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Higher prices: People use DBS automated teller machines in Singapore. The bank’s analysis of the impact and implications of soaring price growth in the city-state is being felt big-time by households. — Reuters

SINGAPORE: The global inflation wave that has crashed onto Singapore’s shores is hitting households harder as they pile up more expenses while incomes aren’t keeping up.

That’s the conclusion of DBS Bank analysts, who dissected data from 1.2 million retail customers, anonymous and aggregated, to understand the impact and implications of soaring price growth in the city-state.

Consumers are spending more relative to income, with an expenses-to-income ratio rising to 64% in May from 59% a year earlier.

More troubling, low-income groups are seeing expenses grow 5.6 times faster than their income, providing a window on why policymakers have prioritised relief targetted towards the most vulnerable households.

Those subsidies aren’t accounted for in the income component of the ratios DBS computed.

“From a policy standpoint, having a strong Singapore dollar definitely will help” to keep imported inflation at bay, Irvin Seah, senior economist at DBS, said in a briefing with reporters.

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore has tightened monetary policy four times since last year, and fiscal packages have provided relief, especially on the lower end.

But even as policy helps, “it is really down to the responsibility of the individual to manage their finances” and mitigate inflation impact, Seah said.

While 40% of that customer base has seen income growth of less than 5% in the year through May, consumer prices picked up at a faster clip – 5.6%, in the same period.

What’s more, the key drivers of inflation are categories that are top priority for consumers – housing, food and transport make up about 63% of DBS customers’ budgets.

Price growth in expenses runs in the double digits across categories, including 60.2% for transportation and about 57% for a discretionary basket, including shopping, entertainment and travel.

One silver lining in the data: The DBS analysts did see some signs of upward mobility, with 51,588 customers, or about 23% of the base, moving into the next-highest income bracket, S$2,500 to S$4,999 (US$1,813 to US$3,624 or RM8,070 to RM16,100), from the lowest group in the past year. — Bloomberg


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