I'm Not Saying that Tharman was Lying

It's not that Tharman was wrong but he was misguided. But he seemed to be completely out of sync with what kind of cost of living ordinary Singaporeans have to face these days. When I said these days, I meant today and not two years ago when I was still in Singapore.

Tharman's rebuttal towards the survey conducted by EIU went along these lines

1) The basket of goods and services evaluated by the EIU included a large array of goods that he felt ordinary Singaporeans would normally not consume, such as imported cheese, filet mignon and high end entertainment services. He was implying locals would not have found living in Singapore that expensive (top of the world)

2) Singapore's rising living cost for expatriates are driven by the strengthening of the SGD because according to him, most expatriates are paid in currencies of their respective countries.

3) On point 2), Singaporeans would not be affected (in terms of high cost of living) by the strengthening of the SGD because Singaporeans' incomes are growing faster than the cost of living.

Can Tharman's justifications be accepted? You'll be the judge.

On point 1), Jon Copestake, editor of the EIU report, said that the basket of goods includes many everyday items as well. He said,

"The survey basket ranges from a loaf of bread to a luxury car."
"In fact, the highest-weighted category in our survey is that of groceries and everyday staples which include goods like fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, rice, etc."

It's Tharman's words against Jon Copestake. So it's your call.

On point 2), fair play on Tharman's part. But we have consider the fact that currencies differences between most countries and Singapore for the past year varies around only 10-15%.

For example, if the SGD strengthened against the Ringgit from 1: 2.5 to 1:2.6 over a year,  that is only a 4% variance. 
Even when the AUD plunged against SGD from 1: 1.30(when I migrated) to 1:1.14 (today), the drop was 12% but over 2 years.

The other major currencies should see similar variances. Most of the expatriates would not be significantly affected by such figures. But even if such slim margins could tip Singapore over Toyko as the most expensive city in the world, it meant that Singapore was one of the most expensive already, in second or third places previously. A politician downplaying the notion makes the people feel better but it doesn't make the country less expensive.

Point 3) Take a look at the following screenshot.

Our friend Zaihan's heart was sank in Febuary when COE prices of motorcycles hit record height in 17 years. It only took one month to beat that record.

How do you feel if you have to pay freight that cost twice as much as the cost of your purchased item itself? It must be a similar feeling that Zaihan felt this month. Someone please patrol around Bedok Reservoir to see if there is any Malay-looking chap in tears these days. That could very well be our friend Zaihan. Look, I'm not implying that a motorbike is an essential in living. Yes, we can take public transport, for sure but my bike riding friend had meticulously worked out that commuting by a motorbike cost less than what he would spend on public transport. So even Tharman would not classify a 200cc motorbike as a "high-end" goods that only expatriates consume. Local Singaporeans formed the majority of more than 100,000 of the biking community. Did our income really rise in faster or in tandem than the cost of living like what Tharman suggested?

Milk powder. If Tharman takes a walk in his nearest NTUC Fairprice, he would have realised prices of milk powder cost 2-3 times as much as its equal in an Australian supermarket - a country notoriously reputed to be terribly expensive to live in. How do you classify this product? High end, or only for expatiates use? You can take a walk around the supermarket and compare other "low end" food prices in Singapore to Perth's. [Click here for Perth prices] and compare it yourself pound for pound.

Is housing a need or a luxury to the commoners of a country? As the Chinese say, "The essentials of the people are shelter, food, clothes." A shelter is a basic need, even if it is as bad as sleeping under an expressway. Our government loves telling the people that the majority of the people, say 80-90% own a property. Only recently Khaw Boon Wan admitted that our HDB flat will be worth nothing at the end of the 99 year lease. If the Singaporean population was any wiser, they would have realise all they possessed was a leasing agreement and they owned nothing. The reason why people in the past was able to make money by transferring their rental lease (so call selling of their property) was due to speculation and the artificial pumping up of the demand by opening the floodgates to foreigners. Don't bet the sustainability of such a phenomenon. At the end of the day, to put things in perspective, only 10% or less of the population is able to own a house. How affordable living is that? So how much is such a house in Singapore compared to a freehold house in Australia? And how much is public housing (HDB) in Singapore as compared to public housing (Homewest) in Western Australia? I'll leave it to you to find out, if you can take the hard truths.


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  2. If they take into account the price or rental of freehold houses, comparing apples to apples, singapore would have been the most expensive many years ago. EIU has already downplayed the survey many times over and over again.

  3. Just look at S26 infant milk powder, it cost AUD 22 in most Oz supermarket and it is an imported product. On the other hand, it costs AUD $37.50 (SG 42) in Singapore. If you look at the place of origin, it is manufacture in Singapore.

    Apparently, Tharman is living in a cave, he and his crooks do not even know the cost of living in SG. If you do a proper calculation, it cost a couple $320 ( $40 x 8 can) a month to feed an infant. No wonder SG birth rate is low.