Mar 7, 2011The above story appeared in RazorTV. You can see the family on video by clicking on the link then going to part 2 of the video. The family survives on an income of $1500. When your household income is so low, a large part of it is spent on food. That is why many (may be all other) countries with GST exempt raw food and medical services from GST.
How Singaporeans fight food price hike[Link]
By Rachel Scully, Multimedia Journalist
IT'S been years since they last ate at a restaurant, and special occasions are celebrated at a hawker centre close to their home.
33-year-old Merry Sumeily is a mother of two who lives in a 4-room flat in Ang Mo Kio. Her husband is the sole breadwinner and brings home an average of $1,500 per month. Of that, about $350 to $400 is spent on groceries and food items.
To combat the recent price hikes, Merry and her family have two dishes, instead of three for dinner. And to save more money, they have switched from rice to porridge for dinner since December last year. Merry also happens to be a benefactor of the 'Talking Dollars and Sense' workshop organised by the People's Association.
Chief trainer, Tess Lim started this programme nearly seven years ago in April 2004 to educate lower-income families on budgeting. She has since helped over 2,000 families and taught them ways to manage their finances, including reducing their grocery bill.
Be it a twenty-cents increase in the price of a piece of fruit, or a two-dollar increase for a bottle of cooking oil, Tess offers reassurance that rising food prices have yet to severely change consumption behaviour among the families she's helped.
So how has rising food prices affected Singaporeans? RazorTV brings you stories straight from the heartlands on this week's Point Blank, as well as tips on how you can stretch your dollar.
"The GST would replace the existing taxes on sales and services and would not put pressure on prices, he said, adding that to ease the burden on consumers, staple foods such as rice, sugar, cooking oil and flour will be exempted" - Malaysia Plan 4% GST in 2011[Link]
It was a simple move that would have made food and medical services cheaper for the poor but the PAP govt refused to do it when they implemented GST claiming that it was too "complex". Yes, we know doing simple things to help the poor is often too "complex" for this govt.
For poor families in Singapore, whose incomes have been relatively stagnant in real terms for more than a decade, rising food prices mean less and poorer quality of food for the family. For many, if not all developed countries, the solution is very simple. It comes in the form of food stamps that the poor can use for eggs. milk & staples to ensure poor nutrition never happens due to poverty. Here in Singapore, the govt takes a different approach.
Remember in 2007 when oil prices rocketed (higher than what it is today), our utilities rate hit the roof and many poor families ran up arrears as they could not afford the electricity in Singapore. In other developed countries, the govt helps such families by either providing electricity at a cheaper rate under various low income schemes or money to offset the rising rates. The poor people are seen as "innocent victims" of inflation and no means or option to cope with it. In Singapore, the govt installed PAYU systems in the homes of poor families so they cannot electricity unless they have money in their cash card that they have to insert into PAYU [Link]. The system helps to solve Singapore Power's problem with arrears collection[Link]. The govt and its propaganda machine euphemistically portrayed PAYU as system that helps the poor not to "overuse" electricity.
"At the same time, the PAYU scheme has provided these families the flexibility to settle their arrears over time and to budget their utility expenditure." - Minister Lim Hng Kiang[Link]