Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report Only Reinforces the Rip Off

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

Earlier this week, Geneva-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting released its annual cost-of-living survey, which ranks Moscow as the most expensive city in Europe and the second most expensive in the world (after Hong Kong).

This comes on top of a "quality of life survey" earlier in the year, ranking Moscow at 150 out of 215 cities worldwide.

A press release informs us of the noble raison d'etre of the survey: "The information is used by governments and major companies to protect the purchasing power of their employees when transferred abroad."

Just to provide a taster, the 12-page report on Moscow states that the cheapest unfurnished 1-bedroom apartment fit for expat habitation costs $1,900, while prepayment of three to 12 months' rent is the norm according to a handy footnote. And if the price sounds a bit on the high side, try to guess who so magnanimously supplied the information: four Moscow-based real estate agents (whose phone numbers are helpfully included).

Keep on leafing and you can learn more weird and wonderful things such as that the cheapest an expat can get a local newspaper for is $3.30 (maybe the decimal point slipped).

And in the section on business travel expenses, we are told that a taxi ride "from airport to city" (presumably Sheremetyevo) will set you back somewhere between $50 to $70. But this time, there are no handy footnotes explaining that if you side-step the taxi mafia, you can get a perfectly comfortable ride for $20.

Overall the report leaves itself wide open to accusations of being highly misleading and contributing to the ridiculously inflated prices that are a very real part of Moscow life.

While it may help to pad the housing allowances, hardship allowances and expense accounts of expat businessmen and foreign diplomats, and while it certainly does a huge service to greedy real estate agents, restaurant owners and the taxi racket -- it does an equally huge disservice to just about everyone else living in Moscow (as well as to the taxpayer back home) by helping to sustain artificially high prices and reinforcing the status quo.

And it does precious little to protect the "purchasing power" of poor expat businessmen and government employees once they arrive in Moscow from the numerous scams and rip offs that go on.

Meanwhile, for the average Muscovite news that their city has once again been ranked second most expensive city in the world would no doubt be met with detached bemusement.