Singapore has adequate fuel supplies, will ramp up food stockpiles where needed amid Ukraine crisis: Tan See Leng
SINGAPORE: Singapore has adequate fuel supplies and will ramp up stockpiles and supplies of basic food necessities from alternative sources amid the Ukraine crisis, said Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng on Monday (Apr 4).
Delivering a ministerial statement on inflation and business costs in Parliament, Dr Tan said that the Government is keeping a “close watch” on global supply chains and its stock levels of essential food items to ensure that Singapore continues to have access to adequate supplies.
“Thankfully, our supply of essential food products has not been significantly affected by the Ukraine-Russia conflict and we have not had to draw on our food stockpiles,” he added.
Dr Tan reiterated that the Government is “closely monitoring” food prices and will continue to ensure that basic food necessities remain accessible and affordable to all.
“We will continue to diversify our import sources, we will not rest on our laurels. We will ramp up our stockpiles and supplies from alternative sources, where needed, to ensure that we have continued access to basic food necessities,” he added.
When it comes to fuel supplies, including petrol, Dr Tan said that the Government has put in place measures to ensure that Singapore has adequate supplies.
However, he said that it would not be appropriate for him to share the specifics of this plan for “security reasons”.
Dr Tan also acknowledged that many businesses are facing “cost pressures” and have had to raise the prices of their goods and services as a result.
He noted how pump operators have raised petrol and diesel prices to reflect the rise in crude oil prices over the past months.
In addition, some landlords have also passed on increased utility costs to their tenants, including those in food courts and coffee shops, Dr Tan added.
“Often, these increases are understandable as businesses are also facing pressure on their bottom-lines,” he said.
At the same time, there have also been many other businesses that have gone out of their way to hold prices steady and offer discounts to consumers, said Dr Tan, as he thanked them for doing so.
NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION AMONG PETROL RETAILERS
Responding to concerns by some Members of Parliament (MPs) about profiteering behaviour, Dr Tan emphasised that the Government keeps a “close watch” on the prices of essential goods and services and will not hesitate to investigate anti-competitive behaviour.
He added that the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) keeps a close watch on the movements in pump prices.
“So far, movements in pump prices largely mirror the movements in crude oil prices, though they have increased to a smaller extent," added Dr Tan, who is also Manpower Minister.
As of end-March, crude oil prices were about 40 per cent higher than in January, while the price of petrol and diesel were on average about 15 per cent and 30 per cent higher respectively, he added.
“We have no evidence to suggest that there is collusion among the petrol retailers," said Dr Tan.
Responding to a supplementary question from MP Louis Chua (WP-Sengkang) who asked what are the "structural factors" that have contributed to pump prices being higher than they were the last time oil prices were above US$100 a barrel, Dr Tan said that other fixed costs could have gone up.
"I don't think that it is a like 'apple for apple' comparison between what has happened in 2014 and what it is today. Because obviously, other fixed costs would have gone up. Rental perhaps, also manpower costs, plus it could be even different type of production, procurement costs and it's not just tied to the Brent (crude oil) part itself," he said.
"But I think that it will be a lot more precise to compare what was the prevailing quarter and the movements and to see whether that increase is actually attributable to whether it's signaling or collusion. I think that would give us a much better indication."
Dr Tan also noted that CCCS will take firm enforcement action, including imposing financial penalties on infringing firms if there is any evidence of anti-competitive behaviour, such as coordinated price increases.
To deter unreasonable pricing, the Government will also support consumers in being “well-informed” on alternative options, he said.
Dr Tan gave the example of the Price Kaki application and the Fuel Kaki website developed by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), which allows consumers to compare the effective prices of groceries, hawker food items and retail pump prices across different retailers.
He said that CASE will also enhance the Price Kaki application to enable users to compare the prices of similar items by their weight and volume.
“We will work closely with our industry partners to diversify our supply chains, investigate anti-competitive behaviour, encourage price transparency, and enable free market competition to function as it should,” said Dr Tan.
“Ultimately, this is the best way to safeguard all of our consumer interests.”