Nov 27, 2007
S'pore ranked 9th most costly Asian city for expatriates
By Grace Ng
SINGAPORE has risen 10 places in a new global survey of the most expensive places for expatriates to live.
The Republic is closing the gap on higher-priced Hong Kong, which stayed at No. 79 in the survey, conducted by human resources firm ECA International.
Despite the jump, Singapore, at No. 122, is still significantly cheaper for expats than Hong Kong and other key global centres, such as London at No. 10 and New York at No. 48.
Singapore's rise up the table from No. 132 was the result of rising expat costs such as higher rents, coupled with a stronger Singapore dollar.
In contrast, the Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar, is weakening - offsetting a rise in expat costs.
Singapore is the ninth most expensive Asian city, the survey found. Seoul is the most expensive, at No. 7 in the world. Tokyo dropped from 10th to 13th place, partly due to a decline in the yen.
Top spot went to the African city of Luanda in Angola. Places like this, which are off the beaten track, are more expensive because some expat consumer items are hard to get, and those who want them have to pay top dollar.
The survey compares a basket of 128 consumer goods and services such as groceries, drinks and tobacco, clothing and electrical goods that are commonly purchased by expatriates in more than 300 locations worldwide.
Multinational firms use the survey's results to help determine how much to pay their staff working overseas.
Living costs for expats are affected by factors such as inflation, availability of goods and exchange rates.
Singapore has seen higher inflation, partly due to a 2 percentage point hike in the goods and services tax to 7 per cent.
Mr Sebastien Barnard, 32, at the British Chamber of Commerce, said living expenses, especially food, have risen. 'A year ago, lunch for two adults and two children cost about $70, including drinks. But now it's over $95.'
But the surge in property rents is still the biggest bugbear of expats here.
Mr Mark Brider, 43, head of international personal banking for the Royal Bank of Scotland in Singapore, said: 'There is a growing number of international people living in Singapore, so the demand drives up rental. My landlord just told me my rent will be raised 80 per cent in March next year.'
Nonetheless, he added, Singapore's cost of living is still 'competitive' and 'has still not reached the level of Hong Kong'.
The rising Singapore dollar has also pushed up expat living costs, said Mr Lee Quane, general manager of ECA International Hong Kong.
He said Singapore's rising cost of living is 'bad news' for global companies, which have to adjust their expat employees' pay and allowances to help them maintain their spending power here.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KUA ZHEN YANG