I guess most of you would have heard about the last minute 21% electricity bills hike starting Oct 2008.
It funny. Government giving us GST offset package in Oct, and straight away we are returning to them because of MRT fare hike, Bus fare hike, newspaper price increase and now electricity bill increase. Sometimes I rather the government not give us those offset package and spare us the increase. Oh wait…. these companies have been privatized (Although majority of their shares still belongs to Temasek Holdings). So it’s not the government’s fault that they are increasing prices.
Sorry, I digress.
I think it’s time we open up the energy market for more competitions to come in. Singapore Power (SP) has been privatized since Oct 1995. That’s 13 years of being a private entity without any competition in this market. SP still operate much like the government agency it used to be 13 years ago.
I’ve always heard from my dad and friends about how difficult the process was to apply for utilities. I didn’t know it was that bad until I experienced it first hand last month when I need to apply for electricity at my new office. Firstly, tons of documents are required. Some of them makes no logic at all. Then the inflexibility of the rules. I was terminating an account from the old office and apply for a new account for the new office. But I can’t transfer the deposit from the old account to the new account. I need to pay a new set of deposit for the new office and wait for them to release the deposit for the old office.
And what’s up with the deposit anyway? Why do we need to pay a huge deposit just to get electricity at our office and home? Do you know how many household and offices are using electricity from SP? How much deposit do they have in their banks? OK, I’m sure they are using the deposit for investment. And so long as you have a house/office, your deposit is as good as being theirs. That’s an excellent business model. Either you pay a deposit so that I can use that money to invest, else you will not get electricity. Since there is only one company in Singapore to get electricity, everyone has no choice but to pay the deposit.
I still remember in the past when you need to pay deposit to Singtel to apply for phoneline. But all these has been scraped since the opening up of the Telco market. We no longer need to pay deposit.
I always like to use the Telco market as example. I feel that the Telco market in Singapore is the best example of consumer benefiting from competition. Prices of electricity and manpower has been increasing all the time. But when was the last time the 3 Telco increase their charges? They even roll out new technology like 3G network without passing the cost to consumer. Competition is the key factor that kept our phone bills in check. The 3 Telco, like almost every company in Singapore, are experiencing increase in their operating cost. But instead of passing the cost down to the consumers like SP, they cut cost by being more efficient. Because they know that they cannot afford to be more expensive than their competitors.
But for the SP, there is no need for them to be more efficient. There is no need for them to keep their operating cost down. When the operating cost goes up, all they need to do is to increase the electricity bills. We, the consumers, can’t do anything because of the monopoly in the energy market. There is no alternative for us to switch to. There is no competition to keep the prices in check. There is no motivation for SP to be more cost effective.
I think it’s time we open up the energy market in Singapore so that we will not see another 21% price hike. And seriously, where is CASE? What are you guys doing about this 21% hike?
I complained to the lady at the SP counter about how troublesome and inflexible her company is when I was applying for electricity. (In a chit chat manner. Not bang table hor) I told her that it was a lot easier to apply for telephone line from Singtel. She replied to me saying “That is because we have no competitions in the market.”
And I couldn’t agree with her more.
Xizor pointed out that while Singapore electricity tariff is going up, Hong Kong electricity tariff is going down. Hong Kong has 2 companies supplying electricity to the resident. Competition is the key to keeping prices down.
All those in favor of opening up the energy market, say “aye”.