MANILA followed Singapore and Bangkok as the most expensive city in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, according to a ranking by consulting firm Mercer Llc.
Mercer’s 22nd annual Cost of Living Survey showed that Manila rose five notches from its rank of 75 last year. Bangkok zoomed 29 notches from its rank of 45 last year to this year’s ranking of 74th most expensive city in the world for expatriates.
Singapore remained unchanged as the fourth-most expensive city in the world and the most expensive among eight Asean countries. The least expensive is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To note, Asean member-country Lao PDR and observer-country Papua New Guinea were not included in Mercer’s ranking.
Mercer’s survey finds that factors, including currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services and instability of accommodation prices, contribute to the cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments.
The peso has steadily strengthened against the greenback since hitting P56: $1 in 2004. The peso inched further up against the US dollar on July 8 by closing at P47.08: $1.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), the country’s inflation rate last month inched up to 1.9 percent from 1.6 percent in May due to increases in food and nonfood prices. In a statement, the Neda said the rate is within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’s forecast of 1.5 percent to 2.4 percent for June and the median market expectation of 1.9 percent. The International Monetary Fund has said it expects inflation to rise to 2 percent this year as commodity prices stabilize.
According to Mercer’s survey, Hong Kong emerged this year as the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally, as a consequence of Luanda’s drop in the ranking due to the weakening of Angola’s currency.
The monthly rent of a two-bedroom unfurnished apartment of international standards in an appropriate neighborhood in Hong Kong is $6,809.47 (P320,756.68), Mercer’s survey showed. It is $3,129.66 (P147,421.07) in Singapore, $4,002.50 (P188,535.76) in Tokyo and $3,434.25 (P161,768.63) in Beijing.
Nonetheless, a fast-food hamburger meal in Hong Kong is cheaper at $4.83 (P227.51) compared to Singapore ($5.48 or P258.13), Tokyo ($6 or P282.63) and Beijing ($4.88 or P 229.87).
A large Big Mac meal costs only P204 ($4.33) in the Philippines, according to the web site of the restaurant carrying the brand. A competing brand called “Champ” is priced at P146.30 ($3.11) on the company’s delivery web site.