Monday 19 May 2014

Survey on global prices by Deutsche Bank

Singapore is 'priciest place to buy cars but its public transport is among cheapest'
Mixed bag of results for S'pore in cost study
Several goods pricey but others cheap, survey finds
By Mok Fei Fei, The Straits Times, 17 May 2014

SINGAPORE is one of the priciest places to buy a set of wheels, get a gym workout or have a beer but it also has some of the world's cheapest products and services around, according a study compiled by Deutsche Bank.

A new Volkswagen Golf costs US$126,499 (S$158,000) in Singapore, far more than the US$55,516 it would set you back in Kuala Lumpur and more than five times the US$23,113 price tag in New York.

There is no point in drowning your sorrows over the high cost, either, with a pint of beer costing a sizeable US$7.94 in Singapore, the second most expensive pint behind Paris at US$8.11.

Working out at the gym will also burn a hole in your pocket, with a month's membership in the business district hitting US$131.79, trailing only Moscow, where the fees stand at US$142.49.

But consumers can find relief when it comes to buying other goods and services.

Sending a bouquet of roses to your loved one's doorstep will cost US$73.99, the same price as Brazil and the second cheapest in the world. Only France, Germany and South Africa offer the service at a cheaper rate - US$67.14.

Deutsche Bank collated the data from prices posted on the Internet and from secondary sources. Comparisons were made either at the national or city level, depending on the type of item scrutinised or the figures available.

Public transport and health insurance costs in Singapore are also among the lowest in the world.

The minimum fare for a single ride on a Singapore bus or train is 61 US cents, with only China, Malaysia, Mexico and India offering cheaper fares.

Public transport fares in India were the cheapest, with a single ride in New Delhi only eight US cents and 10 US cents in Mumbai.

The most basic health insurance annual premium for a Singaporean aged 25 to 35 is US$90.50, more expensive than Mexico (US$49.88), Indonesia (US$75.41), India (US$79.60) and the Philippines (US$85.17).

Singapore ranks in the middle of the pack among its peers in the developed economies for items like a pair of Levi's jeans, an iPhone and office rental space.

Deutsche Bank global strategist Sanjeev Sanyal at a briefing yesterday said that Singapore has become a more expensive place to live in because of recent lofty levels of inflation and a strong currency.

The higher exchange rate against the greenback means the value of goods and services goes up when converted to the US dollar, the benchmark currency used in the survey.

He added that Singapore's cost of living calculation varies greatly because of government intervention. Subsidies are given for activities deemed beneficial and sin taxes imposed for those deemed detrimental.

"If you're living in an HDB housing estate, sending your kids to a local school and using the MRT, life may not look horrendously expensive," Mr Sanyal said. "It's not cheap... but it's not completely out-of-whack expensive."

Overall, he noted that Australia is the most expensive major economy while the United States is generally the cheapest developed country.

Singapore lies in the middle but Mr Sanyal declined to rank the country, saying that much depends on the basket of goods chosen for comparison.

On a lighter note, he also created a "cheap date index" that found it was most economical for suitors in Mumbai to bring a date out for a meal to McDonald's and a movie with a couple of beers thrown in.

"But if you take the date out to McDonald's, it's very likely you won't get a date afterwards," Mr Sanyal quipped.

Five things in Singapore that are cheaper than other cities
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 20 May 2014

Singaporeans are good at finding bargains abroad. Some of us even drive across the Causeway every weekend for cheap petrol and groceries, and others shop in Thailand for inexpensive clothes and other wearables. But is there anything we should buy here at home for a change? 

A recent study by Deutsche Bank, which compares the prices of goods and services across major countries and cities, has some interesting answers. The Straits Times looks at five things from the report that are actually cheaper here than elsewhere.

1. A bouquet of roses, delivered

There's no time like the present to show your affection for a loved one, and now there's no excuse not to. At about US$74 (S$92.55) to deliver a dozen fresh roses to someone's doorstep, Singapore ties with Brazil as one of the least expensive places to buy and gift the flowers. Only South Africa, France and Germany offer them cheaper, at US$67.14 a bouquet. Lovebirds in Switzerland have it the worst - a bouquet there is about US$142.50, probably the most costly bunch of roses you can get in the world.

2. Apple iPhone 5S, 16 gigabytes, no mobile plan

While Japan is still the cheapest place to get your hands on the newest Apple smartphone at US$695, Singapore is within the bottom few countries at US$784.37 (S$981). This costs about the same as in India (US$781), and beats buying from our neighbours the Philippines (US$820.44) and Indonesia (US$944.91). Malaysia is still cheaper, at only US$731.29. Surprisingly China, which both makes and assembles many of the phone's components, still pays a premium to get the finished product - at US$856.02. But don't expect to pay less for the rest of Apple's products here. A 13-inch MacBook Pro could set you back by about US$1,657.66 (S$2,073.25) in Singapore, while you could get it for just under US$1,500 in India, Malaysia, the United States and Indonesia.

3. Minimum fare for a single ride on public transport

With the MRT breakdowns and increasingly crowded buses and trains, Singaporeans may be glad to know they are not paying more than others - far from it, in fact. We enjoy one of the cheapest public transport systems in the world at 61 US cents (S$0.76) for a basic single trip, a fraction of the amount it takes to get around in several similarly developed cities, such as London (US$7.79), New York (US$2.50), and Berlin or Paris (both US$2.06). It costs only half as much to commute in Kuala Lumpur at 30 US cents, while New Delhi is one of the cheapest at only eight US cents a ride.

4. Most basic annual health insurance

Getting yourself covered is affordable - or at least that's what Deutsche Bank seems to be saying, although it admits that "the definition of a standard package varies between countries". A basic health insurance policy in Singapore costs US$90.50 (S$113.20) annually, extremely affordable compared to places like Australia, Japan, and France, which range between US$1,500 to close to US$2,000. Good luck to you though if you're living in the US - the land of the free isn't so free when it comes to annual healthcare premiums it seems, far outstripping any other country to top the list at US$5,884.

5. Hiring and deploying a business graduate for a month

The world's most value-for-money MBA holders are found right here in Singapore. Just US$6,274.30 (S$7,847.27) will be enough to pay the monthly salary here of a graduate from a globally-ranked top business school, a figure which includes a mobile phone, laptop and office space. It costs about the same to deploy a business graduate in Mumbai (US$6,025.40), and much more to do so in Chicago, London, Paris or Melbourne, which are all above the US$10,000 mark. It's not only firms that are striking a good bargain when they invest in local grads, our students are also getting more bang for their buck. A recent study by The Economist ranked Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) one-year business course above Harvard and Wharton in terms of their return on investment for the student after a year.

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