Singapore is not a cheap place to live. Among the findings of a new cost of living survey from international human resources consulting firm ECA is that the small, wealthy city-state is now the world’s 30th most expensive city for expatriates, up one place from last year. It’s the 9th most expensive city in Asia, with notoriously expensive Hong Kong only now slightly more expensive.
But beer drinkers who live in or visit the wealthy city-state are likely to fixate on another data point: Singapore has Asia’s most expensive beer.
The survey notes that a typical brew at a bar in Singapore costs a whopping $13.47. That’s 45% more than a beer in Beijing, which is the world’s 15th most expensive city, and 39% higher than one in Tokyo, which is the 10th most expensive place for foreigners. Even Hong Kong, with its similar overall cost of living, has comparatively inexpensive beer, at $9.18—a difference of $4.29 per bottle. Indeed, other goods in Singapore, like milk, eggs, and bread, are similarly priced or markedly cheaper in Singapore than other Asian cities.
So what gives? While data comparing excise taxes on alcohol between cities are difficult to come by, one clear factor seems to be Singapore’s steep “sin tax” on booze. “For social and/or environmental reasons, Singapore levies high excise taxes on beer, wine and liquor, tobacco products, motor vehicles and petroleum products,” according to the US government. So while some consumer goods may be relatively cheap, Singapore wants to discourage alcohol consumption, reap a financial windfall from those who do drink—or both simultaneously.
Another factor may be that citizens in Singapore, which has the world’s seventh highest gross domestic product per capita, at $61,400, have expensive tastes, and the market is responding with more high-end brews. “Craft beers gained in popularity as consumers became more adventurous and willing to try new exotic flavours of beers,” said consumer strategy research firm Euromonitor International in a report on 2012 alcohol consumption trends in the city-state. “Microbreweries in Singapore introduced their own craft beer flavours which are manufactured in limited amounts.”