National Day Rally: Government addressing cost of living but cannot fix electricity prices

THOUGH the government is working to alleviate concerns over costs of living, some price increases are hard to avoid. In his Chinese speech in Sunday night's National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out that Singapore's electricity tariffs track changes in global oil prices and thus cannot be fixed at a low price.

Fixing electricity tariffs would require costly subsidies, and result in those who use more energy -- that is, the wealthy -- receiving greater subsidies. It is instead more effective to give subsidies to lower- and middle-income families for utilities bills, as is currently done via U-Save rebates, he added.

Price increases were one of four reasons that Mr Lee identified as to why Singaporeans feel “cost of living pressures”, alongside the respective concerns of young families and those caring for both children and elderly parents, and lifestyle changes.

Young families are most concerned about the costs of housing and education, while those who care for both their children and their parents are worried about education and healthcare, said Mr Lee. The government will make sure public housing, healthcare and education are affordable so Singaporeans do not need to worry about these major expenditure items, he said.

The cost of living has also risen because the standard of living has risen, he noted. Items once considered luxuries, such as handphones, are now everyday necessities. While the government will do its part to tackle cost of living concerns, citizens must also be smart consumers, said Mr Lee. For instance, a government task force has been tackling the issue of infant formula prices by bringing in more brands and tightening marketing regulations, allowing young parents to make better choices based on their needs and budget.