The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Free Public Transport in Singapore.

Public transport should be free in Singapore, to all, without limit. Quite simply, this one simple measure would do much more to help the poor than many another initiative. This would mean a gift of freedom of movement, when and where one pleased, irrespective of ability to pay - and that would be liberating for many.

A government spokesman has said that if the public want free buses and MRTs that it would cost a 1.5% raise in GST. I presume this was said to convince people NOT to ask for such a thing...yet, pause for awhile. What does a 1.5% tax on spending mean for Singaporeans? Well, that depends if you are a big spender or not.

If you are relatively poor and your family spends 1000 dollars a month on GST liable items, your GST payment is 15 dollars. Yet, if one family member takes two journeys at 1.50 dollars each, that would amount to 3 dollars a day - or 90 dollars a month. Thus, this person of modest means would save 75 dollars a month, from this initiative. What if this consists of a typical Singaporean family (two parents, one child)...well, that would be a saving of 7.10 dollars a day or 213 dollars a month - minus 15 dollars, which would equal 198 dollars not spent. That is a HUGE increase in the effective income of this poor family.

Indeed, is notable that GST liable spending must reach 6,000 dollars per month before the extra GST paid equals the transport costs of one typical person making two 1.50 dollar journeys per day for the month. Clearly, most families in Singapore are BETTER off with a 1.5% increase in GST and free public transport in return. (Especially since this is the income per person who travels on public transport required before this measure becomes more expensive than actually paying for public transport.)

Only the very rich (ie. Government ministers and their equivalents) would be inconvenienced by this tax rise. So, only the rich need complain about it. If transport is free, those who are of low income and middle income, will benefit immensely. In other words, the VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN SINGAPORE ARE BETTER OFF with free transport and 1.5% extra GST.

Then again, those with working memories will recall that last year's tax surplus was 6.4 Billion dollars with 7 % GST. Given that situation, is there any real need for an increase of GST, at all? Singapore's coffers are more than full enough to pay for free public transport for all, without any difficulty. This is the kind of initiative that would actually make a difference to people's lives. The poor, the elderly and those with large families (for whom travel can add up quite quickly) would all find the increased mobility a great boon. This is a quality of life issue. If the Singaporean government is really concerned about the quality of life of its citizens then public transport should soon be free for all.

There would be another benefit of free public transport: the famously over-crowded Singaporean roads would become clearer, for fewer would see so much value in driving expensive cars on expensive ERP penalized roads. Indeed, free public transport would do a lot more to free up the roads than all the ERP in the world is capable of achieving. In fact, the government's response to this will tell us what their true values are: is it to make money (such as from ERP) or is it to make life better for its citizens?

Free public transport will free the roads - something ERP has singularly failed to do.

So, let all who value the quality of life in Singapore put their voice forward to support the proposition that public transport in Singapore should be free for all, without limit, as soon as possible.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:37 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there any countries that offer free public transport?

I would lurve to have free public transport, but considering the kind of decisions that are made by the government, this sounds like it would only happen in my dreams.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Cawley,

I think what is the real issue here is not whether public transportation should be made free.

What disgruntles the public is how mass transportation, ostensibly a public good, comes in second to the interests of the shareholders of the transport companies.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I believe some places may do so for special groups...such as the old. However, I don't know of anywhere that has universal free public transport. That is no reason, though, why Singapore should not have it. It seems like a good idea. It would give everyone a new sense of freedom particularly low and middle income groups.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You right, Anonymous at 10.39, Singapore is run, not for the people, but for those in power...this is obvious in every sphere of life. Those in power include not only politicians (strikingly well paid) but business interests of an inner circle that OWN everything. It seems, to an outsider, that most major decisions are made to the benefit of these interest groups, and not for the people as a whole. I am not sure such a policy is sustainable in the long-term, because people will (and are) tire of it and leave (which they do).

Thanks for your comment.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Chloe Ask said...

When we rode the subway in Tokyo couple of weeks back while on holiday, I realized that the ticket prices, posted on the wall at the stations, hasn't changed since my first visit to the city 20 years ago. The only significant difference to us was the exchange rate for the Japanese yen. FYI the mass transport system in Japan consist of the government run JNR and the private METRO. So why must the SMRT increase fares EVERY year?

12:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Because, Chloe, in Singapore all "Public services" are run for profit. They are not FOR the people, but at the EXPENSE of the people. It is notable that everything is run in Singapore as if it were one big corporation. That is why prices don't rise in Japan (public service is a concept they understand) but they do rise in Singapore (for the public services behave like private enterprises seeking to maximize profits).

It is basically down to a difference of philosophy. Here in Singapore the primary goal is to make money at all levels.


3:37 PM  
Blogger fpteditors said...

Here is where to find who has free public transport.
Success Stories
FPT Blog

3:39 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I note that Thailand is one of the success stories of free public transport. If they can do it - then Singapore can do it - and should, in fact, do it out of shame that its poorer neighbour can manage it.

Thanks for the link. (The second link doesn't work.)

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, a large portion the public transport system in Japan (at least the rails) are private entities.

The main reason prices remain as they are, I believe, is due to competition. That, and that the train giants run the stations and department stores that are attached to them. (SEIBU, SEIYU, etc.)

The Japanese Govt may have also given them concessions.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Anywhere that manages NOT to raise transport prices in 20 years is doing something right by the idea of public service. Well done Japan - however they have actually achieved it.

10:10 PM  
Blogger fpteditors said...

Here is the correct link. On this blog you will find links to Free Transport advocates around the world. This movement is growing fast. We hope you will join us. Singapore is an excellent candidate for free public transport.

FPT Blog

12:03 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you.

I don't mind promoting the idea of free public transport, at all...I think it is an excellent idea.

Best wishes on your aims!

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he is crazy enough to say that bus fair is not related to fuel price today, what makes you think that he wont say that Free Fair is not related to GST tomorrow.

Good luck if you vote for 8.5%.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, there does seem to be an excess of illogical/unreasonable statements from local politicians that seem hard to justify. It is possible, of course, that there would be backtracking in the future on promises made.

Given the powerlessness of the Singaporean people, all they can do is hope for the best.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Cawley,

Actually, a bulk amount of the tax surplus last year was due to Stamp duties from sales of properties.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Actually, the situation is not as you depict. Yes, there was more stamp duty tax - but there was also more tax of other kinds.

The ministry of finance website reveals that stamp duty last year was 3.8 billion dollars - or 2.3 billion more than expected. That does not account for all the 6.4 billion extra. In fact, GST collection was 1.2 billion higher than expected: oddly EXACTLY equal to the amount require to run free public transport. So, no, there is no need to raise the GST level at all to pay for free public transport.

Anyway, the figure of 1.5% is over-inflated (surprise, surprise...) a MUCH smaller fraction is actually required to pay for transport. I will explain in a post.


4:53 PM  
Blogger Xtrocious said...

We must bear in mind that free may not be equal to good...

Free and if the standard is maintained, then yes, it's good for everyone...

But if it's free but at a much reduced standard, then what's the point?

1:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Xtrocious, there is no need to reduce the standard. A standard is easy to maintain - there need only be the will to do so. If, however, the standard is deliberately eroded then that would be an act of bad faith. (A kind of cheating would have the GST would have risen, but service would have fallen...not right).


9:18 AM  
Blogger Xtrocious said...

But that is what I suspect will happen...

They will treat it like another case of "welfarism" like the healthcare in UK or Australia...

It's "free" but you got to wait a long time to get treated...

In fact, it is just like our low-cost polyclinic services here...

And since it's "so cheap", they will tell you that you can't complain...

1:07 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I hope it doesn't work out that way Xtrocious - because many people have no car and no other option than public transport. If standards decline (even if free) then their lives will suffer.

Thanks for your insight.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous JohnnyKid said...

Singapore's model is based on providing its residents with jobs and then trying to take back as much as possible through tax and providing goods and services.

Providing free public transport runs contrary to this lucrative model.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Rebeca said...

Wow.... this is great plan. I never thought it would be possible in real life. But now i want to very very thanks for this decision, lot of people will helpful by this plan.

9:08 PM  

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