Dear Mr. Tan,
I read your article titled "Reducing commuting time - national effort needed" in The Online Citizen. Here Are my observations, based on my working experience in both Spore and NZ:
1) When I was in Spore, I subscribed to the idea of buying a flat. With that, I lost the freedom to live near my work place which changes on average once every few years. I spent between 1 to 1.5 hours commuting one way daily, and it's not a pleasant journey because of the crowded public transport.
2) Since I do not plan to live for the long term in NZ, I'm renting now, and I managed to find an apartment that's a 5 mins walk from my office, right at the heart of the city. It's very convenient with everything within 15 mins walking, and many people are quite surprised to learn that I don't own a car here. One problem though, rental can fluctuate a lot, I was recently hit by a 25% increment. I believe it's the same situation in Spore.
3) Living near one's work place has many benefits, for example, more sleep, less stressful commuting, better concentration and productivity at work. A healthier lifestyle too, because I can go home for lunch instead of eating out (the cost saving is not significant in Spore's context, but it makes sense in NZ). Not to forget the savings in transport cost, as mentioned in your article. A lot of things can happen in a 1 to 1.5 hrs commute, eg. MRT break down, accident on the road causing massive jams, which add to the stress(knowing one will be late for work).
4) For the majority of Singaporeans, it probably makes more financial sense to buy a HDB flat at the 2.5% mortgage rate, because it makes the mortgage payment very affordable than the average rental. In NZ, the mortage rate is over 9%, so renting can be more attractive.
5) The differences in the culture, especially in the mindset of most employers. In the 3 jobs I have held in Spore, most of the time I'm expected to be on call 24/7, this is very disruptive to my personal life. In NZ, although I'm in the same line, the expectation is 40 hours a week, and it's up to us to adjust our daily hours. I tend to believe that Sporean employers need to see their employees working at their desks in the office, and one feels uneasy to leave on the dot. Telecommuting is also very common in NZ. People work from home at times for various reasons, like to take care of their children.
It's a pity that the public transport in Auckland is not very well implemented and expensive, low demand leads low frequency. Even so, the buses seldom reach their full seating capacity. If only they are better, I'll definitely live in the suburbs.
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