Yangon now costlier for expats than Paris, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco

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Yangon street_Arno Maierbrugger
Yangon is in rapid economic transformation, and prices have shot up dramatically, at least for expats © Arno Maierbrugger

With ultra-high rents and stiff prices for utilities, clothes, transport and entertainment, Yangon has made it up in the list of costliest cities for expats globally, according to the new Cost of Living Survey released by global consultancy Mercer on June 17. Out of 207 surveyed cities around the globe, Yangon this year jumped from rank 66 to rank 28, surpassing other cities not known for being havens for Cheap Charlies, namely Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Osaka, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Taipei, Oslo and Washington DC.

While Asia in general is becoming one of the most expensive regions in the world for people working abroad according to the survey, Yangon is a special case as it transformed itself from a sleepy backwater place to a hub for investors and businesses in a very short time, with the result that prices for certain goods have gone up in an uncontrolled manner.

It is not just that an 80-square-meter apartment in Yangon downtown would set a tenant back a hefty monthly net rent of around $4,000 – most other things imported are carrying a ridiculously high price tag. The monthly fee for broadband Internet comes at $200, which would also be the price for a pair of branded jeans or sport shoes in a downtown store. A new standard Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI can be had for a whopping $75,000, triple the price such a car would cost in Bangkok, for example.

Within Southeast Asia, Yangon has already become the second-costliest city behind Singapore and ahead of Bangkok. In fact, all Southeast Asian cities except Singapore shot up in the cost ranking, with Manila jumping 50 spots up to rank 75. Much of the rise in costs can be explained with currency fluctuations and higher costs for expatriate consumer goods.

In Cambodia, for example, which has a US dollar-dominated economy, cost of living in the capital Phnom Penh climbed 27 spots to rank 142, also on the grounds of a rapidly growing gross domestic product and a middle-class that is increasingly getting wealthier. In Bangkok, the third most expansive city in Southeast Asia, prices rose due to a mixture of factors, including higher prices for housing and imports, despite inflation holding at multi-year lows.

“Currency fluctuations – driven by economic and political unrest – are contributing to the cost of expatriate packages for those on the front line of globalisation of their organisations,” Mercer said in a statement.

Overall, five of the top 10 costliest cities in this year’s ranking are in Asia-Pacific. Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the region as a result of its currency being pegged to the US dollar which drives up the cost of living locally. Hong Kong is followed by Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul, with the latter three cities all climbing in the ranking. Tokyo dropped four places mainly due to the weakening yen.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are the costliest cities for expats, with Doha ranking fifth in the region and 99th globally, in a tie with Jakarta. Overall, Luanda in oil-rich Angola remains the most expensive cities for expats with sky-high rents and pricey imported consumer goods. The least expensive cities in the Mercer survey are Karachi in Pakistan, Windhoek in Namibia and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.

Costliest cities table

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yangon is in rapid economic transformation, and prices have shot up dramatically, at least for expats © Arno Maierbrugger

With ultra-high rents and stiff prices for utilities, clothes, transport and entertainment, Yangon has made it up in the list of costliest cities for expats globally, according to the new Cost of Living Survey released by global consultancy Mercer on June 17. Out of 207 surveyed cities around the globe, Yangon this year jumped from rank 66 to rank 28, surpassing other cities not known for being havens for Cheap Charlies, namely Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Osaka, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Taipei, Oslo and Washington DC.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yangon street_Arno Maierbrugger
Yangon is in rapid economic transformation, and prices have shot up dramatically, at least for expats © Arno Maierbrugger

With ultra-high rents and stiff prices for utilities, clothes, transport and entertainment, Yangon has made it up in the list of costliest cities for expats globally, according to the new Cost of Living Survey released by global consultancy Mercer on June 17. Out of 207 surveyed cities around the globe, Yangon this year jumped from rank 66 to rank 28, surpassing other cities not known for being havens for Cheap Charlies, namely Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Osaka, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Taipei, Oslo and Washington DC.

While Asia in general is becoming one of the most expensive regions in the world for people working abroad according to the survey, Yangon is a special case as it transformed itself from a sleepy backwater place to a hub for investors and businesses in a very short time, with the result that prices for certain goods have gone up in an uncontrolled manner.

It is not just that an 80-square-meter apartment in Yangon downtown would set a tenant back a hefty monthly net rent of around $4,000 – most other things imported are carrying a ridiculously high price tag. The monthly fee for broadband Internet comes at $200, which would also be the price for a pair of branded jeans or sport shoes in a downtown store. A new standard Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI can be had for a whopping $75,000, triple the price such a car would cost in Bangkok, for example.

Within Southeast Asia, Yangon has already become the second-costliest city behind Singapore and ahead of Bangkok. In fact, all Southeast Asian cities except Singapore shot up in the cost ranking, with Manila jumping 50 spots up to rank 75. Much of the rise in costs can be explained with currency fluctuations and higher costs for expatriate consumer goods.

In Cambodia, for example, which has a US dollar-dominated economy, cost of living in the capital Phnom Penh climbed 27 spots to rank 142, also on the grounds of a rapidly growing gross domestic product and a middle-class that is increasingly getting wealthier. In Bangkok, the third most expansive city in Southeast Asia, prices rose due to a mixture of factors, including higher prices for housing and imports, despite inflation holding at multi-year lows.

“Currency fluctuations – driven by economic and political unrest – are contributing to the cost of expatriate packages for those on the front line of globalisation of their organisations,” Mercer said in a statement.

Overall, five of the top 10 costliest cities in this year’s ranking are in Asia-Pacific. Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the region as a result of its currency being pegged to the US dollar which drives up the cost of living locally. Hong Kong is followed by Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul, with the latter three cities all climbing in the ranking. Tokyo dropped four places mainly due to the weakening yen.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are the costliest cities for expats, with Doha ranking fifth in the region and 99th globally, in a tie with Jakarta. Overall, Luanda in oil-rich Angola remains the most expensive cities for expats with sky-high rents and pricey imported consumer goods. The least expensive cities in the Mercer survey are Karachi in Pakistan, Windhoek in Namibia and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.

Costliest cities table

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