuit breaker from April to May 2020 and resumed gradually from June 2020. From Sept 15, 2020, she stayed with the couple daily,” the ministry added.

Between September and mid-November 2020, the man subjected her to multiple forms of sexual penetration, including sodomy. The acts took place almost daily.
MSF said despite weekly check-ins with professionals to monitor the girl’s well-being, safety and progress, as well as the couple’s regular sessions with professionals to assess their ability to care for her, no sexual abuse concerns were detected.
The professionals included psychologists and case workers from the therapeutic group home, a psychiatrist and a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health, and a child protection officer.
MSF said child abuse is often hard to detect, particularly when a caregiver actively hides it.
The ministry added: “This case highlights how detection can be difficult even with close and constant support provided by professionals.
“It also shows the critical role of having trusted individuals in one’s life. In this case, if not for the teacher the young person trusted and confided in, the abuse might have remained hidden for much longer.”

The man who abused her was a manager at a youth leadership development firm at the time and the father of two young boys. He cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the victim’s identity.
The girl was 13 in June 2017 when her mother killed herself in front of her. As a result, she suffered from adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
In January 2018, her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately. She was removed from her father’s care in March 2018 and MSF placed her in the care of a family friend.
In June 2018, one of her close friends committed suicide and the girl later engaged in self-harm by repeatedly using a blade to cut her limbs.
Assessed to be a suicide risk, she was placed in a centre designed to help girls who suffered trauma or abuse reintegrate into society.
The company that the offender was working in was running a camp for girls in June 2019. This was where he met the victim, who was a camp participant.
During the camp, she told the offender that she was hoping for foster care or adoption, as she could not return to her biological family.
The man’s wife agreed with his decision to adopt the girl. His family was later assessed by MSF to be suitable caregivers.
In September 2020, she was at the man’s home when he suggested they take part in an activity. He told her to stand topless before a mirror and describe what she saw while he stood blindfolded nearby.
She did not know what the activity was for, but assumed it might be some form of therapy for her.
Soon after, he started to rub her chest, claiming it would help her body release some “love chemicals”.
This happened on multiple occasions, and she allowed him to do so as she trusted the man and felt close to him.

Between September and November 2020, he also sexually penetrated her, made her perform sex acts on him and would sometimes use his mobile phone to take photographs and videos of the acts.
The court heard that the girl felt guilty after the sexual acts and started harming herself again. She also felt that she was “trash and worthless”.
She told a teacher about her ordeal, who then alerted the police.
MSF said in its reply that all volunteers in MSF-funded programmes involving contact with clients undergo background reference checks and suitability assessments by social service agencies.
“No risk factors emerged during the assessment of the couple’s suitability as kith caregivers for the girl. Trained professionals assessed them as caring and capable of supporting her needs,” the ministry added.
Kith caregivers are non-familial adults known to the child through family or community connections, and they are not registered as foster parents.
MSF said the girl did not disclose the abuse to professionals supporting her until she told her school teacher in November 2020.
MSF added: “Although the young person had some signs of self-harm, that would not have indicated that she was being sexually abused, as due to her past trauma history, she had ongoing self-harm behaviour before she was under the care of the couple.”
The teen is now staying with her relatives and receiving support from a family service centre social worker and a hospital psychologist.


Alfrescian (Inf)

ComfortDelGro to raise cab fares from Dec 13; Prime Taxi to follow suit​


The flag-down fares of ComfortDelGro taxis will increase by 50 cents from Dec 13. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Kolette Lim

Dec 6, 2023

SINGAPORE - Singapore’s largest taxi operator ComfortDelGro will raise flag-down fares by 50 cents for its regular cabs, as well as distance and time-based charges by one cent, from Dec 13 at 6am.
This is to help drivers defray higher operating costs due to rising fuel prices, high inflation and the upcoming goods and service tax (GST) hike from 8 per cent to 9 per cent starting Jan 1, the company said in a statement on Dec 6.
As at October, ComfortDelGro ran a fleet of 8,841 Comfort and CityCab taxis, or about 64 per cent of the market, based on figures from the Land Transport Authority.
Another cab operator, Prime Taxi, told The Straits Times it also plans to raise its fares.
After the adjustments, the starting fare of a ComfortDelGro Hyundai i40 cab will increase from $3.90 to $4.40, while that for a Toyota Prius and a Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid taxi will climb from $4.10 to $4.60.
Flag-down fares for Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Kona, Toyota Sienta Hybrid and BYD e6 taxis will increase from $4.30 to $4.80.
The increase in starting fares does not apply to limousine taxis, such as MaxiCab and Mercedes-Benz cabs. Flag-down fares for the limousine fleet will remain at $4.80, after an increase from $4.10 in November.

But charges for distance travelled and wait times will rise for all its fleets. For regular taxis, there will be a one-cent increase for distance rates to 26 cents for every 400m under 10km and every 350m after 10km, up from 25 cents (inclusive of a one-cent temporary fare tariff in effect till June 30, 2024).
For limousine cabs, a one-cent increase will be rolled out too, with distance and time-based fares increasing by intervals of 36 cents instead of 35 cents.
With the adjustment, the estimated fare for a 10km trip in a normal taxi during off-peak hours will increase by 6.8 per cent, or 94 cents, from $13.80 to $14.74.

The operator last raised its fares in March 2022, the first increase in a decade. That adjustment included a 20-cent increase in flag-down fares for both normal taxis and limousines.
On Dec 6, ComfortDelGro also announced that it would extend the period during which an evening peak-hour surcharge applies by an hour.
It will cover the period from 5pm to 11.59pm from Monday to Sunday, including public holidays. Right now, the peak-hour surcharge is in effect from 6pm to 11.59pm.
A new peak-hour surcharge will also be introduced from 10am to 1.59pm on weekends, including public holidays.
Mr Tommy Tan, chief executive of ComfortDelGro’s taxi business, said the increase ensures that its drivers receive fair earnings with the rising cost of operations.
“For the past few years, our cabbies’ earnings had been impacted first by the pandemic, and then by higher operating expenses due to an increase in fuel prices and high inflation,” he added.
The peak-hour surcharge changes also ensure that there are enough taxis on the road to meet rising commuter demand at peak hours, he said.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in April 2020, ComfortDelGro has provided its drivers with rental waivers and continues offering a waiver of 10 per cent.

Renting a Toyota Sienta cab from ComfortDelGro costs $118 daily for up to six days, and $98 per day for more than six days.
Rental for a Mercedes-Benz E-class taxi costs $388 a day for up to six days, and $368 daily for a longer rental period.
National Taxi Association adviser Yeo Wan Ling said the higher takings from the fare increase will help drivers support their families better.
“The impending increase in GST is also an additional cost on their operations, as it impacts their rental, food and parking expenses, among others,” she added.
ComfortDelGro cabby Chan Pak Kin, 70, told ST the increased fares do not go far enough to alleviate rising operating costs.
“The additional amount will be erased once I get a fine for speeding or a parking summons. The company should look at reducing the rental costs instead,” he said.
The higher fares could also turn potential customers away, he added. They might instead opt for ride-hailing trips with companies such as Grab if they offer lower fares.
Mr Neo Chee Yong, deputy general manager of motor group Prime, which operates Prime Taxi, said the company will also adjust its fares to help drivers cope with higher operating costs and inflation.
He declined to disclose the extent of the increase and when it would take effect.
At present, the flag-down rate for Prime, the smallest taxi operator here with 532 cabs as at October, ranges from $4.10 to $4.50.
Ms Jasmine Tan, general manager of taxi firm Trans-Cab, said the company will also roll out the same peak-hour surcharge adjustments as ComfortDelGro from Dec 13.
The company has not decided if fares should be increased, she added.
“Prices for everything, including housing and petrol, are rising, so we want to help our drivers cushion their operating costs,” said Ms Tan.
Right now, Trans-Cab, Singapore’s third-largest operator with about 2,100 cabs, imposes a surcharge of 25 per cent of the metered fare from 6am to 9.29am on weekdays, excluding public holidays, and 6pm to 11.59pm daily, including public holidays.
Strides Premier, Singapore’s second-largest operator with about 2,200 cabs, said it “will be monitoring the situation closely before making any decision” on fare adjustments.


Alfrescian (Inf)
$1.50 per school day....

Forum: Raise amount of bursaries for students​

Dec 9, 2023

I applaud the latest move by the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) to revise the income ceiling for its bursaries so that more needy students can qualify for them (New income ceiling for CDAC’s student bursaries; more needy families to get help, Dec 3).
In line with this move, can CDAC work with relevant agencies to increase the bursary amounts? With inflation, school canteen food prices have risen as well.
I have two primary school-going children, and food prices in the school canteen have gone up from $1.50 to $2 in the past two years.
Recipients of primary school bursaries of $300 per annum would find it hard to get a good meal with this amount.
There are 40 school weeks in a year and five school days in a week. This would work out to $1.50 per school day.
It would be good if the amount for primary school bursaries is increased to around $400. The amounts for secondary school and post-secondary school bursaries could also be adjusted.
The impending increases in the goods and services tax as well as water prices in 2024 would lead to a rise in food prices again.

If the intention is to help low-income families defray the costs of raising children in Singapore, some consideration should be given to increasing the bursary amounts.

Raymond Khoo Tin Wan


Alfrescian (Inf)

Household electricity bills set to rise as carbon taxes to increase in 2024​


On average, the higher carbon tax could lead to an increase of $4 in monthly household utility bills for a four-room Housing Board flat. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Lynda Hong
Senior Environment Correspondent

DEC 9, 2023

SINGAPORE – Electricity prices for households are poised to rise in 2024 as power generation companies will face a higher tax for their carbon emissions.
On average, the higher carbon tax could lead to an increase of $4 in monthly household utility bills for a four-room Housing Board flat, according to a forecast from the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS). This is assuming the full cost of the carbon tax is passed on to consumers.
Electricity retailers have not yet disclosed details of the price changes.
In 2024, Singapore’s carbon tax will rise to $25 per tonne of emissions, up from $5 per tonne now. This will be raised to $45 per tonne of emissions in 2026, and eventually to between $50 and $80 per tonne of emissions by 2030.
Introduced in 2019, the carbon tax was set at $5 per tonne for five years till 2023 to provide a transition period for facilities that directly emit at least 25,000 tonnes of emissions annually.
NCCS calculated that every increase of $5 in carbon tax could cause household electricity tariffs to rise by a corresponding 1 per cent. This means electricity bills could go up by about 4 per cent in 2024.
Households here can either choose a price plan from an electricity retailer or buy power from SP Group at the regulated tariff set by the Energy Market Authority.

Electricity retailers that spoke to The Straits Times were tight-lipped about the exact rate increase of electricity prices.
Leading electricity retailer Geneco, which has a market share of nearly 27 per cent, said: “Tariffs will be adjusted according to any development to carbon tax.”
Senoko Energy said: “While the carbon tax component is likely to make an impact on electricity prices, it could also encourage businesses and households to re-evaluate their electricity consumption in efforts to lower their energy usage and wastage.”

Apart from carbon tax, other significant costs that determine the pricing of electricity plans include the prevailing fuel price, said PacificLight.
The power-generation company and electricity retailer is developing a project on Pulau Bulan in Indonesia to import electricity from solar power.
It has also spent more than $30 million to improve efficiencies at its Jurong Island plant, including upgrading its turbine, which would reduce an overall 40,000 tonnes of emissions annually when the improvements are completed in 2024.
Increasing the energy efficiency of power plants is one strategy to reduce the impact of carbon tax on retailers that are also generation companies.
Tuas Power’s chief operating officer Michael Wong told ST that its power station is being upgraded to improve efficiency, to reduce the gas used and amount of emissions per megawatt hour of energy generated.
Tuas Power is also moving towards using lower carbon-emission sources of energy such as solar and biomass to generate electricity, added Mr Wong.

Sembcorp Power did not respond to ST’s queries, while Keppel Electric declined to comment.
Apart from power stations, the water sector will also be impacted by the higher carbon tax from 2024.
Water in Singapore requires electricity to produce. For instance, desalination, one of the processes involved in providing the Republic’s water supply, requires energy to remove salt from seawater.
From January 2024 to December 2025, eligible Singaporean HDB households will receive an additional $20 per quarter in U-Save rebates – $80 a year in total – to cushion the impact of the increases in carbon tax and water price in 2024 and 2025.
On average, the additional U-Save rebates should fully offset the increase in utility bills for one- to two-room flats over the next two years, by about 80 per cent for three- to four-room flats, and by about 65 per cent for larger flats.
As part of its international commitment to tackling climate change, Singapore has a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to about 60 million tonnes in 2030.
Singapore’s emissions are expected to peak at around 65 million tonnes between 2025 and 2028, before they are reduced so as to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The latest figures show that Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 reached the highest levels yet at 57.7 million tonnes – representing an increase of around 9 per cent from 2020 levels.
One strategy to meet the net-zero target is raising the carbon tax.
According to the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, carbon tax provides a broad-based price signal across the economy to encourage companies to reduce their emissions and, at the same time, gives them the flexibility to act where it makes the most economic sense.
Dr David Broadstock, a senior research fellow and lead of energy transition at the National University of Singapore’s Sustainable and Green Finance Institute, said: “We are beginning to see prices which will be noticeable – which is important, since the carbon tax is necessary to achieve a timely energy transition, and reach our net-zero aspirations.
“It also is a timely juncture to think about how impactful high carbon prices will be. With a future price of $50 to $80 (per tonne of emissions) by 2030, Singaporeans will feel the effect more strongly still.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Elderly penalised for late settlement of medical bills​

Dec 14, 2023

Every three months, I visit Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic to treat my diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Unless full payment of outstanding medical bills is made at the polyclinic, patients will not get to see the doctor.

There are many seniors struggling to cope with the high cost of living. On previous occasions, I was denied medical care until I paid the outstanding amount in full. It is not right to deny medical care to seniors just because they are late with payments.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Alfrescian (Inf)

S’pore won’t claim from climate fund, but will help others access it: Grace Fu​


Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said Singapore will not claim from the fund despite investing heavily in coastal protection measures. PHOTO: REUTERS

Cheryl Tan

DEC 12, 2023

DUBAI – Singapore will not be claiming from a fund that compensates countries for the loss and damage that they face arising from climate change.
Instead, it will support fellow countries from the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) to help them receive money from the fund, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said on Dec 11.
Speaking to reporters outside the Singapore Pavilion at the United Nations COP28 climate talks, Ms Fu said the Republic will not claim from the fund despite investing heavily in coastal protection measures. Singapore has estimated that at least $100 billion will be needed in the long term to fight against rising sea levels.
“What we really want to see is help (given) to our fellow islanders, our brothers and sisters in Aosis, to help (them) tap these funds, as many face difficulties doing so due to a lack of technical capacity,” she added.
At least US$790 million (S$1.06 billion) has been pledged to the historic loss and damage fund, which sees developed countries that have contributed largely to climate change paying developing countries for the climate-induced damages they are experiencing.
The fund will be hosted through the World Bank for the first four years.
Singapore is part of the Aosis negotiating bloc, which includes many small island states such as the Pacific island nations, which have already suffered from climate change acutely through the loss of land and property damage due to sea-level rise. Some communities have also been forced to relocate.

To receive money from the fund, countries must submit plans and feasibility studies. The lack of technical capability to provide such information is often what is holding them back from submission, Ms Fu said.
Singapore could help countries that are developing their national adaptation plan, which needs details on how they deal with food and water security.
“So, I think Singapore plays a useful role in getting capability building, technical assistance, working with other countries that have the ability to do so, the resources to do so, to help our fellow island states to get better access (to the fund) to help them recover faster from disaster,” Ms Fu added.

The World Bank being the host of the fund was a sticking point for developing countries.
They were worried that it was not truly an independent fund as it is based in the United States, and the administrative processes required of them would hence make it difficult to access the money.
In February, Ms Fu said in Parliament that Singapore, classified as a developing country in international negotiations, is an eligible recipient of the loss and damage fund.
She added at the time that Singapore had not decided if it would contribute to the fund, or claim from it, a position that drew the ire of youth climate groups here.
The groups felt it would be unjust for the Republic to take from the fund as it could deprive other climate-wrought countries from getting the compensation that they needed.
Asked by The Straits Times at COP28 on whether Singapore will be contributing to other sources of finance, such as adaptation or climate finance in general, Ms Fu said: “We see our role really as galvanising finance...
“The idea is that from the little resources that we have in Singapore, how (we) can lever up... like a fulcrum. From $1 that we are putting on the table, we are able to get $7, $8, $9 of funding.
“We have put in some money to start that funding arrangement, and we are very optimistic that the amount that we have on blended finance, the amount that we put into the seed companies, for example, will see scaling effects in the years to come.”
The Financing Asia’s Transition Partnership’s US$5 billion blended finance initiative is meant to channel finance to projects that would otherwise not be profitable, such as those in clean energy, nature-based solutions, and waste and water management.
This initiative involves Singapore’s central bank and other partners like the International Finance Corporation and Temasek.
Ms Fu and Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide are facilitating negotiations on mitigation at COP28, which is a key prong of the Paris Agreement as it entails reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C.

When asked if countries are going to agree on a term like the “phase-out” of fossil fuels, or whether there might be other options that come up later on, she said: “The issue about energy transition is a significant one.
“The presidency has really made this the core issue. What we have found over the last few days is that there’s a great convergence over the need to move to 1.5 deg C and for (greater climate) ambition.”
However, countries are divided on how to get there, especially as they all have many concerns and expectations, she added.
One of the hotly debated points of COP28 is the language around the “phase-out” of fossil fuels, and whether it will be a complete phase-out, or only the phase-out of “unabated” fossil fuels. Abated fossil fuels refer to the use of carbon capture technologies to ensure emissions are less intensive.
Ms Fu said: “So we will have to work through the language to find possible landing zones... I think the intention is to have a good energy transition message, and I think that is still a work in progress.”
As for Singapore’s position on fossil fuels, she said that Singapore is still reliant on these, given the limited natural energy and renewable energy sources here. Singapore is powered by around 95 per cent natural gas.
“We’re also talking about the possibility of importing renewable energy from the region, which is really going out of our comfort zone, if you think about issues with energy security, but we felt that it is an important part for us to decarbonise our energy sector,” she added.
Singapore is also looking at new technologies like green hydrogen, which is not cost-effective at the moment but crucial for the Republic to explore to play its role in energy decarbonisation.
“We are also accountable to our own people for the economic livelihoods... so we have to strike a balance in accelerating our decarbonisation journey and also making sure that the transition is an orderly, reasonable one that gives us affordable and accessible energy,” Ms Fu added.


Alfrescian (Inf)

SimplyGo app overwhelmed by downloads after move to phase out older cards​


From June 1, passengers will not be able to use older, non-SimplyGo-compatible ez-link cards or Nets FlashPay cards to pay for their transport fares. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Lee Nian Tjoe
Senior Transport Correspondent

JAN 11, 2024

SINGAPORE – The SimplyGo app became less responsive and users were unable to use some of its features on Jan 10, a day after the authorities announced that older adult ez-link cards must be upgraded to the SimplyGo platform for fare payments from June.
Updated versions of the app became available for download on the evening of Jan 10.
In response to questions from The Straits Times, a spokesperson for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said late on Jan 10: “The surge in transaction volume resulted in the app becoming less responsive. TransitLink is working to resolve this and has enhanced the app further to address the issues. The new updated app can now be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores.
“We apologise for the inconvenience.”
TransitLink, an LTA subsidiary, is listed as the developer of the SimplyGo app.
On Jan 10, some users also faced difficulties in upgrading their ez-link cards to the SimplyGo system at SimplyGo ticket offices and ticketing machines at MRT stations and bus interchanges.
The problem persisted into Jan 11, with the SimplyGo Facebook page continuing to draw complaints from those who failed to upgrade their cards.

The LTA spokesperson told ST on Jan 11 that it has been working with its vendors to improve its backend systems to handle more upgrades.
“Commuters who were unsuccessful in upgrading their cards can approach SimplyGo ticket offices or ticketing service centres for assistance,” said the spokesperson.
From June 1, passengers will not be able to use older ez-link cards that are not compatible with SimplyGo or Nets FlashPay cards to pay for their fares on public buses and trains.

Passengers have until Aug 31 to upgrade their older ez-link cards at SimplyGo ticket offices, ticketing service centres and ticketing machines at rail stations and bus interchanges, LTA announced on Jan 9.
As early as the morning of Jan 10, users took to SimplyGo’s Facebook page with complaints about issues they faced in registering for an account, resetting passwords or accessing other features on the app.
As at 7pm on Jan 11, there were more than 150 comments on SimplyGo’s Facebook post.
The SimplyGo app lets users top up their cards, receive notifications on their fares and balances, and block further transactions if the cards are misplaced.
With SimplyGo, fares charged are not displayed on the fare reader.
After repeated tries on the afternoon of Jan 10, ST could not access the app or sign in to the SimplyGo website.
The app issue was resolved after downloading the updated software at 11.30pm, although the app and SimplyGo website still carried a message advising users that functions may be affected because of the “overwhelming” number of app downloads. This advisory was no longer there by the afternoon of Jan 11.
Over at rail stations and bus interchanges, the surge in passengers upgrading their cards at ticketing machines had caused the machines to be less responsive, said LTA.
Automotive industry consultant Say Kwee Neng said he managed to upgrade his ez-link card on Jan 10 at Upper Thomson MRT station after switching to a second ticketing machine, as the screen on the first machine he used froze before the upgrading process could be completed.
The 57-year-old added that it took more than five minutes to get his ez-link card upgraded. ST, however, managed to upgrade an ez-link card in less than a minute at around 10.50pm on Jan 10 at Stevens MRT station.

Facility management purchaser Toh Yong Soon, 48, started using a SimplyGo-compatible ez-link card and the app six months ago.
He said the app was unresponsive on Jan 10, and he did not get notifications on his fare transactions.
“I’ve been travelling blind the whole day, not knowing the fare,” Mr Toh said.
He added that when he was at Bugis MRT station at noon on Jan 10, he saw two men walk away from the ticketing machine after they failed to upgrade their ez-link cards.
As at December 2023, there were 2.6 million adult fare transactions done on SimplyGo daily, compared with 1.5 million such transactions made using ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards.


Alfrescian (Inf)
Commuters inconvenienced because PAP government wanted to save $40 million

LTA shelves plan to replace older public transport payment cards with SimplyGo by June 1​


The authorities will spend an extra $40 million to allow commuters to continue using ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Lee Nian Tjoe and Kok Yufeng

Jan 22, 20234

SINGAPORE - Holders of older ez-link cards that are not on SimplyGo, an account-based ticketing platform, will no longer have to update their cards by June 1 to pay for public transport.
Nets FlashPay cards will also continue being accepted for adult fare payments, and there will be no need to exchange them for a Nets Prepaid card to pay for bus and train rides by June 1.
The authorities said on Jan 22 that they are pulling the plug on the planned transition after public backlash.
Announcing the change in a Facebook post on Jan 22, Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said the authorities will spend an extra $40 million to allow commuters to continue using ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards, which use a card-based ticketing system that stores transaction data on the cards.
This is unlike SimplyGo, which processes fare payments at the back end.
“We have decided to extend the use of the current (card-based ticketing system) for adult commuters, and not to sunset the system in 2024 as originally planned,” Mr Chee wrote.
The decision, he added, was made after considering concerns among commuters since the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) announcement on Jan 9 that they would not be able to see fare deductions and card balances at fare gates and bus card readers with the switch to SimplyGo.

Mr Chee apologised for the delays experienced by commuters who tried to convert their older ez-link cards since Jan 9.
The Straits Times reported that the SimplyGo app became overwhelmed a day after the news broke, with users unable to use some of the app’s features. Passengers also faced difficulties in upgrading their ez-link cards to SimplyGo at ticketing offices and machines at MRT stations and bus interchanges, with the problem persisting into Jan 11.
“This could have been avoided with better preparation,” Mr Chee acknowledged, adding that LTA has worked to deal with these issues by updating the SimplyGo app and speeding up the card-conversion process.

Those who updated their ez-link cards to SimplyGo between Jan 9 and Jan 22, or bought SimplyGo-compatible ez-link cards during that period, will be able to exchange their cards for those that rely on the older ticketing system for free, if they prefer.
LTA said details about how this card exchange will be done will be made public by the end of February, citing the need for preparation time to minimise inconvenience to passengers.
Concession card holders, such as students and seniors, will also be able to revert to non-SimplyGo cards as part of this exchange.

Mr Chee said he has given LTA the task of studying ways to improve account-based ticketing cards. In particular, he has asked the agency to look into possible solutions for these newer cards to display fare deductions and card balances at fare gates and bus card readers.
The minister noted, however, that for the moment, there is no technical solution to this problem, and Singapore is not alone in facing this issue.
Like SimplyGo, account-based transit cards used in London and Hong Kong do not display fare deductions and card balances at fare gates as well, he said.
Earlier, LTA had said in response to media queries that while it was technically possible for fare and card balance information to be shown at fare gates and bus card readers with SimplyGo, it would take a few seconds to retrieve this information from the back-end system, and slow down the entry and exit of passengers. This would result in longer queues.
With SimplyGo, the idea was for a user to be able to view fare deductions and balances using a smartphone app, which can notify the user once he or she taps out from a bus or MRT stop.
Alternatively, users can also obtain fare information at ticketing machines at MRT stations and bus interchanges.
Other touted benefits of SimplyGo are that users are able to block further transactions through the app if they lose the cards and top up their travel cards on the move.
Yet many who still use older ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards expressed frustration over the reduced functionality that came with switching to SimplyGo. For instance, after the transition, the updated ez-link cards can no longer be used to pay for motoring expenses such as parking and Electronic Road Pricing charges.
After drawing flak from the public, a sign that the authorities had changed their minds came on Jan 19, when a free exchange of Nets FlashPay cards for Nets Prepaid cards that was planned to start that day was postponed on the day itself “until further notice”.