SINGAPORE: The rising cost of living was highlighted as the hottest issue for Singaporeans by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday night.
And he took time to explain what the government is doing to help Singaporeans cope with rising costs.
Singapore imports most of its food and fuel, making it difficult to remain unscathed from the effects of global inflation.
Mr Lee noted that Singapore has been spared protests over high prices that have affected other countries. While S$3 billion had already been allocated to help Singaporeans in this year's Budget, inflation has turned out to be higher than expected.
"So we have decided to do more. The second instalment of growth dividends, due on October 1, will increase by 50 per cent. We will also increase this year's U-save rebates by 50 per cent," he said. This will result in an extra S$250 million of financial assistance.
Road tax and car ownership charges have also been lowered to help the middle-income segment. While the recent increase in ERP charges have created some unhappiness, the overall cost of owning a car has actually come down.
The government will also review the HDB rental flat scheme to ensure that genuinely needy families have an effective safety net. While more Singaporeans have applied for such rental flats, Mr Lee noted that not all were truly in need.
He said: "One applicant was a 60-year-old lady with three children – two of whom are living in private properties. Her children told HDB they were prepared to hire a maid to look after their parent in the rental flat!"
And while the government's efforts will ease the pinch, Mr Lee said they are not the answer to Singapore's economic problems.
"The best solution is still to keep the economy competitive, become more productive and so earn more for ourselves. Then we can raise our standard of living despite the increase in oil and food prices," the prime minister said.
He said by doing so, Singapore will be well-poised to bounce back once the global economy recovers.