Many Singaporeans disagree with water price hike, but more now express support after knowing why: Reach poll

The price of water will go up by 30 per cent over two years, but HDB households will also get additional rebates that will see monthly bills go up by less than $12 for most, with no rise for those in the smallest flats.
The price of water will go up by 30 per cent over two years, but HDB households will also get additional rebates that will see monthly bills go up by less than $12 for most, with no rise for those in the smallest flats.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans polled by government feedback unit Reach strongly supported measures in this year's Budget to lend a hand when it comes to housing, social support and jobs, but many disagreed with the water price hike.

In a media release on Wednesday (March 22), Reach said overall, 52 per cent of the 1,111 citizens it polled were supportive of initiatives announced in the Budget, with more than two-thirds backing various measures.

But the water price hike was an initial point of concern.

Reach found that 43 per cent of those polled disagreed with the impending hike, which is meant to fund higher costs of water production and encourage water conservation. Only 32 per cent agreed, while 24 per cent indicated they were neutral.

"The results show that Singaporeans largely welcomed the social measures in Budget 2017, in particular the initiatives to assist families with the costs of raising a family," said Reach chairman Sam Tan.

"We also hear the suggestions of some Singaporeans to improve communication on the water increase, and to do more public education so that everyone can work collectively to understand the need for water conservation," added Mr Tan, who is Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower.

The price of water will go up by 30 per cent over two years, but HDB households will also get additional rebates that will see monthly bills go up by less than $12 for most, with no rise for those in the smallest flats.

Reach said that many Singaporeans at its Listening Points - feedback booths where the public can find out more about national policies and issues and give their views - had voiced their unhappiness on the water price hike.

But, it added, after various agencies and political office holders explained the reason behind the move, more people at these booths said at the end of February and March that they supported the increase.

"They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country's survival and that it should be priced properly," Reach said in its statement.

Added Mr Tan: "We understand Singaporeans' concerns."

He said there are measures to help households cope with rising costs through extra U-Save rebates. These mean that one- and two-room HDB households will not see any increase on average, while bills for other HDB households will go up by $2 to $11 per month.

Reach conducts a telephone poll to gauge reactions to the Budget each year. This year, the exercise was conducted from Feb 22 to March 3, after the Budget was unveiled on Feb 20, and involved 1,111 randomly selected citizens aged 20 and above. The sample of citizens was weighted by gender, age and race to make it representative of the national population.

Strong support for measures to help families, build inclusive society

Other initiatives announced at the Budget went down well with Singaporeans.

About eight in 10 respondents agreed that the move to enhance post-secondary education bursaries would better support lower- and middle-income households.

Meanwhile, seven in 10 believed the increase in the CPF Housing Grant for couples purchasing their first resale flat would provide young families significant support. This grant was previously capped at $30,000 but has gone up to $50,000 for first-time home buyers who are purchasing four-room or smaller flats from the resale market, and to $40,000 for those buying five-room or bigger flats.

Two-thirds of those polled also agreed that an increase in the number of infant care places will make Singapore a more conducive place to raise a family. There will be about 1,000 more infant care places by 2020 to meet rising demand.

And 72 per cent agreed that the third Enabling Masterplan, a road map for disability services from this year until 2021, will help persons with disabilities better integrate into the workforce and society.

Help on the jobs front drew strong support as well.

A total of 66 per cent of those surveyed agreed that enhancements to the Adapt and Grow initiative, which aims to help Singaporeans adapt to changing demands and grow their skills, as well as other training support under SkillsFuture would help create better employment opportunities for Singaporeans.

And 58 per cent agreed that the extension of the additional special employment credit scheme till the end of 2019 will encourage employers to continue hiring older workers. Under the scheme, employers receive wage offsets of up to 3 per cent for workers aged 55 and above and earning less than $4,000 a month.

Mr Tan said the survey results also show Singaporeans largely welcomed social measures in this year's Budget, in particular, initiatives to help families with the cost of raising a family.

Similarly, those who gave their views on Reach's engagement platforms supported these family measures, he said. Some felt the quality of childcare should not be compromised, even as more infant care and childcare places are added, and said that measures to support families must be in tandem with other efforts, such as encouraging work-life balance.

On the steps to help those with disabilities, contributors on Reach's platforms also suggested that the integration process could start from the schools, to instil a cohesive mindset, said Mr Tan.

"Building an inclusive society is a continuous effort, and we should strive towards a society with no pre-conceived notions on issues such as disabilities," he added.