Certificate of Entitlement: valuable or gap increasing? A case study on policy success in Singapore
By Eveline Monrooij and Alysa Eijkelenboom
Singapore is one of the most sustainable cities in the world according to the Asia Sustainable Cities Index 2018 by Arcadis. At the same time it is one of the fastest growing cities worldwide. This comes at a cost. Roads are becoming too packed and there’s no way of creating more roads (Poon, 2016; C40 Cities, 2013). In order to manage this growth, Singapore decided to limit the amount of cars by implementing a regulation, called the Certificate of Entitlement (COE). This certificate has to be purchased in order to own a private vehicle. The amount of available certificates is calculated by a system (the Vehicle Quota System), which looks at the amount of deregistered vehicles, the allowable growth of vehicles and the amount of expired or cancelled COEs (Lew & Choi, 2016; Land Transport Authority, sd). Given this rather unique solution to the problem, the question rises if this regulation is successful. Compton and ‘t Hart (2019) describe four dimensions on how to get a successful policy, of which we will highlight three.
Does the regulation work and what are its outcomes?
First, we look if this regulation will have an impact on stopping the growth of the owned cars in Singapore while also delivering it in such a way that it will have valuable social outcomes. The Singaporean government did in fact stop the growth of owned cars by making the allowable growth of COEs zero percent in 2018 (Goh, 2017). The question then is, if they have produced valuable social outcomes. Since the growth of available COEs has been stopped, prices for the COEs skyrocketed. People can obtain a COE by bidding on it, making it impossible for the poor to obtain a certificate and therefore impossible to buy a car. They can no longer afford to pay for a car which makes their way of transport less easy. However, the Singaporean government is investing more and more in public transport, they are expanding their train system rapidly and their public transport is one of the best in the world, giving people ample other ways of transport (LTA, sd; Rakin, 2018).
Another outcome of this regulation is that the government also made strict requirements of emissions and petrol (Goh, 2017). There are two categories on COEs for cars, making owning a less energy efficient car more expensive, which is encouraging people to get more energy efficient or electric cars. This, combined with the stagnated growth of private owned cars, reduces the emissions of cars.
The government of Singapore is characterized by its top-down way of policy-making. Singapore is a one-party state where the People’s Action Party (PAP) has all the power. There is no opposition in the government. Despite the fact that the PAP basically controls the government, the people of Singapore have great trust in their Prime Minister and the National Government (Ramesh & Bali, 2019). As a result of this political dominance, the government has been able to initiate, develop and implement unpopular policies like implementing the COEs without the fear of losing political support (Ramesh & Bali, 2019).
In conclusion, the ends of the regulations were met. It can however be noted that the regulation is not fair for all Singaporeans. Even though the regulation has positive outcomes regarding sustainability, we’re wondering if achieving these goals are worth the unfair and unjust consequences. We ask ourselves if successful government in a government like Singapore needs to be assessed differently or if policy success in a one-party government never really can be successful. In our opinion this assessment of Compton and ‘t Hart (2019) needs to be adjusted if we want to use it in cases similar to Singapore. This because the top-down policy way of policy making in Singapore achieves its goals but isn’t successful government according to Compton and ‘t Hart (2019).
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Compton, M. E. and ‘t Hart, P. (2019). How to ‘See’ Great Policy Successes. A Field Guide to Spotting Policy Successes in the Wild. In Compton, M. E. and ‘t Hart, P., Great Policy Successes (pp. 1-18). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goh, C. (2017). Singapore LTA Cuts Vehicle Growth Rate to Zero. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/lta-cuts-vehicle-growth-rate-to-zero-9335560
Land Transport Authority. (sd). Certificate of Entitlement (COE). Retrieved from: https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/roads-and-motoring/owning-a-vehicle/vehicle-quota-system/certificate-of-entitlement-coe.html.
Land Transport Authority. (sd.). LTA’s Role in Public Bus Services. Retrieved from: https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/buses/lta-role-in-public-bus-services.html
Lew Y. D. and Choi C. C. (2016). Chapter 1: Overview of Singapore Land Transport. In F. T. Fang, 50 Years of Transportation in Singapore (pp. 1-6). World Scientific.
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Rakin, E. (2018). Singapore’s public transport system is one of the best in the world: McKinsey report. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.sg/singapores-public-transport-system-is-one-of-the-best-in-the-world-mckinsey-report/
Ramesh, M. & Bali, A. (2019). The Remarkable health care performance in Singapore. Compton, M.E. & ’t Hart, P. (Eds.), Great Policy Successes. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2019.