Sunday, 13 May 2012

Heartland Heartache

I have just read a very interesting and informative article by Louis Lee on the cost of living in Singapore. Even in our years in Singapore the price of basic hawker food was on the rise so it is not too much of a surprise to see that the price of a simple bowl of noodles is now $5 and expected to rise to $7 a decade from now.

The concern, as the writer points out, is just how affordable living in Singapore has become for its own citizens.

They are not alone in experiencing this global phenomenon in the current economic climate but Singapore is not a welfare state and so any cost of living associated with the basics of food, housing and transport hits its Heartland hard.

The above chart shows the change in Singapore's CPI (Consumer Price Index-All Items Inflation) in the past 12 months.

Moving from right to left it is easy to see that most of the basics have risen significantly with the transport figure reflecting the government's rise in COE (Cost Of Entitlement) which gives one the right to purchase a vehicle; not the actual purchase price of the vehicle itself.

Another significant contributing factor is the cost of public housing.  The HDB's own Retail Price Index chart (below) outlines a significant jump in price from the beginning of 2007; a rise that shows little sign of declining.
Source: HDB
There is no quick fix to curb these rises in CPI, especially in with the global winds of economic uncertainty swirling around as they are at present.  Singapore's reliance on trade, energy sources and it relatively small size make it extremely susceptible to the vagaries of global trends. While the government does its best to offset these factors, life for the average Singaporean is not getting easier faced with a trend of rising prices across the board.

It should be noted that this situation is not unique to Singapore; others are facing similar challenges.

If you look at a similar time span to the HDB chart above for the New Zealand CPI (from the 1st quarter of 1994 to the present) the real purchasing power for New Zealanders has declined some 33%. i.e. a 49.3 percentage change.

Australia's CPI from March 2008 to March 2012, month on month, also rose more than 10%

For those on fixed or low income such rises are bad news, whichever country one lives in.
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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Today's Print - Impressions

Roger Smith 2012
Click on the image to see a larger version
I have always been fascinated about the element of chance in art and equally so by the random and unplanned impressions left by people, animals and nature on surfaces.

On my regular walks I came across a variety of 'urban fossil traces' embedded in the texture of concrete pavement. Apart from the youthful exuberance of carving one's initials into wet concrete, there are unintentional tracks of seasonal change and the foraging, feral population.
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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Online Thoughts

The smell of roasting pork is one of the great sensory delights and a common one in Singapore. So it is no surprise to learn that  the owner of Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint has her enterprise on the market for around $1.8 million.

For this sum you get all the secret recipes as the aging owner no longer feels capable of carrying on; a great pity but one that is all too common in Singapore as the hawkers age and have no one in the family to take over.

I figure that if Coca Cola and KFC can have their secret recipes under lock and key in large safes then there is no reason why the recipes for these delectable dishes can't attract a premium price as well.

In a less positive vein I get fed up at some with the snide comments made about Singapore by people who have never lived there or have there own personal axe to grind..

The ongoing Yale NUS saga being a case in point, with a bunch of American academics trying to stymie what appears to me to be a perfectly sensible partnership between two global universities which will benefit both, and foster dialogue.

Much also has been made of the freedom or otherwise of the press in the Republic. Some may therefore see a slight irony in Associate Professor Tan Tin Wee's elevation to the Internet Hall of Fame; the Net being one of the free-est forms of expression around. Personally I congratulate him on his elevation. A Biochemist by profession, Professor Tan was one of the staunchest advocates for the development of the Internet in Singapore.

Singapore's high-speed broadband initiative is something that impresses me greatly - how I wish we had such advocacy in New Zealand.
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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Anchors Away

We've been staying a few days in the township of Whitianga which is on the eastern coast of New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula.

In the summer it is humming with activity but at this time of year the season is over, the weather is generally more settled and there are accommodation bargains to be had; at least that's the theory.

Our motel is the Anchorage at the Esplanade end of the main town waterfront - Buffalo Beach.  The buffalo referred to has got nothing to do with rampaging woolly animals.  It is the name of a British ship that wrecked itself on the shore in the mid 1800's.
At the local museum
The Anchorage motel's name is no doubt drawn from its geographical location and the odd assortment of discarded fishing buoys and flotsam that festoons the garden.  It is a time warp of New Zealand construction with an interior reminiscent of a typical seaside motel of the 1950's and 60's. The shower mixer tap is undoubtedly an original as wear and tear has made it virtually impossible to read the temperature markings.

Anchorage Motel Mixer
While clean, it is in serious need of refurbishment, there is no Sky television channels to occupy the day during inclement weather and the wardrobe door can only be opened partially, as the placement of the double bed prevents any further leverage.

On the plus side, the owners are very accommodating and the coffee sachets are replaced regularly.

I had not visited Whitianga before as all of my previous Coromandel visits had been on the western coast either in or further north of Coromandel Township.

The local Whitianga Museum is worth a visit and the displays are well done with explanation of the district's history which include the first visit to these shores by the great Polynesian navigator Kupe and centuries later, Captain Cook.  Cook's sitings of the transit of the planet Mercury give their name to Mercury Bay on which Whitianga is sited.

A quick $5 return journey on the local ferry is worth the money landing at the oldest stone wharf in Australasia.  There are some quick and easy bush and scenic walks to be had and over the hill is the lovely panorama of Flaxmill Bay.

Flaxmill Bay
Whitianga's current claim to fame is commercial and recreational fishing and catching the right tide is a favourite occupation among residents and visitors alike.

At this time of year the place is sleepy, which is just the way we like it. The locals are friendly and the small Bay Bakery at 34 Monk Street, nearest the Esplanade, creates some of the best value for money sandwiches I have purchased when travelling.

Catching the Incoming Tide

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