Cities and Urbanization

These are the world's most expensive cities

People look at the skyline of the central business district from the Skybridge of The Pinnacles at Duxton public housing estate in Singapore April 25, 2013. Banks in Singapore are urgently scrutinising their account holders as an imminent deadline on stricter tax evasion measures forces them to decide whether to send some of their wealthiest clients packing. The Southeast Asian city-state has grown into the world's fourth-biggest offshore financial centre but, with U.S. and European regulators on the hunt for tax cheats, the government is clamping down to forestall the kind of onslaught from foreign authorities that is now hitting Switzerland's banks. Before July 1, all financial institutions in Singapore must identify accounts they strongly suspect hold proceeds of fraudulent or wilful tax evasion and, where necessary, close them. After that, handling the proceeds of tax crimes will be a criminal offence under changes to the city-state's anti-money laundering law. Picture taken April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: CITYSCAPE BUSINESS)

Europe is home to many of the most expensive cities in the world, but Singapore tops the list. Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Rob Smith
Writer, Forum Agenda
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For a fifth consecutive year, Singapore has been named as the most expensive city in the world, according to the latest Worldwide Cost of Living report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

While last year the top 10 was dominated by cities in Asia, now five of the priciest places in the report are found in Europe, with Paris and Zurich joint-second. Oslo, Geneva and Copenhagen are fifth, joint-sixth and eighth, respectively.

Hong Kong is ranked as the fourth most expensive city, while Seoul (joint-sixth), Tel Aviv (ninth) and Sydney (10th) are also included in the list.

The survey, which is designed to help create compensation packages for expatriates and those travelling for business, measures the cost of living in 133 major cities, including comparing more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services.

It finds that Singapore is the most expensive place to buy and run a car, while the average price for one bottle of wine ($23.68) is considerably more than in most other cities, including the majority of those within the top 10. Only Seoul ($26.54) and Tel Aviv ($28.77) were found to be more expensive.

Singapore tops the list of the most expensive cities in the world. Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

The priciest cities for groceries

Despite topping the rankings, Singapore does offer relative value in some categories, especially compared with its regional peers, the report says.

For categories such as personal care, household goods and domestic help, Singapore remains significantly cheaper than Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo, which are the most expensive places in the world to buy staple goods.

In Seoul, for example, filling up a grocery basket is almost 50% more expensive than in New York, which ranks 13th in the overall list, the highest of any city in the United States.

Filling a grocery basket is more expensive in Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo than anywhere else. Image: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Los Angeles, which ranked 14th overall, is the next most expensive US city, down from 11th last year. Indeed, US cities have become comparatively cheaper thanks largely to the dollar weakening against other currencies, the report says, with all but one (Boston) of the 16 surveyed falling down the rankings.

The report also warns of a number of fallouts that could take place this year as political and economic shocks start to take effect.

It points out that the United Kingdom has already seen sharp declines in the relative cost of living as a result of the Brexit referendum and related currency weaknesses. The prospect of the UK leaving the European Union in March 2019 means the country is now cheaper – with London ranking 30th overall.

Cheaper cities tend to be ‘less liveable’

At the bottom of the rankings, Damascus is the cheapest city in the world, dropping 14 places in comparison to last year. Caracas is the next cheapest city, with its ranking falling 13 places since the survey was last conducted, highlighting the impact of political or economic disruption, the report says.

For many Syrian and Venezuelan nationals, however, neither Damascus nor Caracas would be considered cheap, as rocketing prices in recent years have made groceries more difficult for people to afford.

There’s one European capital among the world’s 10 cheapest cities.

Image: EIU Worldwide Cost of Living report

The report adds: “There is a considerable element of risk in some of the world’s cheapest cities… and there is some correlation between the EIU survey and its sister ranking, the liveability survey. Put simply, cheaper cities also tend to be less liveable.”

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Related topics:
Cities and UrbanizationInequalityGlobal Governance
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