Once a year Mercer puts out its “Cost of Living City Ranking.” This year marks the 27th time it has issued the report. The study looks at 209 cities against over 200 “factors,” which include housing, transportation, and food costs. Changes in currency values also affect where cities stand on the list. The study reviews the costs of living in these places for international employees. Normally, well-known, large metro areas top the list. In the past, these have included Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Zurich. New York City is often in the top 10. This year, however, the city that ranks No.1 is one Americans barely know–Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan is in Asia, bordered by Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea. The republic has only about 6 million people. While much of the country is a desert, Turkmenistan has one of the largest natural gas deposits in the world. The country broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991, when the huge nation became several countries.
Ashgabat is the Turkmenistan’s largest city with a population of just over 1 million people. It is also the nation’s capital. The reason the city is so expensive is simple. Inflation in the nation is very high. Food is also not as readily available as in most of the world’s largest nations.
In its write up on the country, CIA World Factbook experts wrote: “Turkmenistan’s autocratic governments under presidents NIYAZOW (1991-2006) and BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 2007) have made little progress improving the business climate, privatizing state-owned industries, combatting corruption, and limiting economic development outside the energy sector.”
Turkmenistan is an expensive place to live and apparently for expatriates, not very pleasant.