The Workers' Party has weighed in on the water price hikes and the rising cost of living in parliament. Member of Parliament Pritam Singh says that the increase comes at an untimely moment when there was a 15% increase in HDB car park charges, higher electricity and gas charges and higher Service and Conservancy rates within the last 3 months.
He posed questions for the Minister for Environment and Water Resources to share more details on how water pricing is determined by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and how it decides on the need to increase water prices. He also asked whether there is any real justification for the price rises based on the price calculations, which he noted have not been altered for the past 20 years since 1997.
As Singapore is reliant on water from the Linggui reservoir in Malaysia, Pritam questioned what role has the low water levels in the Linggui Reservoir played in the price increases, if there has been any role at all. He pointed out that since 2013, Singaporeans have constantly been reminded of low water levels in Linggui, but the government saw fit to confirm that it would not raise water prices 2 years ago. If the Linggui Reservoir was so important to Singapore, he asked if the government had any contingency plans in the event that the Reservoir runs dry, and whether these contingencies involve yet another major water price hike.
Noting that in the middle of 2016, Johor was already studying plans to divert water from 2 rivers to Linggui, Pritam asked if the rise in water levels would lead to a fall back to normal water prices for consumers in Singapore.
On the PAP's repeated emphasis on the scarcity of water as the basis for the water price increase, Pritam had this to say: "Singapore’s per capita water consumption rates have been dropping steadily from 2005 when it was 162 litres per day to 151 litres per day today. It would appear that the answer to the question of whether we can reduce consumption without price increases is a yes – perhaps not as resounding a yes as the experts would wish for – but a yes nonetheless."
He concluded: "I believe a deeper explanation from the Government about how it prices water and its long-run cost imperatives would enable the public to better understand and rationalise this water hike in addition to improving public understanding on this issue."