Yes, Singapore is the most expensive city…


Singapore was ranked as the priciest city, ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Geneva and Paris, in a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

But you know what? While it is the most expensive city, the cost of living was 10% cheaper when compared to New York a year ago.

It is necessary to understand the nature of the survey, why it was done and to whom it was done for.


According to the EIU,  the survey was designed “to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers”.

Today, a letter was published in the Straits Times which talked about the report.

The writer (Dr Patrick Liew) of the letter highlighted that the needs and spending habits of expatriates were different from that of Singaporeans.

The needs and spending habits of expatriates are different from those of Singaporeans and do not reflect the cost of living for the average resident.

Touching on the survey, Leisha Chi, one of BBC’s correspondent compared the cost of supermarket goods in Singapore such as a loaf of bread which is half of that in New York City.

A loaf of enriched white bread in Singapore costs only S$2.40 while in New York City, a loaf of white bread would cost US$3.99 (S$5.50).

In fact, a basket of goods in the supermarket is cheaper that in many other cities in Asia, including Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo which might cost about 30% more.

But as Dr Liew said in his letter, the survey had focused too much on “high-cost items, including home rents, cars, wine, private schools and tobacco”.

Again, the survey was done for expatriates and business travelers and takes into account the bigger ticket items (cars, luxury homes etc).

For the expats, one reason why Singapore is expensive is because of the high cost of buying a car here. But this also means that the number of cars on the road is kept lower to give us uncrowded streets.

To many Singaporeans, the daily essentials are still very much affordable and within reach.


Public housing is also priced affordably with the government subsidising prices for locals to buy their first homes.

The cost of public transport and hawker food are affordable to many.

To help those who struggle with daily necessities, public transport fares and food, the government and other organisations such as the NTUC have schemes and financial aid available for Singaporeans.

That said, Household incomes have increased by an average of 5.3% a year, keeping ahead of inflation of 3.1%.

So, while it might be true that Singapore is the most costliest country for expats, it is not true for locals.

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