Prices going up, cigarettes going out

Bogged down as I have been in work, I only recently came to the realisation that we're four days away from July 1, when:
  • Singapore's goods and services tax (GST) will go up from 5% to 7% --- thank you, Apple Centre at Wheelock Place, for dutifully informing me of all the stuff I might wish to buy before the GST increase; and
I've sounded off on the GST hike before, and I maintain that retailers need to start distinguishing on their price tags between how much of the price is the actual cost-to-the-consumer-and-pocketed-by-the-retailer and how much of it is the GST-given-to-the-government. But of course, Singapore isn't exactly known for a healthy culture of consumer protection: Channel NewsAsia today reported that the Competition Commission of Singapore doesn't see anything awry with NETS' fee hike. Interestingly enough, the NETS fee hike (from 0.55% or less of a transaction to 1.5-1.8%, i.e. close to what credit card companies charge) also kicks in on July 1.

So from July 1, we can expect prices in Singapore to unilaterally rise by up to 4% (2% additional GST + up to 1.8% to cover the increased NETS fees) --- which is, by the way, more than the putative 3% rate of inflation that gets bandied about. Up with progress indeed.

As for the smoking ban, I take the point that non-smokers want to have their fun and not smell like it too, but already I'm a little nostalgic for the smoke-filled embrace of a crowded bar or dance club. Blame it on the fact that I dated a chain smoker in college. Blame it on the fact that while only 12% of Singaporeans smoke, in my social circle it seems that every other person does. I don't mind people smoking around me and it's a little odd to think that I'm witnessing the end of a cultural era of smoke-filled "entertainment outlets".

Of course, one might argue that my expression of sentimentality's disturbingly akin to, say, a denizen of sixteenth-century England lamenting the fact that women don't wear white lead makeup anymore. But the broader point is this: if the smoking ban is merely a legislative acceleration to make people stop Doing Things That Are Bad For Them, at what point is it acceptable for a government to interfere in a private decision or preference?

For instance, plagued as I am by reams of junk snailmail that gets shoved into my mailbox or wedged into the gate outside the apartment everyday, there are times when I have fascist urges to demand legislation that would outlaw such an egregious waste of paper. Or how about legislating against the consumption of sweetened drinks like Coke (still my favourite drink of all time, by the way) or Mountain Dew or any number of drinks that are of absolutely no nutritional value and arguably contribute to all the wider health problems associated with a diet with an excessive sugar intake?

My point is not that we should introduce more legislation à la the chewing gum ban. My point is at what point do we legislate all manner of human behaviour?

Meanwhile, I guess I'll be hanging out on the pavement a lot more from next week, enjoying the traffic pollution along with my friends' cigarette smoke.


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At 6/26/2007 12:07 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hear! hear! I totally agree. Although it is a slippery slope argument, it's only a matter of time before they ban something else in the interest of public health.

I'm surprised they haven't banned heavy drinking due to its killing of the liver and potential social dangers. Like drunk driving and drunk wife beating


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