Or so thinks Mr Syu who wrote to the Straits Times forum on 23rd February 2008. Amidst all the talk about a "suffering" middle class in Singapore, the writer brought to the attention of many readers on why he thought that the Singapore middle class, is really not that poor after all. He backed his conclusion based on a few findings, which included:

  • Ownership of mobile phones with constant yearly upgrades (for the record, I don’t upgrade my phone on a yearly basis until it breaks; then again, my WM-based phone always break – and I hope that a Nokia can perform better)
  • Suscription of broadband Internet connections and/or cable TV
  • Ownership of "in" Louis Vuitton handbags costing more than S$1000 (my, oh my, I would probably love to own one)
  • Renovation of homes costing up to or more than S$50,000 (for the record, the only time my place had been renovated was when my family first moved in eons ago)
  • Ownership of cars despite rising ERP and fuel cost – which in the eyes of the writer, are useless and definitely not a necessity
  • Staying in HDB is not supposed to bring about a "poor" feeling – I don’t see how this can bring about a person to "feel poor"
  • Ownership of shoes – that the writer thinks that each middle-class family member owns at least 5 pairs of shoes – this is so ridiculous that I am almost laughing my head off and getting stitches – goodness, he must have missed me in his sampling survey – I own only 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of sandals – shoe for work, sandals for dinner… or 3, if you count in the pair of slippers that I wear to go to the mama-store to buy my loaf of bread

So all you middle class people – stop changing your handphones, terminate all broadband Internet subscription and sell your TV away. While I admit that the LV bag is a luxury item everything from the 3 point onwards didn’t make sense any more.

And… I am fuming! Why? Because he didn’t sample me on how many pairs of shoes I have!

Ed: On a more serious note, the letter didn’t seem to make much sense because the correlations didn’t seem quite right. His observations doesn’t seem to collate well with the point that he’s trying to bring across – that the Singapore middle class is really well to do – and what’s Victor getting a new pair of shoe got to do with the writer anyway? I’d prefer a person get a new pair of shoes than to get hurt from wearing a worn out pair – which will cost more eventually. So, I think his views are really flawed unless he has access to proper statistics. Anyway, if people were to stop buying things and utilizing services, the economy will come to a standstill and Singapore will revert to it’s 3rd world economy status.

Suffering sandwich class? Hardly

HUNDREDS of millions of dollars and a host of benefits were given to Singapore’s middle or ‘sandwich’ class in this year’s Budget. This was to ensure that all Singaporeans get help in fighting inflation and rising costs.

But, really, how poor is our middle class?

It is not unusual for each member of a typical middle-class family to own a mobile phone. What’s more, upgrading these phones to the latest model is a yearly affair.

Most middle-class families also have broadband Internet connections or cable TV. Many have both. Each family probably has at least two television sets and one of them is likely to be a large LCD or plasma television.

It is also routine for a middle-class family to enjoy a holiday abroad once a year. The women in an average family would also probably be able to afford at least one Louis Vuitton bag which costs more than $500 apiece.

A woman friend told me that the ‘in” handbag today costs more than $1,000 and more than half the women on Singapore streets carry one.

My contractor told me that it is not unusual for middle-class Singaporeans to spend $50,000 to renovate their homes. In short, these are ‘necessities’ today’s middle-class Singapore family cannot do without.

The main gripes of many drivers are rising fuel and ERP costs. Yet, at least half the staff members in my office own cars. And if you ask a middle-class family whether a car is a luxury or a necessity, chances are, they’ll tell you it’s a necessity.

Never mind the fact that before they achieved middle-class status, their formerly car-less lives were not necessarily handicapped.

The members of the Singaporean middle-class family feel poor when they live in Housing Board flats, which can be almost as good as condominiums. They feel poor unless they upgrade to private estates.

Here’s a reality check: Recently, Mr Christopher Victor, who is on public assistance, told The Straits Times that he wants to buy a pair of new shoes with the extra $40 he will receive from the Budget. Each middle-class family member probably has at least five pairs.

Too much is given to the middle class and more should be given to those who really need financial aid.

Forum note: Mr Victor is an 89-year-old childless widower on public assistance, whose monthly stipend under the Budget will increase to $330.

The Budget debate will begin in Parliament on Monday and is slated to last until March 6.

Syu Ying Kwok

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 23rd February 2008

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