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BA most expensive city in region for foreigners

by June 23, 2016 General

Inflation leaves Argentine capital at top of Latin American ranking despite steep devaluation

Buenos Aires City is the most expensive for foreign residents in Latin America according to polling company Mercer, which ranked the Argentine capital 41 globally.

The City retained its position as the most expensive for immigrants in the region for the second year running, despite slipping 22 places overall in the worldwide rankings from 19 in Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Report.

Reviewing the sweeping list of the 209 most expensive cities in the world for foreign residents in a press release, the polling company said that inflation and currency fluctuations — both of which have been pivotal to recent economic and social life in Buenos Aires in recent years, were key determinants on affecting which cities placed where in the survey.

“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 company said.

It added that inflation — another key economic issue for immigrants and residents in general in Buenos Aires City — was one of the most important single determinants regarding the ultimate ranking each city was awarded in the survey.

“Costs of goods and services shift with inflation and currency volatility making overseas assignment costs sometimes greater and sometimes smaller. Low levels of inflation have translated into fairly steady cost increases around the world,” the report said, quoting Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s Talent business.

Retains top spot

Regionally, Buenos Aires far outpaced local rivals in terms of its high living costs for foreigners living and working in the City according to the report.

While BA City dropped 22 places from Mercer’s 2015 Report, the company cited rapid inflation and sharp fluctuations in the value of the Argentine peso, affected in part by last year’s general election, as central to the continuing trend of rising costs. “In South America, Buenos Aires (41) ranked as the costliest city despite a twenty-two place drop from last year. The majority of other cities in South America fell as a result of weakening currencies against the US dollar despite price increases on goods and services in countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, or Uruguay.”

Other key urban centres in the region featured on the list included crisis-hit Puerto Rico (67), São Paulo (128) and Rio de Janeiro (156).

Venezuelan capital Caracas was excluded from the list “due to the complex currency situation” Mercer said.

Nonetheless, the cost of living in all major Latin American cities featured in the report was outpaced overall by their counterparts in the United States.

New York (11) remained the most expensive in North America, followed by similarly global cities of the Pacific coast San Francisco (26) and Los Angeles (27). Honolulu (37), Washington DC (38) and Boston (47) also placed high, as the press release examined:

“Cities in the United States have climbed in the ranking due to the strength of the US dollar against other major currencies, in addition to the significant drop of cities in other regions which resulted in US cities being pushed up the list.”

Around the world

While various cities in the Americas leapt up the cost of living rankings according to Mercer, the report underlined the continued costs for foreign residents living in key Asian and European cities, which dominated the upper echelons of the list, alongside African cities where once again the cost of imported goods and secure living conditions significantly affected their positions.

Hong Kong was ranked as the most expensive city in the world for immigrants, followed by Angolan capital Luanda (2), Zurich (3), Singapore (4) and Tokyo (5).

According to Mercer, the report methodology assesses hundreds of individual criteria in each city and uses comparative cost analysis.

“The survey includes 207 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.”

Herald staff

Most expensive cities in Central and South America

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

2. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

3. San Juan, Puerto Rico

4. Panama City, Panama

5. San José, Costa Rica

Source: Mercer, 2016