Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cost of living in Singapore - is it really that bad?

I usually throw away letters that are addressed to "the resident". It's usually nothing more than rubbish from real estate agents.

But this morning, when I saw this letter in my letter box, I opened it up and was about to throw it away when I saw postage stamps in the envelope.

This is a sweetener from the postal authorities to increase the local postal charge to 30 cents. That's about Euro 0.15.

A lot of people complain about how high the living costs in Singapore are but are their complaints just? With the implementation of the Certificate of Entitlement system, car ownership in Singapore is most certainly the costliest luxury one can afford and it will be hard to find a car anywhere else in the world that costs more than half the cost an equivalent car in Singapore. Yes, it's that bad and I don't think I'm exaggerating even though I must admit I'm not a fan of motor vehicles and I know very little about them. Apart from the price of cars, housing is extremely costly too.

While car and housing costs are among the highest in the world, the cost of living in Singapore is extremely low. I have just gone this morning for breakfast at the hawker centre (the official term is now "food centre" although I still prefer the original name that is redolent of the history of this beautiful country) and my meal of nasi lemak (rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk with a fried chicken wing, anchovies, an egg, cucumber and the delicious sambal) and a cup of tea cost less than Euro 1.50. It was about Euro 1.20 to be precise.

Although houses are expensive, there are many cheaper options. In his recent National Day speech, the Prime Minister gave the full breakdown of the cost of public housing in Singapore.  I have forgotten the details but I recall it was something that was quite affordable for everyone. And public housing in Singapore isn't like public housing in other countries. Government flats here look very much like flats in luxurious private condominiums.

I have strong views against the car culture and the overuse of fossil fuel and I think I won't be totally dishonest if I say that to all intents and purposes I have never owned and will never own a car. One can get by quite comfortably in Singapore on public transport which is cheap and extremely efficient. For all the complaints against public transport in Singapore, the fact remains that there is hardly any breakdown. For every single breakdown in the MRT system in Singapore, there are probably a hundred breakdowns in the Underground in London and the British Rail.

There is also a healthier alternative which I always advocate. Ride a bicycle. Singapore is small enough for one to go practically anywhere on the bicycle.

It's very good of the postal authorities to give every household a booklet of postage stamps while announcing its price hike.  But we must bear in mind that it's a price increase to only SGD 0.30 or Euro 0.15.  Let's get real. In most countries, you've got to pay ten times that amount just to use a public toilet which is almost always free in Singapore and when you have to pay (which is not common), it's usually only Euro 0.05.

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