Lessons from a loaf of bread

Before attending a GST briefing with my classmates, I dropped by the famously expensive Wu Pao Chun Bakery at City Hall. I bought a loaf of Lychee Rose Royale, its signature confection that won an international award. It set me back $20.80, but, hey, it’s for the family! Paper bag in hand, I headed for my meeting.

The economist who conducted the session spotted my purchase immediately. "Isn't this that expensive bread?” she asked. “I've always wanted to buy it when I walk past the bakery but it's too expensive. If I'm with my husband, it's even worse. He will never let me buy it at this price."

I’d better tell her this was a rare indulgence for this broke student — particularly since it was for my family to sample — lest she gets the wrong impression. I did, but she wouldn’t leave my bread alone.

As we were talking about a multi-tiered GST, she asked: "Oh, who was the one who bought that $20 bread?"

I raised my hand sheepishly. With that, she gave a spiel on how complicated it can get taxing different goods at different rates. Should bread, she asked, be considered an essential item for households, especially when prices can vary from less than a dollar to $20.80? "This is why Singapore should not implement a multi-tiered GST,” she concluded.

Besides learning all about the GST, the other lesson I got was: Never bring bread to a briefing.

Gwen Lee

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