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Cost of living — These are the most expensive and cheapest cities in the world

Cost of living — These are the most expensive and cheapest cities in the world
Merlion Park in the central business district of Singapore. 19 May 19, 2021. (Photo: Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg via Getty Images) I An aerial view of the city centre of Zurich, Limmat River, Lake Zurich, and the Grossmuenster Church in Zurich, Switzerland. 12 July 2020. (Photo by Christian Ender/Getty Images)

The EIU’s cost of living index shows prices are highest in some of the most desirable cities — and cheapest in less enviable parts of the world.

British soul group Simply Red lamented about money being too tight to mention almost 40 years ago but tough times are proving stickier than lead singer Mick Hucknall’s love of tight trousers — especially for those who live in cities like Singapore, Zurich and New York. 

The latest Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) survey shows that prices climbed by an average of 7.4% in local-currency terms over the past year in the world’s major cities — a slight decline on the 8.1% price growth recorded in 2022, but significantly above the trend in 2017-21. 

For the ninth time in 11 years, Singapore has been named the world’s most expensive city (particularly expensive for transport and clothing), sharing top spot with Zurich (Switzerland), which is back in the lead after three years. 

New York, which came joint first last year, moved down to third position, tying with Geneva (Switzerland), followed by Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Paris, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv and San Francisco. 

Johannesburg and Pretoria are about about two-thirds down the EIU’s table from the top, and have remained almost static over the past year. 

Of the 10 categories in the EIU price index, utility prices rose the slowest over the past year, which suggests that Russia’s war on Ukraine is having a lesser impact on costs — although grocery prices are continuing to rise strongly. 

Four of the top 10 most expensive cities are in Western Europe, where sticky inflation in groceries, clothing and personal care, as well as growth in the euro and the Swiss franc have boosted their ascendance in the rankings. 

In Mexico, the central cities of Santiago de Querétaro and Aguascalientes were the biggest climbers in the rankings due to the strengthening of the peso against the dollar.

Chinese cities, meanwhile, have fallen in the rankings, with four cities among the biggest losers due to a slow economic recovery after the pandemic, muted consumer demand and the depreciation of the yuan.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is hurting the pockets of residents of Moscow and St Petersburg, which experienced the biggest drop in the rankings due to sanctions weakening the ruble. 

Caracas has been bruised by cost of living inflation: prices have risen by 450% in the Venezuelan capital over the past year but that’s a massive improvement on 2019, when inflation cruised past 25,000%.

In some advanced economies, such as the US, the UK and Australia, consumer demand has proved surprisingly resilient to the aggressive pace of monetary tightening that started in 2022.

The cheapest city is still Damascus (Syria), even though its WCOL price basket rose by 321% year on year in local-currency terms, followed by Tehran (Iran, which has an inflation rate of nearly 49%) and Tripoli (Liby

a). All three of these cities are particularly cheap for groceries, as well as for other household goods and personal care. 

EIU estimates that global consumer price inflation in 2023 will come in at 7.4% — the same rate as cost of living inflation, which is down from the 9.2% CPI reported for 2022.

The WCOL is a twice-yearly survey that compares more than 400 individual prices across more than 200 products and services in 173 cities. Data for the survey has been collected for more than 30 years. 

The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. DM

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