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Not just a matter of S$2

● 李喜梅 Lee Hee Boy
A BABBLE of grumbles has been buzzing among the people who, 
under pressure from a fast-changing society, are finding it 
hard to bear the burden of livelihood.

  Things are said to be back to normal after the economic 
woes. Yet, before people's purse could restore to what it 
used to be, there came the news about transport fare hikes. 

  Then came the announcement that POSBank, long reputedly 
"the people's bank", would impose a minimum balance of S$500
and slap a fall-below service charge of S$2 monthly on small
account holders aged between 21 and 62. "A fee hike in 
disguise", as some grumbled.

  The transport fare hikes and the fall-below bank fee 
will affect a large sector of the population, especially the
lower-income masses. 

  Many of them have yet to find a job after being laid off
during the economic downturn, while others are people who 
live from hand to mouth, earning barely enough to pay rent 
and keep their families afloat. Still others, for some 
special reasons, have lost working abilities and have to 
live on savings or insurance. 

  Bus fare hikes will affect all commuters, chiefly 
students, their parents, and factory workers. 

  The number of POSBank and DBS bank account holders 
affected by the proposed fall-below fee, according to 
newspaper reports, will reach half a million, some of them 
holding multiple accounts. 

  A monthly fee of S$2 from this large number of people 
together will be a huge sum. Yet, while one can't be sure 
POSBank will make a profit out of it after paying the cost, 
one must admit in all fairness that the fee is reasonable. 

  Pay the mere price of a helping of chicken rice, and you
can continue to use GIRO and other services provided by the 
bank. This will save you the trouble of queuing up in 
person to pay your PUB, SingTel and other bills, besides the
time and transport fares needed for the trips involved. 

  After all, there is no free lunch in this world. Other 
banks have long started to charge similar fees. Why, then, 
are people displeased with POSBank?

  They are unhappy because they feel hurt, as I see it. 
Or, they feel as though they have difficulty breathing 
freely, as a Cantonese saying goes. 

  People in Singapore have watched POSBank grow up 
throughout the decades. From a modest counter within the 
post office, it has now developed into a modern bank housed 
in tall buildings. 

  With the GIRO and current account services it provides 
for free, the broad masses are entering a cash-less era. 
Meanwhile, the bank's long-time efforts to serve the masses 
have earned a place in people's hearts for its logo of the 
big key.

  Its ATM machines bearing the key design at every turn of
the street, along with the ATM cards in almost everyone's 
pocket, have become an integral part of life for many 

  Two years ago, in a bid for higher competitiveness, 
POSBank merged with DBS Bank, the de-facto national bank of 
the country. At that time, DBS was actively introducing 
talent from abroad, hoping to bring about a restructured 
bank that would prosper regionally and globally. 

  Regrettably, today we find the key logo above the 
DBS-POSBank ATMs much dwindled in size, and even the name of
POSBank is missing from the ATM's screen.

  Obviously, POSBank has finished what it was meant to do.
Now it is gradually shedding off its image of "the people's
bank". This is, however, inevitable and irresistible. 

  Hence the unhappiness among the people. The average 
bank-user would gladly spend a few more dollars on lottery 
every month, plus the time in the queue, rather than pay the
fee to the bank that has been providing high-quality 
services for free for so long.

  Herein lies a complex bred of sentiments more than a 
mere S$2 fee can explain or solve. 

  Now, it is high time to persuade people to give up old 
ideas and adopt new mindsets. Yet it is a painstaking task
to change their minds. Just think of the masses who are 
still having difficulty handling the computer mouse while we
are relishing the prospects of Internet, dot.com, and 

  There are still large crowds who are English-illiterate 
and barely educated in their native languages, especially 
those already past middle age. They are still denied the 
benefits of electronic technologies. 

  These are people who need care and assistance. 

  Indeed, when advancing to keep up with the changing 
times, those leading the way should take care not to leave 
others far behind. They would be well-advised to look back 
from time to time and lend a helping hand to those lagging 

  After all, the slower movers have made their 
contribution to what Singapore is today. 


  最近坊间人们议论纷纷,身为小市民者莫不埋怨社会前进的无形 张力,颇有生活担子不胜负荷之感。   说是经济复苏了,粮袋还没恢复元气,就听到公共交通费要起价 ;连号称人民银行的储蓄银行老字号,也将订立最低存款数额,对存 款不足500元的户头征收手续费,对象是21岁至62岁之间的人士。有 人把这形容为“变相的起价”。   公共交通费涨价和银行征收最低存款服务费影响层面广,中下层 阶级人士首当其冲,其中好些是被裁退还没找到工作,有些则是收入 仅仅足够养家、供屋,属于手停口停的阶层。有些是因个别境遇失去 工作能力,靠储蓄或保险金过活的。   巴士交通费起价是每个乘客都受到影响,主要是学生、工人、家 长;至于银行服务费方面,受影响的银行客户,据报章的资料,约达 50万个户头之多,其中一些持有超过一个的银行户头。   每月两元,若以50万人次计,是个庞大的数目,银行在扣除提供 服务的成本后,是否有利可图,我们不得而知。然而,“$2”,相当 于一包鸡饭的价格,却能省去排队付款所花的时间与交通费。平心而 论,这样的收费不能算不合理,毕竟,天下没有免费的午餐;况且, 类似的措施在一些银行早就有了,那么人们不满的情绪从何而来?我 想,关键在于人们觉得感情受到伤害,心里头不舒服,粤语所谓的“ 条气不顺”也。   我们看着储蓄银行成长,由邮政局里的一个小柜台发展到现代 化高楼大厦;小市民也随着它的脚步迈入无现金缴费的时代,免费财 路付款、支票服务等。当局花了不少心血,好不容易才把“锁匙标” 银行打入人民的心目中,在街头巷尾设立提款机,人手一卡,成为众 多新加坡人生活中不可欠缺的一部分。   两年前,为了提高竞争力,与号称国家银行的发展银行合并。那 时,发展银行正积极引进外来人才,以期能把改组后的银行带入区域 ,走向世界,大展鸿图。   今天,我们看到各角落的提款机上储蓄银行的标志已大幅度缩小 ,甚至名称也不在提款荧光屏上出现了。显然的,事态发展至今,储 蓄银行已经完成它的时代使命,正逐渐脱离,或者说,不再保持“人 民银行”的形象和地位了。这是阻挡不了、无法避免的大势所趋。   大家的心里都觉得不好受。每个月两元,小市民情愿每周去排队 花多几元买“希望”中多多,就是不愿付给一路来提供免费优质服务 的“锁匙标”银行!这其中的情意结,又岂是区区“$2”所能覆盖得 了?   现在是劝说人们改变旧观念、学习与接受新事物的时候。然而 ,人事是最繁杂的工作,不可掉以轻心。试想,当我们高谈dot.com 、电子银行、互联网的时候,还有多少小市民还在设法捉住“老鼠” (滑鼠器)而苦恼?有多少不谙英文、只受过基本母语教育,尤其是 中年以上的人,还是生活在“电子时代”以外的隙缝里?他们都需要 人们的关注与援手。   总之,我们在与时并进的步伐中,带队的请注意别走得过急了; 也须不时回头望一望,伸手拉一拉掉队的人一把,毕竟,他们也曾是 旧时代的铺路功臣。
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