Heng: Perception of rising cost of living due to changing aspirations and consumption patterns

According to an ST report today (‘Budget addresses cost of living concerns, says Heng Swee Keat‘, 20 Feb), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat implied in a media dialogue yesterday (19 Feb) that the government budget does address Singaporeans’ concerns of the rising cost of living in Singapore.

He said that it is important for the Government to keep costs affordable, and it does so through various ways.

He highlighted how families in the lowest 20 per cent by household income get $4 of benefit for every dollar they pay in taxes, and even those in the middle get $2 of benefit per tax dollar.

On top of that, primary and secondary school education is “almost free”. For institutes of higher learning, government subsidies range from 75 per cent to 90 per cent, he added.

And having a strong Singapore dollar, importing goods from all over the world and fostering competition among local firms are further ways in which the cost of living is kept within reach, he said.

The $6.1 billion Merdeka Generation Package will also ease healthcare costs for seniors, he noted.

However, he highlighted two issues which may contribute to the perception of things becoming less affordable by Singaporeans.

These include changing aspirations and consumption patterns, as well as how people tend to feel the pinch when items that are purchased “very frequently” see price increases.

Nevertheless, he said it’s important to keep Singaporeans employed to “tackle” the cost of living. “A very important element of tackling the cost of living is that (we) keep our workers employed,” said Minister Heng. “We must continue with this.”