Tag Archive | inflation

Raffles Medical bill rises 40%

Apropos my previous post concerning Ministry of Manpower’s snail mail to me — even a snail would have made it faster than 11 days IMHO — I managed to get Picky Siti off for her medical check up yesterday.

I was in for a minor shock when she presented me with the bill from Raffles Medical.

Hello, the check up which consisted of a blood and urine test and a brief examination by the doctor came to $37.45!

OK not an earth shattering amount going by what we have to pay doctors nowadays.

But when compared to what was paid for the same routine check up on July 13 this year, at the same Raffles Medical clinic, there has been an increase of gasp 40%!

No wonder Singapore is getting to be known more as a super expensive city than a fun one!

Inflation? More like hyperinflation to me!¬†ūüė•


Man’s ingratitude

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.

These were some of the earliest Shakespearean lines I learned at school, oh so many years ago.

They kept coming back to mind when viewing and reviewing events of the couple of days leading up to the so-called 5,000-strong protest at Hong Lim Park. And what took place on Feb 16.

For goodness sake, with him at 89 years old and ¬†said to be too unwell to attend his constituency’s lo-hei dinner; with the goodwill of Chinese New Year still very much in the air, I wonder where’s the decency of those who colic-d at Hong Lim Park the evening after news of his inability to show up? Worse, to exploit young cute kids, to get them to carry placards! How lxx can you go? And I don’t mean Thia Khiang who like all House members stayed away. Thank goodness for their dignity, compassion and graciousness.

Don’t get me wrong. I may be madder with the PAP G than even some of those who made hue n cry at last Saturday’s protest.

Grouse Number 1 for me is their COE policy that has raised the COE for a new basic car to 100+% of the price of what I would have had to pay 30 months ago for a car + COE.

But I got a bigger grouse with myself. I had failed to read the news closely regarding pending drying up of COE numbers and so hadn’t bid aggressively enough (via the car agent lah!). I now have to drive with the consequences of my misreading — an almost 7-year old car ūüė•

Grouse Number 2 for me is the uneven playing field they have created for HDB owners and private property owners. Why allow HDB owners to buy private and still hold on to their HDB homes when private are now banned from venturing into the HDB ressale market?

Yet again, I got a bigger grouse with myself. When the rules were relaxed some 10+ years ago, family members and I did go sniffing around HDB estates. But we always came away with more minus than plus points and our search for that perfect HDB resale unit was never ending. Somehow, nothing grabbed our hearts or purses!

Not so an acquaintance who came back to live in SG after a life-time in Europe — just after the HDB resale market was liberalised. Without any home in SG, she heard from me about the joys of a Marine Parade 3-room flat, owned by a dear friend of mine. I extolled the great sea-view and the greater renovation. No, this friend wasn’t ¬†selling. I was using her home as a conversational piece.

Imagine my surprise when within a week, the acquaintaince called to say that she had settled for a unit in the same block where my friend is, on the same floor but in a different wing. A corner unit for the grandtotal sum of $270,000! Could I introduce her to my friend as she would like to use the same contractor and designer that my friend used when she took possession of the flat??

I was taken aback by her super quick action and wondered whether this acquaintance¬†hadn’t been¬†too hasty and hadn’t thought through her options etc

Given where the property market has gone since then, she certainly didn’t buy in haste and now lives to enjoy at leisure ūüėÜ

So, yes, while I’m mad with the G for it’s unfair treatment of private property owners, I really only have myself to blame¬†for not¬†rushing into the window of opportunity but instead dithered irresolutely.

And yes, I’m also unhappy about the population White Paper but not over the potential or “worst case scenario” of 6.9 million residents. In fact, I’ve no problem with even more people, because in any contest, won’t it be better to¬†have 10 million Singaporeans marching strong, than 10,000 Singaporeans?

What makes me apprehensive is the mad dash to build homes and infrastructure. Besides the mess, the inconvenience, the perpetual disruption to vehicular traffic and thereby negating much of road improvements, think of the inflation explosion which this mad rush to build, build and build will cause. See here. Might make what the COE prices have done to my savings look like a minor blip in the continuum!

And of course where public transport connectivity is concerned, our G gets a major F from me, when i compare it to Hongkong!

Yet despite all this anger, would I like the PAP G a lot better or be less angry with it,¬†if it allows wild cat strikes as the new normal? So instead of being hopping mad with buses that don’t come or come in convoys, would I be happier if there aren’t any buses or taxis to be had for love or money — say for 24 hours? Ditto, instead of super crowded trains or breakdowns, we get regular walk outs of drivers and there isn’t any MRT, crowded or otherwise, every few months?

It’s been a life-time since we didn’t have radio or TV when we tuned in. Would we feel more liberated, if like the BBC, Mediacorp’s crew now and then down tools to protest their rights? And of cos, if the Straits Times staff now go on strike like they did in 1971, it’s more their funeral than the readers, given the vast array of alternative sources of news and information ūüėČ

Frankly, now that most countries in our neighbourhood or farther afield have taps, telephones and all other modern cons that work, there isn’t much that truly distinguishes Singapore from the rest.

Mayb it’s time that we went back to the time where nothing worked so that we can stand out distinct, unique, poor and a harbinger of what could await those¬†who¬†aren’t grateful for¬†what they have inherited?

Singapore’s new title: inflation nation??

Ha, surprise, surprise, the Economist Intelligence Unit has found Singapore to be the 6th most expensive city in the world, and the 3rd most expensive in Asia (see story reproduced from the Straits Times below).

To be sure, I don’t want SG to be the cheapest in the world, if it means to be Karachi with all its problems (at least from what I hear and read about; not witnessed at first-hand).

Yet it doesn’t make me jump for joy¬†to have our homeland be in the running to become the world’s most expensive city one day. Which we may well achieve if Minister of National Development Uncle Khaw Boon Wan¬†has his way.

I refer of course to his plan/intention to build 700,000 units of housing over 17 years (to 2030) which works out to be about 40,000 per year. At an average cost of $500,000 per unit, we would be looking at $20 billion being poured into housing a year.

Guess what that would do to the need for foreign labour? Guess what even more immediately it would do for inflation!! And I’m not even including the doubling of MRT capacity, the expansion of bus fleets, new roads and highways!

As Barclay International’s economist says in the ST article below, “Singapore is not going to become cheaper by any measure as a place to live.”

Indeed! We could well have hyperinflation¬†— unless¬†the “worst” case scenario of 6.9 million population doesn’t pan out and SG leaders realise that early enough and we abandon¬†building 40,000 homes a year¬†long be4 2030 rolls round.

Indeed, I dare predict for sure, Mr Khaw would certainly not be in charge of MND — not all the way to 2030.

Indeed, I dare predict¬†with some certainly¬†that no one in the 3rd generation of PAP leadership — like¬†those leading the White Paper on Population debate¬†— would be around too. Not necessarily because PAP would no longer be in power but more likely to be because no one after the first and second generation of PAP leaders would have such political longevity. ūüôĄ

But all of us with cash savings today and tomorrow will surely suffer the lingering effects of runaway inflation ignited today, come hell or high water.

So I certainly hope Singapore would never attain the dubious crown of being the world’s most expensive city. Fingers crossed ūüėÜ


S’pore is world’s 6th most costly city: Survey¬†

 By Chia Yan Min
 SINGAPORE has been ranked the sixth most expensive city in the world, a survey by the business intelligence arm of the Economist magazine showed.

According to the Worldwide Cost of Living 2013 survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore is 35 per cent more expensive to live in than New York.

The Republic has moved up three places from last year’s ninth position, ranking it above cities such as Zurich, Paris and Geneva.

The survey compares the cost of living among 131 cities worldwide, using New York as a base city.

Carried out twice yearly, the survey compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, drinks, clothing, home rents, transport, utility bills and recreational costs.

Tokyo topped the list this year as the most expensive city to live in, as it has almost every year for the past two decades.

In contrast, the Pakistani city of Karachi was at the bottom of the list and ranked as the cheapest city surveyed.

The survey findings also showed that the relative cost of living in Asian hubs, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, has risen.

This is largely due to rising wages and growth in the region.

Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho said the cost of living here is likely to stay high for the foreseeable future.

“Singapore is not going to become cheaper by any measure as a place to live,” he said.

“The question is: Will cost of living increase at a pace that reflects growth in per capita income, and are we growing at the same rate as other Asian cities? The answers are not yet clear.”

OCBC economist Selena Ling said the main contributors have been asset inflation on the housing and transport fronts, as well as a tight labour market, leading to higher wage costs.

Ms Ling added that many of the cities on the list are high cost places within a country, unlike Singapore, which is a city state.

“There is no cheaper rural area people can decamp to, no economic hinterland,” she said.

Mr P.K. Basu, managing director and regional head of research and economics at Maybank Kim Eng, said the appreciation of the Singdollar against the US dollar and most other major currencies has also contributed to the higher relative cost of living.

Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap, co-director of the Asia Competitiveness Institute at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said the survey, which is targeted mainly at human resource managers and expatriate executives, should not be used as a benchmark for the lives of average Singaporeans.

“The high cost of living for expatriate executives in Singapore is due to private transport, rentals, alcohol, cigarettes and petrol, which is hardly surprising and not helped by rising property prices and higher COEs,” he said.


Mother of all inflation to dry up my bank account?

As I mentioned in the post before this, Singaporeans should expect the Mother of All Inflation when G starts to roll out the 700,000 housing units and all the supporting facilities to support a “worst case scenario” of 6.9 million people living in this tiny island home of ours.

Because the economy cannot but overheat when billions $ are being splashed all over the place.

When that happens, I wonder how much the dry cleaner shop I use will charge me for laundering my balcony drapes and sitting room window curtains?

I wonder because in less than seven months the cost of sending them to this dry cleaner auntie who operates at Pek Kio market has gone up by 33%.

The¬†bill for the¬†two sets I sent for washing and ironing (note not dry cleaning!) in June last year was $60. The bill for the two alternate sets I sent last month was $80. When I protested, the dry cleaner auntie said:”Eh, I already give you a $4 discount. Should be $84!”

I guess I shall have to wait till mid-year when the next lot of curtains are due for their half-yearly ablutions ūüôĄ

It could be curtains for nice curtains. Maybe I should go to Giants n buy some plastic sheets to use in place? ūüôĄ

When there are 7 million in SG in 2030…

… I shall be over the hills — but hopefully not under them — sans car (not because I’m too old to¬†drive but COE will by then be definitely beyond my budget, as if it isn’t already, hur, hur, hur)¬†sans¬†future but certainly not sans company as I shuffle along the 1,000 metres of covered walkways (the $700 million to provide them should be spent by then and then some!) to the nearest MRT station .

With 7 million folks milling in my island country, I shall never have to walk alone. Indeed, my feet might never need to touch the ground as the crowds bear me along.

So, no, when I am old and even greyer than now, I won’t need to petition G for travalators to be installed on the walkways.¬†Neither would I ¬†need to fear about tripping over, as sandwiched by the crowds in front and the crowds behind, I’m safely cocooned like a baby in its mother’s harness.

These must be a very comforting plus plus point for those of us who want to continue to call SG home Рnow and forever.

More immediate plus-plus benefits from this 7-million peeps plan will definitely go to the property tycoons, contractors, migrant recruiters and all those who will enjoy the spillover effect from the manic population explosion!

With 700,000 homes to be built in the space of 17 years ( about 40,000 per annum) besides MRT lines, extensions and stations to the right and left, north and south, there will an unprecedented building boom concertinaed into a short time-frame.

Given this, the writers of the White Paper are IMHO needlessly conservative when they forecast slower economic growth. How can? When there will be billions upon billions of $ poured into the economy, how can it go anywhere but up, up and away?

Years ago, when G introduced the annual $1billion HDB upgrading program, it was sold as  a counter cyclical way to pump prime the economy and ensure there would be a 2% growth come financial rain or tsunami.

Since then, the economy has become far larger and it would take more than $1 billion to provide a constant 2% prop. The 700,000 new homes + innumerable supporting infrastructure building comes in handy.

There will of course be the mother of all inflation with billions being pumped into the economy to build. Add to that the tens of thousands coming here to work, study, shop and/or live and one could see every $1 spent being multiplied several times…

Yet another thought that the 7 million people plan brings to mind is how timely of the HDB to introduce a concession for first-timer married home buyers with kids under 16!

Tailor-made again IMHO for indecisive PRs humming and hahing over whether to become Singaporeans.

Now a brand new HDB home at hugely subsidised prices could prove the ultimate carrot for some of the undecided. And help Singapore to build its core of Singaporeans!

Finally, I wish G won’t sell its 7 million people plan as a giant effort to hold back the tide of an ageing population. As some online critics have pointed out, what next as the 7 million also ages? Raise the population some more? Won’t it be like King Canute or a cat chasing its tail?

Seems to me it would be far more palatable to present the plan as one to give Singapore critical mass. No global city is without critical mass. So we must have that critical mass.¬†With critical mass, we won’t become irrelevant, let alone be swallowed by neighbours who turn hungry!

Galloping inflation: spend $ or lose $

Most people have been grumbling about rising prices in Singapore but babes, we are nowhere as bad as countries like Argentina, Britain in the pre-Thatcher era and so on and so forth. And horrors, remeber Zimbabwe?

This said, there are signs that if we aren’t careful, our earnings and hard-achieved savings may lose their purchasing power faster than we can say “best in Singapore and Batam”.

Already, as anyone with an interest in owning a car or in changing one would tell you, that the $50,000 you have been stashing away for 2+ years to buy a Korean basic is today unable to even buy the most basic COE.

Still, that’s hyperinflation due to government policy and the G can do something about it if it wants to.

Not so sure about food inflation though.

One of my ex-colleagues posted in Facebook last week that raisin buns at Breadtalk are now costing $1.90 each.

As i don’t eat raisin buns I didn’t feel incensed. But I’ve newly acquired a taste for one of Breadtalk’s offerings called Black Pearl. I first bought one on Nov 8 at the City Square outlet and it cost $1.50. The following day I bought two at Bishan Junction 8¬†and it cost $3.20, or $1.60 each.

When i said there must have been a mistake in the price, the cashier said “cannot b, all our prices are the same.”

So, a 10 cent price rise in one-day??

Still I can stomach this for sure since it’s an optional treat, as is my occasional teh-si siew tai fix. Still i noticed that the $1.40 I’ve been paying several times at the Raffles City food court Toast Box cost me $1.80 at the Somerset 313 food court. Is it a matter of inflation or location? ūüôĄ

But more troubling must be the property price rises that despite the G’s apparent effort to keep the lid on them — which instead looks like a bubbling cauldron over which the witch has lost control. Press one side of the lid down and another side pops up!

While the media trumpet about Sentosa bungalows and GCB’s on the main island, i found some truly awesome figures when trawling the URA website.

A Sixth Avenue bungalow in Ming Teck Park of some 12,000 sq ft sold for $12m some time last year. This year, another bungalow in the same estate of some 10,000 sq ft sold for $21 million. And these aren’t even GCBs for heavens sake! ūüė•

If this isn’t enough, looking thru the stproperty.sg website I saw that units at Bishan Loft are asking for well over a $1 million each. And this is just an executive condominium when it was completed in 2004!

What does this mean for you and me who have some savings but not enough to buy a property or even a car?

Go and spend it babes in the only way that needs replenishment every few hours!  Eat!

For those a lot richer — got car, got assets, got class — you must find¬†more ways¬†to inflation proof the cash pile that’s piling up faster than you can even think. Buying up SG Inc — prooerty or companies — may not be a bad idea, especially if your cashflow isn’t SG-sourced! That’s exactly what the likes of ThaiBev are doing..

How inflation has affected moi

The MAS/MTI letter (below)¬†on inflation in SG is quite disingenuous! ūüėÜ

Of course, I’m not among the coterie lucky or unlucky enough to have bought a car when COEs are back again at sky-high levels. Two years ago, the $90K for one top-end COE could have bought 2 low end cars (COE included)¬†in the mass market COE segment where I belong.

Slightly more than two years ago, I was in the market to buy a new car. But because of my conservatism, my budget and the fact that my car hadn’t yet reached the midway when its COE would expire,¬† I didn’t go for a guaranteed COE.

Hence today, I’m looking at an LTA invite to have my car “medically” checked be4 it turns 7 come July.

Mayb MAS and MTI would think me damned unreasonable but I believe¬†I’m as affected¬†as anyone — including¬†the 8,000 who have bought new¬†cars — by the latest bout of inflation. If I add in the inflation starting around April 2010 to date, i would say my inflation hit is far worse than 5.2%, considering that I have been holding¬†enough savings since 2010¬†that would have allowed me to buy a new car outright (after selling my old car, of course).¬† But¬†runaway COEs knocked me off track.

I come now to the other argument put forward by MAS and MTI: that as the majority of us own our homes, we are not affected by the 1.8 per cent spike in imputed rentals. Right they are but Ms Fernandez and Mrs Keng appear to forget things like annual value and property tax.

Higher rental values lead to higher imputed annual values for homes. Sure, owner occupied homes pay a concessionary rate (for which I’m¬†eternally grateful!) but you don’t need Einstein to figure out that XX% of an AV of $1oK is far higher than XX% of AV of $20K.

Meanwhile yours truly is paying more for utilities, cooking gas, lemon grass, spring onoin, domestic help, petrol etc on the one hand while my¬†savings are buying less by the day, even if I don’t aim for¬†a ¬†Ferrari.

Haha, I’m viewing inflation¬†in perspective too — my perspective!

Dear Editor,Viewing Inflation in Perspective

1 We refer to Mr Ng Boon Chye‚Äôs letter ‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs the plan to blunt spike in domestic inflation‚ÄĚ (ST 26 Apr 12).

2 Singapore’s inflation rate is currently high, but its impact on the majority is much less than suggested by the headline numbers. Of the 5.2% increase in the Consumer Price Index in March 2012, about 1.8 percentage points was accounted for by the increase in imputed rental costs of owner-occupied housing. As the majority of resident households in Singapore own their homes, they do not actually incur rental expenditure. Likewise, the sharply higher COE premiums for the first three months of this year affected around 8,000 new car buyers, or a small proportion of resident households.

3 Nonetheless, inflation is currently higher than what Singapore has seen historically and the Government and MAS remain committed to bringing it down. MAS tightened its monetary policy stance further in April 2012. A stronger Singapore dollar not only caps imported inflation, but also moderates the external demand for our goods and services, thereby also reducing pressures of demand in the labour market and for other domestic resources such as space. Over the medium term, this should ease domestic price pressures. The government has also implemented various macroprudential measures to cool the property market. Although the CPI index does not reflect property prices, the cooling of the property market should over time help to bring down other domestic costs. In the meantime, the Government has also been providing households with cash transfers that help cushion the impact of rising costs.

Mrs Cindy Keng
Corporate Communications Division
Ministry of Trade and Industry

Ms Angelina Fernandez
Corporate Communications Office
Monetary Authority of Singapore