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Cost of Living - The Middle East October 2012

The Middle East: Cost of Living Rankings for October 2012

  • The most expensive countries in the Middle East for expatriates to live in are: Qatar; United Arab Emirates; Israel; Iran; Lebanon.
  • The most expensive cities in the Middle East for expatriates to live in: Doha (122 most expensive in the world); Abu Dhabi; Dubai; Jerusalem; Tehran
  • The cheapest country and city in the Middle East for expatriates to live in: Sanaa in Yemen (711th most expensive in the world)


Which cities / countries drop in the ranking, and which moved up?

  • The biggest mover down the rankings is Manama in Bahrain, which has dropped to become the 277th most expensive location in the world.
  • The biggest mover up the rankings is Baghdad in Iraq, which has risen to be the 469th most expensive location in the world.


Reasons for this movement:

Manama is 11% less expensive than Doha in terms of overall cost of living. In fact overall, Manama is only the seventh most expensive city in the Middle East. Manama is less expensive for the big ticket items which comprise a larger portion of an expatriate’s budget, such as housing and healthcare. A surprising result this quarter is that comparing the cost of living excluding housing, education, healthcare and transport actually results in Manama being marginally more expensive than Doha as it is slightly more expensive for clothing, groceries, recreation & culture, and meals out.

Baghdad is slowly recovering after years of hostilities. The economy still lacks effective economic policies. The weak state of the financial system, together with its limited role in the economy, also makes development the private sector difficult. Increasing demand for goods and services with a lack of regular supply is the main reason for the cost of living in Iraq rising.

Xpatulator’s Cost of Living rankings are released every quarter and measure the comparative cost of living for expatriates in 780 cities, covering every country worldwide.  The cost of 13 basket groups with over 140 items are compared in each location, these include alcohol and tobacco, clothing, communication, education, furniture and appliances, groceries, healthcare, housing, personal care, recreation and culture, restaurants-meals-out and hotels, and transport.

Doha as the most expensive city in the Middle East has an overall cost of living index of 89.04 compared to New York with an index of 100, and Tokyo, the most expensive city in the world, with an index of 139.89. Doha’s cost of living index is similar to cities such as Aberdeen, Munich, Brussels, and Amsterdam.

Doha is the most expensive city in the Middle East mainly because it is a relatively small centrally controlled economy undergoing rapid growth with large scale infrastructure projects. More than 80% of expatriates in Qatar live in Doha. With a limited number of suppliers of goods and services to the country, when a shortage is experienced in one store, it is usually an indication that all stores will be out of stock. Most goods and services are imported at great cost. Added to the fact that salaries are reputedly the highest in the region (Nationals received a 60% salary hike in September 2011), the cost of living in Doha has increased relative to other cities in the region.

Particularly expensive in Doha are the following basket groups, alcohol, communication, furniture & appliances, housing, and meals out. Alcohol for home consumption, is available for those with a liquor permit, from one shop supplying the country. A midrange bottle of wine is approximately $24, beer ranges from $2.50 to $4.50 for a premium beer. A monthly standard plan internet subscription (4 Mbs) is $113, while the benchmark mobile tariff is $0.13 per minute. A a Blu-ray player averages $145, and you will pay around $1,436 for a 46 inch LED HD TV. While housing has become more affordable since the shortages a few years ago, the benchmark rental for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is $4,448 in a central location, and $2,891 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities.  Meals out in hotels is very expensive, but as in most cities more reasonable priced options can be found outside of the hotels and malls. Fuel is very cheap at just under $0.28 per litre, and vehicle prices are reasonable compared to
most other parts of the world.

To provide an assignee, sent from a low cost of living country to a more expensive country, with a similar purchasing power to what they have in their home country, requires an adjustment to their assignment salary.  The amount of adjustment depends on which country they come from. The larger the difference in cost of living, the larger the adjustment required to ensure a similar level of purchasing power in the host country.


The below ranking shows the overall Cost of Living Rankings in the Middle East by city:

  1. Qatar, Doha
  2. United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi
  3. United Arab Emirates, Dubai
  4. Israel, Jerusalem
  5. Iran, Tehran
  6. Lebanon, Beirut
  7. Bahrain, Manama
  8. Kuwait, Kuwait City
  9. Palestinian Territories, West Bank
  10. Saudi Arabia, Riyadh
  11. Saudi Arabia, Dammam
  12. Iraq, Baghdad
  13. Saudi Arabia, Medinah
  14. Syria, Damascus
  15. Oman, Muscat
  16. Jordan, Amman
  17. Saudi Arabia, Jeddah
  18. Saudi Arabia, Mecca
  19. Yemen, Sanaa


The below ranking shows the Cost of Living Rankings in the Middle East by city excluding housing, education, healthcare and transport basket groups:

  1. Bahrain, Manama
  2. Qatar, Doha
  3. United Arab Emirates, Dubai
  4. United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi
  5. Israel, Jerusalem
  6. Iran, Tehran
  7. Lebanon, Beirut
  8. Kuwait, Kuwait City
  9. Palestinian Territories, West Bank
  10. Syria, Damascus
  11. Jordan, Amman
  12. Saudi Arabia, Riyadh
  13. Saudi Arabia, Dammam
  14. Oman, Muscat
  15. Iraq, Baghdad
  16. Saudi Arabia, Jeddah
  17. Yemen, Sanaa
  18. Saudi Arabia, Medinah
  19. Saudi Arabia, Mecca

Xpatulator.com Head of Client and Marketing Services Denise McManus comments that: “The Middle East is not as expensive in global terms compared to a few years ago.  Inflation in the region is generally low, and in Qatar and the UAE in particular there are more choices in terms of accommodation and schooling. The current situation may change in Qatar as the major projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup kick-off and the number of expatriates in Qatar increases dramatically over the next few years.”

New York City is used as the base for the cost of living index rankings and the US dollar is used as the base currency. The cost of living data collected is representative of an expatriate lifestyle, where the local prices for fixed quantities of the same good and services at or near each location, and US dollar exchange rates are used.  Prices in each location are affected by availability (i.e. supply and demand) as well as local pricing regulations and taxes on goods and services (e.g. premiums on luxury goods).  Local inflation is usually representative of local price increases, which in turn impacts an expatriates purchasing power in the host country.  The exchange rate impacts both the price of imports to the host country and the expatriate assignment salary calculation between the home and the host country.  The cost of living has a significant impact on the purchasing power of an expatriate’s salary package.

This article may be freely copied as long as reference is made to http://www.xpatulator.com/