Members of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon GRC urged the Government, especially the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), to bring back a committee against profiteering to ensure that establishments such as coffee shops do not profiteer by raising prices using water fee hikes as an excuse.
Such a committee was set up in 1994 to look into complaints and feedback on establishments that were allegedly profiteering by using increases in Goods and Services Tax as an excuse.
Speaking to reporters after a residents’ dialogue with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Sunday (5 March), Er Dr Lee Bee Wah said that the ministry could investigate whether any increases since the water price hikes were announced on 20 February were justifiable,
She also noted that water prices were going up in two phases only on 1 July this year and next.
She stressed that it is timely to activate the committee so that residents can use WhatsApp to feedback, and it can go investigate, echoing a call by MP Lim Biow Chuan during the Budget debate. Highlighting that if checks on any coffee shops that raised prices after 20 February are not done, then other businesses may follow suit.
She also added that termed price increases of even 10 cents for coffee on the basis of higher water prices as “too much”, saying that this is because the 30 percent increase in water prices translates into users paying 60 cents more per 1,000 litres of water, which is actually enough for about 5,000 cups of coffee.
Ms Lee raised eyebrows when she earlier commented on the increase of water prices when it was first announced in Parliament by the Minister of Finance. She said, “the increase of the water price, is just to bring up the awareness of the importance of water, but I am sure there will be families who need help so it is a good gesture to help.”
Mr Shanmugam, who spoke at the dialogue at Nee Soon South Community Club, which took place before an International Women’s Day health talk in the constituency, stressed the need for Singapore to balance expenditure and income.
He said that in every country, people want to pay less tax, and they want more from the Government. However, he noted that it does not work. “In the end, we have to pay for what we use,” he said.
He stated, “We use the money very carefully, but after 2020, if you look at the pattern, government expenditure is high, health care, social welfare and so on, housing, we have to find ways of increasing the income.”
Mr Shanmugam said that the Government’s expenditure exceeds its operating revenue, adding that the returns on Singapore’s reserves supplement the annual Budget through the Net Investment Returns Contribution.
He also told Singaporeans to continue working hard because the country has no oil or other natural resources to tap, saying, “This is why the Government has told the people we have to work together, number one. Number two, we have to work very hard. There’s no choice for Singapore.”.
“People say we can relax, we’re now a First World country, we tax the rich and we pay for everybody else. But why would the rich stay here if they can go somewhere else? How much can you tax the rich? So we all have to work hard,” the Minister added.