Thousands of workers, students, traders, and tourists use the Malaysia-Singapore Causeway, which connects Johor City in Malaysia and the town of Woodlands in Singapore. This makes it a vital road and bridge network for the two countries. Toll fees are collected on both sides for the maintenance of the Causeway and to regulate the entry of vehicles.
On Aug. 1, Singapore increased the vehicle entry permit (VEP) fee. Malaysia, on the other hand, reciprocated by raising the toll fee near the Causeway. The cost of crossing the Causeway suddenly went up by almost 400 percent.
Singapore netizens quickly bemoaned the negative impact of the higher road fee on the domestic economy. Blogger “Better off Ted” warned that it will make trading between the two countries more costly:
These toll hikes are poorly thought out and will just hurt businesses and trade. Your food, raw material imports are going to be more expensive as traders claim that they need to recover their costs.
Jeff Cuellar blogged that the “price war” on the Causeway has already caused a lot of suffering:
The causeway is more than just a bridge – it’s a link between the two countries that accounts for plenty of commerce going both ways. Both sides should have known that any toll/fee increase from one side would elicit a reactionary “I’ll raise my toll too!” response from the other.
Now, we’re all caught in something of a “price war” that’ll only end up hurting everyone in the end.
In Malaysia, about 100 bus drivers refused to pay the new toll fee on Aug. 1, which caused heavy traffic. They only dispersed after local authorities promised to reconsider the toll rates. Because of the “bus strike”, thousands of commuters were stranded on the Causeway and were forced to walk in order to reach Singapore.
Commuters trek across causeway into Singapore after being stranded in JB bus strike http://t.co/jiRCZmYQH3 pic.twitter.com/AKLrAEYnLu
— TODAY (@TODAYonline) August 1, 2014
Buses on strike across causeway due to VEP toll charges #malaysia #singapore #causeway pic.twitter.com/3RQjPYGFLQ
— Rebecca (@beccaism) August 1, 2014
Stranded Malaysians walk across the Causeway: JOHOR BARU: Hundreds of Malaysians stranded… http://t.co/HQ1bXES1eS pic.twitter.com/p06ijmC3K9
— Dean Roon (@deanroon) August 2, 2014
The Johor Causeway should be opened up for people to walk into Singapore as an alternative to driving and paying.
— Sini Laken! (@Twt_Larkin) August 4, 2014
C.N. Chong wrote a letter to The Star, a Malaysian daily, explaining how the higher toll fee will hurt workers:
Paying such a large amount on a daily basis is already bad enough. Not every one of us daily commuters are rich simply because we are earning Singapore Dollars
We daily commuters certainly are a “trapped” bunch of people. The Singaporean tourists, weekend travellers and those coming over for business could consolidate and cut down on the number of trips in view of the exorbitant toll.
But the daily commuters, being working people cannot cut down on the numbers days they want to work.
Steven Choong from the opposition People's Justice Party demanded transparency in relation to the decision to increase the toll fee:
We Johoreans have never witnessed any obvious major maintenance work done on the Causeway in the last 25-30 years since the toll was first collected.
The rakyat [people] deserve accountability from all the ministries and departments involved and the income and expenditure accounts must be declared for public scrutiny immediately.
The “toll wars” between Singapore and Malaysia will generate higher revenues and profits, but the two countries must rethink the long-term impact of the higher fees on their respective economies.