Keep Calm. Singapore is the Most Expensive City in the World…For Expats

Marina Bay. Flickr photo by Nicolas Lannuzel (CC License)

Marina Bay. Flickr photo by Nicolas Lannuzel (CC License)

Singapore was recently rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the most expensive city in the world. But many Singaporeans are disputing the tag which they claim to be misleading and even inaccurate.

The country’s finance minister clarified that the country’s cost of living continues to be affordable for most Singaporeans:

From time to time, these surveys will come up, and people will give it a spin, but they are measuring something quite different from the cost of living for our residents.

What is important for us is that Singaporeans, and particularly low- and middle-income Singaporeans, have incomes that grow faster than the cost of living. That is what is important and what we have fortunately been able to achieve.

Indeed, the survey examined 160 services and products in 140 cities in order to guide expats and business managers:

The survey itself is a purpose-built internet tool designed to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. The survey incorporates easy-to-understand comparative cost-of-living indices between cities. The survey allows for city-to-city comparisons, but for the purpose of this report all cities are compared to a base city of New York, which has an index set at 100.

But Everything Also Complain wanted the government to go beyond the survey methodology and instead reflect on the economic situation of Singaporeans:

There are flaws in this survey, no doubt, but brushing it aside as one targetting just expats without a fair definition of ‘expat’ and making it a defensive ‘us vs them’ exercise is a typical symptom of blame-shifting instead of self-reflection.

Jay Teo described the ranking as inaccurate:

After living in Singapore for the past 25 years, I find this statement to be lacking in accuracy from the perspective of a local citizen.

Yes, Singapore may not be the cheapest place in the world, but the average Singaporean is doing pretty alright financially. So before people start packing their bags and move to India, Syria or Nepal to enjoy the lowest costs of living in the world (according to the survey), let's take a look at the facts.

A letter received by Five Stars and a Moon also rejected the conclusion that living in Singapore is costlier than in other global cities:

The article seems to give the impression that Singapore is the costliest city to live in even for Singaporeans. This, in my opinion is not true. Try getting a Singaporean to live in Oslo, Paris, New York or even London just for a week and they will return tell you how cheap Singapore is.

Blogging for Myself highlighted the growing inequality in ‘rich’ Singapore:

We are one city but two economies: the rich and the poor. The middle class are painfully caught between the two because part of their living is in the rich space where they are regularly out bidden by the rich. I think that is why they are raising a hue and cry on social media and the blogosphere over our new most pricey city laurel.

Jeff Cuellar warned that cost of living will continue to rise in Singapore:

The fact that a globally recognized survey measuring the “actual” cost of life’s necessities ranks Singapore as the most expensive city should be a wakeup call to everyone. The truth of the matter is this – life in Singapore will never get any cheaper.

Think about it, Singapore has been in the top 20 on this list for the last years! Why is that? Because Singapore’s high prices are maintained by the scarcity of resources, land, and the infrastructure to support motor vehicles for the average citizen.

The biggest takeaway you can get from this news is to prepare today for a future that will be even more expensive than it is today.

Benjamin Chiang urged Singaporeans to find ‘oasis of opportunities’ in the country:

Basic education is virtually free. The destitute are taken off the streets, housed and helped back on their feet. The handicapped have social assistance. The poor also have similar assistance and help with job placement. A strong tripartite alliance is lifting both wages and productivity. Government handouts that neutralise the effects of Goods and Services tax. Very low income taxes.

See beyond the high price and you will see an oasis of opportunities. Opportunities for one to capitalise off the wealth in this country and to build a niche of success for oneself.

My Singapore News sees a problem on how to convince Singaporeans to return home:

We are so expensive in two big ticket items, housing and cars. How are we going to tell our Singaporeans to come back home to live and work here when they have to pay a ransom just to get a roof over their head and a decent car to enjoy the good life?

Lifestyle is an important factor to determine whether living in Singapore is expensive or affordable, according to Limpeh Foreign Talent

Ultimately, it depends on your personal circumstances whether or not you find Singapore an expensive place to live. If you are a young person living with your parents (so you don't really have to worry too much about rent or utility bills), you're happy to use public transport, eat at hawker centers and hunt for bargains when it comes to shopping, then Singapore can be pretty affordable. But if you have to rent your own place, you insist on having a car, eat in nice restaurants and pay full whack at the designer boutiques on Orchard Road, then that kind of lifestyle can make living in any city an expensive experience.

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