Sing Post reduces its delivery frequency from six to five days beginning May 2010. The cutback is attributed to a change in lifestyle, including less use of traditional mail by Singaporeans. The phenomena is not restricted to Singapore, the US Post Office is also considering dropping Saturday delivery services.
Undoubtedly, email and e-cards have dented the use of ordinary mail. Few write letters or mail greeting cards anymore. I enjoy sending post cards if I visit unusual places but how often does one visit Zanzibar or Munich?
In Singapore's case, there is possibly an additional factor at play. In January 2010, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) reclassified Singapore as a developed nation from its earlier category as a developing nation.
The removal of Singapore's classification as a developing nation means that it pays more to other nations under multilateral agreements. A reduced work week is an easy way to reduce Sing Post's operating costs to compensate for the increased UPU charges.
The UPU, established in 1874, coordinates international postal activities among its 191 member countries. The UPU therefore determines how postal services compensate each other for delivery and transit services. Have you ever thought about the economics of paying Singapore Post for delivery in, say, Pakistan? Does Pakistan Post receive any benefit from delivering the letter for which I paid fifty cents?
I am not an expert on what must obviously be a complicated system, but the UPU does have guidelines for the payment of 'terminal dues and transit charges.' In the days of letter writing, postal authorities assumed that a letter always begot a reply so costs between the various national postal systems balanced / cancelled each other. The 'reply' assumption does not hold true today.
Over time, Singapore's status as a developed nation will have other implications. Singapore will be expected to contribute more generously to multilateral organisations, including the World Bank.
Sing Post's changes are among the first institutional examples of Singapore's slow transformation to developed nation status. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when the postal authorities are grappling with a social revolution in how humans communicate with each other. Letter writing is a relic of the past.
Simultaneously, the mindset of the Singaporean leader and bureaucrat must adapt to the change. Singapore will be required to make decisions and be counted within the world community. It will not always be possible to hide in the shadows and avoid controversy. Affluence brings responsibilities, opportunities and risks.