Budget debate: MPs call for review of petrol price hike, protection of consumers from profiteers

Some also questioned the timing of the increase. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - MPs have called for safeguards to protect consumers against companies that may seek to profiteer by raising prices following the recent hike in petrol duties.

Some also questioned the timing of the increase, which raised the duty for 98-octane petrol by 23 per cent and that for 92-octane and 95-octane by 18 per cent.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) asked why it was necessary for motorists to pay more at the pump with immediate effect, given how Singapore will ramp up the number of charging points for electric vehicles (EVS) to 60,000 only by 2030, and how the reduction in the minimum Additional Registration Fee payable for such cars will kick in only from next year.

"Why are motorists penalised or coerced to move to EVs when we haven't got sufficient infrastructures in place?" he asked on Wednesday (Feb 24).

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh noted that there is "much frustration and unhappiness on the ground" given the immediate nature of the petrol hike.

"I urge the Government to review this Budget announcement and implement a more thoughtfully phased-in increase of the petrol duty, in proportion to the actual growth of EV usage on the roads. The rebates proposed can be given out in a similarly phased manner," the Workers' Party chief added.

The duty for premium grade (98-octane and above) petrol was raised by 15 cents a litre to 79 cents a litre, while the duty for intermediate grade (92-octane and 95-octane) petrol was raised by 10 cents a litre to 66 cents a litre.

Motorists will be given road tax and additional petrol duty rebates to help offset the higher costs.

Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) also asked if the Government is prepared to "proactively look into the prospects of profiteering by unscrupulous businesses" that seek to ride on the petrol duty hike.

Similarly, Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) urged the Government to consider putting in safeguards to curb unjustified increases in fares, fees and prices to help protect a wider range of consumers and customers.

While noting that rebates will help to cushion the blow of the hike, Mr David cautioned that it could be accompanied by downstream price increases.

For instance, consumers might have to pay more for delivery costs or school bus drivers could charge parents higher prices.

Mr David also asked if the government would be open to extending the rebates to taxi drivers and private-hire car drivers beyond the present period if required.

WP's Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC) said the increase in petrol duties could mean that the schemes to help taxi and private-hire drivers, like the higher amount of grants to offset their vehicle rental fees announced last year, would not have much of an impact.

Echoing Mr Singh's call for a review of the petrol hike, Mr Faisal said that even though setting behavioural norms away from a reliance on fossil fuels is important, the immediate nature of the hike could inflict "unnecessary trauma on an already busy besieged group".

He warned that while there might be rebates given to these drives, these might only kick in too late.

Taxis and private-hire cars will be given a 15 per cent road tax rebate for a year, which will apply for a one-year period from Aug 1 this year to July 31 next year.

"By the time the rebates reach the pockets of the drivers, some of them may have resorted to drastic measures already to get themselves, and their family, economically afloat," he said.

Dr Lim also suggested that the Ministry of Finance bring forward rebates for motorists to take effect now to "ease the cash flow, since the petrol duty hike is already in effect".

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