04 Julio 2017 16:59
A place that is rich in inequality
To understand the ranking you need to know the intentions behind its creation. Mercer is a consulting leader in the area of Human Resources. As such, its study is aimed at measuring the cost of living in each city in the world from the viewpoint of an expat sent there by a company or government to work.
To this end, they look at the cost of a shopping basket containing 200 articles - the cost to rent an apartment, the price of a coffee, a litre of petrol, a beer, a litre of milk, public transport or a cinema ticket, among others - in each place. They’re all articles that give a measure of what it would cost a western person to maintain their standard of living and leisure habits in any other city in the world.
According to this methodology, there is no place in the world that is more prohibitive, in terms of living costs, than Luanda. And it’s not the first time the city has found itself in the winning position on this dubious podium. The Angolese capital was top of Mercer’s list in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Street scene in the Cazenga neighbourhood. DW/R. Krieger
Luanda’s is a case in its own right. It’s the capital of a rich country… with 20 million living in poverty. The country essentially lives from its oil and diamond exports, but the wealth these natural resources generate ends up in very few pockets.
In Luanda, together with just a few thousand wealthy inhabitants and a scant middle class, more than 5 million Angolese scrape by in poverty in shack-strewn shanty towns. More than 50% of families have no running water in their homes. Their life expectancy and infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world. According to the Social Progress Index, there are just three countries in the world that have a lower quality of life than Angola.
Shanty towns on the outskirts of Luanda. Vanessa Vick
This wild inequality means that things that may be normal for us, in Angola are little less than a luxury within the reaches of an affluent minority. The expat economy and that of the Angolese are totally disconnected. Foreigners pay more for everything because they live their lives in completely different environments.
Restaurants, for example, are prohibitive for native Angolese. And foreigners need to bear in mind: the price of the dish of the day in the cheapest restaurants may be as high as 20 euros, and dining in your restaurant hotel could easily rack up a bill of 100 euros. A standard pair of jeans would set you back at least 150 euros. Renting a two-bedroom apartment in a safe neighbourhood could cost around 4,000 euros a month. Depending on the district, the starting price to rent a three-bedroom flat could be as much as 10,000 euros. A month.
Alongside these figures, let’s take a look at some stats for locals. At the beginning of June, the government of Angola approved the first general minimum wage. This was set at 16,500 kwanzas, around 88 euros at the current exchange rate. Even the authorities themselves will admit that no one in Luanda - talking of Angolese, of course, - lives on their salary alone. They have no choice but to resort to other kinds of ‘business’ in the informal economy.
Below is a map and table outlining the 10 cheapest and most expensive cities for a foreign worker, according to Mercer’s study. In case you’re wondering, Spain’s biggest cities have snatched the following positions in the rankings: 111 (Madrid) and 121 (Barcelona).