Sunday 5 June 2005

Stop fare increase? Ha! Take a hike

So the public transport fare hike has been approved. Is anyone really surprised?

What surprised me was that people protested against the fare hike as if it would actually make a difference. Haven't we been through this before? Like only three years ago? In the middle of a recession?

Trying to stop the rising cost of public transportation is like attempting to halt the march of time itself. You might as well stand in front of a moving bus that will cost you a couple of cents more to ride from July 1.

I was watching Channel 5 news when the newsreader blithely introduced a report about how Singaporeans felt about the fare hike.

Over-reacting as usual, I yelled at my crumbling nine-year-old Sony Trinitron.

'How do you expect Singaporeans to feel about the price hike! We love it? We're not paying enough! We have too much money! Oh, the top execs of big companies are grossly underpaid! They need a raise!'

True enough, the first couple of 'men in the street' interviewed by the reporter were against the fare hike, as if that was news.

Knowing that would-be journalists are required to report both sides of the story to appear objective, I was wondering how the reporter was going to find someone who wasn't against the price increase.

Who would want to pay more for anything? The reporter did find the person. A woman appeared on-screen and said: 'No more than five cents. I think that's acceptable.'

Mouth agape, I was stunned.

Didn't she know that for lower-income workers who have to take public transport every day, even a less than five cents fare hike per trip adds up?

But the fact is that if fuel costs and inflation rise, we might have to go through the whole rigmarole again. Some things are beyond tiny Singapore's control.

Another fare hike will be announced. Another TV news report about how Singaporeans feel about the fare hike. Another public outcry.

And we'll still be paying more for fares.

In another three years, it's going to be deja vu all over again.

But I'm okay with it. I've accepted that the public transportation cost will continue to rise like I've accepted that I will grow old and die, unless I get hit by a moving bus. Then I'll be skipping the growing old part.

What irks me is all this 'public outcry' stuff - people writing letters to the newspapers complaining about how the fare hike is unjustified, the columns, the petitions, et cetera.

It's just so tiresomely predictable, almost Pavlovian. I guess we all just need to vent. Get it out of our system. If we're going to pay more for anything, we should at least get to bitch about it.

It might make it difficult for service providers to push through the next price increase. Who knows? Maybe one day, protests might prevail and prevent a price hike.

And we'll stop the globe from spinning around a little red dot.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 June 2005