Friday, 29 September 2023

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Singapore’s high ranking in the livability stakes does not paint the whole picture

I note that The Straits Times has once again published another article (which has been republished by Asia One) on how Singapore continues to rank as one of the most livable cities in the world. This article focuses on interviews with expatriates and various think tanks without any average Singaporean being consulted. Surely the livability of a city depends first and foremost on what its citizens feel?

Ground sentiment is ripe with concern at the rising living costs and stagnant wages. Indeed, this worry has been acknowledged by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) in his National Day Rally address. Why then does the Straits Times not give a more balanced view? Instead, it chooses to present a one sided slant of the picture.

Yes, of course expatriates will consider Singapore to be very livable. It is a safe and clean country with all the trappings of the first world (if you have the money for it). If an expatriate has a good remuneration package, what is there not to love about Singapore? With this in mind, how can an expatriate’s opinion be taken as representative of the livability of a city?

This is just like the constant fixation on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures. GDP has been used (misguidedly) as a benchmark for prosperity when in reality it is simply a reflection of what a country produces with little or no bearing on the quality of life of Singaporeans. As I have said in other articles which I will say again – GDP simply measures production. This would include construction and building work which may have little or no impact on job or wealth creation for the population as a whole.

The thing about rankings and figures is that it cannot be taken out of context. Although it still has a place as a benchmark, it will not paint an accurate picture unless all the finer details are also disclosed. The ranking of Singapore’s livability needs to have caveats. It needs to state that this is merely from the viewpoint of expatriates with high salaries. If it doesn’t, it is a misrepresentation of reality.

In the same way, while GDP can be taken as an indication of how much a country produces, it cannot be taken as an accurate representation of the wealth of average citizens unless it goes further to demonstrate how such GDP has generated jobs or increased the salaries of citizens.

The thing about figures and statistics is that it cannot be read in a vacuum. It is disappointing that a big publication like the Straits Times cannot produce any in depth analysis of the subject matter.


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