Singapore is taking extreme measure to tackle overcrowded roads, including the introduction of road tolls and massive investment pushed into the development of public transport. And now, the most extreme of them all has been rolled out – a licence fee that bumps the cost of an average vehicle to over $80,000 (Rs 52.07 lakh). It will be difficult for Singaporeans planning to buy a car, but then they probably did not have a wide-eyed response to this rule considering that they are used to strict control – with media closely monitored and harsh punishments for minor crimes – and they would agree that without these strict rules, the city will be flooded with vehicles.
However, there are those who criticise the model as being ‘unfair’. “I think the system can be made better and fairer,” Joel Lee, a 28-year-old technician, told AFP. He said authorities should make “a distinction between those who need cars, be it for work or family commitments, and those who just want more cars as a status symbol”.
Authorities’ main tool is the certificate of entitlement or COE. Every potential car buyer must bid for a certificate and the cost is added to the vehicle price. The current cost of a COE for an average family car is almost Sg$50,000 (about Rs 24 lakh), pushing the price of a Toyota Corolla to Sg$114,000 (approximately Rs 54.7 lakh.
But COEs fluctuate depending on demand and at their high point four years ago the same car was Sg$159,000 (US$127,000 at the exchange rate at the time) – six times the price in the US.
The certificates are valid for 10 years, after which the car must be scrapped or the certificate renewed. Despite the high price, many in the financial centre, home to hordes of wealthy expats and millionaires, have bought cars, with some 600,000 on the streets – a considerable number for a limited road network.
Other key measures include controlling the number of vehicles on the road and charging tolls on main roads at busy times. Authorities last month decided to freeze the number of private cars on the road from February for at least two years, citing land scarcity. But the decision sparked anger and was followed by a jump in the price of COEs by several thousand dollars, in what the Straits Times newspaper described as “panic buying”.
To mitigate its tough policies, Singapore has built a modern public transport network with a subway, overland trains and buses, and the government recently announced a plan to spend Sg$28 billion to upgrade the system.
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