News and views from an unique perspective

Beneath the facade of “Singapore: World’s richest country”

Posted by temasektimes on August 20, 2012

It is with great alarm that I read the above tag & headline in the Straits Times recently labelling Singapore as the world’s richest nation . Upon further inspection, our widely circumspect government- controlled newspaper proudly proclaimed that “Singapore topped the charts for highest GDP per capita in 2010 at close to SGD $70,000 (USD $56,532), according to a study.In the Wealth Report 2012 published by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, Singapore is also expected to continue to be the global leader in 2050.GDP per capita refers to the total output of a country divided by the population.

Huh, I immediately thought to myself as I, like many other “sinkis” (those born and bred here) had been living under the roof of the “ world’s richest nation”, let alone earning an average per capita income of S$70,000 per annum! Can this really be true, that the general populace (people) of Singapore, on the average, has more per capita income than the likes of Norway, Switzerland, The U.S. , Canada, Australia etc etc.?? I shudder in disbelief, as I myself, can only manage to earn roughly S$25,000 per annum as a taxidriver these past few years, a far cry from the “national average” of the so-called $70,000 based on the abovesaid Wealth Report.

Hmmmh, maybe I am just one of the unlucky ones, since I am one of those deemed “structurally unemployed” that had to resort to driving taxi despite having an overseas degree and an ex-PMET with over 20 yrs work experience but somehow unable to obtain any clerical or administrative level job of any sort at age 50, so can only drive taxi or work as security guard in this unforgiving job landscape in this gloriously titled world’s richest nation.

I got to qualify the above statements by clarifying that I had never been choosy in my job search these many years since my retrenchment from my PMET post in 2008. I had applied for jobs from all walks of life, including entry level jobs at the IRs, clerical and admin positions of $1,500 monthly asking pay etc. Sadly, I once even got rejected for a car park valet position with MBS despite having relevant work experience as one and also a $6per hour position as a part-time theme park operator with RWS where I was looked over and preferred over by younger pinoy female candidates. Being jobless at an older age is a tormenting experience and one cannot expect any handout or assistance from our illustrious PAP govt during such difficult times because like all things here, everyone has to simply fend for themselves in this unforgiving nation.

Yet when I drive taxi, I see all around me all kinds of foreigners (fts) of all nationalities , both young and old, all flourishing with good paying jobs in this “great” nation of ours, all calling Singapore their home since they get to earn a pretty good living here. This is especially so in a country that has an immigration policy that is so welcoming to fts of any form or qualifications, inviting them to fill up the many available jobs which somehow become more and more exclusively reserved for fts rather than locals in this vibrant economy of ours. Yes, the “foreign talent” policy of this govt is so overwhelmingly skewed that it does not accord a snowball’s-chance-in-hell for locals, esp those in the older age bracket like myself, to compete for any decent jobs. So only other alternative is….Drive Taxi!

As a taxidriver, many-a-times I spent my meal breaks sitting in the many hawker centres and local kopitiams situated in the heartlands or HDB estates. Yet everywhere I observed around me, I see fellow “sinkis” like myself, the local “aunties” and “uncles” all working either as cleaners, kopitaim attendants, dishwashers or those collecting 10cents per entry at the public toilets whilst others earn their living carrying cardboard scarps or collecting cans . Still there are many others, all Singaporeans, always loitering around the kopitiams, haphazardly dressed, mostly unemployed, looking for free meals or a free glass of beer here and there from old familiar faces. Sigh, this is the state of true-blue Singaporeans in this socalled “world’s richest nation” and if I were to do a headcount, I would probably see a few dozen such Singaporeans at each kopitiam, all earning very meagre salaries at most (Yes, I asked one 70yr old “ahpek” how much he earns as a kopitiam assistant and he say $650p.m without CPF or benefits , work 12 hours a day and if absent from work, will be deducted 2 day’s salary).

Unfortunately I see this everyday even in my own neighbourhood in Bedok where the majority of Singaporeans are either working as taxidrivers or cleaners and security guards, mostly all in low income jobs. If I were to guess a ratio or rough estimate, I reckon that only 1 out of 20 Singaporeans I know of is holding a professional job i.e an executive level or managerial position. Sadly, the majority seems to be stuck in the usual “Poverty Trap” ie of being in low income jobs that will never be able to cope with high costs of living or inflation.

So I cannot help but wonder, how is it that we, as a nation, can have a per capita income of $70,000 per annum? Furthermore this is something stretching way into the future, according to the wealth report, until the year 2050? That is nothing short of saying that we do indeed undisputedly live in the world’ wealthiest nation and should be proud that we have a standard of living even better than our Swiss and American counterparts!

Surely, Something must be truly wrong with this picture called Singapore since so many of us are truly left out in the cold , hardly earning an income that is even close to the “national average” or the measured benchmark of 70k p.a???

Alas, I can only come to one conclusion and it is that the extent of the income gap i.e gap between the rich and the poor, is so incredibly large here, it is beyond comprehension! This is to say that, the rich or some of the high income earners or the super-rich is so overwhelmingly so , it makes the ratio so disproportionate. Perhaps one of these millionaires earns so much that it takes several hundred ordinary “heartlanders” like those I described above to equal to the income of ONE! For sure, I can tell you that the average ft that comes here for work (esp those plying their trade in the CBD and Financial District) all earn WAY ABOVE the 70k per annum benchmark . You should see some of the luxurious condos I shuttle them to everyday, the magnificient restaurants and clubs they wine and dine and party at. Yes the average fts here all truly earns at least that amount wheres us locals or “Sinkis” are mostly languishing in the heartlander “ghettos” with our minimal $1,000 per month salary, which , by the way, is enough to own a HDB flat and get by with the high cost of living, according to a very well-known PAP govt Minister!

Truly, I really feel so sad that, as a true son of Singapore, I now live in this nation who boasts itself , without any doubt, to be the world wealthiest nation but yet somehow, I feel I only possess a “second or third world” livelihood that is unable to cope with first world inflation rate!

Whilst so many others come here from foreign lands to so proudly boast that are “almost Singaporean” just because they been living here a few years but enjoying the high life, the rest of us “true Singaporeans” that are born and raised here now feel nothing but a great sense of displacement and being “left out” in this nation’s incessant march towards that inaptly tagged title of being a part of this “world’s wealthiest nation”.!



44 Responses to “Beneath the facade of “Singapore: World’s richest country””

  1. Populist said

    Please don’t use average income of 70,000 as a measurement. If Warren Buffet one day became a Singaporean then you will see that our average income will rise to 100,000 suddenly. The correct measurement is the median Income of 29,000. This mean about 50% of our population earning more than 29,000 per annum

    • Actually the best measurement is the mode, the number that occurs the most frequently. Using the modal income best reflects the average Singaporean’s annual earnings.

      • Populist said

        The most occurs only make up a very small portion or percentage of the total population. It is not representative of the total population. Therefore, it it not as meaningful as the mean

      • Populist said

        In fact there are significant portion of the population are millionaire and high income earner. It is possible that those drawing more than 100,000 per year could be the mode.

  2. Sinkaypoh said

    Yeahyeah, moneyface govt worshipping $$$, no wonder ppl like Kong Hee thrive in this society

  3. sporeoboriginal said

    My friend. Modern poverty is nothing new in established country like ours. I see many people even not owning a roof at all and has to live by our local beaches and all. Of course the govt will be smart enough to hid these facts and “clean” their beaches by imposing fees on tent pitching at our local beaches to rid of these many homeless seeking refuge on tents.

    I personally feel what most singaporeans dont realise is as we grow up, we are being painted a picture of success ( 5cs ) via the media again and again only to embed in our mind that these are the things we are fighting for in life. Wifes leave their husband, siblings cheat siblings, best friends betray best friends all in the name of money.

    What we need at the moment is a 1year nationwide moral and social education program to make people understand and helping each other is of utmost importance. The key is not to fight with the govt, the key is to show the govt that we dont need them. Only when that happens then will we have a govt that truly serves the people not the people serve the govt scenario.

    Greed will kill people eventually and it humors me living in this city, every corner i turn i find people just thinking of themselves and their pockets. This is a big flaw, we are behaving no different from the govt. If given a chance to take a ministers pay and do their job, u would have been equally contract corrupted. Because all you think about is Money not people first. Why not
    have a govt that is made up of people who has let go of worldly pleasures and material gains? Like monks,nuns,lowly paid religious teachers and all? I would have to exclude high paying mercedes driving priest this time around. These people i believe will do their best for the people and not for their own or govt pockets.

    You see the truth is, if every donations made to the public to help the needy are not tax deductable, no one or less people would have donated and this is the truth. People in nature when making decisions solely make every decision as a financial decision. Which in reality is wrong of course. I marry a person because i love a person not because i happen to “afford” getting married to that person. This boils down to the culture and upbringing and social education of an individual.

  4. Daniel said

    It is likely the 70k avg includes everybody working here, which includes FTs.

  5. stevenadosan said

    They are refering to ministers!!

  6. Holy Uncle said

    I am indeed curious to know whether the pictured couple are no kid family. If they have kid, dig out more, who knows if the kid owns private property and is one of the rich persons in Singapore. Why target the government?

  7. choochootrain said

    They are not referring to you, sorry.

  8. Populist said

    I am one of typical Singaporean Salary earner that had accumulated 7 digit liquid assets that could generate 6-digit passive income per year. It is possible by living a simple lifestyle and put aside more than 50% saving of your income per month. Despite my wealth, I refrain from buying a car. (Although I could afford to buy 10 Mercedes by paying cash outright) I do not install any air-conditioning in my house (to save on electricity). I still stay in HDB flat (Although I could pay cash to buy one).
    Please spend within your means. You do no need to display an extravagant lifestyle to say that you are wealthy.

  9. Daniel said

    Which means foreigners are the ones making the decent money here.

  10. Wong said

    Hi : I am very impressed with your standard of English , whether happy or not , we still have to do it , may as well do it happily ! why don’t try to be a real estate agent or insurance agent , where the good money is ! All the best to you .

  11. Populist said

    I have been thinking a fair bit about our sense of purpose, especially in the context of my new responsibilities. And also as I reflect on Our Pledge moments, I’ve be wondering what we are really about as a nation and as a people. There have been letters and commentaries written about what defines happiness and Government’s role in it. I do not recall happiness being defined as the 4 ‘C’s. Nor GDP growth. These are pointless definitions created over time. Governments cannot define happiness for us. We have to decide for ourselves.

    To me, one’s happiness and one’s sense of fulfilment do not come from the material. In all our last days, as we look back at our lives, I wonder what would cross our minds? I guess the things that really matter will be our faith and our loved ones. Nothing else. Not stature, not public adulation nor riches.

    Being in Government, we can and should provide the foundational building blocks so that our people can provide for themselves and their families, and to have the opportunities to pursue their dreams and their sense of fulfilment and happiness.

    But ultimately, does happiness not depend on ourselves? On what we choose to do and how we wish to see things?

    Do we have to force our children to go for one tuition after another? In the race of life, do we have to run it as a rat? Can we choose to be good people? To be kind and compassionate? Or do we blame society when we behave poorly?

    It is our life. Live. Don’t wait.

    We may not know when it ends. But we can determine how it does so.

    by Tan Chuan-Jin

  12. Most people or citizens are not happy, so what is the richest for? said

    This is because of some “very rich people” that bring up the richest level. The wealth is not equally distributed.
    Most people or citizens are not happy, so what is the richest for?

  13. Independent said

    I really dun understand y u can’t find a job other than being a taxi driver. Is it bcos u don’t have a unique set of skills? What is ur degree on? My dad is older than u. He’s 58 and earning abt 4k as a manager of an mnc and travels a lot. He used to earn 10k a month tho. He didn’t even pass his O levels btw and was retrenched at ard 50 years old. I helped him write his resume and found him a job thru jobsdb website. He was employed due to his ability to help new boss set up an office and his past experiences of having travelled to many different countries. To me, he has a unique skill in this sense plus he’s able to travel. He doesn’t earn 70k a year now but I hit that when I was 29. Anyway earning 70k a year doesn’t make us a rich country considering the high cost of living. 70k a year is really considered average. The rich are earning millions a year and that probably explain the gaps.

    • Independent said

      Also maybe ur frens are in ur age group so only 1/20 is in a professional job. Friends I know are 20/20 in professional jobs – doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyer, property agents, finance analysts, accountants, HR executives, self-employed business owners etc. we are all 28-38 years of age. Their income is ard 4k – 10k a month too. So 70k a year? It’s not unlikely.

    • Has your dad considered re-taking his O-levels as a private candidate?
      ITE offers night classes, including O-level revision courses.
      I had benefited from such nighttime learning.
      Even though your dad may not have much use for it, he can at least pursue it and see what he is capable of.
      After all, we don’t stop learning till we die.

      • Independent said

        My dad did attend some classes in which the govt paid abt $600 monthly or so as an allowance to upgrade their skills. That was before he finally found employment again. Though grouchy, he was grateful for that allowance. At least I didn’t have to contribute to the family using my part-time pay then cos I was doing full time degree in uni.

  14. Ron said

    Dear ex-PMET and current taxi driver,

    Have you considered making your cab a business centre? You come across thousands in your business. Have you ever chat them up (if they willing to chat), asked them for a namecard and then connect with them? Have you ever tried to find out more about those expats, businessmen and others who take your cab to and from the airport?

    I once gave my namecard to a cab driver who had worked for a large MNC and did other PMET jobs. Told him about business opportunities that I was involved with. He never wrote and he lost a chance to hear more. So, if your attitude is one of hi and bye, then you may be driving the cab for a long time to come.

    When you are waiting for passengers in the long queue at the airports or elsewhere, are you playing motivation CDs, learning something new and planning for a better future?

    I speak to many cab drivers. I am not optimistic that many wishes to rise above their current jobs as cab drivers though their earnings are modest and the hours are long. Nothing wrong with being a cab driver if one likes that profession.

  15. jer said

    You’ve echoed the feelings, hurt and puzzlement of many. Thank you.
    As someone on the wrong side of 60, I also face rejection as a result
    of age. Otherwise, it is an offer of remuneration that is insulting, because
    you are expected to do more to prove you’re worth keeping on the payrool,
    and to help solve the problems or cover up the inabilities of other, less
    experienced people, who are younger and earning much more. Ther world is
    not fair, agreed, but does it have to be SO unfair?

  16. sure or not! said

    did you vote for PAP? if you did, then may i ask why? even if you say last time different, did you support their policies?

    • DisplacedSinki said

      Are u kidding Sir? I only had the chance to vote last election and persuaded everyone in my household to vote for Opposition. After the tramating experience of being jobless and ignored by our socalled “great leaders”, wld u still vote for the idiotic pappies? In fact, I even worked as a volunteer for the Workers’ Party during the last GE! Yr suggestion that I voted for PAP is not only outrageous, it is pure insulting! I hate the Pappies with every fibre of my being and will support anybody who will boot them out of govt. I can solemnly tell u that , until the day i die, I will NEVER EVER lent any form of support to this bunch of nincompoos running our government now.
      I was jus cleaning out my cupboard yesterday and found my old SAF gear i.e the steel helmet, leather boots and old army uniforms, U see, after u get posted to “Mindef Reserve” at age 40, u are instructed tokeep them and don it in case of national emergency like war! Guess what. I just dumped them all in the garbage. Yes that’s how proud I feel as a Sinki now and if push comes to shove, I rather go AWOL than serve this idiotic country ever again. Why shd I? My entire life serving this country yet how they now “look after” me and treat me in my old age? Ask the Pappies idioits to get all the fts go fight the war for them since they so proud to become new citizens here. This place called Singapore is now a shit hole. Us sinkis only end up being their servants and outcasts in our own backyard, in the country we were born in and sadly, feel we no longer belong in!!!

  17. Yes, public housing is a ghetto, regardless of where one lives.

  18. just so u know.. GDP per capita is not the same as annual income -.-

    • Sinkaypoh said

      True! If u take your Olympic bronze medals & spray paint it with gold leaf, u can also boast that u got 2 golds, looool

  19. Sophie said

    So how? What are you gg to do about it?

  20. […] Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  21. Heart said

    Nobody said Singaporeans are rich! Why are you reading between the lines? As a country the value of goods the country generates as ratio of population is high. That means our productivity per person is high! That’s all there is to it.

    Definition of GDP per capita
    An approximation of the value of goods produced per person in the country, equal to the country’s GDP divided by the total number of people in the country.

    Come on, this value of 70k has NOTHING to do with income. This number has got to be much higher that YOUR salary as if is lower how is your employers going to pay you?

    Of course when people or companies make money in Singapore, the govt collect more taxes!

    Median income as per MOM 2011 report is $32.5k
    Our INCOME per capita is about $49k

    So what if you don’t earn 70k a month?!

    Can you name me a few countries in the world who is doing better in Singapore in terms of the following?

    – net income per capita
    – home ownership
    – livability index

    Singapore is ranked 20 in 2010 Best Country by Newsweek

    Newsweek published in 2010 the “world’s best countries” index, measuring “education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism, and political environment” in 100 countries. As of 2010, the top 30 countries are:[31]

    So we are not that bad either, just not that great yet. By any standards, Singapore is way ahead of the countries who got Independence in the last 100 years! You cannot compare Singapore with other countries like the USA with hundreds of years of history, unaffected by the world wars. Singapore has done so well among its peers, we are definitely right at the TOP!

  22. bb said

    Sg highest GDP per capita wrong infor. It should be Qatar

    BTW @ trublusporean

    is correct income and GDP is different . GDP can be ten times your income that means with your labor cast is 10% of GDP indicates slave labour which sg ppl is suffering now.

  23. Lee said

    Proudly claimed the wealthiest. And fast to condemn the US human right study. Well done.

  24. Simon said

    It is a good idea to do a survey to find out why employers like to employ FTs and not locals. I tried, and would prefer to employ locals but their work attitude were so bad, they also love to job hop, just could not stick to a job. When they made a mistake, you are not supposed to tell them off or they will resign with no notice given to you, causing great difficulties. Many other problems…..So please go ask and find out!!! there are always good reasons for everything. I prefer to employ a foreigner anytime even if the pay is the same. nothing to do with money. Just the sheer frustrations with local employees although they are some who are good but these are really the minorities. But you can continue to be ignorant and refused to even try to understand the employers’ frustrations with you lot, and we can continue to give first preference to FTs. You deicide, OK?

  25. HM said

    There is a great deal of ‘ masked unemployment’ which can take the form of property agents, insurance agents, taxi drivers. You can say that property agents earn well when the market is doing well, but there may be many months of zero income at any point in time, making one as good as unemployed.
    However, all these agents, taxi drivers , sole proprietors are conveniently lumped into ‘ self employed’ and the jobless numbers look so flattering for the government. Does the government really try to create jobs to benefit locals? Or just allow FTs to take away the good jobs so locals become the ones who need to pander to the FTs to make a living? Eg as their property agent, insurance agent and taxi driver?

    • Populist said

      Please note many people became sole-proprietor or agent by choice and not because of jobless. Being our own boss give us more freedom and better work life balance. In fact many agents(Including my spouse) earn better income to be self-employed than working as an employee.

  26. mahbok tan said

    I think as of TODAY , NOW and the monute after , we should called ourselves as SINKIES rather than Sgporean.
    Its because , better to be called as SINKIES iwth the 3rd class citizenship than to be class as an elites with no money….pity me and family …..wat du U tink….????

  27. Sinkaypoh said

    All is explained here :

  28. Wealth distribution whd be broadbased and not badly calibrated such that the income gap between the rich and the rest of us is ever widening. The citizen’s interests shd override FTs’ whose absorption shd not be at sinkies’ expense for the middle class and lower middle 2 be marginalised with ‘nil’ prospects for their offsprings.
    In short, bread and butter issues of local commoners must be the order of the day, not the veneer of sinkieland looking rich externally but benefitting only a small minority of Papie parliamentarians and cronies in public listed companies with their obscene salaries.

    • Populist said

      Income gap is due to the diversity of talents and free market economy. Even in Communist country, I am sure the elite will have much better lifestyle than the peasants. You cannot be blamed if you are born poor. However, you got to blame yourself if you die poor.

  29. Correction: “Wealth distribution whd be broadbased…” to read “Wealth distribution shd be broadbased…”.

  30. @ Populist on aug 22: r u saying govt is not responsible 2 narrow the gap between the well-heeled and the rest of us and sinkie commoners r 2 depend on themselves completely? So y r PAPie ministers being paid monstrous salaries if they’re not there 2 help uplift the general weebeing of the ppl? Hv u got ur head on ur shoulders or it’s floating in air? And y is the income gap between the those in the PAPie ruling clique plus cronies vis-a-vis the rest of us widening? Aint it the outcome of PAIes’ discriminating policies favouring their ‘kakis’ against us commoners??
    See beyond ur nose, Populist…

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