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Cairo and Istanbul feel biggest cost of living squeeze

A stall holder in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. People in Istanbul faced rises in the cost of living this year, as soaring inflation impacted wages MB_Photo via Reuters Connect
A stall holder in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. People in Istanbul faced rises in the cost of living this year, as soaring inflation impacted wages
  • Dubai most expensive for expatriates
  • Cairo and Istanbul face largest rise
  • Tel Aviv drops to 16th most expensive

Dubai has become the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriate workers, while Cairo and Istanbul were among the cities that saw the biggest rise in the cost of living this year, as soaring inflation impacted wages.

Dubai, the UAE’s largest city, saw rental prices rise by about a fifth in the last year, as the supply of housing units struggled to keep up with demand post-pandemic, according to a new survey.

The Emirati city jumped three places compared to last year, ranking 15th of the 226 cities surveyed worldwide. The previous most expensive city in the region, Tel Aviv, dropped eight places to 16th during the same period. 

The cost of living in Istanbul and Cairo jumped the third and fifth fastest compared to 2023 of all cities surveyed in Mercer’s Cost of Living City Ranking 2024.

Cairo jumped 49 places from the 217th to the 168th most expensive city, while Istanbul rose 55 places from 185 to 130.

Both cities have suffered from prolonged double-digit inflation that neared 40 percent in Egypt in September and topped 85 percent in Turkey in 2022.

The average cost of renting an apartment in Istanbul increased by more than 50 percent compared to last year.

Central Bank interest rates in Egypt and Turkey are at record highs of 27.25 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Both countries’ governments have said they will make combating inflation a key priority for the rest of the calendar year.

Turkey’s central bank officials have said they predict inflation will peak at 75 percent and then come down to 38 percent by the end of the year.

Inflation in Egypt appears to be coming down, having dropped more than expected in May to 28.1 percent, the first time it recorded under 30 percent in 15 months. A recent Goldman Sachs report predicts that inflation will drop to 10 percent by the end of June 2025.

Across the globe, Hong Kong ranked as the most expensive city, followed by Singapore and four cities in Switzerland: Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern. 

The survey compared the cost of buying 1 litre of petrol. While prices rose 109 percent year on year in Istanbul, Dubai prices dropped 7.5 percent. In Buenos Aires petrol went up by 376.4 percent. The global average price went up 20 percent.

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