Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Chia Hui Keng explains passport fee hike

This is the article published today on Straits Times Forum:

I REFER to the letter by Mrs Ng Beng Choo, 'Passport renewal cost' (March 30).

As with most other public services, the passport fee is determined based on a cost-recovery model. The cost of producing a passport cannot simply be linked to frequency or duration of use.

The Singapore biometric passport is a more secure travel document and is fully compliant with the International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements for cross-border travel.

The cost, and hence the fee, for a biometric passport is higher than that of a non-biometric passport, as it comes with added features to ensure its integrity and sturdiness. The shorter validity period for the biometric passport allows for new technologies to be incorporated more rapidly, thus deterring passport forgery and abuse.

In this way, we can ensure that the passports held by Singaporeans are protected by up-to-date security features.

We hope that the above information clarifies any doubts that Mrs Ng and other passport applicants may have with regard to the cost of the biometric passport.

Chia Hui Keng (Ms)
Head, Public & Internal Communications Branch
Corporate Communications Division
Immigration & Checkpoints Authority


May I quote a personal experience. I was a Bus Leader for one of those Muar trip that Hougang Constituency organized. While we were on our way back, I had a chat with the bus driver who is a Singaporean, holds a Singapore passport and of course stays in Singapore. Because of his occupation he has to pass the custom almost every single day.

The new passport which cost $70 for 5 years also comes with lesser pages. The bus driver used up all his pages within 6 months. He went to ICA and tried to ask for page extension but was rejected.

As mentioned by Ms Chia, the cost of passport cannot simply be linked to frequency or duration of use. That is to say, the price of the passport is not entirely linked to these factors but am I right to deduce that it is still a factor?

Since I'm at the topic of passport, I would like to share another personal experience I had recently.

I went for a 4D3N Hong Kong trip with my parents and aunt last week. Due to the long queue, I decided to bring my folks through the biometric scan for clearance which was faster. I was explaining to them on how they should insert the passport, walk through the gantry, scan for thumb print and go through the clearance. Before I can finish, an officer, clad in her navy blue uniform came to me. I thought she was coming forward to show concern and ask if we had encountered any problem. I was wrong!

"Miss, you go in last ah so that you can help them if there is any problem."

I stared at her in disbelief as she turned around and walked away, asking her colleague if they would love to have coffee as she was going to the canteen to get one.

Since I'm on a holiday I don't wish to spoil my mood hence I grumbled a bit and let the matter rest. I cannot help but feel sorry for especially elderly people who do not know how to use the faster access and had to join in the long queue despite their health or physical disabilities. What's worse is, if they tried using the biometric scanning clearance, the officer who is there to help may get frustrated with them and starts to sound inpatient, making the old folks feel bad and embarrassed.

The objective of having biometric passport is to enhance security and at the same time shorten the time used for clearing the custom. However, it is not so for the elderly and illiterate Singaporeans. I'm not saying that we should not advance and keep up with technology but let's not forget this group of Singaporeans who had once and is still continuing to contribute to our country. Let's be more patient with this group of Singaporeans.

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