Friday, December 07, 2007

Great Expectations

Much has been said in recent days about the rising cost of living in Singapore.

Still, I think a new graduate today is far more fortunate as compared to when my peers and I when we drew our first paychecks about 10 years ago.

Food in general has become more expensive, while computers and electronics are far cheaper (and of course, better) then those we had when. Spa treatments were pretty unheard of, and while regional trips were quite affordable, we did not have the option to traveling on budget airlines.

A fresh graduate with an Arts degree could expect about $1,700 in 1996. Today, I think he can expect around $2,400 (up 40%).

In 1996, the only new car most new graduates could afford (if at all) was the Fiat Uno, a 1-litre hatchback with a dodgy reputation for reliability. It cost around $65,000. A 1.6 litre Japanese sedan was much pricier, at about $90,000. Today, the latter comes for about $70,000 (down 30%)

In 1996, a friend bought a new two-bedroom leasehold condo in Upper East Coast for nearly $700,000. I imagine that the same could be had for less then $600,000 today, even following the recent property boom (down 15%). A 5-room flat in Tampines was going for over $500,000.

Simply put, most young couples could not afford a car. A HDB flat application usually meant a 4-year wait for a unit at Sengkang or Punggol 21 – which did not have MRT at the time – unless you were willing to pay the premium for a resale flat.

The cost of living may be going up, but young graduates really have very little to complain about.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Past Careless Talk, Now New Finance Minister

In 1994, Tharman Shanmugaratnam was charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for endangering the secrecy of classified documents and was fined $1,500. Then AG Chan Sek Keong, now the Chief Justice, was the man tasked to make a point about the OSA, MAS high flier or not. Tharman was then MAS' economics director and he disclosed to the Business Times the official flash estimates of the economic growth of 2nd quarter 1992. Among the five in that OSA case, Tharman got off the lightest as the other four received a $2,000 fine in the leak. Very odd, I should think, that the person who leaked official information actually did not shoulder the most responsibility while the journalists who received the information and subsequently published the information were held more accountable. The other four probably assumed that the information given to them was fit for public release or why else would it be shared with them?

A person prosecuted for leaking official information to the media is now Singapore's Finance Minister. What do you make out of it?