Singapore

Government will 'help mitigate' cost of living issue: Chan Chun Sing

Chan Chun Sing says the issue is not a one-dimensional subject about price changes

Prices of goods and services in Singapore may be rising at a slower pace, but Singaporeans still feel the squeeze, convinced the cost of living is rising faster.

In tackling the issue yesterday, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament that cost of living is not a one-dimensional subject about price changes.

People's aspirations, and their ability to fulfil them, can also affect their perception of the issue, Mr Chan explained.

Still, he acknowledged their concerns, saying "we recognise Singaporeans' evolving aspirations for a better life for themselves and their families, and the associated stress of achieving real income growth in a volatile economic environment".

He assured Singaporeans the Government is committed to help mitigate the situation.

"Beyond creating opportunities for Singaporeans to enjoy real wage growth to meet their aspirations, the Government is also committed to help Singaporeans stretch their hard-earned dollar," he said, replying to Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who had asked whether the cost of living has increased significantly.

The issue has gained traction in recent months with the rise of electricity tariffs and water prices.

Beyond creating opportunities for Singaporeans to enjoy real wage growth to meet their aspirations, the Government is also committed to help S’poreans stretch their hard-earned dollar. Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing

But looking at absolute measures, overall inflation in Singapore has, in fact, declined between 2012 and last year, compared with the five-year period before it, said Mr Chan.

LOWER

The Consumer Price Index - which captures price changes - for all items was 0.6 per cent a year on average for the past five years. This was lower than the average of 4 per cent between 2007 and 2012.

The figure is likely to remain low this year, with overall inflation expected to be between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent, said Mr Chan.

But he gave a word of caution, saying rising global oil prices is expected to increase fuel costs and electricity prices.

However, he foresees any potential consumer price rise to be moderate alongside a faster pace of wage growth and improvements in the labour market.

He outlined the Government's eight strategies in managing the "pressure points" that spark worries over cost of living.

They include keeping the economy competitive, diversifying sources of supply for goods, focusing on giving help to those with less and working with social enterprises.

Acknowledging that Singaporeans in other income groups also hope for help in areas like education and housing, he said this was already being done, although the amount of subsidies or assistance is tiered based on people's needs.

While this is politically more difficult, it is the economically and socially sound thing to do, he said.

Giving the same help to everyone without discrimination "also cannot be the wisest way to expend our finite resources to help those who need more".

"Ultimately, we must forge a social consensus on how much we want to tax the general public, to support the desired groups in a targeted manner."

COMMUNITY ISSUES