27 March 2013

Water Conservation — Is Singapore Doing Enough?

Singapore's per capita daily domestic water consumption was 152 litres in 2011, down from 165 litres in 2003.  Public Utilities Board's target is to lower it to 147 litres by 2020 and 140 litres by 2030.

In comparison, cities like Hamburg (Germany) and Barcelona (Spain) hope to see their per capita daily domestic water consumption fall below 100 litres by 2015, according to Prof Asit Biswas and Dr Cecilia Tortajada.[1]

So, is Singapore doing enough to reduce its water consumption?

20 March 2013

Shane Todd's Death — US Senators' Naïveté

Background
On 24 June 2012, the body of Shane Todd, an electronics engineer from the US, was found hanging in his apartment in Singapore.  Police said it was suicide, but Mr Todd's parents believe he was murdered and want to know if a project he was working on had anything to do with his death.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, who was on a previously scheduled trip to the US to meet Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder, met US senator Max Baucus of Montana, where the Todds live, at Mr Baucus's request.  Mr Shanmugam pledged to share evidence with US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Baucus-Tester Amendment
Mr Baucus and his fellow senator Jon Tester then introduced the following amendment to the Continuing Resolution to fund the US government that is being debated:

11 March 2013

Car Loan Restrictions — Protecting Whom?

Monetary Authority of Singapore recently announced that loans for non-commercial motor vehicles would be restricted.  Loans will be capped at 60 per cent of the open market value (or OMV) of the motor vehicle where the OMV is less than $20,000, and at 50 per cent where the OMV is $20,000 or more.  In addition, the tenure of the loans will be capped at 5 years.[1]

According to media reports, financial institutions that are not regulated by MAS fall outside of the ambit of this ruling and MAS is working with other Government agencies to close the loophole.  These non-regulated financial institutions have to comply with the ruling if they obtain credit facilities from regulated financial institutions.[2]

Protecting the Buyers
MAS says that the financing restrictions are necessary to encourage financial prudence among buyers of motor vehicles.  In the current prolonged environment of very low interest rates, there is greater risk of buyers over-extending themselves on motor vehicles.[1]

07 March 2013

Public Transport Fare Review: Concessions, Concessions, Concessions

According to media reports, Fare Review Mechanism Committee chairman Richard Magnus said that the committee was considering, among other things, the following:

▪ A monthly travel pass for adults to help cap the monthly public transport expenses for average-income households or individuals.

▪ Concession fares for children who are taller than 0.9 metres but not yet in primary school and do not qualify for free travel.

▪ Concession fares for the disabled.

▪ Concession fares for polytechnic students.

▪ Concession fares for low-income earners.

03 March 2013

Policy Contradiction — Property Tax Concession for Unoccupied Properties

Property tax is a tax on the ownership of property.  It is not an income tax which taxes the rental income received by a property owner.  It is payable by all property owners on the properties owned by them, regardless of whether the properties are let out, owner-occupied or left vacant by them.  As long as a person owns a property, he or she is required to pay property tax.[1]

Contradiction
Notwithstanding the above, Section 8 of the Property Tax Act (Cap. 254) provides that where property tax has been paid under the provisions of the Act in respect of any building, the Comptroller shall refund a part of the tax proportionate to any period of not less than 30 days or a calendar month during which the building is unoccupied, provided that no refund will be allowed unless —