GOVT WON’T TELL S’POREANS ABT PUB LOSSES DUE TO “COMMERCIAL SENSITIVITIES”

I refer to the article “Counter-intuitive to give rebates for saving water: Masagos” (Channel NewAsia, Mar 1).

It states that “On Wednesday, fellow WP MP Png Eng Huat asked about the scale of losses made supplying water.

“If this Government is bent on raising the price of an essential commodity by 30 per cent, it is certainly the right time to open the books to Singaporeans to justify the increase,” he said.

In response, Mr Masagos said: “We are unable to provide details of computation because of commercial sensitivities”.

Can we have a more detailed explanation as to these “commercial sensitivities” that makes the Government “unable to provide details of computation”?

Since this is the reason – why wait about nine days and only after umpteen clarifications to justify the increase – to tell us this, only now?

As to “We still need to build more desalination plants and NEWater plants. As more desalination, NEWater and water reclamation plants are yet to be built or expanded, revealing the specifics … could prejudice future bids” – how would disclosing past costs, revenue and profits – prejudice future bids?

  1. Why not just disclose such information now – and then perhaps defer the disclosure of projected costs, revenues and profits into the future?

In respect of “He assured the House that the cost reflected the best the market could offer and added that technology was also taken into account in the latest review.

“Technologically, we have squeezed everything we can from the current water processing technology,” said Mr Masagos. “It will take several more years to achieve the next breakthrough and bring it to a deployable scale.” – why not make the “latest review” public?

With regard to “”I am heartened that some businesses have taken this increase in context and have explicitly said that they would not increase prices,” Mr Masagos added” – I understand from news reports so far that only very few businesses have said they would not increase prices and for how long?

How many of the as I understand it – over 150,000 businesses have said that they will not increase prices and for how long?

SECURING WATER SUPPLY

In respect of “Mr Singh further sought a number of clarifications after Mr Masagos’ speech, one of which was on how PUB assesses when to increase the price of water.

“On the issue of books in PUB, it is very complicated for me to attempt to simplify what the numbers really mean,” said Mr Masagos. “Our books are in accruals; our budget is in cash, and I have to reconcile them.”” – are you not somewhat surprised that we can’t reconcile cash and accrual accounting?

Why not just tell us how many more days or weeks or months you may need to do this?

As to “I will ask the Minister for Finance to look at the whole-of-government approach in funding our water infrastructure. That makes more sense. Some parts are Government-funded, some parts are PUB-funded. It does not add up if we look at each book separately.”  – why not defer the price increase until this is done? How many more months do we need to “look at the whole-of-government approach in funding”?

Leong Sze Hian

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