Shopping in Singapore?

I don't have to tell you where I am together with my family for the next few days. We arrived yesterday afternoon and had been hitting the road since then. Other than a few Bruneians who are in Singapore for treatment, not that many Bruneians are making Singapore a holiday target.

Yesterday was interesting. We flew on SIA flight, it was a Boeing 777 which means a passenger load of 280 to 320 and it was a full flight. Yet when we landed at Changi Airport, there was only my family and a handful of other passengers who were waiting for our baggage. Where did the other passengers go? I know of a Darussalam tour group to Beijing and a group of Pakistanis going back to Karachi and Lahore as I saw the connecting flight signs as we exited. I guess, many Bruneians used SIA but not to go to Singapore.

What's the point? You see, I came from a different era. I remembered a time in the 1970s and 1980s, Bruneians flocked to Singapore like crazy. You bake cakes - you come to Singapore. Why? Because you can buy all the things you ever needed to make cakes are available at Geylang (that particular shops still existed). You repair cars - you come to Singapore. Why? Because Singapore has all the car spare parts there is at a price much cheaper than Brunei. You need kain - you come to Singapore. Why? Because Singapore has all the kains there is.

Mind you in those days, tambang was like $199 for a three day weekend and $219 for a four day stay. Today, airline tickets are expensive and not to mention also that hotel stays in Singapore too are also expensive. But the biggest change, our shops in Brunei started selling the same items as in Singapore. Internet happened too. Now we can order what we want online. We don't even send that many patients to Singapore anymore. Singapore has lost its competitve edge at least in the mindset of Bruneians.

In the cosmic time, a change over 10 to 20 years is only like a blink of an eye. The changing shopping pattern came quickly that many people had forgotten that they used to come to Singapore to shop. We were asked where were we going for our holidays and we said Singapore. We got quizzical looks. See. People don't see Singapore as a shopping paradise anymore.

Going back - what's the point of all these? Changes are fleeting. Today we are an oil producer - tomorrow? Today we are seen as a very rich country - tomorrow? I leave you with that thought.


KH said…
All the points BR cited are valid. However, another way of looking at this is that our relative purchasing power has declined.

20-30 years ago, Brunei's per capita GDP was higher than Singapore's. Although that is not a direct proxy for comparing the personal disposable income among the two countries, I noticed then from press reports etc, that salaries in Brunei used to be on par or slightly less than comparable jobs in Singapore.

The situation today is quite different. Salaries in Brunei has more or less stagnated since the mid-1990s, but salaries in Singapore, especially for skilled, managerial or professional jobs, has far outstripped that in Brunei.

In fact, remuneration for such positions in Singapore are approaching global levels, i.e. what the same job is paid in London or New York; in other words 3x-5x salary levels in Brunei.

If Singapore suddenly seemed pricey as a shopping destination, that would be the reason.

When Kuala Lumpur, or Bangkok or even KK begin to be expensive, that tells us something about how our income measure up regionally.

Picking up a train of thought from BR, the tragedy about Brunei may be that as a people, we have slipped economically (in terms of personal purchasing power) from being at the forefront of ASEAN to somewhere near the middle.
Al-Qadr said…
Travelling alone to Singapore has always been fun for me. I'd go for the cheapest bus ride from Changi to one of the cheaper hotels in the Orchard belt. Fully capitalise on efficient MRT connections to try out much better tasting but much cheaper 'Halal' food in HDB estate hawker stalls rather than fork out outrageous Sing$ for hotel buffet breakfasts; Orchard Road lunches; East Coast Road or Clarke Quay dinners! ;)

Change is always for the better, BRo i.e. "Hijrah" Islamic concept. And the Abode of Peace being declared as the "Zikir" Nation by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam only means one thing -- blessed by the Almighty ALLAH Subhannahu Wataala, Amin Ya Rabbal Alamin. :)
Al-Qadr said…
Dear KH, one question for you, sir (although I know you wouldn't be in any way affected by the issue much): Any idea on how are the income taxes in both the US and Singapore different from each other? Brunei does not impose income taxes (not yet anyways) but I reckon duties can be a pinch in one's pockets no matter how big one's salaries can be, right?
KH said…
Al-Qadr, sir, yes its very true: the more you earn the more you get taxed! But what matters is whether how the net income (income less tax) compares.

Bruneians are blessed that we never had to pay personal income tax. Otherwise, I suspect it would be harder to make ends meet.

From my (wholly inadequete) knowledge of taxation in the two places you mentioned. Both uses a combination of taxing income and consumption (e.g. sales tax in the US or GST in Singapore). Both systems created a lot of deductions, credits or exceptions to "reward" certain desibale behaviors e.g. savings for education, buying a home, being married etc.

However, anecdotal evidence shows that the tax burden appear to be less in Singapore compared to the US.

In the US, both the Federal Government and the States collect income tax. In addition, local governments such as the city or the district has additional taxes (based on property value, like the Assessment Rates we pay in the Bandaran areas) to fund the local police, fire brigade, schools etc. They can add up to about 30% of income; although the tax rates are staggered so the poorer you are the less you pay. However, on top of that States also impose sales tax ranging from 3% to around 9% depending on the State, except for staple items like food and basic clothing.

In Singapore, I understand the maximum tax rate is about 20% but no one needs to pay tax if earning below a certain minimum level. However, on top of that is the GST which is now 7%.

When people pay so much tax, the public naturally tend to be very sensitive to the quality and efficiency in government services.
Anonymous said…
Singapore is really a shopping paradise with Orchard road and the other retail strips. singapore shopping has really improved over the years, especially the great offers during the great singapore sale

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