Living Large: Singapore and Zurich Top the List of World’s Most Expensive Cities

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Singapore and Zurich tied for the world’s most expensive city this year, followed by Geneva, New York, and Hong Kong, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said on Thursday as it cautioned that the global cost-of-living crisis was over. Four of the top five cities are in Europe, reflecting continued high inflation affecting food and clothing and currency appreciation in some cases. On average, prices have risen by 7.4% year on year in local currency terms for over 200 commonly used goods and services, a drop from the record 8.1% increase last year but still “significantly higher than the trend in 2017-2021,” the twice-yearly Worldwide Cost of Living survey said.

The survey found that a basket of essential goods and services would cost US$2,231 in Singapore, the highest for any city worldwide. This includes the price of transport, communication, recreation, and miscellaneous household items. The survey also noted that Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to buy and own a car, partly because of strict government controls on car ownership and rising fuel costs. It is also among the most costly locations in the world for groceries, alcohol, and clothing.

Zurich, which overtook New York to take the second spot this year, saw its ranking boosted by the strength of the Swiss franc and high prices for groceries, household items, and recreational activities. Despite the relatively low cost of housing and utilities, Singapore maintained its pole position in the rankings for the ninth time in 11 years by the sky-high cost of car ownership, pricey alcohol, and rising grocery prices.

New York fell to third place, with Los Angeles in fourth and San Francisco in fifth. The US cities declined because of lower house prices and slower wage growth. Inflation in the US has slowed because of falling gasoline and rent costs but has not yet fully caught up to the rising cost of living.

Paris, Copenhagen, and Tel Aviv completed the top ten in Europe, and Tokyo, Seoul, and Mumbai in Asia. Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia dropped from the top ten because of the weakening ruble following hefty Western sanctions over Ukraine. Meanwhile, Jakarta and Manila in Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia climbed the list as they became more expensive due to higher food and fuel prices. In addition, Tokyo and Seoul jumped the list due to their high-income populations. These trends could exacerbate global warming and widen inequalities, the report warned. It added that a failure to address these problems will further depress economic growth and exacerbate poverty. The total Worldwide Cost of Living survey is available on the EIU website. It is compiled annually to provide essential information for those who must pay their bills overseas, including international students and business travelers. It is also helpful for companies and individuals planning an international relocation or calculating appropriate compensation packages.

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