Singapore still most liveable city for Asian expats, but air quality waning: Survey

Today Online 13 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The gong of most-liveable city for Asian expats remains Singapore’s, for the 18th year, but the Republic’s lead has been narrowing because of worsening air pollution, an annual survey by consulting firm ECA International shows.

Singapore placed ahead of Australian cities Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney in joint-second, with Osaka rounding up the top five, in the poll of over 470 locations worldwide to help companies set appropriate allowances for employees assigned abroad.

Hong Kong, which is traditionally seen as a rival to Singapore as a financial hub, slipped a spot in straight years to 29th globally.

The factors that saw Singapore edge out regional rivals were low crime rates, decent medical facilities and excellent infrastructure, said Mr Lee Quane, ECA’s regional director for Asia.

But there has been a “gradual decline” in Singapore’s overall quality of living in the past five years “due to the deteriorating air pollution situation here”, he added.

Between September and November 2015, Singapore experienced its worst haze episode, with the Pollutant Standards Index hitting hazardous levels.

Mr Quane noted that, while air pollution in Hong Kong has eased, there has been “worsening socio-political factors and curtailments to political freedom” in the territory over the past 12 months, leading to a widening gap between Hong Kong and Singapore in its rankings.

Meanwhile, along with Beijing, New Delhi has the worst score for air quality globally.

For Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru, ECA attributed their lower rankings — they dropped two places to 27th and five places to 118th, respectively — to “an increased threat from terrorism in Malaysia”.

Mr Quane added: “While the Sabah region ... is considered particularly dangerous for foreigners, risks have also increased in Kuala Lumpur in recent years.

“The impact of the seasonal forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia has also increased in recent years.”

The Location Ratings system that ECA uses to calculate a city’s overall quality of living takes into account factors such as climate, availability of health services, housing and utilities; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions; as well as air quality.

Australian cities had a strong presence in ECA’s rankings. Apart from those three that were placed joint-second, Perth and Canberra took seventh and ninth spots in the global rankings.

Nagoya is the only other Japanese city in the global top 10, as Tokyo and Yokohama narrowly miss out at joint-11th position.

On the other end of the spectrum, Afghan cities Kandahar and Lashkar Gah are the hardest locations to adapt to living and working in, according to ECA.

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