What do Singaporeans buy in JB? – Part One

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We all know it – That bumper to bumper traffic between JB and Singapore Causeways over the weekends but why do we still cross the Causeway anyway?

Newspapers have reported how the number of traffic grows during long weekends and public holidays. Yet, we still see throngs of people flooding the gates of the immigrations and queuing up for buses to get in and out of Johor Bahru (JB).

But why? What is the appeal that JB has towards Singaporeans? What keeps Singaporeans coming back for more?

The obvious answer is of course the cost of goods! With the conversion rate plus the current scrapping of GST to 0%, a lot of things in JB – well, actually Malaysia in general – comes off much cheaper for Singaporeans. They can save on a good day, almost half of their regular expenses should they engage in shopping and recreation in Malaysia instead of Singapore.

That’s not to say that Singapore isn’t a haven for shopping and quality goods – we know Malaysians love coming down to Orchard Road, Geylang, Little India and Chinatown and there’s so much of sightseeing in Singapore that we will forever ooh and aah at (although, admittedly, JB isn’t falling behind very far with so many new developments).

Let’s get into more specifics though. What are these things that Singaporeans are willing to bear immigration queues and traffic congestions for?

Food

Of course, Southeast Asians are known for their love of food. And where there’s cheap and good food, you know there are people flocking towards it. The percentages of how much food prices have increased in Singapore over the past 20 years are quite shocking. Even one of the cheapest options – food at hawker centres – has increased by at least 38.6% (as last recorded by the Singapore Department of Statistics). This is the statistics for cooked food, but your necessities like milk have also increased rather significantly. It is understandable then why young parents brave the crowds over the weekend to stock up on milk powder and even diapers for their babies to have that extra few dollars in hand that they could spend on something else.

Medical
With the eligibility of using Medisave in hospitals in West Malaysia (currently two hospitals – one of which is in Johor), Singaporeans are now given the option for cheaper healthcare. Even if they do not use their Medisave, the general cost of medical consultations in Johor is considerably cheaper than what is usually paid in Singapore. One could save a few hundred dollars on going to the dentist for braces here versus getting them done in Singapore. You may argue that the cost of travelling could bring the overall total back to the same amount that they would’ve paid in Singapore, but having spoken to people who have chosen to get braces done in JB, this author found that they still can save both money and time by travelling during off-peak hours. Even something as simple as over-the-counter lozenges for a sore throat can lessen the burden on both the throat and the pocket.