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The price to pay for being a global city

Did anything strike you as strange after reading today’s edition of The Sunday Times?

I’m not quite sure how to describe the feeling I had — one of sadness, surprise or wonderment.

One Page 16 article entitled “Big Spenders from China” talked about the expensive shopping habits of affluent young Chinese tourists from the mainland.

Fashion designer Wen Hong Xia, 25, told the newspaper she visits Singapore every year with four girlfriends, stays at the exclusive St. Regis and spends at least S$100,000 each time on designer goods.

Why? Because “we don’t feel ashamed by how much we spend because our parents can afford it, and they don’t mind us spending,” the Shanghai native quipped.

In another example, a local tour guide recounted how he led 400 mainland Chinese tourists from Wenzhou city to a DFS Galleria outlet and how they wiped clean $300,000 worth of luxury goods off the shelves at one go.

Another article on the previous page entitled “PRs seeking welcome to the Club” talked about how Permanent Residents (PRs) from the rest of Asia such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and India are snapping up country club memberships at places like Sentosa and Singapore Island Country Club.

It gave the example of Singapore PR Lu Chao Chen from Taiwan, 45, who splashed out S$225,000 for an SICC membership last month because “I’m sure it will go up, and then I will have to spend more.”

Contrast this with another article on Page 8 on the sudden spike in moneylending outfits around Singapore entitled, “A peek into the business of quick cash” and how they were making brisk business from Singaporeans.

It quoted a 24-year-old Singaporean lady toting a Louis Vuitton bag urgently needing to borrow $800 to settle a phone bill as saying, “I will return my loan over two weeks in six payments. Like that, the interest rates are not so high, so it should be okay.”

And on Page 2, there was a follow-up on the recent announcement of the 2010 World Cup pricing packageand how Singaporeans complained that the $70.62 early bird deal was way too costly.

Am I the only one that feels that there is an imbalance of sorts somewhere? How the average Singaporean gripes about having to pay $70 for a television program or desperately scrambles to pay a phone bill while tourists and PRs here think nothing of blowing thousands on bling and bags every chance they get?

I’m well aware that the big spenders who splurge their cash and flaunt their wealth here are generally well-heeled and do not accurately portray the average lifestyle back in their native countries.

But still, it makes me wonder about the cost of living in Singapore. Are Singaporeans slowly being priced out of the market – from everything from jobs to condos to cars to casinos and country clubs? Is this, pardon the pun,  the price to pay for aspiring to be a global city?

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This article by Jeffrey Oon first appeared on FTP and we thank Yahoo! Southeast Asia Pte. Ltd for allowing us to reproduce  it here - link back: sg.yahoo.com

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