Inspiring Conversations

The Mysterious Miscellaneous

  • SumoMe

We examine why Singapore should adopt the “if the cost fits, show it” policy. 

An article by Penny K

I got on the cab, “To Holland Village, please.”

He replied, “Which way, miss?”

I said, “To be honest, I’m not quite sure.”

The reply came, “Ah, don’t care much for the roads do you?”

I said, “I do care, I do. But try as I might, I still fail terribly at giving directions so I don’t bother anymore.”

After my embarrassing confession, I tried to lay as low as possible. I almost fell asleep.

imagesOut of nowhere, this taxi driver, in his 50s, exclaims, “What is this?! THREE ERP* GANTRIES IN A ROW??” I was jolted out of my late afternoon lull. “This is ridiculous”, he spits.

Things like ERP are some of the daily frustrations of Singaporeans. Each of the gantries we would have passed, if not for the taxi driver’s quick avoidance reflexes, would have cost him $3. Roads aren’t cheap to maintain but with roads like ours, the ERP is justified though some would think this point debatable. ERP also helps to control traffic. Case in point: the taxi driver took the longer route to avoid the busier roads. But guess who ended up paying more.

He went on to his next gripe, “You know the other day – and I’m sorry to bore you with my complaints (“Oh it’s no problem”, I replied) – I was at the hospital for my regular check up. The nurse hands me the receipt which recorded the consultation fee, cost of medication, and then… “miscellaneous.” I knew immediately where he was heading with this one.

“Oh,” I deadpan, “The Mysterious Miscellaneous.”images-2

“You’re so right in saying that! Mysterious Miscellaneous! So I asked her, “Excuse me miss, what exactly is this miscellaneous for?”” He said she couldn’t answer.

Hospitals have operational costs but it’s certainly unfair to categorise such costs as “miscellaneous”. It’s almost as if, like in the case of the taxi driver’s story, the hospital was being bashful about claiming credit for administering to their patient, getting him the medical help he needed. 

Why? If you’re going to collect money to ensure things run efficiently do it loud and proud like the ERP. Leave the false modesty to things like paying for dinner, comparing academic results and who cooks better. 

*Electronic Road Pricing is an electronic toll collection scheme implemented in Singapore to manage traffic by road pricing as well as a usage-based taxation mechanism to complement the purchase-based Certificate of Entitlement system when one buys a vehicle. 

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