In an effort to dispel criticism and doubt, the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Development, Ms Sim Ann, shared images of the menus showing prices of budget meals offered at the stalls where she dined on Monday.
This came after her earlier post about her budget dinner of mixed rice and kopi-O, costing S$3.00 and S$0.70, respectively, received negative comments from netizens who expressed disbelief that such low-priced meals were available in Singapore.
It is worth noting that the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has published a study titled “The Cost of Eating Out: Findings from the Makan Index 2.0”, which examined the costs of eating out in Singapore’s hawker centres, food courts and kopitiams.
The study found that the average cost of a mixed rice (2 vegetables 1 meat) at Jurong West, where Ms Sim dined, is S$3.50, and the lower end of the meal is priced at S$3.20.
Ms Sim’s Facebook post on Monday, which described her budget meal of S$3.70, drew a lot of attention from netizens who questioned the authenticity of her claims.
They suggested that her meal might have been subsidised due to her status, and some expressed disbelief that such affordable options were available in Singapore.
In response to the criticism, Ms Sim shared pictures of the menu of the HDB-owned coffeeshops where she had dined. She also took the opportunity to reiterate the plans to expand the provision of budget meals to all HDB coffeeshops, which were previously presented during the Ministry of National Development’s Committee of Supply debate.
Ms Sim noted that HDB has been introducing the requirement for budget meals at the coffeeshops it tends out under the Price-Quality Method (PQM) since 2018. Under the PQM, operators are required to commit to providing some budget meals and a budget drink, and propose prices that are affordable compared to nearby F&B options.
She also explained that HDB does not set specific price points because it believes that operators should commit to prices they are confident of meeting. The operators are allowed to propose adjusted prices when renewing their three-year lease, subject to comparison with the surrounding F&B options.
Ms Sim added that there are already about 40 HDB-owned coffeeshops on this regime and that HDB is now applying budget meal requirements to coffeeshops coming up for lease renewal starting from this year.
By 2026, all HDB-owned coffeeshops, or close to half of all 776 coffeeshops built by HDB, will offer some form of budget meal, wrote the SMS.
She also mentioned that the government is willing to work with the private sector to improve cooked food affordability and invited major coffeeshop chains to meet and discuss ways to offer budget meals to customers.