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Friday, October 02, 2009

"After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood." - Fred Thompson


Economic growth and social progress did not serve human beings. On the contrary, the primary function of citizens was to fuel economic growth - a weird reversal of values. The reign of Moloch had begun

Focus on needs of residents, not profit

I REFER to last Thursday's report, 'Town councils to be assessed individually'.

I am 52 years old, and have been unemployed for the past 18 months. Before that, my earnings were fitful, especially after my business collapsed and I lost part of a leg to diabetes.

So, I fell behind in my service and conservancy (S&C) charges. The first time it happened, my town council, the Jalan Besar Town Council, took me to court.

The result: the arrears of $432 I owed for not paying a year's worth of S&C charges for my three-room flat ballooned to more than $1,000.

My new debt included court penalties and late payment charges.

When I tried to settle subsequent S&C charges to avoid a fresh spiral of hefty penalties for non-payment, I was rejected. The town council ruled that I had to settle the old debt before I could pay the new charges.

Naturally, this led to more penalties as my fresh S&C arrears spiked. So, I am now some $3,000 in debt to my town council.

I have appealed to my Member of Parliament for help many times but the final reply invariably remained unchanged: pay up.

The spiral of debt a resident accumulates can be daunting because of the unremitting add-ons of penalties by which an unforgiving system of collection turns monthly arrears into substantial debt.

Town councils shouldn't be surprised if residents like myself, who face tough times, wonder why we aren't being helped via the excess revenue collected; revenue which is instead ploughed into loss-making investments.

Shouldn't any excess revenue be refunded to residents via rebates?

If town councils are keen to invest, set up a fund offering soft loans to residents to tide them over tough times and pay service and conservancy charges.

In fact, what's wrong with providing soft loans for subsidiary concerns of families, like private tuition, renovation or even a family holiday? So what if some of the loans go bad? Better to lose money by lending to residents than to banks whose only motive is profit.

Town councils should focus single-mindedly on helping residents, and not on making profit or squaring the bottom line.

Lim Beo Thiam

I wonder if one of their KPIs is fees collected and profits made.
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