Mercer, an asset management firm, has revealed the capital of Turkmenistan to be the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, on its 2021 Cost of Living survey. Last year’s priciest, Hong Kong has moved to second place, with Beirut and Tokyo coming in the third and fourth places respectively.

The annual list ranks 209 cities on the basis of housing, transport, and food. Mercer analyzed more than 200 goods and services for the report. The initiative is to help companies and governments around the world to determine how much they should pay expatriates. Most cities that belong in the top 10 are financial centers where economic growth has resulted in the pricing hike of housing and other living costs. Ashgabat, a city of about one million people, owes its top spot to high inflation rather than prosperity. The Turkmenistan government began a major expansion of its capital in May despite the food shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Long-time President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov vowed to make Ashgabat “one of the most prosperous cities in the world”. Many residents in Turkmenistan struggle to afford necessities but the country also has a glamorous side, full of marble buildings, that is shown to the world. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, rose to third place from its 45th spot last year. According to Mercer, Beirut’s high ranking is due to the recent political turmoil and severe economic crisis. Other cities on the list include: London, which took the 18th spot; Singapore, an island city-state known for its thriving financial sector, took the 7th spot. Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, came in last on the list.