Expensive Tag Is Unfair On Singapore Says Minister

Angry ministers and economists have hit back at a survey rating Singapore as the most expensive city to locate as an expat.

The claim was made in a study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, but local economists and the government have hit back against the claim.

Instead, they say although the survey is a useful tool for HR departments, the results are an unfair reflection on the true living costs in the Asia Pacific city state.

Leading the protest is Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

He countered the tag of most expensive city by explaining that comparing the cost of living across various countries often depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the local currencies.

Big buzz about survey

“The strong Singapore dollar increases the spending power of everyone here and Singaporeans abroad,” he said. “Imported goods are cheaper and as most of the food and everyday items in Singapore are largely imported, they become more value for money.

“Although Singapore may be expensive for expats, it’s cheap for Singaporeans.”

Tharman also pointed out that the shopping basket of goods included in The Economist survey was not the same as the typical basket of shoppers in the city.

“There’s a big buzz here about Singapor taking the top spot, but I wouldn’t read too much into it, because next year we could be number six again,” said Francis Tan, economist at the United Overseas Bank.

“Singapore is expensive because there’s a price to pay for everything. If companies want to be based in a country where you push a button and everything works, where there is no political risk, where business is vibrant then there’s a premium to pay.”

Tarnished reputation

The survey has caused such upset in Singapore because the government and financial leaders feel the results may tarnish the reputation of the city as a financial and business hub for the Asia Pacific.

The Economist survey hiked Singapore from the sixth most expensive city in 2012 to top ranking this year.

Making up the top five were Paris, France; Oslo, Norway; Zurich, Switzerland, and Sydney, Australia.

“European cities continue to rate highly because of the investment in infrastructure, but with the continuing rise of Asian hubs mean these regions continue to supply most of the world’s most expensive cities,” said the editor of The Economist report, Jon Copestake.

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