Photo of Ng Chee Meng from Seah Kwang Ping The Straits Times

Defending the unpopular increase in airport taxes, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said that Singaporeans should appreciate that they are paying tax increases earlier otherwise they have to pay more later:

“Having users pay earlier avoids the large spikes in the amount they must pay later. Passengers will progressively enjoy the benefits from the Changi East project, which spans many phases including a third runway set to be operational in the early 2020s.”

The Education Minister also revealed that Terminal 5 will need “some 12 years” to be completed but did not give a specific price tag. Regarding it’s exorbitant price tag, Minister Ng Chee Meng commented that it would be profitable for the government in the future:

“The Government is making a strategic investment into Singapore’s future by funding the Changi East mega-project, of which Terminal 5 is a part. The airport yields considerable economic benefits for Singapore beyond the aviation industry, and is vital to the economy.”

The former army general added that Singaporeans would have to pay the bulk of the bill, and that without the S$9 billion, travellers would have to pay a lot more in airport taxes:

“The Government has already invested more than S$9 billion in the project, which is expected to run into tens of billions of dollars. On top of investing S$3.6 billion to date, CAG will commit its reserves and future surpluses, and take on substantial borrowing to fund the development… Travellers would have to pay much higher airport charges without a sizeable investment from the Government, which is footing the bulk of the bill for the project. The Government had considered a distance-based Airport Development Levy, where charges vary based on the distance travelled by passengers. But we decided that imposing a flat rate was only fair since travellers make use of the same airport facilities, irrespective of their destinations. This principle was used in other passenger charges, such as passenger service and security fees.”

Minister Ng Chee Meng also revised the capacity of Terminal 5 from the previous official figure of 50 million to 70 million:

“The Changi East project will include a third runway that will be operational in the early 2020s. Terminal 5, which will be completed around 2030, is expected to eventually handle up to 70 million passengers yearly, more than the capacity of Terminals 1, 2 and 3 combined… The Government, as a major investor, will ensure the money is spent prudently. Other than analysing Changi’s traffic projections thoroughly, it is also scrutinising the cost of Changi East. We will strive for the most cost-effective way to develop Changi East and ensure that Changi continues to be world-class.”