I’m not sure about previous issues of Sunday Times, but today’s paper seemed to have a theme – on how people are trying to cope with the increased cost of living.

"We can barely stay afloat, say low income folks" screamed across the header of the papers today. Reading on, I read about how an administrative assistant, earning S$1350 a month, is finding it hard to cope with the rising cost of living in Singapore. She is the sole breadwinner in her family and had to look after her mother, son and 2 children from her late aunt. Faced with this cash-strapped situation, she approached her MP for help, who then put her on short term financial assistance that provides an additional $200 per month for 3 months.

These situations are probably not uncommon and is a result of the people’s pay not rising as fast as inflation in Singapore, which was estimated to be about 3.5% to 5%. However, just basing the layman’s calculation on the GST alone, it’s definitely at least 2% and this excludes the compounded effect that exists as a result of trade from raw materials to the finished product. Other things that contribute to this includes food (up to 20% increase) and electricity.

Reading on, I was also shocked to learn that luncheon meat has went up from $1.30 to $2.50 and not the 60 cents that I read about recently (the previous article cited current price as $1.90). In addition, with the recent destruction of crops from the 6 farms which were contaminated by Tengah Air Base, I can’t help but wonder if I’d see a permanent raise in the cost of raw vegetables.

Another family of 7 also saw their mum return to the work force after a 15 year hiatus. To them, the rise in living cost was too much to bear. In addition, the overtime pay that the dad used to get is stopped, resulting in a $600 reduction in pay every month.

For them, they had to resort to shopping in Johor Bahru for cheaper groceries as well as downgrading to cheaper and simpler equivalents of food, produce, groceries and toiletries. They have also switched to eating more chicken than fish because it is cheaper for them.

Amidst all these tough times, the best words that the government can give them is to "downgrade". As I am not an economist, I can’t fathom what else can be done to help the poor(er). Even for myself, I have stopped taking 1 meal a day so that I can save up that extra bit for a rainy day.

The expatriates are facing this inflation with a different set of problems, with most revolving around property rental prices. One family have to move down from their 24th floor to a similar unit on the 3rd floor – giving rise to a whole new meaning to downgrading. At least they have another alternative – pull out from Singapore altogether. Well, they may not earn as much as being an expatriate if they were to return home, but at least they have an option.

For now, I am just glad that my cuppa Tazo Chai Tea Latte had remained at the same ol’ price of $5.30. I hope it remains that way for a while more, else I’d have to downgrade to plain water soon – and they’ll chase me out for sure.

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