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9 in 10 find S’pore an expensive place to live in

Respondents in Sunday Times poll blame higher cost of housing, transport, food and utilities

HOUSEWIFE Goh Lay Leng has seen her monthly grocery bills go up by 10 per cent, and that has prompted the mother of four to look for cheaper alternatives.

‘Everything is increasing and we’re spending more. My husband says there’s hardly any money left at the end of the month,’ said Madam Goh, 44.

Her engineer husband brings home about $5,000 a month and the family lives in a four-room flat in Pasir Ris.

A total of 91 per cent of the 353 respondents in a Sunday Times survey agreed with Madam Goh, saying that Singapore had become an expensive place to live in.

The survey had been conducted in late December to understand Singaporeans’ attitude to money.

Nine in 10 also felt that Singapore was an expensive place to raise a family. Less than half were confident that their living standard would improve in the next two years.

They blamed the higher cost of housing, transport and basic necessities such as food, water and power.

Almost half said that they felt the financial strain of servicing mortgages or rents, although 36 per cent were contented.

Nearly half felt that a family of four needed between $50,000 and $70,000 a year – or $4,167 to $5,833 a month – to live comfortably.

The latest figures from the Department of Statistics show that the average household’s income went up by 9.6 per cent last year, the biggest increase in at least a decade.

It rose to $6,280, up from $5,730 the year before. Families with higher incomes also had bigger pay hikes than those in lower-income households, widening the rich-poor gap.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said recently that he expected inflation this year to be 5 per cent or more. It was about 2 per cent last year.

MP Halimah Yacob said that the public’s mood may have been dampened by the continuing prospect of high inflation. But she was also heartened that Singaporeans were practical and prudent.

‘They think of investing in their children’s education and old age and that reflects that they do recognise the need to plan for the long term,’ she said.

Take 41-year-old Madam Zaina Mohammad. The part-time cashier and her Cisco officer husband’s combined monthly income is just $2,000, but the couple make sure they deposit $50 every month into each of their three children’s bank accounts for their education fund.

Like her, the priority for most Singaporeans is their children’s future. If they had a million dollars, 27 per cent said that they would spend most of the money on education.

One possible indication as to why their children’s education reigned supreme: More than half of those surveyed said that they were either not sure, or did not think that their children would be able to improve upon or afford their present lifestyle as adults.

Another indication of Singaporeans’ prudent and practical traits: More than four in five chose to save their surplus income every month.

Despite rising prices, nearly all the people polled had no plans to pack up for greener pastures.

Ninety per cent agreed that Singapore was still a place worth living in. Also, two in five were glad that Singapore had become one of the richest countries in the world, because it meant better public amenities, a more cosmopolitan society and a vibrant nightlife and cultural scene.

Despite having to scrimp and save, Madam Zaina isn’t going anywhere. ‘It’s peaceful here and it is our home after all,’ she said.


Source: The Sunday Times 17 Feb 08

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