Why MP Baey had to get to the bottom of $3 meal

CLEARING THE AIR: Mr Baey with the nasi-padang stall owner, whom he identified as Mr KK, in a picture he posted on his Facebook page. Mr KK will offer a $2.50 deal comprising one nasi padang and a drink for lunch (11am-2pm) this weekend. PHOTO: BAEY YAM KENG


    Dec 18, 2013

    Why MP Baey had to get to the bottom of $3 meal

    LAST Wednesday, I was in Tampines and decided to drop by the nasi-padang coffee shop at Block 475 in Street 44 for my lunch.

    I ordered a piece of chicken and two veggies, plus a Bandung drink. I gave the stall helper $10 and he gave me $7 in change.

    As the coffee shop was new in the neighbourhood, I thought it was a promotional price. I seldom order nasi padang so I am not familiar with the typical price.

    I have encountered similar pricing at some Chinese rice stalls, so I did not think too much about it. I posted a photo of the nasi padang on my Facebook page.

    A netizen asked me how much the nasi padang cost. I estimated the price at $2.50 and sent the netizen a reply on Wednesday night.

    The following day, another netizen posted on his Facebook page that after seeing my post, he went to the coffee shop and showed the people there my nasi-padang photo.

    However, he was charged $6. Hence, he felt that it was case of double standards and wondered why MPs enjoyed preferential pricing.

    His post was shared widely on various social-media platforms. Some netizens opined that it was the coffee-shop owner who offered a discount to me, as he would for his regular customers.

    I had not asked for it and hence I had done nothing wrong.

    However, other netizens disagreed and felt that the coffee-shop owner was "bribing" me and it was corruption for an MP to accept discounts. Hence, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau should investigate.

    They also felt that when MPs enjoy such discounts, we would be out of touch, and not understand the real cost of living and hence would not appreciate the public's financial burden.

    I wanted to get to the bottom of the matter and went back to the coffee shop...on Sunday. The owner acknowledged that his staff had recognised me that day and out of respect for my work and service in the community, charged me only $3 when it was more than $4.

    It was really out of simple goodwill and there was no ulterior motive or expectations on his part. He was deeply apologetic that the matter had been blown out of proportion.

    He was aware that a netizen claimed he was charged $6 for ordering a chicken item and an egg item, but he seriously doubted the veracity of the claim as the items would not have cost so much. He must have ordered something else he did not declare, he said.

    As part of his corporate social responsibility, the owner intends to offer a $2.50 deal for one nasi padang and a drink over lunch time (11am-2pm) this weekend.

    Up to 100 customers per day will enjoy the special offer and he would donate all proceeds to the Tampines North welfare fund to help needy residents.

    I naturally applauded and supported his initiative.

    As an elected member, I know I have to be totally above board in what I do. If there is a price listed clearly, I would not accept any discount if it was offered to me.

    If I were to jump to the conclusion that all food is cheap just because I had paid $2.50 for a nasi padang, that would have been too naive of me.


    The writer is a Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC. This piece first appeared in the Chinese section of MyPaper yesterday.