RPWG: Food prices down – really?

I refer to the articles “Food prices show signs of easing in H1: RPWG” (Channel NewsAsia, Aug 7) and “Rise in food prices slowing down in 1st half of 2012” (Straits Times, Aug 7).

The former article states that “RPWG also observed that the prices for some common food items have declined or remained fairly stable.

Taking a snapshot of the average retail prices of selected food items, the group observed that prices of nine food items have declined, four have remained the same, while four have increased by less than one per cent in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the first quarter”.

How 17 items selected?

I was curious as to what were the 17 selected food items?

So, I visited the Retail Price Watch Group (RPWG) and Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) (as the subject press release came from the MTI) web sites, but could not find any information on these 17 mysterious food items.

How were these 17 food items selected?

What methodology and process were used to determine the change in prices, to derive the conclusion of the findings?

How was the data collected?

Who provided the information?

All items that increase were less than 1%?

I also find it somewhat amusing that whilst four items increased by less than one per cent, there was no indication as to how much the nine items declined by – 1, 2, 3 per cent?

What a coincidence? – That all of the four items that increased in price, increased by less than one per cent!

So, does it mean that for example, a $5 item increased to say $5.04 and a $10 item increased to $10.09?


As to “A check with the RPWG’s three supermarket members — NTUC FairPrice, Giant and Sheng Siong — reveals that their housebrand items provide a more economical alternative for consumers.

RPWG noted that the prices of various housebrand items from these supermarkets are also lower than the national average retail prices of items in the same category”, is it not in a sense, anti-competitive, for all three supermarket members of the RPWG to promote themselves, at the expense of smaller supermarkets and grocers?

Conflict of interest?

Looking at all the members of the RPWG, there may be a conflict of interest, as it may seem that every member may have an interest to say that food prices have come down?

For example, isn’t it aparently in the interest of the Chairman of the RPWG, the MTI Minister to give Singaporeans the perception that food prices are down?

Independent price watchers?

I believe in most if not all other countries, a Retail Price Watch Group, as the name implies, would comprise mainly of independent people, rather than one comprised almost entirely of Government, members Government, members representating or from Government agencies, Government related or linked organisations, and companies/associations that are connected with the sale of food.

By the way, the RPWG’s web site is a Government web site address – www.pricewatch.gov.sg.


Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.