I've been travelling the past week to various places in Malaysia. If you're a price conscious person like me, you'll enjoy travelling in Malaysia because things are cheap…really cheap. Singapore has a median household income more than 3 times than of Malaysia[Link]. Because Malaysia has a large part of its population living in rural areas involved in farming pulling down the per capita GDP, the median income difference between Singapore and Malaysia for people living in cities is probably smaller. If you take into account the cost of living, the difference in quality of life may not be so big.
Travelling across Malaysia, makes a person realise how much the cost of living has crept up in Singapore over the years. Many years ago, when you go to Malaysia, you find things are slightly cheaper than Singapore…..but now the price difference is really big. Here are some random snapshots to illustrate: When I was in Malacca, I found out that one of my distant Malaysian relative got sick and was staying in a private hospital called Mahkota Medical Centre.
It was pure coincidence that my hotel was located across the road from that hospital. I went to visit my relative at the hospital – I won't go into the details of his illness but he is seriously ill and bedridden. I chatted with him and he was quite upset about the cost of medical care at the hospital. Mahkota Medical Centre is owned by a Singapore-based company known as Health Management International (HMI). He was upset because the ward charges has gone up from RM$50 when his father was ward 5 years ago to RM$70 per day. RM$70 gets you something like our B class wards(?), 4 beds per room + air-condition. This Malaysian hospital is one of those where you're allowed to use your Medisave . When I spoke to the nurse there, she told me an increasing number of Singaporeans are seeking at Mahkota because the cost of medical care in Singapore has spiralled beyond the reach of uinsured and uninsurable Singaporeans. The problem with medical tourism is it strains the country's resources and imports inflation. The cost difference for medical treatment between developed countries like Singapore, US, Germany and Malaysia is huge. If they allow their private hospitals to expand and take foreign patients, they will see the same problem of cost spirals and strained capacity in public hospitals as Singapore. Minister Khaw exported some of our problems by allowing the use of Medisave for Malaysian hospitals as Singapore's public hospital experience bed shortages and long waiting times[Link]. My sick relative was told by his doctor to seek part of his treatment at a Malaysian public hospital where they can treat him for much lower cost and same effectiveness as Mahkota.