Singapore becoming a more expensive place for expats, much to Hong Kong’s delight

There's long been a heated battle between Hong Kong and Singapore, with both cities claiming rights to being the Asian "hub" of everything from tourism to sport. But the rivalry took another twist this week - for something neither might want to boast too much about.

A cost-of-living index this week for the first time claimed that Singapore was a more expensive place than Hong Kong for expat workers to live.

Compiled twice yearly by the human resources consultancy ECA International ( http://www.eca-international.com), the index showed that Singapore has moved to sixth place in terms of cost of living for expats in Asia, up from ninth last year and passing old foe Hong Kong, which moved down one place to seventh.

In Singapore the spin on the result was a positive one - as local media pointed to the strength of the local dollar against foreign currencies as being the reason for the rise and pointing out that also meant that Singapore companies sending their staff overseas were now paying less to maintain a high standard of living for their employees.

In Hong Kong, the media played up the fact that their city was now a more attractive place for international firms to send their workers - as it was cheaper. And they provided the quotes to back their claim up.

"It could be seen as bad news for Singapore, losing its competitive edge - which is what people in Hong Kong had been worried about. It's now Singapore's turn," Lee Quane, regional director for ECA Asia, was quoted as saying.

The report looks at the cost of goods and services likely to be in demand by expats - such as dinner at a restaurant, wine and even imported pasta - and it was first instigated by ECA International in September 2009.

Singapore was the highest mover in the region's top 10, which was again dominated by Japanese cities, with Tokyo coming out not only as the most expensive place in the region but as the world's most expensive place for expats, according to ECA International's global listing.

As has been the case with the Singapore currency, the strength of the Swiss franc has seen Zurich make a major move in the global top 10, rising to sixth from last year's 10th, while the Angolan city of Luanda dropped from third to seventh in another major move.

Asia's top 10 most expensive cities for expats (last year's ranking in brackets):

1 (1) Tokyo

2 (2) Nagoya

3 (3) Yokohama

4 (4) Kobe

5 (5) Seoul

6 (9) Singapore

7 (6) Hong Kong

8 (8) Beijing

9 (7) Shanghai

10 (10) Busan

World's top 10 most expensive cities for expats (last year's ranking in brackets):

1 (1) Tokyo, Japan

2 (2) Oslo, Norway

3 (4) Nagoya, Japan

4 (6) Stavanger, Norway

5 (5) Yokohama, Japan

6 (10) Zurich, Switzerland

7 (3) Luanda, Angola

8 (9) Geneva, Switzerland

9 (7) Kobe, Japan

10 (11) Bern, Switzerland

MS

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