Mahathir’s ‘S’pore poor country’: Statistically speaking?


Is Mahathir’s “Singapore is a poor country” supported by the statistics?

I refer to Khush Chopra’ article “MAHATHIR SAYS SINGAPORE IS A POOR COUNTRY” (Aug 13).

It states that “The Malaysian Prime Minister’s remarks constitute a scathing indictment of the Singapore system.

Mahathir essentially suggests that Singaporeans have a lower purchasing power relative to Malaysians in contradiction to what the PAP Government keeps telling our people:

‘A rich country is one where its people have high purchasing power, not just high salary rate or wage, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said even with a salary increase of up 10 or 25 percent, it would not bring any good if the increase brought along the rising cost of living.

“The salary is more, but the capability to buy is the same like before,” he said at the Prime Minister’s Department’s monthly assembly in Putrajaya today.

Citing a neighbouring country as an example, Mahathir said although the country had a high salary or wage rate, it was not a rich country.

“What’s the use of becoming a millionaire, if we can only afford to buy along the streets,” he said…..’

There are two Singapore’s.

One for the rich and famous and another for the rest of us. For the not rich and not famous, our purchasing power is painfully low and cost of living painfully high. Our work life balance sucks and our quality of life is virtually non-existent.

I have already called for a total systemic overhaul in setting new priorities to achieve a better quality of life for all here in Singapore. We need to change our way of life. We need a total systemic overhaul in setting new priorities to achieve a better quality of life for all. We need to reduce the cost of living for the typical local household and increase our purchasing power.

We should not increase the wages of our crazy rich Ministers and their cronies but on the contrary raise the wages of ordinary Singaporeans and reduce our cost of living to make life here more bearable.

We live in a beautiful country with generally superb infrastructure but have very unhappy people. The PAP Government has done a good job in beautifying the country but a dismal job in raising our quality of life. What’s the point of beautiful shopping centres and gardens when the people feel so oppressed?

What’s the point of a beautiful country if the people are poor?”

Let me try to put some numbers and statistics to Mahathir’s remarks:

Singapore’s electricity tariff is 82 per cent (23.65 divided by 13 cents) higher than Malaysia’s?

Singapore’s Electoral Freedom Ranking is 173 in the world – Malaysia’s is 125.

Singapore’s Press Freedom Ranking is 151 in the world – Malaysia’s is 145.

According to – the Debt Per Capita in 2016 for Singapore and Malaysia was US$59,808 and US$5,272, respectively.

The Debt (% GDP) in 2016 for Singapore and Malaysia was 106.77 and 56.22 per cent, respectively.

With the revelation now that Malaysia’s Debt (% GDP) is actually higher at 80.3 per cent – the revised estimate for Debt Per Capita in 2016 is US$7,530 (US$5,272 x 80.3 divided by 56.22).

Does this mean that Singapore’s Debt Per Capita in 2016 was about 7.94 times (US$59,808 divided by US$7,530) higher than Malaysia’s?

Singapore has announced that it would increase GST from 7 to 9 per cent in 2020/2021. By comparison, Malaysia has removed the unpopular GST, and reformed measures for addressing contracting social mobility and inequality.

“Malaysia is now seen as a potential role model in areas of governance. For example, greater transparency and attention to inclusivity are evident in the multi-ethnicity of new government appointees. Singapore’s 2017 Malay-only presidency contest in contrast sent a signal of exclusion and an embrace of race-based politics. This is being compounded by the fact that Malaysia is being seen as bucking regional authoritarian trends, promising substantive political reforms and the removal of many of the draconian laws that Singapore has on its books.

Changes in Malaysia have reduced Singapore’s regional comparative advantage. It is not just about greater democracy and changes in governance next door but also the attention “New Malaysia” draws to how Singapore has remained locked in the past, moving away from embracing an alternative future.””

Housing affordability in Malaysia?

Malaysia’s New Sunday Times – When housing becomes unaffordable, page 8:

Public housing affordability in Malaysia?

As I understand that the above is for all housing types (including private property) – I am also listing some information on Malaysia’s public housing below.

RM30,000 to RM65,000?

“houses under the PHP (People’s Housing Programme) will be priced at between RM30,000 and RM35,000 per unit in the peninsula and RM40,500 per unit in Sabah and Sarawak

… the government is also introducing a new category of affordable homes priced between RM45,000 and RM65,000 each, besides providing a subsidy of between RM15,000 and RM20,000 per unit

… the MyHome scheme is open to first-time buyers with a maximum household income of RM3,000 for the low cost and RM6,000 for the medium cost houses respectively”

Up to RM400,000?

According to the kahzanah making housing affordable report 2015 – “Affordable housing schemes range from low-cost homes priced below RM100,000 to the RM400,000 houses (income range up to RM10,000 monthly) sold under the PR1MA scheme. Four of these public affordable housing programs not only provide assistance to the bottom-40% of households, but the middle-40% as well; housing affordability is not only a lower-income challenge”.

In Singapore, HDB Build-to-order (BTO) flats’ prices range from around S$90,000 (RM267,528) (2-room) to S$500,000 (RM1.49 million) (5-room).

Compared to Singapore?

How does the affordability of housing, particularly public housing, in Malaysia compare with Singapore’s?

What do you think?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.