Featured News Opinion Changing our consumption habits, Lawrence Wong on staying meaningfully engaged and other...

Changing our consumption habits, Lawrence Wong on staying meaningfully engaged and other stories

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Perhaps what Mr Wong meant to say was that most people want to stay active and plugged in as opposed to working

There have been a lot of complaints about the shrinking portion sizes and decreasing quality of hawker fare plus increased prices in coffee shops, hawker stalls, and food courts these days – the latest being a Mr Jeremy Jun Peng who posted a gripe on the popular COMPLAINT SINGAPORE Facebook page. The said Mr Jeremy Jun Peng uploaded a photograph of a Korean Pork Cutlet meal he had purchased, consisting of a piece of meat, kimchi, and a portion of rice. And while the pork cutlet looked reasonably sized, the rice portion appeared rather small. Clearly unhappy, Mr Peng said:  “Inflation and GST my rice only can give 1/3 . You can do better than this…”

Of course, it is a fact that prices are increasing and everyone is feeling the pinch. Yet, despite the seemingly consistent complaints, what have we collectively done that is different?

Yes, the Government can certainly do its part to support Singaporeans and arguably, this isn’t the best time to raise the Goods and Services Tax (GST). But, for reasons best known to itself, the Government is sticking to its guns. However, GST aside, global prices are spiking as a result of inflation, recession, ongoing pandemic pressures, and multiple systemic failures worldwide of which Singapore would never have been exempt anyway, no matter what the Government does. But, as a whole, what have we done differently to adjust? Or, are we simply expecting things to go back to the way it was?

Think about it – if everyone is feeling the pinch, why do we think food sellers wouldn’t? They need to pay rent and live too right? I get it – it is disappointing to pay what we have always paid and get less. In Mr Peng’s case, he got less rice than he expected. But before posting a complaint which could in turn have a knock-on effect on the shop’s business, did he think to request more rice first?

After all, rice is cheaper than meat so if the meat was reasonably sized, could it not have simply been an oversight that he got so little rice? But instead of trying to help ourselves in the first instance, we jump to the defensive and immediately blame someone else.

I am not singling out Mr Peng here. This applies to most of us. We all want to get the best deal for ourselves but in times like this where the whole world is suffering, perhaps we can also learn to take some ownership.

Secondly, have we made any attempts to address our consumption habits in this climate of shortage? Or, are we just complaining and expecting the Government to just take care of it?

I am not absolving the Government of responsibility here. Of course, they have to do their utmost to be nimble and flexible here – to take new action and think of new ideas in unprecedented times which is why it is so disappointing that it has steadfastly refused to consider postponing the GST hikes. But just as we criticise the Government for being inflexible, are we not guilty of the same thing here?

Prices have increased. It is not the fault of the hawkers. They are suffering too. And, before we jump to negative conclusions and share them across the Internet, have we maybe tried asking the hawker for a bit more rice?

As things change, our ability to thrive depends on our ability to be flexible. The same goes for the Government. The prices for chicken have increased – in part due to supply chain issues and in part due to inflation in general.

During the recent parliamentary session, Tanjong Pagar GRC member of Parliament Joan Pereira asked Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu whether there are ongoing efforts to further increase the supply of fresh chickens from Malaysia or Indonesia in view of the increased demand during the Chinese New Year season.

In a written reply, Ms Fu said that “as Singapore imports more than 90% of our food, we are not able to insulate ourselves entirely from price fluctuations. Importers buffer for the expected increases in demand during festive periods, by bringing in more supply from overseas ahead of time.”

She is right. Singapore produces virtually no raw materials and we cannot be insulated from price fluctuations. In tandem with the Government looking at other avenues of supply in order to widen the sources, we should also begin to think about adapting our eating habits. Is having chicken at Chinese New Year really a must? Can we eat more sustainably so as to also do our part in conserving the planet?

Tackling global inflation is a collective effort. Governments must do their part as must big conglomerates. However, you and I, the so-called “little people” can do our part too by taking initiative and maybe considering adjusting some of our food consumption habits.

While Ms Fu may have been right in this instance, her colleague and ultimate boss, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong may have run the risk of alienating Singaporeans when he said that Singaporeans want to work longer provided they stay in good health. Predictably, netizens have reacted indignantly, many saying they would most definitely retire if they could afford to.

I think Mr Wong may have confused staying meaningfully engaged and occupied with working. While he may absolutely love his job and dare I say, the perks that come with it, many of his fellowmen may be slogging at dead-end jobs to make a living, going through the grind because they have to, not because they want to.

Perhaps what Mr Wong meant to say was that most people want to stay active and plugged in as opposed to working. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

While I am sure that Mr Wong works very long hours and is committed to his job, many others may not have the same luxury of opportunity as he does and as the future Prime Minister, he may wish to bear that in mind.



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