July 8, 2007

Made your pile yet?

ACCORDING to a wealth-accumulation league table compiled by an American investment bank, the number of new millionaires in Singapore grew by the fastest rate world-wide last year. And that's being reckoned in US dollars. A total of 11,660 greenback millionaires made the list, to take to 66,660 Singaporeans whose individual assets amounted to at least S$1.5 million, not counting the home they lived in. Pretty impressive, even if the list were to include resident foreigners. But before the more inquisitive of our readers do some kaypoh sleuthing to establish if the new neighbour in the five-roomer is a millionaire, courtesy perhaps of a collective sale, be prepared for more surprises. It is entirely possible there are many more millionaires in this island than published figures show. It would depend on how data is assembled and categorised.

If the residential home were included in calculating net worth, Singapore in this period of property-asset upsizing could well have one of the world's highest concentrations of deca-millionaires per capita or per square kilometre. Mere millionaires would be common. There would be a decent number of traditional-Chinese and traditional-Indian old-money families who keep their wealth under wraps because they are not the conspicuous-consumption type. They could be your average HDB neighbour, with an average car in the parking lot. No flash, no dash. Discreet old money will not appear in any wealth list. In the bygone days of wealth-reckoning in older economies, land owners ranked high in Rich Lists kept by nosey business publications. Then came the age of manufacturers and now, digital billionaires. Here in Singapore, the property and stockmarket are noteworthy wealth propellants. If these are kept up Singapore will be in the money for a while yet. The new millionaires created last year were not yet the beneficiaries of en bloc sales and the Shanghai bourse effect. These are 2007 phenomena.