The high cost of Singapore living!

I refer to the 11 Mar 2014 TREmeritus article “CNA editor: The high cost of Singapore living?” by Mr Nicholas Fang.

Mr Fang repeats what has been told to us from young: that we are a small country with no natural resources that managed to compete with the world’s best. Now that we are all grown up, it’s time to wake up from this fairy tale.

If we compare small population economies (defined as less than 10 million population) against large population economies (defined as 10 million population or more), the percentage of small population economies achieving World Bank’s High Income status classification is nearly twice that for large population economies. It thus seems that prosperity is easier achieved for small population economies than for large population economies. Our smallness hasn’t been a hindrance to us.

World Bank Data Population 10 million or more Population less than 10 million Total
Number of High Income economies 19 55 74
Number of Not High Income economies 67 73 140
Total 86 128 214
Percentage 22% 43%

Similarly, if we compare economies deriving less than 5% of its GDP from natural resources against economies deriving 5% or more of its GDP from natural resources, we find that the percentage of the former group achieving World Bank’s High Income status classification is again more than twice that for the latter group. Prosperity seems easier achieved for economies deriving less than 5% of its GDP from natural resources than for economies deriving 5% or more of its GDP from natural resources. The absence of natural resources hasn’t been a hindrance to us.

World Bank Data 5% or more GDP from natural resources Less than 5% GDP from natural resources Total
Number of High Income economies 13 61 74
Number of Not High Income economies 58 82 140
Total 71 143 214
Percentage 18% 43%

It’s amazing how Mr Fang can conclude from just a handful of the hundreds of EIU items that the EIU items relate only to expatriates but not to the ‘average’ citizen like himself. It’s amazing too he can conclude that the hundreds of thousands of expatriates in Singapore are all consuming well beyond the exquisiteness of his ‘average’ taste.

The difference between the CPI and the EIU index Mr Fang brought up could be due to the fact that the former includes imputed rental which kind of muddies the consumer price information whereas the latter does not. It’s unfortunate the EIU index does not include housing prices because if it did, it will more clearly show our high costs given that the price of our public housing is the price of private housing elsewhere.

Mr Fang should realise that we don’t have the right public information to know if our public transport is cheaper than say New York. Our hub and spoke transport system forces the average home-to-destination or destination-to-home journey into a series of bus-train-bus combinations the average price of which cannot be obtained simply by looking at bus only or train only fare information separately.

Mr Fang also repeats the irrelevant notion that we have a short history as an independent state because modern Singapore has had a glorious history spanning close to 200 years.

Mr Fang wants us to search our soul about the image we want to project. But for the average man on the street, image is the last thing on his mind, coping with the daily grind of life is.

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