SINGAPORE - The Government will do more to help Singaporeans if inflation turns out to be higher than expected, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday night (Feb 22).
"The outlook we have projected for the economy and inflation is obviously based on certain assumptions, but who knows what will happen in the external environment," he said in response to a question during a discussion with Singaporeans on the impact of Budget 2022 broadcast on Channel 5.
He added that the Government will continue to monitor downside risk closely and should the situation worsen, it will definitely respond.
He said: "For example, if inflation were to become more persistent, or turns out higher than expected, we can take actions on the monetary front to tackle inflation, but we can also provide more help to Singaporeans to cope with rising prices."
Singapore consumer prices hit new highs in December last year, exceeding economists' forecasts and prompting the Government to say that it is reviewing its inflation forecasts for this year.
Over the one-hour long programme, Mr Wong fielded questions on Budget 2022 from Singaporeans, including National University of Singapore Energy Studies Institute research fellow Melissa Low, who is also a council member of the National Youth Council.
Ms Low asked if there will be further support for young families, especially those caring for elderly parents and young children, who are concerned about the additional stress and cost of rising electricity bills and prices with inflation.
Responding to her concerns, Mr Wong said the Government has given significant help through the Household Support Package, GST vouchers and enhanced Assurance Package.
He added that the Government will look into additional utility vouchers to help households cope with the expected increase in their utility bills when the carbon tax is raised from next year and progressively more by 2030.
Addressing concerns that gig economy workers did not have much support set aside in the Budget, Mr Wong said the Government plans to respond later this year once recommendations are made by a committee tasked to look into protections for gig workers.
Founder of mobile healthcare company Jaga-Me Kuah Ling Ling asked how healthcare will remain affordable with the tightening of foreign worker policy and foreign nurses forming a significant portion of the nursing workforce here.
In response, Mr Wong said the changes to foreign worker policy were "a calibration to ensure that foreign workers and professionals coming into Singapore are of the right calibre and come in areas where we really need them, in areas of shortages".
He noted later that there is a need for more nurses and social workers.