The Straits Times
Published on Feb 07, 2013

Quality of life not the same as standard of living


MISS TAN Lin Neo ("High cost of living comes with good quality of life"; Monday) has confused the concept of "quality of life" with "standard of living". They are neither mutually equivalent nor naturally reciprocal.

Quality of life is a multidisciplinary concept that encompasses, among other things, health care, education, gender equality and infrastructure development. More importantly, it also includes poverty reduction and income parity along with social belonging.

Standard of living, however, is just based primarily on gross domestic product (GDP) and income.

While our GDP makes Singapore one of the richest countries in the world, our Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, has risen alarmingly over the last decade.

It is indubitable that the Government has done an excellent job in reducing poverty. But it is also true that public policies in tackling globalisation, and attracting investments or new migrants, have resulted in an inequitable wealth distribution and income disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Similarly, while health-care and infrastructure improvements have proceeded at a frenetic pace, their usage is perceived to have come at exponentially increasing costs, far beyond small incremental increases in salaries.

Naturally, there is a growing faction of the population that feels materially disenfranchised with little social belonging.

The easy access to money, arising from low interest rates and the United States' quantitative easing policies, has made those with the financial wherewithal gloriously wealthy through their investments. They are the lucky ones thronging property launches, exotic car showrooms and travel fairs to book holidays to far-flung destinations. I doubt they are a fair representation of the general populace.

We should spare a thought for new graduates and workers struggling at jobs without even a minimum wage guarantee, as well as those who do not have assets to leverage and others who have missed the boat of good financial tidings.

Let us recognise that the present high tide we are riding is not one that has lifted all boats. The Government is eminently capable of ameliorating the situation by implementing policies to help the stranded.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)