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新加坡真是全世界生活成本最高的城市吗?

Is Singapore really the world’s most expensive city?
新加坡真是全世界生活成本最高的城市吗?

Retail clerks in Singapore have a habit of forcing receipts into your hand whether you want them or not. As a result, every Singapore resident occasionally cleans out their wallet or purse, only to discover a horrifying stack of receipts where once there was money. There’s no doubt this can be a very expensive city.

新加坡的收银员有个习惯:无论你想不想要,他们都会把收据塞到你手里。因此,每个新加坡公民清理自己的钱包或手袋时,都会发现原本放钱的地方被一叠叠的收据取代。毫无疑问,这是一座生活成本高昂的城市。

But is it the most expensive? Well, that’s debatable.

但究竟是不是全球最高呢?这恐怕有待商榷。

Distorted perspectives

视角差异


Last month, the Lion City hit the headlines again when The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) placed it atop its Worldwide Cost of Living index. However, this index was set up for a specific purpose. It’s designed for human resources departments to figure out the cost of sending employees on business trips or to work overseas, often in a high-paying job.

上月,当《经济学人》旗下的Economist Intelligence Unit(EIU)发布《全球生活成本指数》(Worldwide Cost of Living index)时,素有"狮城"之称的新加坡登上了各大媒体的头条。然而,这个指数的设立其实有着非常具体的目的:它是为了方便企业人力资源部门了解员工到海外出差或工作的成本,而这些人往往都是高收入群体。

Arguably, people with expense accounts don’t spend like the rest of us. When Singapore first topped the list in 2014, the city-state’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam suggested that the index wasn’t so much an indication of high prices as a reflection of pretentious expat living. The basket of goods on which the index was based included “imported cheese, filet mignon, Burberry-type raincoats, four best seats in a theatre, three-course high-end dinners for four people,” he said.

可以这么说,那些可以享受报销待遇的人花钱的方式肯定跟普通人不同。当新加坡2014年首次登上该榜单首位时,这个城市国家的副总理尚曼达(Tharman Shanmugaratnam)表示,该指数并没有真正反映当地的生活成本,主要体现的其实是外国人的奢侈生活。这个指数涵盖的商品包括:"进口奶酪、菲列牛排、博柏利雨衣、影院最好的座位、高档餐厅4人餐。"他说。

The EIU is quite up front about the index’s limitations, and its author Jon Copestake admits there’s some “premiumisation”. There’s no law forcing anyone to buy every item they price, especially if it’s a warm coat and you live on the equator. “You can find bargains in almost any city around the world, and you can live more frugally than the comparative cost of living which we apply,” Copestake says.

EIU对该指标的局限性早有预料,而其作者乔恩·考普斯泰克(Jon Copestake)也承认的确存在"高端化"的问题。没有一部法律强迫任何人购买他们列举的商品,尤其是让住在赤道上的人购买棉衣。"世界上的任何一个城市几乎都能找到便宜货,也可以住在比我们统计的更便宜的地方。"考普斯泰克说。

A different take

不同选择


So how much less does Singapore cost if you don’t throw money around like a banker? A group of academics at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy made their own index, which distinguished between expats and locals. It found that for expats, Singapore was about the fourth most expensive city in the world. But for the ‘ordinary residents’, it was 48th, wedged between Lisbon and Pittsburgh.

如果你不像银行家那样挥金如土,在新加坡能节约多少钱?一群来自新加坡国立大学李光耀公共政策学院的学者自己制作了一个指数,将外国人与本地人区分开来。他们发现,对外国人来说,新加坡大约是全球生活成本第4高的城市。但对于"普通本地人"来说,实际成本位列48位,位于里斯本和匹兹堡之间。

In the EIU’s index, Singapore stands head and shoulders above the world’s other cash gobbling metropolises for one reason: cars cost a fortune. The government has a deliberate policy of jacking up the cost as a means of keeping cars off the road and limiting congestion. You’ll pay about US$70,000 so that you can impress everyone with an entry-level Suzuki Swift.

在EIU的指数里,新加坡之所以远超其他大都市,都是因为汽车购买成本高昂。当地政府通过政策手段大幅提高了汽车购买费用,借此减少汽车数量,防止交通拥堵。花费大约7万美元却只能买一辆低配版入门车款铃木雨燕(Suzuki Swift),这实在令人大跌眼镜。

But in a compact city with cheap and reliable public transport and affordable cabs, it’s perfectly reasonable to go without a car. In fact, getting around in other cities can seem expensive by comparison. David Shen is a Singaporean who works in marketing. He was surprised at how expensive local travel was in Australia when he visited in December.

但在这样一个公共交通和出租车既便宜又可靠的紧凑城市里,不买车是个非常合理的选择。事实上,对比之后反而会发现,其他城市的出行成本高于新加坡。在新加坡从事营销工作的大卫·沈(David Shen)去年12月去澳大利亚时就对当地昂贵的出行成本感到惊讶。

“If you take a taxi around or you take an Uber around, it’s really expensive,” he says.

"如果你(在澳大利亚)乘坐出租车或优步出行,价格真的很昂贵。"他说。

Local travel in Singapore is actually so reasonable, that many expats end up saving money on getting around.

在新加坡当地旅行的成本其实很合理,很多外国人最终都在出行方面省下了钱。

“I spend about SGD250 ($178) a month on taxis and trains. I recently did a calculation and that’s about half of what I spent on car payments and insurance in the US,” says Jeremy Mackie, a Singapore-based creative director at content agency Click2View. He is originally from the US.

"我一个月在出租车和地铁上的花费大约250新加坡元(178美元)。我最近算了一下,这大约是我在美国用于买车和保险费用的一半。"来自美国的新加坡内容制作公司Click2View创意总监杰里米·麦基(Jeremy Mackie)说。

Still, Copestake says that if cars were left out, Singapore would only drop down to ninth place on the EIU index. He points out that a number of the most expensive cities tend to be repeat offenders. And if a city shows up year after year, it’s probably for a good reason.

不过,考普斯泰克表示,如果扣除汽车成本,新加坡在EIU指数中的排名也只会降到第9。他指出,很多生活成本高昂的城市往往会经常上榜。而且,如果一座城市年年上榜,恐怕还是有原因的。

作为知名的全球金融中心,新加坡生活成本很高——但真的像传说的那么高吗?

“As far as I’m concerned it is actually intuitively a fairly good indicator of the cost of living between cities, based in US dollar terms,” he says.

"依我看,这其实是个很直观的好指标,可以帮助人们用美元比较城市之间的生活成本差异。"他说。

He says plenty of other items are expensive in Singapore, particularly groceries, clothing, and food and drink.

他表示,新加坡还有很多昂贵的项目,尤其是杂货、服装、食品和饮料。

Not all sour grapes

并不都是酸葡萄


The last category, food and drink, is also a little controversial. It’s easy to pay several hundred dollars a head for a fancy meal here in Singapore, especially if you want to drink wine. But you can also get lunch for comfortably under SGD5 ($3.57). In fact, Singapore boasts the cheapest Michelin-starred meal on earth.

食品和饮料方面也有一些争议。在新加坡,每人每顿饭的花费很容易达到数百美元,尤其是当你想喝点红酒时。但同样地,用不了5新加坡元(3.57美元)也可以吃得很舒服。事实上,新加坡号称拥有全世界最便宜的米其林星级美食。

And while expatriates in Singapore love to gripe about the price of grapes, there are cheaper options. You can find a good happy hour, and you can also get a longneck of Tiger, brewed in Singapore, for about $5 if you’re willing to sit on a plastic seat at a hawker centre.

虽然新加坡的外国人喜欢埋怨这里的葡萄价格昂贵,但其实还有一些更便宜的选择。你可以找到减价甩卖的优惠。如果在小摊上坐塑料凳子,大约只需要5美元就可以喝到新加坡酿造的玻璃瓶装的虎牌啤酒。

In some other expensive cities, food and drink seem even more expensive. Graphic designer David Walker recently moved from Singapore to Zurich. He says Zurich’s alcohol prices rival and often top Singapore’s. It’s not unusual to pay $20 or more for a cocktail. And while there are plenty of cheap options for food in Singapore, that’s not really the case in Zurich.

在其他生活成本高昂的城市,餐饮费用似乎更高。图形设计师大卫·沃尔克(David Walker)最近从新加坡搬到苏黎世。他表示,苏黎世的酒精饮料价格经常比新加坡还贵。花20美元甚至更多的钱买一杯鸡尾酒并不罕见。新加坡有很多便宜的食物可选,苏黎世却并非如此。    

“They don’t exist in Zurich. There’s no place to go for cheap eats at all,” he says.

"苏黎世没有这种渠道,根本没有便宜的东西可吃。"他说。

A ceiling on house prices

房价上限


Then, there’s real estate. This category, one that makes up the major headache in personal financial planning for so many people, is not in fact included in the EIU’s study (and it’s possible Hong Kong would top the list if it were included).

另外还有房价。对很多人来说,这都是进行个人财务规划时最令人头痛的问题,但却并未包含在EIU的研究中(如果纳入这一指标,香港可能会排名榜首)。

Expats in Singapore do tend to live in privately-owned condominiums, which can be expensive – rents for three-bedroom apartments in popular River Valley start around SGD4,000 ($2,850) and go up to SGD7,000 and above. But more than 80% of Singaporeans live in subsidised public housing blocks known as HDBs (after the Housing Development Board that builds them).

新加坡的外国人往往会住在私有公寓里,这种房子价格很贵——在热门的River Valley地区,一套三居室公寓的租金起价约为4,000新加坡元(2,850美元),最高可达7,000新加坡元甚至更高。但超过80%的新加坡人都住在政府补贴的公屋里。

These buildings are nothing like public housing schemes found in the West. It’s a densely-packed city’s answer to the quarter-acre block and something of a middle-class starter kit. HDB apartments can be as basic or as comfortable as the owners choose to make them, and renting a centrally-located three-bedroom HDB costs about SGD2,500. But private condominiums usually have more facilities like pools or tennis courts.

这些公屋与西方社会常见的公屋完全不同,在这座寸土寸金的城市,这成为了中产阶级的标配。公屋可能很简单,房主也可以按照自己的意愿改造它的舒适度,而市中心的三居室公屋租金约为2,500新加坡元。但私有产权的公寓往往拥有游泳池和网球场等更多设施。

There are a few strings attached when buying an HDB, but Shen says doing so is reasonable financially. What’s more, Singaporeans can draw on their mandatory retirement savings to pay for it, so for many it’s a payment that they don’t really feel.

购买公屋需要满足一些附加条件,但大卫·沈表示,从财务角度来看,这么做很划算。另外,新加坡人可以使用强制退休储蓄来支付租金,所以很多人其实感受不到这笔费用。

“It’s really not a huge part of your life,” he says.

"在他们的生活中,这并不是一笔很大的开销。"他说。

Compare that with buying in London, San Francisco or Sydney, where an uninhabitable terrace just sold for $1.96 million.

与之相比,悉尼一套不能住人的房子最近以196万美元的价格卖出,更不要说伦敦和旧金山了。

So, if you’re travelling or moving to Singapore, don’t panic too much about high prices. Singapore’s not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be a giant money fire either.

所以,如果你去新加坡旅行,或者到那里居住,不要为那里的物价感到苦恼。在新加坡生活并不便宜,但也未必非要花钱如流水。
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