I was visiting a part of Singapore where there was a new MRT station but a small population of residents around that station. I expressed that it was such a waste of taxpayer’s money to build a station there when hardly anyone lived there and yet the cost of the station is borne by the population. On the other hand, there were amenities which were not built in more densely populated locations in Singapore where it would be needed and served way more people.
Then it dawned on me that if you have the transport node in place, the value of the land surrounding it would rise and any further developments in the area would be more valuable. The government being the main land owner around the new MRT station in this sleepy village would eventually benefit from the land sales. So in some sense, it was ‘investing’ in the taxpayer’s money for the future.
But to a certain extent, this argument mean that there’s probably no point building or serving the places where you’re originally extracting taxes from because those taxpayers would be the ones benefiting disproportionately from the developments rather than the government. I wonder how this calculus works. Public finance is actually such a fascinating topic worth more public awareness and public education on.
I think it’s such a pity that when budget of the government is presented, the things that catches people’s attention is mostly about what sort of handout or welfare benefits are coming along and for who. There’s insufficient attention placed on how much is spent on what infrastructure, where they are going to be, who they are going to serve and why. The common man should know, and should be questioning these.
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