Thursday, July 24, 2008

S'pore Getting More Expensive For Expats: Mercer Survey

Source : The Straits Times, July 24, 2008

It moves up a spot in two categories - to No. 5 in Asia and No. 13 in the world

SINGAPORE is now the fifth most expensive Asian city for expatriates, up a notch from an earlier survey, human resources consultancy Mercer said yesterday.

The annual cost-of-living survey did not spring too many surprises, with traditionally expensive cities in Europe and Asia featuring strongly in the top 20 cities for this year.

PRICEY NEIGHBOURHOOD: Moscow, with the iconic domes of St Basil's Cathedral, is the world's most expensive city for expatriates. -- ST FILE PHOTO

For the third year running, Moscow retained its top spot, while Tokyo climbed two spots to second, knocking off London and Seoul, which dropped to third and fifth, respectively, in the global rankings.

Singapore, which was number six in Asia last year, also edged one spot higher in global rankings this year, coming in at 13th.

'Singapore's rise in the rankings is partly attributable to the appreciation of the Singapore dollar against the US dollar,' said managing director for Mercer-Asean, Ms Su-Yen Wong.

'Another contributing factor is its continued strength as a hub for the region...this has increased demand for items such as housing, food and transportation.'

Mercer's survey, which covers 143 cities around the world, measures and compares the costs of over 200 essential items for expats.

These include housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and even entertainment.

The rising cost of living reflected in the survey confirmed the global trend of price increases for staple items such as food and petrol.

The findings also showed a high correlation between the cost of living, economic growth and quality of life in a country.

This was more true for fast-developing Asian cities such as Singapore, where the cost-of-living increase can be attributed to the higher quality of life enjoyed by residents, Mercer said.

But despite rising living costs, especially in housing, Singapore remains competitive compared to its Asian neighbours such as Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong, and other global financial centres such as London and Zurich.

This has also not deterred foreign firms from setting up shop in Singapore.

'Our members are concerned about increasing rents but other costs are pretty much at world standard levels,' said Mr Nick Cocks, president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Singapore.

'And, overall, most of our members find Singapore a great place to live.'

Its American counterparts, however, painted a less-than-positive picture of Singapore.

A recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce here showed that 74 per cent of its members were 'dissatisfied' with the cost of leasing offices and housing, while 95 per cent expected the cost of living to rise.

New York, the most expensive city in the US, is ranked 22nd on Mercer's global list.

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