SINGAPORE: Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing addressed in Parliament on Tuesday (Jul 10) the cost of living in Singapore and measures taken by the Government to minimise the impact on low- and middle-income households.
But he first moved to caution that different groups of Singaporeans have different concerns.
“Elderly Singaporeans, retirees and their families will be more concerned with healthcare affordability,” he described. “Families with young children and infants may be more concerned with the prices of milk powder and educational programmes. Yet other families may be aspiring to buy their dream house or car.
“No single measure will express an individual’s ‘cost of living’ pressures fully, given the different needs and wants, the evolving aspirations and the potential gap between aspirations and anticipated means.”
Mr Chan added that certain items consumed daily, such as water and transport fares, could produce a disproportionate psychological impact despite not having the biggest absolute impact.
“The ‘bunching' of price increases, like the increases in water and electricity prices this month, can also have a disproportionate psychological impact,” he said.
The Minister noted how there are absolute measures of how prices of a particular basket of goods and services change over time, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI). But there are also factors beyond the Government’s control - such as global economic forces and Singapore’s market size.
Mr Chan then outlined the Government’s eight-point strategy for managing the cost of living in Singapore: By keeping the economy competitive; managing the Singapore dollar; diversifying sources of supply; promoting competition; managing the cost of doing business; focusing help schemes to do more for those with less; enabling consumers’ choice and lastly leveraging social enterprises.
NOT JUST ABOUT LOWER-INCOME
Later, in response to an additional question from Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa, Mr Chan stressed that it was not just lower-income groups the Government was concerned with.
“Of course as a general policy we try to do more for the lower-income and perhaps the retirees first,” he said. “Having said that, the Government is very aware of the aspirations and needs of the middle-income group. That is why we have a broad-based swathe of measures that I have alluded to help everyone.
“We try to help everyone in Singapore by making sure that those with the least get the most, but that doesn’t mean that those with more don’t get anything. It’s just a tiering of the help schemes that we have.”
Mr Chan continued: “For many of the middle-income … We try to do as much as we can to help their seniors, to relieve the burden of the middle-income households with elderly parents.
“We want to make sure that their children’s education remains affordable and everyone will have similar opportunities to excel and to fulfil their potential. Our promise as a Government is, so long as someone is capable and committed, they should not need to have to worry about their means, their family circumstances. That’s why we give out as many scholarships, as many bursary awards as possible to help our students excel."
In his response earlier, he concluded: “Cost of living pressures will always be present in various forms. Managing the challenges is never-ending work ... Most importantly, we recognise Singaporeans’ evolving aspirations for a better life for ourselves and our families, and the associated stress of achieving real income growth in a volatile economic environment.”
By ensuring every Singaporean has a good job; helping Singaporeans stretch their hard-earned dollar; and giving the most help to those who may need a bit more - these are the ways the Government is committed to tackling the cost of living issue, said Mr Chan.