Higher electricity bills too hot to handle for retiree

Madam Siti Buang tries to save money by not using her fan but these few months have been too hot for her not to.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Her electricity bills used to be $25 a month but last month, it went up to $45.

For Madam Siti Buang, 72, that amount is more than enough for her to feel the pinch.

The retired factory worker says in a mix of English and Malay: "I feel so guilty for using my fan every night."

The resident of a one-room rental flat at Block 4, North Bridge Road, says she used to sleep without her fan on.

But in the eight years she has lived there, this year feels the hottest to her.

She says: "Usually, I try to save money by not switching on the fans. But these few months have been far too warm not to use them." Madam Siti says her two sons, a technician and a medical logistics worker, give her an allowance of $50 per month each, so the jump in her electricity bill makes a lot of difference to her.

"I will be looking for a job soon to help pay for my electricity bills," she adds.

Madam Siti, who has colon cancer, hopes to get a packing or an office cleaning job.

She has had the disease for seven years and has undergone two operations - in 2009 and 2013. She estimates the operations have cost her sons $1,000 from their Medisave accounts.

When The New Paper visited her last week, she shuffled around in her oppressively stuffy flat.

Although there were three fans in her home, she uses only one - when she has to.

She says: "The only time I switch on all three fans is when my older son visits me."

When he visits her, he would complain about the heat in her flat, even when her windows are open.

"It is too stuffy in here," he would say.


Madam Siti received financial aid from Ministry of Social and Family Development's ComCare from January to March 2014.

She is not on the financial assistance scheme at the moment, confirmed the Ministry.

To escape the heat in the day, Madam Siti hangs out at the Seniors' Activity Centre (SAC) a few blocks away. It is operated by voluntary welfare organisation Peace Connect.

Its group manager, Mr Richard Chua, explains that the area has a fair number of elderly folk in rental flats and they are not well off.

Peace Connect also provides free access to cold water and cooling herbal teas. Lunch is provided for a nominal fee of 50 cents.

Mr Chua said: "A lot of them have been complaining of the heat in their homes. Some say they cannot sleep at night."

This year, Peace Connect spent $2,000 on two big air coolers which are placed at the SAC. Mr Chua says it was a worthwhile investment.

Mr Leow Ah Eng, 77, a retiree, was seen at the activity centre. He says elderly residents in the area turn up when the centre opens at 9am and they stay till the centre closes at 5.30pm.

He says: "It is too hot to do anything outside. It is breezier at the centre because there are many fans here."

But on Sundays, when the centre is closed, Mr Leow is left with no option to escape the heat.

He says: "I will just walk around the void deck and chat with my friends. It is cooler than staying at home."

This article was first published on April 10, 2016.
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