Singapore aspires to be number one in many things. But I’m sure this isn’t one of them. Singapore has been crowned, third year in a row, as number one on the list of most expensive cities to live in.
So expensive! Buay tahan (Singaporean colloquial term for “can’t take it anymore!”) ah!!!!!!
Is it really that expensive to live in Singapore? To answer this question, let’s look at the methodology of how Singapore came to be crowned the most expensive city in the world.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) prepares this Worldwide Cost of Living report twice a year. The report is based on a survey that compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help and recreational costs.
Transport cost in Singapore is apparently 2.7 times that of in New York. How can that be? Primarily because of the cost of owning a car in Singapore. Public transport in Singapore is actually fairly cheap compared to cities such as London. I stayed in London for a year many years ago. And I remembered that the cost of taking public transport there was significantly more expensive than in Singapore.
Of course, there are other things in Singapore which, according to the report, are more expensive than other developed cities.
However, it is important to note that the cost of Singapore’s groceries isn’t that much more expensive than in other developed cities. For instance, bread in Singapore is cheaper than in Hong Kong, Zurich, Geneva, Paris, and New York. I also read that while the report suggests that Singapore is the most expensive place to buy clothes, that is because of the many luxury brands in Singapore.
So. Depending on how you look at it, it may be that it is indeed expensive to live in Singapore.
But. What’s more important, which the report doesn’t say, is whether Singaporeans in different income segments have enough money to pay for the things they need to live, and perhaps even thrive.
For instance, what can the income of the lowest decile of wage earners in Singapore buy? Is that enough for them to get by? Or are they living from hand to mouth, just barely eking? And then the next decile above that. What can their incomes get them? Is that enough? What sort of lives can they afford to lead with that kind of income?
And keep going up the deciles. At which decile can we conclude that incomes are sufficient to get by comfortably? And for the deciles below that, what then can be done to lighten their financial burden?
I don’t know of any research that has studied that. I don’t know if it’s even possible to study something like that. But that, I think, is more useful than a report that uses a rather blunt methodology.