I can pay my gas bill


My monthly utility bill came today, with news emblazoned on the outside about the GST voucher inside. My heart, already low with the news from the doctor, sank a little more at the prospect of some dreadful promotional "bargain" involving a restaurant I don’t want to eat at or a discount on A Level tuition for my 3 year old.

But it wasn’t that.

It was fifty dollars off my utility bill, and I qualified for that by living in a 3-bed HDB flat. Reading the attached explanation, it’s to assist people on lower incomes. If you had a smaller flat, you’d get slightly more, and if you live in a condo, you can pay your bills.

Now, you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and I’m not one to boast, but I don’t think I’m who many people are thinking of when they talk about low-income Singaporeans. For a start, I’m not Singaporean. I’m paid enough to be uncomfortable about how I’ll afford to pay for things that are luxuries, rather than trying to manage on a monthly income of less than $2,000. And I may live in an HDB, but my co-denizens are going to be able to turn a hefty profit when they sell for a million dollars plus.

So it doesn’t seem right to me to be giving a handout based on the size of the place you live in. There are going to be a lot of affluent people who receive a discount that won’t make a dent in their marginal utility, and spreading it evenly means you could have distributed more to the more needy.

Plus it’s not prorated against consumption. Because of the commitment to behavioural nudges (I suspect) you get to see the national and neighbourhood average against your own usage. Maybe nobody else is assiduous about turning the lights out as me, but again, my consistent ability to use less gas, electricity and water than the average doesn’t hint that I need financial aid.

It’s just strange, given how much data the government has, that this would be the best way to help "lower- and middle-income Singaporean households with their living expenses." I’m not offended to be omitted from the high-income bracket (how high is that, we just don’t know) but I’m confused why there’s no income-related component here.

Still, thanks.


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