ST May 5, 2008
Aljunied trash index aims to wipe out litterbugs
Conservancy fees may be tied to index, with dirtiest precincts paying more
By Alfred Siew
TIRED of hardcore litterbugs, Aljunied GRC plans to start measuring the cleanliness of its precincts under a new litter index to be introduced in October.
Officials also said they will consider raising the conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work that goes into maintaining them.
The index, the first of its kind in Singapore, was unveiled on Saturday by the GRC's Members of Parliament.
They said that it was designed to encourage residents to change their attitudes towards tossing trash.
Aljunied Town Council chairman Cynthia Phua said that the index would be based on the cleanliness of lifts, the condition of public property and how large pieces of rubbish are disposed.
She told The Straits Times yesterday that the council would tie conservancy charges to the index only if it found an objective measure of cleanliness.
The plan is under consideration and would not be confirmed until next year, she said.
Would it be right, as a matter of principle, for Aljunied Town Council to raise conservancy charges in the manner proposed above? Let's discuss.
The most obvious objection is that all the residents in the dirty precincts would have to pay higher conservancy charges, even though the large majority of them may be civic-minded residents who do not litter.
Once again, it would be a case of innocent Singaporeans being punished for a wrong they did not commit and could not personally prevent.
It is one thing to catch a litterbug and impose a fine on him. It is quite another thing to impose a fine (or a higher conservancy charge) on a resident, just because he happens to live in an area with more litterbugs around.
All the residents are already paying their usual conservancy charges. The amount they currently pay is already more than enough to maintain the cleanliness of the Aljunied GRC area. Check out the Aljunied Town Council's financial statements yourself.
In the 2006/2007 financial year, the Aljunied town council collected $31,955,492 in conservancy and service fees. They spent only $4,237,162 on cleaning works.
Their accumulated surplus for the year, as at 31 March 2007, was $4,964,022. Which means that in 2006/2007, they could have spent DOUBLE the amount they actually did, on cleaning works, and still have money left over.
Just as a side point, what about their gigantic sinking funds? Check out the Aljunied Town Council's balance sheet. They have more than $90,000,000 in surpluses accumulated over the years. And yes, the bulk of which would have come from the conservancy and service fees paid by Aljunied residents.
Of that amount, $36,270,609 is reported to be sitting in the bank as fixed deposits. Another $44,045,035 is reported as being held for "trading investments". What's that? On further inspection, we see that it means $12,587,775 invested in stocks; $21,082,590 invested in bonds; and $11,981,315 invested in unit trusts.
Does the Aljunied Town Council sound poor to you?
(The sinking funds can't be used for general cleaning works, but their enormous size raises other sorts of questions, which I'll discuss in a future post).