How did Singapore become the world's most expensive city?
If you're looking to live frugally, scratch this Southeast Asian republic off your list.
Tue, Mar 04, 2014 at 01:41 PM
A loaf of bread in Caracas, Venezuela costs $11.02 and a pack of cigarettes in Sydney, Australia sets smokers back $15.75, but the city-state of Singapore still managed to earn the unenviable distinction of being 2014’s most expensive city to live in.
Dethroning last year’s priciest city, Tokyo, the Southeast Asian financial hub beat out 130 other cities based on a comparison of more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services for the Worldwide Cost of Living list, a bi-annual index complied by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
So how did a group of islands roughly the size of Texas out-expense other cosmopolitan contenders like Paris and Zurich?
To start, Singapore has experienced a 40 percent currency appreciation over the past 10 years, partnered with solid price inflation; the republic’s rise from number 18 on the list a decade ago has been slow yet steady. In addition, the growth of the island’s private banking industry and its emergence as a regional hub for international companies have drawn an influx of senior executives from other cities.
But beyond the dynamics of basic economy, there are other components that nudge the cost of living upwards. For instance, Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to buy clothes, thanks to the proliferation of expensive malls and boutiques on Orchard Road (Singapore’s version of Rodeo Drive), which rely on exorbitantly priced luxury European brands to satisfy a “wealthy and fashion-conscious consumer base.”
In addition, cars are exceedingly expensive to own; automobiles there come with high fees, making them an indulgence for the wealthy and making car ownership notably costlier than other cities.
"Car costs have very high related certificate of entitlement fees attached to them, which makes Singapore significantly more expensive than any other location when it comes to running a car," says the EIU.
And as other island cities and nations know all too well, with a lack of natural resources comes reliance on other sources, which can prove expensive.
“As a city-state with very few natural resources to speak of, Singapore is reliant on other countries for energy and water supplies," notes the report, “making it the third most expensive destination for utility costs.”
And despite tremendous levels of wealth in Singapore, it also lays claim to some of the highest levels of income inequality among the world's advanced economies.
Rounding out the list for most expensive cites, Paris comes in at number two, while Oslo, Zurich, Sydney, Caracas, Geneva, Melbourne, Tokyo and Copenhagen fill in the remaining eight places of the top 10.
On the other hand, if you're looking for the cheapest place to live, consider Mumbai, India. At number 131 on the list, a loaf of bread in the world’s least expensive city will cost you a mere $0.91, and a pack of smokes can be yours for $1.53.
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