NTUC Fairprice goes from aiming to “prevent profiteering” and earning “razor-thin profits” to making $380 million last year

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YT screencapture (L-R) NTUC Fairprice CEO Siah Kian Peng, ex-NTUC sec-gen Chan Chun Sing, current NTUC sec-gen Ng Chee Meng

When NTUC Fairprice, an arm of the labour movement, was set up in 1973, it aimed to “help stabilize the cost of living and prevent profiteering” during a time when the global oil crisis caused food prices to balloon and consequently raised the cost of living in Singapore.

In a publication released to celebrate the cooperative’s 40th anniversary in 2013, NTUC Fairprice reiterated that it was set up to “combat profiteering and moderate the cost of
living for all Singaporeans – by keeping daily essentials affordable and providing quality
products at the best prices.”

Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, even praised the organisation (called NTUC Welcome when it first began) once and noted that the group maintained “razor-thin profits”:

“NTUC Welcome was born during the oil crisis when there was high inflation. In the 1970s, rising oil prices were threatening the basic right of ordinary Singaporeans to decent standards of living. The Co-operative fought resolutely against profiteering to ensure that ordinary Singaporeans would have access to low-cost daily necessities.
“Despite razor-thin profits and the struggle to gain suppliers’ trust, it overcame all odds to enable families to enjoy certainty for their basic needs in our early days of nation building.”

This year is the 45th year since NTUC Fairprice came to be and today, the story is quite different. From what used to be “razor-thin profits” at one time, NTUC Fairprice has gone on to make a whopping $380 million last year, according to its FY2017 Financial Report.

This comes even as the cooperative still asserts that its mission is to “moderate the cost of living in Singapore”:

Meanwhile, the cost of living in Singapore continues to rise – especially with the recent water price and electricity tariffs hike increasing the financial burden Singaporeans carry.

Curiously, NTUC Fairprice CEO and ruling party MP Seah Kian Peng offered a “useful tip” to moderate the climbing cost of living in Singapore in Parliament yesterday and suggested, “eating in is a lot cheaper than eating out.”

Addressing former NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, Seah – who has been with NTUC Fairprice since Jan 2001 – said: “I think all of us know that eating in is a lot cheaper than eating out wherever you may go. So things like that may be simple tips but I think it’s useful tips which I think could be incorporated within the eight tips that you (Minister Chan) have.”

Chan, is widely tipped to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, replied: “We thank NTUC’s enterprises for continuing to show leadership in the pricing of its many products and services beyond groceries, today including, healthcare, eldercare and also childcare.”