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Singapore's Core Inflation Remains At 5.1% in February: How Will This Affect You in 2023?

Emma Lam

Emma Lam

Last updated 24 March, 2023

For February, Singapore’s year-on-year core inflation rate remains unchanged at 5.5% following the GST hike. Meanwhile, headline inflation eased slightly from 6.6% to 6.3%.

Since 2022 began, Singapore's core and headline inflations have hit multiple all-time highs. From December 2022 to January 2023 alone, year-on-year core inflation rose from 5.1%, to 5.5% whereas year-on-year headline inflation rose from 6.5% to 6.6%.

The rise in core inflation was largely due to one-off increase in price levels due to GST hike. Consequently, the rise in headline inflation was due to higher core inflation compounded with higher accommodation inflation.

💡 Fun fact: The only other time Singapore reported a higher year-on-year growth was in November 2008 when core inflation hit 5.5%.

Currently, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) expects year-on-year core inflation to hover above 5% during Q1 2023. However, private-sector economists predict otherwise – expecting core inflation to raise to 5.7% and headline inflation to raise to 7.1%.

Bottom line is, inflation is never fun for anyone. That said, how will current inflation trends affect you?

Table of contents

Disclaimer: Information is updated as of 23 March 2023.


Looking for the best credit cards to complement your spending patterns and expenditure in 2023? Check out our Ultimate Credit Card Guide that covers all things credit cards in Singapore – from choosing between a cashback, miles, or rewards credit card to planning your credit card strategy.



Core inflation vs. Headline inflation

Core Inflation Vs Overall Inflation

Source: MAS, MTI

Before delving further, let’s distinguish between core and headline inflation. 

Typically in most countries, core inflation is an index that excludes the prices of volatile goods and items like food and energy. 

However, in MAS’ definition, core inflation in Singapore pertains to retail, food and energy (electricity and gas) costs. Only accommodation and private transport costs are excluded due to their volatility and influence from supply-side administrative policies.

On the other hand, headline inflation in Singapore is measured by the headline consumer price index (CPI). This measures the cost of a fixed basket of goods and services used by resident households daily.

The composition and categorical weightage of goods and services in this index is determined once every five years through average household consumption patterns.

Considering these differences, the 5.5% year-on-year core inflation has undoubtedly led to significant impacts on Singapore’s cost of living.

💡As of now, Singapore's inflation is projected to stay high in the first half of 2023, according to Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan.


Related to this topic:
Can Cashback Credit Cards Help Curb Inflation in Singapore?
8 Sneaky Signs That Lifestyle Inflation is Delaying Your Financial Freedom
9 Ways to Hedge Against Inflation With Investing

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Effects of rising inflation across sectors

 
February 2023
January 2023
Services
3.9% (-0.3%)
4.2%
Food
8.1% (~)
8.1%
Electricity and gas
12.1% (+0.6%)
11.5%
Retail and other goods
3.8% (+0.5%)
3.3%
Private transportation
12.1% (-2.2%)
14.3%
Accommodation
4.9% (-0.1%)
5%
Source: MAS, MTI


Food

The change: Since January, year-on-year food inflation has remained constant at 8.1%

This was attributed by a sharper increase in the prices of non-cooked food prices along with a smaller increase in prices of prepared meals.

How this affects you: As food inflation remains elevated, you might have to revise your grocery budget again. According to MTI, the average price of a carton of 10 eggs rose from S$2.40 to S$2.60 between December 2021 to 2022 — an 8% increase.

Coincidentally, CNA also conducted a price comparison of essential goods between 2021 and 2022. In February 2022, they found that a pack of 30 Pasar fresh eggs rose from S$4.75 to $6.15 at NTUC Fairprice. Similarly, a 30-egg carton from Sheng Siong also increased from S$4.65 to S$6.15.

But eggs aside. Let's talk about some meals at coffee shops, hawker centres, and food courts.

Recently, a survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies visited over 829 food establishments in Singapore. It was found that for three meals a day, prices ranged from S$15.47 to S$18 – Bukit Timah was the cheapest while Bishan was the priciest.

What you can do: Download the Price Kaki app to compare prices of groceries, household items and hawker prices islandwide. 

Source: Price Kaki

Through this app, you can filter and sort listings by price, distance, supermarket, and more. It’s arguably the fastest way to get price updates for all your essential goods shopping.

Simultaneously, maximise your grocery haul during your next trip by using a grocery credit card at checkout. Some cards like Citi Cash Back Card reward you with 8% cashback on groceries whereas others like BOC Sheng Siong Card specifically give you 6% cashback at all Sheng Siong outlets.


Related to this topic:
Supermarket Promos And Discounts For Senior Citizens in Singapore (2022)
14 Cheaper Things to Buy in JB Besides Food, Groceries and Petrol
Latest NTUC Fairprice Promo Codes in Singapore (May 2022)



Retail

The change: Retail and other miscellaneous goods inflation increased to 3.8% in February, a 0.5% increase from January.

This hike is attributed to a step-up in tobacco excise duty announced during Budget 2023 as well as sharp price increases to personal care products and recreational & cultural goods.

How this affects you: Ultra-fast fashion platforms like Shein have been one of the main culprits of overconsumption. From January to April alone, 315,000 new styles have been added to Shein’s online catalogue. Within the same timeframe, H&M and ZARA only added 4,414 new styles to their US websites.

As demand for fast fashion exponentially rises, so will supply – and thereafter, inflicting greater stress on the environment and factory workers’ rights. If supply can’t keep up with demand amid all these pressing concerns, naturally, the prices of your garments will increase.

What you can do: According to a 2021 survey conducted by FleishmanHillard, 60% of Gen Zs have been great ambassadors for slower and more sustainable fashion. For example, thrift stores like Loop Garms, Function Five, STAKEOUT, and others are shopping havens for affordable yet trendy pre-loved clothes. 

💡 Pro-tip: Also, instead of shopping directly on popular blog shops (e.g. Lovet, Super Gurl, Young, Hungry & Free), join their secondhand Telegram channels where shoppers sell off their past items at a fraction of original prices.


In the long run, purchasing pre-owned clothes proves to be cheaper, longer-lasting and thus, more value-for-money.

Where applicable, use a cashback credit card to score some decent rebates during your shopping spree. Make thrift shopping sustainable for both your wardrobe and wallet!



Electricity and gas

The change: Electricity and gas prices rose to 12.1% in February, up by 0.6% since January.


How this affects you:
Tariffs are calculated in three components: network costs, market support services fee, and market administration and power system operation fee.

 

The average decrease of electricity tariffs will be 2.7% or 0.79 Singapore cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) between 1 January to 31 March 2023. This is given lower energy costs compared to 2022 Q4.


Source: SP Group

That said, electricity and gas inflation has nonetheless risen from January to February due to marked increase in electricity costs. Thus, households will still bear the brunt of these tariffs, which now stand at 31.27 cents per kWh (after GST).


The rise in household electricity and gas bills can be terrifying at first, but there are measures to counter these tariffs. By using the right credit card, it can help shave off some costs.

The UOB One card offers cardholders 5% cashback on all spend (including recurring telco and electricity bills) plus an extra 1% on SP bills. Thus, you'll receive up to 4.33% cashback on your pesky electricity bills! Rebates are issued out quarterly, with the maximum rebate requiring min. S$2,000 monthly spend.

Meanwhile, the OCBC 365 card is another popular choice, offering 3% cashback (capped at S$80) on recurring telco and electricity bills with a min. S$800 monthly spend.




Related to this topic:
Open Electricity Market (OEM) Singapore: Complete 2022 Guide
Cheapest Electricity Retailers in Singapore 2022
8 Ways to Lower Your Electricity Bill in Singapore


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Private transport and services

The change: Between March and April this year, private transport inflation fell from 21.5 to 18.3% – a welcome relief for many. It only rose slightly to 18.5% in May after the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums hiked up in February.

But currently, we've seen the biggest drop in inflation in the private transport sector. It jumped to 21.9% in June, 22.2% in July, 24.1% in August before moderating to 22.3% in September due to slower increases in car and petrol prices.

Following that, private transport inflation has dropped by 5% to 17.3% in October 2022.

Similarly, services inflation has eased a little too. Starting from 2.6% in May, 3.4% in June, 3.5% in July, 3.8% in August, 4% in September, and now 3.9% in October 2022 .

Experts cite relaxation of travel borders, greater holiday expenditure and more engagement with point-to-point transport services as the reasons for this increase.

How this affects you: Private car ownership and maintenance in Singapore have inevitably risen. Petrol prices have hit yet another high despite crude oil prices being 15% cheaper now.

1-litre of diesel = S$2.50 to S$2.57
1-litre of 92-octane petrol = S$2.71 to S$2.74
1-litre of 95-octane petrol = S$2.76 to S$2.79
1-litre of 98-grade petrol = S$3.23 to S$3.28 

💡Pro-tip: Prior to savings and discounts, SPC and Sinopec generally offer the cheapest fuel rates.


What you can do:
Download the Fuel Kaki app to compare the best prices of petrol and diesel before refueling your vehicle.

Source: Fuel Kaki

At the same time, motorists are highly encouraged to sign up for a petrol credit card to save on fuel expenses depending on preference.

  92-Octane Petrol 95-Octane Petrol 98-Octane Petrol
Best petrol kiosk for Caltex Sinopec, Caltex Sinopec, Esso
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With everyone deep set on revenge travelling and being predisposed to spend more overseas, costs incurred from travel comprise a significant portion of our income now.

If we're not careful or discrete with our spending habits, we can easily overspend and spell disaster for ourselves – especially with talks of a recession ahead.

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Headline inflation has eased too

Headline inflation has eased slightly from 6.6% in January to 6.3% in February 2023.

Frictions in global transportation and supply chains have lessened while demands in major advanced economies have softened. Prices of energy commodities have declined too. 

Conversely, global food commodity prices and core inflation worldwide remain staggeringly high.

That said, firms are continually encouraged to "[pass on] accumulated import, labour, and other business costs to consumer prices amid resilient demand" despite expectations of unit labour costs to rise on the domestic front.

Meanwhile, housing and car ownership cost hikes aren't going to decrease anytime soon given the tight COE quotas and strong housing demand recently.

Related to this topic:
Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio & Limits in Singapore
A Recession Is On Its Way — Here’s How You Can Protect Your Investments
Money Confessions: My Wallet Is Not Looking Forward To Post-COVID-19 Life (Especially Going Back To Office)
5 Tips To Better Plan Your Budget in a Post-COVID World



Anything we can do to personally curb inflation?

Bottom line is, storing money idly in a low-interest bank account won’t help much. Moreover, with passive income being all the rage now, many Singaporeans are getting nifty with their saving and investment habits for a healthier financial future.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Deposit your funds into a high-interest savings account.
  2. Lock money away in a (participating) short-term endowment plan to reap higher rates of return in the longer run.
  3. Cash management accounts are great saving/investing hybrids to transform savings into passive income.
  4. Start an investment portfolio with robo-advisors.

Essentially, a currency’s buying power usually depreciates during inflation. Thus, the worth of idle money will only plunge if the rates of return earned aren’t sufficient to compensate for a currency’s diminishing value.

Earlier in June 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong also announced a S$1.5 billion Support Package to aid the lower-income and more vulnerable strata of society in coping with the daunting challenges of inflation.

Read more: A Complete Guide to Roboadvisors in Singapore


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Read these next:
7 Money Moves Singaporeans Can Make To Manage Inflation
8 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Better Cope With Inflation in Singapore 2022
1990s vs 2020s: Inflation and Price Changes in Singapore
9 Ways to Hedge Against Inflation with Investing

With a minor problem of ‘itchy fingers’ when it comes to checking out at flash deals and sales, Emma is on a lifelong journey to understand what being financially independent in adulthood means. That said, her inner child is still very much alive… with animals and gaming (especially Pokémon) being her weak spot.

FINANCIAL TIP:

Use a personal loan to consolidate your outstanding debt at a lower interest rate!

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