Water price hike hot topic on Day 1 of Budget debate

The water price hike was vigorously debated by Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday, a little over a week after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had made the announcement in his Budget speech.
PHOTO: The Business Times

The water price hike was vigorously debated by Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday, a little over a week after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had made the announcement in his Budget speech.

Mr Heng had announced that the price of water will go up by 30 per cent in two phases, starting from July 1, to pay for more costly methods of obtaining fresh water from sea water and to get people to save water.

Budget 2017: Heng Swee Keat receives warm welcome back in Parliament

  • Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered his second Budget speech on Feb 20, 2017.
  • Mr Heng's health took a hit in 2016 when he suffered a stroke in Parliament.
  • He returned to work in August, but has kept a low profile since, making his first public speech earlier this month at the release of the CFE's report, which he co-chaired.
  • His return to Parliament on Monday was greeted with support from fellow MPs, who thumped their seats as he began his Budget speech.
  • It was a shorter speech than the one he delivered last year, clocking in at about one-and-a-half hours - but still packed a substantial amount.
  • Budget 2017 addressed Singaporeans' immediate concerns while laying the groundwork for future growth.

This is the first time in 17 years that water tariffs will go up and on the first day of the Budget debate yesterday, Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan said the increase has left many Singaporeans and businesses extremely nervous.

Calling it "a dramatic rise", Mr Tan said the ones most affected will be industries that use a lot of water, such as the food and beverage sector.

Read also: Cost of supplying water has more than doubled: PUB
Water price hike might not affect customers
Water-tariff hike will not blunt S'pore's competitive edge: Masagos
Water price hike: Water users worried but see need to curb wastage

He felt the sharp increase in water tariffs could have an adverse chain reaction - as a rise in such costs could lead to an increase in prices that would be passed on to consumers.

Singapore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi

  • NEWater tanks at Changi pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A visitor takes a look at reverse osmosis trains (left) at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. These trains remove smaller undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and nitrates.
  • Reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • These trains remove smaller undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and nitrates.
  • Two workers inspect reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A reverse osmosis (RO) permeate pipe is seen at Singapore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. Water which exits the RO trains run through these pipes to the ultraviolet light reactors.
  • A visitor takes a look at reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • Two workers walk pass reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • NEWater tanks at Changi pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A worker pastes a NEWater logo on a water pipe which carries treated water to the NEWater tanks during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A water pipe which carries trated water to the NEWater tanks pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • Members of the media seen through Ultraviolet light reactors at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. These trains remove smaller undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and nitrates. The UV disinfection provides an added safety barrier for the water which travels to the NEWater tanks.
  • A member of the media is seen through Ultraviolet light reactors at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. The UV disinfection provides an added safety barrier for the water which travels to the NEWater tanks.

But Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) said that the U-Save rebates will lessen the impact of the water hike.

Those living in one- or two-room HDB flats, for example, will end up spending a dollar less on their monthly water bills on average after the rebates are applied.

Those in four-room flats will see their bills rise by about $5 from the current average of $42 after rebates.

Mr Kwek said that hawker stalls he visited will see about a $30 increase in costs a month - an amount that was unlikely to translate to an increase in living costs.

Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh called for the Government to clarify how the Public Utilities Board (PUB) prices water to help the public better understand the hike.

He suggested the Government look at alternative policies, such as the tightening of regulations on sanitary appliances such as mixers and shower heads that use excessive water, to promote the use of water-saving appliances.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) suggested industry players get together and work with PUB and A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) and come up with long-term solutions.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan backed the hike, agreeing with Mr Heng that water is critical to Singapore's survival, adding that there is never a good time to raise prices.

He felt the 30 per cent water hike may have distracted many from the main focus of this year's Budget - which is to plan for the country's future.

Mr Heng will respond tomorrow, after which Parliament will form the Committee of Supply to debate the budgets of the respective ministries.

rloh@sph.com.sg

"I think the increase in water prices is just to bring up awareness of the importance of water”: MP Lee Bee Wah on the...

Posted by CNA on Monday, 20 February 2017

Read also: Twitter users share how to save water after Budget 2017's announcement of water price hike
Budget 2017's water price hike: What you're not hearing about the 30 per cent increase


This article was first published on March 1, 2017.
Get The New Paper for more stories.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES