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Singapore best in Asia for quality of living

Singapore remains first among cities in Asia for quality of living, with its infrastructure securing top spot worldwide, according to the human resources consulting firm Mercer.

But great disparities in the quality of living still persist on the continent as indicated by the vast disparity in rankings between cities in developed and developing countries, the New York-based firm said.

While Singapore ranked 25th for overall quality of living -- European centres led by Vienna dominated the top 10 -- the city-state edged Munich and Frankfurt for the world's best infrastructure, based on supply of electricity, drinking water, telecom services, public transport, traffic congestion, and the availability of international flights.

Hong Kong, in sixth place, was the next best Asian city for infrastructure in Mercer's 19th annual Quality of Living survey.

"Cities that rank high in the city infrastructure list provide a combination of top-notch local and international airport facilities, varied and extended coverage through their local transport networks, and innovative solutions such as smart technology and alternative energy," said Slagin Paratakil, a principal at Mercer responsible for quality of living research.

"A city's infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, can considerably affect the quality of living that expatriates and their families experience on a daily basis. Access to a variety of transport options, being connected locally and internationally, and access to electricity and drinkable water are among the essential needs of expatriates arriving in a new location on assignment."

Well-developed infrastructure can also be a key competitive advantage for municipalities trying to attract multinational companies, talent and foreign investments.

"Internal stability, wide availability of consumer goods, availability and quality of housing, and low incidence of natural disasters" are other key attributes contributing to Singapore's high score, said Mercer.

In the global ranking of 231 cities, Singapore jumped one spot to 25th this year, and four Japanese cities are among the top 60 for overall quality. They are Tokyo (47), Kobe (50), Yokohama (51), and Osaka (60).

In Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur was 86th overall followed by Bangkok (131), Manila (135), and Jakarta (143). Other notable cities in Asia include Hong Kong (71), Seoul (76), Taipei (85), Shanghai (102), and Beijing (119).

Despite increased political and financial volatility in Europe, many of its cities still offer the world's highest quality of living and remain attractive destinations for expanding business operations and sending expatriates on assignment, according to Mercer.

Vienna tops the table for the eighth year running, with the rest of the top-ten list mostly filled by European cities: Zurich (2), Munich (4), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9), and Basel, a newcomer, in 10th place. The only non-European cities in the top 10 are Auckland (3) and Vancouver (5). Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, is the highest-ranking city in Latin America in 79th place.

Vienna's 1.8 million inhabitants benefit from the Austrian city's cafe culture and museums, theatres and operas, said Mercer. Rents and public transport costs in the city, whose architecture is marked by its past as the centre of the Habsburg empire, are cheap compared with other western capitals.

Global centres including London, Paris, Tokyo and New York City did not even make the top 30, trailing most big German, Scandinavian, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand cities.

The Mercer survey is influential in helping companies and organisations determine compensation and hardship allowances for international staff. It uses dozens of criteria such as political stability, healthcare, education, crime, recreation and transport.

Still, the survey indicates a considerable gap in the quality of living among Asian cities. In contrast to Singapore and Japanese cities, Beijing is ranked 119th, with Shanghai 102nd and Guangzhou 121st.

Baghdad is again ranked lowest in the world. Waves of sectarian violence have swept through the Iraqi capital since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Six years into Syria's bloody war, Damascus is seventh from bottom, with Bangui in the Central African Republic, the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Port-au-Prince in Haiti, Khartoum in Sudan and N'Djamena in Chad filling out the lowest tier.

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