In an earlier posting, I did a "not-so-rigorous" comparison of the cost of living relative to wages between Singapore and Malaysian cities and concluded that the quality of life in Malaysian cities may not be too far off from Singapore's[earlier posting here].
Here is what I wrote in my blog a few weeks ago:
"2 decades ago, when you make a general statement that the life in Singapore is better than in Malaysia, most people would believe it and agree with you. Today the difference in the quality of life is not so clear. There are still many things that Singapore does better than Malaysia. We have low crime rates (hmm...gangs?), an outstanding education system and outstanding opportunities for a small number highly talented individuals. You can make millions of you climb all the way up to be a minister or CEO of a GLC. However, most Singaporeans are not highly talented - ordinary Singaporeans have ordinary talents....and by the law of nature about half our population have below average talent & IQ. The rising cost of living especially the cost of public housing means that the struggle for ordinary Singapore to stay afloat becomes tougher with each passing year. For the elderly and low income Singaporeans, the pain of poverty becomes harder to bear as the cost of living spirals up. Many ordinary Singaporeans are beginning to ask...what is the key selling point of our system? One that makes them struggle their whole life without a good retirement in Singapore to look forward to." - [Link]
It turned out that UBS did a more rigorous study and found that the purchasing power of Malaysians in KL is actually higher that of Singaporeans. UBS did a comparison of 73 cities by measuring the purchasing power[Full report found here].
"Prices and Earnings provides a comprehensive comparison of prices (122 goods and services plus apartment rents), incomes, income taxes, working hours and vacation days for 14 different occupations" - UBS.
According to the report Singapore ranks 11th in terms of cost of living and 43rd in terms of wages. Singapore came in 42nd for purchasing power which is wages relative to the cost of living and Kuala Lumpur is 2 places ahead of Singapore. Singapore is behind Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei and Hong Kong. In 2006 Singapore workers have a purchasing power index of 54.9 (using New York as the base=100), today that figure has fallen to 40.6.
Basically, Singaporeans have been put on a threadmil. As wages go up, the price level of housing, transport and medical care goes up even more. Its like the speed of the threadmill is increased year after year and you are made run harder just to stay on the spot and not fall behind. For the bottom 30% whose wages have remained more or less stagnant for the past 10 years, their quality of life has simply deteriorated. So what is the selling point of this system for ordinary Singaporeans?