While Singaporeans are often slapped with criticism for complaining a lot, at least for the majority of us, it is not easy to grapple with rising costs of living when every single thing seems to be flaunting higher price tags. For those who haven't heard, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore as the most expensive city in the world in its Worldwide Cost of Living 2017 survey.
There are plenty of reasons why Singaporeans are less happy than before, but is Singapore really the world's most expensive city as recent headline news all over the world would have you believe? Read on to find out what we at GET.com think about this ranking.
Is Singapore Truly The Most Expensive City On The Planet?
1. The Survey Isn't Meant To Anger Singaporeans
It is debatable whether Singapore is really the world's most expensive city regardless of the fact that prices of over 150 goods and services (including food, drinks, transport, domestic help, household goods, utility bills, home rents, private schools, etc.) across 133 cities were compared.
In essence, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide Cost of Living 2017 survey is mainly a guideline for HR managers to compute and create compensation packages and cost of living allowances for employees slated to take on jobs overseas, Singapore included.
We all know that expats typically live the high life with fat salary packages, don't we? According to this BBC report, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam made his case when Singapore first topped the list in 2014 by justifying that the basket of goods and services on which the index was founded included fancy un-Singaporean things such as "imported cheese, filet mignon, Burberry-type raincoats, four best seats in a theatre, three-course high-end dinners for four people". Go figure.
2. We Don't Live The Way Many Expats Do
Nobody says living in Singapore is an inexpensive endeavour but normal people like you and I probably don't live the way expats do. Most of us live in HDB flats, use public transport and our definition of comfort food equals home cooked food and hawker food. Most kids don't attend unsubsidised schools, and we don't visit gourmet grocers in Singapore all the time, either.
Although we dine at cafes and atas restaurants, go to fancy bars and pubs, head to the movies, watch concerts and theatrical performances, drink Starbucks and more, I am quite certain that most of us can make do with less of the above-mentioned if need be.
Any sensible Singaporean who's mature enough would know how difficult it is to earn that paycheque at the end of the month. And that's precisely why we scour for deals, wait for sales, go to cheap places to shop for daily needs, arm ourselves with money-saving shopping hacks, and trawl the internet for amazing and inexpensive food places in Singapore.
3. Certain Things Are Genuinely Pretty Expensive
While there are HDB grants that you could take advantage of, HDB flats aren't super affordable to begin with although they are public housing. Having a roof over our head, hence decades of paying off your home loan, is possibly the biggest reason why most Singaporeans have to keep working. Check out how much money you'll need for your first HDB flat if you're new to the whole HDB concept.
Getting a degree in Singapore isn't necessarily cheap, either. Though the tuition fees are less exorbitant at local universities in Singapore, folks who do not have scholarships, bursaries nor parents' financial help are left with no choice but to chalk up student debt. I'm lucky in that my dad paid off my NUS tuition fees using his savings, but I have plenty of friends who had no choice but to take on student loans. They still have years to go before they're debt-free.
Sure, some of you may drive posh cars but you need to recognise that extravagance isn't for everyone. As much as cars provide convenience, not all of us can afford to own and drive one. I'd love to own a cute Mini Cooper but I am not made of money, so I take public transport, walk, or cycle. My dad paid $85,000 for his COE a few years back and I can't help but wonder how long it'll take me to save that exact sum of money.