Ahead of the National Day Rally that was held last Sunday, PM Lee said on his Facebook page, “I shall be talking about things which are on people’s minds: cost of living, water and electricity prices, medical costs and housing.”
Singaporeans – who are contending with a hefty 30 per cent water price hike that was instated over the past two years, a collective 16.8 per cent electricity tariffs hike so far this year, and the impending Goods and Services Tax hike which will bring the GST up to 9 per cent – watched with bated breath to see if the head of government will really address the increasingly high cost of living they have to manage.
Indeed, PM Lee addressed these issues but his solutions and suggestions appears to have left a lot of Singaporeans disappointed.
While PM Lee said that the Government will build more polyclinics to help with medical costs and also unveiled the Vers and HIP II programmes for housing, he said that electricity tariffs cannot be helped since “the cost fluctuates according to global oil prices.”
To manage the rising cost of living, PM Lee offered a few tips. He suggested that the people should go for $3 or less economic meal at hawker centres, be more mindful of water and electricity usage, avoid using 4G to watch movies outside, and use breast milk and avoid more expensive infant formulas to cut down costs, among other tips.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the ruling party leader has touched on the cost of living in his rally speeches. He has actually been talking about the cost of living for seven years, since 2011 – even as expenses keep growing and growing.
In his May Day rally speech in 2011, just a few months before the General Election that year, PM Lee assured the people that his Government will focus on managing the rising cost of living. Acknowledging the worries of Singaporeans, PM Lee said:
“The Government is very conscious of this and we will continue to focus on this. And the ministers and I are personally very focused on this also, because we are very concerned that Singaporeans are worried and anxious and we want to be sure that whatever we can do, we will do.”
“So we are tracking very carefully what is happening elsewhere that can impact our prices and we are finding ways to buffer ourselves and to manage our domestic costs.”
During the PAP’s first election rally in the General Election 2015, 4 years after his remarks on the rising cost of living, PM Lee cited housing and medical costs subsidy schemes and assured voters: “(For) the big things which cost money – housing, medical care, transportation, education – these especially, the Government is able to help you.”
On Sunday, three years since GE2015, PM Lee said that his Government is committed to helping Singaporeans to manage the cost of living but urged the people to also make the right choices and do their part to manage their expenses.
Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah echoed her party leader’s views the very next day and said that the people should “think through what they are able to afford”.
Meanwhile, political analysts are speculating that the next General Election may be called as early as 2019. The next general election must be held by 15 Jan 2021.