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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cost of living is not just limited to buying groceries

An article published on April 17, 2017 by the Malay Mail Online entitled ‘Compare: What you can buy with RM50.00 and S$50.00 at a supermarket’ was really an eye-catcher. The purpose of the article was solely to compare on what one can buy with RM50 and S$50.00 in both cities of Johor Baru and Singapore. The conclusion is simple - not much could be bought with RM50.00.
While there are truths in the article particularly on the value of the Malaysian ringgit againts the Singapore dollar, the article should not employ the word ‘compare’ as the keyword of its main title.
The comparison is immature, unfledged and untimely. Comparison of cost of living is not just limited to buying groceries - it goes far beyond that.
First things first, Singapore is the most expensive city in the world. This is acknowledged in a CNBC article entitled ‘These are the 10 most expensive cities in the world’ published on April 11, 2017.
In contrast, the capital city of Malaysia, whom many regard as the most expensive place in Malaysia is actually the cheapest city in South-East Asia to live in according to 2017 World Wide Cost of Living Survey. Obviously, Johor Baru too, is not on ‘the world’s most expensive cities’ list.
Is it fair to compare the value of the currencies of the most expensive city/country in world with that of the cheapest (in South-East Asia)? Even if one could buy a lot with S$50.00 for groceries, please be reminded that Singapore is the fifth most expensive city in the world to rent a house, as reported by The Business Insider published on Feb 17, 2017.
The article reported that the monthly rent in Singapore is about RM6, 300.00 and RM12, 000 for a single person and a family respectively. Again, obviously, the rental price for a non-luxurious accommodation in Malaysia is far from the amount one has to pay in the Lion City.
In terms of healthcare, Free Malaysia Today reported in February 2017 that Malaysia is listed in the top four for best healthcare in the world - something that many Malaysians do not even realise.
In addition, The Straits Times has issued a report on March 21, 2017 that Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to buy and run a car. It is a fact that not all Singaporeans could afford to own cars as the Singapore government had made them very expensive. Those who could not afford to own vehicles had no other choice to take the MRT (which is without doubt very efficient).
Unlike Singaporeans, most Malaysians have the option to purchase vehicles. Alternatively, Malaysians, particularly those residing in the Klang Valley or Greater Kuala Lumpur have access to the improved and affordable public transportation system - The Klang Valley is equipped with three LRT lines (that have been extended to Putra Heights), two KTM Commuter lines (with an overall line length of 456km) and the KLIA Express/Transit lines.
The first MRT line is scheduled to commence in July 2017 effectively connecting Kajang and Sungai Buloh via Kuala Lumpur’s golden triangle area. If one complains that the Klang Valley transit system experience breakdowns frequently, then he or she should also remember that the Singapore MRT has its own shares of disruptions and breakdowns as well.
The comparison made is immature and does not indicate the true reality of cost of living in both countries. There are pros and cons residing either in Malaysia or Singapore. Both countries offer different opportunities with incomparable political and socio-economic settings. There is no need to glorify one while demeaning the other.

I do not really know the intention of the author who wrote the article comparing RM50.00 to S$50.00 - if the author really intends to compare the cost of living in both countries, he or she should go ‘beyond buying groceries’.

DR MOHD HAZMI MOHD RUSLI is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia and a visiting professor at the School of Law, Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok, Russia.- Mkini

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