Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Just two questions for the Minister of State Ms Low Yen Ling. I do thank her for her reply, which essentially was almost in pari materia vis-à-vis the measures to mitigate increasing cost of living with Minister Chan Chun Sing’s 2018 Parliamentary reply.
My two questions pertain to two points of departure, arising from the supplementary questions that came up just now. One was a point that was made about anti-profiteering and Minister of State suggested that the Government looked very closely, for example, at the price of masks that were going up. Minister Chan, a few years ago, took a different approach, although it was with regard to a different item. It was with regard to coffee, coffee in the coffeeshops. The approach there was relying on crowdsourcing platforms to address price increases, taking a step away from anti-profiteering-type committees. In view of the situation today, given the answer that Minister of State has shared, is the Government veering towards the formation of anti-profiteering committees as a way to track prices and how they affect our people on the ground?
The second question, again is a pick-up from what Minister Chan shared as a way to combat inflation, and this is in the case of businesses. This involved looking at meaningful ways and effective ways to lower regulatory costs, which include improving regulatory efficiencies, simplifying processes and removing unnecessary licences. I was listening to Minister of State’s reply from the supplementary question asked by Member Ms Jessica Tan. In that regard, what has been the Government’s progress on lowering regulatory costs for businesses as a way for combating inflation?
Ms Low Yen Ling: Mr Speaker, Sir, I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition Mr Singh for his two questions. And I do not think there has been a departure between what I have cited and what Minister Chan had shared. I want to thank him and I want to also use this platform to reiterate again, the Government understands and shares Singaporeans’ concerns about rising prices and inflation.
I also want to use this opportunity to assure everyone in the House that MTI, MOF and all agencies will spare no effort in supporting Singaporeans and also households and businesses as we face this global specter of inflation. MTI and all economic agencies are also working very closely with MOF to mitigate the effects of inflation on businesses, households and also consumers.
On his first question, I cited a six-pronged approach, a multi-pronged approach because this will allow us to take a very comprehensive stance and engage with our SMEs, our trade associations and of course, at the same time, leveraging our extensive network of FTAs to provide market access for companies. I cited the first strategy, which is working hard to keep our economy competitive, working hard to create good paying jobs that generate real wage growth for our Singaporeans. So, really, it is about providing conditions for our companies, especially our local SMEs to create good jobs with sustained income growth that outpaces inflation.
Because when companies raise their productivity, real wage growth will follow. When workers can attain real wage growth, they also have new skills to take on new jobs. This is where MTI schemes like the PSG and the EDG comes in. And really, this is the whole notion of ITM 2.0 that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has talked about: refreshing, strengthening our 23 Industry Transformation Maps to raise the innovation capacity of our SMEs across the 23 sectors, raising productivity and designing good jobs that are not just good jobs for today, but also jobs and skills for tomorrow; at the same time, supporting our local companies to expand their international footprint.
The approach that I cited, I had cited the mask example. This is just an example of how, when necessary, we will intervene in terms of monitoring prices. We are also making sure that we promote market competition. In addition to promoting market competition, it is also about lowering barriers to entry where possible so that we can help Singaporeans enjoy competitive prices.
Furthermore, I cited how we need to focus on diversifying our sources of supply, expanding our sources of food supply to more than 170 countries and regions across the world.
The Member also asked about Ms Jessica Tan’s question. I want to use this platform to reiterate again that MTI and all our economic agencies are working very hard, in particular, in the last two years, to keep a lid on business cost increases and we do so by carefully managing our domestic supply side constraints.
And in terms of prices, coming back to it, we will continue to monitor prices and inflation very closely and we are prepared to adjust policies where necessary. We understand the concerns of businesses and Singaporeans and we will do whatever we can to mitigate the cost pressures that are being felt and the effects of inflation.
Ministry of Finance
11 January 2022