Rangoon ‘Worst Quality of Life’ in Southeast Asia

By Charlie Campbell 4 December 2012

Rangoon has been ranked as the worst city in Southeast Asia for quality of life in a new study.

Burma’s commercial hub placed 195 out of a total of 221 global cities included in the Mercer survey released on Tuesday. Vienna was ranked as the world’s best place to live with the Iraqi capital Baghdad as the worst.

Singapore scored as the top Asian city for quality of life as well as best worldwide for infrastructure. Port-au-Prince in Haiti scored world’s worst in the latter category.

After living in Thailand for more than three years, Ma Thet told The Irrawaddy that returning to Rangoon was extremely tough with poor roads, uncontrollable traffic jams, no driving regulations and perilous public transportation.

“People still lack knowledge or need to improve their attitude,” she said. “They just don’t care. For example, they throw rubbish in the middle of downtown even though there are refuse bins. Some people drive nice cars but they lower the window and throw plastic bags containing [red betel nut saliva].”

Ma Thet said that the lack of road safety, expensive yet poor quality accommodation, substandard taxi services, sparse electricity distribution that causes constant blackouts and unsanitary street food are daily problems faced in the former capital.

Rangoon ranked as the sixth worst city in the entire Asia-Pacific region for quality of life behind only Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Ashkhabad in Turkmenistan, Dhaka in Bangladeshi, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe in Tajikistan.

“A noticeable gap can be seen among Asia-Pacific cities where several cities have improved in the region partly because they have been investing massively in infrastructure and public services,” said Phil Stanley, Asia-Pacific global mobility leader for Mercer.

“Competition among municipalities has been continuously increasing in order to attract multinationals, foreigners, expatriates and tourists. Yet a considerable number of Asian cities rank in the bottom quartile, mainly due to high political volatility, poor infrastructure and obsolete public services.”

Mercer conducts the annual survey to help multinational companies and other organizations compensate employees fairly when they are placed on international assignments.

However, Rangoon’s pitiful position may well be short-lived according to a new report released by a leading business consultancy firm on Tuesday.

Frost and Sullivan Vice-President Vivek Vaidya said that Burma being among the first few countries US President Barack Obama chose to visit in his second term is indicative of the country’s improving status and image among the global community.

“With the market opening up, Southeast Asian companies are rushing to invest in the country,” he said. “International companies are also doing so, but on a more selective and wait-and-see nature to get clarity on direction and laws of the country.

“Myanmar, the only neighbor for both China and India, is likely to assume great geopolitical business importance in years to come.”

The Irrawaddy reporter Saw Yan Naing contributed to this article from Rangoon.