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What’s more important: the cost or standard of living?

Courtney Trenwith ponders what makes a country a great place to live

A cost of living report revealed by Arabian Business on Sunday shows Qatar is the most expensive Gulf country to live in, taking into account essentials such as rent, electricity bills and food.

It’s not a great surprise given the Gulf state also has the highest gross domestic product of the region at $100,000 per person, therefore residents should have greater buying power, which is likely to push up prices.

The UAE comes in second. But with prime minister and vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announcing last week that the government aimed to increase GDP per capita by 65 percent over the next seven years, could that also push up prices?

According to the World Bank, the UAE’s GDP per capita was $42,080 in 2012. If Sheikh Mohammed’s plan is successful, this would rise to nearly $70,000, which could make the UAE the third richest country on the planet, behind Luxembourg and Qatar.

But with rising purchasing power surely comes rising prices. The UAE, and Dubai in particular, will need thousands more workers – inevitably foreigners moving to the country – to help build the infrastructure, hotels etc required for the World Expo in 2020.

Unless real estate developers can keep up, rents will go up as demand increases. That demand is likely to affect a variety of services, including education and health, as well.

However, more people could mean greater overall buying power for imported goods – the UAE imports majority of its food, for example – and potentially limiting price hikes for some items, while private providers may see greater opportunity to bring new services including, again, increasing options in education and health.

Whether cost of living in the UAE rises to meet that of Qatar remains to be seen. But at the end of the day, how significant is the cost of living compared to quality of life when determining where you want to live?

The UAE may be the second most expensive country in the region but it is widely regarded as having the best opportunities in numerous areas including international education offerings, healthcare and entertainment.

If you can send your child to a decent international school, be sure you will receive better medical treatment than the country next door and are never short on activities to keep life interesting on the weekends, not to mention career growth and the ability to experience a wealth of cultures, would you be better off than living in the cheaper option, such as Oman, where there is little development or work prospects for most people and far less cultural cultivation?

I’m not suggesting the UAE has among the best education and health services in the world, but we are only comparing the GCC here.

A prosperity index compiled by London-based think tank Legatum Institute ranks the UAE the 28 happiest country in the world, behind the likes of Norway, Sweden and Canada.

Surprisingly, Qatar is not included in the analysis of 142 countries but with its high GDP and relative safety it would probably rank similarly.

So how much does our ability to pay for things – especially the essentials – contribute to our happiness? I’d argue if you can’t afford the basics then no matter how positive or optimistic your personality is, it makes life hard.

But I also would be happy to pay more to be somewhere that fostered a good standard of living, and that includes greenery, entertainment options and a lively spirit.

What makes a city an attractive place to live for you?

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Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

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Posted by: RAH

First of all, GDP per capital does not indicate how happy a nation is: the Worldbank ranks Luxemburg as the number 1 GDP per capita nation yet Legatum ranks them as number 10 happiest nation. No correlation.

Secondly, to say that higher GDP will lead to higher prices is also incorrect. Lets look at the current facts where GDP per capita is quoted from World Bank database and Cost of Living (CoL) from AB?s own report:
Qatar ranks #1 in GDP in the GCC at $90,000 (approx) and #1 in CoL.
Kuwait ranks #2 in GDP per capital ($51,500) and last in CoL meaning a high GDP yet least expensive GCC country.
UAE second most expensive city (far surpassing Kuwait) yet a lower GDP per capital than Kuwait?s.

Consider the principles of remittance, taxation, currency fluctuations, imports and macroeconmic policies of governments in this article to make it worth reading (and publishing).

Posted by: Brock

"Kuwait ranks #2 in GDP per capital ($51,500) and last in CoL meaning a high GDP yet least expensive GCC country. "

Not so anymore in Kuwait. The rent is not increasing by 5 or 10 percent but a 100%, it is doubling up. School and college fees have also increased tremendously while the salaries have remained the same. Food prices whether in supermarkets or restaurants have severely increased.

Many expats on various levels have explained how increasingly expensive it has become and those raising children suffer extremely.

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