The major external event that is the war in Ukraine is affecting Singapore but the PAP government is doing all it can to cushion the impact and alleviate the cost-of-living pressures said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his May Day Rally speech on May 1, 2022.
“More immediately, Singaporeans are already feeling the impact of the war on the cost of living. This is a problem all over the world, not just in Singapore. The French have recently held presidential elections and the cost of living was the hottest issue, hotter even than immigration,” he told more than 900 unionists at Downtown East.
“The Government is doing all it can to cushion the impact on Singaporeans and alleviate the cost-of-living pressures,” PM Lee reassured Singaporeans.
The war has caused energy and food prices to go up sharply. PM Lee explained that Ukraine is among the world’s largest exporters of cereal crops and vegetable olis and because of the war, Ukrainian farmers are running short of supplies such as seeds, fertilisers and fuel, disrupting global food supplies as a result.
He then cited the different measures in the Household Support Package that will reduce out-of-pocket living expenses for nearly all households. They include U-Save rebates, CDC vouchers, and S&CC rebates.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore also tightened the monetary policy, resulting in a stronger Singapore dollar.
He added that Singapore is taking steps to secure food and energy supplies, just in case supplies are disrupted by the ongoing war.
While all this will help, PM Lee said Singapore must be prepared for more economic challenges in the year ahead such as inflation, higher interest rates and a possible recession within the next two years.
“We have to face up to these realities. Singapore is tightly integrated into the global economy. Given our small size, in world markets, we are always a price taker, we have very little bargaining power. If the prices go up, our prices go up; if supplies are short, we are squeezed. We cannot avoid these global headwinds,” he said.
NTUC uplifting all workers
While the support schemes will help to shoulder the burden, they are only short term.
“The fundamental solution to this is to make ourselves more productive, to transform our businesses, to grow our economy, to uplift everyone. Then our incomes can go up, and that can more than make up for higher prices of energy and food. Then we can all become better off, in real terms.”
PM Lee then went on to emphasise the contributions of the labour movement including the introduction of the Progressive Wage Model, giving valuable input to the new COMPASS framework for approving employment passes, helping businesses transform with the Company Training Committee (CTC) initiative, now with more than 900, and its social enterprises like Fairprice making special efforts to alleviate the cost of living.
Singapore’s unique brand of tripartism, where Government, employers and unions are close partners, working together for a common cause, is perfectly summed up by PM Lee.
“In Singapore, unions are good for business. I should add, it being May Day in Singapore, businesses are good to unions too.”