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Singapore 9th most pricey place in Asia-Pacific for expats: Survey

Publication Date : 11-06-2014


Singapore is the ninth most expensive place in the Asia-Pacific for expatriates - for a second straight year.

And for the first time since 2009, the Republic has surpassed Australian cities, all of which have now fallen out of the top 40 except for Sydney in 38th place.

ECA International, which released its biannual Cost of Living Survey yesterday, cited the strengthening of the Singdollar against the Australian dollar over the past year as a key factor.

Globally, Singapore has risen four notches to become the 31st most expensive expatriate location. Prices rose about 2.3 per cent over the year, fuelled by higher commodity prices, which drove up food and clothing costs.

But the Republic is still competitive, compared with Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Thailand, where inflation is typically 6 per cent year on year, ECA's Asia regional director Lee Quane said.

Also, Singapore remains less expensive than Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong - major cities competing with it for talent and foreign investment. The three most expensive cities worldwide are Caracas, Oslo and Luanda.

"However, the cost of living for relocated employees will also be affected by the currency that is used to pay their salaries, and exchange rate fluctuations will often have a bigger impact on an international assignee's purchasing power than inflation," he noted.

In the last four years, Singapore has consistently stayed in the top 30, indicating costs for international assignments to Singapore remain relatively high compared with places such as Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, he said.

Even so, the Singdollar's recent weakness against the US dollar, euro and pound sterling have kept costs down for companies sending staff here, he said.

They will be able to continue to "maintain their assignee's spending power with a lower cost of living allowance".

Conversely, companies sending staff out of Singapore and paying in Singdollars may need to adjust their remuneration package to reflect the currency's weaker purchasing power, he said.

The ECA survey is the latest in a series ranking Singapore among the most expensive cities.

In March, a survey by the business intelligence arm of the Economist magazine sparked controversy over its findings that Singapore was the world's most expensive city. It cited a stronger Singdollar and rising utility and car prices.

The ECA does not take accommodation rentals, car purchases and school fees into account.

Its survey helps companies calculate cost of living allowances for employees on overseas assignments, and compares a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly bought by expats in 440 locations worldwide.

Victor Mills, acting chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, noted that apart from costs, MNCs face other challenges. "For MNCs it has become harder to obtain employment passes as the manpower curbs have kicked in."


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