Wednesday 31 December 2008

Shop like it's 2007

This story was in The New Paper on 23 Dec:

"Tis the season to spend, spend, spend. When it comes to shopping, it seems nothing can dampen the spirit of Singaporeans. So what if the global share market is in the doldrums?"

This seems like an apt description if you've been to the crowded malls around Orchard Road, Marina Bay and even the suburbs the last few weeks.

Except the story is from 23 Dec 2007 - a year ago.

Compare it to this Channel News Asia report just last week:

"Economic woes aside, Singaporeans are still spending big on electronic items and toys as perfect gifts this Christmas. With most companies still handing out year-end bonuses, Singaporeans are in high spirits to shop."

Funny no matter how things change, they remain the same. It's almost as if the past 12 months never happened.

Singapore's annual inflation rate didn't hit a 26-year high of 7.5 per cent in April.

Oil prices didn't surge to all-time highs of almost US$150 a barrel in July, only to plunge to a four-year low of below US$40 in December.

There was no global food crisis.

In September, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG didn't collapse.

Singapore isn't in a recession.

Hundreds of local workers weren't retrenched by DBS, NOL, Panasonic, Yahoo, Philips and other companies.

All that didn't happen.

What did happen was the Traffic-Stopping Sale at Robinsons. If the queues at the cashiers were any longer, they would've indeed spilled onto the road and literally stopped traffic.

Travel agencies are actually reporting an increase in year-end bookings because crisis or no crisis, to many Singaporeans, travel is an "essential".

The biggest surprise about the Singapore Flyer wasn't that it broke down or its absurdly impractical rescue plan, but that as many as 173 people were on it at the time - a Tuesday afternoon, not even a weekend - willing to pay $30 per adult for what is ostensibly a glorified extended Ferris wheel ride.

"Recession? What recession?" is the cliche of the day.

Yes, many Singaporeans are cutting back. But considering what has been hyped as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, are we cutting back enough?

Perhaps we're merely heeding the advice of Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who said: "If you have sufficient savings and can afford to spend, you should continue to spend on life's little pleasures."

Or perhaps this is our last hurrah before the year is out because as much as we want to pretend 2008 didn't happen, all signs indicate that 2009 is going to be worse.

Why don't we just skip ahead and wish each other a happy 2010?

- Published in The New Paper, 31 December 2008