SINGAPORE: The recently launched Great Budget Meal Hunt initiative has sparked criticism online, being perceived as out of touch as it appears to gamify the need for affordable meals instead of better addressing the pressing concerns of citizens grappling with the escalating cost of living.

Singaporeans find themselves contending with a confluence of challenges, including the goods and services tax (GST) hike and heightened water, electricity, and gas prices, alongside other surges in costs, such as public transport fares.

The Government holds that the Great Budget Meal Hunt initiative is aimed at helping Singaporeans locate cheaper meals amid the cost-of-living pressure.

To participate, citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and above must register with a Singpass account and locate and verify budget meal providers, with participants earning badges and stars on the portal by completing challenges.

Users can access statistics on the initiative through the Great Budget Meal Hunt Info-bites webpage, while the BudgetMealGoWhere website helps users find nearby coffee shops’ budget meal options.

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Promoting the initiative at an official launch yesterday (16 Jan), Minister of State Sim Ann said the Government is aware that the cost of living continues to be a very important concern for Singaporeans.

She said, “We also know that members of the public are aware of very affordably priced food and drinks in coffee shops elsewhere, and we want to encourage them to also list these budget meals and drinks on our website.”

However, despite the government’s intentions, the initiative has faced backlash from citizens who argue it does little to address the root causes of the rising cost of living.

Online critics question the appropriateness of organizing a “hunt” as they say that the government should focus on resolving fundamental issues contributing to the high cost of living.

Commentators on social media platforms and online forums have voiced their concerns, with some suggesting that this initiative seems like a “joke” instead of addressing the core problems Singaporeans face.

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One commenter said, “Many of the root causes are due to their policies, which drive up costs for vendors! Trying to distract the citizens and make it entertaining to travel all over SG to look for cheaper food… The increase in MRT fares negate any savings.”

The criticism against the initiative stems from a demand for more substantial measures to alleviate the economic burden on households, given the real implications many Singapore families face due to the higher cost of living.

How the Government will respond to this criticism remains to be seen as it addresses the deeper structural issues contributing to the economic squeeze.