Singapore, New Zealand, and Usury at Home


Singapore, New Zealand, and Usury at Home

When I wrote this, I was taking the scenic route to San Diego for PIE, which is now, sadly, canceled. I had decided to go through Singapore and then spend a month in New Zealand. 

 Anyway, I am writing this sitting in a fairly upmarket hotel in central Singapore that I visited about four years ago. Back then it was all mirror glass and chandeliers with a grand two-story foyer – the epitome of class. However, it has just been refurbished and arrival is now to a cubby hole at the bottom of a lift which takes you up three storys to a reception that would look out of place at a budget motel. Whatever the thinking behind this, it wasn’t customer impact. 

Singapore has the highest standard of living in the world and is very, very tech savvy. However, the hotel designer seems to have forgotten basics, such as making guests’ lives easier, in pursuit of the bright, shiny new of technology. The old hotel had switches, and if you wanted to turn a light on or off, they did the job. Better yet, the switches were located in places, like by the door, so when you entered or left the room: light on, light off as required. 

Similarly, switches by the bed with the same purpose. One step, on/off, simple. Much too prosaic for the 21st century. Now the room has a central controller to operate all the lights, and there you have the first problem. Central is half way between the bed and the door, so, it can’t be reached from either. At night the light control is 10 feet from the door leaving me literally in the dark. 

When I am ready to sleep, I have to get out of bed to fiddle with the dammed control panel to turn out the lights and then stumble around in the dark to get back to bed. It gets better, with the old tech light switches, operation is press once for on/off. With this dammed thing, it’s five or six steps to turn a light on or off. 

When, oh, when will people understand that change and improvement are not synonyms, and just because something is new and shiny that doesn’t mean that it’s better than what we have? Indeed, despite the sales pitch, it may be worse. A message just as relevant to our industry where all too often bright, shiny things are dangled that offer little or no benefit over the status quo. For the hotel, I can only think that their electricity bill has rocketed as guests leave lights on, rather than thrash around in the dark.

Interestingly for such a go-ahead city, the main payment system for street parking is still a paper scratch card, like a lottery ticket. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


New Zealand

Another day, another country. I am now sitting in a small town in New Zealand South Island. This is a really great country with about the same surface area as Britain, but a population of just over 4.75 million. It’s empty. They are not having it easy right now with a string of earthquakes destroying roads and buildings and that is compounded by massive storms that wash out roads and leave towns cut off.

Perhaps because so much has had to be rebuilt it explains why much of the visible parking kit is very bright and shiny. Four years ago, most parking was free to use, but now it seems that just about any town with street lighting has introduced charging. This certainly isn’t a measured response to manage demand – it’s simply a money maker, and nothing wrong with that when you have so much to fix post the apocalypse. 

Pay and display/by plate meters are the norm and look pretty neat. Not sure of the make, but they require license plate entry, pay by coin or card, some places card only. If you want a receipt, the screen gives you a transaction number and you have to go online and download it. Not sure what you do if you aren’t online? Oh, and just about everywhere has E-vehicle chargers, none of which I saw in use. And that points to a problem. 

The chargers are charged for and you have to have a subscription to use them. Trouble is that there is more than one subscription service, so to be truly accessible any E-vehicle owner has to join multiple schemes to have full access. Not exactly as simple as pulling up, filling the tank and paying. Right now, however, the NZ government seems to be at sixes and sevens about whether or not they do, or indeed should, promote E-vehicles.

 Legislation was on the table which would slap a penal tariff on ICE cars and use the money to subsidize E-vehicles. But “hang on a minute” said a politico, “that works just fine for the chattering metropolitan elite but penalizes the up-country farm boys who would never be able to exist without their Toyota pickup”. Other brands are available. So, the policy that was going to save the world could just kill the agro-industry that is the backbone of the New Zealand economy. So, the policy is off the table, maybe.

I also visited Christchurch during my stay. This beautiful pacific city had the heart ripped out of it in 2011 with two dreadful earthquakes and has been slowly recovering ever since. This beautiful city now suffers a new horror, the electric scooter. Driven around by trainee kamikaze pilots, they threaten the health and tranquillity of any pedestrian while in motion and are an eyesore and a trip hazard as they are simply dumped when not wanted. 

However, people are fighting back. A local ordinance means that any vehicle, including these works of the devil, that is parked on private land can be towed and the release fee is $NZ 200. The local “Towie” already has a nice collection and is waiting to hear from Messrs Lime and their ilk, and no he is not contemplating a discount. Incidentally, in the 15 months since e-scooters arrived in NZ the total hospital bill is $NZ 7million and counting.

Usury at Home

Before I go, a little snippet from the mother country which surprises me not at all. Our government is completely gung-ho on promoting electric vehicles with the changeover completed by 2035. This is an article of political faith which doesn’t seem to rely on facts or be amenable to reasoned debate. To achieve this, of course, will require a massive network of chargers which will be supplied by the market. 

So far, so good, or not. Nasty anti-government investigative journalists have found out that some of these charging points are marking up fuel charges by a factor of nine! That is nine times the cost of buying the electricity at home. That means that in the worst case a driver would pay £23 for the electricity to drive a Nissan Leaf 100 miles, that’s roughly twice the cost of doing it in an equivalent petrol car. Usury is still a crime in Britain ,but apparently not if you are supporting a government policy!

I’m sorry I won’t see you all at PIE, but we’ll be back at it next year.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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