Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong (Non-Constituency Member): Mdm Chair, as we move towards a car-lite Singapore and improve our public transportation system to make it as cost-effective, reliable and comfortable as it was before, more individuals would choose to travel by bus and train rather than drive. However, it would take a generation to wean cars from our culture. For some, owning a car would remain an aspiration or a status symbol. For many others, owning a car is felt as a necessity, especially young families
In a car-lite Singapore, cars will become even more a scarcity than it is today. Therefore, the socio-economic inequality and wealth gap between Singaporeans will become reflected in car ownership. The Government created Category A for social equity reasons and had to re-categorise it recently to keep the Category for mass-market car buyers after luxury car buyers swamped the category and drove up prices. This will become a cat-and-mouse game between the re-categorisation of Category A and the reengineering of luxury makes to fit Category A, especially in car-lite Singapore.
Therefore, for a fairer COE system, would the Government consider adding a surcharge to the COE for cars owned by a single-generation household beyond the first car, and a multi-generation household beyond the second car? Like the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty for the property market, a carefully calibrated COE surcharge would help to reduce over-consumption on the part of the wealthy and help achieve some equity in the car market, especially in favour of young middle-income families. I understand a version of such a proposal was considered and rejected in 2013 by the LTA after public consultation due to the belief that it would be difficult to implement. If this is to be the reason again, would the Ministry explain the difficulties in implementation?
The Senior Minister of State for Transport (Mr Ng Chee Meng): Mdm Chairperson, I thank Members for their questions on car ownership, and taxi and chauffeured services.
But ultimately, the COE system is designed to help control Singapore’s vehicle population, given the land constraints. As Minister Khaw has explained, there is very limited room for us to grow the overall vehicle population, whether it is for cars or motorcycles. We should, therefore, be very cautious about increasing the COE supply in one form or another. Instead, we should be encouraging Singaporeans to move towards public transport. Having said that, I do know that COE is a hot topic and LTA does regularly review the COE framework to keep the system updated.
Assoc Prof Daniel Goh suggested levying COE surcharge on multiple COEs registered to a household. Indeed, he pointed out that this is not a new suggestion. MOT has consulted the public extensively in 2013 on this issue and the outcome of the discussion was that this form of surcharge or the form of proposal given by Dr Daniel Goh would be very easy to circumvent. It would also inadvertently penalise households that are larger.
LTA had, therefore, decided not to implement such a measure back in 2013 after extensive consultation. All the considerations and findings had been shared and discussed with Singaporeans.