MakingCent$Meet

Help to stretch the taxpayer dollar

ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

Scrutinise public expenses and suggest ways to do away with money-sapping practices

Just as the Auditor-General cracks the whip on inefficiencies, shortcomings and lapses in how the government ministries and statutory boards spend taxpayers' money, the public can also flag what they deem excessive, too costly or even plain redundant.

I am sure there are folks who write to these organisations, plus town councils and MPs, on such matters.

Such feedback and insights can help many others down the line if their proposals lead to money-sapping practices being dropped, amended or curbed.

And the money saved can be funnelled towards investments, retirement plans, debt repayments and so on.

In June 2013, I argued in a Sunday Times column that there was no need to send a three-year-old car for a road-worthiness inspection at an approved centre.


ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

Given that today's well- engineered cars also come with warranties, the owner must surely be sending his prized asset - given the pricey certificate of entitlement or COE - to the distributor's workshop for free servicing.

I argued that it was time to do away with the check - at least at the third-year stage - that cost drivers an estimated $2.6 million in 2013.

It should not even be too difficult for the authorised workshops to inform the Land Transport Authority that the vehicle has undergone servicing and given a clean bill of health. The LTA may want to consider this issue again.

Another money-saving idea that my friends and I often talk about concerns the East Coast Park. The good news is that it has seen many revamps as the authorities work hard to cater to the more than seven million visitors each year.

But here's the not so good news. Don't you wish that - save for the East Coast Lagoon Food Village - there was at least another hawker centre along the long stretch of the park from Tanjong Rhu to Changi?

But it has a growing collection of upmarket developments and the latest news is that Big Splash will make way for, presumably, something similar.

It may not be a wise move.

From what I have observed, the money sunk into the new food and beverage clusters is not exactly generating a big buzz, maybe because the island is already full of mid-market dining options.

Take the case of Parkland Green. When it opened in September 2014, its eateries were well-packed in the evenings and the morning crowd on weekends was good too.

But after Marine Cove reopened in June this year, with its iconic McDonald's outlet making a comeback, the crowds have migrated to this newer kid on the block.

And what is likely to pop up when Raintree Cove - further down from Marine Cove - goes through a revamp after February next year?

I pay a garbage fee of $20-plus each month. And I don't have too much litter to throw away each day. In labour-starved Singapore, is it necessary to have refuse collection every day? Can the frequency be once every two days, with a proportional discount off the bill?

If it is going to be yet another clone of Parkland or Marine Cove, I fear ordinary Singaporeans will - beyond the initial excitement - not be regular patrons since they won't be stretching their dollars much if they dine at these spots.

So my friends' plea is this: With both Big Splash and Raintree Cove headed for a makeover, can the authorities include a food centre - either as a standalone or as part of a complex that also houses more fancy establishments?

It would then be so much more enjoyable to take a walk along the park and then adjourn for a cuppa or a meal - all without too much of a dent in the wallet.

But these initiatives can come about only if more people voice their wishes for amenities that better suit their budgets.

It's also taxpayers' money being used and we should have a big say in what the authorities come up with in East Coast Park - indeed any park here - to prevent them from becoming white elephants.

Indeed, the possibilities to stretch the dollar are endless, if people ponder, for example, over what they are being charged for every month.

I pay a garbage fee of $20-plus each month. And I don't have too much litter to throw away each day.

In labour-starved Singapore, is it necessary to have refuse collection every day? Can the frequency be once every two days, with a proportional discount off the bill?

To reiterate, just as the Auditor-General scrutinises expenses very closely, we should all do the same too and see where and how we can live with less.

I am sure the service providers would also welcome feedback on how they can also get more bang from their buck.

And that is the bottom line every one of us has a stake in.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Help to stretch the taxpayer dollar'. Print Edition | Subscribe