Does Chan Chun Sing not know the difference between basic needs and wants?

In an address to Parliament by Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, he stated that “different groups of Singaporeans have different concerns”. He went on to say that  “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.”

While I have no doubt that different groups of people want different things, I think that Chan has failed to touch on a very fundamental point. There are wants and then there are needs. There are certain things that are so basic that it isn’t even about desire. Rather it is about survival. The question here then is whether or not the government is doing enough to support people who fall into those categories. Not raising this in Parliament at all is glaring by omission.

Further, Mr Chan said “that certain items consumed daily, such as water and transport fares, could produce a disproportionate psychological impact despite not having the biggest absolute impact.” I am not really sure I understand what he is trying to say. People need to pay for their transportation to and from work and to get on with the business of life. People also need water in order to live. How then is the payment for these necessities simply psychological and not absolute? These things are not things that are simply good to have. They are living essentials. I would argue that they are absolutely absolute (emphasis intended) and not just psychological!

While the government should try to help every spectrum of society, there are some types of assistance that are more crucial than others and those are the types that need to be prioritised.

It is concerning that Chan does not seem to think this necessary. Either that or he is completely oblivious to the needs of those who have fallen through the cracks in Singapore. Neither scenario is particularly reassuring from a government whose general election pledge in 2015 was to ensure that no one is left behind.

Experts have opined that structural adjustments are required in Singapore to ensure that equality is maximised. Yet, a minister seems to be trivialising the issue by suggesting that it is simply a case of “different groups of people wanting different things.

If rumours are to be believed, Chan is set to become the next Prime Minister of Singapore. It is a scary thought if the future Prime Minister cannot grasp the difference between basic needs and things which are nice to have but not essential.