Thursday, May 3, 2007

Tel Aviv can be expensive

Another survey showing that Tel Aviv is more expensive than some of the world's other great cities has come out.

This survey is different from your ordinary Tel-Aviv-Costs-Too-Much analysis. The standard surveys measure the cost of hotels, restaurants and dry cleaning to business travelers who move around the globe on expense accounts.

The new survey, which appeared in a Hebrew newspaper's business section, deals with local people who pay their own way. It covers some ordinary expenditures and shows that Tel Aviv is difficult for two reasons --- high prices, and lower incomes.

The survey finds that Tel Aviv is more expensive than Stockholm, Chicago, Toronto, Prague, Madrid and Berlin. This puts Tel Aviv in sixth place among 12 cities surveyed. The most expensive cities surveyed are London, Geneva, Oslo, New York and Shanghai, in that order.

When it comes to money to pay the bills, Tel Aviv is in last place. The survey ranked after-tax income, from high to low, as follows: Geneva, Oslo, New York, London, Chicago, Berlin, Toronto, Stockholm, Madrid, Prague, Shanghai, Tel Aviv. These rankings do not show amounts of after-tax income. In Israel, median personal income is below $2,000 a month, before taxes.

According to the survey, people in Tel Aviv pay:

- $850 monthly rent for a two-room apartment in the heart of the city (vs. $3,200 in London, $1,300 in Oslo or Geneva, and $680 in Berlin)

- $75 a month per-person for food (vs. $200 in Berlin and $95 in London)

- $3,000 for one year of college tuition (vs. free tuition in Europe)

- $6 for a beer in a neighborhood pub (vs. $2.60 in London and $2.50 in Berlin)

- $1.50 for a cup of coffee (vs. $2.50 in Berlin and $1.80 in Geneva).

A popular Israeli radio commentator took issue with the finding that a cup of coffee in Tel Aviv can be had for $1.50. The typical price is twice as high, he said. (Personal research: I paid a little more than $4 for a large iced coffee in Tel Aviv the other day.)

A conclusion of the survey is that middle-income Israelis find it increasingly difficult to hold their own. Discussing this on the radio, a newspaper analyst attributed Tel Aviv's high prices to geography, lack of competition, small market size, and lack of assertiveness on the part of consumers.

The survey attributed its cost data to Mercer, a consulting firm, and its income rankings to UBS investment bank, a Swiss concern.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv


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