More helpful if NTUC brings food, rental prices down

The NTUC, as a cooperative, has the responsibility to its members and the public to help keep the cost of living down (What is impact of NTUC Enterprise buying Kopitiam?, by Mr Daniel Chan Wai Piew; Sept 27).

While it has been successful in keeping costs down in its supermarkets, its ability to do this in the area of cooked food is yet to be seen.

Rising food costs is a concern for many and the escalating prices are often attributed to the high rental costs incurred by stall operators.

With this move to buy over Kopitiam, we are facing the prospect of reduced competition in the cooked-food business.

The food and rentals at Kopitiam establishments are not cheaper compared with the Housing Board food centres. People patronise the former because of the air-conditioned premises and comfort. Sometimes, it is also because of a lack of choice in the vicinity or within the building.

The NTUC Enterprise, instead of acquiring Kopitiam, should compete and run food centres to bring down rental charges and ultimately food prices.

As there is the likelihood of more HDB food centres being built around the island, it should work with the HDB to bring rentals down. This would benefit the population more.

Otherwise by eliminating a major competitor, the NTUC may be perceived as trying to move in and monopolise the cooked-food business.

More players in the market would help keep a check on the prices.

Philip Sim Ah Tee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'More helpful if NTUC brings food, rental prices down'. Subscribe