“Inflation has reared its ugly head once again and hard-pressed Singaporeans are now grappling with the monster. Is the beast the same as the one that emerged in previous decades? Or is it a different animal? What weapons can be unsheathed to slay it or at least keep it at bay” (Wrestling With The Beast – Again, Miss Andrea Ong and Miss Rachel Chang).
From rising commodity prices to property price increases; Singaporeans in general are hardly concerned with ascertaining the specific reasons for the creeping inflation rate, especially when economists and public administrators have yet to establish a consensus on the root cause for the price woes. While it is commonplace for prices to increase because of steady year-on-year inflation rates, the current dilemma is compounded by assertions that wage increases have not been in tandem with the consumer price index (CPI). More information of this nature can be disseminated transparently from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to determine the statistical validity of these propositions.
The individuals and households that have been – or would be – most affected by the perpetual rise in the cost of living are those from the middle- and lower-class. Furthermore, the fact that previous measures – such as tax and cash rebates, monetary handouts et cetera – have been concentrated in the lower-class means that middle-class families are often sandwiched, and correspondingly squeezed out from assorted schemes. More importantly, these varied financial assistance programmes are stop-gap measures, often one-off initiatives announced from the annual Budget statement, which does insufficiently deals with the aforementioned wage-price consideration.
With the imminent General Elections, inflation and the cost of living would undoubtedly emerge as important factors that might sway voter sentiments, and ultimately determine how the electorate casts its ballots. Stemming profiteering and financially-empowering struggling Singaporeans in the upcoming Budget statement are short-term strategies. In the long run, recommendations must be considered to genuinely raise worker productivity and wage levels, and provide necessary subsidies – especially in areas of transportation, education and healthcare – to empower Singaporeans to thrive economically.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.