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
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
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.