COE: Problems and Thoughts by Five Stars and A Moon

COE is very high. We won’t argue with that.

Even the Ministry of Transport and Minister Lui Tuck Yew is worried, and for good reason. They fear Singaporeans will never be able to afford the widely touted “C”(as in the 4 Cs of the Singaporean Dream).

We did ground work, questioned people, read online comments and came face to face with Facebook chats to have a look at the ideas from everyday citizens.

But before we continue, let us agree on a few things:

a.) EVERYBODY wants a car

Everybody. It is no use telling us that public transport is cheaper and more convenient. We all want four wheels…to flaunt, for convenience, for necessity, for security, for more girlfriends…

 (…because if you want to date them…)
 (…this will make it so much easier.)

b.) Singapore does not have enough space for so many cars

We only have some 700 square kilometers. “Sway” lor.

c.) If you WANT something badly, you will find ways to get it

This means you will try to beat the system. So whatever policies you have in place, you have to guard against loopholes.

So now that we have an accord (pun intended), let’s have a look at those ideas on how to curb car use.


  • Grant COE first cheaply to those who need it.

Who needs it? Business people? Sales people? Those in wheelchairs? The blind? Families of those in wheelchairs and are blind? Those with children? Those with old people? Women and children? We face a moral problem here – which Government department (or politician) wants to be in-charge of determining who needs a car?

The Loophole: Could there be a situation where those that usually don’t need a car (such as many wheelchair bound), suddenly rush to buy a car, just because its so cheap? Will their family members use their status to acquire one for their own use?

What if a black market forms from this policy loophole?

Verdict: Not good idea.

  • Taxis: They are the culprits. Split taxi COEs to a new category

We do not have data (yet) about how true this is, but let’s assume it is anyway.

Who determines how many taxis are needed? If we keep a free market system, and a “taxi COE” was implemented, more new taxis will go on the road. Maybe taxi COEs could even be $1 (since there are only so many taxi companies). Taxi companies will benefit.

The Loophole: More will want to be “part time taxi drivers” just to use a car. In fact, already there are so many that use the taxi for their own transportation, sending their kid to school and coming home to sleep…. selling insurance and ferrying real estate clients (*wink wink, you know who you are*) These people don’t need passengers, they pick up a passenger or two when they’re in the mood.

Verdict: Not a good idea. Come to think of it, could this be the reason why Hong Kong has sooo many taxis?

(Hong Kong: Taxis during mating season)
  • Increase COE prices for families (200-500%) with more then one car

This came from one who was unhappy with richer families owning more then one car. But arguably, only one person can drive one car at a time.

There are also families with multiple kids, or parents living with them etc. Are we unfairly penalizing families with more children (And hence sabotaging procreation).

The Loophole: “My dad has a car, stays with me and now when I have to buy a new car, I have to pay 5 times more, sorry dad, COE is more important, you gotta go”.


“Hey, I don’t have a car – why don’t you pay me to use my quota?”

Verdict: Not a good idea.

  • Ballot system

Otherwise known as: “tikam”. A set number of COEs goes into the market and people will ballot for a chance to own one. So, what about those who “need it”? This would create difficult barriers for them.

The Loophole: If we have a ballot system, would this encourage people to try their luck? This could also create a black market – those who get the ballot could mark-up and sell to those who don’t.

Verdict: Not a good idea.

  • Moving Average COE system

COE prices are determined on the moving average of prices of the past X months; making it affordable, yet with quota, there won’t be a burst of vehicles.

Hmmm. I still cannot understand this to be honest. The COE operates on a mechanism of bid. If we use the average of 5 months worth of data and artificially determine the 6th, how would that work out for the 7th, 8th, 9th etc ?

The Loophole: We don’t understand this as yet and cannot comment.

Verdict: This requires more thinking.

  • Remove COEs and let the market buy freely: let the inconvenience control usage

With all due respect, this has by far been the most absurd idea.

The Loophole: There isn’t one because it’s so absurd.

Verdict: Mad.

The COE system is not perfect, like everything in life. But so far its the most sound solution.

If you have any ideas, please do write in and let us know: we’ll be glad to publish those that are worthy of debate and consideration!

by Five Stars and A Moon
Link : COE: Problems and Thoughts 


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