43% of Singaporeans against water price hike: REACH

Today Online 22 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — A survey conducted by Government feedback unit Reach has found that just slightly more than half (52 per cent) of the respondents expressed overall support for this year’s Budget initiatives — believed to be among the lowest since Reach began conducting the annual post-Budget polls several years ago.

The telephone survey also found that many disagreed with the 30-per-cent water tariff hike, Reach said in a press release on Wednesday (March 22).

The poll was conducted from February 22 to March 3, and the randomly-selected sample of 1,111 citizens was weighted to be demographically representative of the national population in terms of gender, age and race.

Among the findings, 43 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “it (was) reasonable to increase water prices to fund the higher costs of water production and to encourage water conservation”. In comparison, 24 per cent said they were “neutral”, 32 per cent agreed or strongly agreed and 1 per cent were “unsure”.

Reach also said that at its feedback booths, “many Singaporeans had initially shared their unhappiness on the increased water prices”.

It added: “But after various agencies and political office-holders had explained the increase, more people at (the booths) at the end of February and March said that they supported the increase. They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country’s survival and that it should be priced properly.”

Still, Reach chairman Sam Tan said the unit will embark on more public education.

In comparison, there was strong support for initiatives to help persons with disabilities, families in housing, and children’s education. For example, 72 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the increase in Central Provident Fund housing grant for couples buying their first resale flat would offer “significant support for young families”. An identical proportion felt the same about the Third Enabling Masterplan — a roadmap to build a more inclusive society where persons with disabilities are supported to realise their potential — would help those with disabilities to integrate better in the workforce and society.

Asked if an increase in the number of infant-care places would “make Singapore a more conducive place to raise a family”, 66 per cent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed.

Two-thirds of the respondents also either agreed or strongly agreed that training support offered under the SkillsFuture movement will create better employment opportunities for Singaporeans.

Despite the high levels of support for the social measures, overall support for the Budget measures was relatively low: 52 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Overall, I support the initiatives announced in the Budget.” More than a third (35 per cent) were neutral, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly
disagreed.

Reach did not reply to queries on whether this was the lowest level of support since it began conducting the polls. Nevertheless, earlier media reports showed that in 2010, 70 per cent of 800 Singaporeans surveyed expressed support for the Budget that year. The figure was about 60 per cent the following year. In 2012, the proportion spiked to 93 per cent while it was about two-thirds in 2013.

Between 2014 and last year, the proportion hovered around 70 per cent.

Members of Parliament interviewed by TODAY said the survey results mirror sentiments on the ground, especially concern about the water price hike among low-income Singaporeans.

“Many Singaporeans are supportive of most of the measures in the Budget … but for some, the water price increase overshadows their support on other issues,” said Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah.

Fellow Nee Soon MP Louis Ng said the low overall support reflects the population’s desire for their voices to be heard. “The survey results show that we need to improve on our communication of Budget measures and to get the public involved in the process of drafting the Budget statement,” he said.

Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo added that the relatively low overall support is “not entirely unexpected” for a Budget that seeks to “position Singapore for the long term”. Faced with economic pressures, some Singaporeans may be looking out for more short-term support measures, he noted.


Many welcome Budget 2017 measures, but against water price hike: REACH
Today Online 22 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: More than half of Singaporeans welcomed Budget 2017’s initiatives to support families and build a more inclusive society, but many disagreed with the move to increase water prices, according to Government outreach portal REACH.

A total of 1,111 randomly selected Singapore citizens aged 20 and above were polled by phone over 10 days, REACH said in a press release on Wednesday (Mar 22).

Overall, 52 per cent of Singaporeans polled said they supported the measures. Eight in 10 welcomed the increase in post-Secondary education bursaries, while seven in 10 agreed that the increase in CPF housing grant for first-time buyers of resale flats would help support young families.

Two-thirds of respondents also welcomed an increase in the number of infant care places, while 72 per cent agreed that the Third Enabling Masterplan would help those with disabilities integrate better into society.

More than half of those polled also supported the jobs and skills-related initiatives, REACH said.

However, nearly half – or 43 per cent – of respondents disagreed with the move to raise water prices. About 32 per cent agreed with the move while 24 per cent said they were neutral, according to REACH.

At REACH’s listening points – open booths in public areas for people to give feedback to the Government – many Singaporeans said they were unhappy about the price hike. But after explanations by the Government, more people accepted the increase, REACH said.

“They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country’s survival and that it should be priced properly,” it said.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and for Manpower Sam Tan, who is also REACH chairman, said the Government understood Singaporeans’ concerns.

“For those who are affected by the rising costs, there are measures to help households through the increase in U-Save rebates. We also hear the suggestions of some Singaporeans to improve communication on the water increase, and to do more public education so that everyone can work collectively to understand the need for water conservation.”

- CNA/cy


Poll finds unhappiness over water price hike
Many Singaporeans disagree with the upcoming water price hike announced in Budget 2017, a poll of more than 1,100 citizens by government feedback unit Reach found.
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Mar 17;

Many Singaporeans disagree with the upcoming water price hike announced in Budget 2017, a poll of more than 1,100 citizens by government feedback unit Reach found.

Overall, 52 per cent of those surveyed in the two weeks after the 30 per cent hike was announced were supportive of the Budget, with more than two-thirds backing measures on housing, social support and jobs, Reach said yesterday.

But 43 per cent of those polled disagreed that it was reasonable to increase water prices to fund higher costs of production and encourage conservation. Only 32 per cent agreed while 24 per cent indicated that they were neutral.

The price of water will go up by 30 per cent in two phases, starting in July.

"The results show that Singaporeans largely welcomed the social measures in Budget 2017, in particular the initiatives to assist families with the costs of raising a family," said Reach chairman Sam Tan.

"We also hear the suggestions of some Singaporeans to improve communication on the water (price) increase, and to do more public education so that everyone can work collectively to understand the need for water conservation," added Mr Tan, who is Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower.

Reach also said many Singaporeans at its listening points - feedback booths for people to find out more about policies and give views - had voiced their unhappiness over the water price hike.

But after various agencies and political office holders explained the reason for the move, more people at these booths said at the end of February and this month that they supported the hike.

"They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country's survival and that it should be priced properly," Reach said.

Mr Tan said: "We understand Singaporeans' concerns." He noted that there are steps to help households cope with rising costs through extra U-Save rebates.

One- and two-room HDB households will not see any rise in their water bill on average while bills for other HDB households will go up by $2 to $11 a month.

Reach conducts a telephone poll on the Budget each year. This year's survey was done from Feb 22 to March 3, after the Feb 20 Budget, and involved 1,111 randomly selected citizens aged 20 and above. The sample was weighted by gender, age and race to make it representative of the national population.

The poll also found other Budget measures were strongly supported:

80 per cent agreed enhanced post-secondary education bursaries would better support lower- and middle-income households.
72 per cent agreed the increase in the CPF Housing Grant to up to $50,000 for couples buying their first resale flat would provide young families with significant support.
66 per cent agreed an increase in the number of infant-care places will make Singapore a more conducive place to raise a family.
72 per cent agreed that the third Enabling Masterplan, a road map to better support those with disabilities, will help these citizens integrate better.
66 per cent agreed that enhancements to Adapt and Grow and training support under SkillsFuture will help create better job opportunities.
58 per cent agreed that the extension of the additional Special Employment Credit will encourage employers to keep on hiring older workers.
Reach contributors suggested that the integration of persons with disabilities could begin in schools.

Said Mr Tan: "Building an inclusive society is a continuous effort, and we should strive towards a society with no pre-conceived notions on issues such as disabilities."

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