National water agency PUB made a profit of more than $160 million last year only because it received about $200 million in grants.
Without the government grants, PUB would have been operating at a deficit, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman yesterday.
The East Coast GRC MP was responding to a participant who asked about PUB's profitability at a post-Budget dialogue with about 100 Malay residents.
On Friday, socio-political site States Times Review published an article stating that PUB is going ahead with a 30 per cent increase in water prices despite posting a profit of $166 million last year.
But Dr Maliki told residents the profitmust be seen in the context of the subsidy that PUB received from the Government.
As with previous forums, the increase in water prices was a top concern for residents. Some were worried about its impact on consumer goods and the prices of food and drinks sold in coffee shops.
Water prices will increase by 30 per cent in two phases from July butthose living in public flats will receive rebates to help them cope.
Dr Maliki yesterday explained to residents that 1,000 litres of water are now sold at $2.15. With the hike, the price will go up to $2.74. Assuming that amount of water can make 5,000 cups of coffee, the increase in price for one cup of coffee would work out to be a fraction of a cent.
He told residents that the authorities cannot stop coffee shops and hawker centres from raising prices, if the establishments can justify the increase. But the price increase should not be solely due to the hike in water prices, he said.
He also urged residents to inform the authorities if they find cases of unjustified price increases.
Mr Zahri Ahmad, a 55-year-old Simei resident, said the Housing Board could install sensor taps in homes as part of its Enhancement for Active Seniors programme, as elderly people with dementia may forget to switch off the taps.
Dr Maliki said he would relay the suggestion to HDB but noted that residents could also install thimbles in their taps to save water.
Other topics discussed include the higher housing rebates, the economy, jobs and community services such as aid for disabled people.
Marine and offshore technology student Amirul Mustaqim Irwan, 23, said he is concerned about the disruption of jobs as manual tasks in shipyards are being replaced by automation.
The final-year Ngee Ann Polytechnic student said: "I've been checking out several training schemes but I'm also keeping my options open. I may enter another field altogether if the prospects are better."