Food security and the Vehicle Entry Permit…

When Malaysia wanted to raise the Vehicle Entry Permit in a tit-for-tat move against Singapore, one Calvin Cheng had this to say:

“When Singapore raised the price for the Vehicle Entry Permit for Malaysian cars, there was a reason for it.

Singapore controls its car population which results in high car prices. Over the last few years, COEs have also risen. It is unfair for Singaporeans if Malaysians can drive their far cheaper cars into Singapore and use it within Singapore as they like. Therefore Malaysians have to pay a VEP to use their cars daily in Singapore. Since car prices in Singapore have risen, it is only fair that VEPs should also rise.

Malaysia on the other hand does not have similar car population control measures, as they have a lot of land. Their introduction of a VEP for Singaporean cars is purely a petty, tit-for-tat measure.

The Malaysians have further decided to increase their toll charge by 400%. This is different and separate from the VEP they said they would introduce.

Singapore’s toll charge has always matched Malaysia’s toll charge. The toll is different from the VEP. The toll is a fee you pay when you enter the immigration complex. Our VEP is so Malaysian cars can be used on Singapore roads. There is absolutely no reason for Malaysia to raise their toll charges, but if they do, Singapore will match it.

In a nutshell, this all started from an extremely reasonable measure by the Singaporean Government to protect Singaporeans – by making sure that Malaysians don’t have a loophole to drive their far cheaper cars in Singapore.”

Reducing vehicles in Singapore is a good reason yes, so I’ll leave it at that.

I did notice also some comments were about how these permits would affect local food prices.

Personally, I support Calvin’s theory of reducing foreign vehicle presence in Singapore. Current entry permits for goods vehicles is $10. The proposed increase would see it lifted to $40. This $30 difference is not going to affect Singapore’s food prices by a lot.

Consider the recent raising of “sin” tax. It increased by a dramatic 25% per litre of beer (that’s $60). However, that only translated to about between 20 – 70 cents for a bottle of beer. Ok, granted that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. What i’m saying is this $40 will be diluted when the lorry load of goods finally arrives on your dinner plate.

Pessimistically speaking though, I think importers couldn’t care less. $40 is a small price to pay considering the overall value of the cargo they carry.

Food Security

One FB commentator raised the issue of food security and how this country should do every bit to keep the costs of food low. I absolutely agree with that. This country relies on 90% of imports to keep Singaporeans fed and to keep the economy running. And this puts us at great disadvantage, even danger when foreign politics turn nasty.

Consider Ben & Jerry’s – my favourite ice cream. It costs far less to purchase a tub of B&J in Britain than it is here. Why? Because the production of B&J is located in the United States. It costs so much less to ship from States to the U.K. than it does to carry the load around the world to Singapore. The same theory applies for foreign beer, imported meats and other atas foods.

This also affects the daily necessities – like the common meats, rice and vegetables.

We do not have sufficient land to provide for a healthy agricultural trade. Without the land nor the trade, we don’t have the power to create policies that will dramatically lower food prices.

I think there should be some policy to encourage agricultural companies to re-think the way they do business. This could be done by either reducing taxes for smart ways of doing things, increasing taxes on stupid way of doing things or perhaps our famous practice of giving money to companies to get them to re-design their importation processes.

I’ve learnt that Sakura chicken for example are raised in Malaysia (and they listen to Mozart and eat lingzhi powder also..true story). The importers will bring in the chickens live to Singapore and slaughter them locally. This causes a wastage of space. Now i’m not an expert on food produce, but I wonder if these chickens could be slaughtered in their home country and then distributed into Singapore directly to retailers?

If food is such an important aspect of Singapore, could not there be studies to show if a centralised importer would be a good solution? Sure it is unorthodox, but considering our reliance… why not? More efficient practices such as consolidated shipment, lean manufacturing, re-packaging to save space… all these could be designed by experts. The IGP programs by the NTUC and funds by SPRING could surely be dedicated to ensuring our food security.

What about technology? We’ve got so many scientists and innovators, what are the technologies we can build prolong the storage life of food? Is there something we haven’t even thought about yet? We’re tackling our water issues with industrial scale osmosis and New Water pretty well – has been work commissioned into guaranteeing our food supply?

What about processes and food treaties? We may not have the land to grow –food-, but do we have the land to grow –feed– in better quality and with better prices? Could this be used as a mode of exchange with Malaysian/Indonesian counterparts?

It is common knowledge that Singapore doesn’t have land to grow food… but do we really not? Some countries have been using roof-top growing to supplement their consumption. What about the off-shore islands? If we can dedicate so many islands to military use, would some of it be useful for agriculture? Isn’t that a form of defence also?

I would also like to know how much our food dollar has gone into taxes and administration. As inflation creeps into our food supply, how much of subsidies and tax-reliefs are we providing against rising food costs to the people who need it?

These are just some of the problems we need to think wider on about our food security rather than just harping on a Vehicle Entry permit that has so little influence on the price of food.

 

 

 

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About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at www.rangosteen.com and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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