Singapore has retained its title as the world's most expensive city for expatriates for the third year in a row, but its lead over the next two cities in a ranking survey has nearly evaporated.
Zurich and Hong Kong follow closely in joint second place, while Geneva comes in third, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) latest league table.
The survey is designed to help human resource and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers.
Despite topping the ranking, Singapore still offers relative value in some categories, especially when compared with its regional peers, the EIU said in its latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. "For general basic groceries, Singapore offers the same value as New York. This compares with Seoul, which is 33 per cent more expensive, Tokyo (26 per cent more) and Hong Kong (28 per cent), implying that value for money can be found by those who seek it," the report noted.
However, Singapore remains consistently expensive in other categories. It is the priciest place in the world to buy and run a car, because of the certificate of entitlement system.
TOP 10 MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES IN THE WORLD
2. Hong Kong
9. Los Angeles
Transport costs here are 2.7 times higher than in New York. Alongside Seoul, Singapore is also a very expensive city for buying clothes and paying for utility costs, the EIU said.
The EIU noted that weak oil prices have suppressed global prices, including in Singapore. Data it collected here shows, for example, that the average price of a 1kg loaf of bread, a bottle of table wine, a pack of 20 branded cigarettes and a litre of unleaded petrol have all fallen over the past year.
In a year of volatile currency fluctuations, several cities have risen or fallen several places in the ranking. Stagnant inflation and a devaluation of the Japanese yen, for example, have pushed Tokyo down to 11th spot and Osaka to 14th, although both cities have traditionally been the two most expensive globally over the past 20 years.
The EIU conducts the survey by comparing more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, clothing, household supplies, home rents, transport, utilities, private schools, domestic help and recreation.