A bane for middle-class
Widespread price increases overshadow Singapore’s
prosperity in the last four years. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Nov 3, 2007
city-state has been hit by an unceasing bout of price increases
that has overshadowed the city’s prosperity in the
past four years.
latest series of price hikes came recently almost days within
each other on household necessities like bread, noodle and
live chicken (by an average of 20%) – and bus fares
by one or two cents.
came only a year after fares of buses and trains were raised
by one to three cents.)
had the public time to ponder the impact when the government
dropped another bombshell. It substantially raised the Electronic
Road Pricing (ERP) rates for the third time this year.
will hit the pockets of some 800,000 car-owners, not to
mention buses and lorries.
the system, they are charged electronically every time they
use certain stretches of roads and highways during busy
hours, according to places and times.
peak charges will go up on Monday by $1.50 to $5.00 –
or 43% at the worst point. Others are slightly cheaper.
this is the third time in 2007 that ERP rates are raised,
and the public protests have been uncomplimentary and loud.
is at its worst here in 12 years and has become the people’s
biggest worry today. For many, the high costs are blurring
the Singapore Dream.
affected is the broad middle class, which is already paying
dearly for the high oil price and a punishing five-to-seven
per cent rise in the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
the beginning of the year, a wide range of products and
services – including housing, hospital and medical
care, education, electricity – has been skyrocketing.
a week passes without an announcement or two of some price
or government fee going up.
are two immediate effects. The value of money is dropping
by the week, and savings are discouraged since consumer
prices are rising faster than interest the banks pay on
other recent price hikes:
Costs up by 4% between October and December. In the last
quarter, they had been increased by 9%.
in certain schools up 10%-12%; university fees had been
raised earlier. One special needs school doubled its fee.
hospital bills were up by 10% to 30% with subsidised class
C wards chalking up the highest percentage increase. Polyclinic
charges were also raised.
prices went up by some 40 cents a 20-package to S$11.60,
were hikes on cable TV, car insurance, car parking and postal
charges, as well as goods from milk to Milo, cooking oil
to coffee, canned foods, processed foods, wheat products
– and many other items at supermarkets.
government appears unable to take action to stop the epidemic,
a contrast to the first-generation government during such
NTUC Fairprice in 1973, a workers’ cooperative, to
stem out profiteering on rice and other necessities.
ministers and parliamentarians at the time would move around
marketplaces and shops, appealing to shopkeepers to be sensitive
to people’s financial needs.
previous inflationary times, this one is largely imported,
the result of higher oil and other imported products.
second cause is a robust Singapore economy, which has been
growing at an average of 7.6% a year since 2004. This year
8% is expected. It creates demand.
has been relatively strong, salaries have risen (civil servants
just got a 6% pay hike) and unemployment is the lowest in
so strong and persistent is inflation that many Singaporeans
feel they are the poorer for it.
of the cause is the government, whose priorities are economic
growth and asset accumulation (for foreign investments)
– even at the expense of a higher cost of living.
end, it has increased GST from five to seven per cent and
may eventually reach 10 per cent. Fees for public services
are being raised to ensure no drop in Treasury collection.
budget, although not entirely unknown in Singapore, is a
very rare happening.
young professionals who just start off in life are worried
that the sharp run-up in property prices (a boon for 85%
homeowners) has made it virtually impossible for them to
buy a flat.
are putting off marriage or raising children.
people see high prices as being here to stay – a new
feature of life in a fast over-crowding city that wants
to see a population of seven million.
Kuan Yew has said that Singapore is not only a developed
country, but occupies ‘the top half’ of the
it there not only brings wealth but also a new painful structure
of expensive living comparable to the likes of Paris and
inflation has become a hot debate subject.
‘Raul77’ points out that Singapore has neither
land-size nor natural resources, so “it can either
be a 1st World country or a poor one. No third way about
result, life is always stressful, and those who can’t
take it are leaving for quieter, bigger countries.
is tough for the middle class and working class, which are
just struggling for a living amidst the perceived wealth,
unhappy and with few choices in life.
Nornan Lee replies: “If Singapore is not worth living,
then nowhere is worth living.”
article was published in The Star, Malaysia on Nov 3, 2007)